"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

30 January 2015

Winter Winners

We are now past one month of Winter (officially).  

And since this past week brought a HUGE blizzard/nor'easter to my oldest daughter up on the North Shore of Boston...they got about 40 inches of snow and here in eastern NY we only got about 6....NOTHING like the huge blizzard they predicted).

So....since we are in the midst of winter with all its snow, ice, slush, slickness, frigid temps, and slower driving, I decided to post some of the little things that help me get through the 3 long months of this cold season.  These were all blessings to me this past week so I'm sharing them as my FAVE FIVE hosted by Susanne....a writing exercise we do to remind us to be thankful for all things.  Even winter!

FIVE FAVES


image courtesy of amazon
  • BODY WASH:  This body wash by Avon is wonderful.  I just received it in the mail from my sister's website (feel free to order from her.....it comes right to your door!).  It is not too pricey and the feeling it leaves your skin after a shower is so delightful.  The scent is very light so you can still use perfume if desired.  It is so creamy and really does help that dry, itchy winter skin.  I even used it to shave my legs!  So thankful for a product that actually works!
the snow from the predicted "blizzard" in my front yard
  • SURPRISE!!  The snow fall wasn't a surprise..the amount was the surprise!!  Our local media had us all thinking it was going to be the blizzard of the decade.  NOPE!  Just along the east coast (Boston/Cape Cod, etc) got hit.  My inlaws got 3 feet and my college daughter got a little over that.  They had crazy high snowbanks.  Here in the capital region of NY, we had light, fluffy snow.....the pretty kind....the kind that didn't require a snow-day from school.  I'm thankful it wasn't a lot and was easy to shovel......and I'm thankful for the beauty of it....God does great work doesn't He?
image courtesy of evolution of smooth website
  • EOS LIP BALMS:  I love this lip balm.  It reminds me of summer with the fruity "taste" and scent and yet it is perfect for wind-chapped lips.  I actually use it sometimes on autumn and winter hikes, too as it really does protect your lips from chafing.  It's a little bit more money than some of the other brands but I like that it lasts longer.  It makes my fave list because it brings a bit of "summer" to my winter mornings.

image courtesy of H&MWebsite


  • THICK SWEATERS: this is one of my favorite sweaters....I bought it here (at the store in one of our local malls) on sale after Christmas for a major reduction.  I wear it with skinny jeans (on the weekends) or black thick fleece leggings to work, with riding boots, and it's so cozy and warm on these frigid days.  It's one of my absolute "go to" sweaters when I don't know what else to wear.  I'm thankful for warm clothing in winter!


image courtesy of google images
  • INFINITY SCARF!  I have this exact infinity scarf in teal green.  It is so soft and warm on super cold mornings.  I tend to wear it with my black knee length coat on days I wear leggings or skirts to the school.  It is too hot in the classroom I work in to wear it all day like some teachers do, but I LOVE how it feels when I'm outdoors.  This was new to me this year and it's a keeper....I'll be using this in the winter months until it wears out.  (I do switch between several winter scarves but this one happens to be one of my faves).  I never want to take warm clothes for granted!

That wraps up my faves......it's been quite a week.  I'm tired so I plan on doing a lot of resting this weekend after the housework gets accomplished.

What are your plans for the weekend??




28 January 2015

2015 Book Review #3: Somewhere Safe, with Somebody Good


Well, I'm done with my third book this month.  These long winter evenings lend themselves to lots of reading in my favorite chair in our quiet living room while my husband watches his favorite tv shows in our family room.  I also tend to wake up early on the weekends, and after my quiet time with God, I read before the day's needs have to be faced.  Actually, I read a lot all year long...I love to read good books.  And I like browsing in our town library.  It's a real blessing.  I have a few books on my iPad but....I just don't read those much....I start them and never finish them.  I think I'm old fashioned and just love holding and smelling the real thing....and they must be hardcover!!  :)

This book is the latest in the "Mitford Series" set in North Carolina. I have read every single Mitford book and this one is my absolute favorite.  The genre is contemporary Christian fiction.


STORY SUMMARY

Father Tim Kavanaugh (now in his 70s) and his wife Cynthia (in her 60s) have just returned from their trip to Ireland.  They are back home in Mitford and he is getting bored with retirement.   The bishop offers him a pulpit position but...he turns it down!!  He finds he no longer has the passion for it...yet...something is missing from his life.  He wants to be busy!!

Dooley, the Kavanaugh's adopted son, is struggling with vet school, a job, and his girlfriend, Lace Turner whom he wants to marry.  They have several obstacles to work out first but he did buy her a "friendship" ring.

Dooley's younger brother, Sammy, who lives near the Kavanaugh's with another brother (Kenny) and a guardian, is still angry at their biological mother abandoning them.  One day he destroys the most prized possession that Father Tim owns.  Will Father Tim  be able to forgive him and show mercy?

Other favorite characters are featured again in this story.  Hope Murphy is finally pregnant and faces the potential threat of the loss of the baby.  She is still the owner of Happy Endings bookstore but Father Tim decides to help her out when she is ordered by her doctor to have several weeks of bed rest to keep the fetus safe.  He loves working at Happy Endings and finds that yes....once a priest, always a priest!  He is constantly taking care of the people of Mitford.  We see a glimpse of Omer, Edith, Esther, Harley, Shirlene, Fancy, Winnie, and Coot.  Friends of Mitford  ever so endearing.

The big question throughout this book is "Does the town of Mitford still take care of its own?"

Read it and find out!!

MY THOUGHTS

As always, another excellent Mitford book.  This one is definitely my favorite and I think it's because there are so many happy moments that tie many of the characters together.  I love that Dooley and Lace are being developed further.

The town depictions are perfect.....the author has a way of telling so much back story without the book getting boring or bogged down. I love that when an author can catch up a reader in the series without going into too many details from past books.

My very favorite part was the ending....I love how the author ended this story. I have a suspicion this will be the last Mitford book as we know the series.....but...without spoiling it for you, I suspect a certain someone is going to be featured in more books by this author.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.






25 January 2015

Out of My Comfort Zone and Having a Blast!

So today I was rather out of my comfort zone.......but ended up having a blast!!

For those of you who are familiar with this personality test, I score as an ESFJ.

I did this test as part of our church's membership class.....I took it in 2005 and hadn't taken it since.  Until this afternoon.  I wanted to see how I've changed, if at all.    I am more extroverted as an adult than I was as a child or teen but....I am still more of an introvert than my very extroverted husband.

In order of percentages (highest to lowest) I am feeling, sensing, judging and extrovert.  I tend to feel more at ease in small group situations rather than  a large crowd unless most of the people in the crowd are my close friends. I definitely am feelings based and tend to judge situations/people.

So.......here's how this all relates to my title:

The small group my husband is in, and that I attend part time, decided to attend one of our other church sites today to watch one of the ladies get baptized.  This woman told her testimony to our group a couple of weeks before Christmas.  We all have shared our testimonies and have learned a bit about each other.  Keep in mind though that I have not felt too attached to this group....I don't have the emotional energy to get emotionally involved in this group due to leading and being so emotionally involved in my own small group.  I've shared about that recently. In fact, I am no longer attending it regularly...just once a month or so.

But...when my hiking plans fell through today due to the extreme wind and bitter cold temperatures (plus a layer of ice that I am not equipped for), I decided to go to our sister site (across the river from our own church/the main campus) with my husband and our teen daughter for the 11 a.m. service.  We don't know anyone at this site other than the lead pastor and even then we don't know him well.  

Almost everyone from the small group was there, plus our daughter and a couple of the spouses who don't attend the group.  We all sat together.  And I found myself not really liking the change....each site does worship a little bit differently...and I prefer ours!  But....God grabbed a hold of me.....He reminded me that I was there to support a new friend, and to worship HIM!  Step one in getting out of my comfort zone was to embrace the songs and style of our sister site.

And.....afterwards, 2 of the couples suggested we all go to this restaurant for lunch. At first, I cringed inside.  I don't like making small talk with people I barely know!!  Claire had to study for 2 major mid-terms for tomorrow! (Global History and Latin).  She needed to practice driving.  I had my small group lesson to finish prepping.  I had to clean the kitchen.  I wanted to work out.  I wanted to read the newspaper.  I wanted to visit blogs. 3 of the couples couldn't make it due to other obligations so it ended up being Dave and I and our new friends Annette & Greg, and Betsy and Kevin.  Yet....I was dreading the small talk...the awkwardness of trying to chat without really knowing someone.  But.....then I remembered that we all shared our stories and already know some of the "deeper" things in our souls and in our pasts.




And...God prompted me again that doing life together is the way we are to live as Believers.  We are in a mega-church!  It is impossible to know everyone at all 4 sites.  It is just impossible.  Heck, we can't even know everyone at our own site because we average about 2800 people over the 3 services on the weekend!!  And my husband really needs the community and fellowship...way more than I do.  He is much more "alive" when around people.  I am much more "alive" in the woods and on the mountain tops!  And Claire...she just liked the idea of trying a new-to-us eating establishment.  (odd how we have 2 in our immediate area yet we've never been!). On the way down the street (the restaurant is only like a block away from that church), I kept thinking "what in the world am I going to talk about with Annette and Betsy?"  "What if Claire is totally bored and keeps checking her smart phone" (she wasn't and didn't!). "I really just want to go home".  Yet...Dave.....he does so much for me....how can I not do this for him??  And...I'm a small group LEADER!!  I know what the vision is!!

The entire vision of our small groups ministry is to be in community together!!  To do life. Together.

As covenant members, we are definitely supposed to lead by example.

Doing lunch with 2 other couples was a blast!!  Nope....we don't know them all that well.  Yes, we had tons of laughs, good food, excellent service, great conversation and ......on the way out the door at the meal's end, we ran into very old friends...from our previous church...whom we hadn't seen since 2005!!  How cool is that??  In fact, I could have been uncomfortable with that too since we left that church with many people upset at our leaving......yet....time (10 years to be exact), has passed and it was not weird at all to chat with these folks.  I even got to see their 2 young adult children who are both married and their spouses were there!  

Why am I writing all of this on my blog?  

To encourage you to get out of your comfort zone if you are more of an introvert like me............yeah...I'm an extrovert to a certain degree...but really...I would have loved to just come home, make dinner and curl up with a good book after my workout.

Do something new.....stretch your self....do life together with the people God is putting in your path.  You'll have a blast!

Did all the things I mentioned needing doing get done? you betcha!!

God redeemed my time....I had the liberty to say YES today and feel good about it.  Only with His grace.



23 January 2015

Little Faves but Big Blessings

This week went by so fast!

I think it's because we had Monday off due to honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I had a busy week after Monday but I was able to find some blessings along the way. I'm linking up at Susanne's today to share FIVE of those blessings that make my FAVE list.

photo courtesy of playbill store website

  • DATE NIGHT!  The Jersey Boys show was at this area theater on Saturday evening and Dave had bought tickets over a month ago so we could have a date night.  We went out to eat at this fine restaurant first (which was packed with show goers) and had an awesome meal! Dave had scallops and I chose the grilled haddock plus a rice veggie dish and steamed spinach. We each had a cocktail (mine was the winter sangria....YUM!).  After dinner, we got to the show and enjoyed ourselves immensely. If you grew up liking the music of Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, you would love this musical.  (minus the overuse of the "f" word...that was NOT a fave!).
  • POWER OF PRAYER: Tuesday evening I went with Dave to the couples small group we joined.  And felt stressed.  Stressed because I just can't...and don't really want...to be a part of 2 small groups. Granted, I don't LEAD this couples group, my friend Hope and her hubby Dave do.  But....the study book requires reading and answering questions, and I already have to do that with the group I LEAD (my moms group) plus I bring in added material for our discussions and plan social events/couples' nights and service projects. Well, at the end of our discussion, we had a prayer time.  And I prayed aloud some of the feelings I was experiencing.  I felt a huge burden lift off my shoulders.  The power of prayer and the power to say "enough" is very liberating.  And that makes me thankful because my word for the year is liberty and in this area I do need to feel free...and be free....to serve well.  So....I'm thinking I can't be a part of this group regularly and it's ok with everyone in the group!  No one is going to mind if I don't make all the meetings.  What.a.relief.


  • GREAT WORK-OUT!  I was able to work out 3 days this week and one day over the weekend but the day that gave me the best work-out was the evening that Dave and I went out to the gym.  Wednesdays are days when Claire has a long ballet class so the plan was to drop her off and hit the gym for 40 minutes.  She informed us that she just had way too much prep for a project due the next day plus a chemistry unit test so she decided to skip the ballet class.  This tempted me to just stay inside my cozy home and read all evening.  BUT...I wanted to encourage Dave to work out as he needs to for his heart rehab so I offered to go even though I could have worked out in the basement on the bike and with the Wii Fit program.  I'm so glad I ventured out!  I did almost 2 miles (25 minutes) on the treadmill doing interval work (incline, fast, slow, incline, fast, slow, etc) and then did some spinning on the recumbent bike for 18 minutes at an easy pace and then a more difficult one. I felt so good afterwards!!  And my FitBit informed me that I had passed my goal mark for the day (stepping for at least 3 miles).....in fact I went OVER my goal...and that's always a fave!
image courtesy of norpaco website
  • NEW LUNCH ITEM!  Oh.my.goodness.  I am now totally into this new cheese/cracker topping.  I discovered this via a co-worker although hers was just fig and balsamic.  The wild cherry gives it a wonderful tartness.  For lunch I spread it on 2-3 slices of sharp cheddar or gouda cheese and spread some on flaxseed whole grain crackers.  This plus 1/4 c. of roasted red pepper hummus, raw carrots, peppers, cukes, and broccoli complete my meal.  (some days I have a non fat Greek yogurt with pumpkin flaxseed granola.)  I'm not a huge lunch person and typically only bring a deli style sandwich to work once a week.  I'm thankful to have discovered this new spread because it is low in sugar and packs a punch....perfect for a workday lunch! 

  • GOOD REPORTS!  Our 16 yr old, the ballerina, came home the other day with the news that she received a 100% on the Oral Russian mid-term exam! (held last week).  She also received a 98% on her violin performance exam!  Today she had the Russian Listening Exam (but we won't know the grade for another couple of weeks) and next week she has the written exams in Russian, Latin, AP English, Honors Global, Honors Trig, Honors Chemistry. Friday is a day off for her and she has already said she is just going to relax all day while I'm at work.  I'm thankful for these 2 good grades...her hard work has paid off!!


That wraps up the week of faves for me.

Is there something that makes YOUR fave list for the past week? please do share in the comment section. I do read each one :)

Happy Weekend!!


18 January 2015

Freedom to Stay Home on a Sunday!

I had to chuckle during my morning devotions today.

You see, it's Sunday.  The day my family typically goes to church....usually the 11 a.m. service but sometimes (like if we have kayaking or hiking planned in the summer) the 9 a.m. service.  Sometimes we even go to the Saturday evening service at 5 pm followed by a light dinner and a movie night.

But I woke up with a mild sore throat and headache so I popped Tylenol into me after a cold glass of juice and told my husband I was going to watch the service online.  My teenager joined me on the living room couch in time for the sermon. I was feeling a wee bit guilty for not schlepping out to the body of Christ congregated just 5 miles from my home.

And this is the devotional I read after the service that God wanted to remind me of:

"This is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men----as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.
 ~I Peter 2:15 & 16~

I actually read from verses 13-25 but these two stood out to me.


And it struck me.  The reason I was feeling "guilty" is because of how the Christian culture in my growing up years, and even in the church my  husband and I first joined when we were starting our family (a different one than the interdenominational/Evangelical one we are in now since 2005), thought of as Sunday or the Sabbath.  I was raised to believe you "had" to go to church for your Sabbath (um...where in the Bible does it say that??  it says to keep the Sabbath day holy.  "Sabbath"  means a day of rest...of no work.  I was led to believe by well-meaning Christians that you must go to church on Sundays. Good grief, there were times when as a family we felt led to get away for a long weekend of  camping and reflecting in the quietness of nature and yet there would always be someone from church who just didn't "get it". Who had to question us again and again about why we weren't at "church".


But.....NO!  We have liberty as Christ-followers!!  We are not to follow a list of legalistic laws that are derived from men/women's minds.  We are to follow Christ and His ways and Scripture.  


Yes, we have liberty...freedom.  Of course this doesn't mean we get to do whatever we want.  We do have God-given boundaries for a reason.



But in our freedom....in this true liberty...we can follow Christ joyfully!!  And yet we are to be "slaves to Christ"....bondservants.  There IS freedom in that!



So....I happily put on my comfy leggings, thick fleece socks, a plain flannel shirt and minimal make-up and hung out on my couch all morning sipping steaming coffee and popping Vitamin C tabs all while listening and watching my pastor preach the Word of God to us via the internet.


What freedom I have in my soul when I follow what God wants me to do.

I no longer feel guilty for staying home.  I already know that sometimes my best worship and "God times" are on a mountain top.  I know that there have been many Sabbaths/Sundays where I am doing so much housework or running so many errands that it doesn't even feel like I am resting.  And that is not what God wants or commands from us!! 

Sometimes my Sabbath might be on the mountain or in the woods.

Sometimes, like today, it is in the comfort of my own home on a dreary winter day wearing flannel.

Liberty........embrace it!  And live...........



16 January 2015

Mid-January Faves


Can you believe it hasn't even been a month since winter began??  (December 21st).

But yet with all this arctic cold, ice and frigid wind, it seems like the 3 months of winter  have gone by!

However, reality is that we still face a little over 2 months of this, so let's curl up with a steaming mug of coffee or tea and reflect back on the week.

I'm sharing FIVE of my FAVES by joining with other bloggers over at Susanne's.  Please feel free to join in.


FIVE FAVES

  • SAFELY BACK!  Courtney left our home while we were all at work/school on Monday during falling snow and texted that she made it safely back to the north shore of Boston for her very last semester of college. It took her 4 hours but not because of the weather (which turned to rain once she got to the Berkshires)...she had to pick up a guy friend as he needed a ride back to campus).  I'm so thankful for God's protection on the highways and Mass Pike.  How I miss her....but also so thankful that she has had the privilege of this top-ranking Christian college. 

First Driving lesson
  • FIRST DRIVING LESSON!  Well, our "baby" turned 16 on the first day of winter, got her permit 2 days after Christmas, and had her first driving lesson in our very large church parking lot with me on Sunday afternoon.  She did pretty well.  I had her practice going forward, going in reverse, driving straight, making right turns, left turns, and then driving in and out of the lot and parking.  Then she drove around the block in our neighborhood.  She's not anywhere near ready for the main roads but it was rather fun to be doing this kind of thing again with a daughter.  I'm thankful we had a good first lesson, after a difficult weekend which you can read about here.

  • RELAXING EVENING.  I had a most unusual relaxing evening on Tuesday because Claire had a Russian Club meeting after school and volunteered to take the late bus home so I wouldn't have to pick her up.  I ran to the town library to return mine and my husband's books and discovered a book I've been waiting for was available!  (the latest Mitford book!). Once I got home, I did a load of laundry, did some Scripture reading and had a wonderful steaming mug of coffee, prepped dinner, did a 20 minute step aerobics workout (because I didn't wanna go back outside to the gym!) and then had dinner with Claire because Dave was volunteering at an inner city soup kitchen and wouldn't be back until after 8 pm.  After dinner dishes were put away, I vacuumed 2 rooms of the house and then called it a night.  I was able to sit and read blogs, read the Mitford book, and just relax with a wonderful balsam scented candle.  I really needed this work night rest.  I'm thankful for smooth evenings!

  • FLEECE LEGGINGS!  BRRR.....On Wednesday morning, as I drove to work, the car temp said -9 degrees F.  My car has never (it's almost 8 years old) recorded a temp that low.  I was so thankful that back in the autumn months I purchased 3 sets of fleece leggings (one for hiking, and 2 for work in black and brown).  I usually wear them with long tunic shirts or sweaters but that day was so cold I wore them with a short wool skirt and a thick chunky sweater and low boots.  SOOOOOO warm!!  If you live in the northeast or northwest, get yourself a pair of fleece leggings.  They are amazing.

  • SUNSHINE!  Yes, here in the Capital Region of New York State, despite the bitter, arctic temps, we had sunshine just about every day this week. Sunshine really does help make the cold days go by a little bit faster, I think.  I love getting home from the school, relaxing in my living room on the couch with the afternoon sun coming in the window.....I try to pretend it's almost spring.  And with being thankful for the sunshine, I really liked this quote I saw and that I posted on Facebook:


yup...with out the chill of winter we won't appreciate the warmth of summer!

Keep warm this weekend, everyone!!