Feeling Deflated This December?

Are you tired of running the December rat race? My race to prepare for Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving and still continues. Social norms dictate my actions. My days are full of decorating, shopping, and baking. One week I attended nine social events. I feel like the burnt out Santa pictured above.

The Pressure to Maintain Tradition

I have friends who schedule a long cruise every December to purposely avoid the craziness. That’s not a bad idea, but I doubt if I would ever be bold enough to change. I’m too much of a traditionalist. Every year I tell myself I’m going to scale down my preparations. Do I really need to bake seven kinds of cookies? Do I need to send cards this year? It’s difficult to stop doing something you’ve always done. Sure, cookies are time consuming to make, but everyone loves to eat them. Cards take some effort to send, but they are a way of maintaining contact with loved ones who aren’t on facebook. 

The Pressure To Feel Happy

 Another dynamic that December brings is the pressure to be happy. Upbeat Christmas music plays in the stores. “Tis the season to be jolly” carries an expectation to be full of good cheer. Unfortunately tragedy never takes a holiday. For the countless number of people who’ve experienced a loss at this time of year, the anniversary of the event brings a time of renewed grief. The idea that it’s somehow wrong to to be sad only adds to their despair. 

The Pressure to Please Others

Each year we are inundated with keeping up with marketing trends. Advertisements pressure us to get new models of gadgets we already have that can do more things and do them faster. Desperate to please our loved ones, we overspend. I like this reminder:

You are not obligated to continue holiday traditions that leave you broke, overwhelmed, or tired.

A Matter of the Heart

One of my favorite Christmas stories is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. The Whos of Who-ville had completed all of their holiday preparations. They decorated their homes, prepared for a feast, and hung their stockings on the mantel. But while they were sleeping, the Grinch stole everything. Yet, when they got up Christmas morning, they celebrated as if nothing was missing. They gathered in the town square, held hands and sang to welcome Christmas. This left the Grinch perplexed. 

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more. ” 

Dr. Suess captured everything I feel in these two lines. Yes, Christmas will come without all the traditions I usually keep. The gifts I  hastily wrap and place beneath the tree are no comparison to God’s gift of Jesus Christ to mankind. The traditions of man cannot match God’s love.  Knowing this helps me reframe the true meaning of the holiday. Christmas is an intangible matter of the heart. I want to experience more of God’s love this December. That usually begins by taking the time to seek Him. That’s something I want to do more.

What are your thoughts on December? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. If you are feeling deflated, may this Christmas give you the opportunity to consider God’s love for you. 

Lock Up The Luggage of Worry

Worry robs today of creative energy.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”

The words of Jesus from John 14:1 remind me I have a choice every day. I can decide to trouble my  heart, or trust in God. I trouble my heart when I continue to play negative tapes in my mind. These tapes often include fears about the future. 

Worry robs today of creative energy. 

Sometimes people feel obligated to worry. As if worrying is necessary baggage to carry along on the journey of life. Some carry their worries in a briefcase, others drag an oversized suitcase behind them everywhere they go. I’m kind of in the middle. My worries fit neatly in a backpack but it’s heavy and the load keeps me from climbing the high places. 

Stop and think about the mental energy we use when we worry. Couldn’t that energy be spent writing, painting, or gardening? What could we accomplish if we set our suitcase to the side and refused to open it? 

Worry robs today of it’s joy.

When we live in the present we start to be more aware of our surroundings. We hear a bird chirping outside our window. We smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen. Put your hand over your heart. Feel your pulse and rejoice because you are alive! 

Most of the time the exercise of “troubling our hearts” doesn’t solve whatever problem we’re dwelling upon. It only makes us feel anxious.  So how do we put a lock on our luggage?

Present your requests to God.

Once you’ve prayed about your concern, imagine tucking it away and locking it up. Allow the peace of God to fill your mind. Remember, God wants the best for you. He will be with you in all of your tomorrows. 

Do Something!

“You’ve got to get busy living or get busy dying.”

The quote from the movie, The Shawshank Redemption offers good advice. We can choose how to occupy our time. Each day is a gift. We can waste it by rearranging the worries in our luggage, or lock it up and set it aside. 

What does being busy living look like to you? Let’s not waste the gift of today. Take a walk. Read a good book. Bake cookies. Take a friend to coffee. Make a list of all the the things in your life you are thankful for. Enjoy today. Sleep well tonight. Enjoy tomorrow. 

“Whatever is lovely, think about such things. And may the God of peace be with you.” Phillippians 4:8,9

 

Sacrificial Love: The Story of Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler learned that when someone is drowning, you jump in and help.

Irena Sendler never thought of herself as a person who did anything out of the ordinary. She believed she was just listening to her heart when she worked to rescue thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.

I learned about Irena while touring the Holocaust Center of Maitland, Florida. Currently the museum is hosting the “Heroes of Warsaw” exhibit which shares the original artwork of illustrator Bill Farnsworth. The exhibit will be on display until December 28, 2018.

Farnsworth’s illustrations appear in the children’s book, Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin. (Holiday House 2011) I was so intrigued by Irena’s life, I borrowed a copy of the book from our local public library.

THE SETTING

After the German army invaded Poland in 1939, thousands of Jewish residents of Warsaw were rounded up and packed into a ghetto with eleven foot high walls. Soon a typhus epidemic broke out due to poor sanitation. The Germans were horrified the epidemic would expand beyond the walls of the ghetto. They permitted Polish authorities to take care of health and sanitation inside the walls since they were afraid to enter.

THE PLOT

Irena Sendler was a young Catholic social worker who dressed as a nurse to gain access to the Warsaw ghetto. Armed police were stationed at every entrance. As a member of the underground group Zegota, she used her cover to smuggle Jewish children to safe homes, where they assumed false identities. In the book the author describes the creative means by which Irena bypassed the armed police. Irena hid children in coffins and under the floorboards of ambulances. Babies were tucked into potato sacks and toolboxes.

Her efforts were not without personal sacrifice. Irena had become a prime mover in the Zagota organization.  Eventually she was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured by the Nazi’s. She escaped her execution with the help of a truck driver who accepted a bribe for her release. While Irena was in prison, her aunt saved the record of the children’s true identities. After her escape, Irena recovered the lists, stored them in glass bottles, and buried them under an apple tree.

After the war ended she gave the lists to Dr. Adolph Berman who placed the children in Jewish homes. Irena liberated four hundred children herself. Zegota saved over two thousand. Most of the parents of the surviving children were executed in the Treblinka death camp during the war.

THE MORAL

When asked why she risked her life to save others, Irena responded by sharing something she learned when she was young.

“I was taught by my father that when someone is drowning, you don’t just ask if they can swim, you jump in and help.”

Irena never thought of herself as heroic. She believed, like many selfless people she was simply doing what she had to do. Irena thought the real heroes were the Jewish mothers who gave up their children to unknown persons. 

IRENA’S LATER YEARS

On October 19, 1965 Irena was recognized by the World Holocaust Remembrance center of Jerusalem. Polish Communist leaders did not allow her to travel to Israel to receive the award. She was later presented the award in 1983.  

Irena Sendler died in Warsaw in 2008 at age 98. Her life reminds me of Psalm 41.

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. The Lord will protect him and bless his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 

The Holocaust Center sponsors educational programs dedicated to combating ant-Semitism, racism, and prejudice. Plans have been unveiled to move it’s location to a newly renovated facility in downtown Orlando which will serve as a symbol of the city’s diversity and acceptance.

The Benefits of Board Games

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the thought of shopping for family members and friends this December? Tired of the latest electronic gadgets and gizmos?

Over the years, I’ve grown to value experiences more than things. Spending quality time with love ones results in closer relationships. This week’s post celebrates the benefits of board games. But not all board games are fun for everyone. Monopoly and Risk are both elimination games which take too long too play.

My favorite board games:

  • Keep every player hopeful that anyone might win.
  • Involve skill in addition to chance.
  • Are interesting.
  • Promote creativity.

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Many of you are already familiar with my family’s affection for Ticket to Ride. (Days of Wonder) After two years, we still play this game every Sunday afternoon. It’s developed into a habit we can’t seem to break. In this two to five player game each person draws tickets with specified routes. Players receive points for placing their train cars on tracks which connect various U. S. cities. At the end of the game, each player reveals their routes and completed trips. Points are either awarded or deducted based on the number of trips completed. All players remain in the game until the end and the winner is always a surprise.

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The 1910 expansion pack is a good idea for anyone purchasing Ticket to Ride. It contains larger playing cards and additional routes. At the end of the game a player can earn the fifteen point Globetrotter bonus card for the most completed trips.

 

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Our second favorite family board game is Beyond Balderdash.(Parker Brothers) This game has been around for awhile. We like it better than the original Balderdash because it includes a movie category. The object of Beyond Balderdash is to make up written answers which bluff the other players. A dasher reads all the answers submitted and includes the real answer in the mix. Points are awarded for fooling other players, as well as for choosing the real and often unbelievable answer.

My family members enjoy coming up with witty blurbs to describe each movie. The title of one movie was “Madhouse.” My husband, Herb submitted this summary: “An out of control builder takes his anger out on his wife by building her a two-story house without a staircase.” Beyond Balderdash inspires our creativity and can be played by as many as seven players.

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Lost Cities (Kosmos) is a card game for two players. Herb and I love this game because it’s very compact for travel and only takes thirty minutes to play. The object of the game is to form expedition routes and earn discovery points. Players draw cards and organize them in numerical order. At the end of each round, points are awarded for cards played which exceed the cost of each expedition.

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Splendor (Days of Wonder) is an artistic and mathematical game designed for up to four players. Each player takes on the role of a rich merchant during the Renaissance. As a merchant you collect gems and gold tokens that can used to buy development cards. Some development cards carry point values. Each player tries to be the first to reach the sum of fifteen points and win the game.

A good board game never goes out of style and can bring family entertainment for years. Leave a comment and let me know your opinion of any of these games, or offer a suggestion for something we haven’t tried.

 

Giving Thanks

Writers are always looking for inspiration. Like many people, I find inspiration in Scripture and nature. This month I decided to read a psalm every day and journal a few notes about each one. If I continue this habit I’ll finish the book of Psalms by the end of March. The chapters are short, poetic, and emotional. In many of the passages, David despairs about his enemies, but closes with a proclamation of faith in the power of God to help him. He thanks God for protection and provision. David often thanks God for simply being God.

Psalm 19 is one of my favorites. Here are the first several verses from the NIV:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,

like a champion rejoicing to run its course.

It rises at one end of the heavens

and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul.”

Wow! I hope this psalm blesses you as much it has blessed me. The heavens do declare the glory of God.  The stars do sing of his beauty and authority. The universal language spoken by his creation can be understood no matter what language someone speaks. I am humbled when I look at the work of his hands. It’s then that I’m reminded of how small I am and how much I need him.

The word holiday derives from “holy day.” A day set apart, not for the anticipation of Black Friday, but to give thanks to the one who set the planets in motion. Let’s remember to seek the giver of all things good.

The phrase “Happy Thanksgiving” is kind of an oxymoron. How can anyone give thanks and not be happy?

May your joy be full as you celebrate God’s goodness with loved ones this Thanksgiving.

Until next time…

 

 

 

Along the Cady Way Trail

Pushing on the pedals

Riding down the road

Wheels are spinning faster

Cares are letting go

I shiver in the shadows

Under live oak trees

Pendulums of Spanish moss

Swaying in the breeze

Riding through a clearing

Bright sun warms my face

Days are getting shorter

Time is hard to place

Autumn is a toddler

Playing guessing games

Silent when a stranger

Wants to know his name

Haven for the snowbirds

Flocking to the scene

Nature hums an endless song

In the key of green.

See No Weevil

Do you like oatmeal? It’s a nutritious and low calorie food. Oatmeal is even more nutritious if you throw a few weevils into your bowl. What? Weevils?

One morning I decided to prepare some of the oatmeal that had been sitting in my pantry for months. I think I should also mention I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time.

I scooped the oatmeal into a bowl, added the recommended amount of water, and slid the bowl into the microwave. When the cook time finished, I removed the bowl and carried it to the table. I mixed in a couple of spoonfuls of brown sugar, poured a little milk on top, and began to eat while I scanned emails on my phone.

Suddenly I took a closer look into my bowl. What are those funny black specks? Hey, wait a minute, those don’t look normal. 

I walked back in the kitchen and opened the oatmeal container. Brown things were crawling inside! I felt sick to my stomach. Could those things be weevils in the larvae stage? Oh no, I already ate two spoonfuls. Of course, whenever anyone needs medical information, who should you turn to, but Google. Of course, Google knows everything.

Weevils are small beetles that feed on grains. Their larvae is often found in packaged flour, cornmeal, cereals, and dog food. Weevils don’t break inside sealed packages, they are already inside as eggs. When the time is right they hatch.

I was greatly relieved that according to my internet source, weevils are not harmful to people or pets. Heating kills them, so that made me feel a little better. One site even shared that weevils could be considered a protein source . Actually, all of us have probably eaten a few weevils during our lifetime. Maybe we were  totally unaware of their presence.

Even though I felt a little better, that doesn’t mean I finished my oatmeal.  I poured it down the garbage disposal and got rid of the whole package of oats. I decided to eat a bagel with cream cheese instead. This was not a time to think about losing weight. 

The moral of the story: Take a close look (with your glasses on) inside any container of grains in order to be sure you “see no weevil.”

Readers, I hope this story has brightened your election week. Tomorrow many of us may be voting on  “the lesser of two weevils.”