Friday, October 31, 2014

Nourish ~ The Little Works

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 31! We've made it to the end. To see the rest of the series click here.

We were reading the story about the feeding of the 5,000 in the Jesus Storybook Bible yesterday morning when we got to the paragraph that read:
“What food do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and see."  
Now, there was a little boy in the crowd. He had brought a lunch that his mother had made for him that morning. He looked at his five loaves and two fish. It wasn’t much— not nearly enough for 5,000— but it was all he had.  
“I have some,” he said.

We continued reading and came across some more lovely words which said:

     But Jesus knew the One who made all the fish in the oceans. And Jesus knew the One who in the very beginning had made everything out of nothing at all. How hard would something like this be for Someone like that?

I just adore that little Storybook Bible. It got me thinking and I asked the kids… 

"Who in this story besides Jesus, secondary to Jesus, might also be considered a hero?” 

“The little boy!”

“Because he gave up his lunch?”

“Yes but he gained even more lunch than he’d come with. Who else?”

“The disciples?”

“Mmmmm, not who I’m thinking of.”

“We give up.”

“Well,” said I, “who fixed the lunch for the little boy?”

“Oh!” said they, “the MOM!”

“Why, yes, yes indeed! The Mom.”

Have you ever thought about that before? In the crowd of 5,000 food was found in the hands of one little boy whose mom thought ahead a little. The gospel accounts of this story do not mention the boy's mother like our Storybook Bible does,  but can we, for now, assume that the boy's lunch was a result of his mother's action and then that she probably made him lunch every single day and that day, the one on which he wanted to go hear from Jesus, was just like all the other days she’d made his lunch except that day she just had to pack it up for him. And so she did. 

She made sure that her son had something to nourish him as he went along his way. That thing that she did every single day whether she felt like it or not, whether she received recognition for it or not, whether she felt valued in her task or not…that very packing of a lunch for her own son, became nourishment for 5,000 others. 

Would that I, that we all, would see the potential in the little works of nourishment that are ours to perform faithfully. Let me not think that providing nourishment in whatever form is a small task in the hands of the One who nourishes us best so that we may best nourish others.

The End.

{This post marks the end of the 31 Days of Nourishment series. Thanks so much for reading all of these words, some carefully chosen and others jotted in a fit of haste. I’m grateful for the encouragement that has been so generously offered by old friends and new, by my kids and my family, and especially by my Man, as the days of October have danced by.  November, here we come!}

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nourish ~ Hide It In Your Heart

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 30! To see the rest of the series click here.

I have always been a great memorizer. As a child I remember learning lines in plays with relative ease. I memorized science definitions and French verb derivations. I memorized boys phone numbers, the cable line up for our local TV…just like you did, I’m sure. 

These days I’m still memorizing BUT IT’S SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT!! Somewhere along the way I’ve picked up a handicap or two in the memorizing arena and I’m pretty sure I can name those handicaps “AGE” and “LIFE.” Still, some things are easier to tuck into the folds of my brain than others, recipes stick well because something in me knows that a recipe put to mind reaps wonderful benefits of speed, planning, and execution. The church secretary at our former church (which had a membership of well over 600) knew by heart every phone number of every member. She too was working against age and life, yet the need for that particular set of information in her daily work made it second nature to her. 

I make my children memorize all sorts of things. Right now we are working on various poems and Romans 8 and the little girls work each week on a set of verses for AWANA at our church. 

One might ask why in this world of immediately available information does anyone need to memorize anything? Why not just rely on Google? Can’t we just look it up instead of spending all that time memorizing? 

My answer is: “Yes indeed. Look up all of the information you want. Google till you’ve flattened your fingerprints…but also…memorize stuff please.” 

Much information has been gathered about the benefits of memorization both to the brain and to the soul. 

There is perhaps no greater tool than memorization to seal language patterns into a human brain, and there is perhaps nothing more effective than poetry to provide exactly what we want: reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns. Although rote memorization and recitation went out of vogue when the great god of Creativity began to dominate ideology in the Schools of Education, it has stood for centuries, even millennia, as the most powerful way to teach, to learn, to develop skills, and to preserve knowledge. By memorizing and reciting, you practically fuse neurons into permanent language storage patterns. Those patterns are then ready to be used, combined, adapted, and applied to express ideas in a myriad of ways. ~Andrew Pudewa, One  Myth, Two Truths

When we memorize the brain is strengthened. When we memorize we fill our heart with beauty and goodness and we gain confidence in our mind. When we memorize, we keep the brain that God gave us in the best shape possible and with that fit mind we can better serve Him…much better serve Him!  

Everyone has his or her own way of going about getting words from the page to the brain. My favorite way is to place what I’m trying to memorize in front of me while I’m doing brainless activity…I have Romans 8 hanging in my shower and I have written it on my mirror in the bathroom with a wet erase marker. The former works great, the latter tends to fade with the steam from the shower! 

I know in moments of great stress or at times when I can’t get my mind to calm and move on to a “better place” I’m always glad to have some of the Word in there because the mere calling of it to my mind does great things to calm and nourish my soul. 

For more information about the benefits and some "how to" tips memorization check out the following links:

Famous Poet Billy Collins tells how a poem committed to memory saved his sanity during an MRI...
I’m not a claustrophobe, but you don’t need to be to feel claustrophobic inside an MRI. It’s like being buried alive. I lay there with my eyes closed, and pulled “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” up in my memory. I pulled the whole poem up before me in my mind. Slowly, I started reciting it. And then more slowly. After saying it straight through a number of times, I used the poem as a kind of diagram to focus on. I said just the rhyme words: tree / made, bee / glade, slow / sing, glow / wing, like that. Then I tried to say every other line. By the time the MRI was over, I was in the process of saying it backwards. And the poem—like a good companion—had saved me from really freaking out. {The rest of the article HERE.}
 Ann Voskamp has an excellent primer here at A Holy Experience.
World Magazine weighs in with this short pieceFour Score and Seven Reasons why Memorization is I
John Piper at Desiring God has lots to say about memorization: The Why and How; and a three minute video 
     here that is wonderful.
Finally, Ten Reasons to Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible

Nourish your heart friends. Feed it words from its Creator.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nourish ~ Create Something...Anything!

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 29! To see the rest of the series click here.

My last few days were nose-to-the-grindstone, get’er-done-and-get-to-the-next-thing sort of days. There were a few moments throughout that might qualify as nourishing, but the largest part of my days was far from what I’ve been describing in these October posts. As a result, my insides were tight and tired. 

The kids and I are on a short fall break which began yesterday and ends today, so I had the luxury of holding very still today and doing whatever I pleased. The problem was that I could not for the life of me figure out what “whatever I pleased” looked like. 

I read a few paragraphs of a book and put it down to save it for later, I picked up a book from a different genre and it didn’t hold my attention. I didn’t have the endurance today to force my attention into sentence after sentence until I was into a good reading pace. 

Sometimes when such a mood strikes, baking a batch of cookies is just the cure. There is something soothing in doling out spoonful after spoonful of sandy colored, chocolate studded cookie dough. There were already cookies in my kitchen. Chopping vegetables for a big pot of soup can help to lift my listlessness, but there was already a pot of soup in the fridge. 

I was outside on my porch when my plan to read went south on me and I looked up to see a hedge between our yard and our neighbor's yard that was full of little navy blue berries, and further down in my yard was another bush with flaming orange berries. 

Leaves in surrounding trees were all bursting with fall colors and all of it mixed with what has to have been the last of the warm air of fall helped bring my mind to a picture I’d seen of a simple arrangement of sticks and leaves and perhaps berries…

Still in my pjs, I grabbed my kitchen scissors and a branch clipper and spent the late morning like I’d spent many as a kid, playing in the yard with the stuff that grows there. After some time had passed, I had a jar full of sticks and berries and two very rustic wreaths to place around my barely-decorated-for-fall home. 

More important though, I also had the refreshed spirit of one who’d been gifted the time and the beautiful warm day to just play.

Creation is exciting, nourishing, calming to your soul, and happily stimulating!  I see it as an energy that wants to live and can only do so through an act of creation whether it be a project, a painting, a song, a meal, or a letter. ~ Jasjit Rai

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nourish ~ For the First Grader in Us All

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 28! To see the rest of the series click here.

Hello!! Molly Joy here!

Hope you are all doing well since I checked in with you last. Things at my house are pretty much the same as usual...NUTS!!

My mom has been spending all of her time having school with us or cooking or sitting at her computer typing madly into the night. I'm starting to feel bad for her because of that little twitch she's developed, but her Man, says that she'll be ok eventually. He's been saying that for a few years now but what do people say...hope springs eternal or something like that?

Anyway, I thought I'd take over for today and give Mom a break so she could go read a book or take that bath she was talking about last post although I don't know what the big deal about getting a bath is for her...she practically LIVES in there as it is!

Did you know that I am in first grade this year? Yessir, and middle school is just around the corner. It'll be here before I know it. I thought I'd show you what first grade looks like at my school, which of course is my home. Mom says she has too much respect for the local teachers to cut me loose on one of them so she just does what she can with me here.

First in the day we do morning time...actually, first we do breakfast,

   then we do morning time. After that I work on my math.

Those blocks on the counter help me when I run out of fingers and toes to work with. When you are in first grade, the numbers go really high.

After math I read to Mom and then she reads to me. We just finished a book about a little boy from China who got into all kinds of trouble. He gave me a few good ideas.

See me working on that paper? It's my weekly schedule. It tells me what comes next so I don't always have to ask Mom. I mark off the stuff I'm finished with and then go on to the next thing. Cole has one too but his looks different than mine...

I think you'd agree that my schedule is much more academically challenging and much less devoted to the extra-curriculars.

After I finish math and reading I find it necessary to get the smarts back into my head.  Lemme show you how to do that. I think some of you who work at desks like my Dad should try this sometimes, it'll help you I think better...

It's very important to grip with your toes. Don't forget that part.

Lemme tell ya something else, science is NOT my Mom's favorite subject but do not fear!!

There is no need to call the school board because, I, Molly Joy have taken over teaching the experiments and it's all going very well.

After I teach the kids science, it's time for lunch...

Mom's not very good at lunch either, so I'm just whipping up a quick salad.

After lunch it's important to wrestle about a bit with Cole. Mom says boys have to move around a lot during the day or they'll explode or get very irritating so I help put Cole through his paces.

When Cole has had enough of me...

I check on Kate and make sure she understands what she's reading.   

Then it's time to work on my AWANA verses.

By this time in the day, I just need to be alone to work. I might have tried to get some alone time in the bathroom, but Mom's probably in the tub again so...I'll finish my day here on Kate's bed.

There is a lot of hard work to do in first grade...I love it when I have all my subjects marked off. That means that I get to rest for a few days!

Looks like Mom has been talking about being nourished a lot these last few weeks. So I guess I should tell you what makes me feel nourished (besides a fist full of gummy bears or a pint of ice cream that I don't have to share). I feel nourished when I get to sit around the table with these goofballs and learn stuff. 

So, that's what my day looks like most of the time. Thanks for spending the day with me! 
I hope you learned as much as I did! 

See ya next time!

"Learning is not to be attained by chance, it must be sought for with adder and diligence."
~Abigail Adams

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nourish ~ Stepping Out of Normal

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 27! To see the rest of the series click here.

It takes more effort than it ought to to step out of the daily routine. I heard the other day on the news that Americans are taking less of their paid —their earned — vacations than at any time in the last 40 years. Even as studies show that workers who take their vacations are less stressed and are more productive and more likely to be promoted, the majority of Americans skip taking time off

I’m pretty sure that, left to my own nature, I’d be one of those vacationless people. It seems easier to me to “just keep swimming” day in and day out. There is a comfort in the routine isn’t there. I’m not going to miss anything if I show up everyday. I’m going to look necessary, indispensable, and important by continuing to exist in my normal flight pattern. Parts of me are more nourished by knowing what to expect and not having any surprises pop out at me. 

Other parts of me, however, that get lost beneath layer upon layer of day after day of the same. Pretty soon my life looks dull from underneath all of those layers. Dull, but comfortable—comfortable but lackluster.

Early this spring my Man reminded me that the sabbatical from work was approaching. My dull self groaned both inwardly and outwardly. I whined, I avoided any future mention of the topic for months until finally, I was led kicking and screaming into a time out of my comfy lackluster normal.

Our time away was not exactly what you’d call full of glitz and glamor, because really, it was none of that. It quickly became a time in which a different normal reigned in a different environment. I still cooked, laundry still needed tending, children still required raising and yet a deeper nourishment happened in my heart as a result. 

Things—everyday things—were clearer and more delightful both while we were away and upon our return. Relationships within our family—the same family I had before leaving town—fit a bit more snugly. My outlook on the coming school year—the same school year I’d been dreading since summer began—seemed to hold fresh promise. 

When we are brave enough to step out of normal there is nourishment to be experienced. 

Does one need to step out of normal for an entire month like my family did in order to gain such nourishment? 

Oh, I hope not. 

Since our return things in our world have not been all butterflies and balloons. Our time away was not a cure all for the difficulties of life but goodness, I’m glad to know the benefits of it for I know how it helped us better face the difficulties that we met. I also know that I don’t want to get to the point of my former dullness of mind where I was existing before we stepped away and that I can’t wait another five years to be nourished by that getting away, I can’t even wait until our next vacation rolls around. 

I’m determined to weave into the fabric of my weeks opportunities to step away, to give myself fresh perspective, to nourish my normal a little. It means I’m gonna have to be creative and be intentional and be determined because it is so easy to say, “There’s just not time to …” and go flying back to dullness because it’s easier. It also means that knowing how beneficial stepping out of routine once in a while is for me, I need to help others in my world do likewise! 

I’ve begun practicing a few ways of stepping out of the regular: let the kids watch a marathon of the Cosby Show on a Saturday while I snuggle up with a book I’ve been eager to devour, declare myself off limits for an hour and grab a bubble bath at the end of a school day, go on a run and be gone for more than an hour, go alone to the library and browse to my heart’s content. My daughter plays the ukulele to step away from her normal and my son shoots basketball or heads to a nearby college campus to run on the track. 

 See! Nothing glitzy or glamorous but how very much more nourished I am on the other side of these little respites. I think it’s so tempting to think we need to arrange an entire weekend away to shake things up and though a weekend away would surely fill the bill, it’s not awfully practical to do with any regularity. In this case, go big or stay home is just too much effort. I think go purposefully and go often because something is so much better than a dull nothing.

Be creative and think of ways to step out of your normal to refresh and nourish your perspective. It’s worth the effort and it will make you a better worker/parent/church member/student/cook/laundry lady....too!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nourish ~ My Go To Meal for Make Ahead, Eat In, Take Out, Stick It In the Freezer, Company's Coming, Sunday Dinner

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 26. To see the rest of the series click here!

Fifteen and a half years ago I had a baby. He was three weeks early and I was not quite ready food-wise, not quite ready meaning totally unprepared. As you would expect with a first grandchild and a first nephew, my mom and my sister hit the scene and before they left me and my Man to raise our son on our own devices, they filled my freezer with three or four casseroles worth of what my family has named Waltz Chicken. 

When my sis handed over the recipe it was originally called “Will's Chicken” but there was some kerfluffle about "Will" not being a nice person and so the dish was renamed “Walt's Chicken".  I never did know who Will was, but apparently Walt was a nicer guy. Somewhere along the way though, I began thinking of “Walt's” as “Waltz” and...there ya have it, “Waltz Chicken” officially the most shared dish in my repertoire. I hardly ever make just one recipe at a time, it’s so simple to just make to…one for us now and one for us later OR one for someone needing food now and one for us later, you get the idea.

The ingredients in this dish are admittedly a little on the indulgent side. So, use this dish as just that an occasional indulgence. You can lighten it a little by going with a low fat cream of chicken soup and completely omitting the corn flake/butter topping...if you must.

Waltz Chicken

Here's what you'll need:

4 chicken breasts, cooked and cut or pulled into bite size pieces
4 chicken thighs, cooked and cut or pulled into bite size pieces
(or any combination of the above, I often just boil a whole bird and use all of the meat which works just fine)
2 1/2 cups cooked rice (1 cup uncooked equals 2 1/2 cooked)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup mayonnaise 
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups crunched corn flakes (or Honey Bunches of Oats, etc. if you are in a pinch or even Goldfish crackers work beautifully, as do Ritz crackers)
1/2 cup butter, melted

Here's what to do:

Get a big ole bowl and combine chicken and cooked rice. 

Then add the chicken soup and onion, lemon juice, mayo and cheese and stir to combine.

Cover the mixture and refrigerate for three hours or really, you don't have to refrigerate it at all if you are in a hurry. While you wait for mixture to marry in fridge, combine the melted butter and crushed corn flakes. When done chilling (if you did) place mixture in a greased 9x13 casserole dish and evenly spread buttered cornflakes on top. Bake in a 300˚ oven for an hour…or again, if in a hurry, in a 350˚ oven for 30-35 minutes, until heated through. 

Is this the most adaptable recipe or what?! 

SUNDAY LUNCH: If making for Sunday lunch, prep to the baking point and put oven on auto bake. Another option: bake it while you get ready for church and reheat when you come home. Either way...easy delicious and your house smells like Sunday.

NOTE: If you are making this to freeze, place the mixture in a freezer bag and freeze flat instead of letting it chill in the fridge. Label the bag with the name of the dish AND the instructions, you'll be thankful that you did when you pull it from the freezer. When you are ready to prepare your freezer meal, allow it to thaw in the fridge for a day and then place in the greased 9x13 casserole and bake as directed above. 

Family recipes are always keepers and this is my favorite casserole.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nourish ~ To Keep the Mind Fresh

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 25. To see the rest of the series click here!

My days are filled with doing many things over and over day in and day out and I bet yours are too. Because of the everyday, over-and-again I fear falling into a rut. I am allergic to the thought of being bored, in fact as a child I was not permitted to whine of boredom. “If you are bored,” Mom would say, “it is your OWN fault.” I remember rolling my eyes just like my children do these days when I feed them that same line, whose truth I have come to believe heartily. 

To combat brain boredom (because there is no lack of things for my hands to stay busy about) I do little things which help to inspire, to spark imagination, or to simply give me something to think about while browning the beef on any given night. Reading books and listening to podcasts is one of the things which I think helps keep my mind fresh, but so does stopping by a few of my favorite blogs to see what my peers are up to as they live out their every days. 

The BooMama Blog always makes me grin. Creator Sophie Hudson (author of one of my favorite laugh out loud books) is a Southern lady who is the kind of football fan whose enthusiasm and loyalty for her Mississippi State Bulldogs made me a fan of her team too which is handy this year as they are on FIRE! Sophie writes from a Christian perspective about all kinds of fun things but she especially excels in finding the very best snack crackers and sharing with you just which dip each cracker needs to reach its fullest potential.

Sophie has a buddy in the blogging world named Melanie Shankle who I have written about a time or two because of her heartwarming and chuckle-inducing books also has a blog “Big Mama” which has been hailed as “The Seinfeld of Blogs” because it is a blog about nothing in particular and everything under the son, except on Fridays which are Fashion Fridays. I make sure to keep up Melanie and her fashion finds each week so that I am at least familiar with the latest trends, otherwise I tend toward the style of the Amish!

When I am in need of some deep nourishment I turn to Ann Voskamp and her A Holy Experience blog. Ann posts nearly every day and her words are filled with beauty and her photography is just warm and inviting. Ann is the author of one of my all-time favorite books “One Thousand Gifts” and her blog is full of the same deep faith. (Ann has a beautiful new book for children to celebrate Christmas, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas. We have recently added it to our shelves and cannot wait to include it in to our Morning Time when December 1st arrives.)

I am not a decorator AT ALL. I have many empty walls in my home because I simply do not know where to begin and I do not want to make a mistake. The author of the decorating book and blog the Nesting Place, Myquillin Smith, is attempting to fix my issues with her rallying cry“It doesnt have to be perfect to be beautiful.”There just might be hope for me yet!

Tsh Oxenrider is a blogger whose dream was for her family to travel around the world for a year. Right now they are about two months into their journey which Tsh is documenting on her blog, The Art of Simple Travel (she is best known for her blog The Art of Simple which is a great one too). Her 9 year-old daughter has written the latest post about what it's like for a kid to travel. These posts are worth going back through the shallow archives to see just how this family of five packed in one backpack each for the YEAR of travel. 

Anne Bogel is the creator of Modern Mrs. Darcy a blog which "puts a timely spin on timeless women's issues" and while the blog is that, it is much more a blog where I turn to find good book recommendations. The Twitterature feature which is a 140 character long book review and runs on a regular basis is one of my favorites.

There are so many food blogs which light my fire and since I am all about family meals at home I need many food blogs to keep nutritious tasty interesting meals coming to a table near me! 

Dinner: A Love Story is an intelligently written blog about a family and its dedication to family dinner. A bonus, the wife/husband team who write the blog and their two daughters are all readers and share really great kids book recommendations as well as yummy dinner ideas and recipes. Two cookbooks have sprung from this blog: Dinner: A Love Story (have it, love it) and just out, Dinner: The Playbook (just arrived on my doorstep, looks good, haven't read it yet.)

The Smitten Kitchen has the best named food blog ever. Deb Perelman writes with a voice that makes you feel like she is a comfortable friend who is at your elbow coaching you through each step of the recipes she is attempting to teach you. Oh and the recipes! I purchased the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook when it was hot off of the press a few years ago hoping it would be half as fun and inspiring as her blog. It delivered, the pages are full of recipes that quickly became part of our regular rotation. The photography on the blog is wonderful and the recipes are just different enough to be unique while still using normal ingredients. Do scroll through her pages if only to admire her originality and photography skills. One of my favorite recipes is here.

Pastry Affair is my favorite baking blog. Again, killer pictures with literary quotes to add even more bling to the already gorgeous food. This blog will make you hungry, and I suspect you will find yourself returning again and again just to see what is in the oven.

I could write on and on about blogs. They are to me a perfect quick visit with like-minded souls. I can glance at a blog post for a quick mini-break in the day and get ideas for nourishing my home, my heart, and my table. I hope you find something you enjoy in the suggestions above too! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Nourish ~ To Nourish Us as We Age

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 24. To see the rest of the series click here!

I was reading a blog early in the summer when I came upon this quote:
“Every life creates an atmosphere. The air around some people is charged with rage. The air crackles, stretched taut, waiting for the lightening strike. Another person, another atmosphere: anxiety and tension, or fearfulness and excessive caution, or recklessness and indifference....I live in eager anticipation and hope."
I loved it. As is my habit, I chased down the person who said it and the book from which the quote originated and there I met Jean Fleming and the blessing has been all mine since that day. 

Jean Fleming is the author of many books but the one that nourished the socks off of my summer is called Pursue the Intentional Life.  I opened to cover and read the forward which was written by a woman who had been mentored by Mrs. Fleming and her words made me lean in with anticipation to the pages that awaited me. 

Arranged in short chapters, Pursue the Intentional Life was the book I woke up each morning looking forward to opening. I underlined, copied quotes in a special journal I reserved only for this book, I read quotes aloud to my Man, I texted my Mom and sisters about it, I may even have Instagramed a page or two. 

I discovered during my reading, that the book club was featuring Mrs. Fleming and her book in a weekly book club And that videos of the book discussions were available ONLINE (here) and I could watch them at my leisure! Woot!

Long before I finished reading the book, I realized that it would be necessary to read it again. I NEVER READ A BOOK TWICE (except for Charlotte's Web which I’ve read 4 times now) but I needed this one to sink deeper into my heart. The morning after I turn  the last page I missed the company of my new friend and her wisdom. I forced myself on to the next book in my stack, but it wasn't the same. Pursue the Intentional Life had set such a high standard of "this applies to my life completely" that any other book was unable to grip my focus. 

What makes Pursue the Intentional Life so compelling is that it is so important for women of all ages and I think that the earlier in her life it gets into a woman's hands, the greater will be her benefit. When Fleming turned 50, she decided to place before herself a goal to be the best "old lady" she could be. She understood that being a lovely "old lady" was not going to happen accidentally and thus she determined to be intentional on her journey particularly as it involved aging. This book then, is what she calls her "Old Lady File.” 

Covering topics like what it means to be a life long learner, how to deal with changes that increasing age deals us, growing sweeter through bitter times and so many many more. Click here and then click on the words “Look Inside.” 

CAVEAT: The book is currently out of stock at! It is available for Kindle. Barnes & Noble has the paperback edition here and the Nook version here. 

"God is not asking me to number my days to increase my pace but rather to examine my route, not to increase my efficiency but to see where I must make course corrections in heart, character, and actions." 

"Who knows the challenges ahead? But in them all, I want to trust His grace, trust that He can reveal Himself in me when I'm barely hanging on, trust that when there is almost nothing of me left, He will show up most powerfully."

~Jean Fleming~

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nourish ~ Making the Wheels Turn More Smoothly

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 23. To see the rest of the series click here!

I was a Girl Scout. I am a Girl Scout? I’m never sure on that one. I used to be a Girl Scout but... is one always a Girl Scout in the same way that one is always a Marine? I still use many of the skills I learned in scouting in my current occupation, much more than I do any of the skills I picked up in college and I still consider myself a college graduate. 

One of the things that I still remember because I was/am a Girl Scout is how to handle a knife. 

Did you know there was a proper way to handle a knife? There is, and much of it involves what you’d expect: how to close a folding knife, how to be safe while using the knife, the direction of the cut you should make. What you wouldn’t expect is that part of the handling of a knife involves saying “Thank You” when you have firm possession of a knife that is being handed to you. 

Know why? To keep you safe. When you say “Thank you.” The person handing off the knife knows for sure that you are alert and secure in your grip. Who knew? (Besides the Girl Scouts, I guess.) 

Sometimes it seems that manners are as old fashioned as my Girl Scout sash and we might think that they are equally as useful. 

Please don’t be fooled. Manners are vital to our 2014 lives. I’m not talking about which fork to use at a fancy restaurant (though that knowledge will surely come in handy some day) or even the proper way to address a greeting card to a widow or a single lady (also good to know). I’m talking about the basic, ground level manners. 

I’m campaigning for the simple manners that say, “Yes ma’am” instead of “Yep” ; for “What did you say?” instead of “huh?” ; for “Mom, I need your help in the next room, can you come here please?” instead of “HEY MOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM! HEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYY” (I might be setting the bar a bit high on that last one). 

Why is it important? Because manners are about making others more important than self. Manners are about acknowledging another person or persons and helping them to feel valued and comfortable. Manners are more than acting polite in proper situations . Having manners is about being polite, because it is who you are in real life. I’m big on manners, not because I want my kids to seem better than everyone else. I’m big on manners because I think that my kids need to be the best kids that I can teach them to be so that they can travel through life as smoothly as possible. I mean to nourish my kids with manners so that they can in turn nourish others.

Manners grease the wheels of relationship. The person who answers his boss while looking him straight in the eye and says, “No sir.” will surely travel further in his job than the person who is looking down at her phone and answers “Uh-uh.” The teenager who knows not to speak with food in her mouth in a dinner interview for an internship will likely go further than the one who talked with a jaw full of salad. The person with a firm handle on manners will be taken much more seriously than the one who thinks that manners don’t matter anymore.

I heard recently that one should never have two sets of manners, one for public life and one for home life but that manners were equally important in both realms. I disagree a little. If you have to choose (which you don’t) I’d say manners at home will make your life so much more pleasant and so much more ingrained in your person, that using manners in public will soon become second nature. 

We have lots of work to do in the manners arena around these parts adults and children alike, so we practice sometimes, imagining situations and conversations and working on best responses. Sometimes, we have a scrimmage in the manners game when we have company over for dinner. There is no better way to see where improvement is needed than to invite others into your home! 

Manners are extra effort but I feel deeply that to teach them to our children is to give them an inheritance that will serve far better than a large bank account. Start with the basics: look the person who is speaking to you in the eye, answer completely "Yes" or "No", speak clearly, put cell phones away when others are talking. Highlight one action each week or every two weeks until everyone is succeeding, then add another. Keep it up until you would feel comfortable approaching the Queen of England...oh, no please don't do that. That certainly wouldn't put many folks at ease in your company and really, the comfort and value of others in your presence is the goal. 

Be gracious with slips of manners. We are ALL works in progress!

Manners: What Others Are Saying...

Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot. ~Clarence Thomas

The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any. ~Fred Astaire

The test of good manners is to be patient with the bad ones. ~Solomon Ibn Gabirol

Good manners have much to do with the emotions. To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them. ~Amy Vanderbilt

You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners. ~Lillian Gish

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. ~Philippians 3:2

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nourish ~ Some Pages for Your Soul

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 22. To see the rest of the series click here!

When I need some nourishment I often turn to a book or two or three and do my very best to get lost in a story. When I need to learn about how to nourish my soul I ask my Man, who has read a lot about this lately, for some book recommendations. 

Some pages to nourish your soul...

Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg 

My Man has been repeating a line from this book for months, it goes something like this:

"You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."

The publisher's description:
In an age of materialism and consumerism that tries to buy its way to happiness, many souls are starved and unhealthy, unsatisfied by false promises of status and wealth. We’ve neglected this eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world—and not without consequence.

Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro

This book is full of practical ideas on how to to replenish yourself. The author also includes his own story of burnout and depression and what he learned as a result. My Man has read this one twice and has benefitted each time.

Publisher's description: 

In Leading on Empty, Wayne Cordeiro candidly shares his experience with the hope that it will encourage others headed down the same path. He was able to get back in touch with his life, get back in proper balance, and allow God to reenergize his spirit in a way that propelled him forward to greater levels of service. Learn from his experience how you can continue a fruitful ministry. Better yet, take advantage of Wayne's helpful advice early on and avoid burnout altogether.

Thirsting for God: Spiritual Refreshment for the Sacred Journey by Gary Thomas

I've written before about Gary Thomas. I like his style. He writes on many topics including marriage, fitness, and spiritual growth. My Man says that Thomas mines the wells of old authors that most of us aren't familiar with today and shares with us the deep wisdom that is to be gained from writers past. 

From a reviewer: I find myself inspired and challenged not just in thought but in deed! He makes a good case for quoting many of the ancient classics that while you might not always agree with the author's whole theology, you can still be enriched by the passion that drove their pursuit. This book is full of practical helps to direct you towards a growing walk with God characterized by both devotion and action.

Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul by Lance Witt

This book addresses the problem of how one gets depleted and provides practical ways to combat depletion. One of the best chapters is entitled, "The iPhone and Your Soul." Highly recommended especially if you are in a leadership position in any area of your life.

From the publisher: Every leader functions on two stages-the front stage or public world, and the back stage or private world. One cannot lead successfully front stage when one is completely depleted back stage....Replenish helps leaders focus on the back stage, the interior life, in order to remain spiritually healthy.

It would never have occurred to me to read a book about my soul and its nourishment. I'm so glad it occurred to my husband because I've seen how beneficial the information contained in these books has been to him. I was also sitting near as he read them almost without blinking, soaking in all that there was to learn and sharing with me from time to time the highlights, often saying, "You'd really benefit from reading this chapter." or "Listen to what he says about..." 

Here's your chance to learn what my Man has learned and to read some of the books that are soon to be on my "To Be Read" stack.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” 

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