I'm convinced that finding - and appreciating - the beauty around us brings us closer to God. His handiwork reveals so much about his care and love and attention to detail, and His creation shows His incredible glory.
His glory is seen in the sparkle of melting ice from winter berries, the clouds skittering across the sky, and the trees shaking the cold from their leaves. It is seen in the grasses, with their spun-glass coats of frost, the birds searching for seeds and the frozen puddles in the fields. Each day we are given the opportunity to look around and see, truly see, the hand of our Creator....and we often miss it in the hustle of our busy lives. Especially this time of year.
So much to do. So many lists. So many things to accomplish before Christmas arrives.
I feel it. Do you? I'm so behind. Not one gift purchased yet, no cards in the mail, no baking done. Just a work deadline and the knowledge that the clock is ticking.
I need to stop and simply see His beauty.
Today, take a moment to admire something in nature.
Take a deep breath and remember that the God of this amazing universe is actively at work in your life, whether you see it or not, and He cares for you. He has clothed the grasses and trees and flowers in such glory, how much more does he paint His glory into YOUR life?
I'd love to know what beauty you'll find today. How about leaving a comment with one thing you're admiring? Let the joy of finding it fill your heart and draw you to your Maker.
Today, I think I'll venture out.
We've been literally iced in since Friday. And I must admit I've enjoyed every minute of the "forced" sabbatical from normal life. I've stayed busy with my art projects and with working on my book - drinking hot cocoa and sitting by the fire. We've had to bring buckets of water to Flash and Penny (their water outside is frozen solid), and kept them supplied with hay. Tom, my merciful husband, installed a heat lamp in the stall. We've walked to neighbor's houses to bring goodies.
Sometimes you've gotta take what comes...and I've been grateful to have heat, food and water for the five days its lasted. I know not everyone has fared quite so well.
Here are a few pics.
Layers of ice encased everything.
The old farm rake.
Aren't these gorgeous?
Flash has spent a lot of time in the barn, staying warm.
And now, it seems the storm has moved off to the northeast. I pray you'll stay safe and warm and dry!
Have you been dealing with this ice/snow storm? How have you fared?
There's a fenced off little pasture between our house and the barn. It's where our daughter's wedding reception was held under a canopy of twinkly lights. It's where my husband keeps his hockey training range perfectly manicured. It's where there is a little campfire pit with garden chairs around it.
Frankly, it's where all the good grass is. Tender, green winter rye.
Flash was generally fine with being kept out of there. He enjoyed being let into the little meadow every now and then for a temporary feast, but he never seemed to mind when the gate was closed and he was relegated back to his regular tough Texas grasses. He took it as it came - with gratitude and grace.
Amazingly, he never ONCE pooped in the Good Pasture. We are convinced it was his way of saying, "thank you." Such a gentleman.
But then Penny came along. She's the miniature horse who showed up last spring - complete with an outgrown halter and no apparent owner. She made a huge impression on Flash, who broke down two fences and tore a gate off its post for a chance to meet her. Oh dear. After the two equines fell in love and solidified their relationship in the Biblical sense, we sort of gave up looking for her owners and decided to keep her around. They seemed so happy together, mostly. And we were happy to have her, mostly.
But that's before she started having a bad influence on Flash. We now know why no one stepped forward to claim Little Miss Hottie. She's a pain in the, well, rear. Fences mean nothing to her. She can slip through the tiniest of spaces, squeeze through any gap, and break any wire to make a dash for freedom....or help herself to the Good Pasture any old time she pleases.
Flash, lovestruck (or hen-pecked, you decide), follows suit. They've gotten into that pasture so many times that we've decided it's not even worth it to try and keep them out.
Have at it, lovebirds. Eat it. Eat it all. Eat it 'til it's gone.
And suddenly, there is poop EVERYWHERE. Tiny little turds, but in huge piles. Penny is like a one-horse poop factory.
Not to be left out, Flash has made his own piles, albeit just one or two. However, his are way off to the side in self-designated areas. He's funny that way. I love that he's just slightly fastidious about where he poops.
Unlike his charming girlfriend.
Tom gave me an ultimatum the other day. Something about if I wanted to keep my donkey and that dang little horse, I was going to have to start scooping poop from the Good Pasture or they'd kill all the grass in there and he'd personally get rid of them both.
Well, obviously, I want to keep both Flash AND his dang little girlfriend so I got busy with the shovel yesterday. I scooped and threw turds over the fence until my fingers had to be peeled from the shovel handle. Penny was unconcerned with my work and even gave me an extra pile to scoop while I was at it.
Flash lingered beside me everywhere I went, looking apologetic about the state of his habitat. I couldn't be mad at him. He's at the mercy of the diva, and like most guys he can't help himself around a cute girl.
As I scooped, I thought about all this poop. I thought about how all the yucky parts of life just keep happening, even in the midst of the beautiful Christmas season.. Scoop, scoop. Toss. Scoop. Diapers need to be changed, children's throw-up must be cleaned, dogs must be walked, raw chicken must be dealt with, the fuzz on the unrecognizable leftovers in the back of the fridge has to be carried at arm's length to the trash. Annoying co-workers and dysfunctional family systems must be navigated.
And all while the Christmas tree glows in the corner and Bing Crosby croons, "Silent Night." What a contrast.
My nativity scene in the living room, with its camel, sheep and donkey figurines, remind me that those animals, too, probably pooped where they weren't supposed to, right when it was most inconvenient. Probably right there in the barn the night Jesus was born. Somebody had to clean that up...maybe even Joseph himself....on the most important moment of world history. I wonder how he felt about that.
It's the mystery of the eternal, fully housed in our earthly state. Treasures in earthen vessels. Shabby shepherds carrying the news of a savior.
A God, who cannot be contained, in human flesh.
That's something to think about.
Listen. No matter what kind of poop you're scooping this Christmas - be it donkey or work or relationship doodie - I pray that the beauty of the season is not lost, but rather, found. Sometimes it's the utter messiness of life that brings us 'round to the silence, the purity, the necessity of a savior in a manger. A baby who would hold eternal life and peace within his little hand, right there in a smelly stable.
God omnipotent in a hay trough.
Our mess - His glory. Yes, poop happens at Christmastime and you have to scoop it when it's most inconvenient. But let it remind you that He has come to the very center of your disasters to bring glad tidings of great joy. He chose to shine his light into our broken humanness so that we would be drawn irresistably to His perfect love and grace. So that even if nothing around us ever changes, we are changed. We have a blessed hope, and a calling to move toward His light in the midst of it all.
Do you feel like you're doing a lot of scooping this Christmas? Don't be discouraged. This is the whole purpose of God's kingdom. We live it out, work it out, one day at a time....remembering that the mess leads us to the beauty of Jesus.
How can I pray for you this December? Feel free to email me or leave a comment here.
I am just laughing as I've gone through the comments and the emails I received with your point tallies for November. It was a crazy month for everyone...and it was tough to keep up with my Small Things. There was a lot of head hanging going on.
Let me just say this: NO SHAME, you silly people!
You're already DOING a thousand small things a day....and my gentle prompts here are simply a fun way to focus on things that will help make life better. And maybe a reminder that our overwhelming To Do lists are just a bunch of little tasks that can be tackled one at a time. I'm so lucky to have found such a great group of women who hold hands with me each day and come along for the ride. Ya'll are fantastic!
So, here we go:
The Most Points Winner for November is Sarah Zblewski! She will win the gift certificate to Everyday Icing!
The Random Drawing winner of God is Able, by Prisiclla Shirer is Melissa Holgate!
Congrats, winners! I'll send you an email later today.
Now, I'd like to say a special thank you to Leslie Robertson, from Minnesota, who sent me this darling cup warmer for my birthday!
I LOVE IT! I've been so immersed in this art project (you can see part of it behind the cup) that I've hardly come up for air....and this absolutely made my week! Isn't it cute? I've felt so creative and cool using it.
Thank you Leslie, for your thoughtfulness! I am so touched and happy. You're a sweetheart.
December is upon us, and with it, the knowledge that it is a short month for getting things done. I typically only blog through the first two weeks of the month so that we can all be "off" to enjoy time with our families. This year, I'll be posting as I can throughout the month. Like you, I've got a bunch of things in the hopper and I'm juggling, juggling! I've already got my eye on a new year and new ideas for 2014 - just a few weeks away.
Let's set our sights on making the most of this Christmas season - without stressing over it. If you never buy one more gift or make one more cookie, the spirit of Advent would still be here, waiting for you to savor it. Today, remember the simple manger and the single message of hope that arrived in a little wrapped package that dark night. The one, true gift for the world. THIS is our delight and our joy....not the "stuff" we've made Christmas become.
Joy. Delight. Hope. This is yours for the taking today.
What is one thing that delights you? I'm delighted by morning coffee (and especially coffee in a cup warmer!)
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I knocked off of working on my art projects on Tuesday night and spent the rest of the week hosting our kids, and putting on Thanksgiving dinner...then getting Christmas decorations up - whew! I occasionally checked Facebook and Instagram on my phone, but hardly touched the computer all week. It felt good to take a little break from the usual. :)
And now, December is upon us! That means that if you participated with me last month by earning some points, it's time to add them up and turn them in for a chance to win a prize!
Let's review our prize:
We have been playing for a $30.00 gift certificate to Everyday Icing - a company created by someone I've admired for a long time, Kimba from A Soft Place to Land. Kimba stopped blogging awhile ago so she could do other things, like start Everyday Icing - company that offers awesome accessories while helping to support Compassion International. What an amazing way to benefit others through her business. And she does it all on Facebook!
Everyday Icing Accessory Auctions was born from a love for designer jewelry, but not designer prices. We're busy moms with a budget to watch and we love how a fantastic piece of jewelry can make any outfit special. It's the least expensive way to take an outfit from plain to fabulous!
Check out how the auctions work by visiting the Everyday Icing's Facebook Page. "Like" the page, and then be sure and add it to your Interests by clicking the little gear icon. You'll see the Auctions pop up on Monday nights at 9 pm eastern time - and when you see something you like, simply comment "sold!" Items are beautiful AND affordably priced, and shipping is free. I think this is a really fun concept and something you will enjoy being a part of.
I'll also do a Random Drawing for anyone who participated at least once during November. The Random Drawing Winner will receive Priscilla Shirer's newest book, God is Able.
Today's Small Thing is to enter to win!
This is an easy two-step task:
1. Send me an email (rachelanne (@) homesanctuary.com) with either your Point Total, or your Random Drawing entry. I love seeing photos of your completed Tally Sheets if you want to include them, but it's not required.
2. Leave a comment, letting us know which was your favorite Small Thing this month!
POINTS: 40 for doing the two-step Small Thing, good towards November's total. You will have until midnight tonight (Dec. 2) to get your emails to me and comments posted. I'll announce the winners on Wednesday.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I'm always a little sad that it gets squeezed by Christmas and the increasingly-popular Halloween, because it's the holiday that carries such meaning and is a joy to celebrate.
I love that it doesn't take weeks of planning, shopping and stress to pull off a good Thanksgiving.
I love that it revolves around food, family and friends.
I love that there is pumpkin pie, stuffing and sweet potatoes - things we don't normally eat at other times of the year.
I love that there are leftovers.
I love that we spend time giving thanks.
Thanksgiving is a time to pause and reflect on the many gifts we've been given. Some years, like when my husband's job was downsized, or when we struggled so long after the crash of 2008, or the year we lost a baby, Thanksgiving came just when we needed it. It was hard to see past our troubles to the blessings, but even then, there were things we could give praise to God for. It made us stop and look for them...and see that He was still with us and still providing for us.
Comfort, strength, friends, faith, life. The tough years have a way of shifting our focus from the material to the eternal, and maybe that's the way it should be all the time. Just a little bit off-kilter, a little unsteady on our feet so that we hang on to our Heavenly Father and give thanks in the midst of it all.
Wherever Thanksgiving finds you this year, may you be blessed with the things that matter most. God has brought you so far, my friends, and He has so much more in store for you. Celebrate this holiday knowing that you are smack in the center of His care and that He is with you each step of the way.
I'll be back on Monday, so until then, enjoy your week. Know that I give thanks for you each and every day.
Love, Rachel Anne
I'm posting at Priscilla Shirer's blog today - a lesson that God has pressed upon me so clearly in recent days, about "Enough!" I hope you'll go over and read it! Grab yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy.
I realized that my post about Flash did not include a link to the video so many of you were unable to see it in your emails. Here is that link.
Love you all!
Last weekend, we did a bit of filming. I wanted to introduce Flash, my incorrigible donkey, to the people I've been speaking with about publishing my book.
Why am I not surprised that Flash stole the show? You've GOT to watch his antics in the first 2 minutes. And if you listen carefully, you can hear my husband snickering in the background.
Here is the youtube link.
Since I THOUGHT we were doing a practice run for my speaking part, I didn't rehearse or try to get it perfect....but he was being so silly that we just went with it "as is." What a goof ball.
Let's have a little fun with a Small Thing today, using Flash as our inspiration. You can see he has a bunch of great qualities....aaaaand some he's still working on. He's obviously a work in progress, just like we are.
Today's Small Thing is easy and requires no heavy lifting:
1. Pick one of YOUR great qualities...and celebrate it today. Take joy in how much you've grown, what you've learned, or what you're naturally good at. Is it empathy? Sense of humor? Ability to cook? Don't belittle, undervalue or underappreciate the good stuff that's inside you.
You are filled with treasure. You ARE a treasure. Believe that.
2. Pick one quality you'd like to improve on today. And then, make an intentional choice to be the kind of person you want to be. Choose to have patience with the kids, choose to respond lovingly to your husband's request for....well, whatever he's requesting, pray for someone rather than gossipping. You know what you're working on.
See, change never happens until we decide to make it happen. Make today the day you do it.
These are two solid ways you can improve your life today. We all want to be better women, moms, wives, workers and all the things we need to be - and it takes both self-affirmation and self-motivation to get there.
Give yourself a carrot AND a stick today....just like Flash.
40 Extra points for sharing your two qualities in the comments today!
What are you celebrating about yourself, and what are you working on? I'm celebrating my ability to laugh at myself, and working on my lack of exercise discipline.
Enjoy your weekend!
This post is part of an ongoing "Be More Creative" series that has something in it for everyone.
My daughter, Lauren, is struggling with insomnia. As a new mom, her system is in the throes of hormone changes and it's caused a switch to be thrown that won't let her fall asleep - and stay asleep - at night. There is nothing more frustrating than laying awake at 4 am, knowing you've got a full day of infant care ahead of you. Since she is still breastfeeding, she's been limited to natural remedies that so far have not consistently helped. Heads up: I'm going to ask for some suggestions and help from you today!
Sleep deprivation - lack of good rest - is a serious issue for many of us. Menopause, stress, caffeine, physical illness, spiritual fatigue....all can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Listen, we work hard, often carrying heavy loads of work and family obligations, and getting good rest is essential to our health and well-being, not to mention our mental outlook. When I get tired, the first thing that goes out the window is my happy disposition. I get grumpy real fast. And anxious about everything.
Gen. George S. Patton once said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."
In other words, when you're lacking courage or motivation to face the day (and that mountain of laundry), perhaps what you need is a good night's sleep. Don't we know it!
Here are a few common sense tips for getting the sleep you need:
1. Make sure your room is dark. Street lights, moonlight, lights from electronic devices can keep you from falling asleep.
2. Avoid caffeine. I cannot exist without my morning cup of coffee, but I can't have caffeine after about 5 pm without it affecting my rest. Tea, colas, 5 Hour Energies, chocolate - all have stimulants to avoid.
3. Add exercise to your day. Physical activity gets your metabolism moving and helps you expend energy during the day so you'll be more likely to rest at night.
4. Boost your serotonin levels. Seratonin is the "health and well-being" chemical that contributes to your ability to rest. Think of the turkey dinner you're going to eat next week - turkey, rolls, carbs - all things that are tryptophan laden, which make you feel sleepy. Supplements and a good diet can help boost your intake.
5. Have a nightly routine. Avoid TV watching and electronic device-reading in bed. A routine - cup of tea, washing your face, reading a boring book, getting into comfy PJs - helps signal your body, "Hey, it's time to sleep!"
6. Get adequate sunlight during the day. When you're stuck in an office or indoors all day long, your body craves the cycle of natural light.
7. Try white noise, such as a fan, to block outside interruptions. A cool temperature in your room also promotes better sleep.
8. Avoid stress. YEAH, RIGHT! After you're done doing the crazy laugh over this one, think about ways you can reduce the stress in your life. Eliminate some busyness, extricate yourself from unhealthy relationships, create some margin. Take your anxieties to the Prince of Peace.
9. Try natural supplements. I'm going to ask for your suggestions, here, ladies. I'm not an expert in this field so I'd love for you to share in the comments below today.
10. Set regular bedtimes and awake times. This is almost impossible for new parents like my daughter, but most of us could use some discipline when it comes to turning off the light at a decent time - a regular time!
Today's Small Thing is to share your tips for getting good rest. And then put them into action tonight!
Lauren has tried all of the above tips with some success, but not consistent success. And I know she is not alone in her frustrating quest for rest. I'd love it if you could share your solutions for sleeping well, that will encourage those around you to continue to seek a good night's sleep.
We need this, all of us, to be able to do - and be - all God wants for us to do and be. Good rest is essential...so let's help each other out today!
Points: 40 for sharing your good rest tip - and putting one of the tips into action, starting tonight!
PS Wondering what the "points" are all about? Read here.