500 Words, Day 5 – A Day I’ll Never Forget

Last summer I went to Mozambique on a mission trip with my church. We arrived late in the afternoon on July 5 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for an overnight flight to London’s Heathrow. It was my first time traveling outside the continental United States. And there in the Chicago airport is where the adventure began.

There were twelve of us traveling together: our leader, Todd, and his daughter, Kate; Jamie, Ryan, Tracy and her son, Evan, who had all been on the trip before; Jessica and Cory, a young  married couple; Megan and Grace, the college-aged girls; Monti, Todd’s friend from another church; and me.

When we checked in at the terminal, there was a problem with the computer system between London and Johannesburg, so we were only able to get our boarding passes for the first leg, and would have to check in again at Heathrow to get our boarding passes for the South Africa flight. No big deal, just a minor inconvenience. The real problem was that the airport said that the paperwork Todd had for traveling abroad with his minor daughter wasn’t properly notarized. As a result, Todd and Kate drove the three hours back to Indiana to get their forms straightened out. We were to go on ahead to London with Jamie in the lead, and they would get on a later flight. Since we had the day set aside for sightseeing this wouldn’t be a problem.

The flight was smooth, but excitement and tight quarters made it difficult to sleep. We had breakfast on the plane (I’m not sure I’d ever get used to cooked tomatoes with breakfast), landed in London early and took our malaria medication first thing. While in line for customs, one of the girls threw up. Whether it was excitement, blood sugar, or the meds, who knows, but she was not well. Consequently, Jamie and Monti decided to stay with her in the airport for the day. Aside from that, we got through customs relatively easily and, after checking in our bags, spent the day in London with Ryan in the lead of the remainder of the group.

We took the 15-minute trip on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, had some coffee and light breakfast fare (it had been a few hours since our meal on the plane), and then, after consulting with a tour guide as to the timeliest course of action, boarded a double decker bus for a (ahem) three hour tour.

London is a very cool place, but it was a very busy place that day, because, well, Wimbledon. Regardless, we had a lovely bus tour, but had to cut it short and hop the tube at Waterloo station to get back to the airport on time. So we took that back to Paddington Station.

Once at Paddington, we discovered that the Heathrow Express was having signal problems, and was not operating. So we had to get a cab. Two actually, as there were seven of us. Given the congestion, it took us almost an hour to get from Paddington Station to Heathrow (with Ryan freaking out the whole time fearing we would be late), whereupon we had just barely enough time to collect our baggage from the counter, get through security, and get to our gate in time to board our flight.

It was an adventure, all right! And then… we went to Africa.

500 Words Day 4 – Quiet

I’m thinking a lot about quiet right now. It seems to keep popping up.

In the book Present Over Perfect, which I’m currently reading, Shauna Niequist talks a lot about how necessary it has become for her to find a quiet place away from the busy to relax and recharge. I think we all need a place like that. A place where we can connect with ourselves, with nature and with God.

I’m doing a reading plan in my Bible app by Rick Warren titled “Hearing the Voice of God” and my reading yesterday was called “Make Time to Be Quiet.” In it he talks about Susana Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley and many more children (I’ve seen different numbers – 18 or 19, I think). He says that according to her biography, she would sit in her favorite rocker and throw her apron over her head for an hour every day. That was the signal that mom was having quiet time with God and wasn’t to be disturbed.

A facebook friend shared a lifehack article in the last day or so about an experiment with mice in which those who had two hours of quiet time – silence, actually – in their day actually showed growth in the hippocampus, which is associated with emotions, memory, and learning. I was thinking about how it’s never really quiet in this world we live in. We have to seek it out. Except when there’s a power outage.

Have you ever noticed how quiet it is when the power goes out? Probably not until it comes back on and everything starts making noise again. My mother-in-law tells the story of she and one of the kids spending time together during a power outage – which, where she lived at the time in the north Georgia mountains, can be lengthy – and talking, reading by fire- and candlelight, enjoying something they’d cooked on the woodstove, just being together in the quiet. When the power came back on, with the lights and the radio and whatever else had been in use when it went out, it was jarring and he looked at her and asked if they could turn it all off again. Our world is so bright and noisy. Even just the hum of the electricity in the lines, which you don’t notice until it’s been off for a while.

I wonder sometimes, and would like someone to research (in case I don’t get around to it) whether the constant din wears on our psyches. I have to wonder, when the world is filled with constant artificial noise and we have to suppress our fight or flight instincts just to function in it, so we’re not always on high alert, if that suppression of those necessary reactions might be the reason for the extraordinary amount of depression and anxiety in our society. That we push down those reactions so much and so frequently as to not be able to feel other important things like joy, hope, peace. I wonder if maybe half the psychotropics that are so ubiquitously prescribed could be replaced with just a few minutes a day of intentional silence.

How about it? Do you make an effort to find peace in our noisy world? How do you do it? Feel free to leave a comment.

500 Words, Day 3 – On Habits

I have an interview tomorrow. I applied for a part-time receptionist position at my church. I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s interesting to think about. Who would have thought I might end up here?

I didn’t get as much done today as I would have liked to, as evidenced by the fact that I’m finally sitting down to write at 8:40 p.m. At least I’m doing it. And yes, you read that right. Doing it this late *doesn’t* mean my day was packed full and I didn’t have time, it means I wasn’t focused on what needed to be done and didn’t make time, because there wasn’t anything I HAD to do. Funny how that works. I was talking to Paul about it just this afternoon, as a matter of fact. We were talking about his sleep schedule and establishing a workout routine, now that he has a new job and will be working a bunch of hours to get established. I told him I tend to get much more of the little stuff done when there are things on a schedule that have to be done, things that I have to work around like work or school, than when my day is wide open like it is now. When I don’t have anything scheduled I can do the everyday tasks whenever, which frequently ends up meaning never. “Meh, I have time. I’ll get to it later.” This is how I usually end up starting to cook dinner at 7:45 instead of 5:00, or not wishing someone a happy birthday in spite of thinking about calling them thirty times throughout the day. Procrastination is habit just like any other and habits are what I have to work on, more even than scheduling or prioritizing.

The way I deal with this is my daily to-do list. It’s not a schedule, it’s a list of things I need to do every day, along with the weekly menu and plan, laminated, stuck on the fridge, so I can cross things off as I get them done. I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing everything, or even almost everything, crossed off on that list. And it’s simple stuff, but it often won’t get done otherwise. I need to revamp my list to include a few things that I usually do anyway, but sometimes let slide, like checking on the pets that don’t make any noise when they’re hungry (we have a veritable zoo), and watering the plants (I do better with caring for things I can’t ignore), and things I’ve just started doing (writing 500 words a day, for example) or am not currently doing, like exercise of any kind.  I also need to get better at doing the weekly things, like menu planning, dusting, and changing sheets, and add a list of monthly chores and seasonal jobs like cleaning windows and carpet, and washing curtains. It works well for me when I work it, but it’s time to reevaluate and freshen up the list, so I start working it again.

Would something like this help you? If so, drop me a line or tell me in the comments.

500 Words, Day 2

  1. What is my goal for this challenge? What do I want to accomplish?

My Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) as it pertains to this challenge is to be able to confidently call myself a blogger. The thing that has been standing in my way of that is consistency. So the actual goal, the measurable goal, the SMART goal, if you will, is to get in the habit of writing every day, so that I can be posting, if not every day, at least regularly. 500 words a day should be my minimum, and not just for 31 days.

  1. “How am I going to do this?” I’m supposed to ask myself. So, self, how are we going to do this? What will we write each day?

Here’s where the planning and outlining comes in. I stated yesterday that I’m pretty sure I can get a LOT of material just out of my reactions to Present Over Perfect  by Shauna Niequist. So that is a good starting place. I’ll write about that regularly. But what else? I have many and varied interests. After all this is a blog, right? It won’t be all book reviews, though I do love books and telling people what I think about stuff. So what else? How about a list:

  • I love thinking and talking and reading and writing about God, and especially about different people’s ideas about God. I think we will intersperse discussions about Bible verses and themes with Christian literature as well as that of other faiths. After all, when one believes there is only one God who created everything and everyone, one must reconcile other’s perspectives. After all, if that God created them too, perhaps they are simply telling a different part of His spectacularly grand and wonderful story. I already have a few posts that fit nicely under this topic.
  • Home and family. I am, after all, a homemaker, homebirther, homeschooler working from home, taking care of, repairing and restoring our current home, and planning for the purchase of our next home. Home is a pretty big part of my life. Of course, that will eventually spread out into home building, homesteading and home remedies. I do have other goals, you know.

So that’s a good list so far for focusing on the challenge, and should keep me busy for a while. And here’s what that looked like today:

I got up, saw my husband before he left for work, ate breakfast, did my Bible study, took care of my daily chores, and then told the little one that I was going to go write for a while. In order to do this every day, that’s going to have to be the pattern. I’ll start by feeding my body and spirit, taking care of the pets, getting my daily jobs taken care of around the house, getting everyone else fed and off to wherever they need to go, working on a project to advance the decluttering goals, making sure no one feels neglected, and then I can cocoon myself into my room with the laptop for as long as I need to in order to write at least 500 words.

Sounds like a plan. Let’s do this!

500 words 2018

Five hundred words a day. That’s the challenge I’ve accepted from Jeff Goins. We’ll see how this goes.

Today that sounds less daunting that on many other days. See, I’m reading the book Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I’m having so many reactions to this book and I need to vent them all, so I’ll be blogging about that for a bit, I’m sure. First of all, it’s interesting how I came to be reading it here and now.

I’ve gone to the Global Leadership Summit for the past few years and at the 2016 Summit, Bill Hybels talked about the wonderful book his daughter had written. At the time, I wasn’t working, just getting into the new normal of homeschooling my three kids, and looking for what I would be doing next. It had just become clear that I wouldn’t be attending the master’s program I had been accepted to due to funding, and I was feeling a little adrift. Certainly not like the busy, harried, successful woman Shauna presented herself to be as the catalyst for writing the book, so it didn’t really seem relevant to me at the time. It just didn’t really click as a must read in my mind.

Fast forward to this Christmas. Still homeschooling (technically unschooling, which is its own particular brand of busy-ness, but still not the kind to make me feel a connection to the book), still trying to figure out what’s next, re-evaluating even what “successful” looks like in my world, because it’s very different than how I thought it looked a few years ago when I graduated from college, different than I thought when I left my last job, different even than a year and a half ago when I started going back to church and God ignited this passion in my heart that made me want to envelop myself in his Word and world. I’m still trying to parse it all out.

Anyway, this Christmas, my husband took our six-year old daughter out to shop for a gift for me. She and I had gone shopping for everyone else and she said she wanted daddy to take her out so she could buy something for me. They went to Target, because it’s right down the road and much less crazy than the mall or any of the other shopping centers in town. After a while, I received a text from my husband saying “We have no idea what to get you. What was that book you wanted?” Well, I knew, because I’d bought the book I wanted for a friend for Christmas, that it was only available at the big book store at the mall, and I wasn’t sending my sweet husband to the mall on Christmas Eve. So I looked at the Target website to see if there were any other Christian books that sounded good and I saw Present Over Perfect. I sent Paul a picture of the cover, saying “this one will be fine, but really, anything she chooses will be fine. She just wanted to be able to pick something out for me.”

So he got me the book. And I’m LOVING this book. Elsie actually picked out a different book for me. It’s interesting to me how many things I think I’m “settling” for that turn out to be exactly the right thing for me. It’s even more interesting to me how many things are clearly God-breathed into my life through my kids. But that’s a different post.

How about you? Is there something that wasn’t exactly what you wanted but turned out to be the perfect thing, or a bigger blessing, or exactly what you needed? Did you immediately see God’s hand at work in that, or did it take some reflection? I’d love to hear from you.

Big rocks and living water

Once upon a time, in the Thursday morning Bible study at my home church, we did a study called Living Your Life as a Beautiful Offering by Angela Thomas (now Angela Thomas Pharr). One of the lessons in that study was about filling up your cup so that it can run over, because, of course, it’s pretty hard for a cup to run over if it isn’t full to begin with. The bucket or love tank analogy works equally well, and for purposes of the illustration, I want you to imagine a metal bucket.

Like this.

The crux of the lesson was that no one else can fill your cup (or bucket) for you, you have to do it by staying connected to the source, i.e. God. (Or, if you prefer, Love.) That is to say, a full bucket doesn’t come from other people (and certainly not from just one other person – how exhausting would that job be!), it comes from God. It comes from study, prayer, and meditation; from making time on a regular basis to tap into the source.

I was explaining this to a friend once and told this person that other people can sure as heck dent up your bucket and some can even poke holes in it. Fortunately, others can help you hammer out the dents or patch the holes, but no one person can fill it for you; only Love can fill your love tank.

Now I want to switch gears for just a sec. Hopefully you’re familiar with the ‘big rocks’ analogy about time management and prioritization. Stephen Covey references it in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (If you don’t know it, you can check out a succinct rendition of it here, or a lengthy demonstration here before you go any further.) In the illustration, a jar represents your life, or the time in your day. You have to fill this jar with big rocks, pebbles, and sand. The big rocks symbolize the important things – relationships, career, community involvement, church, etc. The pebbles are the less important stuff like car, house, meetings, appointments, and the sand represents trivial things that take up time but aren’t important – video games, TV, social media, housekeeping… Okay, maybe not that last one. Point being, if you fill up the jar with little, unimportant stuff, there’s not enough room for the big rocks. But if you put the big rocks in first, all the other stuff will sift down into the cracks and spaces between them.

There are variations on this. Depending on who is doing the demonstration, and in what context, God is one of the big rocks, maybe even a bigger rock than the other big rocks. Sometimes people will take it a step further and, after all the big rocks and pebbles and sand are in the jar, they will pour in water to show that there is still room in the jar. Here’s the kicker. I don’t think that God/Love is one of the rocks at all; I think it’s the water. As in, living water. And here’s where it all comes together.

Filling your cup or bucket or love tank with God or Love or living water changes EVERYTHING about the illustration: If you put the water in first — which is to say, if your love tank is full — then every rock you add – family, friends, home, job, school – the things that are MOST important in your life, whatever they are for you – each one you add not only gets wet itself, but also makes some of that water overflow onto everything around it. Then adding the pebbles makes more of that water splash out. Then adding the sand makes more of that water splash out. The key is staying tapped into the source. But do you see what happens then? Everything starts from a place of Love and you always have enough love to share, because you’re always tapped into the Source of love and every single thing you do starts with a full tank that splashes Love onto everything else around you!

And here’s the other cool part: even if this hasn’t been the way you’ve operated thus far, you can add the water any time. The water still soaks into everything and fills up all the empty space as soon as you pour it in, so really, you can fill your love tank any time and still get the same effect! So, first things first: Do you know how to tap into the source, whatever you call it? Do you stay tapped in – meaning do you know to pay attention to your love tank and take time out to fill up when you start to feel depleted? Do you know what your big rocks are and how everything else measures up?

Fill ‘er up! *splishy splashy*

Daylight Saving Time… Bah.

I hate daylight saving time.

There is a very small handful of things I’m willing to use the H-word about; in fact, it’s a bad word in my house, but I really hate daylight saving time. I’m kind of a spoiled brat about it, and I’m grumpy because I have to change my clocks this weekend.

See, I’m not one of those people who are dependent on an alarm clock. I wake up at approximately the same time every day, or at least within a half hour. I usually wake up around 7:00 a.m. Sometimes it’s closer to six thirty, sometimes I sleep in and it’s almost 7:30 before I get out of my warm cozy bed. Sometimes, for no reason at all, my eyes open up around six and I lay there hoping to get another hour… 45 minutes… half hour… Please? And on the VERY rare occasion, I wake up and it’s bright outside, so I look at my watch on my nightstand and it’s around 8:00 – weird. But generally my eyes pop open around the seven o’clock hour. My body has adjusted to that time.

I’ve tried figuring this out. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with when I went to bed, because that fluctuates a lot more, depending on my day. Sometimes I’m up ‘til 11:00 watching a movie, sometimes I fall asleep reading to my six-year old around nine. It might have something to do with the level of light coming into the room, but that changes gradually and constantly throughout the year, and my internal clock isn’t that smooth.

Regardless, daylight saving time wreaks havoc on all that. I’m from Indiana. This didn’t used to happen! Once upon a time we believed in “Hoosier common sense” and we didn’t have to change our clocks to keep up with the Jonses. Or the New Yorkers, as the case may be. We were perfectly content to be on Eastern Time for most of the year and Central in the summer. We were cool and carefree, like Arizona. Now we’re just following the crowd. They said it would be better for business. Maybe it is, I don’t know. I still think it’s stupid.


Now I know what people say, “Oh, it’s time to spring forward! We get an extra hour of daylight!” Or in the fall, “Yay! It’s time to fall back! We get to sleep in an hour!”


I will still wake up at the same time I’ve been waking up, because it’s not, in fact, dependent on what the clock says. So on Sunday, when my eyes pop open, my clock will say sometime around 8:00. Not my old comfortable 7:00. Oh, I’ll adjust, though as homeschooling mom, I don’t necessarily have to. Once I start working again, or when time sensitive kid activities like day camp roll around, I’ll set an alarm to correct the problem. And then in the fall I’ll be grumpy again, because while everyone else is sleeping an extra hour, I’ll be waking up at 6:00, wishing I too could sleep in.

Daylight savings. Bah.

A word for the year

This year, for the first time, I’ve chosen a word of the year. I first heard about this idea from Claire Diaz Ortiz during the Work By Design Summit in 2016 and was reminded of it when she posted about her word for 2017, Essential.

I wanted to know more about this concept and so I went looking around for more information. In a nutshell, a word of the year is a single word, rather than a New Year’s resolution, to help with focus, goal setting, and even daily activities and decision making. Cool, right?

It got me thinking… what would my word be? Essential is a good word. In fact, with all the messages I’m getting lately about simplifying and minimalism, essential seems like a pretty great word to focus on. But it wasn’t MY word, and I like to do things my own way. So I started brainstorming.

I had just started again working through the first chapter of Ruth Soukup’s How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul, where she talks about finding your awesome. I made a list of the things I love talking about, reading about, learning about, what gets me excited, and right after stuff about my spiritual journey, came this list: Home decor, design, redecorating; homebirthing, homeschooling, homesteading; the concept of “home” from a cultural standpoint… seeing a pattern?

As you may have guessed, my word is HOME. My one word, the word that will provide me with focus, clarity, direction in my daily activities, and motivation in setting and achieving my and my family’s goals for the coming year and beyond, not to mention a platform on which to base a full year’s worth of blog posts… that word is HOME.

Do you have a word for the year? You can learn more about it here and here and even find your word tribe. Have fun and keep being.