Monday, March 31, 2014

A Dash of Desire: Praying Big, Stupid Prayers

The beginning of 2014 started out differently for me this year and it left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. See, for the past six years, I've picked a "Word of the Year." In 2008 it was, "Create." In '09 it was "Kingdom" and in 2010 it was "Indulge." In 2011 we were preparing madly for our move to Minnesota, enduring many changes, and so my word was, "Flow." Arriving in Minnesota in January 2012 was a whole new chapter in our lives and with it came the word, "Discover." In 2013, still recovering from the shock of the Connecticut shootings only weeks earlier, I chose the word, "Walk."

 I love the beginning of the new year for setting goals, choosing words, casting visions. But this year I felt I just couldn't. This year I am back to school for the first time in over 20 years. This year I am graduating my first child from our homeschool. This year that same child is in a time and labor-intensive play and opening night is THIS Friday!
I joked that my word might be, "Survive." But yech. What an awful word. I NEVER want that kind of word point the direction or cast the net to encapsulate the feeling of a year! I found that last year I didn't do as much with my word, "Walk" as I'd hoped I would and so this year I thought maybe I'd just let unfold in the way it wanted to. There's certainly nothing wrong with this and no, I still don't have a word. With so much on my plate - and some of it intrinsically tied to the fulfillment of a goal already with school - I just thought I didn't - or maybe shouldn't - want anything more.

But then I began to get restless. I felt left out of the fun somehow. I wasn't adding to any wish list and I began to feel a bit like I was just checking things off a to-do list, but I didn't have anything to dream about.

Plus, I had this kind of niggling feeling that maybe my wants were a bit selfish. Well, of course they're selfish, because they're all about me. But our church was reading Radical Together at the time and in that book people are giving up houses in posh neighborhoods to start community centers, they're adopting children, or they're becoming missionaries... and I don't feel called to do any of that. I mean, I may at some point; I never underestimate what God can do and if He wants to put that into my heart, He will. But how can you figure out what you want to aspire to or be or bring to the world if you're hesitant to even name it? I felt stuck, because honestly, one of my top desires is to travel to England someday. I mean, I really want to go. I get choked up just thinking about it for some reason.

I also knew that my thinking about it had to be wrong somehow, because I didn't have peace. I don't subscribe to ideas presented in books like The Secret, but I also know that everything we see that isn't created by God came first from an idea in the mind of a man or woman. The amazing mind of a man or woman. And I believe that a part of being created in God's image is that we are creators too. Creating is often a messy business, though, and so you often have to start with lots of ideas... stemming from desires... that will help form you into the person you are to become and the gifts you are going to bring to the world.

To that end I knew I needed to pick up a few books on the subject to gain some perspective. I'm about a third of the way into The Circle Maker and I'm enjoying it so far. Batterson's writing is a little bit glib for me sometimes, but I love his enthusiasm, optimism and stories of the way God has answered prayer in some pretty amazing ways. In reading reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, I noted that some people feel like Batterson leans - if not all the way in - pretty close to a "name it and claim it" philosophy. I'm reserving judgement however, as I move through the book. So far, what I'm really getting from the book is that Batterson is saying "pray about it." Yeah, circles or no circles (that's all part of a metaphor Batterson plays on throughout the book anyway), it's really just about praying. But what I like is that it's about praying BIG.

That's the part that I sometimes hesitate on, but I am trying to change that, because I learned something new this week - not from The Circle Maker - but from an old, familiar, story in the Bible.

Perhaps you remember the story about the request of James and John related in Mark chapter 10. I have read this story many times before and, as is so often with God's Word, it has multiple layers of meaning and taught me something completely different this time!

Jesus had just - and I mean just - finished telling them that He was going to be betrayed in Jerusalem, condemned to death, flogged and killed and that three days later He would rise. And it's like James and John (brothers) are not even hearing that part about the whole betrayal and flogging and death thing. They are incredibly bold and say to Jesus, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "'What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.'"

Um, wow. Now that's a big prayer. And I think we could all agree that it was somewhat misguided as well. But what I learned this week is that Jesus didn't walk away from them. He didn't get angry with them. He didn't shame or punish them for asking such a selfish, selfish request of Him. He just patiently replies, "You don't know what you are asking." And then He goes on to explain to them that His kingdom is an upside down kingdom where the greatest must serve. And guess what? He is still their friend. He still takes them along with Him and in the end they still did much for the kingdom of God.

I guess the main thing I learned is that God is okay with our stupid, selfish prayers too. He gets to decide what He'll do with them and won't shame me about it in the meantime. More likely, like Jesus, He'll tell me the truth and teach me something about His way and His vision that is so much bigger than mine. I"ll learn something more about Him and know Him even better and that's what it's really all about anyway.

So, I'm making new lists now. And yes, England is right at the top. Heaven knows if I ever get there, it'll be by God's grace and only if He says "yes." And if He does say yes, I can't wait to see what He'll do with that big, stupid, selfish prayer. :)

I'm linking up with Book Journey today. Lots of great books, so hop on over and find something new for your nightstand! Happy Monday, all!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Favorite Quote Friday

"An elevated mood can only come out of an elevated habit of personal character."

~ Oswald Chambers

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Things I Love Thursdays ~ First Edition

Let's try a new series, shall we? This one is fun. One thing I love is learning new things, so I often enjoy reading posts others share with links to new places and new ideas.

So, without further ado, here are some things I have really been enjoying of late:

 The SITS Girls. This is a wonderful blogging community where women share ideas and technical know-how for those of us who like to write and hit that "publish" button for fun or for profit. And speaking of learning, if you want tips on social media, photography, or anything else that goes into creating and maintaining a blog or website, you will learn a TON. And the people who frequent the place are supportive and helpful and just plain nice!

Tranquility du Jour Podcast by Kimberly Wilson: I have listened to Kimberly for years. She is a unique, intelligent, ambitious woman who seeks out other like-minded women and men to interview and share words of encouragement and inspiration. Wilson has an amazing talent for entrepreneurship and a consistency that has paid off for her in building a business that includes a clothing line, retreats, yoga studios, books, a foundation and more. Impressive... and inspirational stuff here. Check her out!

The Write Dudes Ultra Fine Gel Pens: No more black and blue in my journals! Give me color and a fine line for my words and doodles! The link is to ones at an online source; I got mine at Target.

The "French Cafe" channel on Pandora: Springtime is SLOW in coming around these parts. I channel my inner Paris while getting ready in the mornings, doing dishes, or fixing a meal. The Baguette Quartette is one of the favorite bands I've listened to on that channel. They get a thumbs-up from me every time. :)

Finally, my Prime Student Account on Amazon: Prime is a good deal anyway, but you can't beat the $39 annual student fee to sign up with the first six months free. I use Amazon a lot as it is, so it made sense for me. Now, just as they've desired, I'm using it even more, shopping smarter, not harder, on basics such as cat food and litter which is the same price as the big box store in my area. This is not putting a little guy out of business. There are no little guy pet stores around here anymore for that, so I'm not feeling badly when someone else lugs those two 20-lb bags of litter and the same of cat food to my doorstep for me for the SAME price AND FREE SHIPPING. Seriously, what's not to like about that?

And a peek into tomorrow: I am still fasting from internet and breakfast and lunch for Lent (how's your Lenten season going??), so I won't be around tomorrow. I've come to relish these days! But another thing I love is quotes, so I'm scheduling one to pop up tomorrow even if I'm not here: the turn of a phrase, a unique perspective to share. Until then, click a fun link or two and have a great day!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 Ways to Plan Your Spring Wardrobe On a Dime - Part Two

Hopefully you have already read Part One of this post, have made your plan, and now are ready to actually head out for your day of shopping! Here are 5 more ways to successfully get the most bang for your buck when out on your thrift store quest for your spring wardrobe.

6. Go Prepared

First of all, don't forget your bags! Just because you're not grocery shopping doesn't mean you shouldn't use your reusable bags.

Next, bring your donations along. As I mentioned, Savers gives you a 20% discount on every donation you bring in, no matter the size, so in addition to sharing with others, your bottom line is going to be even less. Even if you don't get a discount at your local thrift store, it's a good way to practice keeping your wardrobe and home clutter-free. 

Thrift store shopping can take some time. One of the good things is that there is no food court attached to most thrift stores, so you won't have impulse purchases when your stomach - or those of your kids if you have them along with you - start rumbling. That said, it is good to be prepared with some snacks for while you're in the store (a granola bar, for example) and perhaps even a bag lunch for when you come out, especially if you have kids that are STARVING and might begin to melt down if you have any more stops to make. If you're having a fun day of shopping with a friend and the weather is nice, you might want to make a real day of it and stop somewhere for a picnic lunch in between stores or at the end of the day to celebrate all your good deals! :)

7. Go Pretty

Get dressed up and feel good about the way you look today even without your new clothes. Florescent lighting in stores is not flattering to anyone and you want to feel as good as you can when you step into that dressing room. So, put on your makeup, fix your hair and accessorize. Plan to have a GOOD day! :)

8. Go Inspired

Getting dressed up will take you part way to getting inspired. But why not listen to some great music while you are getting ready? You could try classical music around the subject of "spring." Or you could play some of your motivational music that makes you feel like you can conquer the world! On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could play soothing, spa-type music that lends a feeling of pampering to your day ahead. Or play music that takes you to another place in your mind - French music or Italian or Spanish. You might not be strolling the streets of Paris, but you can still feel inspired! Pandora and other playlist services are great, free online apps for this or pull out some old, favorite CD's and set the mood you want to create for yourself.

9. "Speak Kindly and Carry a Small Hairspray" - Theodora Roosevelt... ;)

So, you're in the store and you've found some things and now it's time to try them on. If you're lucky, you're already feeling pretty and inspired and you're going to be so happy with the items that you're finding. But let's just say something is going awry (I know, impossible, right? But we're being hypothetical here.). Let's say you've tried on four different things so far and only one of them is working and the others feel tight in areas that shouldn't feel tight or that color just makes you look sick even though you thought it was the perfect dress. Perhaps you begin to say some not so nice things to that gal in the mirror. And these are the kinds of things that we would never say to our best friend in the changing room next to us, because it would devastate her. Come to think of it, we wouldn't say these kinds of things to anyone - even our enemies - because we're mature... and beyond that kind of trash talk... and we practice loving our enemies... But what about that poor thing in the mirror there? What about that girl that's been planning and getting excited about her day and is sticking to her budget and got prettied up and even took the time to bring along some sandwiches and fruit and sparkling water for the picnic by the river with her best bud when they're done shopping? What about her? Have you been saying some not-so-nice things to her?

Ephesians 4:29 is one of my favorite Bible verses. It says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

I remember when I first realized that I needed to take this advice and apply it toward myself as well as toward others. So, promise yourself that if you hear those ugly thoughts starting that you will counter each one with a positive thought.

And do carry a small hairspray... and maybe a lipstick.

I learned this the last time I went shopping and tried on more than a dozen pieces. You just have to if you want to find something that fits and flatters! I was looking pretty disheveled by the time I came out of the dressing room and was wishing I had some way to put myself back together a bit, so I was feeling as good as when I headed out on my shopping adventure!

10. Smile.

While you're in the dressing room and when you come out, practice smiling! If you start to feel a bit crummy or tired, trick your brain into thinking you are happy by making your body strike a happy pose. Science tells us this works, but you won't know it until you try it. And as you're walking up to the cash register with your new finds and you've stayed within your budget, you'll have a lot to smile about anyway! And maybe someone will even smile back at you. :)

So, I hope you found a few useful tips here and try them out. It's fun to get a few new things without breaking the bank and is a nice little reward for surviving another winter without losing your mind!
Happy spring, everyone; and happy shopping!

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Monday, March 24, 2014

10 Ways to Plan Your Spring Wardrobe On a Dime - Part One

Guess what this post is NOT going to be about. It is not going to be about what kind of wonderful deals you can get on a pair of shoes that are normally $400 for a mere $200. That is not a true shoestring budget, people. That is a little less than half my grocery budget for a family of 4 for a month. So, that's not what you're going to find here.

One of the few good things that happened during the "Great Recession," was that for a little slice of time, some of the magazines began thinking a little more creatively (which is how we frugal-living artistes perform on a daily basis!) and shared ideas on how to stretch your dollar just a bit more. And I do mean a bit, because Seventh Avenue's meaning of a bargain and mine are galaxies apart. I don't begrudge them that; they represent inspiration and fantasy. I just don't like that what magazines normally feature as "bargains," I call "indulgent-splurges-that-are-just-not-going-to-happen-in-this-homeschooling-mom's-lifetime-with-two-girls-who-would-like-a-college-education."

A more realistic budget for my seasonal shopping looks more like $100 or less... and that's for everything for me! My girls each get roughly the same amount and that usually takes care of everything for 6 months or more. Obviously, we don't need to be rebuilding wardrobes from scratch every season and now that my girls have pretty much stopped growing, their wardrobes are more static, similar to an adult wardrobe.

But clothes wear out and styles do change in spite of efforts to limit trend purchases. And it's simply fun - if you like clothes and feel like they are an extension of your personality - to find some fresh pieces as spring moves to summer and fall to winter. So, what is the answer when you have, as my long-time, dear friend, Susan says, "champagne taste on a beer budget"? Well, my friends, the answer is:

Thrift Stores!

Thrift stores seem to be more popular and more accepted than ever. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area where we live we have a number of large, chain thrift stores including Unique/Valu Thrift Stores, Savers, and Goodwill. In addition to these, there are smaller, independent operations around the state as well. Each of these are very large, well organized and clean. Of these stores, Savers is my family's favorite, because they are always bright and clean, support local, nonprofit agencies, have a lot of dressing rooms, offer membership cards with specials for members, and offer a 20% discount on your shopping every time you bring in a donation of any size.

And now, as someone who has shopped the majority of her wardrobe at thrift stores for over 20 years and who does not really think that a T-shirt for $20 is a "good deal," I give you 10 ways to get the most out of your thrift store shopping spree and get that spring wardrobe on a dime!

1. Know Your Body

Before you consider what you are going to add to your wardrobe this season, it is important to know what kinds of styles flatter your figure the most. Just because wide-legged pants or maxi dresses are trending doesn't mean that the style is going to be for you. I, for example, over the years, noticed that I never ever like the way a regular, crew-neck T-shirt looks on me when I put it on and yet it looks so good on so many other people. The t-shirts they give out for participating in the 5K or for the big day of volunteering, etc. are just lost on me, because I never wear them. I have always felt better in a V-neck or U-neck or boat neck styled shirt. Likewise, I just can't get button-down oxford shirts to look good on me, because the collars are just too high. I never really thought of myself as having a short neck, but it must be a little bit shorter, because the illusion I am always trying to create is one of added length and openness. It wasn't something I was doing consciously for a long time, but I eventually figured it out when I began noticing which pieces in my wardrobe made me feel good when I put them on and which ones didn't. Likewise, when you understand what flatters your body the most, you can be more selective and save yourself some money by not picking something based on the style, pattern or fabric that you like and instead sticking with what you know works for you.

2. Know Your Colors

Knowing the colors that flatter your skin tone the most is another good way of choosing pieces that you'll feel good wearing. That said, I have a few colors that I like to wear that aren't necessarily "my season" (you'll know what I mean if you've ever analyzed your colors using a season technique), such as charcoal gray, but for the most part, I know to steer clear of pastels of any kind, for example. Many thrift stores organize their clothing by type (long or short-sleeved or sleeveless blouses, long-sleeved knits, short-sleeved knit tops, jeans, skirts, dresses, etc.), then by size, and then by color. I really like that they organize by color because I can head for exactly the colors I am looking for and also avoid those colors that don't look good on me, saving both time and money.

3. Find Your Style Inspiration

This is my favorite step! A couple of years ago I was trying to reassess what my style was. I am now a woman in my 40's and I simply don't dress the same way I did 15 years ago. I had some clothes in my closet that at one time I really felt good in, but now I just didn't. I don't mean physically - though that can obviously affect you too. I just mean that there are times in your life when you have a style shift, as when college students need to shift their dress from comfy sweats to something more professional when they begin their careers. No matter how cute your favorite comfy tee and yoga pants look on you and even if you can still "pull it off", unless you are a professional dancer, you're going to need something different for day-to-day. For me, it was moving out of a more artsy phase and into something more classic and elegant that I wanted. Obviously, some women continue to love and really rock the bohemian look, but I just didn't feel myself in that style of dress anymore.

So, I went to Pintrest and just began building my style board with images that I liked. I didn't think too much about where I would wear something or if I could afford something or if it was practical for my life. Instead, I was just after a certain look that I admired, whether it was "in" or not and even though I didn't know exactly what it was yet. Eventually, I began noticing trends. Certain colors and pieces began to repeat themselves in the images I was choosing and there were some interesting surprises too! These were things that I began to add to a list of items I wanted to find when I finally went shopping. Some of these things were completely new to me. Blazers, for example, are something that I admire, but they are not something I have ever had in my wardrobe before. I still haven't found the perfect one for me yet, but I remain on the lookout for something nice that flatters my shape, my height, and my coloring.

Now I make this a regular practice and it's really fun! Yes, Pintrest can be a time suck, but in this instance, the time you are putting in will actually pay you back in the end, because you can prepare a list of specific pieces you want to look for when you begin your shopping. And this is important, because there are many fun and beautiful pieces to be found at thrift stores and you need to stay focused if you want to get the most for your money! You want to stick to things you really need/want to add to your wardrobe. If you do decide to buy something on a whim, you're going to need to decide what piece from your list you are going to eliminate, because you also need to...

4. Know Your Budget

And stick to it! Take a calculator along (most of you already know that there's one on your cell phone, so there are no excuses!) and keep track. Whether your budget is $50 or $100 or $200, keep those pieces you find that mean the most to you and put the rest back. It's just clothing after all. Most of us have more than we need already, so keep things in perspective, remember your priorities, and stick to your budget.

5. Know Your Thrift Stores/Plan Your Route

Most of the time I easily find everything I am looking for at one place. But if I have the time and if I don't find everything I'm hunting for, I plan my shopping in a route that will take me to my favorite store first and then the rest in order of the least distance and on my way back home. I try to be prepared for each store too, with donations, for example, if that equals a discount or making sure I have my membership card with me or a stamped card that adds up to a discount according to the number of purchases I have made in the past.

Okay, that's enough for this post. Now we're prepared and next time we'll actually GO SHOPPING!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Becoming a Student of Happiness :)

Are you interested in feeling happier? If you are, I'm with you and it seems we're not alone. I did a quick library search for the word, "happiness," and my results showed 89 pages. Not all books were on the study of positive psychology, but when I was in the library the other day, the shelves in the Dewey Decimal 150's were chock full of books not just on self-help, but books specifically addressing the subject of "happiness." I looked up one of the titles on Goodreads and checked out the "Readers Also Enjoyed" recommendations and came up with more titles such as, Authentic Happiness, The How of Happiness, The Happiness Hypothesis, and Happier. Out of the eight copies my county library has of Gretchen Rubin's, Happiness Project, only one is currently available. And that isn't even her most recent book; Happiness Project came out in 2009! Evidently, the pursuit of happiness is trendy and scientific research concerning the subject is more compelling than ever.

I'm not someone who suffers from depression, but as I have noted in this space before, I do believe I need to intentionally be proactive in maintaining and exhibiting a positive attitude daily - especially in the winter months and especially as we are SO VERY close to spring and yet I am looking at gray skies and the threat of 3-5 inches of snow on the ground overnight. Yes, it will melt, because we ARE close to spring, but just have a look at my choice of words: "the threat of ... snow," when in November they might have been, "the promise of snow" and you'll see why I believe that happiness is a practice like any other exercise we do.

I enjoy books and documentaries on the subject of happiness, because they often give me ideas and practices to try that are benign and even  - as could be expected - fun! The books pictured at the top of my post are some of the recent books I've been enjoying. The As If Principle: The Radically New Approach to Changing Your Life by Richard Wiseman is more scientific in nature as opposed to the two other books by Jamie Cat Callan, which are just more fun, but equally as interesting to me.

Here are some notes I jotted down from the bit of reading I've done from The As If Principle:

1. Smile every day (even if - and especially if - you don't feel like it). Putting on that happy face - even in private stimulates your brain to producing actual feelings of happiness.

2. When you walk, STRIDE: Long strides, swing your arms, hold head high. Don't shuffle with short strides, watching your feet. (I rarely shuffle, but I thought the negative of the instruction was interesting).

3. Dance often!

4. Move in a fluid manner - including handshakes! - vs. sharper/straight/spiky movements.

5. Laugh, sing, use happy talk - BEHAVE (rather than just think) as though you are having a good time!

Wiseman shares some fascinating studies that led to these notes. Check out the book; it's interesting!

And I copied this lovely quote from Callan's, Ooh La La!:

It seems to me that whenever I am here - and not just Paris, but in all the small cities and villages of France - I am given a different message than the message I receive in my own country. And that message is - "you are enough." In fact, it seems to me that all of France is one big fan club devoted to the 'Female.' And not just eighteen-year-old females, but older women as well. In America, I often feel admonished for my shortcomings. In France, rather than admonished, I feel encouraged to take better care of myself, and to dress well, to eat well, and to take pleasure wherever I can find it. Because I am Woman! Viva la difference!

Please don't take from this quote that Callan does a lot of America-bashing in her book, because she does not. It really is just a fun look at another culture. And yes, I suspect, never having been to France myself, that there are a number of generalities she presents. But, I am not looking at this book as a true anthropological study! It is a charming, feel-good book that, yes, made me happy for the hours I was reading it, so I recommend it!

A wonderful friend of mine has been texting me and some of her other friends - almost daily - a short list of things she is grateful for. I had sent her a copy of One Thousand Gifts and she took the practice to heart in a very modern, technologically savvy way! What I love about her texts is that she's asked us to text her back with our own small, daily, grateful list.

Today, I was mentioning these books on happiness that I have been enjoying reading and she said she has been doing the same thing! Then she asked, "Then why don't we feel happy?" I told her that I think we do, but as I mentioned above, we actually need to work at it more the older we get. This is my completely unscientific theory: When we are younger, not only do we possess more energy, we are faced with fewer problems and responsibilities. Like our youthful, physical selves that often didn't need to work as hard to maintain our weight (though I am aware that there are young people who struggle with theirs), we also  - if we were blessed to grow up in a relatively healthy and stable environment - had lives that were more carefree. When we look back, we may feel that it was easier to be happier when we were younger.

Additionally, youth have the benefit of anticipation on their side. Anticipation of good things to come has been shown to raise moods and not only do young people enjoy new, exciting experiences, they also can look forward to many of life's milestones which those of us in our middle age and beyond simply do not have anymore. This is not to say that we don't have anything to look forward to, but I believe, again, it becomes more a practice of seeking out adventure, or creating opportunities for anticipation - large or small. Anticipation becomes more a responsibility we have to ourselves rather than just happening upon life events, such as graduation from high school, for instance.

Well, I've rambled on this topic enough for today, I think. That promise of snow has come to fruition and the flakes are coming down outside my window. Supper needs to be made! In the meantime, have a look at some of the books I mentioned. If you do - or have one to recommend to me - drop me a line here or on Facebook! It's hard to go wrong sharing ideas for extra happiness!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Write in Your Bible; Leave a Legacy

Do you have any particularly favorite verses in the Bible? When I determined to read the Bible for myself back in 1998, I first prayed to God to help me to simply understand it and then to give me a desire to read it.

As I traveled more and more through His Word, I began to underline favorite passages. As I learned more about how to study my Bible, I began to highlight passages in certain colors that stood for certain subjects:passages about His promises to us, passages directed at women, passages about the Holy Spirit, etc. I have also incorporated symbols above words: a heart above the word, "love" for example. When I return to a book in which I have done this, I can see where there is a section devoted to this topic and I pay attention to it more in that manner.

Years later, in a storybook I read to my girls, there was a boy looking at his grandmother's Bible and he would spy the initials, "T.P." sprinkled along the margins or next to certain passages. When he asked his mother what they meant, she replied that those initials meant, "tested and proved." Right away, I adopted this for myself too, looking in the Word - and paying attention in my life as I began to know His Word - for those verses which I had experienced myself and which had become, "tested and proved."

It was then that I realized, too, that my own notes in the margins could reach across generations and say things to my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and more, that I may never get to tell them in person.

Now I write notes of fascinating historical context in the margins of my Bible. I write other translations of verses next to certain passages - translations of particular beauty and clarity - that deepen my understanding of what it being said. I make notes for myself, but I also always have in mind the eyes of someone dear to me, or even the eyes of someone dear that I may never meet this side of Heaven.

Some people have Bibles that, perhaps, they feel are too precious to write in and I understand that. My Bible is a paperback study Bible that I chose in order to study and so that I felt that I could make notes in it if I so desired. After a number of years I began to wonder if I should get a nicer Bible. But that often means a leather cover and I didn't want that if I could avoid it. And then I thought that it would take me a long time to re-write all the things I had written for myself into another Bible. Because I think I will always want to write in my Bible. I want to pay close attention to God's Word in my life and remember those things that are T.P. And I want to share that with others. I don't have a lot, materially, to leave to others when I walk out of this earthly plane, but God's Word is a treasure that leads to a rich life. If that is my only legacy, I am pleased it is mine.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Vegan-on-the-Go Q&A and Menu Planning

Today I'm linking up with Dawn over at By Sun and Candlelight for her new mini-series, "Kitchen Chat." Today's topic is menu planning and I thought I would offer a vegan perspective to the link-up. I'm sure I've talked about this before, but I must not have tagged my post back then very well and it's time for a refresher anyway.

First, though, I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions, because over the years plenty of people have asked my husband and I questions about our diet and these have been common ones:

 Q. Are you a foodie?  A. Although I eat a primarily, but not strictly, vegan diet ( I eat eggs at home from time to time when I know where they've come from... but I am considering switching back to completely vegan again soon. There's just too much that I know about raising animals or animal products for consumption that disturbs me, but I digress...) I am not a foodie. I mention this because I think that sometimes folks thing you have to be a gourmet cook in order to have a diet other than the standard American diet and this is just not true. My meal prep likely takes the same amount of time - or less - than a meat-eating household. Like everyone, I have learned over the years a number of tried and true recipes that I use over and over again, many of which I know nearly by heart. And, like everyone, there was a learning curve, meaning that in the beginning, as with every new venture, my cooking took longer because some of the ingredients were new and I had to learn how to cook with them. Tofu and tempeh for example. And quinoa seems to be all the rage across the country right now, but at one point very few people even knew what it was, much less how long it takes to cook (not long at all!) and what to do with it. My learning to cook just hardly involved meat, since I became vegetarian when I was 19 and prior to that, I did little real cooking for myself on my own; my mom did nearly all the cooking at home and then I was in college where I ate with a campus meal plan. Anyway, now tofu and tempeh... and quinoa are common staples in my home. I rarely take time for long-ingredients-listed recipes unless I want to do something special. More often, I take simple, common recipes - if not from a vegan cookbook - and veganize them. It's not hard at all!

Q. Do you eat everything organic? A. Who wouldn't love to do this?? :) But I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling, college-attending mom living on a single-income, lower-middle class budget. That's just the way things are! So, I do my best to shop as much organic as I can within my budget, which presently is $500 a month for a family of four. I shop around, planning my shopping with driving routes as much as possible to save on gas: Trader Joe's, our local co-op, Mississippi Market, some items at our local big chain grocer, and I just got a membership at Costco and am figuring out how that can work for us. Trader Joe's and Costco offer amazing deals on organic foods, usually their own name brands. The co-op is the only place I buy our eggs (my kids are vegetarian, not vegan) and cheese (for the kids), since it IS organic and uses vegetable rennet. Certain foods, like the dairy cheese I purchase for my girls (though Eve seems to have given up cheese recently when she learned more about the industry), I always try to buy organic because of the prevalence of growth hormones and other drugs. I buy a few other things at our co-op, but not very much because we simply cannot afford it.

Q. Do you ever eat junk food? A. Well, um, Paul is making a double batch of chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen right now, so... yes! I buy everyone one snack food of choice per large grocery trip (usually twice a month, but now, with Costco maybe {hopefully!!} just once). So, sometimes it's a bag of chips or a box of ice cream sandwiches (vegan or otherwise for the girls), peanut butter stuffed pretzels or goldfish type crackers. That's what they get and they've got to make it last! I always have ingredients on hand for making homemade cookies, peanut butter rice crispy bars, and cake/cupcakes - all vegan. And the past couple of years, being that we're on the road so much more with homeschool highschool activities, I'll get pre-made granola bars. For a party I might get a lemon-lime soda or root beer, but I don't buy soda as a rule. I really don't like it except a little as a rare treat, because it's just too syrupy for my taste. We prefer juice spritzers that we make with 1/3 to 1/2 juice of choice and plain carbonated water. Oh - and one more junk food treat: on the occasion that my girls - one or both - help me out with grocery shopping at the big box grocery store, I let them choose a doughnut from the bakery as "payment" for their help. :)

Menu Planning Tips

So, there are four things that I put to regular use in my home regarding menu planning that I have found to be the greatest help, especially with an active schedule that doesn't always allow for me to be home to leisurely prepare dinner. These habits have evolved over the years and I use them more or less as I need to incorporate them depending on the seasonal schedule. I have never done menu planning just ONE way ALL the time.

1) One of the most challenging parts (or enjoyable, if you like this kind of thing!) about menu planning - especially if you have done it for many, many years - is figuring out what will you have this week?? Thinking up a new menu for the week can be daunting. So, I suggest you categorize your tried-and-true meals into categories from which you can choose when you are filling in your menu for the week. I wrote about this back in 2008 and you can check out that post here. Basically, I have categories such as : Breakfast, Light Meals/Lunch, and Dinners under these headings: Soups, Mexican, Pasta. I have particular days of the week for each food type: one night, soup; one night, Mexican; one night, pasta. That takes care of three nights right there. And maybe you always have pizza on Fridays, so that would be another day. Choosing from each list, you won't have to think so hard and be searching for a different recipe for each day, BUT you will still have variety, because I be you know how to make more than one kind of soup, Mexican, or pasta dish, don't you? If you're feeling creative, put a new dish on the other days or just something outside of your regular, workhorse meals. And if you're like me, now that I have older kids, I take the weekends off of cooking, so I'm only coming up with 5 meals each week nowadays!

2) Save your menus! Why reinvent the wheel every week or month? I have been putting my menus on my Google calendar since the fall when school started up again. I only have to peek back at a week if I want to get ideas without losing too many brain cells! :)  Also, don't be afraid to repeat a month! I actually planned two months out in the fall when I was nervous about how I was going to manage the new schedule and I simply planned each meal on Google calendar as an "event" and had it repeat into the next month. This is a great idea for seasonal cooking, because you can have a few, basic seasonal dishes - both new and tried-and-true - and just rotate these calendar-based menus around the year. You can switch them up as you like, but if the basic menu is already in place, you won't need to think of original ideas as much as just change a dish here or there.

3) Use your crockpot/slowcooker! This is pretty basic. I use mine two or more times a week for those nights when I'm going to arrive home right around the dinner hour. Most of the time these are chili or soup meals in our household. Occasionally, I'll do a crockpot pot pie which is super yummy too! I also do all my bean prep in my crockpot now. For years, I have soaked my beans overnight and then let them simmer on the stove for about 2 hours or so the next day until I learned that I can rinse my beans, throw them in my crockpot, cover them with water (no measuring, even!) and put it on high for 4 hours. Those who work out of the home can do this as well: just choose a lower temperature for the 8 hours or so that you are going to be away. Dried beans are a real cost savings and play a huge part in our vegetarian diets. I make my own refried beans all the time, so pintos are a staple. Chick peas (for making hummus and all kinds of other uses), kidney beans, and white beans are regulars too. Black-eyed peas and black beans from time to time. Each batch in my crockpot makes roughly 8 cups or more of cooked beans which I put into 2 cup batches and store in the freezer. I buy large bags of beans through a buying club (though I may compare costs of that club with Costco now) and keep them in my basement along with big bags of brown rice, lentils, quinoa, and a big bag of salt. These are on hand all the time and are always available for quick meal ideas.

4) Cook grains in bulk at the beginning of the week. Each week I make a 6-cup batch of rice or quinoa. Most of the time I cook it in the vegetable broth I make from a homemade seasoning mix, but sometimes it will just be plain. We use this all week as a base for so many meals! You can throw the grain into a soup or into a wrap or burrito. You can make an Asian stir fry or any kind of veggie/bean saute and put it on top of the grain. You can have the grain sweetened (made without the veggie broth) for breakfast: rice pudding for example. You can have the grain with a drizzle of olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, your veggie of choice (froze kale or spinach, for example, just heated up) and maybe toss in some raw sunflower seeds or pine nuts and you have a quick, balanced meal (this is one of my FAVORITE, go-to, weekday meals for breakfast OR lunch!). Leftover refried beans and salsa are a yummy, healthy snack over grains too.

Well, these are just some of my menu planning ideas that work for me. I didn't include quick, vegan recipes, because that's not really what this topic is about and there are tons of those out there on the world wide web! I just wanted you to see that no matter what your diet is, you can choose healthy, whole foods even while on a tight schedule and budget with some simple planning.

Planning of some sort always helps with time management and budget, but don't feel guilty or give up if you fall down with your planning! It's life after all and there will be three more meals tomorrow to think about, so you'll get plenty of chances to "get it right"! And remember, sometimes you just have to wing it too! Sometimes you're just too stressed or busy or tired out to plan. So cut yourself some slack and have cereal for dinner! Peanut butter "tastee o's" and almond milk are pretty popular around these parts. :)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Let It Thaw, Let It Thaw, Let It Thaw!

It doesn't have the same ring to it as that sweet, December song, but I swear I could feel everyone humming this very idea today as we were out and about in the sunshine, running a few Saturday errands. One cashier even said to as we checked out, "Enjoy the day... tomorrow!" Yes, we're all waiting for the promised day ABOVE freezing tomorrow! We'll ignore that part about the forecasted, "mostly cloudy," and just concentrate on the thawing to come over the next couple of days.

The sunshine and 30's today seems to have put a spring in everyone's step. And tomorrow is Daylight Saving day! HOORAY! Oh, I know so many complain about losing the hour, but I LOVE daylight savings time, because I love daylight! :) Longer days mean we get to get outside and walk later in the day, for one. That will be a huge bonus for my husband who, because of the nature of his work, has to work in a windowless room all day. Ugh. It's hard enough keeping an upbeat attitude during the challenging winter months, but not even seeing outside during the day would drive me a little bit batty.

I know that winter is not through yet, but the reprieve is most welcome and it's  
for me! Woo hoo! So, let's see, we have: warmer temperatures, a sunny day, daylight saving time, and spring break all coming together. I don't have spring fever just yet, but I can feel my temperature rising!

That sun coming in the kitchen shone on the stove and illuminated some of that grease and dust that had collected in some areas that I miss in my regular cleaning. I can tell that spring cleaning itch is going to be getting to me soon.

And that sunshine has made me begin thinking that the color I want my (basement) bedroom to be is a sunny yellow. I have been thinking about it for a few weeks now, as that is where I do my yoga practice now and while I practice I have been imagining the kind of environment I would like it to be in there. For a while I thought a pale blue would be nice, as it is the bedroom and blue is such a peaceful color, but the winters get so long here that I don't think that would lift my mood as much. Honestly, I don't have trouble being peaceful; that is a more natural characteristic of my nature I believe. But I do crave outside stimulus to lift my mood frequently in winter and so I think yellow will be a good choice. So now I'm trying to think of a color palette. Have you ever noticed how yellow and gray is so huge on Pintrest? I like those colors together, but I wouldn't be able to have that exclusively in my bedroom.

I do like this one that I found via Real Simple's website, here.

And Better Homes and Gardens offered this one here.

I like the yellow with the green and gray and I also like the dark rose color in the bedspread directly above. My husband doesn't like anything too feminine, so I have to keep that in mind. But the colors of the Ranunculus flowers in my blog banner are inspiring me right now.

The colors of my bedroom will surely give me a lift when it's completed sometime this spring. In the meantime, I continue to practice little things to help throughout the day. I really believe in being intentional about my attitude. Some days, like today, bless me with a natural happiness. But many things play into that. Usually those things are: a good night's sleep, having my quiet time in the morning with God, a day off (!), sunshine, etc. But we all know those days are fewer than we'd like. Many days are cloudy and gray, stressful, and ask more than we sometimes want to give. So choosing joy has to be a choice! We don't want to sink under our circumstances all the time, for we would very quickly be sunk and we'd likely take others along with us. You don't want to be the one at work or in your family that is the dark cloud, the wet blanket, the one others don't want to see coming because of your sour or bad mood. Obviously, everyone has a bad day from time to time, but maintaining a generally positive mood is a gift to those around you. But it's HARD, isn't it? I have commented a few times this winter to a couple of people that I really sympathize with those who are struggling with depression or seasonal depression, because I am a healthy person and I find it hard too!

So, what helps? Well, feeding my senses is huge! I will never be a person of complete practicality when it comes to my surroundings. PRETTY MATTERS. That's all there is to it. Pretty doesn't have to be expensive, but it matters! Aesthetics are powerful. Property values rise in areas that are well-tended and groomed. People want to congregate in pretty spaces. It's simple; I'm not telling you anything new, but visually speaking your home should have things in it that your eye likes to fall upon. Rearranging your space or counter. Or just dusting off a desktop and replacing your things in an orderly or different, pleasing arrangement can actually lift your spirit.

Keeping with the visual sense, color therapy is powerful. That's why I'm putting so much thought into the color of my bedroom. I also like to change colors of things with the seasons too, so switching out a tablecloth, choosing a seasonal candle color or different color napkins or throw pillows can make a difference. We are on a pretty strict budget around here, so all my changes have to be what fits into my budget. Recently, I purchased a pair of pink taper candles that had never been used from the thrift store for a dollar. I put one into my milk glass candle holder and set it on my vanity and I burn it when I'm getting ready for the day and when I get a chance to do yoga. It's a very small thing, but it makes me surprisingly happy. It makes me feel pampered, as if someone has paid attention to me and indeed, someone has: me! :) I'm going to burn through that candle and the other one and then it will be time to find more, this time in a new color - maybe yellow or spring green! By then I will notice the new color and small change and that will raise my spirits again.

The past few times I was at Trader Joe's I picked up a single, inexpensive flower bouquet. I divide it up among rooms with a few blossoms here and there, adding color. Isn't it amazing how your eye goes right to the flowers in a room when you walk in? Even if there is a very small vase with a stem or two on a dresser, bathroom counter, or vanity table, it makes such a difference.

Paying attention to my appearance gives me a lift too. I'm not talking about being vain, but I am a girl who enjoys getting dressed and my daughters feel the same way. I don't spend much money at all on clothes. 90% of my wardrobe comes from the thrift store. But that doesn't keep me from having fun with what I wear. Yes, I have the occasional day that I just want to be comfortable and I have a couple of sweatshirts for days like that. But for the most part, dressing nicely - "pulling myself together" - is an effort I make that helps with my attitude.

Music is a powerful tool for mood as well. With my longing for spring, I play a Pandora channel called "Nature Wilderness," with the sounds of running water and birds in most of the songs. I've also found that station to be helpful when I am doing my homework.

Smell is something I am aware of too. I have a very strong sense of smell. It kind of drives my kids crazy, because I wrinkle my nose at things pretty easily, which keeps me on top of the litter box cleaning schedule! Citrus really does lift my mood. Sweet Orange essential oil is one I picked up at the co-op about a month ago. It was just over $2.00 for the bottle! A couple of drops of that is wonderful in the mineral oil I use after my showers for a lift!

Mmm... speaking of orange...

Isn't that gorgeous?!

I got a great deal on organic carrots at Costco the other day and could think only of a Bunny Smoothie! I don't use a recipe, really, just an ingredients list that I got from Sara when she visited me in Florida a few years ago on her Live Lightly Tour. We made these then and I still make them now, but my recipe isn't exact. The only measurements I have are for the carrot juice and almond milk.

Bunny Smoothie

1 c almond milk
1 c fresh carrot juice
approximately 2 frozen bananas
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger (powdered, but you can also juice some fresh ginger to taste - even better! Mmmm... ginger!)
1/4 t nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves

My list has cardamom on there, but I never seem to have that in the house. I do have pumpkin pie spice and I threw 1/4 t of that in too, but it's not absolutely necessary. Blend in a blender and drink! Oh, it's so good! It's a taste and color sensation all in one!

Well, I'd best get on with my day. The sun that was beginning to set as I began my post has gone down now and I need to get something to eat (I totally want one of those smoothies, but I don't want to get out my juicer again...). I hope it is - or was - sunny in your part of the world today and if it wasn't maybe you've found an idea or two here to make your mood sunnier in any event. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and I'll talk with you again soon!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lenten Journey: Ash Wednesday: A Faith Story

Hee, hee. Isn't the cartoon below, funny? :)

Two Sundays ago I shared my faith story - or my "testimony" as it is often called - at my church. As we record our services, I thought I would be able to share with you the video of it here. But it looks like only the sermons are available online, so I thought I would share the transcript of my presentation. There is much more to this story, but, as my presentation could only be around 5 minutes long, and I have a tendency toward loquaciousness - in case you hadn't noticed ;) - a good deal of the details had to be cut (I still came in with a time of 6 min. 45 sec., but they let me slide!).

I am sharing it with you today, because a common verse shared on Ash Wednesday to begin the Lenten season is this one found in Joel 2:12-13 and is one that was used in the Journey to the Cross devotional I began using this morning.

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.

And my story is one doing exactly this. Like the prodigal son, I went away from Jesus for a decade and then returned, thankful that God does not hold grudges. :) Below is my story, and if you're interested in reading it, I am trusting that God may use it in some way to encourage you... and know that it should take less than 7 minutes of your time! ;)

Blessed Ash Wednesday to all of you,


"My name is Nicole Pivec and my family and I have been attending Woodcrest for almost two years. I'm married to Paul and I have two high school aged girls, Maia and Eve. My story about how I came to know Christ is really a story about coming back to Christ. I was raised in a Christian home, but while Vacation Bible School and Christmas pageants were part of my very early childhood years, we were more of a “weekend Christian” family and often had sporadic church attendance. Still, I loved God and I had had some real, if small, revelations about the truth about Him and even though I walked away from His Son later, I always knew that He was real.

There were a number of things that led to my leaving the church when I was 19 years old. During the same months that my parents began their path toward a divorce I began to question and distrust much of what I had been taught including the Christian upbringing of my early childhood years. I began noticing and then investigating alternative spiritual ideas. As a child, I had been fascinated with the paranormal. I'd read books on ESP, psychic activity, ghosts. The idea that some of this was real and that psychic ability was something that everyone had and could attain and was even good was powerfully intriguing to me. The part about it being “good” was important too, because I had been a good student and thought of myself as a “good” girl. I wasn't part of the “bad” crowd in school, and while I wasn't the least popular in school, I was far from popular either. Having moved a lot I was frequently unknown. Mostly, I was... overlooked.

When my parents split and we struggled to find our “new normal,” many things were left to the wayside, including church attendance, and so, intrigued with the new ideas I'd discovered, I walked away from Jesus and His teachings - what little I knew of them, because honestly, other than the big Sunday school stories of my elementary years and knowing the names of the four gospels, I had never read the Bible. But while I walked away from Jesus, I never really walked away from God. I believed in a god, just not in the Christian God, necessarily. Or actually, I did believe in the Christian God, but in my mind, He was the same god that every other religion referred to and Jesus was relegated to one of His wise teachers. Why limit myself to His teachings, I reasoned, (again, as if I actually KNEW what His teachings were) when there was a whole smorgasbord of teaching out there from which to pick and choose? I investigated all kinds of books at the new age book store. I purchased and studied tarot cards, astrology, and numerology. I visited psychics and took a world religions class at the University where Christianity was just another religion among many. I visited a Buddhist temple with a co-worker and spent the evening chanting. I studied Science of Mind.

The religion I really embraced, though, was Wicca, which is witchcraft. Being Wiccan also fit in with my desire to be different, to stand out and finally be noticed. Our world is fascinated with power and intrigued with magic and if I could possess even a little of that – and use it for good – then it seemed a win-win situation.

There are no “rules” in Wicca – only suggestions - and so the main thing I tried to craft in all those years was mostly a statement of belief. I tried to piece together something that I thought might happen to my spirit after I died. Did I believe in karma and reincarnation? Would I be able to achieve nirvana that the buddhists spoke of? Was I going to have to return to this life again and would I return as human? And if I returned as human, would I have to renounce all that was dear to me in order to achieve enlightenment? It all seemed so hard and there were no solid answers. Everything was relative, everything was tolerated; it seemed there was no truth – only theories. But it did all seem to be up to me to figure it out. That felt certain. It was my responsibility to realize this divinity within me and if I didn't then I'd just lose out. After a decade of time and energy spent looking and looking, I still felt I had nothing solid, nothing certain, and yet I knew I was still hungry.

One December day, a year after my first daughter was born, I was feeling those hunger pains again and I felt like I had so few answers. I leafed through the phone book and tried calling another buddhist temple I had read about somewhere. Maybe I would visit there, maybe they would provide the answer, fill up that space inside of me that felt so empty. The person who answered had a very broken English accent and I couldn't even understand the information he was trying to share with me. I hung up the phone, discouraged, and then looked up and over at the collection of Christmas cards sent from friends and family displayed on our television cabinet. I read the words, “ For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” “Maybe,” I thought, “maybe I should try a church again. Maybe I should try understanding what it is my mother and my grandmothers believed. Maybe, I should learn something about what Jesus really said and about what He really did.” After all the books I'd read on other religions, maybe I should try reading the Bible and find out for myself what it said, find out for myself if it really was no different from everything else out there.

And what I found, of course, is that it is very different. It is different, because there is no one like Jesus. It is different, because I discovered that all of my questions are answered in Him. And it is different because my salvation is not up to me. All the effort has already been made. Everything has already been done and all I'm asked to do is to rest and trust and believe. Rest and trust and believe that He noticed me. He is “El-Roi”: God who sees. He did not overlook me and He did not forget about me even when I walked away and went searching. And He knew that just what I needed all along was Him. There is a magic in this world, but it's not the selfish magic of me trying to accomplish my desires. Instead, the magic is what Jesus can do inside of you. Your outside world and your circumstances may not change, but everything changes – like magic – on the inside – and you'll see things in a whole new way. And now... now I am fulfilled. Now I don't need anything else. And in fact, now if you do notice me, I hope that what you'll really see, instead of me, is Him."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's Shrove Tuesday... and Did You Know??

Oh hello everyone! Or maybe, hello, you one... you one who may be reading my blog today. :) It's Shrove Tuesday or "Fat Tuesday," a.k.a. Mardi Gras or Carnival! Whatever you call it where you live, it kicks off the season of Lent which is one of my favorite times of year. Actually, I enjoy so many times of the year, but this time, as with Advent, is especially dear to me, because it is - or can be - a quiet, inward time while in the outer world around us, the season grows lighter and the earth around begins to explode with life and that much-craved color. After the winter we've had here in MN - well, after the winter so many of us have endured in the U.S. in general, this Easter season will be especially welcome and may actually be spring-like around these parts due to its late date, April 20th this year.

I was just driving home from bringing Maia back from her acting class and I heard the temperature on the radio was 18 degrees F. I could hardly believe it, because it felt so warm! Today was the first day in a number of weeks that I didn't have to hammer the snow build-up behind my tires, because it had quickly turned to ice and no amount of kicking did any good whatsoever.

On Minnesota Public Radio's, "The Daily Circuit" today, they did a funny program discussing the "winter misery index," which they called, "The Winter of Our Discontent." People called in with their complaints, their positive spins, and even some haikus. :) You can have a listen there or just look at some of the crazy facts such as the fact that as of Monday morning we've had 50 subzero days this winter; the record is 60.

So, I haven't been blogging as much. I've been surviving winter (hammering ice) and plugging away at library school as well as homeschool and the rest of life. I thought I'd share something that I've learned while in school that you may not know. Of course, you may already be familiar with all of the incredible databases available at your local library, but in spite of the fact that I have been a devoted library lover and user for years, I had never tapped into this incredible resource - one which your tax dollars help to support!

I give you: "The Humble Database"
I use the Dakota County Library system and this library maintains 87 databases! You can take a peek here. And even though you might think databases sound boring, they are really so COOL. Remember when you were a kid and you discovered encyclopedias? Our family had a World Book set at home: the adult version and the kid version with all the different colored tabs on the spine with titles like, "Animals," "The Human Body," and "Make and Do." I loved those and my sibs and I logged many hours poring over their contents. As we got older, the adult set came in handy for all the school reports that came our way. Unfortunately, many kids think Wikipedia when they think of where to find that kind of information, but likely you have learned that teachers aren't hip on Wikipedia for a source, because it's not authoritative. But who owns encyclopedia sets in their homes nowadays? And you have to have a subscription to the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica if you want access.

Or do you?

Not when the library subscribes for you! :) Chances are, all you need is a library card to have free access to EB. Plus, they have elementary, middle school, and high school versions, as well as an academic version. You can get Homework Help; live job coaching and resume assistance; online practice tests for official exams such as the ACT, a real estate license, civil service, etc. How about learning a foreign language? They have online language programs for adults and children. Access to Medline; digital audiobooks, e-books, and current magazines; access to your local paper online; AND access to " over 500 online continuing education courses taught by real instructors with remote, 24/7 access so you can study on your schedule. You can enroll in up to five courses at a time and have six months to finish each course" ("Research Materials").


So, here is what Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about the meaning of "Shrove Tuesday":

"Shrove, derived from “shrive,” refers to the confession of sins usual in the European Middle Ages as a preparation for Lent. Shrove Tuesday eventually acquired the character of a carnival or festival in European countries, and many customs developed in connection with this day that precedes the beginning of the Lenten fast. Traditionally pancakes were eaten on Shrove Tuesday, because eggs and fat, forbidden during the Lenten fast, were used" ("Shrove Tuesday).

Are you planning to do anything for Lent this year? Some protestant denominations do not observe Lent, but I like to, because I love the way it draws me even closer to God. It is an intentional, focused time and it gives cause for reflection that we often do not have - or take the time - to practice. And it creates a specialness to this time - sanctifies it - and causes it to be more memorable than the daily routine of our lives.

So this year I am going to be using two devotionals. One is a devotional released last year by The Gospel Coalition. It is a free PDF download called Journey to the Cross that I've saved here on my laptop and am sending to my Kindle. I also signed up to receive a Lenten devotional from Bible They have many to choose from (and there are many, many free devotionals on the web) including one from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I may look at another time. But the one I've chosen from them is from a new-to-me translation of the Bible called, "The Voice." I'll receive it in my e-mail inbox daily and I hope the different translation will add a new depth to my devotions, as the translation I use regularly is NIV.

Along with the devotionals I am planning on fasting on Fridays. I am thinking about breakfast and lunch or perhaps just lunch; I haven't decided yet; still praying on that. But I will be taking a media fast on Fridays as well and I am looking forward to that. I am looking forward to using time otherwise spent online with either Bible study, prayer, or time spent writing letters or journaling or other quiet activities.

I plan to be here, too, blogging some of my Lenten journey. I'd thought about creating a devotional here, but my schedule is too full and I don't necessarily get open time to put something together here every day (as evidenced by my lack of posts of late). I thought about pre-writing some posts, but then I'd need to be contemplating too many devotional ideas all at once and if it's one thing I don't need is another thing to feel rushed about! The "Journey to the Cross" devotional offers some questions for reflection, so I may use some of that to guide some of my posts. But I will still have just some regular conversation here too - some of the usual chit chat that I enjoy so much on others' blogs. I don't plan to turn this site - even for 40 days - into a strict devotional.

In the end, I hope to be here more often even though I'm weeks away from the end of the semester. But SPRING BREAK is next week! I'm so excited! So that will provide a window for a bit more conversation for a time anyway.

If you plan on observing Lent, please let me know about it in the comments or on Facebook. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of Fat Tuesday and I'll talk with you again soon!

 Works Cited:

"Research Materials." Home. Dakota County Library, 2012. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

"Shrove Tuesday." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <>
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