Do the good you can do

Do you ever feel like permanently turning off the news and hiding away from the world? Sometimes it’s overwhelming, isn’t it? A plane is shot down and 176 people die, Australia burns and earthquakes rock Puerto Rico, a volcano erupts in the Philippines and thousands are forced to flee. Violence, murder, and mayhem seem to be the order of the day.

The Bible tells us that such things will happen as end times approach. Mark 13:7-8 says, When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” But what are we to do in the meantime? How do we continue to function in a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams?

Do the good you can do.

Can you accomplish world peace, end hunger, prevent climate change, or stop the tectonic plates from shifting? No, of course you can’t, but there is good that you can do.

Do the good you CAN do.

  • make a Kiva loan to help an entrepreneur in a developing country establish a business and provide for their family
  • give a child the gift of education through child sponsorship
  • volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food kitchen
  • donate blood
  • become a mentor or tutor to someone who would benefit from your skills and experience
  • rake leaves or shovel snow for an elderly neighbour
  • make a donation to your local food bank
  • help build a Habitat for Humanity home
  • clean up a local beach or park
  • fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child
  • recycle
  • reduce your kitchen waste by composting or making “garbage soup”

The possibilities are endless. Do the good you CAN do.

Make kindness a lifestyle. Whether it’s simply smiling and saying hello or doing a random act of kindness for a stranger, you can make a difference in someone’s day. It won’t save the world, but it will make your small corner of it a better place to be and you might be surprised by how much better it makes you feel.

Do the good you can do.

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What hydrates your soul?

We all know that drinking water to stay hydrated is important to our physical health. It helps maximize physical performance, promotes cardiovascular health, has a major effect on energy levels and brain function, and may prevent or relieve digestive issues. Conversely, even low levels of dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, lethargy, and constipation.

But what about our souls? What hydrates or nourishes your soul? What brings you joy or a deep sense of satisfaction?

If you’re like me, you might find January a month when your soul begins to feel depleted;  malnourished. Christmas is over and New Years has come and gone. Depending where you live, winter may seem to stretch out endlessly in front of you. It’s easy to start feeling down. The solution may not be as simple as drinking a glass of water, but there are many things we can do to hydrate our souls.

Here, in no particular order, are 12 things that nourish my soul:

  • daily time in prayer and God’s Word
  • spending time with people who make me happy
  • soaking up sunlight
  • doing something unexpected for someone else
  • losing myself in a good book
  • writing
  • spending time in nature
  • traveling
  • organizing and decluttering
  • exercising
  • sipping a cup of tea or a glass of wine
  • relaxing in a hot bath

Your prescription might be entirely different than mine, but if your soul is feeling dehydrated, here are some things you might try:

  • listen to music or make music if you’re so inclined
  • visit a museum or an art gallery
  • watch a movie or a live theatre performance
  • keep a gratitude journal
  • volunteer
  • go for a massage
  • get some sleep
  • do something creative

What hydrates your soul? 

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One word for 2020

Three years ago, as part of a ministry that I was involved in, I was asked to choose one word to inspire or guide me in the coming year and to choose a scripture verse to go with it. As a lover of words, this was a perfect assignment for me and one that I’ve repeated each year since then. My word for 2017 was Still, for 2018 I chose Grace, and last year my word was Inspire. There’s actually a whole #OneWord365 movement on the internet urging members to choose just one word to focus on every day, all year long; a word that sums up who they want to be or how they want to live.

The weekly Bible study that I do with a small group of women from my church pointed me toward the word that I’ve chosen for 2020: Bold. The study, Legacy: How One Ordinary Life Can Make an Eternal Difference with Jackie Green and Lauren Green McAfee, points out that being bold is vital to leaving a spiritual legacy. According to the study, “being bold doesn’t mean breaking rules or social conventions just for the sake of being a rule breaker. It’s not about demanding your own way. It’s not about having a sense of entitlement. Rather, biblical boldness is about speaking the truth even when it’s unpopular. The bold act without worrying about what other people think or say because they have confidence in following a higher standard. The bold are willing to break with tradition.”

The dictionary defines bold as showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

“Bold people stand out from the group. They are confident, courageous, and directed.” says Kevin Daum, author, columnist, entrepreneurship coach, marketer and speaker in a post entitled 7 Things Really Bold People Do. “People who choose to be bold are inspiring not just because they get big things accomplished, but because they also instigate growth, progress, and movement for themselves and others around them.” That definitely resonated with me considering that my word for the past year was Inspire.

The Bible verse that I selected to go with this year’s word is Proverbs 28:1. The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Known as the king of the beasts, the mighty lion is regal and fearless. With a roar that can be heard from more than 5 miles (8 km) away, he’s a symbol of fearlessness, strength and invincibility.

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So how do you blend boldness with grace? How do you act boldly without being abrasive? How do you speak up for what you believe in or what you know to be true without sounding arrogant and turning people off? These are the questions that I’m wrestling with as I enter the new year.

I want to have the boldness of the early disciples who shared their faith in spite of great opposition. I want to have the courage to confront injustice and stand up for the downtrodden. I want to be bold enough to reach out to the woman weeping in the ladies room at the cancer clinic instead of just saying a silent prayer for her.  

So how am I, a naturally shy and introverted person, going to learn to act with greater boldness? One recommendation that I read suggested that I pretend that I’m already bold, ask myself what I’d do if I was, and then act accordingly. That’s what I’m determined to do this coming year.

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What about you? Can you think of one word to inspire or guide you in the new year?

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Winter at its best

Winter is not my favourite season, but sometimes it’s spectacularly beautiful here on the Canadian prairie.

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With a houseful of grandchildren for the past week, we were very thankful for sunshine, mild daytime temperatures, and fresh powdery snow that made outdoor activities not only possible, but a great deal of fun.

With shovels and brooms, a skating rink was cleared on a pond just outside town.

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Even the littlest one helped out.

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Many hours were spent tobogganing on a hill just three blocks from the house.

By late this morning, most of the family had packed up and left for home. Only our two Vancouver grandsons and their parents remained. If you’ve been following my blog for very long, you may remember how much I enjoy exploring the old abandoned buildings that are scattered across the prairie. Until today, that was a summertime activity, but when I discovered that 8-year-old Nate shares my passion for old abandoned houses, a plan was hatched and off we went to find a few.

Our first stop was an old farmstead a few kilometres from town.

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The last time we were there, the old shed was still standing, but not anymore.

When the sun is shining, there’s beauty even in decay.

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Next, we walked down the field to check out the old threshing machine in the edge of the trees.

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Sharp-eyed Nate spotted this tiny one room house beside the road not far from the old farmstead. I’m sure we’ve driven by it many times without ever noticing it. In the summer it would be completely hidden by leaves on the trees.

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A little further down the road we spotted another old house that we’d never noticed before. We had to walk across a snowy field of canola stubble to check it out.

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Two stories tall with a cellar below, it would have been quite a place in its day. It’s a very solid structure built of logs overlaid with wooden slats. With doors and windows still intact and shredded curtains hanging in some of the windows, it’s in better shape than many of the old buildings we’ve found. Peeking through the kitchen window we spotted a calendar on the wall dated September 1963. Presumably that’s when it’s last residents moved out. I couldn’t help wondering why they left a sink full of dishes behind! If only these old walls could talk. What stories they would tell!

If winter was always this beautiful and this much fun, I might not mind it so much! The last of the family leaves tomorrow morning though and the forecast is calling for much colder temperatures a week or so from now. We haven’t made any plans for a winter getaway to warmer climes, but it might soon be time to look for a last minute deal!

Reclaiming Christmas

The fact that the world has ‘stolen’ our Christian holy days and turned them into commercial extravaganzas has been one of my pet peeves for a very long time. Walk up and down the aisles full of Christmas decorations in any store and what do you see? Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and Disney characters galore. What do any of these have to do with the real meaning of Christmas? Look at the outdoor decorations in your neighbourhood. You might see a nativity scene, particularly in front of a church, but where is Christ in most of those decorations? What does an inflatable penguin or puppy have to do with Christmas? I don’t know either, but you can get one for just $19.98 CAD at Walmart!

Don’t even get me started on that stupid Elf on a Shelf! Whoever thought that one up did nothing but add more meaningless stress to an already over-stressed season for anyone who bought into it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a total Grinch! I love Christmas lights. After all, it was Christ Himself who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

Though standing a tree in the house and decorating it with lights and ornaments often strikes me as a weird tradition, I also love the Christmas tree that stands in front of our living room window. Many of its decorations point to the true meaning of Christmas. That’s very intentional. It’s one small attempt at reclaiming Christmas.

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Although a beautiful nativity scene also has a place of prominence, our home isn’t completely devoid of the fun side of Christmas. Santa and one of his reindeer stand atop a cabinet in the living room. Surrounded by teddy bears and twinkly lights, he’s checking his list and preparing for his round the world gift giving flight, but it’s the little Santa bowing over the manger on another shelf that holds greater meaning for me.

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So what is the real meaning of Christmas? “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people,” an angel told some shepherds keeping watch over their flocks outside Bethlehem that night so long ago; a night that would forever change the world. (Luke 2:8-10 NIV) That night the mighty Creator of the universe chose to come to earth in the form of a tiny babe, to live among us, and to show us who He really is. That night, He began His journey to the cross where He would pay the penalty for all our failures and give us the gift of eternal life with Him. There is no better gift than that! It costs nothing but the willingness to humble ourselves and surrender to His leading in our lives. That’s what Christmas is really all about! That’s true love and that’s why I want to reclaim Christmas. I can’t take it back from the masses who celebrate by overindulging and running up their credit card bills, but I can keep the love of Christ at the centre of my Christmas season.

When we were teaching in Japan, I asked one of my adult students why so many Japanese people celebrate the birth of a God they don’t believe in. “We love to decorate and we love to shop,” she told me. Perhaps that’s why most people celebrate a holy day that has no real meaning to them.

Why do you celebrate Christmas? What does it mean to you?

 

Gram’s in nesting mode!

The urge to clean and organize is commonly known as nesting and usually comes upon a woman in the final weeks of pregnancy. I don’t remember actually experiencing this overwhelming desire to get my home ready for a new baby. I worked up until a few days before baby #1 arrived. It’s a good thing that that was back in the day when they kept mom and baby in hospital for several days because hubby was still putting up a wall to separate the nursery from the living room when she was born! I was a bit more prepared when baby #2 arrived 19 months later. Babies #3 and #4 arrived at very busy times in our life (there are long stories behind both of those) when nesting was the furthest thing from my mind.

So, what does all that have to do with anything? The whole family comes home for Christmas every third year and this is that year! Suddenly I find myself cleaning and organizing, decorating, planning menus, and buying ingredients for all sorts of Christmas baking. Yes, Gram is definitely in nesting mode!

It started with the teeny tiny playroom in the corner of our basement that only gets used when grandchildren come to stay. It hadn’t had a thorough cleaning in a long time. I sorted through the old wooden toy box that was lovingly made for my siblings and I by a great uncle of ours in the 1950s discarding broken toys and putting away ones that are too babyish for our growing grandkids. I washed down the play kitchen that our children got for Christmas in the 1980s. Dolls that had been mine and our daughters’ when we were little girls were bathed and their clothes went through the laundry. Then the tiny toy dishes were washed.

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Just as the toys spill out into the rest of the basement when the grandkids are here, my cleaning frenzy has also moved on into other areas. Since we retired, Richard has taken over much of the day to day housework, but I’m attacking those nooks and crannies that don’t get regular attention. Why wait for spring cleaning when the family’s coming home and Gram is in nesting mode?

What are you doing to prepare for the holiday season?

 

Growing up with gnomes

Our two BC grandsons are growing up in a world of magic. There are gnomes living in the forest near their North Vancouver home. When the boys were younger, we’d often explore the forest looking for gnome homes.

The closest we ever came to finding one was this little gnome gate.

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Now that the boys are in school and busy with other organized activities and play dates with friends, it’s been quite awhile since we’ve gone into the forest together, but the gnomes are still very much a part of their lives. Many years ago, our son and daughter-in-law installed a tiny gnome door on the outer wall of the family room so that the little men can come and go whenever they want. Though they never show up in the daytime, it’s obvious that they sometimes visit at night. They always decorate around their door for special occasions like Halloween and Christmas and they often leave tiny gifts for the boys.

In a world that is increasingly filled with stress and fear, I’m glad that there is also magic and wonder, imagination and creativity, and I’m thankful for parents who make the effort to nurture it!