Tag Archives: simple pleasures

How Do You Juggle?

How do you juggle multiple responsibilities and still nurture your heart?

Or do you?

I find it’s a constant choice to seek joy, peace, and balance when the pace of life increases. As I type, I’m less than a week out from my son’s wedding. (Exciting!) A few weeks out from a book deadline. (Exciting!) And coming off a wonderful three-day speaking engagement in February. (Exciting!) Of course there are other joys and responsibilities in between the big events. Finding joy in hardship is a challenge for me, but I’m discovering joy can also be lost in good times if I’m not careful, just because of the pace!

So . . . how to hang onto the joy? To celebrate all this good even as time feels shorter (which of course it never is, really.) How to stay peaceful in the hurry?

A little self-care helps. This morning I took a time out to re-read a few passages from a book releasing on April 1 by a friend of mine Vicki Caruana, of the popular Apples and Chalkdust blog. 20170321_093105Why take the time? The topic is timely. I don’t think it is coincidence that the week my son marries I receive The Joy of Letting Go in the mail. I devoured an advanced copy of this book before it published, and I knew the wisdom and grace Vicki offers would be as good for my heart as my eggs and avocados were this morning.  It was.

The pretty book cover inspired me to an extra bit of self-nuture, so I grabbed this beautiful cup given to me by the lovely bride-to-be (my new daughter!!) and that inspired me to pull out my grandmother’s china and a new cloth napkin I purchased for the bridal shower. (Isn’t it lucky my reading glasses match too?) I don’t usually eat out of china, but this extra touch of beauty only cost me about thirty seconds and it meant something to me!

What touch of beauty would cost little time but mean something to you today?

The other thing I’ve done during this busy season is engage with Colors of Hope, the first coloring book in the new inspirational coloring series by Lisa Joy Samson. If you love good fiction, you’ve likely read one of Lisa’s novels. You’ve also heard her name here because Lisa drew the cover art for my Soul Scents book series.

It seems counter-intuitive to color when you have a lot to get done, but I’ve found that it calms me and makes me more creative and productive later, especially when tackling the novella deadline. Besides it’s fun and playful, and with the Bible verses and beauty of the art, the coloring book helps me spend some restful moment thinking about the One who gives hope. 20170311_082302.jpgHow about you? Is there something you enjoy that is simple and creative that will bring your stress down and free you to more productivity? (A hint: I do set a timer when I color, so this creative endeavor doesn’t suck me into giving up more time than is wise. I take several days to color one page.)

17156189_10211441460007228_7758007868974633871_nI’m still walking, and it still provides great joy and peace. I’ll be honest and admit that it is hard to make myself take the time, and too often I don’t make the choice to get outside, but every time I do I feel better and have more peace and stamina when I return to my work. Added bonus right now? If I pay attention, I see spring coming!

I also often use this time to catch up with a friend. Another great stress reducer!

How about you? Where can you find a few minutes to get some sunshine and a little activity? Time with a friend?

If you know me well, you’re going to be shocked at my last stress-reducing activity. My husband actually laughed out loud this morning when I said I needed to climb out of bed because the sunrise is so pretty.

Honestly, I’m a huge fan of sunsets, but sunrises happen too early for me. That said, for some reason I’ve seen every one of them this week. Instead of letting it stress me out that I’m not sleeping as much as I prefer, I slip into the living room and position myself for the best view. Curling beneath a soft blanket, I take a few minutes just to enjoy.20170318_065141I don’t know whether you’re a sunrise or sunset person–or both! But I hope tonight or tomorrow morning you’ll pause a moment and let the beauty seep in!

Here’s to capturing joy and peace in the midst of the bustle.

Now I’m off to clean the bathrooms for wedding company!

(By the way, after the wedding I’ve invited Lisa to share with us about the benefits of coloring and Vickie to help us process the joy of releasing our progeny to their adult lives. I hope you’ll join us the next few weeks. It’s going to be beautiful!)

Blessings,

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Refreshment

20140722_093918-1The breeze brushes my face, wispy fingers cooling my questions.

It’s funny what conquers the ragged places. You think it will take something big–like getting the answers you want–but sometimes it’s the simplest relief.

Like this light wind whisking away the heat as we sit beneath the shade trees of our backyard .

It doesn’t answer the questions I asked last night. It doesn’t change the circumstances of frustration.

But it is LOVE.

And isn’t this life full of Him when I open my heart to see?

Conviction hits with that statement. It’s not always about my ability to open my heart. Last night’s questions weren’t coming from this happy, open place.

The breeze, this quiet moment away from the sweltering heat of my home and the suffocating heat of my heart is a gift. I didn’t earn it by being some goody-goody person living open and happy.

I have cultivated the notice of such by an intentional decision to say thank you. I did ask God last night for help when I felt the doldrums coming on. But I didn’t make the breeze. I didn’t force my heart open.

I think only God can open the heart. My will can ask Him to. My logic knows it is good for me. But the heart? That’s something different all together.

The heart is where HE lives. And He is hope. Joy. Peace. Love. All the things I long for. He opens this place to the Good.

When I cried out in the sweaty night, hot and tired, unable to sleep, He granted my body rest and awoke me to this day. This moment.

I’ve no doubt that His Spirit tempted me outside. It started with notice of wilting basil leaves, so thirsty.20140723_124649 Then the act of running up and down the stairs, back porch to plant watering jug in hand, awakened me to the possibilities.

Sam’s hot and tired, too. Maybe even more than I with all of his aching surgery hip and sitting in front of TV and gaming station, being tied to crutches, mostly trapped inside.

So we breakfasted in the breeze. Talked of everything and nothing. How this summer was his favorite summer of baseball ever. He thanked me for his childhood, precious son that he is, as we stared at the swing set which sits mostly still these days. I guess kids reminisce, too. Even as I silently mourned the decaying tree house, the lack of shrieking, giggling little ones, he celebrates the good, sees the big yard and the tire swing and dangling climbing rope and remembers. Happy. (And yes, I hear the lesson in that.)

Now we sit side-by-side, lap-tops perched on the patio table that speaks love, too (It once belonged to Bernice, and I know she would rejoice in seeing us here). We let the fresh air clear our head, cool our bodies, lift our spirits.

A pure, white butterfly flits by. Lands on the rose bush.

Bird song wafts on the breeze.

We believe again in season, in ups and downs, and how the downs don’t last forever. His crutches will soon be abandoned. The stuff that weighed on my emotions last night will pass. We remember that even in those downs there is relief. We discover gifts. Embrace love.

I am happy, too. Son beside me. Cool breeze refreshing.

Hope you’re finding joy in the simple pleasures, too, my friends.

Until next time,

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Grateful

After the intensity of yesterday’s post I long for the simple again.

Just the everyday thoughts and remembering the everyday stuff that makes life beautiful.20140605_224323

Like the grown kids popping into visit and my refrigerator being full enough to feed them all, no problem.

Full. Abundant. Lots of left-overs. Fresh stuff, too.

Like the cool air on my bare arms last night as hubby agreed to walk at a nearby park. The clouds were cotton on blue and by the time we left the pink tinged them with glory. We bumped into some longtime friends who were at the lake fishing. Our youngest son rode his long board, weaving in and out of the those who, like us, strolled the sidewalk.

Just beautiful, simple living.

Hubby and I went grocery shopping.

We found a great sale and bought meat. Chicken breasts. roasts. steak.

And we COULD. We could pay for it.

How many times have I taken such simple graces for granted?

Today blueberries arrived on my doorstep. I’m dreaming of blueberry pancakes. There’s already real whipped cream waiting in the fridge to top them.

The roses are beginning to bloom, and I planted bright fuchsia and dark purple petunias. Would you believe a few pansies lived all winter long in my flowerbed, right through the snow, and have raised their pretty faces to greet me?

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I put a bright pink Gerber daisy next to them, a feast for my eyes each time I travel my own sidewalk.

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I’m walking again, and those few pounds that tried to steal my weight loss are beginning to recede. I am empowered. Stronger when I walk.

My new-to-me $25 dishwasher is amazing. After the week and a half of hand washing I’m especially grateful. And it holds more dishes and gets them cleaner than the old one did. And after a week and a half of the chaos of repairing the damaged floor and having clutter everywhere, my living room and kitchen feel huge. Clutter makes me claustrophobic, but oh the joy of putting everything in its place again! It makes an ordinary, familiar room seem new.

20140605_224433-1Fresh mint and lavender now grace my glass water pitchers, picked from plants next to the driveway. Sometimes I add lemon slices.

This isn’t a fancy post. No careful wording, no effort to ease into a poetic feel, no going deep.

Just real.

Just me.

Just thankful.

Just hoping you and I can grab a little joy and rest in a little beauty.

Noticing the little things.

 

 

 

 

Embracing Simple Pleasures

Are you like me? There’s nothing like a cold day to make me want to bake.

As the house empties of children, and I continue the goal of staying more fit, I find myself not indulging in a day of baking quite so often.

But even as I have backed off of this high caloric habit, I refuse to let it go completely. There is freedom in hanging onto life’s simple pleasures, choosing moderation instead of all or nothing when it comes to forming healthy habits.

And there’s nothing like the aroma of bread baking to make a house feel practically magical.

Oh the joy of a sprinkle of flour across a clean counter top and the feel of dough pliable in my hands! My absolute, very top favorite dough sensation is the feel of holly bread being shaped beneath my fingertips. (Challah bread for the more precise.)

Before winter gives way to spring I must celebrate this simple pleasure.

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The only problem with this photo series is I forgot to get a picture as the bread was pulled all warm and golden brown from the oven. (“Look at that! Another example of brown that I LOVE,” she thinks as she remembers her last post on earth tones.)

I guess you’ll have to take my word for it. It looks–and tastes–heavenly.

As you continue on the weight loss journey–or the journey of life–what simple pleasures do you embrace?

Simple pleasures: Challah bread

On a Beauty Search

Some people love earth tones. You know, creamy, sandy, brown, beige and taupe.

I’m so NOT an earth tone kind of girl.

My kitchen is yellow. My office a soft green. If I had my way it would include splashes of bright pink.

Last year I fell in love with walking.

I adore cobalt blue skies paired with snow capped peaks. Rainbow hues in flowers lining a planter box. A profusion of roses. Rich green leaves–or bright yellow, red, and orange ones in fall.

But plain ole brown.

Not so much.

I usually love winter. Diamond dancing when sunlight hits snow. Frosty air. Twinkle lights and homemade snowflakes.

But this winter has grown long.

And in between the beautiful snowfalls there is sure a lot of brown.

And when it’s cold I’m finding it hard to brave the temperatures and walk.

This post is a reminder to myself that there is beauty in brown. If I will just get my you-know-what outside and put my feet to the sidewalk, I can find it.

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And if I look hard enough I might even find a little green and blue.

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So I need to dig a little deeper, hit the pavement, enjoy the world one sidewalk at a time . . .

And cling to the promise of spring.

Share it: On a beauty search

The Stuff Dreams are Made Of II

(For part one of this story click here.)

Valentine’s Day morning Jerry and I lingered in our beautiful vintage room at the Broadmoor. I couldn’t resist a long, hot bath in the large, tiled tub, complete with lavender mint bath salts from the Broadmoor’s spa collection. We chose a lazy morning over breakfast, so by the time we left our room we were starving.

We ate in the Tavern, next to La Jardin, which is a 1900s style garden room attached to the main serving area. (Since it was Valentine’s Day we needed reservations to actually sit in this beautiful room, so we settled for being close enough to gaze inside. Not that the expensive wooden decor of the Tavern left anything to be desired.)  La Jardin, with its 16 ft long chandelier, reminded me of the garden room dining area on the RMS Titanic, which I researched carefully to include in one of my scenes in our book, Titanic, Legacy of Betrayal. Of course this gracious space is on solid ground, not on the ocean floor. And Jerry and I loved it. Oh the opulence of the early 1900s!

jerry in the tavern

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I chose a very wonderful french onion soup to start my lunch. It’s the best I’ve ever had.

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And I savored every bite!

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Afterwards we headed to the Espresso shop for that morning coffee I’d not yet enjoyed. It was now our after lunch treat, and we each ordered something sweet. Jerry opted for a chocolate filled croissant, but I chose entirely based on beauty. And the fact that you can NEVER go wrong with raspberries and chocolate. (Just another example of why the thoughts in my post last Thursday about maintenance and keeping weight in check after a time of feasting were necessary reminders for me!)

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What we did next was not romantic at all. We set up office in the very elegant lobby and worked on FAFSA, due that day if we were to get our son on the list to be considered for college scholarships. Oh well, real life sometimes invades.

While we labored away we were given a wonderful surprise. I spotted my friend Brandy Cole-Vallance. She stood next to a gigantic fresh flower arrangement with a huge sign advertising her new book. Brandy’s gorgeous cover alone would have made me want to read the book, but when she shared her premise I was totally hooked! (Don’t miss the painted ceiling in the picture below. If I’m keeping facts straight, it was painted by the same artist who did the ceiling of Grand Central Station in New York City. When he was told his work was perfect, He purposely included an imperfection, telling on-lookers that the only perfect one was God.)

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What’s especially spectacular about bumping into Brandy is she had only received her book contract the night before, in front of a ton of people at the Writing for the Soul Conference. Everything was still new and like a dream for this debut author, and I loved the somewhat glazed sheen of joy in her eyes. Authors often spend years honing their craft and networking before breaking into the business. Many never actually experience this moment; few get their contract in front of an audience. I had a taste of this in 2011 when my first fiction contract for Postmark: Christmas was given to me in front of 500 people at an ACFW conference. It’s truly a stunning experience.

Getting to hug Brandy and cheer her on was a divine appointment–a sheer gift. As state coordinator for ACFW,  I feel invested in every one of our wonderful authors. Their victories bring me great joy. Plus Brandy and I share an amazing agent, Rachelle Gardner of Books and Such Literary, so we connect in two different, but precious, communities. Congratulations, Brandy!

All too soon Jerry and my lovely dream-of-a-stay came to an end. I waited inside the double doors as Jerry retrieved our car, standing just away from the blustery gusts of a very cold late afternoon. Two porters stood opening and closing the doors as each traveler came and went. Each was greeted with a genuine smile, and I found myself wondering if doing a job which required such consistent, cheerful kindness actually made a person feel happier. I finally got up the nerve to ask the smiling man during a break in the action. He said the Broadmoor was careful in its hires, getting good people who represented it well, but that being cheerful did help a person feel cheerful.

As I did the night before when I visited with our valet, I wondered at the stories this man could tell, at the people he’d met.

I think a novel series set at the Broadmoor is brewing. What do you think? Would you read it? I know I wouldn’t mind going back for more research! ;o)

I was a bit wistful as Jerry pulled into the circular drive and our dreamy experience ended. Thankfully the Creator topped it off with a gorgeous white moon to see us home.

The next morning Jerry made the boys and me our traditional Saturday morning whole wheat pancakes. Maybe the Broadmoor ambiance continued to flow through my veins because I decided my breakfast needed to be pretty. Which goes to show it doesn’t take a fancy resort to embrace moments of celebration. Like the smiling doorman, I want to find and spread joy in my ordinary days. It seems a worthy goal.

back home

Share it: Sometimes dreams do come true

Joy in the Journey

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I’m pushing 50 but twinkle lights bring out the child in me. For the briefest of moments I am caught up in magic when I watch them blink out their message of hope.

To me they are joy personified, shouting out the hope that “into the darkness there came a great Light!”

Part of my goal in the shedding of extra weight is the shedding of the weight of sorrow, the too-serious Paula who can easily take up residence inside of me.

Twinkle lights bring out the play.

With the holidays upon me I’ve sought to return to my walking habits. I simply don’t want to ignore every piece of chocolate or holiday cookie. And so I need to move!

As it turns out the need for movement turned into what will be one of my favorite December memories of this year.

It was a gift of time, and it was given to me by my husband. I’d asked him to take a walk, but you know how it goes, there’s always so much work to be done. The next thing we knew it was dark.

But he went anyway when I asked, despite his weariness, despite the demands of his schedule. I don’t if he thought about how much I’d enjoy checking out neighborhood lights, but it was quickly apparent that his agenda included letting me feast on them to my heart’s content.

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He held my hand and talked to me as we tramped all over the neighborhood. If there is anything I love as much as twinkle lights, it is holding hands and good conversation with my man. I may even like it better. ;o)

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I had so much fun enjoying not only their beauty, but the playful and zany scenes created by them.

IMAG3051I can’t see dog sleds without thinking of Balto,
one of the kids’ most beloved movies when they were small.

IMAG3073Did you know Mickey and Minnie have been dating since 1928?

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Good to know Santa bathes

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And that He’s got that naughty and nice list saved on the computer.

But who knew he liked pizza?

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 You’d think he could do better than an outhouse.

As much as I enjoy the silly stuff, I love the nostalgic even more.

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All in all, it was such a lovely night.

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Jerry made sure we made the trek to this place,

which has decked out like this for at least 25 years.

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Isn’t this scene sweet?

As I walked, full, happy, and alive, it was like God whispered to me, “You like this? Wait until you see the fullness of my galaxies of stars.” And I could almost see myself as some kind of cosmic being zipping in and out of space, drinking in the mysteries of the universe. As I thought about that I gazed at an almost full moon. I didn’t even try to capture it on my phone.

It was an amazing night.

So, my friends, celebrate the holidays this year by exploring your world one sidewalk at a time. Burn a few calories. Hold hands with someone special, chat with a friend, or simply get away by yourself. Pound the pavement to enjoy the lights. It’s sure to bring you . . .

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(and better thighs.)

Finally Content

charm 1Last Christmas my daughter gave me a charm. The instructions? I wasn’t allowed to add it to my charm bracelet until I reached whatever weight felt right to me.

The charm, a flirty little red dress, sat in my jewelry box until this week.

I’m finally comfortable with the new me.

I haven’t actually lost weight since last summer; I’m still roughly 55 pounds lighter than a year ago. But thanks to the fat shrinking component of my BENew metabolism booster, my body has continued to shape up even without change on the scale, and I feel content.

I love the little charm, not only because it was Sarah’s way of cheering me on, but also because it continued a tradition I started with the kids. That bracelet boasts baseballs, gymnastics, skiier and hockey figurines, a drama mask, graduation hat, and even a tiny engagement ring–all to celebrate special accomplishments and moments the kids experienced. I love it that my daughter wanted to commemorate this achievement of mine.

I weigh myself every week or so, and I’ve been able to stick within 2 or 3 pounds either side of the 55 pound weight loss. It’s a bit of a trick learning to maintain, but if I notice the scale climb I charm 2am more intentional about watching what goes in my mouth for a few days and it dips back down.

So after maintaining my new weight for a few months I feel good about putting that little red dress on my bracelet and believing this really did happen for me.

A sassy red dress and a bracelet

Epiphanies I

IMAG1753-1 (2)It all started on the side of that mountain. There I was minding my own business with my girlfriends minding theirs. I gazed at sloping green that opened into a valley surrounded by white-frosting-tipped peaks piercing a bright blue sky.

Beautiful.

My “baby” girl had just returned from a Mediterranean honeymoon cruise, and my sliver of travel, less than two hours from my home to Breckenridge, stirred longing. “Could I see the Mediterranean, someday, Lord? I want to cruise, to travel.”

The guilt came instantly. Starving children in Africa and all that. Me. Me. Me. Want. Want. Want. Thinking about my comfort. Fun. I have eternity to see good things. There are people who need HIM. Why am I thinking about myself?

“Why do you do that?”

His sudden appearance in my thoughts shocked me. Huh?

“Why do you feel guilty about wanting to experience the world I created for you to enjoy?”

That’s when the waterworks started. My friends clustered around asking what was wrong. It was too deep to share just then, on the side of a glorious mountain where just seconds before we’d been talking and laughing.

Anyway, I wasn’t ready. There was more to His Words and my reaction to them. It was time for another round of emotional weight loss.

Breck neighborhood 9After our hike we headed back to the cabin. I disappeared into my room with my journal and trusty pen. I often hear best with my pen in hand.

Seventeen journal pages of dialogue later I had an epiphany.

Or several.

Here’s the first: I was created to spread joy, created for delight, for celebration.

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~The Journal Conversation ~

Him: “I’ve asked you to do without in a culture where there is much. But that doesn’t mean it is more holy. It’s just been your process and Jerry’s. I’ve been teaching you to learn contentment in all things.”

I don’t think I’ve done very well with that . . .

“You have found joy in the small things. The real things–like relationship with Me, your family, and your friends. Small things like the fragrance of roses. The feel of a warm mug. The swirl of cream in coffee. The song of a bird.”

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I’m not sure those are so small.

(He Chuckles) “No. They are my gifts, more beautiful than you understand, but often overlooked . . . Even now you pause to enjoy My Aspen leaves dancing on the breeze outside the window. I like that about you.”

(Tears spring to think this pleases Him.) It’s simply how you wired me.

Us: It makes me/you more resilient.

“Can I not enjoy this trait even more knowing I gave it to you and that you have cared enough to develop it? My gift to you is your gift (our gift, really) to the world. Give them eyes to notice My beauty, Paula. And let me give you sweeping moments of beauty and joy so you can be continually refilled to pour out the celebration of the Good in Me and in My world.

“Receive My every gift with open abandon, arms stretching to Me, dancing in the falling joy-petals of My love-gifts.”

~

Of course there’s more to the seventeen pages of journaling, some of which I’ll share in the coming days. My epiphanies eventually circle back around to the curve ball post of a few days ago. I hope you’ll continue to journey with me as I drop emotional and mental weight.

For today I’m camping out here. In the joy of little things. Delighting in the idea that such simple notice of His gifts pleases Him. In letting go of the guilt barometer and learning to fully enjoy His gifts.

I’m wishing all of that for you, too, my friend. May today bring notice of the love-gifts of the Creator. My you dance in the falling joy-petals.

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Dancing in the Falling Joy-Petals

Beauty in the Everyday

As summer decides whether or not it will yield to autumn, I’m celebrating the glorious blooms that decorate the yards and sidewalks on my mini-journeys. No mountain travels for a while, but a walk with my friend Jennifer or Dani, or the rare treat of strolling with Jerry now that he’s working so much, still yields beauty.

Here’s to you finding joy in the everyday journeys~

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Everyday beauty