Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thirty Days of Gratitude in the Home...Sunrises, Sunsets, and the noon-day sky.

Do you treasure the changing beauty of the sky? One thing I love about the sky is that no matter where you are, you can always see it. I love the country, and I love large cities. Sometimes, however, no matter how thrilling might be the city I'm in, I long for a bit of nature. When I crave to see some of God's handiwork, I know I can always glance upward. I am so thankful for even that glimpse of nature's beauty. (I hear that in Tokyo, even the sky is blocked from sight in many buildings. I've never had the pleasure of visiting that lovely city, so maybe someone who has experience of Tokyo can comment.)

I remember great sunsets the way most people remember great paintings. (I'd remember more great sunrises if I always rose before dawn!) One gorgeous sunset that I think of with gratitude was one that I saw early in my marriage. My Beloved Engineer (aka my husband) and I were living in Texas and we were driving down what was then a country road from one town to another to attend Wednesday night service. We passed a ranch with a huge black windmill that was thrown into striking silhouette against the red-saturated sky. (There I go with windmills again!)

One thing you can say about that part of Texas is that the flat land and limited tree growth ensures that you not see the sunset. In fact, you don't just see it, you experience it. Though it is of course to the west, it seems as if it envelops you.

The most recent sunset I enjoyed was looking over Lake Michigan from a park on Michigan Avenue in chilly Chicago. My Beloved Engineer, my Song Bird (aka my daughter), and her Dear Movie Maker (aka her husband) went to the park to watch the sun set and the moon rise. It was the day we were supposed to experience the unusually large view of the moon. Alas, the soft clouds over the lake covered our sight of the moon so that it looked like a soft, roundish, indistinctly shaped source of light behind the cloud cover. But, what beautiful clouds they were and how wonderfully they were reflecting the glow of the sunset, which was actually behind us.

My favorite of the dwellings where my Beloved Engineer and I have lived have had windows over the kitchen sink. I love to be able to look out and see the sky when I'm working in the kitchen. The house in which we now live is blessed with lots of windows, and I love being able to see outside so easily. The only place from which I can't see the sky is our tiny laundry room, but I fold my clothes in the kitchen so that I can enjoy the light.

Once, on a dear friend's summer birthday here in my spot of the South, there was a spectacular sunset and unusual cloud formation. It was either right after or right before a storm. I can't remember which. But, I do remember exactly what the sky scape looked like. Now, I associate her birthday with such beauty.

When two dear friends of ours celebrated an outdoor, sunset wedding, I looked up and saw wild geese flying overhead. I was enthralled, because one thing I remember about geese is that they mate for life. This same couple also saw geese on their first anniversary. How beautiful!

I spent my first years in northern Florida, where the sky always seemed to have gold in it, even when it rained. As a child, I think I was most impressed with sunny skies, though I did love the way the sky looked over the ocean right before a storm. Now, I've grown to love all types of sky-scapes, including gray ones, rainy ones, hazy ones, sunny ones, clear ones, cloudy ones, ones that let down the snow -- all of God's paintings in the firmament. I wasn't overly impressed as a teen living in Atlanta when a kindergarten teacher turned weather lady always referred to cloudy skies as "gray flannel" skies. However, every time I see low-hanging, gray skies, I do think of being wrapped in a lovely gray blanket.

The only time I struggle to appreciate the sky is during the dog days when the haze hangs over us, and the weather forecast is the same for days and days and even weeks and weeks on end -- 90 degrees, humid, and no rain to relieve the heat -- just haze. By that time, many of us have lost the battle to keep our lawns and gardens at their freshest, and everything seems the faintest bit wilted. But making it through the dog days only makes it more delightful when the weather finally breaks a bit some time in late September. By late October, we enjoy warm, golden days with clearer, blue skies. The sun's rays illuminate the patches of brilliant reds, purples and gold that dot the green hills. Of courses, rainy days come, too, but they bring with them a feeling of being ever-so-cozy indoors.

It seems to me that sunrises are always more gentle than sunsets. Yet, there is nothing so lovely as the first rosy rays of dawn that softly infuse the dark night. They are welcome any morning. They are especially welcome after a hard night of sleeplessness, pain, or watching by a loved one's sickbed. My greatest joy in the early morning is the way the birds sing in the dawn. It makes me think of Psalm 68, which says, "Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy."

I think God, through David, is talking about people singing in gratitude for God's goodness. However, I like to think that everywhere the sun rises, the birds also sing for joy, along with us. Certainly, their song awakens in the human heart a glimpse of God's goodness and reminds us that we have good reasons to sing.

The songs of the birds become even more cheerful as the sun rises higher. Suddenly, it's fully morning, and the birds, still singing, flit happily about their work. In the South, we are blessed to have birds that make their home here year round, and, even, on a cold winter morning, the birds sing us into action. Still, how glorious it is when early spring arrives, even more birds come home, and the swelling chorus rings out through the clear skies.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home....Day 27

I've been reading articles by "mom bloggers" in which there is a discussion of how open to be on the Internet. One school of thought says that in order to be authentic, we must blog about any and every feeling that comes into our minds -- including some very dark ones. Another school of thought says that we should exercise discretion when blogging.

Despite the fact that I've often spoken and typed with my foot in my mouth, I vote that we all exercise discretion. This old-fashioned concept is much neglected these days. I think this may be a reaction to what was perceived as "phoniness" on the part of prior generations, whose members often abhorred the thought of airing any dirty laundry in public. Some were so private that they did not discuss, even in intimate settings, problems that should have been brought to the light and fixed.

Many in my generation (I'm in the second wave of the baby boom) broke with our parents' way of thinking on this subject. Openness in all things came to be seen as the pathway to self-knowledge, healing, and happiness. Sometimes, the openness was healthy; at other times, it was simply selfish. The desire to be heard sometimes became more important than the feelings of other people.

Enter the Internet and social media, and, suddenly, we are no longer open just in our private lives, but with everyone on the planet. And, we are open not just about ourselves, but about every passing thought we have toward family members, our friends, the neighbor down the street, the person who views religion or politics differently than we do -- you name it.

Sometimes, this openness has a mean spirit about it. We cross the line from commenting about our own opinions to attacking others who see the world differently than we do. I'm saddened, for example, by hate speech I've encountered on what I thought were blogs about science, but turned out to be anti-theist blogs. Of course, that's not the only place that cruel words are found on the net. Sadly, bitter, snarky comments are all too common.

We do need a few godly friendships in which we can be absolutely open, even about the darkest, ugliest parts of ourselves. I'm grateful for having those friendships in my life. These are fellow Christians whom I can trust to listen with compassion and discretion, to pray for and with me, and to help me work things out.

In the right context, bringing things into the light is healing. I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I don't know about you, but I am thankful for that!

Notice, however, it is our own sins we are to bring into the light. When it comes to others, we are to be discreet and kind. Proverbs 11:13 says, "He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter." Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."

Isn't that something to be grateful for? We can build each other up and give grace to those who hear our words. Expressing words that build up, rather than tear down, requires some thought on our part, however. If we want whatever comes out of our mouths to be productive, we first have to train our hearts to be kind, to look for the good, and to be wise and discerning about what is needed in the moment. Sometimes, our words will be gentle; sometimes, strong -- but they must always be delivered with the other person's best interests in mind.

Maintaining a heart filled with thankfulness and avoiding bitterness also helps us to think clearly and, thus, instructs our speech. We are at our least rational when we brood on bitter thoughts. The words that pour forth from our minds when we feed on bitterness are twisted and damaging. On the other hand, if we are honest about situations, but meet the bad with forgiveness and hope and the good with gratitude, we are able to think and speak more clearly.

Perhaps, when we go over the line in our public communication via social media, it's because we aren't attentive to those close friendships in our life where we can receive real comfort and help. Blogging and social media are no substitute for face-to-face, real-life intimacy. They are merely wonderful supplements to our communication and should not be leaned on for more than what they are.

I'm grateful for the
opportunity to hear words from others that build up. Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Wise, well-timed words are great treasures.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home -- day 26

Did you know that in the old fashioned language of flowers, the bell flower or campanula signified gratitude? So, too, did Canterbury bells, which are a form of campanula.

This photo of a bellflower comes from How Stuff Works.

Here's a plate from the Royal Worcester collection, the Language of Flowers, which depicts the common associatio of the flower agrimony with thankfulness.

I'm not sure how easy agrimony and Canterbury bells are to give as gifts in today's world, but it's a lovely thoought that there are flowers associated with the quality of gratitude. Any type of flower or potted plant would make a wonderful "thank-you" gift.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home - Seeing as Jesus sees.

When Jesus was on the earth, he demonstrated that he does not see people as the world sees them -- by categories or by power or by what they can do for him. Instead, he sees to the heart of a person. He took time to notice and to talk with people who needed attention. He was also happy to take time out for little children.

If we are truly grateful, we will imitate Jesus' heart of seeing people deeply. We will be grateful for people. We will be grateful for opportunities to minister to people, even when those opportunities seem hard or awkward or impeding to our own agenda.

I, myself, need to grow in remembering and using people's names. When I meet someone, I can walk away and tell you their whole life story after a one-time, five- minute conversation. I am so caught up in the details of their lives. But, ask me their name, and I will often draw a blank. Yet, people's names are so important to them. I want to do better at remembering names and not just faces and details.

In writing about how Jesus really sees people in their book "Love at Last Sight", Kerry and Cris Shook conclude with this message:

"Above all, look below the surface of the people you love the most. Understand that what each of us present publicly tends to mask what's going on deep down inside. If you really want to be a good friend, a true husband or wife, or a loving brother or daughter, you'll care enough to look and listen for what someone is wrestling with underneath.

"For more than twenty years Nelson Mandela was held captive in a tiny prison cell in South Africa and was treated as if he were invisible. He was elected that country's president in 1994, just as apartheid ended. As president, he made sure to greet those who served him just as he would welcome a head of state, remembering their names and genuinely asking how they were doing. Mandela had been treated as if were invisible for so long that he never wanted anyone to feel invisible around him.

"Stop today and take a second look at the people in your path. Start with the people you're closet to. You may be surprised when you stop seeing only what you want to see and begin to view them with new eyes and a sensitive heart. Let them know they'll never be invisible to you. If you do, when you see them for the last time on earth, you'll be closer than ever before.
That last sentence gives me chills of both hope that we can really see each other through Jesus's eyes, as well as of urgency for the people God puts in my path -- especially those nearest to me.

I am so very grateful to have people in my life (and a God) who really take the time to see me, to listen to me, to rejoice with me and to sorrow with me. I am learning that this is a treasure all too rare in this world and that I must not take it for granted. Out of gratitude, I want to do the same for others.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

Emily Dickenson -- as quoted on the blog Moments with Mother Culture.


30 days of gratitude in the home -- day 24

A blogger wrote about being de-friended on Facebook by an old school friend. The blogger's friend resented the fact that the blogger had done nothing with her life except be an at-home wife and mother and, thus, thought she should disassociate herself from the blogger.

I find it fascinating how our cultural views of what a woman should be doing are so powerfully shaped by women, ourselves. I suspect that how women view the home is largely how society views the home.

Our society has a theory that men have put women down by not wanting them to work outside the home. Is that true? Perhaps. When I was growing up, there were a good number of men who took it as a matter of responsibility and pride to provide for the family, freeing the woman to perform her role at home. (I have to confess that I think that's a good thing). There was also a sense in the more distant past that a man and a woman worked together to build a life -- not going in separate directions but aiming toward the same goal. However, I know some young men of today who are pushing their wives to work outside the home, even though the young women want to be at home with their children. By and large, I think it's women, ourselves, who have forced a societal change in which a woman's role in the home is now disdained.

I find that it is women who present to society and to other women that being a wife and mother is of secondary importance to having a career outside of the home. Rather than respecting work traditionally done in the home as being true and valuable, as early feminists did, the newer waves of feminism view a woman's caring for her own home and her own children as being drudgery and of little use to society.

This, in my opinion, is an extension of the American idea that a person is defined by his or her paycheck. Upon meeting someone, the first question that we Americans ask is, "What do you do?", meaning what do you do for a living. This is not true in some other cultures. I think also today that our public discourse is becoming more critical and harsh in tone, perhaps because we forget that things said on the Internet affect real people.

Women are so much more powerful than we realize we are. The words we say and the way we conduct ourselves does influence society to an incredible amount. Even in cultures and times when women did not have as much legal right to be heard as we do now, they still found ways to be of influence -- if, in nothing else, through their verbal persuasion in the home and community.

As women, one beautiful thing that we can do for each other is to speak well of our roles as wives and mothers. Whether or not we have a job outside of the home, we can treat our home life and the activities we do there as being valuable. We can speak excitedly of the treasures of home as we do of exciting things in a career. If we regard our roles in the home as being of worth, then others will follow.

When we are at home, we can dress neatly and groom ourselves well. We can smile, rather than looking harried. If we are happy and secure in the home, then we will not be so easily put down if others -- even women we know -- run down what we do.

Just as with every role or career in life, being a wife and mother and keeper at home has its challenges. We need to be open and honest about those challenges with a few select friends who can help us through any rough spots. Those of us who are older need to reassure younger women when they struggle.

We need to remember that there is no work in the world that does not have its hard times; indeed, the more important and the more interesting the job, the more trials that seem to come along with it. (Whatever your political views are, don't you think President Obama has more than his share of headaches?)

Thus, it's no surprise that women who deeply care about keeping a home sometimes run into setbacks. Today, such women might also face opposition from people who don't value the home as deeply. We need to mentor and encourage each other in the ever-so vital sphere of family life, just as someone might mentor a younger woman in a business career.

A woman I know spoke of her experiences taking her children to the school bus stop. One woman started in complaining about her husband, then another, and another, and so forth until the whole conversation was centered on topping each other's stories about how dumb and oafish their husbands were. My friend felt uncomfortable. And, needless to say, this experience was a sour note in what had started out to be a sweet day. This is the kind of speech that tears down.

This is a far different thing than to ask of a trusted source, "My husband ______. I _____. What do you suggest that I do?". One attitude is simply complaining for the drama of it; the other is seeking a solution to a problem.

Are you thankful to be a wife? to be a mother? To have a roof over your head and food to cook and clothing to wear? To have the comforts of a domestic life? To have time as a wife and mother to expand your mind by stimulating conversation, reading, studying, praying, and generally enjoying life? Are you grateful to be able to show hospitality, which always brings with it great rewards of fellowship? We don't need to pretend to have perfect home lives -- no one does. We must not be fake. But, we can be discreet and wise in speech, and we can radiate gratitude rather than a sense of oppression.

The world needs more women (and men) who are enthusiastic about marriage and children and home and who speak of it with honor. As Kathy Peel, author of the Home Manager, says, you will move in and out of other careers, but you will be a home manage for life.

In one sense, we should all -- men and women -- live our lives for what will matter to us in our last earthly breaths. I've never heard of anyone who was dying think, "I should have advanced more in my career". Their thoughts are more, "What kind of person was I? How were my relationships? How did I live before God?"

That's not to put down other types of work beside the home, for work is a God-given part of life. However, those of us who choose to be keepers at home can emphasize the importance of our work in the home by maintaining a grateful attitude. Our thankfulness will communicate itself to our families and to others. Speaking with honor of the work we do will also communicate something to our own hearts, and we will find ourselves feeling more satisfied and happy.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Posted this quote before, but still pondering:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Saturday, March 19, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home -- day 23

A common source of dismay among young women is to find that they must start out life with a lower standard of living than what they experienced under their parents' roof. They expect to begin a marriage or a career with all of the material comfort that their parents', who are farther along in life, can provide.

Similarly, young adulthood often means moving to a new place. It may take some time to learn to enjoy a new terrain, a new atmosphere, and new friends.

When my husband and I first married, we moved fourteen hours away from my parents and ten from my husband's. I am so grateful that our new church was welcoming, as that gave us an instant support system. Still, I went from living in a large home to living in a tiny apartment first, and a small rented home later. The terrain of our new home was far different than I had experienced before, even though I was well-traveled. The customs and traditions of our new home city were different, as well.

Of course, newlywed bliss cast a golden glow over all of these changes, and I felt as if we were on a great adventure together. I think it was good for us to build our marriage together and to have our first child together on our own. I grew to enjoy the beauties of the terrain around me, instead of expecting everything to look like back home. Still, there were times when my husband and I felt homesick. Within a couple of years, we moved closer to our families.

I was happy to be back nearer home and am glad that our children grew up closer to our families. Still, there is much that I appreciate about those first years in a new setting. In fact, I can probably appreciate the wonderful things about those years even more now in retrospect.

One thing that we, as parents, can do for our children is to help them be content in their early adult years and in the first years of marriage. I'm sure that my husband's and my parents missed us a lot. Yet, they did not pull on us to come home. Nor, did they say or do things to feed any homesickness on our part.

Teaching young adults to count things for which to be grateful and not to complain about the things that they lack is a great thing. I read of a woman whose married daughter was far from home. She wrote home complaining about her homesickness and about this and that.

Her mother wrote back with this familiar saying,

"Two men looked out of prison bars.
One saw mud and one saw stars."

That was a wise mother.

It is also said that in medieval France. it was the custom for a mother to give her newly married daughter one last bit of advice before she left with her groom. One mother told her daughter, "Every day of your life, find at least one thing to be happy about."

Sage advice.


30 days of gratitude in the home. Day 22

Discontent is a sin that is its own punishment and makes men torment themselves; it makes the spirit sad, the body sick, and all the enjoyments sour; it is the heaviness of the heart and the rottenness of the bones. It is a sin that is its own parent. It arises not from the condition, but from the mind. As we find Paul contented in a prison, so Ahab discontent in a palace.
Matthew Henry

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review -- Eat your Peas, Daughter

Eat Your Peas, Daughter, is a cheerful, sweet, and lovely gift book. It has pretty illustrations and thoughtful lines of text that help you express to your daughter how much you love her. The cute design leaves some pages with white space, so I personalized the copy I am going to give my daughter by adding little messages of my own.

I think daughters of most any age would appreciate it. The prettiness of the illustrations and the simplicity of the message makes it understandable for younger daughters. However, the meaning of the messages means that older daughters -- even well grown women -- will appreciate them. It's the type of book that, if kept by the recipient, would become more meaningful with the passage of time. It could become a comforting keepsake.

I think it would be especially sweet to send to daughters who are away at college or who are newly on their own.

I received this book as a free review copy. My opinions are my own.
Thirty Days of Gratitude in the Home

We had occasion recently to drive through miles and miles and miles of wind turbines in a northern (mid-western?) state. It was a fascinating, oddly beautiful, and serendipitous treat during a long, long, long drive to our destination. The turbines were on both sides of the Interstate, so we had a sense of driving through them.

You never know what beautiful treasures you will see on a driving trip. Once, my husband and I traveled a route that took us toward a magnificent and complete double rainbow.

Long trips in the car are great times for talking at leisure, listening to music you enjoy, and contemplating the joys in life.

I'm thankful for car trips.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home -- day 20

Thankfulness for how God has worked in your life...

I think I've miscounted somewhere, because I've been blogging about this subject since November and think I've surely done more than 20 posts already. But, if I spend a little extra time on Thanksgiving than need be, it surely won't hurt!

Have you ever done a survey of your whole life, taking note of all thew ways you've seen God working in your life? If you haven't, I highly recommended it. Seeing how God has blessed you from childhood on will surely change your view of your life. Even if you have had terrible times in the past, you will see them in a new light.

Last night, friends and I were talking about how easy it is to be kind and gracious to everyone else in the world, except for the person dearest to us -- the beloved husband of the heart. We all discovered something. It's when we are frustrated with ourselves that we often become impatient with our spouses.

After I came home, I did a little blog reading. I followed a link from The Elegant Woman to this moving article about a woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. This article is especially touching to me, as my mother died of early onset Alzhiemer's, and my father is suffering from mild dementia in his very advanced years.

The article profiles Mary Ann Becklenberg, a retired social worker from Dyer, Indiana. At the age of 62, she learned she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Though she remained active, even to the point of becoming an Alzheimer's patient advocate, her husband, John, began to move into the role of her care giver.

It's interesting that Mary Ann pointed to the same concept that my friends and I were talking about. She writes:

My husband has become my caregiver. He is the navigator and coordinator of my day to day life. He’s rarely short with me, but I’m often short with him – because of my frustration with myself. One of the challenges is to keep humor in our lives, to laugh about the things you forget.

My message to people with Alzheimer’s is this: Be gentle with yourself. This disease requires that you lower your expectations of yourself. That’s a hard thing for most of us to do. The fear is losing yourself, knowing that you won’t bring this self to the end stage of your life.So I look to build my spirit.

I believe in a loving God, and when I’m afraid or down or angry or frustrated, I go outside, whatever the weather, and I pray, “Teach me to be gentle with myself.”
Her message doesn't apply to people with Alzheimer's disease only. If we find ourselves becoming impatient with others, rather than being grateful for them, we can check what's going on in our hearts.

Often, we will find that we are frustrated with ourselves because we know we didn't attend to some important responsibility or we are tired or we have loaded our day with unrealistic expectations or another person's needs are getting in the way of our mental "to-do" list. At such moments, it's wise to take our personal irritations to the Lord to find help and grace. Then, we can remind ourselves to be grateful for this person in our lives.

That doesn't always mean that we will not need to speak to another person about some issue at hand. But, it does mean that we will free ourselves up to talk in a gentle and respectful manner, rather than snapping or whining or nagging or putting the other person down.

A little gratitude and kindness goes a long way in soothing our own spirits and in helping us treat other people with respect.


Monday, March 14, 2011

30 days of gratitude in home -- Day 19

Gratitude helps us to savor our days. A busy day seems long. When we look back over a string of busy days, however, we wonder where they went. A season, a year, or even a decade can fly by, and we are amazed at how the time passes.

If we focus on gratitude, we will notice things about each day that are special. We will realize how meaningful our days really are.

This is especially important for the keeper at home, particularly if she is a mother with young children. Sometimes, we will wonder how it was that we were occupied every moment of the day, yet don't have an answer for that question, "So, just what did you do all day?" We may have rocked toddlers with skin knees, changed umpteen baby diapers, washed a load or two of clothes, cooked meals, and, viola, it's bedtime. Taking time to savor beautiful moments in our busy days will give us happy thoughts to look back on as we close our eyes to sleep. It will also implant happy memories in our brains, so that we treasure each wonderful stage of life.

When the empty nest comes and time flies even faster and faster to us, a habit of gratitude truly serves us well. Instead of looking back on time that was squandered in haste, we will be able to look back on time that was treasured. We will have the satisfaction of having spent earlier years well. Yet, we will also be able to move forward, because we will still be offering thanks. We will enjoy our new stage of life, just as much as we enjoyed our earlier days.

Do you have a signature scent for your home?

For me, it's easy to know what other people's homes smell like. But, it's harder to detect the scent of my own home, or, at least, it's hard to know what other people sense when they come into my home. Of course, I know if there's something malodorous that needs to be detected and gotten rid of. And, I smell the immediate odors of various cleaning products that I use and the foods that I cook. But, I'm not sure what is our home's indefinable something that every home has about it.

I do enjoy signature things, such as scents and colors and the like. I'm sort of outgrowing the signature perfume that I have worn most of my adult life and am in the search for a new one. Now, I'm also on the hunt for my home's signature scent.

My husband loves citrusy scents. He enjoys the citrus scent left by the products his office cleaning woman uses. I enjoy floral scents or florientals, but I think I shall try to move towards a more citrusy-signature scent for the home. That is, I think so.

Until I read Brocante Home's article about your home's signature scent, I had not thought about the fact I probably do have many competing scents in my home. I use a variety of cleaning products that appeal to me for different reasons. I also have different candles and potpourris. Sticking to one overall scent is probably a good idea in order to keep various scents from becoming overwhelming.

So, help me out. What products do you use that leave a special scent or scents in your home? I'm open for ideas.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari by Donia K. Paul and Evangeline Denmark.

I love children's books, especially ones with lovely illustrations. The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari is well-illustrated. Both boys and girls might find the pictures accompanying the text to be appealing.

The story, itself, is a nice one. It's not entirely original, as it makes use of a common plot line: Children (or their imaginary anthropomorphic equivalents) who spend a night in their backyard and are frightened when, in the darkness, they mistake normal events for something more sinister. But, the authors do put their own spin on the tale, as the characters are pretending to be explorers in Africa. At the end, they provide a scripture and ideas about how children can help each other to be brave.

To me, the major weakness of the book is that the main characters try to speak as if they were African explorers. The language sometimes comes across as stilted and is probably over the head of children on the younger side of the book's suggested age range. Parents can probably compensate for this by explaining the words or by simply telling the story in their own, less stilted manner.

The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari could be a nice addition to a large home library of children's books. I'm not sure that I would include it if I could have only a few books for the children in my life. To me, it's not a must-have.

30 days of thanksgiving in the home.

This quote from Teddy Roosevelt is one of my favorites:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

From "Citizenship in a Republic,"Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

It's easy to spot weaknesses; harder to look for and recognize the good; harder still to live -- really live -- with faith, courage, and thankfulness. Gratitude notices and fosters the achievements of others. Gratitude brings out our own best selves. Let us be grateful.


Monday, March 07, 2011

The Freedom of Repentance...

The awareness of sin and the chance the Lord gives us to repent might seem to some to be an odd occasion for thankfulness. In our culture, we try to avoid talking or thinking about sin, because we do not want to feel guilty or to be seen as someone who causes someone else to feel guilty. It's true that false guilt or unresolved guilt is damaging. But, healthy sorrow for our transmissions that leads to a change of heart and life is freeing, rather than burdening.

I ponder the words of Karl Menninger, an American psychiatrist who once tried to eliminate sin and repentance from our psychological vocabulary. He later reversed himself and wrote a book called, "Whatever Became of Sin". In it, he argues that we must be realistic: evil does surround us. But, he say, when no one is guilty, no moral questions are asked. Lacking a resolution to the problem of sin within us and within our world, we sink into despair. He notes that America's moral slide cannot be turned around unless we accept personal responsibility for evil and repent of it through action.

Praise God, who saves us from the power of sin and makes repentance possible.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

30 days of gratitude in the home --

Being grateful for the home, itself...

Our family of churches sponsor clinics, health and education programs, and a teaching hospital in many poor areas. Near one such clinic, people live in tiny shacks built on a precarious slope. The women keep these dirt-floor shacks neatly and show hospitality. It's a rare luxury there to have even one pretty decorate item in the home.

We've all seen news coverage of natural disaster areas, such as Haiti and New Orleans, in which many people are suddenly displaced from their homes. In our family of churches, there is a church in Haiti. The members there made their way to the building and small grounds surrounding it and made sure that everyone was ok. Those who had lost their homes took shelter there, with each other, and built each other up in faith.

Even in the midst of affluence, a home can be lost. Some friends of mine watched helplessly as their neighbors' house burned to the ground. Their neighbors got out safely, but only with the night-clothes on their back and shoes hastily thrown on without socks on their feet. The community has pitched in to help this family. Likely, they have insurance and will be able to replace their house and furniture. Yet, this does serve as a reminder that we can't place our sense of home and our security in material possessions, which can be burned, stolen, damaged, or otherwise destroyed.

There are women in this world who do not have access to enough clean water for their families to drink, for their clothes to be washed, and for their homes to be cleaned well. There are others who struggle to put food on the table. Some live in refugee tents. Others live in shelters set up for women and children who are fleeing abusive situations.

True Christians are blessed by God to have a citizenship in heaven and a Savior who is coming back to take us to his home. Phil. 3:20. As the old song says, "This world is not my home; I'm just a-passing through."

Sometimes, when striving to be more excellent in my stewardship of our home, I can find myself building my own little kingdom in order to bring glory and comfort to me. What happens when I slip into that? I become complacent, which is all together a different thing than godly contentment. Or, I become frustrated when things don't go as I envisioned and my complacency is interrupted by life. Yet, when I repent of this self-focus and surrender all that I do to the glory of God, then I see things more clearly.

If our hearts are in heaven (Luke 12:34), then we carry home with us. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we can be content. No matter where we are, we can love God and love others. We can share the gospel with others, so that they, too, will find their true and eternal home in heaven. We also give sacrificially to others, for we know that accumulating possessions here on earth isn't the sum of our life. (Luke 12:15)

Sometimes, I lie in bed on a rainy or cold night and think how grateful I am that God has given me a warm place to sleep. If I were to think about it more, I'd be grateful all day for things like clean, running water, indoor plumbing, household appliances, cars, dishes, glasses, clothes, shoes, etc. And, this is something that I do want to have in my thoughts -- a profound gratitude that God has given me a temporary shelter on this earth and a sense of joy in managing it for His glory.