Serving Others

The summer I was 16 my friend Cathy and I were Red Cross volunteer’s at a VA hospital two mornings a week for about four weeks.  Our job was to mostly push patients here or there around in a wheel chair.  Occasionally we would deliver flowers, escort visitors to rooms, or offer to get cups of water or coffee for families waiting on a loved one having surgery.  At the end of our shift, we both felt appreciative for the chance to help and be of service to others.

As I approach retirement I have begun to research opportunities to volunteer. Living near a large city provides an abundance of choices such as assisting at a hospital (both regular and children’s), becoming a foster grandparent to a child, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels (I love to cook and would really enjoy preparing these meals), helping out at an animal shelter and the list goes on. If I decide to get more adventurous there is Global Volunteers.

A young friend told me her parents volunteer at a nearby hospice.  It takes a very special person to volunteer in this environment. What an excellent opportunity to provide emotional and spiritual support to both patients and their loved ones during this truly precious and delicate time of life.

Our school system allows people to become mentors to our students. Filling all of the slots for this volunteer position can be challenging because a lot of people don’t know this particular opportunity is available. The men or women usually come once a week during lunch time. They will sit with the child outside at one of our picnic tables or inside at a reserved section of the lunchroom. Sometimes they come during the day and they will usually go to the library to talk, read a story, or play a game. These children may lack social skills, have private issues, or their home life may not be the most stable environment. Often all these students need is an adult (or anyone) to listen to them and let them know someone cares. Both the mentor and the student look forward to this special time together.

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Becoming a volunteer can be an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and may also change someone’s life (maybe my own) in the process.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8 

Either I am getting older or I am not as young as I used to be! ~ Wine Snark

Change is good, but enough is enough!

Each time I look in the mirror I cannot believe the older face and body reflecting back. The person inside this body “feels” the same as younger days, so how come sometimes I don’t even recognize myself?

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When did this happen?

When did I suddenly get …… old?

Menopause with its hot flashes, weight gain, and insomnia came on gradually at first, and then began to roar like a lion.

My hair is getting thinner and my waist line is getting chunkier.  A little more exercise, fewer sweets, and not so many in-between snacks would probably help.

Brown spots are popping up in various locations on my body, which my dermatologist said was caused by sunburns attained during my ignorant youth when I chose not use sunscreen.  In my younger days, I actually thought I wouldn’t care about my looks as I got older.

Wrinkles have crept in. Have I waited too long for the”anti-aging” creams I am using to work?  Still waiting on those results!

Injecting my skin with products to smooth wrinkles or alter my appearance is something that not only frightens me, but just doesn’t seem natural; it’s like going against nature. Going gray seems pretty trendy at the moment, but I cannot embrace that idea just yet.

In spite of all these natural “aging” occurences, I am actually very thankful to experience this phase of my life.  Changing my mind set and not focusing on the negatives of the natural aging process is getting a little easier.  Having the opportunity to maintain a healthy diet, exercise more, keep up with what is going on in my community and the world around me, and simply laugh more (especially when I look in the mirror) are just a few of the things I am beginning to appreciate more each day.

“Things will never be the same, that’s just the way it is.”  Tupac Shakur

Savoring Salt?

My husband and I love to grill and enjoy trying creative ways to savor the flavor of food. The Himalayan Salt Block has been an interesting addition to our outdoor cooking although it can be used inside too. We already use the Himalayan salt grinder version (Trader Joe’s) every day to flavor our meals, so we decided to purchase the large salt block for the grill. It is suppose to have health benefits, but we like it mostly for the delicious flavor it adds to food.

The photo below was the very first time we cooked on the salt block, so it is nice and pink. Over time, the heat and permeating juices darkened it and now give it a rich glow.  It is hard to see but the kabobs and the salmon with vegetables are cooking on the salt block that has been used many times. I was afraid the food would taste extra salty, but the flavor is delicious!  I bought M. the book “Salt Block Cooking” by Mark Bitterman for Father’s Day last year and it has taught us the many uses of the salt block and inspired us with a variety of recipes. Can’t wait to fire up that grill again!

I love the evenings when we grill outdoors!

Savoring Healthy Eating

M. and I eat pretty healthy, but his doctor told him he should make some changes in his dietary choices.

We took a closer look at what we were actually eating on a daily basis and decided to make a few alterations. I am happy to say we have done a good job sticking with our updated plan. Some of our changes include:

  • Buying as many organic fresh fruits and vegetables as we can find.
  • Eating grass-fed beef that has been ~ key word: grass finished as often as possible.
  • Eating chicken, eggs, and pork that have been pasture raised.
  • Limiting our sugar intake.  (From what I have read, this is the source of a lot of health issues.)
  • Very limited GMO products. (This was strongly suggested by the doctor. I am currently trying to learn more about these products. We have quite a few of those brands in our home, so we are gradually weeding them out and replacing them with the non GMO products.  Just hope the information I find is accurate.)
  • Limiting our portion sizes. We don’t want to eat as much as we use to, so smaller portions are our preferred way of eating these days.  We will often eat on our salad size plates so it mentally makes us think we are eating more since we see a fuller plate.  When we eat on our dinner plates we try to fill it up with fresh vegetables and a protein.

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I have worked very hard locating local farms that raise the type of beef, pork, poultry, and eggs we desire. I must say, everything we buy from these farms has been delicious! Grass-fed-grass finished beef cooks just a little differently, and has a delicious flavor! It cost a little more, but the health benefits, the quality, and the taste are worth it!

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We have learned to be very cautious and read labels. Not everything marked organic, natural, and cage free is the real deal.

Holleman Farms, Greenville, TX ~  An excellent choice for pork, chicken, and eggs if you live in Texas.

I have some friends who own a very successful ranch in Palo Pinto, Texas ~ the 2S Ranch. They continue to educate me to the value of “knowing your rancher” to ensure you are getting the best quality possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  If I lived in Texas, they would be my ranch of choice for beef.

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The 2S Ranch in Palo Pinto, TX

M. and I will definitely enjoy a few splurges and understand we can’t always control what we eat outside our home.  But, here is to continued success in reading labels, buying fresh, and knowing my rancher!

The Good Shepherd

Someone extremely special to me is going through a very difficult time.  There are people of various ages affected and they all need prayer support.  If you pray, it is with a sincere heart I ask you to say a prayer for this person with me.

The other day I was in church for some quiet prayer time.  I was praying in particular about this situation. I suddenly stopped praying which is very unusal for me. When I have my prayer time, I often talk the whole time.  If I stop, I get distracted or feel awkward like I need to say something.

I find it difficult to just sit and listen for some inner voice to speak to me while I am praying.  I am never sure if it is me talking to myself or if it is God talking to me.

But this time I suddenly stopped praying and just sat there.  I looked at all of the things on the altar and the surrounding walls as if searching for something. My eyes were drawn up to the rose window at the front of the church.  It is a stained glass rose window which shows Jesus surrounded by lambs and He is holding one of the lambs lovingly in His arms.

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It became clear to me that this extremely special person is that lamb.  Emotions flooded my eyes and heart at the realization Jesus is carrying this person through this time.  The other lambs surrounding Jesus are those of us drawing closer to Him and walking this path as well ~ staying close by and ever watchful. The lamb in His arms may not realize it just yet, but if they could just stop wiggling and trying to get down, maybe they could see whose loving arms are around them.

It got me to thinking that so often Jesus is seeking to rescue us out of difficult situations.

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He is constantly looking for us when we become lost or choose the wrong path.

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His hands are always reaching out to us, inviting us to draw near to Him, wanting us to let Him take care of us and nurture our needs.

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1 Chronicles 16:11 Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always.

Note:  Images are not my own.  They were taken from free images on Google

Prayer Shawl

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I have never heard of a prayer shawl (aka comfort shawl or peace shawl).

Not too long ago I was submitting a personal prayer request to various churches when I kept seeing the words Prayer Shawl Ministry appear on some of their websites.  My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to investigate.

I am so glad I did!!!

I learned that shawls can be used for ~ someone undergoing medical procedures; as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress; during bereavement; prayer or meditation; nursing a baby; during an illness and recovery…there are endless possibilities!

After some research, I located a church nearby that had one of these ministries and emailed a request to purchase one of their shawls.  I quickly heard back from one of the ladies on the shawl ministry team and was invited to their meeting a few nights later to pick it up.

When I arrived I was shown several different colors, textures and sizes.  I wound up choosing a smaller very soft, silky shawl that had various hues of blue, with some green and a touch of white.  When I held it to my face I knew immediately that was the one by the warm feeling of comfort and peace.

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The ladies asked me to select a charm to attach.  They also told me that each stitch represented the prayers said for the unknown recipent while the shawl was being created. They invited me to pray over the shawl with them before I left for the evening.  I was so moved and very honored.  They would not take one cent for this lovely shawl stating with a smile it is “just what we do”.

One other thing ~ While everyone was arriving for the evening, one of the ladies walked over and gave another lady in their group a large, beautiful pink shawl.  Tears came to her eyes and they gave each other a huge hug.  The lady in this group looked at me and shared that she had just endured two rounds of chemotherapy and was battling breast cancer for the second time.  We talked for a little while and I shared that a friend of mine just found out a week ago she had breast cancer.  This lady immediately insisted I take a smaller knitted scarf she had just recently completed to my friend.

Since I cannot physically be with either recipient of these lovely prayer shawls, I hope in some way they can feel my love, care and support during their personal journeys.

But most of all, I hope they feel safe, warm, and cared for as a result of the prayers to our heavenly Father that surround them as they wrap themselves in these shawls created by the godly women of this ministry.

I also found this bit of information as to how these shawls got started: “In 1998, Janet Severi Bristow and Victoria Galo, two graduates of the 1997 Women’s Leadership Institute at The Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut gave birth to a ministry as a result of their experience in this program of applied Feminist Spirituality under the direction of Professor Miriam Therese Winter, MMS. Compassion and the love of knitting/crocheting have been combined into a prayerful ministry and spiritual practice which reaches out to those in need of comfort and solace, as well as in celebration and joy. Many blessings are prayed into every stitch.”

All Sunshine Makes a Desert

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“All sunshine makes a desert” ~ Arabian proverb  

Do you know people who seem to have sunny and mild temperatures every single day of their life?

There is one couple who have been in my heart for many years.  Through their own hard work and self-discipline, they have gone over and beyond even their own expectations. Their children are successful, bright and are very grounded. Investment ventures continue to grow monetarily. They have the financial means to give to others through scholarships and endowments at the university they graduated and they travel the world.  Social media and their website enable them to educate others.  They are involved in countless organizations bringing goodness into the lives of others.  Good health, strong faith and family ties, many friends, and a life sprinkled with lots of love and laughter grace their daily lives.  It appears they have been exempt from the dark, stormy days some of us have experienced.  The miles have seperated us, and we visit through Christmas cards, random phone calls or texts these days.  We travel in different circles and I often wonder if they have, in some small way, lost touch with what most people live everyday? I am sure they appreciate the sunny days of their life, but if they haven’t experienced the rainy days or the storms how can they possibly understand what it is like?  How would they manage if or when they are hit? To my knowledge they have not suffered any setbacks in their marriage, with their children, or in their businesses.  They are living examples of what a lot of us want to look back on our lives and see.

Perhaps they do not have as much to learn about life as I.  Perhaps they are learning lessons in ways which I cannot comprehend. Perhaps their lessons to be learned will come later.

As I look back over my life, I realize that my most important lessons were learned through the storms in my life ~ disappointments, mistakes and interrupted plans.

Through my suffering I was forced to make key choices.

It took a while, but I realize the rainy, even stormy times were needed to make the flowers in my life grow.

I learned to be flexible, less judgmental and more empathetic.  I learned to keep a level head and maintain a steady pace. I learned to duck from time to time and eventually tried to maintain a positive attitude as best I could.

If all you know are sunny days, how can you endure the glory and majesty of a mighty thunderstorm, the strength of a tornado, or the power of a hurricane?  You would never enjoy the magic and the beauty of a rainbow.

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“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1Peter 5:10