Defining Relationships

I was looking through old digital files, trying to find examples of some of my past work to create an online portfolio, when I came across a questionnaire on relationships that one of my nieces sent out in 2008. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and the topics of love and relationships so relevant at this time, I thought this would be a great piece to post. I read through it all, and wouldn’t change any of my answers, even today.

shell heart

Did you think you would find your soul mate?  I had doubts early on. In fact, when I was in my 20s, I used to say I would never get married. I had seen too many bad relationships to think it was possible. But then I did marry, and I really loved him. But we never had any deep conversations about life and our beliefs and our future goals. We didn’t communicate and we didn’t spend quality time together; we just sort of drifted, and in the end we drifted apart. Once again, I didn’t believe that I would marry someone else. But God has a way of redirecting your steps when you get off track, and I believe He set the situation up so that Bart and I would meet. And when we did, things started coming together more clearly for both of us. Do I believe he is my soul mate? Yes. I think we make each other better people than we were when we were alone. Do I think that a soul mate will meet your every need in life? No. I think that you cannot expect one person to be everything to you; that’s where your friends and family come in. So you need to always be sure to continue to cultivate your friendships as well as your love relationship and not let one supersede the other.

What does it mean to be in love? That’s a tough one. Many people confuse being in lust with being in love. Or they enjoy that excitement you get when you first meet someone and you can’t stop thinking of them and you want to spend all your time with them. That doesn’t make it love though. In fact, you may feel strong feelings of love or attachment for someone and yet that person is still not who you are meant to spend your life with. I guess being in love means that you begin to realize that life is not all about you and what you can get out of a relationship, but what you can do for that other person to help them grow and know that they are truly special in someone else’s eyes. It’s about wanting to give someone else the bigger piece of pie even if you’d like it for yourself (and knowing that if they were serving, they’d give you the bigger piece).  🙂

16What makes you happiest about your relationship? That I know I am truly loved for who I am and that he would do anything to make me happy (well, not anything horrible).

Do you believe that you will be with this person forever? Yes

Do you believe God has a plan for you? Yes. I have been learning a lot about this through a class I have been taking called “Following God’s Will.” I also found this great passage in a devotional that I wanted to share with you:

“God’s plan for your life is not a written script that you must follow; rather, it is a journey with various important destinations and appointments, but also a great deal of freedom as to the pace and scope of the travel. God’s plan for you will always have a sense of mystery about it, but you can be certain that as you seek his leading, God will guide and direct you on your journey. Most of God’s promises are conditional. In other words, they depend on something that you are asked to do. If you separate yourself from God, you are removing yourself from his plan, his guidance, and his promises. Come back to him, and he will redeem your lost time.”

What do you believe is an unhealthy relationship? One where you find yourself crying more than laughing; one where the other person belittles you or hurts you in some way on a regular basis.

Do you think that people are alone because they make themselves that way? Some people choose to be alone, but I do not believe it is the case for everyone. I have heard a lot of single women talk about how they wish they could find the right person and get married. I feel for those women, but I don’t know how they are living their lives or what they are doing to actually find that right person. But sometimes God has other plans for their lives and they will continue to be unhappy until they are open to God’s will rather than their own.

Should you change for a person? You should be willing to change if that change is actually growth and something positive. But, no, I don’t think you should change in your overall belief system or in a way that is uncomfortable to you simply to keep another person around.

What are grounds to end a relationship?  physical abuse, mental abuse, unfaithfulness, unhappiness that cannot be reconciled, a total disconnect spiritually

What do you think is the biggest mistake you ever made in a relationship?  Not communicating. Also staying in a relationship simply because it was easier than getting out or because I didn’t want to be alone.Heart leaf

Can you be friends with an ex? Yes, I believe that is possible. In fact, it would be a preferable situation than to one of animosity. But it’s not always realistic.

Can girls and guys be [just] friends? Yes. If you are in a serious relationship, and your significant other has a friend of the opposite sex, as long as you have a strong and trusting relationship, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, if there is something missing from your relationship and it is not complete, then you (or your mate) may find yourself still in search of that elusive thing, and in that case — opposite sex friends may begin to become more than just friends. In those situations, it’s not possible to keep an innocent friendship. If neither of you has a significant other, then I guess in that case, it depends on how you feel about yourself (your self-esteem) and what the friendship provides for you.

What do think the most helpful information is you can give a person about relationships?  I just read a quote the other day that I thought was appropriate for this: “Just because you had a nightmare doesn’t mean you should stop dreaming.” —Jill Scott, Grammy Award-winning singer

You’re probably going to have some bad ones, or at the very least unfulfilling relationships, but you shouldn’t give up on love. Of course, no one’s going to come knocking on your door to find you. You’ve got to go out there and live your life. Do the things you enjoy with people you like to be around. When you’re out there participating in the world, being yourself, that’s when you will be open to the opportunities of finding someone who shares your interests and dreams.

Are you happy? Why or not?  Yes. Life may not be easy and all roses, but despite what the world tells us, I don’t believe that’s the way it is supposed to be anyway. We’re all going to have trials, but it’s how we react to them and what we do with them that moves us along our life path. And it’s who you have beside you, to help you get around the potholes and over the speed bumps, that makes the trip easier — whether that is a spouse, a friend, or a family member. We need other people in our lives and we need a purpose. Those things can help us be happy, but in the end it’s still up to us to choose to be happy. You shouldn’t always be in “pursuit of happiness,” however, but learn to be happy where you are . . . in every moment.

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Think about it. Are you in a fulfilling relationship? Are you happy?
What do you need to do today to get on the right path for YOU?

Practice Gratitude

The thoughts that I wanted to share with you on today’s post actually comes from another blogger – Brooke – author of Slow Your Home {The Simpler Life You Want}. Although her article “21 Actions You Can Do Today to Simplify Your Life” is from September of 2012, I believe it is still relevant today. I enjoyed all of her suggestions and just signed up for emails from her blog. I think her articles fit well with Fuller Way of Life {on living simply and living well}, and action #2 from this specific post that I linked to ties in to my word for the year – Gratitude – so I wanted to share her comments for this step here. I recommend that you follow the link above and read the whole article.

Joy

Action # 2: Practice Gratitude

Recent studies have shown that those of us who are regularly grateful for the good in our lives are likely to be more physically active, feel more content in our day-to-day lives and suffer less health problems.

Sound good?

How to Practice Gratitude and Reap the Benefits:

Once a week, spend ten minutes writing down 5-10 people/acts/events/things you are grateful for. Just one sentence per entry is enough.

That’s it. Just ten minutes a week will have truly positive impact on your happiness and well being.

Is That All? Ten Minutes a Week? What if I Do More? Will I Be Happier?

Gratitude studies have shown that over-doing the gratitude journalling may have the opposite effect. Over time we become immune to the feeling of well-being gained through gratitude and lose the positive benefit.

Although I personally tend to think it would take a lot to over-do this. I can see no harm in thinking on the positives each morning or as you go to bed at night.

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How do you practice gratitude? Do you find that it comes easier the more you focus on people, things, and situations you are grateful or thankful for? What are you grateful for at this very moment? 

Happiness cannot be traveled to,
owned, earned, worn or consumed.
Happiness is the spiritual experience
of living every minute with love, grace,
and gratitude.  ~Denis Waitley

Wishing you much happiness today!

Book Break: The Christmas Cat

Okay, so I know it is the day after Christmas and I’m a little behind on posting this review (the book came out September 9th and the holiday season is almost over), but I hope you all will grant me some grace, as the last couple of months have been pretty hectic for us. We moved cross-country just a few days before Thanksgiving and with all the unloading, unpacking, finding places to put our stuff, locating dog-friendly parks and daycare, shopping for Christmas, wrapping, decorating (last-minute), holiday trips to see family, etc., etc. … things have been more disorganized and out-of-control than any holiday season we’ve had so far. But, despite all that, we’ve had some great times with family and friends and are especially thankful we’ve had my stepson Noah with us for Christmas this year. He goes back to Florida soon, but I think he has enjoyed his week here in Texas–mostly getting to spend time with his dad, but also hanging out with his cousins and other family members. 2014-12-23 21.04.26

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So, moving beyond all of that, I still think with a week left of 2014, those of you who like Christmas-themed books will find The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson an entertaining and uplifting read. Even if your Christmas celebration is over, perhaps you can hang on to the season just a little bit longer by curling up with this book and a hot cup of [insert beverage of choice here].

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You don’t even have to be a cat lover to enjoy this feel-good story. Although if you are, you will probably find it even more charming and amusing.

 Here is a description of the story from the book jacket:

From the Inside Flap

After years abroad, Garrison Brown finds himself at the home of his beloved grandmother who has just passed away. He must sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. While he hopes to dispense with the task quickly–especially since he is severely allergic to cats–his grandmother’s instructions don’t allow for speed. She has left some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends. Can he match the cats with the perfect new owners? And is it possible that he might meet his own match along the way?

From the Back Cover

He felt his face flushing as Cara opened the door. Wearing a garnet-colored knit dress and with her dark hair pinned up, she looked even prettier than he remembered. Suddenly he wished he’d thought to bring a hostess gift. Like a cat.
*********

While I have to admit that the story was fairly predictable, I thought that the characters were very likable, and the book was a pleasant and easy read.

I have never read any books by this author before, but will probably pick up some of her other books before next Christmas.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington’s, as well as The Christmas Pony and A Simple Christmas Wish. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice.

Hope you get a chance to read this one and let me know what you think about it.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas,
a Happy New Year, and the gift of discovering
true peace, happiness, and contentment.

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Featured photo is courtesy of Rita Job and her cat Oreo.
(He reminds me of Sylvester, pictured below.)

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Disclosure: I received this book free of charge from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest review.

Days 20 and 21: Finding Spiritual Whitespace—What Your Heart Seeks

Roy Lessin reminds us: “Everyone is a seeker. We seek because there is something we need, something that is missing, something that tells us there must be more.”

We seek contentment, happiness, fulfillment, security, acceptance, hope, love, joy, peace, friendship, balance, and, often, to find meaning, as well as our place in this world.

For those who have been regularly following my blog posts, you’ll remember that a while back I read the book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest by Bonnie Gray. Since then, I have shared many of my favorite quotes, and decided to take an active part in her 21 Days of Rest Blog Tour. Little did I know, at the time, what a commitment that would be. Of course, Bonnie did not ask me or her other followers to do this but I had discovered a lot of really good thoughts from her book that I wanted to share. However, I wasn’t always able to “keep up,” and I began to feel like I took on more than I should have.

The Best YesBecause of this, as well as several other poor choices, Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands,  is now on my “to be read” list. Lysa points out that “there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God.” Those of us who are people pleasers or stressed by an “overwhelmed schedule and underwhelmed soul” will likely get a great deal out of this book and the tools provided in it for better processing our thoughts and actions. If you haven’t heard of this book yet, click on the link above and read more about it.

In Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie shares that “The world calls us to hide our stressed-out selves. But Jesus calls us to a radical new rest. … Jesus invites us into a new relationship to set our hearts free. Jesus wants us to bring him what’s real and worrisome as well as what’s simple and beautiful.”

Simple Beauty

“Taking time for whitespace to rest, create, and play—
to laugh, enjoy friends, see new places,
and explore new adventures—
is heart-freeing faith.”
Bonnie Gray

On Bonnie’s post for Day 20: Find Me in the Quiet Places: A Little Big Change, she shares some of the ways that she seeks rest from stress and/or the daily grind by choosing to meet Jesus in the quiet spaces. These moments don’t have to be long or regularly scheduled; the “moments will come, if you listen to your soul…”

As you come to a fork in the road in your day today and this week — between choosing the quiet or filling it up with doing, performing, pleasing, or disappearing — stop.

Choose what’s harder, but more soul-filling.

Choose to spend that time doing something no one would be able to point at it and say, “She is someone. She did something.”

And choose to be loved instead.

Butterfly

On Day 21, Bonnie posted Me & the Military: It Changed Me to share with her readers the results of her first multi-day Spiritual Whitespace Retreat, which she was invited to lead for the Wounded Transition Battalion headquartered in Fort Campbell, KY. (The retreat was held earlier in September in Nashville, TN.) While she originally intended to speak to soldiers, the focus changed and she ended up working with a group of officers and their wives. She asked herself: “What does a Chinese-American 5 foot woman born in San Francisco, Chinatown — who suffered PTSD for the past two years with broken memories, uncontrollable anxiety and insomnia — have to say to officers caring for injured soldiers, wounded from the battlefield?”

Leaders who have been in combat themselves are reliving [their experiences] through the soldiers they care for 24 hours-a-day, on-call 7 days a week. Phone calls wake them up at crazy hours during the night. By day, they look into eyes of soldiers who are confused, angry or depressed to guide them on the disorienting journey of healing and recovery. They are responsible for each soldier’s disorienting transition back to active duty, or for some with irreversible injuries, prepare them for the unexpected re-entrance into civilian life.

It’s soul-wearying work.

It’s a heavy burden to carry because it’s often the strong ones — the encouragers – the doers –

who carry the heaviest burdens,

and incur the greatest emotional and physical cost,

who find it hard to express want or need,

while finding it easier to just get things done,

even if they truly long to receive comfort,

yet can’t seem to give themselves permission to rest.

Like many of us who doubt ourselves, Bonnie’s biggest fear was whether she was good enough, qualified enough, to lead this group on a soul journey toward discovery and rest. Then it struck her: The weekend was about experiencing Spiritual Whitespace, not teaching it. The event included storytelling, journaling, connecting to God through silence and solitude on a solo nature walk or through prayer and meditation, even painting. It was about facing fears and becoming real in community. And it was successful!

We all have stories…

On the outside, we might look different. But, inside, we’re all on the same journey.

We’re all on the same mission.

To be loved.

To be known.

To be close to God.

To each other.

We all long for rest…

We can all live lives that include rest and refreshment by taking the time to develop an intimacy, a deep relationship, with Jesus. He knows what moves us and encourages us; he knows what spiritual whitespace looks like for each of us. And once we discover the ways our own needs for renewal can be met—through nature, music, God’s Word, song lyrics, art (our own creativity or that of others), etc.—we can reach out and help others discover the beauty, the transformational nature, the freeing power, of walking in faith with Jesus in the quiet of our hearts.

 

 21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

 

Dare to Dream and Do

When was the last time you lounged around on a deck or the beach or even on your couch, looking up at the sky, reading, napping, or catching up on your favorite TV shows? (We have two seasons of one show recorded that we still haven’t watched.) What about going on a hike or exploring a nearby town that you haven’t visited before? Heart Leaf

When was the last time you did nothing and enjoyed it? Doing nothing is not always nothing; sometimes it means you are caring for your soul. But doing something that brings you joy … now that is living. Think about it. What awakens your soul? What speaks to your heart?

Many of us get so bogged down in everyday life, we don’t make or take the time to pause or pursue our dreams—you know, the things that make us happy that we so often put on the back burner. As caretakers of others, we often move ourselves and our dreams to the bottom of the priority list in order to take care of all the other things that seem to be so important. Of course, some of them are … but, then again, so are we. I matter. You matter. Our happiness matters.

These words from Darling Magazine provide a good reminder: “No matter the season we’re at in life, we should also remind ourselves of the hobbies, dreams and aspirations that give us life. When you feel as though you’ve lost hope, intentionally choose to partake in the activities that bring you joy. Whether it be going on a nature walk, painting, playing tennis, sewing, [creating a fairy garden,] baking your favorite recipe or scrapbooking old photos, remind your heart that it can still experience joy and passion.”

Fairy Garden from Gallrein Farms

Fairy Garden created by Gallrein Farms, Shelbyville, KY

Thankfully, I am experiencing a rare slow period with my work and I have been able to spend a little more time this past month reading, writing, taking pictures, and working on crafts. It has been a time of rest and a time of fun! How sad that so many people seem to have forgotten what it feels like to have fun or what they would even do if they had time for fun.

In one of the books that I am reading: Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest, Bonnie Gray explains: “Just as beautiful art needs whitespace, we need … spiritual whitespace. Our souls need rest. … Spiritual whitespace makes room—room  in our hearts for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God, room in our lives for rest, room in our souls for rejuvenation.”

Blank Canvas

In thinking about my own spiritual whitespace, I am reminded of my “one word” for this year: happy. In my attempt to focus on and live this word, I am re-learning how to have fun—to embrace the gifts and the dreams that God gave me, to feed my soul, and offer up my words, photos, etc. in a way that honors those gifts and brings me joy. I am no longer simply dreaming of the things that make me happy; I am doing. In fact, I recently started a crafting Meetup group (Happy Scrappers) and this next month, we will be creating art journals. I plan to make mine a “one-word” journal using words, watercolors, chalk, magazine cutouts, photos, and who knows what else. It will be an ongoing process and a compilation of the things and moments that make me happy.

Art Journal

What dreams and joyful activities have you been forsaking?

Bonnie says, “Each time we reach for joy, we take the step of faith to say, ‘This is mine. My Father in heaven knows what I like and I’m learning to discover it too.’”

Join me in June as I take part in Bonnie Gray’s blog tour 21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

I’ll be posting some of my favorite quotes from her book with my personal photos to share with you. On some days, this will be the only thing I post. On others, I will share additional thoughts and photos with you. I hope the words and images that I share from my heart will touch and bless your heart.

Enjoy the Moment

Bonnie’s book Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest releases Tuesday, June 3rd. If you order before then, you will receive some exclusive pre-launch bonus gifts.

On top of that, GoodReads is giving away five copies of her book. Click to enter by Tuesday, 6/3.

Bonnie Gray is the writer behind Faith Barista.com who wrote a book about her inspiring, heart-breaking journey to find rest, which garnered her a Publisher’s Weekly starred review. I’m taking the journey to find rest through this guidebook and invite you to read it too.  You can get a copy HERE.

Whitespace Community Linkup @ faithbarista.com

Seasons of Life

As time moves on, our individual seasons or stages of life pass and change–sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. Regardless of the speed or whether we are currently where we want to be, it’s a lot easier to navigate if we are open and receptive to the continual ebb and flow of life. If we hold too tightly to where we are and resist change, our hands will not be open to receive the new gifts before us, and we may find ourselves forcefully swept off our feet. On the other hand, if we wish away each day until a “better” season comes, we’ll miss out on the beauty and wonder of the here and now and that wonderful feeling that comes with knowing (regardless of the “bad” times) and accepting that you are where you are supposed to be.

You know, even if you are going through a difficult or uncomfortable time in your life, you can’t let it fill the entire window of your view on the rest of the world. You’d be better off, perhaps even happier, seeing it as simply one of the many panes to view your life and the world through. Whether you realize it or not, there is so much more going on around you and inside you: growth, change, learning opportunities, loving moments, blessings. If you make an effort to adapt your focus, you will begin to think about things that may not be readily visible … things that really matter.

When you look at your life, what do you see? I found these words from Lysa TerKeurst: “Do I see the incredible spouse I married, or do I just grumble about his faults? Do I see the health of a son who can play sports as a good thing, or do I just grumble about his sweaty laundry? Do I see how fortunate we are to have enough food to eat, or do I just grumble about a kitchen that never stays clean?” Think about it. What do you see?

It sort of reminds me of conversations I have had with friends about my job as a coypeditor. Overall, the evidence of my work is not visible to most people because they don’t see the mistakes that were caught and fixed. However, if I’m not doing my job or I do it poorly, people notice; some might even be quick to point out the mistakes. Similarly, some people tend to focus more on what is wrong in their lives than what is right.

Do you ever think about all the good things God is doing for you every single day? Things that you don’t even notice? I imagine the good things that go on in our lives because of Him are not noticed nearly as much as the things we determine are wrong or inconvenient or “shouldn’t have happened.” And we sure seem to pray or talk to Him about all the things we wish he would take away or fix more than we thank Him for all the good He has done. I know I am guilty of that.

For example, sometimes when I’m driving, my mind goes elsewhere. Suddenly, I find myself at my destination with no real recollection of the drive. (I do pay attention most of the time. Really.) Have you ever thought about how many wrecks you didn’t have because God was watching over you? Do you thank God every day that you can get up in the morning and you can breathe easily and walk steadily and you aren’t in pain? If you’re like me, I think we tend to take stuff like that for granted, until we experience the opposite.

After suffering whiplash from an accident and dealing with some other issues, my sister Elizabeth commented on a Facebook post recently:  “so today was totally opposite from yesterday and was a very bad day mostly. woke up in severe pain, baby is teething and in tons of pain, lost all my contacts in my phone, power went out, etc. But like I told my brother, today has made me realize how many wonderful days I have and how very very few bad ones. I love my life even when it is a bad day :)” She’s got the right idea. Thankfulness and prayer can help turn your inner turmoil into peace. Peace about who you are, where you are, and what is going on in your life, no matter what the season. And with that peace comes hope.

My friend Matt Wagner wrote this: “Hope can spring up in any circumstance, any scenario. Like joy, it’s not a product of our surroundings; it’s a product of us. At times it is a simple, inexplicable feeling. Just as often, it is a conscious decision that we make. Either way, hope is always a good thing. It is a catalyst to inner strength, the root to persistence and a defense for happiness.”

So, if you haven’t already, take a moment now to be grateful for who you are, who is in your life, what you have as well as what you don’t have … and be sure to truly experience and learn from the here and now of this season in your life.  It will be gone before you know it. But you won’t need to look back with regrets; there will be a new day to live right in front of you.

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And now, moving on to something a little lighter:
I’ve got an easy “seasonal” recipe to share with you.
Anything Goes Pizza

 

I started with a Freschetta wheat crust. You can use whatever you want: Pillsbury pizza dough, a Boboli crust, pita bread, tortillas, English muffins … it’s up to you. (If you choose muffins, pita bread or tortillas, and put out a variety of toppings, everyone in the family can create their own personal pizzas.)

Next, I got my selection of toppings together. I was going for a Greek pizza, so I chose Prego Veggie Smart sauce, grilled chicken breast strips, black olives, spinach leaves, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, and feta cheese. Here is where you can mix things up by selecting seasonal veggies and/or adding in your own personal favorites. I would have made it without the chicken, but I added the meat for Bart.

I layered all the ingredients and baked on 350 for about 8 to 12 minutes. If you choose a crust that needs to be baked, you’ll need to follow the directions on the package before adding your toppings and popping it back in the oven. The only part of this recipe that takes a little time is chopping your toppings. Other than that, this is a quick and easy meal and could turn out to be a fun/creative event for the family. Enjoy your time together and your fabulous pizza!

To those who follow my blog, I apologize for not posting anything for about three weeks. I was enjoying family time with my stepson who was in town visiting us, and then I had to get caught up on work. Thank you to Angela who checked up on me and requested a new post. 🙂 It’s always nice to hear you are missed.