Friday, January 13, 2017

2017 Goals

With the whirlwind of December and the start of the New Year, I hadn't given a great deal of thought about practical plans/goals for 2017 (though had given much thought regarding my spiritual life and heart desire for this new year, hence the post on the 31st.)

Though when things settled more back into 'normalcy' (intermixed with wedding planning with Leah :), then inspiration came! And a new 'vision planner' has helped with that. Leah found one for herself, and I loved it so much, I got one, too, though in a different color. (One disclaimer: most of the quotes and some of the intro parts are self-focused/self-helpish which we don't appreciate. The rest of the planner is amazing, though!)

At the beginning of the planner, there is a page for planning the year with these sections:

  • 5 goals for this year
  • Things to look forward to this year
  • New things I would like to try
  • Books I would like to read
  • Places to visit this year
  • Things to improve upon this year
  • Things to be grateful for this year

Leah and I spent a fair bit of time talking about these and planning together before we filled in each of the sections. Just looking at this page is inspiring! And helpful in keeping focus.

One section that was fun to fill out was "places to visit this year." Leah and I are planning a trip to go visit two of our dearest friends in Kentucky soon (they work at the Creation Museum) and then we also have one more big special sister trip planned . . . our last one before Leah is married!

Anyway :), back to the planner . . . each month is then laid out like this:

We both love the "This Month's Vision" section!

The calendar . . . notice the 'challenge' in the top right? Each month has one (though some aren't that great), and I particularly liked this one

Daily plans for each week plus a weekly focus. In order to cultivate more of a heart of gratitude and thankfulness, I decided to use the gray boxes on the bottom to list things I am grateful for for that particular day. Already I love doing this! The little glasses on the bottom are for tracking how many glasses of water one drinks each day which is helpful, too.

Leah and I have really enjoyed planning out this next year together, setting goals, talking about how we want to grow in the next twelve months, and more. It has been special and fun to do together!

So . . . some of my goals for 2017 are:

- 1. Memorize a verse or passage of Scripture a week . . . this week it was Hebrews 12:1-3 which is a passage that I always find so encouraging and convicting. Using the Scripture Typer app makes memorization much easier for me to do!

- 2. Get back into going to bed earlier, getting up earlier, and into my regular morning routine again. With all the late nights in December, my schedule shifted quite a bit! While evenings and late nights can often still be profitable and beneficial for me (plus fun :), work wise, it is a lot easier for me to get up earlier and get product made in the morning before lunch, plus I always have and still do love those early mornings (it's just the initial going to bed early and getting up that can be the hard part!)

- 3. Exercise - I met my 2016 goal! This was to be able to run a 5k (3 miles), and I surpassed that with reaching 3.5 miles. This year I want to continue increasing the distance and increasing the speed as well. I am planning to do one long run (3.5+ miles) and one to two shorter runs (1 to 2 miles) a week. I'd like to add in an indoor exercise routine as well for some of the days I'm not running.

After a run on an unusually warm day this week (nearly 70 degrees!)
(Photo by Leah)

- 4. Healthy eating - these are basically continuing what I have already been either working on or already doing:
  • Continue to reduce/limit sugar/evaporated cane juice intake
  • For if/when a sweetener is needed in a recipe, try using our raw honey instead (and there will be a bit of a learning curve with that as I learn how to alter recipes better.)
  • Continue to reduce processed foods
  • Consistently drink 7 glasses of water a day (for my weight and exercise levels that would be the amount I need.) 
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Have snacks be fruit, vegetables/salad, yogurt with berries/sunflower seeds/etc., nuts, or things along those lines
  • Try some more new fruits and vegetables - or learn to like ones I don't especially care for. :) A few months ago I determined to like a fruit that I had disliked since a child: bananas. They are really good for you and rich in potassium, so I started eating them again and am actually learning to like them!

- 5. Learn how to make my own lotion and dry shampoo (which I am hoping to use alternately with the organic shampoo I started using recently), and take more steps to using more natural personal care items.

- 6. Deepen relationships with residents at the nursing home and begin going back to the rooms more to meet people who do not come out into the main area. I also would like to spend more time talking one on one with residents. This is more challenging than it sounds as when I am there, there are many who want to talk and spend time with me so it can be difficult to not make someone feel left out!

- 7. Complete all of my in-progress projects as well as a few others (not sure if that will happen with all the wedding planning and preparation and helping with the house renovation, but we shall see!)
  • Finish restoring a couple of quilts
  • Put the cane seats in the dining room chairs I have (yes, this is still not done!)
  • Figure out how to re-do the outside of my trunk and then restore it
  • Learn how to chalk paint and paint my dresser
  • And possibly refinish a few pieces of furniture

There are many other more personal and significant goals that I have as well in the areas of cultivating relationships with my family and friends, my character/spiritual life, ministry, and evangelism, and it will be exciting to see how much progress is made in all of these by the close of this year!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Warm Days = Outdoor Work

This winter, our weather has been interesting to say the least! It might be only in the teens one day with lows below zero and then a few days later, it is in the 40's, and sometimes the 50's and 60's! We're enjoying another warm spell now before another ice storm hits this weekend.

Awhile back on one warmer day (which turned colder as it progressed), we all seemed to be bit early by the 'spring cleaning/work bug'!

Leah put up fence to give the goats a large, fresh area to browse, Mom opened up the windows and painted our living room, Dad worked on construction projects and beekeeping tasks, and I cleaned up outdoors, cleared out some areas that had gotten overgown, etc.

All the furniture in the center of the room, covered with plastic

Mom painting . . . it looks so nice and fresh now! 

Leah working on the fence while our curious wether looks on (this was after the temperature began dropping hence, the coat she is wearing.)

Lots of browse for them to enjoy!  

A little video Leah took with her phone of them having fun :) And this was after they had calmed down a bit! (And the goat you hear 'bellow' in the distance is our buck Rimrock who wasn't very happy he was left out.)

A line of Apple trees 

One of the things I did . . . haul all the unused fencing panels here and stack them (Dad helped me with several that were the very heavy ones which was nice!)

It felt so good to get so much accomplished! All the while enjoying simply beautiful weather. It makes the really cold days seem not so bad when they are interspersed with a taste of 'spring.'

Friday, January 6, 2017

Great Things He Hath Done

I am sure you all would like to hear a few more details, like how Ivan and Leah met. :)

Back in the spring of 2015, Ivan (who lives about an hour away from us) was looking for a house church to be a part of, and in a roundabout way, found out about our family and our house church. He began coming then and was a definite blessing to the group with his deep love for the Lord and His Word and for the wisdom and insights he would share. My Dad and he quickly developed a friendship (which has grown quite deep now), and my Dad became like a mentor to him. They met for coffee regularly spending hours studying Scripture together and talking about just about everything.

After time had passed, Ivan began spending more time with our family, and yes, an interest in Leah was developing, as it was her for him. In April of 2016, he and Leah began courting with the intent to discover if marriage was what God would desire for them. At this time, we knew him quite well, had seen his strong heart for God and for others, had seen him growing in the Lord, had been greatly blessed by his love and care for all of us (he was such a help to me when I went through what I did last spring!), and much more.

There were many days spent with him (and his son Abel) joining our family either doing house construction projects at our place or helping him with his; taking outings together; or things like that - and of course, lots of time for Ivan and Leah to talk and spend time together. :) With Ivan's work schedule, we sometimes watched Abel for him, too.

(The below photos are from our Thanksgiving day . . . he and Abel were our company!)

Walking back after Abel had stepped into the muddy water (hence, no shoes!) 

Dad saw this cave up in the rock, and teased Ivan about climbing up there . . . Ivan took him up on it and did! 

Let's hope there aren't any snakes in there! :) 

Remember the photo of Abel and I from the Thanksgiving post? This is more of the story :) . . . Ivan, Abel and I had fun climbing up here! (And Leah would have, too, but she had boots on that wouldn't work for climbing.)

Throwing rocks in the river

Love Ivan's and Leah's happy faces here! 

It wasn't very far into their courtship that Ivan and Abel were both beginning to feel like 'family', and as the weeks and months passed, Leah and Ivan (and the rest of us) began to see that God was indeed leading their paths together. Not only were their beliefs and values so similar, their personalities and life vision complement each other so well. And you all know the rest of the story. :) But you haven't seen the pictures! Here is a glimpse . . . .

Ivan had such a sweet proposal (which I won't go into detail on here :) and completely surprised Leah. He had brought gifts with names in a hat to draw out of. She didn't realize that every name was hers! In this photo, Abel is reading the name on the slip of paper he drew out . . . surprise, surprise, it was Leah! The second gift she opened led into his beautiful proposal asking her to be his wife. 

Putting the ring on her finger 

With their matching mugs which were one of the later gifts (Abel wasn't quite ready for this photo!)

Helping unwrap the last gift . . . a porch swing for their future home

So happy!!!

Getting ready to facetime his family and share the news

So exciting to tell the news to his family! (though they were expecting it :)

Playing UNO together (and after the engagement)

The next morning, Dad set up the spotting scope for Abel to watch the birds at our feeder. Abel loved it! He spent so long watching them, learning how to find the birds and focus on them, and then learning to identify them as well. At one point a bird he hadn't seen before came up, and he exclaimed: "A new species!"

There you have a glimpse into our special and memorable New Years! And now Ivan and Leah are in the very special season of growing closer to one another and planning for their lives together.

The wedding date is tentatively set for sometime in September. Ivan is in the process of completely gutting and rebuilding the house they will live in, and it will likely take until late summer to finish that big project. Needless to say, helping with that will be a big part of our 2017!

Abel liked watching the birds so much that Dad got him a surprise . . . this is part 1 (part 2 isn't here yet) 

 Two bird books! (Don't tell, but part 2 is his very own pair of binoculars!)

We had so much fun looking through the books together! He's going to turn into quite the birdwatcher I think. :)

There are many times in life when one can look back and clearly see God's hand working . . . this is one of those. As the old hymn says: "To God be the glory, great things He hath done!"

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

~ Leah and Ivan ~

~ Engaged December 31st 2016 ~

You could say we (and Leah especially!) have had an exciting start to the New Year! What a wonderful and amazing blessing it has been to see how the Lord has worked in both Leah's and Ivan's lives in bringing them together! We are so very happy and excited for them as they enter into this new and beautiful season and prepare for their lives together. Our hearts are rejoicing and so thankful for what God has done! My dearest friend and sister is getting married!!

Already Ivan is like a son to my parents and a brother to me, and he and Leah are perfect for each other! Some of you may also recognize Abel as he has been on the blog a number of times and is a special part of all of our lives. Ivan has been on the blog, too, though indirectly :) . . . he has been the anonymous 'friend' that kept coming to visit.

It is going to be wonderful to see how the Lord works in and through them in the months preceding their wedding and then in their married lives together!

There will be more to come, but for now, I'll share a bit in Leah's own words (from the post she did on facebook) . . . .

"I am thrilled to share with all of my family and friends that on New Years Eve, the love of my life asked me to be his wife. And of course I said yes! This past year and a half has been a beautiful season of watching as God brought us together, and I am blessed beyond measure to be able to spend the rest of my life with this man that has captured my heart completely and then to have the added rich blessing of being a part of his son Abel's life as well. My heart is so full!"

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year

At the eve of this New Year, there are no profound words of wisdom that come to mind, not really any resolutions (though I do have plans for the new year :), no great life-changing goals or aspirations . . . just open hands.

"Use me as You will, may Your will be done in my life."

Trusting and following . . . yielding to Him my desires and dreams . . . living and serving each day to the fullest with a mind "set on the things above" . . . looking ahead with peace and joy to whatever He has in store, knowing that His plan and path is best, and that it is good.

This is what I desire for my heart to fully embrace and live out in 2017.

Over this past year, a phrase from a song (based upon Isaiah 55:8-9) has so often come to mind: "Your ways are higher than mine." Or as it reads in Isaiah: " 'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'"

This never fails to encourage and bring peace to my heart and helps me to trust. What a faithful God He has proven Himself to be! Not only does His infallible word testify of His wisdom and faithfulness, they have also blanketed and enveloped my past year in beautiful ways. His faithfulness will continue to be present . . . He will continue to faithfully guide as He has done.

This past year He taught me so much and has drawn my heart much closer to Himself. 2016 was the hardest and most spiritually stretching and growing year I have ever had. Yet it also held many blessings, and it has been one that greatly deepened my relationship with my God and Father.

As I look ahead to 2017, I see the doors that God has already opened and that will prayerfully be continuing . . . doors that I am so thankful for: the nursing home ministry (which has been going so well! There will be more about that in an upcoming post), the therapeutic riding center, spending time with friends and family, sharing the gospel, helping those in need . . . how very many wonderful opportunities God has given!

As I consider each of these, I can see many ways that I can be serving more, sharing more, loving more, in each of them, and going deeper in relationships with others. My hope and prayer is that 2017 will find me growing in these.

So here's to another year . . . blank pages just waiting to be written on. May what fills those pages bring glory to my Lord and Savior, may it count for His kingdom, may it please Him, may they find me growing more in Christ, with less of me and more of Him.

Another year is dawning!
Dear Master, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee.
Another year in leaning,
Upon Thy loving breast,
Of ever-deepening trustfulness,
Of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness,
In the shining of Thy face.
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise;
Another year of proving
Thy presence "all the days."

--Frances Ridley Havergal

". . . that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience . . . ." Colossians 1:9-11


May you all have a blessed New Year! And thank you so much for the great blessing you have been in my life and my family's lives this past year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Sister Outing that Was and Wasn't

Last week on a chilly, cloudy, dreary afternoon, Leah and I had the spontaneous idea to go to a nearby conservation area and drive through it to do some bird watching. It was only a few hours until the sun would set, so we hurried to get binoculars, bird books, and a camera together and then headed out.

We had such fun together during the drive! Music was playing, we were talking, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying our time together. Our first stop was a gas station to pick up some hot chocolate to enjoy (and help keep us warm! as while we bird watch at the conservation area, the windows are often down.) What came out of the machine into our cups, though, was brown tinged water - the machine wasn't working! So . . . nix that idea.

We continued on our way and eventually, pulled into the entrance to the conservation area. There we stopped to look at a large flock of swans that were in a harvested cornfield way in the distance. That was a treat to see! It was the most swans we had ever seen at one time before.

They are the white specks way in the distance

Driving further on in order to get closer to them, we were met with a blocked road, stop signs, and a sign saying the area was closed for duck hunting. Our sister outing was quickly coming to not much of anything!

We started brainstorming then . . . what else could we do outdoors that was close by? Go down by the river! So that's what we did. There was ice flowing down it which was neat to see . . . .

Looking downriver

Me photographing (photo courtesy of Leah's cell phone)

We had a lot of fun here! Soaking in the beauty and the cold, and as it was quite still out, it was also pleasant just listening to the ice and water flowing.

Ice on the river . . . the circle one looks almost like someone could just sit on it and use it as a boat and float downstream! 

Leah up at the top of the bank 

As much as we enjoyed our time there, one can only stand watching a river flow for so long :), so we headed home, but on a scenic gravel road which was fun. As we drove away from the river, it was neat to see another flock of swans fly overhead!

The gravel road winding through the woods of barren trees . . . such a peaceful, pleasant drive!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Catching Up

After a flurry of activity and many long days (often working all day until 10 or later at night), things are slowing down now, and I am catching up on things in regular life and a bit here on the blog as well!

The introduction of the gift sets (mentioned in this post) in my online stores far exceeded my expectations, and as a result, the end of November and all of December up until the last few days ended up being very busy! 

In the middle of assembling gift boxes

The days were full with making product, assembling gift sets, communication with customers online, packaging orders, trying to keep up with ordering supplies to make more of the products (thankfully, each time I ran out of something [such as bath salt jars or mailing boxes], the newly ordered ones were delivered right when I needed them!), not to mention the farmers market on Saturdays, too!

At the farmers market . . . and Leah has been bringing her candles there now as well She has done well with those there! (And please pardon the wrinkled tablecloth . . . would you believe I ironed it? I didn't realize how bad it still looked until looking at this photo! The lighting really brings the wrinkles out.)

Leah working our booth

Lots of delicious veggies at the market!

One Saturday these two gentlemen played and sang, and it was much enjoyed by everyone! They sang wintry songs, beautiful old favorites such as "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Joy to the World", some oldies, and also children's songs. They had brought a bin of maracas and tambourines so customers could play along. The children especially loved it! When this photo was taken, they were playing "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain, and it was so fun listening to them all and singing along.

There was one week in December when so many orders were coming in online that Mom and Leah helped with packaging some of them, and then took over the meals for the rest of the week for me, too (as it was my week to cook.) 

I am thankful for the blessing of how well my business did during this time and how it has grown (though am glad it has slowed down now :) and thankful also for my wonderful family. They were so supportive and helped so much with packing orders, bringing packages to the post office for me a number of times, and not minding the stray bits of excelsior that seemed to be continually tracked onto the living room floor nor a dining room table that had to turn into a 'gift box assembly station' many days . . . .

A table of orders in progress . . . and the gift boxes with excelsior sticking out have just had the first step done - getting excelsior put into them. Once the gift sets are all done, it is all carefully tucked inside. 

Two days of orders . . . the biggest Post Office run with 29 packages! 

All of this was a fun adventure that's for sure!

So . . . that's why I have been rather quiet here on the blog. :)

Amidst the busyness, though, one much enjoyed event took place this past Sunday which was the annual "Volunteer, Rider, and Donor Appreciation Day" for the Therapeutic Riding Center. All four of us went, and it was so good to see dear friends again including two of my little riders (and their families.) It was like a mini reunion!

Dad, Mom, and Leah visiting with a gentleman who sat at our table

We enjoyed wonderful conversations, lots of hugs from sweet littles, delicious food, and then watching the slideshow which is a compilation of photos from the year followed by an award ceremony.

Some of my favorite parts of the afternoon were:

- Spending time with these sweet girls (and their brother, Will [who I work with at the therapeutic riding center] and their little sister) . . . .

(And in the back top right of this photo is one of our little riders, Livi, whom I'll share more about in just a bit.)

- Playing with dear Will (sorry no photos of him! He preferred to stay out of them that day. :) At one point, he was teasing me a lot and giving me his adorable little sideways looks so I started imitating him . . . which made him start doing all sorts of different things, with me imitating him right back. He thought it was hilarious! It makes me smile just thinking of his eyes all lit up and how he laughed! And then how he'd all of a sudden run over and give a spontaneous hug.

- Holding Suzi and dancing to the music during part of the slideshow . . . her giggles of delight were infectious!

Suzi and I (not dancing at the moment :) with the sweet card from their family and the drawings the girls made for us (Thanks so much M. family!)

Leah and Layla - our laps stayed busy! And Leah enjoyed lots of snuggles including Suzi just about falling asleep on her.

- Gentle "Livi hugs" and hearing some of her new words! Livi is a precious girl Leah and I have been working with the last year and a half or so at the riding center - no photos of us with her sadly, though she is in the photo mentioned above. Sweet girl and her parents so thoughtfully gave Leah and I each a gift which included a photo of us each working with Livi which was really special. (If you all see this, thank you again so much!)

- Talking with parents of our riders and some other volunteers we've become friends with

- Seeing all of the photos on the slideshow which brings back so many special memories!

 Layla being silly and playing with my Dad who was sitting behind us

 Love these sweet girls! (And Will and Sadie!)

We are so glad we were able to go to this! We weren't sure at first given the rather wintry weather we had had, but thankfully by Sunday, the roads were clear enough that we could venture out.

Friday we had freezing drizzle begin in the morning which lasted all day and left everything coated in ice. Unfortunately, the road crews didn't start salting the roads until mid-day Friday and by that time, the roads were sheets of ice. It took my parents 1 1/2+ hours to make the 20 min. drive home, and it was hard driving! The interstate was barely moving in some places, and others, not at all as many vehicles, and especially the semis, were just sitting there with tires spinning on the ice.

Leah and I were praying at home that Dad and Mom would make it home safe, and it was a relief when they pulled into the driveway! 

It was a crazy mess on the roads with many people having their commutes go from 20-45 minutes to many hours and some up to at least six hours. The last of the school children weren't delivered home until 1 am in the morning, and there were 300+ wrecks in central Missouri as a result of the ice (thankfully the vast majority were not serious.) It has also been cold! Dipping below zero several times and some days not making it into the 20's which has made animal chores a little more interesting. It's starting to warm up a bit now, though, which is a welcome change, especially the sunshine of today.

Ice on the blueberry bush leaves

After the ice came a thin blanket of snow which minimized the slickness outdoors and made it beautiful. I walked down to get our mail after dark Friday night and the snow was falling gently then. It was so still out you could hear it. As I took it all in, my heart filled with thankfulness and praise to the Lord, the Creator, and I ended up singing "How Great Thou Art" all the way down the driveway (amidst slipping and sliding a bit on the ice and snow. :)

The girls (plus a wether) curious as to what I was doing when out taking photos

It's always fun after a snowfall to go for walks and photograph and then to also look for animal tracks. Though this time, most of the animals must have still been hunkered down as the only tracks to be seen other than birds and domestic dogs were these rabbit tracks:

So there you have a glimpse into what has been happening here as of late! And as a little fun conclusion :)  . . . any guesses how many different bird species are in the below photo?

Notice the fighting Blue Jays? They didn't want to share the suet feeder!