Friday, January 30, 2015

Kicking Off the Celebration !

Pray diligently. 
Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude ...
Make the most of every opportunity. 
Be gracious in your speech. 
The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation,
not put them down, not cut them out.
- Colossians 4 {The Message}

May God visit us in a new and fresh way as we
jump into our 8th year of doing life together.
May each and every conversation that hits this screen
 be seasoned with a warm, loving graciousness.
May prayer be our watchword.
And gratitude, our joy.
May this sacred space be known as a welcoming refuge,
a calm oasis, a well of encouragement.

As words and laughter, tears and wisdom, musings and prayers
 mingle and flow, ever and always, may Jesus Christ be praised.


There's just no better way to kick off our 8th year together
than to focus on the One who's made it all happen!
We're praising God from whom every big and little blessing flows.

He's so very good.

Be sure to subscribe before you head off
so you won't miss a single bit of our anniversary month celebration ...
or the giveaways that will be coming right and left!

I'm so grateful that YOU are here!


Monday, January 26, 2015

5 Absolute Must-Haves For When You're Craving Warmth

Everyone's all abuzz over the coming blizzard.  I stop by the little hamlet store to pick up some ice cream {really}.  And as I pull open the freezer case to grab my Mint Chocolate Chip Light, an elderly woman catches my eye.
And my heart.
For she is truly distraught because there's not a drop of milk in the place.  Bewildered would best define the look on her worn face as she says to no one in particular, 'but I live on it ... I drink it all the time.'

All I could do was give her an understanding smile.  A warm one that let her know I heard her astonished disappointment, the frustration-laced fear.
This is winter in New York.
I guess if you pushed me to come up with a word for January it would be this.
We're trying to get our bodies, our homes, our cars to a toasty temperature. 
I've gathered 5 must-haves that keep this ol' body and soul warmly alive during these gray frigid weeks.  And I can't wait to hear what works for YOU ... 
1.  the boots
I found these gray babies in a great big pile at one of those discount stores. {Their motto and mine?  Good stuff cheap!}.  I chose my color {black, brown, or gray?}, slipped my eager feet into them, and to my delight, they were soft, cushy, and yes, warm.  At $14.99, I couldn't get them in the cart fast enough. 
Since then, they have seldom left my body ... I slide them on to run errands, to head off to work or church, to trot out to the mailbox.  And yes, they've kept me company in the house when the heat gave out and we had to wait hours for the repairman to drop in. 


In one month.
What's your favorite warm-up gear?
2.  the kitchen 
In the winter, this room evolves from a pass-through between family room and home office into a place of focused action.  I've whipped up a great big pot of yummy ham and bean soup and another pot of oh-so-good chicken and rice soup, gleaned from frozen carcasses gathered from the freezer.  A sausage and 4 bean chili, not too spicy.  And a favorite comfort food, my mom's spaghetti sauce

Chocolate chip cookies have made several rare appearances from the oven, much to my husband's disbelief / delight, even though some were a bit too crispy burnt.  Chocolate cupcakes {thank you, Betty} with minty homemade icing were a labor of love.  Bottom line?  In recent days, there's been plenty of warm comfort food created within these four walls, happily shared with loved ones.

I feel so domestic.

Martha and Rachael would be proud.
What's happening in your kitchen?
3.  the books
I love tucking myself under a warm, old quilt with a book or two.  And a big mug of hot decaf tea right by my side. 
I've been making my way through Philip Yancey's Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?.  Slowly savoring deepest truths made simple.  I've already begun Ruth Haley Barton's brand new Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community.  If she writes it, I'm there.  And I finally bought Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces.  These little morning visits with her start my day well. 
I've made my way through two John Grisham books in recent days.  And for the introvert in me that needs tending, I checked out two volumes from the library, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World and Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After by Sophia Dembling. 
I like when someone gets where I'm coming from, you know?
What are you paging through?
4.  the excursions
What's a weekend without a drive somewhere, anywhere?  Sometimes you've just gotta get out of the house ... and I've discovered over time that for me and my man, some of our most profitable talks have evolved when one person {not me} is behind a wheel, looking straight ahead. 
What fun to discover that DQ has opened its windows a whole month early.  Yes, there's something rather odd about devouring something sweet and frosty while trying to stay warm.  But that's ok.  I can't complain when I'm digging into a small Chocolate Xtreme Blizzard and he's balancing a decent size chocolate ice cream cone while steering the car 'round turns and through traffic. 
No worries.  I'll work that extra pound or two off when spring comes.

What's your favorite winter ice cream?

5.  the conversations
Frigid air outside lends itself to warm, lingering conversations inside by the glow of fireside or candlelight.  Precious time curled up on comfy chairs with dear friends.  Deep, searching musings at book club or Friday night small group.  Chatting over coffee as a Saturday night house church meeting wends its way to a close. 
After all, who wants to head back to that outdoor chill when there's cozy companionship to be had ... and encouraging exchanges that spark connection and insight are filling our souls?
The conversations as we gather around the table online, in this place, have been rich and full this month as we've bantered back and forth about our words ... or lack of them.  Brainstormed creative ways to breathe fresh life into our homes.  Grappled with the impact of social media on our lives.  And shared quiet sabbath oasis moments together.
I'm so grateful.  This kind of connection is what blogging's all about.
Your presence here, your willingness to get a bit out of your comfort zone and engage with other kindred spirits?  A warm grace, indeed, as Creekside launches our 8th year.
The celebration begins this weekend ... with giveaways right and left and some writings that I think are truly shareworthy.  I just can't wait for you to party with us!
I'm glancing out the window.  That cold, flaky white stuff is spinning quickly downward to a waiting earth.  And my heart is warmed by the Spirit's presence ... and your rewarding friendship.
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and before you head off, be sure to check over on the right for the most recent
From Hither & Yon : : Shareworthy Reads
dropping in at Mary's  .  Holley's  .  Emily's  .  Leigh's

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Grace-Gift for the Weary & Broken


/   /   /

Dear Lord ~

How thankful we are that You don't tire of us calling on You!

Your patient grace lets us know that You value us. 

Treasure us, really.

Even when our lives are messy or crazed or out-of-sorts.

We come to You, weary and broken, right smack dab in the midst of it all.

You smile as You reach out with Your tender, affirming touch.

And as You whisper encouragements or direction or correction, You offer peace.

How thirsty we are for the gift of Your presence.

We praise You for Your lavish loving care.

In Jesus Name ~


/   /   /

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.

Because He turned His ear to me,
I will call on Him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.

Then I called on the name of the Lord;
'O Lord, save me!'

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.

The Lord protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, He saved me.

Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

For You, O Lord,
have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
~   Psalm 116:1-9  ~

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dear Linda : : I'm Struggling with Social Media

Welcome to two new monthly features that ended up being rolled into one big post for their grand debut!  Dear Linda and blogheart join forces this month with one reader's important question.  
And don't miss the giveaway at the end!


Dear Linda ~

I see you're not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.  How do you manage your presence in this online world without the use of social media?  I'm really struggling with the whole social media thing lately so I'm really, really curious on this one.

~ Weary in Illinois

Hey Weary ~

Join the club, friend!  What looked to be a good thing has left many otherwise sane people exhausted, frazzled, and overwhelmed.  And yes, even anxious or burned out.  Because out of control social media use is like a constant spinning of plates that never ends ...
Bottom line?  The huge unspoken emphasis on numbers and the approval of others can be a toxic blend.  That constant striving and comparison can very easily leave us feeling 'less than.'  Excluded.  And feeling like we'll never match up to others.  Or belong to the 'in' group.  Kind of like junior high.

I hated junior high.

Honestly, I've never have been all that interested in social media, probably because I was spending more than enough time blogging.  I've always had to fight getting addicted to the whole thing.  If I had started adding social media stuff, I would have been sunk.  Period.

Also, I'm severely technologically challenged, so mastering yet another online gizmo would have been more than I could handle.  My eyes glaze over just thinking about it.

I know that all the blog gurus keep jumping up and down about getting your name out there, increasing your subscribers, gathering friends and followers, building your platform.  But I find that whole emphasis to be an exhausting striving.  Like that guy getting crazy with the plates. 

After all, there's only so much time and energy to pour into one day.  And there is a great big life to live out there that has nothing to do with fingers dancing over the keyboard.
Instead of managing my online presence, I've intentionally focused on 3 simple basics.

1.  Publishing 2 - 4 posts a week.

2.  Offering invitation to relationship by replying to comments left on those posts.

3.  Connecting with those writers at their online homes. 

Building community in this space and then getting to know others on their home turf has become a simple 3 step goal that's doable, rewarding, and in no way frustrating.  I've met alot of amazing writers along the way ... and some have become friends and prayer partners.  And that I love.
: :  TO DO  : :
Grab an index card for each social media community you've created. 

Write the name of each on one card.

Spread them out in front of you. 

Look at them one at a time. 

How does each one make you feel?

Does this venue make you smile, energize you, fill you with gratitude?

Or do you feel drained just looking at it?
Our emotions are not a good decision-making platform, but they can inform us.  For example, it's good to pay attention if Facebook makes you feel envious.  Or if Twitter frustrates you.  Or if Pinterest leaves you feeling discouraged.  Whatever.
If one of your social media hangouts is not filling your cup, if the expectations of your presence there have been disturbed or dashed, consider taking a one month break from it.  If after one month you're feeling stronger or saner, you might want to consider simply dropping it from your radar.
And if you love one of these link-ups and it's working well for you, you might want to step it up a notch by creating a mission statement so that you know why you're investing time there and what the benefits are.
It really is ok to re-evaluate your many social media options as you move ahead.  What works for someone else may not end up being your cup of tea, and that's just fine!  Who you are now is most likely different than the person you were when you set up your current connections.  Seasons change, life happens, what we need evolves.  That's all a good thing.

Invite God into those ongoing conversations.  He's got the most amazing way of giving us discernment when we ask.

And then ...
Most important?  We need to be getting our strokes, our affirmation, our identity, our kudos from who we are in Christ.  Not by our numbers, likes, friends and followers, or the opinions of the crowd.
Francesca Battistelli sings it best,
I don't need my name in lights
I'm famous in my Father's eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name

I'm not living for applause
I'm already so adored
It's all His stage
He knows my name

Praying that God will give you the courage to throw off everything that's become a burden and is hindering your journey forward, online and off ... so you can fully grasp and embrace who He has for you to be in this next season.  
How do you navigate all the social media opportunities out there?
What's working well for you?

And what's not?

The first reader to comment on this post will receive a FREE
30 minute blog coaching session by phone.
Check it out!


Dear Linda is a brand new monthly feature!  I'm responding to your questions with
some encouraging insight ... or maybe a bit of straight talk!  Relationships, ministry leadership,
life balance, homekeeping, or other random challenges?  Let's put it right on the table. 
Keep in mind that I'm a board certified pastoral counselor and a certified life coach ...
not a doctor, lawyer, biblical scholar, or licensed mental health professional.

Go ahead and email me a question or two right now!  
If your note is used, your question may be edited for space or clarity.


blogheart is another new monthly offering!  We'll be going behind the scenes of our writing,
past the numbers and the how-tos, and head straight to the heart of what we do and why. 
The best part?  A FREE name-it-and-claim-it blog coaching session is given
to the first reader who leaves a comment. 


if you're a social media fan, I invite you to share this post with your tribe.
the links are below.

i'm sharing the discussion with Mary & Holley

Saturday, January 17, 2015

In Which We Offer Wide Open Praise

My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise You, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of You among the peoples.
For great is Your love, higher than the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
and let Your glory be over all the earth.
- Psalm 108:1-5.

We worship You, Oh God!
For You are majestically awesome.

And due every bit of honor and adoration we can pour at Your feet.
You are supremely mighty yet gently tender.
Powerful beyond description and endlessly faithful.
We can't even begin to fathom Your wisdom and justice.
Holy, holy, holy.
All glory and praise are rightfully Yours.
Our feeble attempts at finding the right words to praise You
can't begin to scratch the surface of how deep our love and gratitude flow.
All we can do is bow the knee, 
eternally grateful that You see our wide open hearts ... and love us just the same.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

8 Smart Choices That Will Breathe Fresh Life Into Your Home

It's frigid outside in this neck of the woods.  Icicles hang hardened by blustery wind.  The sky's the color of bleached slate and we nestle inside, ladling hot soup into bowls ready and waiting.

We curl up by the warm glow of candlelight or fireside, faded sweatshirt atop turtleneck layered to keep us warm, fuzzy vests and well-worn slipper socks comforting us with their soft touch.  We embark on endless wintertime hours with a faded quilt tucked snug, books and handwork and laptops at the ready.  Quiet music plays ... or the television drones.

And somewhere deep within us, there's a winsome place that longs for huge breaths of fresh life ... even though spring .  is .  months .  away.

But these eight choices? 

Most are fairly simple.  Yes, they might expend some energy ... and yet only one or two require a bit of cash.  These tasks completed bring a contended sigh of relief.  A smile that wends its way down to the soul.  The encouragement of a job well done.  And gratitude for the haven that over time, has become our space, our place.


Yes, these we can do ...
 #1.  fling those windows wide open
Even if it's only 15 degrees out and the wind is blowing mightily, I've been opening a window or two when I change the linens, clean the bathrooms, or when some heavy-duty cooking threatens to make the house smell like homemade chicken soup forever. 
Our rooms are just begging for fresh breezes to visit and flow freely, even if just for a few minutes.  Stale air, nestling germs, and airborne dust mites have no choice but to flee.
Sure beats a chemical-laden air freshener, yes? 
We definitely sleep better at night when that window is cracked just a wee bit.  And sometimes we may even get to hear a lone bird chirping a solitary winter song.



 #2.  bid a fond farewell to all things Christmas
Nobody hates saying good-bye to the window lights more than I do.  I so love their twinkling glow on a dark winter's night, welcoming me home after a long day's work. 

But they've been up and running since mid-October.  Enough already.
And it's time to deliver the last of the gifts, read the cards one more time, roll up the wrapping paper, pack the decorations well, and toss or donate anything and everything that's not worth holding on to.
Go ahead and keep a little light aglow or a tiny, fluffy snowman here and there if you'd like.
But around here?  I'm done and happy to welcome my home back to its simple pre-holiday stillness.  


#3.  clean out & clean off the fridge

Inside and out, this appliance is always in use.  Opening the doors, tossing anything that's past expiration or looking a bit strange, and giving it a good scrub down is a not-at-all fun but necessary chore.

And if the fridge is sagging under the weight of endless magnets holding up all manner of receipts, notices, artwork, lists, bills, take-out menus, and photos?

Well, it's time to be ruthless.  Our family to-do list goes on the white board.  That stays.

The kids' pictures are in individual frames that cost about 79 cents a piece.  Love that.

And I always need quick access to scrap paper and a pen.


Everything else that's been hanging around? 

Outta there. 


#4.  replace the grungy shower curtain

Enough said.  Who needs mold or mildew taking up residence in what should be one of the cleanest spaces in our homes?  For $2.99, I love this crisp, clear plastic sheet that lines the toile curtain.

And while we're in the bathroom, it takes all of about a half hour to empty the medicine cabinet shelves and the random drawers, clean them good, and toss any expired meds and all other objects past their prime.  If you're unsure if a medication should stay or go, give your pharmacist a buzz.

#5.  dig out the good linens & put them to work

Far too often we tuck away precious possessions that, put to good use, would give us real pleasure.  This quilt is one of my favorite things, a lovely treasure discovered in my mother-in-law's cedar chest.  Yes, I'm very careful with it and the bed is strictly off limits to the little ones when it comes to trampoline bouncing. 

I use this handcrafted spread often, with great appreciation for the still vibrant colors and exquisite craftsmanship.  And very fond memories of the woman who raised the man I married. 
With the right care, some quilts can be wonderful accessories that travel with ease around our homes.  The quilt back up in picture #1 just came out of the washer and dryer after its annual stint as a Christmas tree skirt.  It's also made appearances as a tablecloth {when we weren't dining}, and as a cozy throw over sofas and chairs.  For $39 at a tag sale, that vintage baby's been a real good friend.

#6.  toss those old newspapers & magazines

More than 6 months old?  You can bet that if they haven't been read by now, they probably never will be.  Gently used magazines get shared with family, friends, or donated to the library.  And newspapers get recycled.

#7.  snip something crisp & alive on a winter's walk

Whether it's those wonderful bittersweet vines, fragrant boughs of evergreen, or dried pods and seeds still hanging in there, I love grabbing the snippers and bringing an armload of nature's treasures indoors.  And the brisk walk to head there and back again?  Very much needed right about now.

#8.  finish up a project

My eldest daughter couldn't say 'no' to this FREE vintage buffet, a leftover from her neighbor's garage sale.  The thing weighs a ton, and the endless sanding and repair took more time than she would have liked.  But determined to get her car back inside the garage for the winter, she recently wrapped up her big redo. 
Now painted a crisp white, the old buffet has morphed into a wonderful storage workhorse with a whole bunch of drawers where the little ones to store their bountiful craft supplies ... and several big ol' cubbies that hold their stash of puzzles and games.
All for the cost of some paint ... plus a whole lot of love-fueled energy.
What are you doing to breathe life into your mid-winter home?
Any projects underway ... or homekeeping tips to share?
Do tell!
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