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‘Tis a Gift

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Here we are, the week after Thanksgiving and we’re already elbow-deep in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.  Fortunately for me, I have a week off.  So what does someone do with a week off when they haven’t had a week off in over a year?  Well, clean and organize of course!  In the time span since I last wrote a blog post, my parents have moved in with us, combining two households into one.  My job status has changed, not once, but twice (though I am still working at the same ministry).  And, last but certainly not least, wehave gone through a major home renovation.

Renovating the house was a grand pain to say the least!  There were days we wondered if we’d ever be able to move around the house without it being an obstacle course.  There were boxes everywhere…bathroom items in the kitchen and living room, kitchen items in the bedroom, and anything we could live without for a while was moved to the basement.  That’s where I spent my day today – the basement.  My goal for this week is to get a semblance of order back to the chaos that is our basement.

While the hubby was in the woods with our daughter this morning (it’s the first day of hunting season in Pennsylvania), I headed for the basement to tackle what we lovingly call the downstairs living room.  It has become a room that resembles the living quarters of a hoarder.  Boxes, unlabeled with items overflowing from them sit around the room in abundance.  They sit on the floor, on the furniture, on any available space there may be.  And then there’s the dust from the sanding of drywall (it all seemed to settle in the basement), wood shavings (they cut all their boards, trim, etc in the basement when it rained), and cobwebs since it’s been a neglected area for over a year.

As I walked in the room, I was overwhelmed.  Where to begin?  I realized quickly in order to lessen the clutter of the room, another area needed to be created to accept the organized boxes.  The first order of business was to move a bookcase we use to store our games, closer to the living room area.  With that moved and the games unpacked and loaded on the shelves, a space was now created where boxes could be moved.

Since Christmas is close by, I decided to organize all of our Christmas items first.  Now with two homes merging into one, there are enough decorations to decorate every room in the house (yeah, that’s not going to happen!).  I was disheartened to discover that when we put away the decorations last year, we did just that…put them away.  We didn’t take time to put them in the boxes they belonged.  Everything was just a jumbled mess.  By the end of my day, all the lights were together, ornaments together, snowmen were together, candles and garlands were in their respective containers.  I had a great sense of accomplishment!  And best of all, it was all moved out the living room and created a place to sit on the chair AND the sofa in the room!  PROGRESS!!!

I sank down on the couch, now free of clutter, dust and cobwebs and stretched out, enjoying it’s comfort and softness.  Christmas music was coming from the radio, and I believe I began to drift off to sleep.  I’m not sure if I was just day dreaming or actually dreaming, but I began to imagine the finished product that would be this room.  A room free of boxes, decorated and clean again.  A sanctuary where I could get away and just spend time in solitude.  (That’s my ultimate goal for this room!)  I thought about how different the room was starting to look without all the extra clutter.  What other clutter could I remove?

Thoughts of finances, pending bills, needed dental work and car repairs were clouding my thoughts.  Worry about whether my daughter would find the deer she shot this morning (it was a 6-8 point buck!) were floating around in my mind as well.  So many things cluttered my brain.  It was exhausting.  I closed my eyes once again and prayed a little prayer.  “Lord, remove the clutter and worry from my mind.”

It was then that God reminded me of Matthew 6:24-34 –  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (NIV)

I felt as though I had been given a gift.  “Yes, Lord, I know you’ll take care of me even at my weakest moments, even when life is so cluttered and I can’t see a clear path.  You are good!”

So, this first day of this week of vacation was a special one…yes, I spent the day working, but I was given a special gift and lesson today and something to remember as I go through the week.  Thanks for the gift, God!

❤ Miriam

A Clean Sweep

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

We are seeing many signs of Spring. I saw a bluebird this week and to me that means Spring more than seeing robins. Today was as good as any to start Spring housecleaning! That’s what we did for most of the day!

I started in my bedroom. Now, I’m not a typical cleaner. I’m sort of an obsessive cleaner (once I get started). To me, cleaning is not just getting rid of the dust and dirt, but it’s also organizing and thinning out things you don’t want or need any longer. I spent quite a bit of time just on my nightstand, which seems to collect multiple items that I don’t have any other place for. Everyone has one of those “junk drawers” in their house (admit it, you do!). My top nightstand drawer happens to be one of three (yes, three!) junk drawers in my house. But it is a junk drawer no longer!! I’m happy to say that it now houses things that I use on a regular basis! Some of the junk found new homes (some of it in other junk drawers) and some it made a journey to the trash. I straightened out my closet, cleaned out dresser drawers and put fresh linens on the bed. Then I tackled a real mess….the computer and it’s desk.

spring cleaningKatie is the main user of this computer. Lately, when she’s on this computer and I’m on my laptop, both computers run so slowly that it’s about pointless to even try. This afternoon, I spent 4 hours cleaning the computer itself. I pulled off literally thousands of photos and put them on discs, I removed programs we no longer used, and I cleaned out “cookies” and temporary files. I ran an in-depth virus scan and “defragmented” the computer. It runs like lightning now!! Another afternoon, I’ll do the same with my laptop, but 4 hours of computer clean-up today was more than enough for one week!

I was rather excited as well to complete a task I’d been wanting to do for some time as well. I cataloged all of my accompaniment CD’s and organized them in a CD wallet, eliminating dozens of jewel cases that really take up space. I even created a file to keep track of what songs I’ve sung and where I sang them at. I feel a great sense of accomplishment for getting that done!

The bedroom looks good….at least my side of the room does (Dave still has some cleaning to do of his dresser). It still needs swept and the curtains washed, but other than that….immaculate! Katie even worked on her bedroom today and also tackled her nightstand drawer!

Spring cleaning has never been my favorite thing. I really don’t like to clean….I have to be “in the mood” to do it. But, once I get started, I sometimes have trouble stopping. I didn’t have trouble stopping today….my brain was a bit fried after messing with cleaning up the computer all afternoon.

I did get to walk around outside for a while today. The signs of Spring are definitely there! The first thing I noticed was the hyacinths at my back door. The leaves are up and they’re in bud! I love the sweet smell they give when they bloom (that’s why they’re at my back door….so I smell them first when I go outside). We’re starting to see buds on the trees. Birds are gathering things to make nests. I saw a wren checking out our birdhouse this week too (I love the wrens that visit our house…they like to perch and hop around on our porch!).

Wren

Wren

As I see the signs of Spring and begin my Spring housecleaning, I can’t help but think that this would be a good time to do some personal “cleansing” as well. In Psalm 51:10, David writes, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” That is my prayer as we go into this season of the year. I want all those “cobwebs” in my soul to be swept out and God’s love to “cleanse” my spirit. Spring is a time for beginnings and renewal. Our desire should be to be renewed and revived with God as the focus of our lives.

Hyacinth budHappy Spring!

♥Miriam

Aaaah…the first robin of spring! Ooops! Or not!

This evening on my way home from work, I saw my first robin of spring. In fact, I saw two of them bobbing along the road. Aaah, yes! One of the first signs that spring is truly on the way. I smiled as I saw them hopping along. And then it happened. It was so quick, so unexpected. Just as I reached the happy little pair, they lifted off ready to fly.

Robin

I didn’t mean to do it. It just sort of happened. I heard a little “thump”, and when I looked in the rearview mirror, there was nothing but feathers in sight. I had killed the first robin of spring!! (At least the first one I saw this year.) This can’t be good! It must mean something like a year of bad luck or something. I feel terrible. Poor robin! I feel sorry for your widow or widower that I left behind. Hopefully, they will find another robin just like you!

I’m quite proficient in hitting birds with my van. Perhaps I need to get a big fake owl for the grill to warn birds to get out of my way!

Oh well! Spring will come even though I killed the robin. This morning was proof of that as all the snow we got yesterday was already melted and gone and I was comfy going to work in a light jacket.

Come on Spring! Come with your flowers, your warmer weather, your longer days…..and I’ll try not to kill any more of your robins!

♥Miriam

Snow Days and Hot Chocolate

We are having a snow day today, if you can call it that. It started to warm up during the midst of the storm and started to melt nearly as quickly as it laid. We did get enough (maybe about 6-8 inches) of the white stuff that Katie was able to go outside, sled for a while, and build a snow fort.

It was nearly lunch time and so I started heating a pot of water to make instant cocoa to warm her up when she came inside. I started hearing a scraping noise outside and realized that she was cleaning off the back porch! Wow! Without being asked? Unbelievable! (Sorry for the poor quality picture, but if she would have seen me taking this, she would have stopped shoveling!)

Katie clears snow from our back porch.

Katie clears snow from our back porch.

I realized that her coat was absolutely soaked as well as her snow pants. I waited until she was done cleaning the porch to call her inside. She stripped out of her wet things and it brought back memories of snow days gone by. I guess I had one of those “far away” looks, because she asked, “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” I replied. “I’m just remembering when I was your age what it was like to be out in the snow.”

“Tell me about it,” she said.

So, while we made turkey sandwiches for lunch and stirred our hot chocolate, I recalled memories of snow days gone by.

When I was her age, it seemed like we got so much more snow than we do now. I remember large drifts in my backyard that would get as high as me. There was one year, and I can’t remember what year it was, we had an abundance of snow. There was a large drift that formed in our side yard and it packed down quite tightly. I had recently seen a movie or TV show that had a St. Bernard on it rescuing people and found it fascinating! I decided there “had” to be some sort of lost victim in that snow pile. I found an old broom handle and went to work searching for victims by poking the stick down into the snow bank.  The giant drift was deep enough that it nearly covered the entire handle! The neighbor boy happened to see me doing this and wondered what I was doing. I soon explained that there were “victims” trapped under the snow and I was poking the stick down to find them. He quickly produces some sort of stick and began to search with me. Needless to say, we didn’t actually discover anyone, but our efforts were good!

Sledding at my house was awesome!! There was a field beside us that was hilly (we lived at the top of a big hill….one of the highest points of Peters Township, PA!) If you got the sled going just right, you could fly down the hill about 250 feet. If there was some ice involved, you went even further and could sometimes land in the stream at the bottom of the hill. The neighbor boy and me and my mom and dad would spend hours out there sledding and sledding until we couldn’t feel our hands, feet or faces. Then we’d decide we had enough and go inside for hot chocolate. We’d warm up long enough to thaw out and get dry clothes on and then we’d go out again. We’d sled until it was dark.

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We lived in a quiet area. There was one point on our property where our land met with the farmer’s field that had two huge cedar trees . I loved to go back there at night in the snow and sit in a spot I’d create between the two trees, and look out over the snowy countryside and gaze at the stars. I felt very close to God in those moments. I’d often sing as I sat there with nothing but the moon and starlight to illuminate the night. It made me feel like I was the only person in the whole world. I haven’t felt that type of solitude in years. It was wonderful.

Katie and I finished our sandwiches and cocoa and she went off to play.  I sat looking out the window at the birds in the back yard pecking at the suet in the feeders and thought how lucky they were. They could fly off and find that solitude I once experienced any time they wanted to.  Suddenly, I felt very warm and fuzzy inside. I think it was a combination of hot cocoa and good memories.

I was happy as well to be home in my nice warm house. I didn’t have to go out and drive in the bad weather with all those crazy people who don’t know how to drive in snow. I felt blessed to have a job that I could do from home and yet enjoy a little quiet time with Katie. God had kept us safe in this “biggest storm of 2013” (so they said) and we were having a great day.

I remembered a scripture that would often come to mind when I would have those moments of solitude in the snow. It’s always been one of my favorite passages and has been a passage I’ve turned to many times in times of distress or fear. Psalm 121 says – “I lift up my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.”

Cardinal in our backyard.

Cardinal in our backyard.

♥Miriam

Better Than the Birds

When some people see something they normally don’t see, they will sometimes think it’s a “sign” or an “omen” that somthing is going to happen. I remember growing up the old wive’s tales that my grandmother often would quote, and quite frankly, I think she believed a lot of them. One of those old wives tales was that if a bird hit your house window, there would be a death. There was also one about if a bird got into your house, you’d have good luck. If we really believed these things, we’d leave our windows wide open to allow every bird to enter the house for unlimited good luck.

I love to watch birds! I love to feed the birds! I enjoy sitting at my kitchen table with a hot cup of tea and looking out into my back yard and watching blue jays come in to my large platform feeder for peanuts. They’re really silly looking as they pick up peanut after peanut, shake them, and then finally fly off with one. In a matter of moments, the blue jays can carry off a rather large amount of peanuts!

Blue jays sure love peanuts!

Blue jays sure love peanuts!

Recently, I’ve been able to add a few birds to my list of sightings. These are birds that I never dreamed I’d ever see in any other setting other than a zoo. Now, whether or not you believe in old wive’s tales or not, I felt mighty lucky to see these birds. It didn’t make any difference in my life, other than to make me happy.

My first recent sighting was on my way to work one snowy morning. Imagine my surprise when I discoverd a barred owl in the trees above me. He/she watched me as a I slowly drove by (and I was watching them too!)  What a thrill to see an owl in the daylight! (Disclaimer: the photos were not taken by me, but used from the internet.)

I cannot take credit for this photo, but the barred owl I saw was in a very similar setting like this one.

I cannot take credit for this photo, but the barred owl I saw was in a very similar setting like this one.

A few days later, I saw something I never dreamed I see. A huge American eagle!! They really are a big bird! With the fact that at one point, these national birds faced near extinction, I was more than thrilled to actually see one live close to where I work! (Surely, that must mean there’s a nest somewhere close by!)

Again the photo is not mine, but the setting is the same.

Again the photo is not mine, but the setting is the same.

On another day, I saw a few birds that I had seen before, but seeing them all in one day, just thrilled me as well! First, a red tailed hawk. Dave and I often search for these as we drive to and from various places. We see so many of them along the road in trees. I recall once seeing three of them in the same tree!

Red tailed hawk

Red tailed hawk

Then there was this smaller red shouldered hawk I spied at our babysitter’s house sitting in a tree. I also saw a rabbit there that morning that Katie and I chased out of the bushes in front of the house, close to where this hawk was sitting. Incidently, I haven’t seen that rabbit since! Hmmm……perhaps we helped provide breakfast that day????

Red shouldered hawk

Red shouldered hawk

And then there was a another common sighting that we often see sitting on road signs and electric wires….an American kestrel. What a pretty bird!

American kestrel

American kestrel

And this particular day, I also got to see a beautiful blue heron come in for a landing on a nearby stream.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

There was one other bird I saw just this week. Again, it’s one of my favorites. It’s the “woody woodpecker” – a pileated woodpecker.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Now I’m sure there are probably plenty of old wive’s tales about seeing these particular birds, but you can keep them. I DO think they are God sightings. It seems when I’m having a blah day, just down in the dumps, or even when I’m deep down and depressed, I’ll see some of these favorite birds of mine. I think it’s God’s way of reminding me that He’s there for me. He lets me see these birds so that my spirit gets lifted. It reminds me of Matthew 6:26 – “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (ESV) Yes, Lord, I am of more value than a bird; thanks for the reminder. Even when I don’t think I’m worth anything, You remind me that I am worth something to You!

♥Miriam