Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to Live to 100 {or, what keeps my 100 year old great grandmother going}

My great grandmother turned 100 on the 7th. She is a living, walking miracle. Vibrant in her personality, style of dress, and expressions, no one who meets her forgets Irene.

We flew into Oregon to celebrate her big day, along with countless other friends and relatives. After two weeks of watching her in action, I've made several observations about her way of life and what {I think} has helped her to keep moving forward. While living to 100 is no personal goal of mine, I've learned a lot about living life to the fullest from Grandma Irene.

Have a routine. I already knew that I functioned better when my life follows a predictable order, but Grandma Irene takes it to an entirely different level. Every morning she has some sort of activity to attend- whether it is an exercise class, church function, or social event. After a simple lunch, my grandmother drops in for a visit to give Irene her meds, make her soup, and help out around the apartment {yes, this 100 year old lady still lives alone in her own apartment- miracle, remember???}.

If grandma is late, great grandma is a tad upset about the change in her schedule. Because after their walk together around the block to pick up her mail and greet neighbors, she takes a two hour nap, then goes with her best friend Florence to visit their friend Billy at 4:30, on the dot. Then there is a light soup dinner, Jeopardy at 7, and bed. Every day. Having structure forces her to get up and be productive. She still does word searches and crochets {albeit, not as prolifically as she used to}. And she is flourishing on this schedule.

Dress up. Everyday Irene dons a skirt, with matching hats and socks. She has two closets- one for her clothes, the other for accessories! Most of her hats were hand crocheted over the years {and each of her descendants has a closet full of these handmade treasures- the woman was a crocheting machine}. She's also crocheted wrist bands to wear under her watch, in a rainbow of colors to coordinate with her outfits. If you're going to get up and face the day, dress for the occasion. Most importantly, wear lots of color! You'll make yourself {and everyone else} feel a little happier for it.

Love well. My own mom said it best- "My grandmother makes me feel more loved than anyone else I know." I watched her for hours at her grand birthday celebration. As people came up to greet and congratulate her, she hugged each one, looked them in the eye as she smiled and told them she loved them, then gave a warm kiss. She did the same for me at least three times that day. And while she may not recognize each of us, or remember who was there now that its over, she still makes everyone she meets feel so loved, welcome, and special. In placing her priority on loving others, I know that she has increased her longevity. No one wants to see her go. Everyone she meets is a friend.

Choose joy. My great grandmother has not had an easy life. She lost her father at age 10 and was sent to an orphanage because her mother couldn't support her 6 children. She worked hard from age 18 on, lost her first baby in a painful and complicated breech home delivery, was forced to flee an abusive husband, raised four children on her own, watched her siblings {all younger} die one by one, and on it goes. Yet I've never once heard her complain, and never seen her without a smile on her face. If Irene, can choose joy, so can I.

In God's sovereignty, my great grandmother has lived 100 full years. Who knows how many more she has to go. However long the span, she's living it well with the aid of her routine, dressing up, loving well, and choosing joy. May God give us grace to do the same!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back to School for the Mamas {2014 Edt.}

For the third Fall in a row {check out 2012 and 2013 if you missed them}, I'm saluting my love of learning with an educational reading list to fill the gaps in my own education. While I love being a student, I am not in school and probably won't be again for a long time, if ever. So I'm trying to keep myself sharp as the leaves turn and the school buses roll by. Here's this years list.

The Epic of Gilgamesh. I've just started working through the poetry list from Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Educated Mind with a friend, and The Epic of Gilgamesh is first on our list. Our plan is to take one book a month, meeting once at the end of the month to discuss our reading. Why not snag a friend or two yourself and start your own Great Books reading club?

Instructing a Child's Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp. I really benefited from Shepherding a Child's Heart, and am hoping that this title selected from my church's library will be equally helpful.

James and the Giant Peach. Back-to-school reading isn't just for me this year, but something I can share with my three year old.This is the first chapter book I've begun reading to S, and much to my delight, she loves it! It was my favorite as a child, so an easy first choice. If you're looking for more great first read-alouds to share with your pre-schooler, Everyday Reading has a great list here that has given me plenty of ideas for what to read with S next.

That's all for now, because really, how many books can one mom of two small children read at a time? If you're looking for further reading inspiration, check out my pin board on tea and books love. The two definitely go together- a great stack of books sitting on my end table makes me long for a rainy day and a cup of Earl Gray or Darjeeling and plenty of time to just dig into them.

What are you reading for your own educational benefit this year? Any great recommendations to share?

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Be Faithful

Recently I was chatting with one of my best IRL friends, Emily. Speaking of the challenge to read the Scriptures and pray daily as a new mom {she has a four month old}, she shared recent encouragement she'd received from one of our Elders.

"As a new mom, you may only have two or three minutes here and there that are free. Just make it a point to be really faithful in those two minutes."

While I've been a mom for three years, and all my kids are sleeping through the night {for now}, this was so encouraging to me.

It was a reminder to not lament the lack of time I have, but to be as faithful as I can be in the little minutes, seeking the Lord wholeheartedly in them.

That's all we really can do, isn't it? Walk with Him moment-by-moment, drawing near to Him as we remember, coming to repent as soon as we realize we haven't been walking with Him.

Be encouraged today mama- you may not have many moments, but be very faithful in the few that you do have. And remember, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus" {Phil. 1:6}.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

Monday, September 1, 2014


Sometimes in life, we feel the weight of our failures so keenly we're made desperately aware of our need to change. There is a constant pressure and tug for us as wives and moms to do 800 things, all with perfect elegance and ease. Exercise, cook healthy meals, take our vitamins {and make sure the kids take theirs}, read, read to our kids, spend time in the Word, memorize the Word, lose that baby weight, get up early, pray, volunteer, participate in church and school and the neighborhood, and on the list goes.

All of these things are good {to varying degrees of importance}. And we might really, really need to make big changes. But even a person about to drop off the edge of a precipice can only back away one step at a time. Sure, they might go really fast or really slow, depending upon a myriad of circumstances. Nevertheless, one step at a time.

As humans we tend to embrace an all or nothing mentality. While nothing gets us nowhere, all can quickly lead to burn out. The challenge is to embrace gradual, sustainable change. Little steps adopted one at a time, repeated over the long haul, will make a world of difference and cross the longest plain.

I told you recently that I'd dropped my Scripture memory program over a year ago because it had become unsustainable with two small children {note: Scripture memory itself had not become unsustainable, just this particular program. Shame on me for not trying something else sooner}. To gradually ease myself back in, I've been writing out one of my previously memorized passages each day into a new little flip book. Once they're all in there, I can review them at a pace congruent with my life as it is now.

Keeping it in my purse or on the counter, I can briefly go over them in the little minutes. While waiting at the doctors office, watching the kids play, stirring dinner on the stove top, etc.

Just gradual change, one day at a time- trusting it will last a make a difference in the long haul.

What gradual changes do you need to make right now- and how can you accomplish them gently?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Writing Ahead of Myself

Photo Via Walt Stoneburner
A very easy trap to fall into as a blogger {at least for this blogger} is to fill posts with awe-inspiring ideals that look great on paper  screen, but don't translate into my real life. I'm great at making lists and goals and plans, both on and offline, but very poor when it comes to follow through.

I realize that that can paint an inaccurate picture for readers. It might seem like I really have my act together. That I teach my kids and clean my house and have regular devotions that would put Susannah Spurgeon to shame. Ha! So not the case. Not even close.

For example, this post on educating my toddler? Yeah, that one. While we go to the library most weeks and still read a ton, I'm still terrible about planning crafts for S to do. Maybe once a month? Or every other month?

Slow and Steady Get Me Ready? I used the activities in that for about a month before it got buried under a pile of good intentions and sat dusty and alone for the rest of the year. I pulled it out again towards the middle of June with the best of intentions. Three weeks later it was once again forgotten. I still find it to be a great tool and still hope to make it a regular part of our groove... but, we'll see.

Or this post, originally written for A Biblical Marriage, on my plans to start praying more... to my shame, it is nothing more than a plan that I still need to be reminded of {note to self: must print it out and post where I will see it often} and still desire to implement. But heavens, I cannot claim that it is a regular habit of my life yet.

I also want to note that life changes. With the ebb and flow of seasons, children added to the family and life and work changes, my routines and habits are constantly changing. Recently one of you asked about my scripture memory program and if it was still working out for me. The answer to that would be... no.

For five years I loved that system... but after five years, I had quite the stack of review verses. It was taking me an average of 30 minutes a day to get through the program, and after W was born I just quit trying to keep up with it. Now, one year later, I am trying to ease back in and figure out where to go from here.

Please don't look at all of my past posts and imagine I'm still successfully spinning all of these plates. I'm not.

All this to say, I sometimes write ahead of myself. Instead of waiting to write from real experience and what I know, I write of what I want and aim to be. In an effort to be more authentic, I will be posting bold disclaimers when content I'm sharing is an ideal and not for real. More importantly, I'm committing {yikes is that a scary word to type out} to write mainly about what I know from my daily grind experience. Tips and tricks that I've found to be tested and true.

Hang with me while I grow in grace? And please remember, I'm just a fallen woman who makes a heck of a lot of mistakes. A woman who is trying to stop writing ahead of herself.