Black Friday

Black Friday

For every person who loves Black Friday, there’s another that dislikes it equally as much. I’m of the latter camp. Shopping and everything that relates to “stuff” is my least favorite part of the Christmas season. I’ll take the lights, the music, the uncomplicated joy of the season well before Thanksgiving–much to my husband’s dismay–but shopping? If I could completely forego it, I would.

REI, one of my favorite stores to browse (it’s the halfway mark of a 30-mile bike ride my husband and I enjoy in permitting weather) closes all of its retail stores on Black Friday so their employees can have the day off to enjoy the outdoors, sharing experiences. Their initiative started the #OptOutside campaign and encouraged others to do the same.

I love this idea!

REI Chief Customer Officer Ben Steele said, “When we started this four years ago, it was that consumerism was spinning out of control, in a frenzy of consumption–I’ve got to have it, I need it, I’ll leave Thanksgiving dinner early to go get it.”

That’s a powerful statement. We spend Thanksgiving grateful for what we have and then get up early the following morning to go buy more.

“Black Friday: Because only in America people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.” Author Unknown

Many stores have even intruded into Thanksgiving evening to get the shopping started, using messages with a sense of urgency to get people in:

  • Limited Time!
  • Today Only!
  • Act Now!
  • Final Close-Out!
  • Deadline!
  • Offer Expires!

I’m not saying Black Friday is all bad. For some people, the sales are what allows them to purchase gifts for Christmas presents. And some people genuinely enjoy the shopping experience with family and friends. Though I have to admit I’m not one of those people. But what saddens me the most is when people go into debt buying “stuff” they don’t need or even want, simply because it’s on sale. When we buy what’s on sale because it’s “on sale,” we’re not saving money, we’re spending it. Too many times Black Friday leads to Red Saturday with people going into debt.

That being said, the Black Friday scrooge that I may be, sincerely wish everyone a Christmas season filled with family and friends, good health, peace, and experiences that bring you joy.

PeaceJoy

 

Silence – Part 1

 “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence: see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Mother Teresa

Nature's Quiet Beauty

Nature’s Quiet Beauty

I’ve previously mentioned my conversion from New Year’s Resolutions to New Year’s Goals to the My One Word Revolution that began last year when I chose the word “Grace.”  The idea behind choosing one word is to pray about a word God leads you to by keeping in mind the kind of person you want to become and the characteristics that kind of person possesses.  If several words come to mind, choose just one that encapsulates them all the best.

Desiring to become better in an area of life that has plagued us in the past is a good thing.  However, when I made New Year’s Resolutions to change said areas, it was a rare occasion that I made it through January without “blowing it.”  And once I blew it, life reverted back to the comfortable, well-worn path of old behaviors, with the feeling of failure added to the mix.

Choosing one word to focus on, knowing I can start over at any time during the year, the month, or even the day, and start over as many times as is required, cements characteristic changes into place.  Even cement can crack, however, so a full year to practice living the principles surrounding the word God has led me to through prayer works perfectly.

2013 was a year I desired to explore Grace–living it, accepting it, and extending it to others.  I “blew it” numerous times over the course of the year, but that word, one that is pure and pleasing to God, remained engraved on my mind and in my heart, so that when I strayed from living through grace, it reminded me to do an about face and turn it around, doing whatever was needed to correct the behavior.  While I’m far from having perfecting living through and extending grace to others, I’m much better than I was when I started, and I’m okay with that.  Because for me it’s all about progress, not perfection.

photo (3)

Another component of the movement that I’ve incorporated as well includes choosing a bible verse that correspond to the chosen word.  I chose two last year and again this year.  Rehearsing the verses daily brings clarity and focus daily on the one chosen word.  I create cards on my computer with my one word as well as the chosen bible verses, in a fun and colorful font, and keep one at my desk at work, one by my bed to read first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening, and one in my car.

It’s much easier to focus on one word that signifies who I want to become than try to remember a list of resolutions to change things I want to leave behind.

If you make the choice to join the movement, or if you’ve been participating already, I would love to hear the word you’ve chosen for 2014, and why.

Wishing you all a safe and blessed New Year filled with His presence and peace.

Merry Christmas

Nativity

May be the peace of Christ be with you as you celebrate this day, the birth of our Savior, with family, encircle you in comfort if you’re spending a quiet day alone, and fill all of our hearts with gratitude for those in the military who cannot be with their loved ones, and to the loved ones left here with an empty place at their table as their brave soldier honorably serves our country.

Merry Christmas from our family to each and every one of yours.  May you each see the beauty and magic of this special day in your life every day all the year through.

All is Grace.

Happy Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was my very favorite holiday.  That’s an odd holiday for a child to have as a favorite, but my mom always made it so special, and it began weeks before Thanksgiving Day.

She hung a picture of a cornucopia on the refrigerator door and every day we got to write something we were thankful for.  What a joy it was to get up in the morning and write on that cornucopia!  The first several days I would sneak in more than one thing, because there was just so much!

Cornucopia

After the usual same-every-year mentions of Family, God, the name of our pet, etc., that reined at the top of the list, came the creativity and heart of the thanksgiving project.  The part that really stretched my heart into other areas of my God-given life and made me reach into areas that would have gone unnoticed had I not been led there to discover things I was grateful for.

Thanksgiving Day came and it was the warmest, least hectic, beautiful day of the year, beginning with the early morning smells wafting through the house of mom’s turkey and pies baking, taking comfort in hearing her movement in the kitchen, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and family beginning to arrive.

The day was spent watching the parade with all of its colorful bands and creative floats, football, playing games, ice skating, laughter, and eating food that had never tasted as good as it did on Thanksgiving Day because we weren’t just eating food, we were sharing a meal with special people.

As I became a mom with children of my own, we continued going to my parent’s house for mom’s special Thanksgiving.  In my own home, however, I continued the pre-Thanksgiving magic of the cornucopia on the refrigerator door, my own children just as excited as I was to be able to write what they were Thankful for.

Now that my children are grown, I’ve carried the tradition of the giving thanks attitude of gratitude to my workplace, a place that often rains down with negativity.  Every year I make a colorful, fun poster to hang by my desk and send the “It’s time to be thankful” office-wide email.  I place the basket of markers alongside the poster and the fun begins.  People from all three floors participate in writing on the poster, and the things people are grateful for continue to amaze me every year.

The young and the old”er” of the office have found joy and wonder in that piece of cardboard called the Thankful Poster, and we’ve had some very creative things we’re thankful for, such as indoor plumbing.  Who thinks of indoor plumbing as something for which to be grateful if not for the encouragement of the poster? 🙂

photo (35)

My mom, one person, by creating a thankful atmosphere in my home as a child, created a ripple effect of gratefulness to hundreds of people.  And that is something to be truly grateful for.  All is takes is one.  That one can make an an unlimited difference.

All is Grace.

My Ten Favorite Memories

1.            Lying in the fishing boat we kept anchored to the old wooden dock on the lake at the house I grew up in.  I would lay there for hours, sometimes still in my pajamas, writing poetry, dreaming about becoming a journalist in New York City, or sometimes just laying doing nothing at all except listening to the waves lap against the shore and stare into the clouds.Sunset on a lake north of Brainerd, Minnesota.

2.            In the wintertime, on that very same lake, ice skating in circles and dips, my big green pom-poms bouncing on my ice skates, enjoying the stillness, the solitude, and quiet that comes with early morning.

photo (17)

3.            Midnight sliding on New Year’s Eve with my boys, my sisters, my nieces and nephews.  My parent’s house was on a hill, and we had many sleds of all shapes and sizes–toboggans, round saucers, and wooden sleighs with runners.  After we all brought in the new year together we went outside and enjoyed the thrill of the hill.  Sliding with the kids, everyone bundled up so nothing was exposed except faces with bright eyes, rosy cheeks from the cold, and the widest smiles I have ever seen.

4.            Road trips with my boys from Colorado to Minnesota, the music we listened to–everything from Grover Levy and DC Talk to Colin Ray–the games we played–like trying to find license plates from all 50 states and “I Spy”–to the cherished conversations we had.  They would tell me about their deepest secrets in the confines of that little black Chevy Prizm.  Time I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

5.            Sitting around a bonfire by the lake, the fire glowing orange,  blue in the deepest, hottest areas at the center, the crackling of the flames and sparkling light of the fireflies down below the hill from where we sat roasting the perfect marshmallows for the s’mores we devoured.  Then we would catch some fireflies and keep them in a jar so we could watch them throughout the night as we were tucked safely in bed.

Roasted Marshmallow

6.            Christmas Eve as a child, my parents, my sisters and me sitting around the Christmas tree that was decorated every year with multi-colored lights and ornaments we made in school, reading the story of Jesus’s birth from the book of Luke in the Bible before we were allowed to open one carefully wrapped present.  From there we went to my grandparents house where we gathered with aunts, uncles and cousins, ate a festive Christmas meal, followed by presents and playing with our new toys before going to Midnight Mass.

7.            At fourteen years of age, cleaning cabins at a lakeside resort.  I would get up early Saturday morning, walk down the country road to Fishin’ Mission Resort and clean cabins, enjoying the time spent with one of my sister’s who also worked there, as well as a couple of our friends.  We met so many fun people at that resort and made so many memories.

MN 2013 027

8.            After high school I lived with my grandparents for a few months while I went to college and worked at a local business, getting home between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.  My grandma would either be waiting up for me or would wake up and sit with me at the kitchen table and we would talk about so many things.  Sometimes just about the evening.  My grandma wanting to hear about my night at work.  Treasured moments indeed.

9.            We had a wood-burning barrel stove in the house I grew up in.  So many fun times revolved around that stove.  Like my whole family going deep into the woods to cut wood in the fall, the smell of the freshly cut pine or oak, the smell and sound of the chainsaw, working hard and taking breaks to walk and explore in the woods.  On winter evenings my sisters and I would carry wood from the woodpile outside, the pure whiteness of the snow making it look anything but nighttime, each carrying in our five armloads before we could stop.  And after sliding and ice skating, throwing the hard wet snow that collected on the bottom of my snow pants and my mittens onto the barrel stove, listening to it sizzle.

10.          And the best memory of all, the day each of my boys were born.  Little did I know at that time, that that day would change every day of the rest of my life.  The memories collected in my life’s journey from that day forward is indescribable and could fill a multi-volume set of books. And I do love to write.

Writing journal

  All is Grace.