Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Image courtesy of Aps-The Muddled Utopian


Hello all. :) Can you believe that we are only a week and a half away from March?! This year's February really is seeming like the shortest month of the year to me. Often, February feels long just because the cold remains. Despite an incredibly snowy and downright cold February this year however, I have not experienced the drudgery of the days that might have visited me in years past and the month is moving along at a nice, even clip.

I find that it is not only the weather that is the issue this time of year, but that this time of year is the MIDDLE (despite the calendar telling me that it is the beginning). I would even get "itchy" for something new right around mid to late January even while living in Florida. Being the middle of the school year, I have always found it necessary to kind of shake things up a bit.  So, I thought I would share some of the things that are keeping my spirits up as we close out winter and head toward spring.

The first thing I need to share is that I continue to have a regular time with God every morning. This is one practice I have kept for years that does not change, but continues to enhance every aspect of my life; I would be remiss if I listed all kinds of things that the world has to offer without mentioning  where the source of my joy truly lies.

My children are no longer so little. I know that mothers of young children, in particular, are challenged to find time to spend with the Lord.  But it's not impossible. When my girls were just tiny things themselves, my dear, dear friend, Gail Berger of Blessing House Ministries once said to us young mothers that were taking a class with her, "When you give your time to the Lord, He will honor that. If you desire to spend time with Him, He can make that happen for you. Just say to Him, 'Stretch my time, Lord!' and He will prove faithful." A desire to spend time with the Lord is a prayer that you can be SURE will be answered in the affirmative! Over the years, I have prayed that prayer many times. I find that when I am reading His Word or praying or looking over a devotional, or writing in my journal to and about Him, I often get caught up in a reverie of sorts and don't want to stop to begin the duties of my day. Then I look up and time will be tight! "Stretch my time, Lord!" I pray and all works out well; my time spent with Him is never in vain or has ever proven to cause me trouble.

Over the past 5 years or so, I have made a greater effort to memorize Scripture. I knit a little "wallet" of sorts for myself and keep favorite Scriptures in it. I simply cut 3x5 index cards in half and keep my favorite Scriptures in it. When I don't know what I want to read in my Bible or am in transition between studies or when I travel or when I simply want to let key portions of God's Word that have meaning for me just wash over me, I will pick up my little pack and just read. I joke that it is like a little "God's Greatest Hits" for my spirit. :) I mention this because it is a simple and portable little burst of pleasure. That said, my actual memorizing of these Scriptures has been an on-off practice. Lately, I have been having fun using ScriptureTyper. I actually really enjoy typing and typing fast. Practicing verses while testing my typing speed is actually kind of like a game for me; I like to beat my times and I have found it to be really, really helpful in the actual memorization. Check it out if you like this sort of thing; it's free to sign up and they have all sorts of helpful info over there.

Before I get on to sharing other links of things I like for pure enjoyment, I also wanted to share this quote that Dawn over at the blog, By Sun and Candlelight, shared the other day:

 

The first and best way I find to pick myself up is to, quite honestly, stop the navel-gazing and do something for someone else! Not only will you be a blessing to others, but you will likely gain some fresh perspective on your own situation.

Another thing along this line of thinking is also to give thanks. Don't save your thanksgiving up for one day in November. Open up your eyes and make a conscious effort by keeping a list of things you are thankful for all year. Take Ann's Joy Dare. Try to make it to 1,000 before the year is up.

Okay; now on to some things that I find myself turning to when I get time to myself... and some things that I do while I'm doing what I've got to do, but these things keep me cheerful while I'm doing them.

One thing I enjoy is a good podcast. I won't even pretend to know what interests you, but I have some of my favorites listed in my sidebar. New ones are being produced all the time, so if you need some new food for thought, consider letting a podcast (or audiobook) keep you company while you clean, knit, exercise, or whatnot. NPR has some fabulous podcasts to choose from in particular. I have an iPod, so I peruse the iTunes store for my free podcasts whenever I want to try something new. I'm thinking of looking for a spanish-language podcast right now myself!

If you want a dose of super-charged CHEER, take a visit to Susan Branch's blog. I love Susan's illustrations, the fact that she's an anglophile like me, and, well, we have a lot in common. But what I love most about Ms. Branch is her attitude. She is a happy, fun person and she takes her fun personality seriously, which means to say that she knows that she possesses something special in her outlook and she likes to share it with others. I always like to pay her a visit when I need a boost. Wouldn't you love people to say the same thing about you??

Enjoying the season - warm or cold, cool or hot - is always enhanced by participating in the fullness of the season. Now, I'll admit that I aim to do this even more than I already do. One place to find inspiration to liven things up for the special days of the month is to check out Family Fun Magazine. Imagine my surprise just now as I went to get you the link and discovered that it seems that Family Fun is now owned by Parents Magazine. It used to be owned by Disney and their website had all of their old material and ideas archived. I don't see that there now, but their Pintrest page, FamilyFunmag looks like it has nearly EVERYTHING there! So many wonderful ideas!! Though I don't subscribe to this magazine anymore, as my girls are really beyond the magazine's demographic, I did just check out back issues at the library from years past. You don't have to be under 12 to enjoy seasonal fun with decorating or a special recipe for dinner or dessert here or there. There are plenty of ideas to keep you and those around you smiling.

Art and creativity in general is a natural outlet for me. I like to spend a little time each and every day doing something creative. I realize that we are naturally doing creative things in our every-day lives, but I'm talking about doing something out-of-the-ordinary, just for me. I know that I can make dinner special by doing something different and creative, but that's not what I'm talking about here. Sketching, painting, knitting, embroidery, journal-keeping, blogging here from time to time, and other forms of creative writing are some of the things I like to do to mix things up in a day. Engaging in visual art forces me to look at things differently. Likewise, writing about my world - or creating a fictional one - allows me to see things in a different way too.

Planning events around those creative activities that I love brings more sunshine into my life and to lives of the others who may share it with me. Once-a-month, I meet with a fun group of knitters. We'll meet at a coffee shop or one of our homes for about 2 hours. The time always flies and we always laugh a lot. It didn't take much for my sister and I to notify our friends via Facebook that we wanted to get together to knit and now it doesn't seem like we've only been meeting less than 6 months; it seems like we've known each other for a long time. It's such an easy thing to do.

I'm planning a sketch crawl for next month too. For those of you not familiar with a sketch crawl, it is simply picking a date to get together with other friends who like to sketch and taking your materials out and about with you. I've done this before with friends. Picking two or three venues to sketch is plenty for one day. We usually head somewhere in the morning and pack a lunch. It is amazingly fun to DRAW WITH FRIENDS. There are online sketch crawls too. People from all over the world will participate and then post the sketches they made on the crawl date from their part of the world. So cool. I like to do sketch crawls on or near the solstices and equinoxes, because of the chance to see the seasons shift in your sketches. Of course, you may just do a still-life inside for every one, but it's still fun to see what inspires people to draw at particular locations and at a particular time. Our sketch crawl this year is going to be on Saturday, March 23. If you are interested in participating, please let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page. I'd love to see what you might draw!

Along with thousands of others, I have been captivated by Downton Abbey. I actually enjoy it so much because that is pretty much the only show I watch; it's fun to get swept up in a dramatic series. I did get interested in "Call the Midwife" last autumn too and "Mr. Selfridge" looks like it's going to be a lot of fun. Masterpiece has been turning out such amazing programming the past few years; I wonder if they are having a revival of sorts?

Regular exercise, of course, keeps one vibrant and helps one avoid feeling like a slug. I find that I don't do as much this time of year as I do when it is warmer and even as much as I've done in the past since I have a different schedule. But I still get to my gym at least twice a week and I have some small routines I do at home if I get snowed in! It feels so good to keep that blood moving!

Finally, I remain devoted to my beloved libraries. I love Goodreads for getting perpetual reading ideas. Then I try my local libraries and also make good use of interlibrary loans. There is almost no book that I cannot read for free out there. My to-read queue grows longer all the time. Sadly, I don't use it as I should, by looking at it before I head to the library. I mean, I do sometimes, but there are books that have been on that list of mine for years now and the only excuse I have for not reading off of it is that I'm always finding new and other interesting things to read!

Well, I don't know if any of this that I've shared with you is new to you, but other than the love and company of my family and friends, these are the things I do that keep things sunny for me even on many a wintery, cloudy day. What's making you smile this season?
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