Monday, December 31, 2012

My Year End Review & A Free Gift For You

It's the very last day of 2012 and I'm excited about what God might bring in 2013! Before I start celebrating the New Year, however, I like to reflect upon and review the current year. I call it my year end review process but you could call it a year end wrap up or reflection session or whatever you like.

I used to have a very long and complicated year end review process. It worked for me at the time but now I have a much simpler process that I thought I'd share in case it might help you. It's three easy steps. I come up with my Top 20 amazing blessings of the year, top 10 achievements of the year and top 5 areas I'd like to improve on for next year. I just brainstorm them into a Google document as I think of them towards the end of December and then today I will narrow them down to the designated number. During the brainstorming process I just type up everything I think of related to each category and don't worry about numbers - usually I end up with a lot more than the numbered categories. I also add to it when I think of it in between creating the document and actually selecting the final 20, 10 and 5 items.

Coming up with my blessings list is a lot easier since I started tracking answers to prayer. God is so amazing! In 2012 alone, He answered at least 11 pages of my prayers (and probably more, because I don't write down everything and don't hear back from everyone who asks me to pray for him or her)! God has brought loved ones to salvation, healed sick friends, provided safe travel, relieved depression and far more. 

If you're wondering why I have the numbers the way they are, it's just my own personal logic. For years I've done a top 10 accomplishments list, but, as a Christian, I think it's more important to focus on God's work than my own so I wanted to have at least double praise for His accomplishments than my own. And, while I certainly have more than 5 areas that need improvement, keeping it at half of my accomplishments helps me stay positive about the changes I want to make. It works for me. If you try it, please let me know how it works for you.

My free gift to you is a blank copy of my 2012 Year End Review Google Document (the full link is also below for your reference)

May God bless you, keep you and inspire you to greater love, joy and peace!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wishing You A Blessed Christmas

 “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:11-14 NIV

From my heart and home to yours I wish you a blessed Christmas season. May the joy and peace of our Lord fill your hearts and souls, dear friends! Jesus is truly the best gift of all time and truly knowing Him as your personal Lord and Savior will change your life.

Many of you are missing loved ones, suffering from personal hardships, reeling from recent violent and natural events and my heart aches for you all. Please know that God loves you and wants to be your rock in these storms. I'll be praying for you!

These cute and funny photos of our cats are from a year or two ago but they make me smile and I hope they bring a spot of joy to your heart.

The first photo (at the top of this post) is our old grouchy cat, Moose in her a-bit-too-small Santa suit. The next one is my little baby cat (feral born) with a Santa hat I stealthily placed on her head after she fell asleep and the last photo is another of Moose the Cat in her Santa glory. I wish I hadn't given away that outfit. I thought I'd find her a better fitting one. Maybe before next Christmas.

May the God of all love and peace be with you this Christmas season and always!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Crossroads & Your Suggestions Welcome

Photograph by richard_b
If you're wondering why I haven't posted in a while, it's mostly because I've come to a crossroad with blogging here. I've used up all the free photo space allowed so I need to decide whether to pay Google for additional storage, store photos somewhere else and link to the urls for the blog or take a leap and start my own webpage (or some alternative I haven't thought of yet - feel free to share your ideas!). I'm hesitant to spend money on the blog because it's not bringing in anything significant. At this point, it's more my gift to the world and something fun I can do from home, which brings me to the second reason for my silence.

In November I was gravely ill. I wanted to keep the focus of my November posts on gratitude so I don't think I mentioned that in my posts. I'm not feeling led to share the details of all my health challenges (it's one area of my life I do prefer to keep private) but suffice it to say I have a host of them and when one problem crops up it can quickly become a domino affect and lead to life threatening and/or potentially permanently disabling consequences.

By God's grace, I am healing and so very thankful for the measure of health I do experience. Our very life and breath are gifts from God. And that naturally brings me to the third reason for my relative silence. It's the Christmas season. Jesus is the absolute best gift we could ever receive. I've been using my bits of energy to prepare for and celebrate this precious season. Merry Christmas to you all (and for those that celebrate Chanukkah, Kwanza or other holidays - a happy holiday to you)!

Someone suggested that I turn my November thankfulness series into an eBook and I'm considering that. I will likely wait until the New Year to investigate further but I thank you for the idea! I love hearing from you all, whether you post here, on my personal or writer Facebook pages or email me at

So, if you have ideas or suggestions I'd love to hear them! I'm especially interested in free places to park photos, pointers on transitioning to a regular website, what you love most about my blog, what I could do to improve it or serve you all better and anything you think might help me with deciding my next steps on this writing path.

May the God of all peace and healing bless you, keep you and be with you dear reader!

Friday, November 30, 2012

New Beginnings: Day 30 of 30 days of Thanksgiving

Image source
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

This month seemed to just fly by and the entire year is drawing to a close soon. But it's not too late for a new beginning! A new month starts tomorrow but every single day, hour, minute, even second is a chance to begin anew. I am so thankful for new beginnings and second chances. In my life, my most important new beginning was becoming a born again Christian. Have you been born again through faith in Jesus Christ? If not, today's the day to become a new creature in Him!

That old phrase, "if your mind can conceive it,  you can achieve it" has a lot of truth to it. I wish you the joy of new beginnings. May God bless you and keep you!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Home: Day 29 of 30 days of Thanksgiving

Image source:
"And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."        Joshua 24:15 (NKJV) 

Today I'm thankful for our home. It's nice to have a comfortable, warm and relatively safe place to live. I'm especially thankful to share my home with my dear husband and two cat friends. Please join me in prayer for those who don't have a home, who are in need of shelter and who are in harm's way. May God bless them and may He bless you, too!


I have no material connection to any of the sources or products mentioned or pictured in this post. However, the owner of Nant's primatives is a family member.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Volunteers: Day 28 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Image source
Today I'm particularly thankful for our world's volunteers. Volunteers make a huge difference every day, saving lives, promoting literacy, providing for basic needs, mentoring and serving their communities in countless other ways. There are many critical programs and services that would not exist without volunteers. According to Volunteering In America, "Volunteers are resolute in their commitment to serving their neighbors and communities, with 62.8 million adults volunteering almost 8.1 billion hours in local and national organizations in 2010, service valued at almost $173 billion."

Have you every volunteered anywhere? If so, I thank you. If you haven't, today's a great time to start! Here's an easy volunteer activity. Write a Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or other holiday card to a wounded warrior. Mail it to:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

May God bless you and multiply the fruits of your selfless labor of love.


Note: Post updated on 11/29/12 with current address for mailing cards to service members.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hugs & Affection: Day 27 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Image by phaewilk
"Greet one another with a kiss of love.
Peace be to you all who are in Christ."
1 Peter 5:14 (NASB)

Today I'm especially thankful for the abundance of affection in my life and visible around me. I'd been debating between three different topics for today's post. Now that the month is drawing to a close it's getting harder to decide. I could have gone with a list but I wanted this month's blog post series to be a spontaneous exercise in joyful thanksgiving.

Here's what decided it for today. As my husband and I were leaving whole foods this young dad spontaneously gave his toddler son a huge hug and kiss. The little boy received it with great joy and it was clear that this was an interaction that happened frequently as his chubby little arms wrapped even tighter around his dad's neck and his happy giggles were flowing freely. I always want to take photos of such wonderful moments but am hesitant to 1) interrupt said moment and 2) ask strangers to take pictures of their kids. If you're a photographer how do you handle this? Anyway, even though I didn't get a photo it warmed my heart and made me think about how blessed I am in the affection department.

I'm so thankful to be married to Ben and that he gives me ample hugs and affection. When I get to see my family, I know we'll exchange lots of hugs and even just the knowledge of that is comforting, even if it's a decade or more between seeing certain people. My PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) friends tend to be great huggers and I know that when I attend I'll be able to cheer others with hugs and enjoy being hugged as well. I hope that your life is filled with hugs, love and affection! If that's not the case I encourage you to find someone who is lonely and open to hugs and give them the blessing of your affection. May God encourage and bless every lonely person and may He bless you and those you love too!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Encouraging Words: Day 26 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Today, I'm focusing on being thankful for encouraging words. Whether written or spoken, they lift my spirit and bring me joy. God's Word, the Bible, is a daily source of encouragement to me and I'm extremely thankful to be able to read it freely and easily access many different translations electronically.

My husband's love notes are a set of encouraging words I treasure them. I'm thankful for his love and our mutual commitment to speak each others' love languages.

Yesterday, a dear friend's encouraging words made a huge positive difference in my mood and almost every day a friend or family member emails, calls or shares something encouraging on Facebook. I'm thankful for all of your encouraging words!

I'm thankful for my dear readers' encouraging words too. Each time you take precious minutes from your day to comment on one of my blog posts is like a big hug and I am honored and thankful for you.

Here is a little haiku poem of thanks to everyone who has encouraged me with their words. You are a blessing to me!

 Your kind words bless me
Encouraging heart and soul
Thank you for your gift

May the God of all peace encourage your heart today and always!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rest: Day 25 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Photo by AuntLaya
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (NASB)

Today, I'm focusing on being thankful for rest, especially for knowing that I can rest all of my cares on God, who cares for you and me and holds the whole world in His mighty hands. I hope you're having a restful and rejuvenating day and pray that God will bless you!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Companion Animals (Pets): Day 24 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Harvest Cat
 "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal." Proverbs 12:10a (NASB)

Today I'm focusing on being thankful for the domestic animals/companion animals (aka pets) that have enriched my life. Right now I have two black "rescue" cats and they are such a blessing to me. This morning my little cat, Baby, rested her head against mine as I was holding her and she purred right into my ear. So sweet! Moose (pictured above), while wearing what appears to be a perpetual scowl, is actually a very sweet cat who lets us put costumes on her, loves to sit on my husband's lap and entertains us with her unique personality.

Halloween Witch Cat
When treated humanely, most companion animals offer such amazing love, acceptance and friendship that it's hard for me to understand how it's possible for so many pets to be euthanized (this morning I read somewhere that it's estimated that 3-4 million shelter pets are killed each year!). If you're thinking about getting a pet I strongly encourage you to consider a shelter or other rescue pet. If you don't have the funds to care for a pet you could still enrich your life and help some kind hearted animals by volunteering at a local shelter. Most can use more volunteers.

Princess cat
My cats are little like dogs in that they greet me at the door, follow me around and appreciate attention all the time (a lot of cats only want affection on their own timeline). We've had fetching cats (so fun!) and even a psychotic cat (poor thing was super sweet when her brain was balanced and we couldn't afford the anti-psychosis medicines she needed so we eventually found her a loving owner who could afford them and he said she was "the best cat ever" once she'd adjusted) but they've all enriched our lives.

Butterfly Cat in Costume
Growing up we had cats and dogs inside and out as well as the occasional sets of chickens and rabbits. Animals were a big and happy part of my childhood. Of all the cats I've ever had, though, my little Baby (current cat) is my favorite. She was feral born and is really only domesticated to me but she loves me as if I were her mama and she brightens every day. May God bless you and your pets!

What do you love most about your pet? What was the best pet you ever had?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Abundance: Day 23 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

Today I'm focusing on appreciating the abundance God has blessed me with. I skipped the traditional Black Friday early morning shopping. I used to do a whole detailed and organized (almost like a military campaign) shopping spree on Black Friday. Yes, it was crowded and crazy, but it was kind of fun and I got some great "deals." But, it seems, the more time I spend being thankful, the less stuff I apparently need, which is great because I'm also on a decluttering and simplifying mission.

I'm blessed with abundant grace (from God, including eternal life, forgiveness of sins, and adoption into His family), love (from my husband, family, friends and cats), food, books, makeup (it's fun!), flowers (fresh and faux; surprisingly, hubby managed to find two fresh roses in our garden today), clothes and more. In addition to being thankful for my abundance, I'm praying for those in need. Please join me in praying for the starving and hungry, the homeless, those without adequate clothing or protection, the lonely and suffering. May God provide for their needs, bless them and may He bless you too!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Everything!: Day 22 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Today I'm thankful for everything. Eternal life, family, friends, love, joy, peace, holidays, harmony, good food, beauty, our cats, an abundance of blessings and this very moment. I pray that you are also filled with thanksgiving on this holiday of gratitude. God is good! Life is good! May God bless you and keep you!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hope: Day 21 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Today I'm thankful for hope. Eternal hope and daily hope in this present life. I have the sure hope of eternity with the Lord; the romantic hope of a true to-death-do-us-part marriage with my beloved husband, Ben; the tenuous hope of better health through excellent nutrition; and the determined hope of living a godly life that encourages and inspires others. This month's daily focus on gratitude has reminded me how very blessed I am and is opening my heart further to the pain and suffering of others. I wish every human being on earth could be filled with hope, peace, love and joy! But that's not to be, at least on this side of heaven. So I rejoice in the Lord, give thanks for my blessings and pray for the suffering.

A dear sister in Christ, MaryLee Heller, shared the following post (pasted below) about hope on her Facebook page this morning and it's been on my heart all day. She's a great example of hope's triumph. If you're feeling hopeless, hang in there! There's truth to the old saying "When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." I'm praying for you! Peace With God has a fantastic website with Christians available 24/7 if you would like to learn more about eternal hope.

If you're feeling suicidal please go immediately to your nearest emergency room, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). People care about you! If you're feeling hopeful, please join me in prayer for those who are suffering, depressed, suicidal and lonely this holiday season. May God lift their spirits, soothe their souls and fill them with hope.

"What I'm thankful for today: I never gave up. I walked thru the pain and yet I never despaired. I can now look forward to a holiday ♥

Most of you know that I was abused when I was young--in every possible way. Did you know that the worst of it happened around holidays? Year after year. Mom was in manic mode before the holiday as she painted and prepped and made and created and shopped. By the time you got up on the holiday you new the other extreme would come as she was let down by unmet, unrealistic, expectations. Dad would celebrate by drinking. The two combined to create pain of all sorts. Even as an adult I would get so anxious over holidays that I would get sick, or even worse... I'd consider the unthinkable ultimate act that I could do to myself to escape it all.


Oh, y'all. If you are hurting thru the holidays, I understand how you feel. I do! You are on my heart and in my prayers. I ache for your pain. I want to hold you. I want to cry *with* you and for you. I am so sorry that you are hurt--whether your hurt is avoidable or not. So, why am I still here? Because though I hurt and I was sad and I grieved, the one thing I never did was despair. I believed. I believed (however little I could believe) that there IS goodness of the Lord in the land of the living & that He just might let me see it. I tell you, now, that there is goodness. It hard to see it right now or feel that hope thru the pain, I know, but please, please, please don't let despair steal that from you. You are loved, my friend. Hold on and believe--however little, just believe ♥

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Ps 27:13" ~ quoted text in dark purple/brown by MaryLee Heller.

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living." Psalm 27:13 (NASB)

May the God of all peace fill you with His eternal hope today and always!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Music and Pleasant Sounds: Day 20 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Image by taliesin
“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalm 95:1-2 NIV

Today I'm focusing on being thankful for music and the beautiful sounds of our world. Music can be used to comfort, energize, uplift, inspire each other and worship God. 

It can be easy to focus on the unpleasantness  around us but life is better when we focus on the good and that includes sound. I encourage you to take a minute today to appreciate the positive sounds in  your life. Here are a few that I've noticed this morning: my husband's voice, hearing the words "I love you", purring cats, beautiful music, a light breeze blowing leaves around, birds singing and calling to one another, laughter, children playing happily together and my brother's voice. I'm sure that the list will grow throughout the day and I'm thankful for each of these blessings of sound. May God bless you!

What are your favorite sounds? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meaningful Work: Day 19 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."            Col. 3:23-24 (NASB)

Today I'm focusing on being thankful for meaningful work. It's my aim to follow the verse above, working as for the Lord, whether facilitating a Bible study, coaching a client or even doing housework. I'm thankful for all of these opportunities. All work is meaningful when done for the Lord.  

Please join me in prayer for the jobless and for those who are unhappy in their jobs. May they find meaningful work that uses their God-given talents and abilities or find a volunteer opportunity to use as an outlet for their heart's desires. May God bless them and may He bless you too!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Bible: Day 18 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Today, I'm focusing on being thankful for the Bible, the inspired word of God. God's word inspires, encourages, teaches and disciplines me. It helps me focus my priorities and grow closer to the Lord. Reading the Bible and praying are my highest priorities each day because loving God is my number one priority in life and these are precious ways to spend time with Him.

Here are a few free Bible related resources for you. Bible Gateway offers free online Bibles in many translations and languages as well as reading plans, devotionals and more. Wesley Mission provides this nice list of inspirational Bible verses for different situations. RBC Ministries provides this free article on why we should read our Bibles.

I'm also thankful to live in a country where I can freely read the Bible, worship and pray. Please join me in prayer for those who are persecuted for their faith, for those who must hide their Bibles or face death or imprisonment and for those who long to have a Bible but don't have the funds or means to obtain one. Let's also pray for those brave Christians who smuggle Bibles into areas of Christian persecution and for the Christian Bible distribution chains. May God bless them, strengthen them, provide for them, encourage them and keep them and may He bless you too.

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 

Related posts:

Note/Disclaimer: I have no material connection with any of the resources mentioned or linked to in this post except as a donor/reader and the opinions are my own. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gardens & Conservatories: Day 17 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

"The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." ~ Isaiah 58: 11 (NIV)

Today, I am thankful for our beautiful gardens and conservatories. My husband took the day off and we went on a fun day trip up to Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania for the second to last day of their annual autumn and thousand bloom chrysanthemum displays. I thought we'd miss out on this year's event so was thrilled to be able to enjoy it today. The above photo shows the official thousand bloom chrysanthemum for 2012 but the photo doesn't do it justice. It's really amazing in person. I'll post some more photos from our trip below.

If you regularly visit my blog you know I love gardens and gardening. We're frequent visitors to the National Arboretum and other local gardens and we enjoy gardening in our own yard too. It's a great way to connect with God's creation and get out in nature. What gardens do you enjoy?

Longwood Gardens' conservatory gardens entrance was lovely. As you can see, it was filled with red lanterns and flanked by neat yellow spiral chrysanthemum topiaries and the official thousand bloom chrysanthemum is visible through the doors in the distance.

Daisy like chrysanthemum topiaries surrounded by lush tropical foliage and giant yellow chrysanthemums line part of the walkway of the old part of the Longwood Gardens conservatory.

The center aisle of the old part of Longwood Gardens' conservatory is flanked with two white spiral chrysanthemum topiaries and a variety of bright yellow chrysanthemums.

I'm not sure what Longwood Gardens calls this section but we think of it as the Greenhouse. There were some neat chrysanthemum and bonsai displays there (bonsai not pictured as they were on the other side of the chrysanthemums).

What are you thankful for today? May the God of all peace bless you and keep you!

If you enjoyed today's post you'll likely enjoy these related thanksgiving posts:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Zoos and a Baby Gazelle: Day 16 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

"Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." Job 12:7-10
Today I'm thankful for our zoos and for the amazing animals within. We live close enough to visit the National Zoo regularly and it's always a joyful experience. Today was our first sighting of their newest baby dama gazelle. According to the zoo's press release, "The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a female dama gazelle calf Sunday, Nov. 2, between 6:45 a.m. and 8 a.m., to 2-year-old female Adara and an unnamed 1-year-old male. The calf weighed 4.6 kilograms (10 pounds) at birth." As you can see in the pictures above and below, she's a cutie.

I am thankful that our zoo works on saving endangered species, rescuing and providing homes for injured animals and educating us about God's amazing creation (even though they don't mention God, His handiwork is evident in everything He's made). I am thankful to have such a fun place to go that both my husband and I enjoy so much that it also serves as a marriage building adventure. I'm thankful for the zoo's breeding program and am hoping to see some baby Sumatran tigers in the next year or so.

Today the cheetah cubs weren't out but we did get to see an adult cheetah, the lions, a tiger, a tentacled snake, a whole bunch of reptiles, a super cute otter huddle, a red panda, two giant pandas, lemurs, American wolves, sea lions and more.

 Here the cute baby gazelle stretches her neck.

 Baby dama gazelle eating hay.

 I took this photo so you could see how small the baby gazelle (on the right) is compared to an adult (on the left).
 Close up photo of the baby dama gazelle. I love how huge her eyes look in this shot.

Relaxing baby gazelle. Happy 2 week birthday, little one!

What are your favorite zoo or wild animals? What is your favorite zoo?

May God bless you!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nature: Day 15 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

Today I'm focusing on being thankful for this beautiful world God has created. I love nature enjoy getting outside whenever possible. Even though today is an overcast, gray-skied day, I had a wonderful walk this morning. First of all, I'm very thankful to have recovered from a recent string of illnesses. While I still need to take it easy and rest more than usual for a while, it's a huge blessing to be able to walk for exercise again. 

Even in my busy suburban neighborhood there were many natural autumn joys to see. I saw a squirrel feasting on an acorn, birds flying, beautiful red, feathery Japanese maple leaves and some late blooming black eyed Susan flowers. 

I like to pray as I walk and getting outside helps me connect more fully with God. Although the skies were overcast, for just a few seconds there was a break in the clouds and the sun shone right on my face. It was like a kiss from the Lord. Beautifully touching and a moment well worth savoring and being thankful for.

What are you thankful for today? What natural beauty surrounds you? May God bless you and keep you, dear friend!