Friday, January 31, 2014

Just For Fun Friday: The Blessings Jar Update Edition

Hey it's FRIDAY! So Just For Fun, (and because it's the last day of my Celebrating Fresh Starts month) I'm sharing an update on our Blessings Jar project:
I'm thinking we are gonna need a bigger jar!

So my guys have embraced this project with me and I am already blessed without reading what's inside...although...do you know how many times I have stood in front of that jar when I'm home alone during the day and contemplated opening it up and reading them? How am I going to make it eleven more months until I get to read what they wrote?

And in full disclosure...I'm guessing at least half of those pieces of paper are mine...

May your 2014 Fresh Starts be greatly blessed as well!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Keeping Up With A 90 Year Old Wonder

Several years ago I had the privilege of sitting next to a very enchanting lady I call Wondrous. We were at a breakfast that was, in part, honoring her husband for work he had completed some 50 years before. She and I had the best conversation over eggs and bacon. She was so lively and entertaining...and I delighted in every minute of our visit.

As we finished up our delicious meal, her face lit up as she dug into her purse.  Much to my surprise, Wondrous pulled out a brand new iPhone. With a giggle in her voice, she announced to me that she had recently purchased this amazing new smartphone. She was super excited because it could do all kinds of extraordinary things and one of the best features was a built in camera!

Then Wondrous jumped up from the table with a sparkle in her eyes as she headed off to take some pictures. I have to admit, I sat there a bit wide eyed and speechless as I watched this 90 year old fireball nearly skip across the room. It was then and there I decided when I grew up...I wanted to be just like her!

Wondrous does not let her age stop her from embracing new ideas and new technology. She most certainly does not let her number of years on this earth get in her way of experiencing life to the fullest. That breakfast was nearly three years ago and I doubt I will ever forget how inspirational she was and how much meeting her changed me.

When I think of all of the changes in technology that Wondrous has had the opportunity to embrace in her lifetime, it really is quite remarkable. She probably remembers when her family installed their first telephone in their home. She has watched cameras shrink to a minuscule size and yet grow immensely in ability over the years. It wouldn't be until her adult years that she would have the opportunity to purchase her first home computer and now as she strolls through her "twilight years" she can carry a tiny little version of a phone/camera/computer in her pocket!

Funny thing is I don't think Wondrous knows she is in her "twilight years" and I really don't think she strolls through anything! No..at 90 years of age, she bought a smartphone and learned how to use it. She doesn't let life move on without her and I don't want to do that either!

So yesterday...in her honor...I added another Fresh New Start to my life. I set up a Twitter account. I know...Twitter has been around for quite a while, but honestly it's something I didn't really "get" and I had little interest in finding out about it.

But then yesterday morning I was reminded of the day I had the pleasure of meeting that fascinating and ageless 90 year old Wonder and I decided to check Twitter out...figure it out...and see if it's something that delights me. If it doesn't...I can always delete my account, but if it does...then I don't want to miss out on the fun.

As I wrap up Celebrating Fresh Starts this month, I look back on the new ideas I have added to my life and I feel good about how I have kicked off 2014. I hope you do too. I hope this month has been a great new Fresh Start for you.

And if...by chance...2014 has not gotten off to a Fresh New Start...then don't despair. The beauty of a Fresh Start is that you can make changes, start over, or add something new whenever you are ready. Maybe for you it will be next month...or next spring...or even next semester.

So for me, January was the month this year that I celebrated Fresh Starts and wrote about them on this blog, but just because I will have something new to celebrate next month, doesn't mean I won't continue to work on the Fresh Starts that I began this month. Nor does it mean that I won't add any new Fresh Starts to my life for the next 11 months. As a matter of fact, I hope each month brings something new and exciting to add to my life.

Just like my darling friend Wondrous, I encourage you to embrace opportunities to add Fresh Starts to your life this year. Don't let life move on without you!

And you know, God gives us the very best Fresh Start we could ever ask for by offering us salvation through his precious son, Jesus Christ. I came across these verses in Psalms just the other day. It's part of a song that David wrote and sang to God after being saved from all of his enemies.

Psalm 18:20-21:
God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
    he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
    I don’t take God for granted.*

Don't you just love those words?
God gave me a Fresh Start and I do not want to take that or God for granted.

P.S. 
*My Kings James Bible version loving Hubby would like me to point out that today's scripture is posted in The Message Bible version. Here's the King James version of Psalm 18:20-21:
The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; 
according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

P.P.S. You can follow me on Twitter @myrosieoutlook

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If You Give A Girl A Pile...

I've been on an organizing and rearranging rampage this month. And I have to say...nothing gives me a better feeling of a new Fresh Start than when I get the house picked up, cleaned up, and organized. After a few hours of working hard, I love that feeling of dusting myself off and sitting down to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

It all started with the Christmas decorations. I love dressing our home up for Christmas. I just delight in the beauty, traditions, and little sparkly lights...but after a month or more...I'm ready to put it away and clean. And as it does most years, it kicked off something in me.

So I packed up all of our precious decorations into large plastic tubs...then wiped, vacuumed, and rearranged the house back into order. Our boys kindly carried all the tubs downstairs for me and then left them "neatly" in a pile at the bottom of the basement steps.

Next I tackled our guest room which becomes Christmas Central during the month of December (unless, of course, we actually have guests during December...but this past Christmas we did not...so this room became my main staging area for storing and wrapping gifts).

I summoned up the courage, headed upstairs, and opened the bedroom door which I had closed the day after Christmas...because who wanted to look at that mess when walking past it to bed each night....

It was still the complete and total disaster area that I remembered. Strewn across the bed were package tags, ribbons, bows, scissors, tape, Christmas gift bags, and a three foot long plastic tub full of wrapping paper. Scattered across the floor were empty shopping bags and boxes, more Christmas gift bags, half used rolls of wrapping paper, and a large plastic tub with even more gift wrapping options. Propped up in one corner was a trash bag full of wrapping and shopping trash. And on the dresser lay gift receipts, clothing tags, and more package tags.

A couple hours later...I could finally see the top of the dresser, the floor, and the bed again. With that task complete, I headed downstairs to relax in the Hug Chair for a bit. As I sat there clicking around on my computer I felt so cold...and I seem to be cold every minute of every day this winter. It was then that I realized part of reason I've been so cold was because the Hug Chair was sitting next to a large picture window and the cold was just seeping right through it!

Prompted by my deep desire to be "less cold", I set about rearranging the living room and moved my Hug Chair to the opposite side of the room next to a heat vent. And yes...this required that I then move every single piece of furniture in the entire room including both sofas and Hubby's "Xtreme-size" throne recliner. (Yes, it's that large...at least it sure seems like it when you are under 5 foot tall with no upper body strength.)  Naturally, moving furniture also instigated a need for dusting and vacuuming...didn't I just do that?

With everything finally in place, I flopped into the Hug Chair and finally relaxed a bit...until Hubby came in and reminded me that there was a pile of Christmas decorations sitting at the bottom of the steps and it was inching it's way into his workshop area of the basement.

That...my friends... led to a full Saturday afternoon of organizing boxes into a corner of our basement...which led to more organizing of other corners of the basement...which ended in two huge boxes of donations for the Salvation Army.
Is anyone else thinking about this book right about now?
Of course while I was going through all our basement items, I came across a few items long forgotten that became a pile stacked on the steps to be carried back upstairs. Once the work in the basement was complete, I headed upstairs with my reunited items and promptly dumped them in a small pile in our front room/office area.

As you might have guessed, this brought me to a new project....in our front room/office area. It was about this time that I was thinking about that Proverbs 31 "Wife of Noble Character".
Verse 17 of that chapter says:
She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

I don't measure up to this gal...but I do try and I was thinking about her yesterday when I found myself standing in the middle of that room surveying the situation. This is our Engineer's main hang out area. He has a desk and computer in one corner with a cabinet and a set of baskets to hold his school books and computer equipment (because evidently seventeen year old boys have a lot of computer accessories... and really...who am I to question that...says the girl that might know a thing or two about accessories...).

Our Engineer is normally an extremely neat person...especially for a teenage boy. But he had let his corner get a bit out of control. And again...I'm not judging him because across from his corner sits my desk area which may or may not have been a bit out of control as well.

So once again, I got busy rearranging, cleaning, sorting, and organizing. Just as I triumphantly completed the task, our Engineer arrived home from school. He quickly deduced what I had been working on...and I heard him utter "oh no." But as he came into the room and I showed him all that I had done...much to my relief...he was actually quite pleased with the Fresh Start I had given him for this new semester of school.

As we near the end of this Fresh New Starts month, I'm glad I took the time to give this home a face lift. It feels good and it was a much needed Fresh Start for our little family. I know I'm not anywhere near meeting the standards of that blessed wife in Proverbs 31...but I'm going to keep trying and maybe someday I'll hear the words of verse 28:
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her.

And you know...I think I came pretty close when Hubby saw how I even organized the plastic shopping bags that we stuff into a plastic drawer in the laundry room...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Not About Me

This blog post idea has been on my Celebrating Fresh Starts list all month. Up until today it's been a "secret goal" of mine for this year. So it is with great reluctance that I share with you that my personal theme for this year is "It's Not About Me".

It is not easy for me to share this because truthfully...I really don't want these words to come back and bite me. Say...next month when someone lovingly reminds me "I thought you said this year it wasn't all about you?" Yeah...announcing what is going on privately in my head to the tens of you who read this blog is a little uncomfortable at times.

But today after sharing this "secret goal" with a friend...I found the confidence to finally write this post. This theme is really two-fold for me.

First, It's Not About Me means that I'm going to try very hard to remember these words each time I just know I'm right...or want my needs met...or think my words are more important to be heard...or want what I'm doing to come first...or what I want to take priority...or where I want to go...or what I want to eat...or...or...or...etc...etc...etc.

I'm not promising I will be great at this goal...or even good...or even truly mediocre with it...but I'm going to give it a very real and honest try.

For this entire year, I'm going to really try to put myself second in the situation. I'm going to try to meet others' needs before my own. I'm going to try to listen to others instead of worrying about getting my say. I'm going to reach out to others instead of wishing someone would think of me.

I am going to give my best effort to focus on those around me and what they might need rather than worry about my "needs" being met.

Secondly, instead of getting my feelings hurt or taking things personally when something or someone "offends" me in whatever way...I'm really going to focus on the words "It's Not About Me" and try to remember that most of the time things that are said or done that might offend me are really most likely not even about me.

I'm going to try to remember to give the "offender" the benefit of the doubt that there might be more going on than I know about at that moment. I'm going to remind myself that maybe they didn't even realize their words or actions would offend me in the first place. Even if it feels like it was "on purpose"...I am still going to take an "It's Not About Me" approach.

You know Paul encouraged this way of thinking in his letter to the Romans. He said in Romans 12:10:
Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first.

I love the idea of this goal being a loving way to honor others.

Even more importantly, Jesus said this in Matthew 7:12:
This is what our Scriptures come to teach: in everything, in every circumstance, do to others as you would have them do to you.

Oh how many times I heard this verse growing up! More than I could tell you, but living it...truly living these words of Jesus are not that easy.

In everything...every circumstance... every? Okay, Jesus. I'm going to give this a serious try.

And really there is even a third element to this theme and it has to do with this blog. Last year this blog and the whole reason I started it was ALL about ME. It was totally for me. I so worried what others thought...I was obsessed with checking the "results" after I posted something. Did anyone read it? Did anyone post a comment on the blog or Facebook? Did I get any likes?

And I was either super excited or disappointed depending on the reaction I got for each and every post. Hubby can attest to how crazed I was about feedback. I SO BADLY wanted feedback...well...good feedback anyway.  Yes, it was totally all about me.

Oh what a difference a year can make. God has really spoken to me about this. He worked on me a lot last year. And now I can step away from that fixation and make these writings more about encouraging others and just letting God guide me in what He wants me to share with you. All glory to God because It's Not About Me!

Paul also wrote in that letter in Romans 12:8:
If you have been given a voice of encouragement, then use it often.

And you know, what a gift to be able to use this blog as a voice of encouragement.

So...there...I've put it out there. I really have no idea how successful I will be with this goal...but it's something God has laid upon my heart. And since I've probably made the last 40+ years all about me...I'm thinking I can truly try to give God one tiny year in this life where it's really truly Not About Me.

This is probably the hardest Fresh Start I have added to my life this year, but I'm thinking if I can pull it off, it will be the most rewarding one I attempt in 2014!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Going For A Five Star Day

As you may recall...I was blessed with the opportunity to be a classroom teacher for five years. I loved it.

One of the adventures of teaching in a classroom is that the teacher has the responsibility of maintaining discipline in a room full of students who happen to outnumber her by 10... 20... maybe even 30 people. It can be a daunting task.

Thankfully, the schools where I taught had a school-wide system already in place for all of the primary and elementary aged students: the Five Star System. It worked remarkably well and was super easy to enforce. A win-win.

The Five Star System basically worked like this:
At the beginning of the school day, each student started the day off with Five Stars. These were not actual stars. They couldn't be held in a hand or used to light the way. No, these stars could not be seen... however, they were very real.

The goal of the Five Star System was for each student to end the day with the same number of stars that they began the day with - five. The students did not want to lose any of their stars...but, of course, it was possible.

If a classroom or school rule was broken...a star would be taken away. I had a little notebook on my desk (that even had a sparkly star on the front of it) where I kept track of the lost stars. Inside that notebook I wrote the name of the student and the reason for losing the star.

At the end of the day, each student would come to my desk with their daily planner. I would check to make sure they listed the work they did that day, and then I would mark on that day's page how many stars the student had at the end of the school day.

I even had a Five Star stamp. It had five outlined stars in a row. I miraculously found this stamp at the craft store Michaels shortly after I began my teaching career.

So I would stamp the student's planners each day with the five star stamp. If they lost a star, I would mark one star out and write next to it what behavior caused the student to lose that star. It was a very sad moment...for most kids anyway. There were a few optimistic ones who cheered the fact that they still had four stars left. But truly...most of my students were pretty destroyed to lose a star.

And things could get a little more dramatic if it was a particularly difficult day and more than one star was lost. Thankfully I had really well behaved students and in my five years of classroom teaching, I only recall a few one-star-days and maybe only one zero-star-day.

But...no matter how rough the day before was, the blessing of the Five Star System was that each school day brought a Fresh Start with five new stars. All the troubles of the previous day were forgotten as the students started off the next day with five stars.

I loved this discipline system. It encouraged and rewarded students for positive behavior. My students responded well to it and worked hard to please me and keep their five stars. They would beam with pride when they got all five stars stamped in their planners at the end of the school day.

It also gave them forgiveness for their transgressions and an opportunity for a Fresh Start the next day. If I had to mark out stars for poor behavior, we would discuss why each star was lost, and my students would routinely offer an apology and show great remorse for breaking a rule and losing a star. It was then that I would remind them that they would have five new stars the next school day and a chance to correct whatever problems had come that day.

Every once in awhile I would offer a little mercy with the Five Star system. A student might break a rule, but was immediately remorseful and quickly asked for forgiveness. If it was a child that I knew was trying hard, I might offer some grace and not take a star. I would use it as a heart-teaching moment. I would talk to the student about how God offers us mercy at times when we don't deserve it, and then I would give them some grace that day and not take a star.

Of course this reminded me of how the Lord deals with us. As His children, we want to please him and do well, but we mess up. We make mistakes and have to go to him for forgiveness. Thankfully, God is in the forgiveness business. He is more than willing to give us a Fresh Start...all we have to do is ask for it.

The Apostle John writes these words about God in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

And more than I'm sure we will ever realize...our Lord offers us an abundance of grace and mercy because He knows our hearts.

In Hebrews 4:14-16, we are reminded that Jesus gave us the greatest grace and mercy when he died on the cross for our sins:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


When I lay my head down tonight, I will spend some time in prayer with God...going over my day with him. It is my heart's desire to end the day with Five Stars from God. Not because I want the "stars", but because I want to please Him in all I do each day.




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seventeen

Yesterday our Engineer turned seventeen years old.

Seventeen.

Let me say that again... Seventeen.

How in the world did my little guy...my youngest...my baby...grow up so fast?

Seriously...seventeen.

Um...yeah...I'm taking it kind of hard.
So is his dad.

Don't get me wrong...we are so very very proud of him. He is maturing and growing up into an awesome young man. He has given us very little trouble in these teen years and we are most grateful. He's an incredible kid.

But seventeen? Ugh.

With one son already almost out the door...far away at college...we are painfully aware of what is coming next.

Yes, we want our boys to learn, grow, mature, and eventually stand on their own two feet. We have raised them with this very goal in mind. I know there will come a day when they will do exactly that and we will be so very proud of them.

And yet...we already mourn that a little too because we really enjoy our boys. We love having them under our roof. We are a great foursome and we truly delight in being together.

The time is screaming by...these precious days are fleeting...and the next season is bearing down on us in an exciting and alarming way.

Birthdays bring a Fresh Start. Especially when you are seventeen years old with all kinds of exciting adventures awaiting you....and...your parents...

This is a sentimental time for us, but also an amazing start down the road to adulthood for our Engineer. We are blessed to be his parents. We are thrilled to be a part of this stage of his life as he works through the final years of childhood and ventures on to the next stage.

You know Psalm 127:3 says it well: Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.

Oh what a rewarding gift from God they truly are!

Seventeen.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Because God Declared It!

I love to be organized. Actually...the truth is more like I love to organize.

I enjoy the process of getting everything in order...I'm just not always as good at keeping things in order.

I love organizational supplies as well: baskets, plastic bends, my label maker, file folders, pink ink pens, paper clips, freshly sharpened pencils, and (one of my favorites) - calendars!

I keep several calendars every year. I have one on my computer that is linked to the one on my phone. Those calendars keep me on schedule wherever I go. They have all our appointments listed as well as all birthdays, holidays, and special events.

I also have a notebook one that I carry back and forth between my desk and the Hug Chair - depending on where I am working. I hand write my daily schedule into that one - including my daily and weekly To Do Lists.

The one hanging on the fridge in the kitchen has all our monthly activities and plans handwritten on it. That one is to help keep the guys informed with our comings and goings.

My aunt gave us a beautiful cloth wall hanging 2014 calendar with all the months printed on it. It was even personalized with our last name and I hung that in our kitchen. It's great when we need to see a whole month or the year at a glance.

Mom gave me a two year pocket calendar that I plan to use to keep track of what I will be doing on this blog. I have mapped out ideas I want to write about for the month on this calendar. I love that it is small and I can carry it with me to jot ideas or thoughts down as I go throughout my day.

I also have a little pink calendar book that I plan to use for a special project I will be working on this year. I'm just starting to fill in some of the pages of that one. It's so pretty and I love the polka-dotted pages inside.

For me, one of the joys of starting a new year is opening a new, blank calendar. It's a great visual reminder of a Fresh Start. Whatever issues, worries, troubles, or sadness marked up the pages of last year's calendar are gone. It's a new year.

As I flip through the pages of upcoming weeks and months...I'm struck with the possibilities and potential of those empty days.

Oh sure, two weeks into the year and I already have appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, a wedding, Bible studies, meetings, the guy's schedules, and reminders filling up some of the squares of the next few months...but as I thumb through the entire year...there is so much unknown for us.

It's exciting to think about the journeys...celebrations...news...friendships...and life changing moments that are to come. I don't yet know all the wonderful adventures that will be marked on these fresh clean pages.

Of course...those with a little less Rosie Outlook on life might also think of the "doom and gloom" that might come with this year. But I'm not. I am not planning on those days. I hope to skip through the sad, bad days quickly and soak up and enjoy all the good this year will bring.

By now you may know this...but my very favorite set of verses from the Bible are found in Jeremiah 29:11-14a:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

I love these words so much. They were written by Jeremiah in a letter to the Jewish elders that King Nebuchadnezzar had sent into exile in Babylon. This letter was such an encouragement to those who had endured the exile, because after seventy years, God was going to return them to their homeland.

As I look over my fresh new 2014 calendars...there is so much I don't know about those blank pages. No, I do not know what this year will bring for my family, friends, or me... But I do know that whatever fills these days ahead, "burdens" or blessings...God is with us just as He was with the Jewish Exiles.

He stayed with them. Even throughout their seventy year exile. God had plans. It took seventy years to complete part of the plan, but God never left them. He knew the plans. And I love that he declared this! And God's plans were good. God's plans gave them hope...a future.

And just like those exiled people, we too can call on God...go to Him in prayer...and He will listen to us. As you look over the blank pages of your calendar for 2014...I encourage you to seek God with all your heart in all you do. Because God assures us that if we do this, we will find Him.

"I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

These words are exactly why I can excitedly flip through my blank calendar and look forward to a great Fresh Start in 2014. If we seek God with all our heart...we have hope and a future.

I know this because God declared it!

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Mission of the Heart: The Prayer Book

Not too long ago, I realized that hardly a day goes by that I don't see or hear about something that I could pray about for others. I see requests on Facebook almost daily. Sometimes they are posted for all to see...sometimes they come to me in a private message. Sometimes the requests are for the person posting, but often they are for someone they know, love, or care about that is going through something difficult. And there are even times when someone shares a story of a complete stranger that is in need of prayer.

Of course Facebook isn't the only source for prayer concerns. I also get email, text messages, phone calls, and the occasional face to face request. However they come, I usually take a moment right then and pray. I don't want to tell someone I will pray and then forget.

As I was thinking about Fresh Starts, I decided I wanted to keep better track of these prayer requests. Some of them are just a one time prayer kind of request, but often they are matters that require ongoing prayer. And again...I don't want to forget these concerns.

So as part of my Fresh Starts focus for January, I started a little Prayer Book. It's not really a journal. I'm not writing out prayers in it. It's more of a list of prayer concerns that come to me each day.

When I decided to add this Prayer Book idea to my life, I knew I already had the perfect book to use. On August 14, 2011 my dear friend Praise Girl gave me this cute little blue book. It is a hard back book filled with empty lined pages.

I remember the night Praise Girl gave me this gift. It was late at night. I was the only one still up. I was packing. I was sad. We were moving. We were leaving our beautiful home in a beautiful town filled with beautiful people we loved.

Praise Girl came by to give me this little book and get one last hug. We sat on the steps and spoke in hushed tones...both of us in disbelief that tomorrow my family would be driving far away to our new home.

I took this lovely gift and put it in a bag that would rest beside my feet in our van during the long journey. Sometime the next day as we drove along dusty roads, I reached into the bag and pulled out the sweet gift and opened it up. The pages inside were crisp...bright...white...blank. 

But there on the inside cover I found these words handwritten by Praise Girl: "My sweet faithful friend... you are embarking on yet another journey.... yet another mission. Through many days and many miles - scenery, culture, and even relationships will change... But, the one true constant and ever firm hope is our God, our Lord, our Jesus Christ. Go with Him. Be filled with Him... He has a mission of the heart for you. Love you!"

Praise Girl's words to me were so comforting. They would sooth my soul many times over the next couple of years as I would pull this little book out and read them again and again. And yet... I left the pages blank. I didn't write in it. I wanted to save the little blue book for something special... but I didn't have any idea what that something special was...until I wanted to do a Prayer Book.

When I decided I wanted to keep a record of the prayer requests that come to me, I went to the shelf where I kept this special little Praise Girl gift. I pulled it down from it's place, opened it, and reread the beautiful words written on the inside. And I knew this was the something special for which this little book had been saved.

At the top of the first page, I wrote Prayer Concerns 2014 and under that I wrote January 1 and listed two prayer request I had received that day. I wrote these down in the book and prayed over each one as I did.

The next day, when I read on Facebook about a friend of mine in need, I wrote January 2 in my book, and listed her name and concern under it. It turns out that was a busy day as I went back to that book and wrote several more requests as they came to me on the second day of January.

We are just a couple of weeks into the new year and I am on the third page in my little Prayer Book. I can already look back and see God blessing the matters over which I have prayed. I'm also reminded to pray for some that have yet to be resolved or are ongoing concerns. 

From the moment that Praise Girl lovingly offered me this little gift... I was touched by her thoughtfulness, her words written inside, and her love for me. I am so glad I saved it until I had just the perfect use for it. I believe this little Prayer Book represents my journey here...it supports my mission to pray faithfully for others, which truly is... in Praise Girl's words...  "a mission of the heart" for me.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Praying It Forward Basket

I have a sweet basket of Christmas cards and letters sitting on my entry desk. I appreciate each and every person who sent us one. I am most thankful for the time it took to shop, purchase (and/or make) the cards, and write the letters. I cherish the photos that came with them. I am grateful for the money that was spent to mail them to us. And the thought...yes, the fact that each of these people thought of our family this Christmas definitely counts with me.

Our Praying It Forward Basket
Getting Christmas cards in the mail is a highlight of the season for me and I truly enjoy each one as I open them and reconnect with the ones who sent them. I treasure this correspondence more than my senders can possibly know.

So that is one of the reasons I have several boxes of Christmas cards tucked away. I save the pictures and many of the letters and the beautiful cards. They mean something to me.

This year as I focused on Fresh Starts, something from long ago came to mind...
One year when I was in elementary school, I remember Mom saving all of the Christmas cards we had received that year and she placed them in a basket by our kitchen table. Then each evening as we sat down to eat supper together, we pulled a card from the basket and prayed for the family that sent it to us.

It was a small gesture...took a few moments...and who knows what a difference it made? That memory stuck with me...and as I thought about the Fresh Starts I wanted to add to this year, I decided I wanted to do that with the cards we received for Christmas last month.

As you probably know by now, I do love finding good ideas and than adding my own twist to them to fit our family. So in true Rosie style...my twist with this idea is to make it an ongoing "Praying It Forward Basket".

As personal cards, letters, or notes of any kind come into our mailbox this year, we will open them, enjoy them, and then place them in the Praying It Forward Basket. Throughout the year I will take some time to reread each one and then pray for the sender throughout that day.

I may not do it every day, but I will read and pray over every item in that basket sometime in 2014. I might even contact the person or people I am praying for that day and ask if they have any special prayer concerns I could lift up to God for them.

I am excited about this idea because it really is a way to honor the time, effort, and even money that was spent to reach out to our little family. It's a way to love someone back...even if they don't know about it. Which reminds me of one of my favorite verses from 1 John.

My loved ones, let us devote ourselves to loving one another. Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God.   ~ 1 John 4:7

So if you send me something in the mail this year...you can expect prayer for you and yours for a whole day in 2014. If you are looking for a Fresh Start to your prayer time or a way to love your friends or relatives this year...maybe you would like to try this idea as well.

It's just a way to love others and Pray it Forward in this new year.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

White As Snow

Early Sunday morning snow began to quietly fall upon us here in the Midwest. By the time Hubby and I awoke we were already blanketed in about six inches of sparkling winter white fluff.

As Hubby gazed out the window, I asked if he thought we could make it to church.  He said he wasn't sure and asked me to get up and peek out to see what I thought. Of course when I saw that our yard, sidewalk, driveway, and the entire road in front of our house was buried in half a foot of snow and my view was blurred by the "blizzard like" curtain that was still raining down around us, I just had to giggle.














We were not going to be able to make it to church. No one on our street was going to be going anywhere anytime soon.

So we pulled on some comfy clothes, and headed downstairs to start cooking up some warm yummy food. As a pleasant aroma wafted from the slowcooker, I pulled a pan of warm brownies from the oven, and treasured the company of my guys in the kitchen with me. Hubby and our Scientist were busy creating a huge batch of guacamole while our Engineer took out the trash and unloaded the dishwasher.

Then we snuggled in for a relaxing day with our boys. We enjoyed some movies, laughed, ate, and watched in wonder as the snow piled higher and higher...all day long. It was beautiful, mesmerizing, and extremely cold!

Later, when the guys bundled up and headed out to shovel snow from our driveway with the hopes that we would be able to venture out in a day or two, I helped find heavy coats, hats, scarves, and gloves for them. With the temperatures well below zero, I certainly wanted them well clothed while they were out working in the bitter wind chill.

Yeah, that was the moment I felt like the amazing Proverbs 31 woman. You know...that part in verse 21 that says: "When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet."

As you may remember I have shared before my love of Non-Weather. It truly could be sunny and warm every day for the rest of my life. But there are those moments...here and there...when I find the beauty in a bit of weather.

Oh I do love the smell after a summer rain. And what about the excitement of spotting a rainbow? Yes, the shimmer of icicles is mesmerizingly pretty. Of course, what is more relaxing than a cool breeze blowing softly through your hair? And although every once in a while I enjoy experiencing one of these beautiful moments in time, there really is one special type of weather that truly calms my soul.

Clearly, nothing can compare to the purity of freshly fallen snow. That moment early in the morning or late at night when the sparkling blanket has yet to be disturbed. Gazing out on a field of untouched snow brings a peace that can't be matched. It's so new and unblemished.

Did you know snow is mentioned in the Bible over 20 times? A few times the Bible refers to it as it actually is (as in the Proverbs verse above), but often the Bible uses the word snow to describe something "as white as snow". Sometimes it refers to a glow, a person, clothes, or appearance. My favorite reference is an offer from God to the Israelites:

Come. Let us talk some more about this matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Even though your sins are bright red,
    they will be as white as snow.
Even though they are deep red,
    they will be white like wool.
But you have to be willing to change and obey me.
    If you are, you will eat the best food that grows on the land.
You must follow me. You must obey me.  
                                                         ~ Isaiah 1:18-20a

I truly believe that God extends that offer to us as well. I love how these verses begin with God wanting to "talk it over". When I read these words I am reminded how much God loves us and wants to chat with us. What a comfort that is!

I also love that God is willing to forgive...to make the most horribly "red" sin "white"...white as snow. And as I can attest to you today...freshly fallen snow is so bright, clean, and pure.
God will take our worst offenses and give us a Fresh Start. The old sin is wiped away as if it never happened and we get to start all over again with a clean white slate. That is just about the best Fresh Start I can think of as I focus on such things this month.

Now...for God to give you this Fresh Start, you do have to be willing to do something for Him as well. You must be willing to change your ways, obey God, and follow Him.

If you are struggling...carrying some old baggage from last year. I just want to encourage you to take Isaiah's words to heart. Accept this amazing offer of a Fresh Start from God. Let him take your dirty old sinful life and make it white as snow.

Allow yourself to experience the wonder and beauty of living your life for Christ.

Maybe it's time to go to the Lord and "talk some more about this matter."


Saturday, January 4, 2014

The "Quick Jot" Journal

Have you ever wanted to start a journal, but then never took the time to do it? Or you started one...but then life got busy...and before you knew it...you had forgotten all about it? Or maybe you did get one going but then it became a chore instead of a fun project?

Over the years, I have had all of those issues...but I have come up with a Fresh Start to journaling I am very excited about. I think maybe...just maybe this one will work. And not only do I think it will work, but it could also become a yearly kind of "never-ending journal".

Ok...I understand that all journals must come to an end at some point...but I do think this is something I can add as a Fresh Start this year that could easily become a regular routine in my life.

So...again...this is my version of someone else's brilliant idea. A friend of mine told me about a "mini journal" project she spotted on Pinterest.

Oh Pinterest...what did we do before you existed?

Anyway...the idea was to make up a recipe box with 365 cards (one for each day of the year). Then on each day you write 2014 and a line or two about that day on the corresponding card. After completing the entire year of cards, you start over by adding 2015 under what you wrote on that day in 2014. The idea is that you can look back on any day and see what you did several years in a row.

I liked this idea...a lot...but I didn't care for the format. The problem is you have to sift through the cards if you want to look back at a special day. Plus those cards aren't very big and are only going to hold a few years. So I took this idea and "Rosied" it a bit just as I did the The Blessings Jar.

To start this project, Hubby picked up a 200 page spiral bound notebook while he was out and about. He choose a very pretty Rosie colored one. I really like it.
I titled my journal:
The Life & Times of a gal named Rosie & her Merry Men. 

Then I wrote January 1 at the top of the first page and wrote a few lines about that day.

We spent January 1st at Dad and Mom's farm. We were blessed with the opportunity to help them a little with a big project. It was a fun day for Hubby, our boys, and me. We ended the day enjoying yummy soup, cookies, and cake that Mom made. She is a great cook and makes the best Chocolate Chip Cookies.

So this is basically what I wrote under 2014 on the first page. Then I skipped a line and wrote 2015 so that page is ready for next year. The next day I wrote January 2 at the top of the back side of that page and continued my journaling.
Yes, I am writing my journal in Rosie pink ink...of course.
It's kind of a theme in my life and it makes me smile.

The reason I like the notebook idea better than using cards is that I can get more years on a page than a card and I also think it will be easier to go back and read through old entries. Once the notebook is filled up, I think it would be easy to just grab another one and continue on for years to come.

Once I get back into routine next week, I plan to keep the notebook by my bed and Quickly Jot down my thoughts from the day right before I go to sleep. It's something I can easily add to my bedtime routine and it should only take a minute or two to do it!

This project brings to mind this verse:
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12

Maybe as I number each day in this journal...and write down the blessings, happenings, and lessons learned through the years to come, I might gain a little wisdom along the way. If so...it will all be worth the few minutes I have taken to add this project to my daily routine.

Here's to a Fresh Start to journaling!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Blessings Jar

I'm not making any real New Year's Resolutions this year. I have in the past...and sometimes I have stuck to them...but most of my New Year's resolutions turned out to be not so resolute. This year instead of resolutions, I'm going to focus on getting Good Fresh Starts in 2014.

The idea is that I am going to add some projects to my regular routine. They aren't really goals or anything I am trying to change. Instead, they are simply Fresh New Starts I am adding to my life. I have several ideas that I plan to incorporate into my routine and I will share them with you throughout the month of January.

The first one I want to tell you about is Our Blessings Jar.

Our family is doing a version of this idea that I found on Pinterest. When I came across the idea of a "Memory Jar"...I pinned it...and then kind of forgot about it like I do with a lot of really neat ideas I find on Pinterest. Thankfully I was clicking around on Pinterest recently and stumbled across this idea again.

So I took the idea of a Memory Jar and Rosied it up a little. In my version, we are using this cute little jar I purchased at World Market in early December. I had planned to use it to hold Christmas candy, but then I never got around to putting candy in it. And then I decided it would be perfect for this fun project!

First, I printed out a little sign, hole punched it, and tied it onto the jar with a pretty gold string. I cut up some scrap paper into little rectangles and placed them in a little basket along with my favorite new gel ink pens in pink and green. I have asked my guys to participate in the Blessings Jar with me and they have all sweetly agreed. (Although...I'm guessing I will be the only one using the pink pen...)

The plan is to fill this Blessings Jar throughout the entire year with memories that have blessed each of us. I have asked my guys that when they add a blessing to the jar, that they include the date and their name. Of course visitors to our home will be welcome to add their blessings to the jar as well. (Did I mention I have a cool new pink gel pen?)

Even though our Scientist will be heading back to school for the Spring Semester soon, he still plans to participate in the Blessings Jar with us. He has promised to call or text me with blessings that I will write down and add to the jar for him.

Then at the end of the year...perhaps on December 31st...we will sit down together, empty out the jar, and read all of the blessings we placed into our Blessings Jar throughout 2014. 

This is something new we have never done before. It is a Fresh Way of looking for the Blessings bestowed on us daily. My hope is this project will heighten our awareness of the big and little gifts God provides for us.

While thinking about all of this...I found this beautiful Psalm that sings about God's blessings...and I love that these verses also encourage celebrating together and praising God.
Psalm 67:1-7 says:
May God pour His grace and blessings into us
    and turn His face to shine His light on us.
So all those on earth will learn to follow Your way
    and see Your saving power come to redeem all nations.
May all people live to praise You, Our True God;
    may all come to praise You.
May all nations celebrate together, singing joy-filled songs of praise to You
    because You judge the people fairly
    and give guidance to all the nations of the earth.
May the people praise You with their whole hearts, O God;
    may every man, woman, and child on the earth praise You.
The land has supplied a bountiful harvest,
    and the True God, our God, has poured out His blessings to us all.
God is the source of our blessings;
    may every corner of the earth respect and revere Him.

How fitting these words are as I Celebrate Fresh Starts this month!

And as we finish up Day 2 of 2014...we already have a couple of Blessings in our Blessings Jar. I think this year is off to a Good Fresh Start!

May God richly bless Your New Year!