Finding Joy During Uncertainty

It’s been a while since I have posted. I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks, but kept encountering interruptions, or starting over to find the right words, and still just setting it aside to work on later. Sometimes I’m not the best at multi-tasking. I have been in a routing of focusing on what needs to be done first, which often results in me neglecting my blog that I enjoy so much. Life has been very different since the outbreak of COVID. We’ve encountered many changes along the away and have had to learn to adapt, and in some cases still adapting as it seems every day brings about new changes and a new, or resurrected sense of uncertainty. I, like many of you, have gone through a roller coaster of emotions with the changes and devastation that have occurred in our world within the last year. My emotions ran amuck from fear and worry to joy, and so the cycle continued for weeks that turned into the months. However, all change that has occurred in my life hasn’t been a fearful change, or a change that came with a dread. No, life is not perfect, nor will it ever be. But, change can bring a freshness, personal growth, and also time to rise up to the challenges, goals, or tasks that we’ve put on the back burner far to long ago. It’s time to find beauty in the ashes!

A peaceful time of prayer while admiring God’s creation.

The way we socialize, shop, worship, educate, vacation, and even dine out have all encountered changes in one way or another. However, I was reminded several months ago of the words given to me by a previous boss. Things were continually changing with the district where I taught, and if you are an educator, parent of school-aged children, or work in the public school system, you know about change. He simply stated, “change is good.” He further explained that we could take what felt like an uncomfortable change, a scary journey, or a dread and turn it to our good, and to our student’s good. Shame on me! I had neglected the wise words from a long-time friend from many years ago. Why had I not used those same words and applied them to our situation today. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that this wicked virus is good by any means. But, what I am saying is that with all of the changes we’ve encountered…also came time. Time, that I seemed to lack when life was rushing by so quickly. It was time to rediscover and renew my prayer life, my creativity, bring a sense of newness to my classes, encourage and bring hope to our students, and bring hope to our family.

These changes would occur one day at a time, overcoming one obstacle at time, living in the day and being thankful for the time that I have. I would not waste time sitting and worrying, wondering about what the future held, when would all the sickness end, or when life would get back to normal? Key word here is, life. I was reminded that I was allowing life to slip away, right before my very eyes. Think about it, for those old enough, it seems we turn around and twenty years of our lives have vanished. We’re left asking ourselves questions such as; What did we do with those twenty years? Were they spent feeling sorry for ourselves, living in constant fear, complaining, spending far too much time on social media, which by the way will deplete our joy, if we allow it to. Or were days, months, and or years spent doing things that we love to do? Were we spending time bettering ourselves through meditation, prayer, reading, breathing the precious air that we have been gifted, spending time with family, or cherishing the life that we have been given?

Through this journey of change, I was also reminded wise words of my pastor’s wife shared. During one of the most difficult times in her life as she battled for her very life of having diverse diseases the doctors thought would take her life, she had a profound encounter with the Lord. While feeling down and or discouraged one day, she felt the Lord express the following question; are you going to sit there and die or get up and live? I have pondered this question many times since then, and actually asked it of myself, and asked others who were going through a rough time. Some might find it hard to believe that the Lord actually speaks to us, but let me say my friends that the Lord has a way of reaching us through His word, in our thoughts, a gentle breeze, kind words of others, in the lyrics of a song, in dreams and in many other individualized ways. It’s about believing and being willing to receive what He has for us that is so very important. It’s what we do with what He says, whether it be directly from Him in a still small voice, a prophetic word, that gentle breeze that stirs when we need reassuring, or from a bold statement such as my pastor’s wife and friend encountered. Fast forward, my pastor’s wife was healed over twenty years ago, and today is one of the busiest women that I know. But, she’s not too busy to neglect her duties as a pastor’s wife, a friend, a mother, grandmother, her career, and her sincerity as a prayer warrior.

Be strong, be bold, be steadfast, and together we’ll brave the storm.

She has shared those wise words with our church and myself often. In the early fall I was reminded of those words just when I was tired of being down-trodden, tired of living in fear, tired of doom and gloom, tired of negativity everywhere I turned, tired of feeling isolated, tired of politics, tired of what seemed like endless changes, tired of so much sickness, and simply tired of being tired. Her words resonated with me one morning as I sat quietly pondering the events that lay ahead of me. I was now teaching full time at home, advising from home, shopping from home, and doing almost everything from home. I needed a positive change. Was I going to sit here and die or was I going to get up and live. I whispered a quiet thank you Lord, for the gentle reminder that I wanted to get up, I wanted to live and make the most of the day that I had been given. I began to count my blessings. I counted the smallest and largest blessings. I found it difficult to count them all. I felt inspired to write them down. Anyone that knows me, knows I have a passion for journals. Quickly, I found just the right journal from among the many blank journals that I had stowed away in my office. I would make a gratitude journal. The pages were filling quickly, my load seemed lighter, and I felt a sense of control and positivity returning. I found that by writing and recording my blessing daily, it was more therapeutic, it was real, it was a reminder of the blessings that were being overlooked and shelved like a competed novel. This was an area that needed to be revisited daily, relived, and an area that needed to be a focus of a dark time in our world. There is light in the midst of the storm, there is hope, there is joy during the crying, there is God and He did not deserve to be shelved. Rereading the Bible daily became a time of joy, a time of learning, re-learning, and a time of connections. Seeking out new inspirational books to read, books that were filled with joy, hope, happiness, and testimonies of triumph became beneficial and an inspiration that I have been able to share with others. Making time to pray, meditate, and sometimes just sit quietly and reflect on the goodness that surrounded me, rather than watching the news, or browsing social media, became an even larger part of my daily routine, and one that I found myself looking more forward to every day. It was time to get up and take back what seemed to slowly be fading from my view. I was reminded that as long as we have breath, we have hope, and without hope we can’t have faith, and faith is what moves what feels like mountains. Faith will sustain us and help us overcome.

For me, preserving and finding and making time to do what I loved, to write, cook, create, spend time outside, read, prayer time, socialize, even if it’s by phone, or zoom, care for others who may be hurting, and simply counting daily blessings, brought joy during the times of uncertainty. No, life is not perfect, yes, changes are still occurring, and yes the virus is real. We have family and friends who have suffered the cold and vicious symptoms, some still battling the side-effects, and others who have lost their lives to this horrible disease. But, through it all we have had family who have overcome and won the battle with the virus, who have lived to help others, and who have become stronger in their faith as a result. We must find a positive in the negative and remember that change is good. The change that I have encountered through it all is a closer relationship with our savior and a new appreciation for the simple things that are too often taken for granted. I have learned to step back and count my blessings and recount them. I have learned to make time when we often say we don’t have time. I have decided to live by the wise words given to my pastor’s wife, I choose to get up and live rather than sit down and die physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Life is precious. I choose to make the most of it every day, even through the changes of uncertainty. Remember, no one can rob you of your joy. Happiness is a daily choice. I choose to dance in the rain, and find beauty in the ashes.

I’ll leave you with two book suggestions.

Love is Real written by Adam Reid. This is a book that will forever change your mindset and your life. Also, When Women Pray, by TD Jakes. This is a book that allows you to connect to the lives of prayer warriors in the bible, grow spiritually, learn how to persevere, and how to get up and keep living, even when life is hard and uncertain. Both books have made a profound impact on my life and helped intensify the desire to get up and live even more than before.

God bless each of you! As always, thank you for stopping by my blog. Feel free to leave comments or feedback. I love to hear from my readers. FYI…upcoming is a new recipe that I have been working to perfect. My family has enjoyed it thus far. If you love lemon, you’ll enjoy my new lemon trifle. I hope to post the recipe soon.

Divine Appointments

With clouds hanging low in the sky this morning and the peaceful sounds of the dove cooing, and echoing over awakening mountains…I find myself in a melancholy kind of mood. I’m not sure, but I think several events that occurred in the past two weeks have helped me to arrive at this level of emotions this morning. Yes, it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. Not that it’s been a particularly sad, unhappy, or over zealous events, but nevertheless weeks of events that others might find to be insignificant or may not give any thought to all. I don’t know, maybe I think too deeply, or maybe I react differently than some. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been accused of, “reading too much” into things. Maybe, it’s the poet within me that ignites my senses. Maybe…I am an over-thinker, maybe I over react, or maybe…I am becoming more receptive of what the Lord is trying to impress upon me or instill within me. Nevertheless, I think I’ll enjoy the mix of emotions that fill my cup this morning.

chickens

To say the last couple of weeks were busy is an understatement. My daily planner has been overflowing with appointments. Urgent appointments to work on taxes as the deadline swiftly approaches. Scheduled appointments with advisees worrying about their upcoming schedules and anticipated graduation dates, appointments with colleagues to discuss students, curriculum, and more, appointments with students who desire to enter the Education Program, and the most important appointments of all…the ultimate appointed daily time of prayer with our Lord, Jesus Christ. Over time, I have found that keeping this daily appointment helps make all of the other appointments more meaningful, purposeful, and cohesive. And then there’s those divine appointments that often seem to spring up from know where! Or do they? Was it a by chance meeting? Did I just happen to be in the right place at the right time? Was I supposed to be there? What do you think? Were those divine appointments predestined, or were they by chance?

Over the past few years I have come to believe and have arrived at the decision that time is precious. Time is one thing that we cannot get back. With time, there are no do-overs! Thus, we must make the most of every precious moment that we are blessed with. I have arrived at another conclusion through various moments and gentle reminders within my spirit that it’s not about me, or us. It’s about helping others, being a positive beacon in the dark times that others might be enduring, it’s about Him, and about living a happy and appreciative life so there are no regrets. This has led me to the belief that all meetings/appointments whether they are planned or unexpected, in a professional setting, or if it’s in the checkout line at the grocery store can be a positive experience, thus, divine appointments.

So, how do I define divine appointments? Divine appointments do not have a criteria per say. Divine appointments can be the student whom I speak with that is struggling to pass a very important test. A divine appointment can be a friend who needs to be encouraged. A divine appointment can be the lady behind you in the checkout lane who is struggling with finances, or the loss of a loved one. A divine appointment can be simply the stranger that you meet in the frozen food aisle who is in search of a friendly face or a smile. A divine appointment can be that someone you meet who is unsure of the world around them. A divine appointment can be an elderly parent who needs to be reassured that their life was purposeful and that they did a great job raising their children. A divine appointment can be a colleague who needs a simple pat on the back or a hug. A divine appointment can be the young lady who has checked out thousands of dollars of groceries to bitter impatient customers and would like to have a kind word. A divine appointment can even be the person who is trying to pull into traffic, but others have left unnoticed. Divine appointments have been defined with a variety of definitions by many people over the years. However, my definition of divine appointments is simply an opportune meeting with another, whether it is scheduled or by chance, that allows you spread cheer, love, joy, kindness, a positive attitude, while also showing the love of God.

As a professor, I am continually encouraging my students to reflect on their week. So, as I enjoy the taste of my favorite coffee this morning, the sounds of the mountains coming alive, the purposeful crowing of our roosters, the soft snoring of my canine friend, Freckles, who is napping by my feet, and a little “me” time…I find myself following my own advice by reflecting over the past two weeks, while also thinking about the divine appointments that I have had, and whispering a prayer for those whom I have had the pleasure of encountering through those divine appointments, and also counting my blessings. I find myself questioning my self as well. Have I truly enjoyed the time that I have been blessed with and what more can I do for others? With reflections of days gone by and visions of the days ahead of me…I feel excited, inspired, and look forward to the moments and days and opportunities that lay ahead of me, as well as the divine appointments that await me.

From the mountains of Kentucky…be blessed and enjoy the divine appointments that you encounter. Feel free to leave comments as I enjoy hearing from each of you.

Counting My Blessings…

There is one thing that is certain…life is uncertain. Every day is filled with surprises, some are welcomed while others are not. But through the years I have learned to take life one day at a time. I have learned not to dwell on the past as we no longer live there. I have learned to not depend on the future as we never know our day of departure from this life. However, I have found that reflecting, not dwelling on the past, is a healthy practice to achieve peace and contentment. I have also found that setting goals, but not solely relying on those goals, but working one day at a time to achieve them has brought me much happiness, and I wasn’t devastated when I had to veer off the path occasionally.

image

Enjoying the morning reflecting on the past…briefly visiting plans for the future.

Saturday mornings are usually a time of rest, relaxation, and reflection for me. These are mornings that I enjoy a cup of coffee, the sounds of our small farm waking up. Roosters crowing their good mornings from their roost, the puppies barking from the puppy pen, and the rain softly tapping on the windows. This particular morning I am enjoying the beginning of Christmas break. Our tree is up and decorated, shopping is finished, packages are wrapped, and the turkey and ham await our dinner in the freezer. Christmas break isn’t just loved and appreciated by the students at UC, but also loved and appreciated by the professors and all of the staff and administration as well. Christmas break allow us time to rest, relax, reflect, plan, prepare, and above all to enjoy time with our families.

With the days of a busy semester behind me and plans for the upcoming semester hovering above me…I find myself this morning counting my blessings. Yes, it’s been a busy semester. Yes, it came with challenges and yes, I learned much from life’s experiences, as well as from colleagues and students. No, life hasn’t been perfect. It’s been anything but perfect. However, as I think about others who are facing so much heartache from the loss of their loved ones, sickness’ that are ravaging their bodies, traumatic stress from  horrible addictions of their loved ones, loss, failure, and much more…I, although not living in a perfect world, am blessed.

Our immediate family hasn’t suffered the loss of an immediate loved one during the year 2016, we have homes to protect us and house our families, we have food to feed and nourish our bodies, we have clothes and shoes to protect us from the elements, jobs that provide for our families, churches where we worship freely, and the saving grace of God that fills our hearts. Our family also gained a new addition this year. We greeted and welcomed our fifth grandchild into our family.

Was life perfect? No, it was anything but perfect. There were stressful days, hurtful days, heartache, loss, sleepless nights, hard work, sadness, anger, and many other realities real emotions that visit everyone. However, I have learned over the years to take each day one day at a time, live each to its fullest as these are days that we will never be able to live again, pray hard, learn from the experience(s), move forward, get up when we get knocked down, be thankful for what we have, and expect better days ahead. So, as I enjoy the warmth of the fire in the fireplace I find myself reflecting on the past and briefly revisiting plans for the future…I find myself being thankful for past days, weeks, months, and years, and the experiences that each provided, whether they were happy, sad, good or bad…each of them has helped to mold me into who I am today.

I hope you’ve enjoyed browsing my memories and sharing one of my special days. Please, feel free to leave your comments and visit again. If you enjoy healthy delicious sweet snacks, feel free to check out Random Acts of Kindness & Clean Almond Joy Bites… for a delicious holiday, or any day treat. Merry Christmas and God bless from our house to yours.  image

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Driving to work this morning was such an awesome experience! It was the same stretch of road that I have traveled for years! But, this morning God’s beauty and grace seemed so very evident, as was the beginning days of fall. I always dread saying good-bye to summer, but eager to welcome fall. I think I enjoy events, colors, activities, food, and the wardrobe that comes with fall more than other seasons. Okay, secret’s out…I love wearing sweaters and turtle necks! I also love baking in the fall!

God's beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

God’s beauty abounds in the mountains of Kentucky.

Even though it’s not technically fall I baked one of my favorite breads Saturday Morning. I baked it for our ladies meeting at church, and it quickly became a favorite among many of the ladies as well. Most of them were surprised when I told them it was clean. Several didn’t know what I was referring to when I said clean, so it started a nice conversation about clean eating while we enjoyed a variety of dishes.

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

For this recipe you’ll need the following ingredients;

1 tablespoon of fresh ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of fresh ground ginger
1 pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 and 1/2 cups 100% Whole grain/flour

Fresh ground cinnamon is delicious

Fresh ground cinnamon is delicious

1/3 cup raw honey (the honey and molasses replace brown sugar)
1 and 1/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup agave nectar (the agave nectar replaces white sugar. I have also used stevia as well.)
1/2 cup almond milk
2 fresh organic eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (the yogurt and applesauce replace the butter)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large apple of your choice diced (I like larger chunks, but that’s a personal preference)
1/2 cup of walnuts roughly chopped

Agave nectar is a great way to sweeten any drink or dish!

Agave nectar is a great way to sweeten any drink or dish!

Almond milk is a great source of calcium

Almond milk is a great source of calcium

I love having fresh farm eggs that I know are truly organic.

I love having fresh farm eggs that I know are truly organic.

1.) Whip eggs with a wire whisk and through a strainer into mixing bowl.

2.) Add and mix wet ingredients one at a time.

3.) Sift flour through a sifter, or a wire strainer to promote a smooth texture.

4.) Incorporate dry ingredients, spices, and lastly add the diced apples. I like to add the apples last to prevent bruising while mixing the ingredients.

I like larger chunks of apples in my bread.

I like larger chunks of apples in my bread.

5.) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

6.) Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. (I like to use organic coconut spray)

7.) Pour batter into the sprayed loaf pan, sprinkle rough chopped walnuts, and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. (You can increase the amount of nuts and incorporate them in the batter as well.) Oven temperatures may vary, so baking time may vary.

8.) You will know your bread is done when the sides pull away from the pan, and the bread is brown. You may also use a toothpick to test. Insert a toothpick in the center of the loaf, if it comes out clean your bread is ready!

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

Clean Apple Ginger Bread

This is a recipe that my family enjoys for breakfast, lunch, warm, cold, for dessert, or just as a snack! It will make you feel like you’re cheating, but you’re not! I truly love eating a slice of this delicious bread warm with frozen vanilla yogurt, and a cup of hot coffee. I’m excited to hear how you enjoy eating this deliciously clean treat! If you enjoyed this recipe, be sure to check out my post for Almond Fruit Dip! I’m excited to bring you more fall favorites including; My Pumpkin Passion Smoothie, Pumpkin Apple Bread, zucchini Bread, all of which are clean and delicious! Thank you for taking time to read about my journey through clean eating! Feel free to leave comments. I love to hear from you!