When life gives you snow . . . Friday favorites

Our most recent moment of delight. Because when life gives you snow, make mailbox castles.

It’s Friday, so it’s time for the mash up of the best blogs this week. This week, why not focus on fun? But real fun–as in, how do we define it? How do we know it when we see it?  

1–The Actual Pastor offers just plain fun in–delight. Do we pass over it too easily? Especially appropriate for us northerners. (He’s a Minnesotan and, hey, I was one. I can relate.)

2–This blog explains beautifully how maybe we miss the fun because we’ve got it defined all wrong. I love it. I’e done it. And she’s spot on. 

“I looked at my exhausted, dirty children grinning silly and full and I didn’t feel bad at all. Because I realized I had given them something money could’t buy. I had offered them something more valuable than the latest technology or hottest brand. I had given them perspective.”

3–And finally, what do we do with the joy and abundance we possess? Does it have a limit? Are limits a myth when it comes to giving?

“Jesus answers their scarcity question: ‘How can I?” with the abundant question:’Howe much bread do you have?’ Jesus always answers our scarcity question: ‘How can I?’ with the abundant question: ‘How much do you have?‘”

Enjoy your fun, and have a delight-filled weekend. Especially if it snows. Again.

Forgot I promised a cat with these. This one is in his favorite spot. By the heating vent. He’ll fight for this position.

gold medals and spectacular failing

Actual Olympic medals from Vancouver. As close as I’ll ever get.

I turn on my television and watch it about once every two years. I realize this rate of use makes even owning the thing a debatable point; nevertheless, we actually went out and bought a new one (in 2004, I believe) because I wanted to watch the Olympics. They didn’t come in on the TV my dad had left me in 1990. Yes, seriously.

The Olympic Games is pretty much the only thing I find our TV useful for, but for those two weeks, I have meals and mail forwarded to the living room. This gives me plenty of time to muse over deeper meanings of it all, and I found one in the men’s figure skating competition. And no, it has nothing to do with their outfits.

Did you notice something unusual this year? Every single final round athlete in the men’s skating competition this winter fell. Every. One. OK, maybe not the American from Chicago, but he had enough almost-falls to make up for it.

Yet still, three men went home with gold, silver, and bronze, and the world believed they had seen the best skaters alive out there on the ice. Even with all the spills. All the mistakes. All the “could have been betters.”

Which really made me think. None of those men had to do quad jumps. None of them had to push themselves to try impossible tricks and defy whatever had been done before. None of them had to fall. They could have played it safe and gone home unbruised and satisfied that they had done the best they could. But none of them did.

Every one of them pushed it to the next level, tried, fell, and went home as victors anyway. 

And it occurred to me how absolutely beautiful it is that falling on our faces can be a victorious moment.

Real Olympic podium from Vancouver. I wonder who stood on this thing? And how many times she or he fell?
It’s beautiful that, in this arena, failing at a hard thing is rewarded more than playing it safe and succeeding at something too easy.

You get more points for having the guts to whip a quadout there and accidentally touch down with two feet than for doing a double-toe-loop that you could do when you were thirteen. You’re recognized for attempting something challenging when you could have stuck with the safe and easy touch down. I love that. Victory from spectacularly trying and equally spectacularly wiping out. And, of course, getting back up to keep skating anyway.

Olympic Flame
Maybe, it’s the fear that keeps us from trying new things, throwing it all out there on the ice and possibly falling hard, that keeps us from real victory. Maybe we never get that golden moment we long for because so often we would rather do what we know we can do. Spinning in the air is dizzying, and we’d prefer to do a quick hop and call it our best effort.

But it isn’t. Because so long as we never push it one more level up, never find a challenge just a little tougher than the last one, never seek that one risk we are not sure is within us but we need to find out, we are not giving it our best. We’re giving it our OK. Gold medals are never won by OK. (Unless all the other speed skaters wipe out in front of you. Then, well, it happens.)

What do you know you need to stretch to try right now? It’s OK to fall. OK to fail spectacularly. OK to put everything you have out there and mop up the mess. It’s just not OK to never jump at all.

Today’s guest is children’s writer Kimberley Payne. She’ll be telling us about herself, her books, and her newest project. If she likes leopards, she’s my kind of person.
Tell us about the book
My latest project is Adam’s Animals, a children’s activity book that features over 40 animals mentioned in the Bible and little-known facts about each. It is the second book in the Science and Faith Matters series. The first book, Trees of the Book – Learning from God’s Creation, is a colourful introduction to trees, leaves and their corresponding Bible stories.
Whom is this book written for?
Adam’s Animals is ideal for 6 to 9 year olds, for home or school use and classroom sharing in grades 1-3 to supplement the Life Sciences Curriculum on Animal Life.
 What was your inspiration for this book?
Years ago, my daughter wrote a little book called, “Did you know…fascinating and fun facts about animals around the world” as a fundraiser to go to camp. I helped her with it and loved discovering new things about God’s creation.
Do you have a favorite animal and why that one?
I loved learning about the leopard. This big cat can climb trees, run fast, and swim. He’s powerful and smart. My kind of creature!
Did you find anything particularly difficult in writing this book?
There was a ton of research. Not only did I have to dig through the Bible to discover the animals mentioned, but then I had to research each individually to uncover five unusual facts.
What do you hope this book accomplishes?
I hope that Adam’s Animals will fuel the desire for children to read the Bible and also to learn more about the animals that God created.
Where can we find you?
Where can we find the book?
This is the exciting part! The book is still in manuscript form. I am hoping to bring the project to life with the direct support of friends, colleagues, and family.
As the book creator, I have set a funding goal of $3500, with a deadline of February 28th, 2014. If you like my book idea, you can pledge any amount of money to make it happen.
As the book backer, you choose from a number of rewards based on the amount of financial support you pledge. For example, backers who pledge a minimum of $5 will receive a choice of one of two of my e-books: 1) Fit for Faith – 7 weeks to improved spiritual and physical health, OR 2) Women of Strength – a devotional to improve spiritual and physical health. Backers who pledge a minium of $15 will receive an autographed copy of Adam’s Animals. Backers who pledge a minimum of $175 will be listed on the “Dedication” page at the back of the book PLUS will receive an autographed copy of Adam’s Animals.
Short url for easy sharing: http://kck.st/19NBYR6
Here’s an excerpt from “Adam’s Animals”–the entry on the Ant 

Proverbs 6:6 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

See also:  Proverbs 30:25
The wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, wrote the Book of Proverbs – a book of wise sayings to help us live godly lives. In this verse, Solomon points out that it is foolish to be idle and lazy. He says that we should learn from the example of the ant who doesn’t laze around and wait to be told what to do, but is willing to work hard and do what needs to be done.
Did you know?
  • Ants are from the insect family
  • Ants can lift 20 times their body weight
    • Ants have two stomachs – one to hold the food for itself and one to hold food to be shared with other ants
  • There are 3 kinds of ants in a colony: the queen, the female workers, and males
  • Ants communicate by using chemicals called pheromones
  • Ants don’t have ears but they “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground
About the Author
Kimberley Payne is an award-winning self-published writer and a member of The Word Guild, Inscribe Christian Writer’s Fellowship, and John 3:16 Marketing Network. She has volunteered as a teacher with many children’s programs at her church, as a teacher’s aid for student’s reading, and within the library at her children’s school.  Kimberley combines her teaching experience and love of writing to create educational materials for children about family, fitness, science and faith.
Kimberley’s website             http://www.kimberleypayne.com
About the Illustrator
The illustrator, Janis Cox, is an author, watercolour artist, wife, mother and grandma — but most of all she’s a faithful follower of Jesus. She’s been retired from teaching for over 15 years but finds herself back into her passion of working with children. Janis says, “I love painting pictures of animals and it will be a joy to create the illustrations for Kimberley’s new book. Plus working with Kimberley has always been exciting. Her enthusiasm always brings joy to my heart.”
Janis’ website           http://www.janiscox.com/
About the Publisher
Diane Roblin-Lee is the owner of byDesign Media, a custom publishing company which specializes in beautiful layouts and cover designs. With over 30 years in the publishing industry, Diane has written several bestsellers herself and takes pride in being able to help other writers to get their books out to the world. Her tag line, “From Manuscript to Market,” covers the full spectrum of services, from editing and design, to publishing and international distribution. Helping her authors find pleasure and satisfaction in the publishing process is very important to Diane.
Diane’s website       http://www.bydesignmedia.ca/

making friends with not normal

Sometimes, the risk chooses you. I went through a January of Risk Taking, courtesy of my friend, Amy. I hope you were encouraged to risk, as well. But February. Oh February. As if the continuing threat of frostbite if we so much as retrieve the mail was not enough, February brought the risk no woman wants. I did not choose it; it chose me.

Callbacks are great in the theater world. In the medical realm? Not so much. The little postcards in the mail I’ve been getting for ten years that reassured me, “Your mammogram was normal,” have been taken for granted, as reassuring friends often are. Unexpected calls that tell us, “Not so normal” are not friends. Unless we choose to make them so.

There was overwashing fear after test one, cautious optimism after 2 and 3, and there will be verdict, so they say, after 4 and/or 5. That’s a lot of tests for one small boob. Seriously, there isn’t that much there to be sticking needles in.

It’s funny what that overwashing fear can do to a person. Perhaps being a writer comes with a vivid imagination. OK, obviously being a writer comes with a vivid imagination. Duh. But being an introvert who lives in her mind 24/7 can allow that imagination some terrifying free reign it ought not have, probably.

Within the first day I had considered items for a bucket list and taken some things off it which no longer seemed terribly important. I had practically booked my flights for Idaho and Arizona to see my brother and sister. I had decided the last great trip would definitely be New Zealand and no others would be needed. I had figured I would write more and market less because, frankly, the latter seemed kind of superfluous. Bit of a relief, that one, not going to lie.

I had even decided the wig/no wig question. Yes, I would wear a wig. A pink one. And a blue one another day. And . . . the possibilities were endless. All this within the first day? First couple hours, people. I am a fast imaginer. Plus, an innate strategizer. If I’m going to die, I’m going to be ON IT with the planning. (But, I am not going to. So stop worrying. Or divvying up the jewelry.)

In the space of fifteen minutes I could cycle from “It’s just a shadow, not to worry” to “I’m going to fight this and win because I’m a survivor!” to “What will my last words be to my daughter when I die right before her high school graduation in four months, just like my mother did to me?” And back again. I’m not exactly the emotional roller coaster sort, so I was getting kind of motion sick.

At least, between a child’s life-threatening issues and my own kidney transplant, I have ridden this ride before. I’m not blindfolded, and I know the sudden drops and stops and dark, dark places that can be ahead.

I know, too, that the light places are better because of the dark ones. That’s why, after the initial kaleidoscopic imagination frenzy, peace reigns. And, strangely enough, a complete willingness to go through whatever if it’s where He wants to take me. That part of the ride is new. It’s real because of the previous rollicking rides. Rides where I know he held on to me and brought me safely to the end of the coaster even when I wasn’t at all sure it had an end. Even when I felt certain that seat was going to rocket off into the abyss and fall, sickeningly, forever.

He was unfailing.

Unfailing. I marvel that I believe this now with my whole heart and soul. Marvel because that faith is his work, not mine. My whole life is his work, not mine. Some days I want to give it back to him and ask for a redo, and some days I stand back and stare in open-mouthed amazement at what He’s done.

I want to be able to preserve this moment of knowing, knowing in the deepest core of my being, that whatever he does, it is good.

Tomorrow, the craziness might start again. Imaginations are tricky beasts, not prone to listening to the voice of reason. But tomorrow the bedrock will still be there, under the craziness, beneath the temporary fears. I will fall on it. And it will be there. This I know.

best of the week. and a cat.

Here is something i’m going to start trying to do on Fridays–a round up of the best articles I’ve read during the week. Sometimes I’ll do them in categories. (If there’s a category you’d like to see, mention it in comments!) Sometimes they’ll just be random. And maybe a couple videos thrown in here and there. But I hope you enjoy and find something of value to take into your weekend. If there’s one you really like, share it around!


“What would happen if each of us appointed our own panel of authentic and caring reviewers, and then pushed the mute button on the cacophony of other voices reviewing us?” 

This guy has almost always got something good to say about how we learn value and pass it on. Do we let the wrong people review u?


Ain’t that always it: We want clarity — and God gives a call.

We want a road map — and God gives a relationship.

We want answers — and God gives His hand.”

Can’t say how much I loved this. Five words that will change your life? That’s what she promises. That’s what she delivers.

#3–And this? This is the story of my life. Really. This is the battle I’ve fought and still fight. How do we shoot ourselves in the foot by refusing to try hard things?

This fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you “really” are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome. A shocking number of successful people (particularly women), believe that they haven’t really earned their spots, and are at risk of being unmasked as frauds at any moment. Many people deliberately seek out easy tests where they can shine, rather than tackling harder material that isn’t as comfortable.”

#4–Do you have a dream? Do you know why you have a dream? I love how this tells the truth about dreaming instead of pop psych.

“It takes such courage to have a dream. And it takes more to communicate that dream, and even more to take steps to make it happen.”

Have a great weekend!

because everyone loves a good cat pic

laughter, joy, and making poopy soap

The sun is setting on another cold day (who knew?), and I should have written a blog post hours ago. But I didn’t. I didn’t feel like it. Like that excuse would fly in the real world.

Then I remembered the Monday Joy Dare, and I thought, maybe. Maybe that’s just what  need on another cold (though warm relative to the last month of Mondays) day of no motivation. I’ve been playing with the idea of joining in on the Joy Dare for a while, but honestly, time. Just . . . time. One more thing to add, and anyway, I already blogged on Mondays.

Still, today of all Mondays, I need to take some time to discover joy. To be grateful. To drop kick thoughts of anything other than joy in my Savior and the abundant life he’s given me for no good reason except that he loves me, also for no good reason that I can come up with. Theologically or personally. Some things as huge as grace defy our tiny clinical reasons.

Just take my word for it–I need this today. Maybe you do, too.

The Joy Dare asks people to count their blessings, basically. Then chronicle them, because, hey, we all know no one will ever remember what she thought of five minutes later if it isn’t written down. Let alone five weeks later when we really need something to be grateful for to get us through. Thus, chronicling. In any way you like.

Its funny, because before I saw this dare, this is the assignment I gave my friend Wally. Write down three things you’re grateful for every day. He texts them to me. And no matter how little you think you have to be thankful for, let me tell you, Wally probably has you beat. When I told him to do this, he was fresh out of prison with nothing to his name, homeless, jobless, and facing threats to toss him back in because he had no permanent address. Hard to have one when you have no way to pay the rent. Did I mention all the blizzards they’ve been having on the Northeast?

See, I knew that if Wally could find three things every day now, at his worst, he could find them anytime. I also knew that doing it would make him look for, and FIND, three things. It’s magic, I tell you.

Right now, I need three things. So today’s joy prompt is “Three times you laughed today.” I can’t remember the details of why I may have laughed today. (See? That’s why we write things down. I told you.) But I know they most likely had something to do with my kids. They are excellent laugh-creators. So my laughter is tied to them, and that is good.

I laughed making soap with my oldest last night. She invited me to share in her passion for what she loves to do. Instead of huddling in a reading a book, which I had planned, I made soap. I definitely remember laughing when we both realized it was going to turn out reminiscent of the color of pooh, and I made her promise it would not color my face. “It won’t. I promise. It shouldn’t.”

It’s beautiful soap. I won’t remember the book later, even after I finish it. But I’ll remember that hour of soap making. It was worth a laugh of enjoyment.

I laughed when our middle child came in with her whirlwind trademark style, looking for food, picking up mail, and offering up love. In the midst of the whirlwind, she stopped to try to explain to her California-raised roommate that licking an icicle just meant it melted, not that it stuck to your tongue a la Christmas Story flag poles. I definitely laughed.

She isn’t just here for the food. I’m blessed to know that. It’s worth a laugh of joy.

I laughed when youngest tried to explain to our exchange student why American Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about boyfriends and girlfriends but can just be about love. Some things don’t translate well. But I am blessed that she knows her value doesn’t come from being loved by a boy. And I’m doubly blessed that she’s got the courage and the spirit to open her home and status as the only child left to a stranger from another country who has become dear to us all.

The sheer joy of knowing a kid I gave birth to, with all my flaws and fears, could be that adventurous and giving is worth a laugh of amazement.

Have you laughed today? Have you felt plain, unadulterated joy and the healing force it is? Have you been grateful? It’s the key. Look around, Find your things. Take the joy dare even. You don’t have anything to lose, and you could gain a good dose of joy.

let’s go bravado something

On Thursdays in January, you were hearing a lot from me about RiskRejection, the group of fearful, quivering women who joined forces and said, “Eh, not so much. Quivering is overrated. Let’s do this risk thing!” And we did. In ways major and minor, we planned, risked (not always in that order), and bravadoed (yes, that is a word. As of now) our way through risk and fear. These women inspired me. I am excited to have a seat in the arena to watch their futures.

Soooo–move here? Would someone PLEASE suggest this?

But as the month ended, I figured, why does a good thing have to end? Why not keep it up? Why not keep finding a risk to take every week ad write about it? 

Problem being–I am not an endless fount of risk-taking ideas. I will run dry. I will start to resort to things like, “quit my job and move to Vancouver Island” because I lack creativity. And because I would really love to move to Vancouver Island.

So, I am enrolling you as my official risk-taking suggestion box. (Though you are not a box. Nor do you resemble one. That would just be . . . odd.) What risks would you suggest I take in coming weeks? What risks do YOU want to take but haven’t been able to make yourself engage in? I would really, really love to hear what dreams you have and what your fears are about them. We can encourage one another here.

But right now, offer suggestions, with these caveats:

  • I won’t risk my life and limb, nor those of anyone else, even on the days it is tempting. This rules out skydiving and snake handling.
  • I won’t do anything outside of my moral boundaries. (I fully believe it is immoral to embarrass myself. I’m sure I can find it in the Bible. Or . . . not.) 
  • I will operate under the exercise of free will. So there will be no accusations of chickening out if I don’t use your suggestion. Even if they may or may not be true.

The point is to continue to take risks with a purpose. I would love to invite you on that journey–as a risk suggester or a fellow risk taker. Join in.

gauchos, Gidget, and how does one play knick-knack?

We take time out today for some complete silliness. Not really. When I wrote this, it was serious. As serious as I get, anyway. I wrote the list below shortly before my kidney transplant, almost seven years ago. It was the same disease that killed my mother at the age of fifty. 

Through dissecting much of my approach to that day, I realized something. I realized I’d never really made bucket lists and retirement plans and all those other things sensible people do because I hadn’t made any firm plans to get to that age. 

So, this is the “list” I made seven years ago that I decided I would live long enough to accomplish. That #6? Still in progress. But, on the other hand, I have ziplined and crossed suspension bridges. That should count for a lot.

Wait, who’s the crazy one here?

I planto live long enough to:

  1. Laugh when my children’s children are teenagers.
  2. Go trick-or-treating with my grandkids and argue over who gets the Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. (Yes, I will dress up.)
  3. See gauchos go out of style for good.
  4. See the Northern Lights.
  5. Never hear the words Britney Spears or Paris Hilton in conversation. Nor any children that they have or may have in the future. (Those names might change for today’s news. Any suggestions?)
  6. Ride a roller coaster.
  7. See Gidget come back as a popular baby name. (Have you ever actually met anyone outside a sitcom named Gidget?)
  8. Tell my grandkids about walking to school, every day, uphill, with wild animals all around me. (It was across a field, and the wild animals were garter snakes. But still. One did slither across my foot.)
  9. Rescue one child from hunger, abuse, or fear.
  10. Sing along with the elevator music. Loudly.
  11. Find out just how one “plays knick knack.” (I’ll ask my husband. He’ll be an old man then. He should know.)
  12. Say “I love you” t least 31,015 times. 
  13. Take a road trip to nowhere.
  14. Elect a female president I actually want to vote for.
  15. Be a crazy cat lady.
What would you put on a list of things you planned to accomplish before you die? 

What are you waiting for?

I think I’ll go find an elevator.