Friday, January 16, 2015

Warm Up Your Winter

This hyacinth bulb warms my desk.
(It was only $2 at Aldi!)
I was born in March, when everything is bright and colorful and new. For that reason, I think, the dark and dreary and dead of winter just go against my instincts. In the past, winter has often turned me into quite the bear--grumpy and lethargic, wishing for spring. But lately, I've learned a few tricks to make it through. Maybe they'll help you too.

1. Buy winter clothes you love. Hubby, the outdoorsman, is always telling me to "just dress warmly," which may seem like common sense to everyone else. But I confess: I hate bulky coats and maiming mittens and hair-messing hats, and often I run out of the house without them. While this may seem like a no-brainer, I'm hoping that I'm not the only one who needs this reminder.

We can easily and practically combat the cold by buying colorful cold-weather accessories--gloves that fit well, a cute scarf, and a snug, fun coat. And then, of course, you have to wear them. I keep my gloves in my coat pockets so I don't have to think about them and my scarf on the hanger with my coat. Everything's there, easy to grab. You'll look fabulous on the outside--which will no doubt lift your spirits--and be toasty on the inside too.

2. Sit by the fire. Three years ago, we moved into a house with a fireplace, and it has made all the difference. When I'm bone cold, there's nothing like a wood-burning fire to warm me through. Don't have a fireplace? Find one! (Seriously. I've done it.) Does your coffee shop have one? What about a hotel lobby or restaurant? Go order a cup of something warm and relax. Even if it's just the fireplace video on YouTube, turn it on. You'll be amazed at how a fire warms you, both physically and emotionally.

3. Grow something. Something green brings a little life to the dead of winter. When all of those paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs go on Christmas clearance, buy one (or three). Place it on your desk or kitchen table where you can soak up the green and revel in its growth. I can't wait until the hyacinth on my desk fills my office with the fresh scent of spring. 

4. Citrus up! Hubby's grandparents send oranges and grapefruits every Christmas, forcing me (thankfully) to partake in the benefits of citrus fruits each winter. The high doses of vitamin C not only protect you from those winter colds and flus, but they contain lots of fiber, promote healthy vision, and have other benefits that will last you well beyond the chill of winter. And it seems that the lasting aroma of a freshly peeled orange has its benefits as well. 

5. Step into the light. More than anything, it's the gray of winter that gets me. But I've found that something as simple as keeping the blinds open in my office can make a difference. Be aware of the amount of natural and artificial light that you're getting each day. Natural light is the best. This article notes that "an hour's walk in winter sunlight was as effective as 2 1/2 hours of artificial light." So on those warmer winter days, bundle up and take a walk. If you're needing more of a jolt, you may even want to try light therapy.(Harvard Health recommends 10,000 lux to be effective.)

6. Keep hot drinks handy. Hot cocoa warms my soul. And for that reason, I have a jar of homemade cocoa mix sitting on my kitchen counter. Starting in October, we keep a jug of apple cider in the fridge, ready to be poured in the kettle and infused with cinnamon sticks. Hot tea, coffee--whatever warms you up--keep it stocked and on the counter for convenience. It'll warm your hands and your heart.

7. Read a book. Fill that extra indoor time with brain-stimulating activities, like reading, crosswords, board games, or Sudoku. It'll keep your brain active and happy all winter long. Plus, that book can take you to a faraway place, where the sun is shining, waves are crashing, and the smell of coconut oil fills the air. 

Just remember, after December 21, the days only get longer. But in the meantime, keep your inner bear at bay by warming up your winter. Your loved ones will thank you for it!

What do you do to brighten the winter days?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Planting Seeds

The first Seeds that we bought--
now completely committed to memory.
As our children grow, trillions of little seeds are planted in their minds. Loved ones teach them and correct them and applaud them. Books, music, and other media can do the same. These seeds can bloom into beautiful creations or destroy like weeds on Miracle-Gro. 

So when this mama came across a charming little CD called Seeds of Praise, it was love at first sight. The little stick man design and earthy colors were enough to make me pick it up. And when I did, I discovered that for the price of one CD, you actually get two full CDs and sleeves. It wasn't a promo--they were all that way. There was one CD for you to keep and one for you to give away. 

Who does that?! 

I'll tell ya: people who are passionate about the seeds they're planting.

When we got home, I put it into my son's CD player while he was in his room, and a few minutes later, the sweetest sound emerged: he was singing along. It's pure Scripture set to music--music that you will actually enjoy listening to (even on long car rides), words that you will end up singing yourself, seeds that need to be planted in all of our hearts.

Then when the guys at Seeds Family Worship asked if I'd like a copy of their new album, The Word of God, to review . . . well, duh.

I wasn't surprised to find that the latest release was just as wonderful as the first CD that I had fallen in love with (and the second CD I had bought shortly thereafter). And when a product makes it so easy--even fun--to do something as important as planting seeds of Scripture and goodness into our hearts, who can get enough of that?

So, do your family a favor and check out their site. You can listen to the full albums (but trust me, you'll wanna buy your own), download some of these resources, and sign up for their mailing list. They're always sharing free songs, making it easy for us to spread the seeds around. 

And with seeds like these, how can we not grow some beautiful things? 

(But one suggestion guys: can we have the little stick man back? 'Cause I kinda love him. ;)

In the spirit of planting seeds, comment below, and I'll choose a random person to send a Seeds Family Worship CD. I'll even let you pick which one!

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Life-Changing Way to Start the Day

On a beautiful May day five years ago, I opened a daily devotional Bible and read the passage for that day. The next day, I read the next. Then the next. And somehow I've done it (almost) every day since.

This daily commitment to devote a little time to God has changed my life. It has given me guidance and hope. It has framed my days and been a constant reminder of my purpose here on this planet. I cannot recommend the process highly enough.

So to get you started, here are some guidelines for a life-changing way to start the day:

1. Pick a time. Any time. For me, it's "the first thing." Now, that may mean "the first thing" after Ethan gets delivered to school or after the coffee's brewed, but it's the first thing I do when I sit down to start my day. I don't check Facebook or email or even open my computer until I've had my time. Start by picking a time in your day where you're likely to have some time to yourself and adjust as needed.

2. Pick a tool. Mine has developed into a three-book process. (More about that here.) But it can be as simple as a reading plan on your smartphone or a chapter a day from that Bible you got as a kid. The power is in the time, not the tool(s). 

3. Make a commitment. Making it official will make it more likely to happen. Write it down, comment here and now, or at least tell yourself, "I'm going to do the NIV 365-day reading plan." Or "I'm going to have 30 minutes of quiet time with God during lunch." Or whatever. Just make the commitment to spend time daily with God.

4. Give it some grace. So you miss the second day. So what? High-five yourself for reading on the first day and try it again tomorrow. 

5. Give it some time. As with any habit, over time, you'll feel that you can't live without it. The hard part is getting started. But now, after five years, my day doesn't feel right without starting it with God. Your new commitment may feel forced and awkward at first, but please trust me on this: stick with it. 

Looking back now, after reading five different versions of the Bible (and counting!), getting daily reminders of God's love and grace and guidance in my life, I cannot imagine it any other way. And I don't want to imagine what my life would be without it.

Want to make your commitment here? Comment below. We'll cheer you on!