Monthly Archives: November 2012

10 Heartfelt Gifts for Christmas That Won’t Break Your Budget

ImageBelow are some ideas I have used over the last few years.  Christmas has always been hard because I’ve never been well to do, but that’s OK because it’s not about fancy gifts, fancy bows and gift wrap. It’s about love, giving from the heart, and making someone smile. The thought of re-gifting is easy, but if you need help with how to do it in a creative way….

  1. Make a photo calender using your computer and your printer paper. You can spend less than $10 and make multiple copies to send out to family as gifts. If you don’t have the spiral hole punch (like the majority of people don’t), take the calendar pages to Kinko’s, they can bind it for you for less than $10 a copy.
  2. Make a recipe book.  This can be added to year-round and given at Christmas, or it can  be put together quickly  You can use a scrapbook folder available at most department stores in the photo frame or craft section. Make sure and add any drawings or photographs to your recipes.  Add short family background stories to your favorite dishes. Make them personal.
  3. For your spouse: Go to a thrift store or flea market and find a rustic picture frame.  Write out and frame your wedding vows.
  4. Quilting never gets old. Surprise your loved one with a blanket made of your old clothes that have been cut into squares, lined, and stuffed.  Every square has a story and a memory that can be shared.
  5. If you have a skill in a particular area, such as music or dancing, hair design, nails, make up – offer a lesson for free. Give a homemade card that includes the invitation to “take the class.”
  6. Make a candle. Don’t be intimidated, it’s not as hard as it sounded to me at first. Do you have an old pot that you don’t mind melting wax in? If so, you can find everything you need to design and pour your own candle at the nearest hobby store. If you have small children that want to be involved, just buy the wick and sheets of beeswax, a few cookie cutters for designs, and you can make a very simple, rustic candle set, without heat, without mess, and in just a few minutes.
  7. Make a “coupon booklet” filled with things like “Doing the laundry”, “Babysitting”, “Sitting with grandma”, “Dinner’s on me!” and other personalized love offerings.
  8. Do you have puzzles that you don’t do anymore, have all the pieces, and are in good shape?  Collect all the pieces in a Ziploc bag and either give it away to a child, or donate that puzzle to your nearest assisted living/nursing home or orphanage.
  9. Do you have any knowledge of how to make a video using the Windows Movie Maker on your computer? Make a digital scrapbook. Make a short video out of embedded pictures and music, narration, scanned copies of family heirlooms, letters, graduation caps, etc.
  10. Write and perform a short skit about what you think life will be like in twenty years. This can be done alone or as a group. You can do this with your children, work buddies, church groups, or take the stage solo.

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ImagePerception is all in the mind.  It’s how we sense things. It’s an opinion, and an expression of the ego – there is no standard.  There is no wrong or right way to perceive a smell, taste, sight, sound, touch, or heightened sense of awareness. How we perceive things all depends on where the feelers of our brain will choose to put emphasis – and that depends on what makes you comfortable and what doesn’t.

Is the sight of a rose pleasant, or does it make you want to leave the room because it reminds you of someone? Does the smell of manure make you wish you didn’t have to be exposed to that filth? To most people, that would be the case, but to a farmer, that distinct smell means growth and a bountiful crop.  Maybe you hear rap music coming from a car that’s next to you at a stop light. It’s so loud you hear the thumping of the bass through the windows, which are rolled up all the way. It could be obnoxious to you, but to that person, its the escape they need after a long work day. It’s their comfort food – their macaroni and cheese.

That’s why there are so many critics with different opinions, teachers with different strategies of teaching, preachers with different spiritual messages, and scientists arguing over who has the better theory.  You can put a hundred people in a room and give them one short sentence to read, and soon they would cluster into small groups sharing the same opinion about what the sentence means – and even then they would argue.  Something written in black and white can easily be misconstrued, misinterpreted – think I’m exaggerating? Try reading the Bible.  Even better, try reading assembly instructions on a tricycle.  There will always be an extra screw left over when you’re done, even though you think you followed the instructions to a tee – and you’ll always wonder where it goes.  Here’s an example of how something that’s real and tangible can disappear right in front of your eyes.  After seeing that illusion, I no longer doubt that some people can see Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, even though I can’t.  Another example of how our eyes can be tricked into seeing something that’s not there, is seen here in this video created by Dove. I feel so much better about myself after seeing that!

However you perceive a truth, honor others by remembering that the way they perceive the same truth may be very different than the way you do.

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Daily Prompt Challenge: Connect the Dots

Image“I knew in a heartbeat that the last chapter of our lives would be spent together.”  – page 82, third full sentence.

This is an excerpt from a story I wrote. The book, My Secret: Memoirs of Love & Survival, was first written as a personal diary, and then it was reformatted for paperback publishing in the fall of this year. I wrote it as part of my own healing process, without any expectations. I had no idea that others would read it later on, and find reflection and healing for themselves. The words above were written as I reflected on the day that I stood reunited with my best friend, giving myself completely in his embrace.  Life had sent us traveling down different roads for a very long time. We were high school sweethearts when we were neighbors growing up, then he and his family moved away when we were 17. We reunited for a short time when we were 21 years old, when he came home to visit me, and we had a life time of love in those few days. He and I had conceived my oldest child during our affair, and I had no way to tell him because he lived in another state and no one knew how to find him.  Years went by, and my heart was filled with the love of being a mother. Eventually, I became lonely. I settled for less….marrying another man.He wasn’t the one I needed, but I had three more beautiful children with him. I wanted to be the wife he needed me to be, but that meant killing every aspect of myself, without dying.  For 17 years, I died a little everyday. I mourned the loss of my self. Some people call this process “depression”.  My husband convinced me that I needed psychiatric help, and at some points I was even medicated for this.  The medication never lifted my spirits, it simply caused me to feel the death I  imposed upon myself. No one seemed to understand that all I needed was to be myself.

Two years ago, the secret of who really was the father of my oldest child came out. It rocked the planet. The miracles that unfolded were put in black and white.

Since then, I’ve relearned how to be myself.  There were many things I had to relearn as I healed. Only one person could have understood everything I needed, and that was Aaron.  Still, when I look back on his return into my life, I tear up.  I prayed to be able to find him, and then at just the right moment,  he found me.  You can bet that as life unfolds, I will be writing part two of the book.  The miracle isn’t “finished” yet.  It’s progressing in God’s good timing.  My job right now is to learn patience.

So many times in the past two years I have witnessed God, in ways I never expected to see God.  Rediscovering myself has given me the ability to love myself, love others, and it has strengthened my faith.  The real me loves being alive, and experiences a revival everyday.  And I thank God for every tomorrow, because I get to wake up next to my best friend.

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The blessing of giving back

Thanksgiving dinners all over the country of the United States are giving America a pretty nice aroma right about now. I have always loved cooking for others, especially for this holiday.  To be honest, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy much of today since I’m away from my family, but Aaron and me set a simple plan into motion that made it possible to be away from family and still feel that joy that comes on this holiday – by feeding our neighbors.

We started cooking around 10 a.m. – green bean casserole, yams, stuffing, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, honey glazed ham, buttery yeast rolls, and cranberry sauce.  By noon, we prepared covered dishes for four people who we knew would appreciate the surprise knock at the door, and we set out on foot to hand deliver the meals.  It wasn’t much….just a little reminder of home to others like us who are away from their families on a day like today.  This day can be very hard for some – especially with the economy the way it is.

It felt so good to be able to do that, that I think I want to make it a yearly tradition.  Maybe next year, I’ll try my hands out on a turkey.

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Random acts of kindness

That’s how we can change the world, isn’t it?  This video is only about a minute and a half long, but its filled with people sharing the best reasons why we continue to have faith, hope, and love every day.  Even in the darkest of times, the saddest moments, we long for these three gifts of the human spirit.

A random act of kindness gives renewed strength, feeds the soul, builds character, and demonstrates courage.  I’m not talking about physical courage. Courage is all about emotion.  For example, when you’re completely broke until pay day, living on a shoe string pay check to paycheck, it takes a mountain of courage to donate even $1. If your in a crowd full of strangers and something happens, some people will hesitate to act because it takes willpower to fight back the fear of being seen.   Sadly, some people are afraid to do good because they might get sued by the very person or people they want to help.  Don’t let fear destroy something good.  If it’s destiny, it will burn like a passion. You will want to do it without thinking, no matter how simple the act. Love isn’t measured in size. It’s healing to the giver as well as the receiver, and for that matter, the innocent bystander.

What are some random acts of kindness that you have seen? I would love to hear your experiences. Were you the giver,  the receiver, or a witness? 

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Daring to move

Moving.  To move means, “to pass from one place to another…to progress or advance…to prompt, actuate or impel to some action.” ( It’s an action implying that a change is taking place. It’s an ability that can be taken for granted. Most people move without thinking.  A lot of our ability to move is based on faith – trusting the unseen, knowing that its safe to take those steps.

Walking by faith into a new situation only to have your future destroyed – it burns, like the pain of being cooked over an open fire. When you get burned, you think the pain will never stop, especially if you’re burned so bad that you feel it deep inside. When it finally does stop, that part of your body never quite feels the same. It’s scarred and tough. Every sensation is different from then on, which means that the way your mind perceives pain is forever altered by that one burn. Do you want to know why? When you cook meat, it changes the chemistry of the fat and muscle tissue at a cellular level. Once its cooked, it can never be uncooked. Being burned emotionally is no different. Maybe at first, you feel like you’ve been shot. It immobilizes you. That immobilization, the inability to move, comes from fear. Fear, being a false evidence appearing real – someone once told me that years ago.  Then when you can feel it subside, it’s not uncommon to re-evaluate your self worth. After all, everything that made you what you are has now been burned – the fire has changed your most basic qualities.

If you’re suffering right now, grieving the loss of someone in your life, or recovering after having the road that you saw yourself walking stripped out from under your feet….keep going. Walk through the fire. Through the pain.  Trust that what you experienced had a higher purpose. 

Just about the time that I was asking myself if I should give up recently after an immobilizing loss, I heard a song on the radio by Switchfoot called Dare You To Move.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  It reminded me that there is more….what your feeling right now, isn’t the end.  It’s a turning point.

Just trust in that for a moment. Meditate on that.

Now, move.


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The healing power of dignity

This morning I’ve been reflecting on things that have changed within the past month. There’s been a lot of good happening around me and Aaron lately. When I look at all of them – job changes, Aaron healing since his teeth were extracted and him having to get acquainted with a denture and his new smile – I see a common theme resurfacing over and over. Dignity.

Aaron said something profound the other day when we were visiting with some friends who own a horse stable. It’s no surprise to get a call from them every weekend with the invitation to share in some smoked barbecue and outdoor music. This past weekend, we were asked to come out, and a visit was long overdue, so we went and soaked in the energy of all the animals and friends. Every trip down the road to visit this place feels better than a vacation hundreds of miles away – good energy, good people, unconditional love…you don’t want to leave. On this day we were watching how the farrier, the husband of my friend who teaches riding lessons, was handling one of the horses. This one was a rescue that we’ve blessed to watch from afar as this couple brought him back from deaths door, to be the healthy, spunky soul he is now. When he first arrived last summer, he was withered away – a skin-and-bones animal. He had lost his spirit and was dragging his head, almost lifeless. It’s hard to believe that just three months ago, the same creature we were watching had no life behind his eyes. Now he is full of life, full of energy, personality, and all he needs is a gentle hand to train him to be ridden. It’s a process that begins and never ends with love. Aaron and me were leaning against the ring, watching as the farrier let the horse get used to the weight of the saddle and reins while being led on a long lead rope, and then after some time, the farrier mounted, and the magic of that unspoken communication became visible. “Horses are just like people. It’s amazing what a little dignity can do.” Aaron said.

I recognized the miracle of gentle nudges and guidance this animal was getting. I felt the same from Aaron, and from my family, and God, as I recovered last year from the emotional and physical scars that were left after I escaped my abusive ex-husband. As I leaned on that horse ring and watched the horse breathing in and out, nostrils flaring and anxious sweat pouring, learning to trust a human being again after having been so betrayed…so hurt in the past….I knew. I remember a time just two years ago, that I would break out into an anxious sweat if I entered a store, or had to look a man in the eye. I remember what it was like to want to trust someone that much, yet being terrified of doing it…but then doing it any way, coaxed and encouraged by the people who loved me.

As I was leaning on that horse ring next to my life partner and best friend, I understood the depth of what a gift it is to look beyond what we see and simply love someone. I looked at Aaron and had to smile, because I saw our miracle.

It’s so easy to be fearful if we look at someone’s past and judge them based on it. It’s a divine show of respect, to give someone the right to be loved. It takes just as much courage for us not to judge the lonely and the scarred as it does for them to step out into the world. It’s character building, to trust someone before they have earned it.  That is what it’s like to give dignity to one of God’s creatures.

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