{ Even Up Above Yourself }

Philippians is joyful letter, written by an incarcerated man of God, who loved his spiritual “children.” They were fellow believers, living miles away, who were struggling to live out their faith in a tempting and dark world.

I especially like chapter 2, though it’s easier to talk and write about it than it is to DO IT.

Anytime it happens, I know it’s only God working it out somehow through me.

Here is my paraphrase of this chapter, and unlike the true inspired words of scripture, it’s peppered with all my favorite punctuation marks — dashes, parentheses, ellipses, etc…

Anyway, it’s from the heart and I hope writing it reminds me to do what it says:

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~~~~~~

Following Christ brings encouragement, love, comfort, affection and a godly sympathy —

So, encourage me by living and walking together with unity.

Don’t be selfish or proud in your attitudes or actions.

Be humble — and lift people up — even up above yourself.

Don’t wallow in self-absorption; break out and joyfully meet a need…or two…or three!

Because (and only because) of Christ-in-you, you have His mind.

So…do things in the same way He did.

He came as a poor and lowly man…but in reality,

He was — and still is — G O D.

He willingly took on human form, with all of its earthly limitations.  He was a meek and loving servant — empty, humble and obedient.

His obedience took Him to the cross.

(But He didn’t stay there.)

After the unimaginable suffering came the unlimited triumph.

Now and forever, God has lifted Jesus up and given Him a name so powerful

it will make every knee bow

and every tongue admit

that yes —

Jesus Christ

really and eternally–

is  L O R D.

[And He — and we — will forever give God the glory He deserves!]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Philippians 2: 1-11  ESV

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a]”>[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,b]”>[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,c]”>[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Photo Credit:michael schaffler

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{Abstruse & Scurvy-Free: Saturday Rambles}

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I mentioned last time that I had finished writing another health article — long by my standards– at 1800 words. These long-winded articles are all about health supplements. These are not household words like protein or gluten. Their names are abstruse and often separated by hyphens. I am a blank slate when it comes to knowing anything about L-pyroglutamatic acid or L-phenylalanine.

By the end of my 1800 words, I did learn how to spell phenylalanine — I just remembered the “lala” in the middle.

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I start collecting article info by Googling: “L-pyroglutamatic acid for Dummies” then Googling “L-pyroglutamatic acid for kids.” This gives me usable, chewable information, allowing me to begin writing.

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When it comes to health supplements, I am very impressionable…every article completion has so far wrapped up with my purchase of some health supplement.
This time I was writing about L-proline, which is a key ingredient in collagen. Collagen is what gives our skin structure and elasticity. Several amino acids go into the production of collagen. Vitamin C also plays a huge part in the formation of collagen, so when we don’t get enough vitamin C, our body can’t make the collagen we need. Our skin suffers, our intestines are prone to aeration, and left without collagen, our blood vessels would collapse.

So fascinating how God designed our intelligent bodies — the organs, enzymes, and amino acids are so needful of what we eat but everything (temporarily) covers for us when we take in junk. These articles leave me in awe of God’s creation.

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At the same time, they leave me craving things like lean protein, cabbage, berries and vitamin C. I feel like I am finally grabbing hold of such important tidbits of knowledge, such as what scurvy did to all those unfortunate sailors we learned about back in school. (Was that in history class or health class?)


Today, I’m looking forward to the Amazon package that should be in the mailbox today, holding a few jars of encapsulated, raw Vitamin C.

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On a completely different note, it’s Minnesota Hockey Day and my son just left to play in a hockey tournament, in weather under 10 degrees.

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I feel safer here inside with my L-pyroglutamic acid, phenylalanine and big cup of hot coffee.

Son gave me a hug goodbye; I handed him a protein bar and said, “Bye…have fun…make them be nice to you.”
No, Mama,” he said with a smile.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

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Photo Credits:

Dose JuiceThato Lehoko

Pixabay

{ Blunders, Blossoms & More }

 

 

This week, I finished two things.

  • I finished a freelance writing project for a client — a 1800-word article out of five such articles that I’ve been hired to finish. The only problem with writing about health supplements is that when I complete one, it gets me thinking, “I need some of that!” So, this jar of herbal supplement pictured above came from Amazon this week. It’s supposed to suppress my sugar cravings, but the book I just finished should help that problem, too….
  • …I finished the book The Willpower Instinct, which I added to my Winter Reading Contest list.  What I liked: The author gives lots of practical tips on how to overcome bad habits. What I didn’t like: Modern scientist authors usually present evolution as a logically accepted, scientific fact. Interesting…because macro-evolution is not science.  It does not follow the scientific method, not being observable or repeatable. That said, other than these kinds of assumptions, I really liked the book. 🙂

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On Monday, we took a rare field trip to a local ski hill, since it was Homeschool Ski & Snowboard Day.  We were the first ones that showed up, arriving 1.5 hours before the chairlifts started lifting. Mark this day down in history.

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To go skiing, I wore the LL Bean jacket that my husband gave me 20+ years ago.  One lady remarked that she liked my vintage jacket.  A little girl asked me, “How do you take that thing off?”

I’m just glad I didn’t break any bones wearing it.

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Here I am with my two beginning skiers: Gianny & Marco.  They started their beginner lesson at 10:00. The teacher shooed the parents away, so I took to the hills with my 13-year old Ava.  After 20 minutes, I thought I’d go check on the boys.  We were halfway down a hill when I heard a familiar voice yelling, “Hi, Mama!”

Words cannot describe how surprised I was to see Marco on the chairlift, seated beside two strangers.  I had left him safely gliding down the bunny hill, supervised by a team of ski instructors. But now here he was, 20 minutes later, waving and smiling confidently from high on the chairlift.  A few thoughts went through my head:

  • Did he leave the hill and follow us without permission from the teacher?  
  • What is he thinking?  
  • How can I hurry up there and help him down the hill before he tries to ski down alone?

Then, Ava and I watched him sail down the hill like an expert.  The truth was: Marco did so well with his beginner lesson that the teacher graduated him early and told him to head to the chairlift and enjoy the hills. Whaaaa?!  After I recovered from the shock, it was clear to me that he was capable and fearless. It made me giggle to see his little beginner body cruise down the hills with ease. I still smile to think about it.  He’s got good Scandinavian blood, no fear and the faith of a child. 🙂

 

 

So, yesterday I didn’t make dinner. (Almost as rare as a day at the ski hill.)

I ate out with my younger children. because Chik Fil A was giving free sandwiches if you wear your MN Wild hockey jersey.

Later, I came home to a few grumpy, hungry and bewildered young adults that couldn’t seem to hunt and gather food for their dinner.

(These are the same young adults that are often out and about and don’t eat the dinner that I regularly make.)

The cupboard was a big sparse, but we had eggs, milk, bread, butter and cereal.  And a few other things.  Let’s use our imagination?

Sigh.  Mama got mad and started to bang pans around in her bothered haste to make some food. Then she walked into her room where one of said young adults had, one hour earlier, gently laid three flower bouquets on the desk with a loving note attached.

Tears. Laughter. More tears. Hugs. Repentance all around and smiles.

After this, I happened to read through Dolly Mama’s blog post and shed more tears.

So…that was a slice of my life this week.

 

{ 4 Money Savers }

Every afternoon around 3:00 p.m., my 14-year old son pops into the kitchen to nibble up the rest of the sandwiches I served for lunch.  It seems as if one minute I’m re-stocking the refrigerator, then I turn around and it’s time to run out for groceries. With a family of 13, saving money is always on my mind. I consider it a gift to snag extra peppers and zucchini that families share at church and I love finding healthy discounted food.  Here are four of my favorite current ways to save a few pennies…

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  1. The Walmart discount bread rack. In our area, Walmart puts out day-old bread varieties every morning.  Like a vulture, I flock to the back of the store at approximately 8:09. As I quickly wheel and walk-run my cart past the end caps and barrel race between stock people, I sense the adrenaline boost. (I hesitate to mention this best-kept-secret, lest everyone hurry back to the bowels of their local Walmart…but, it’s too good not to share.) Breads, cookies, cakes, pitas, loaves and flat breads can all be found on certain days, and they are heavily discounted.  You can often find me unashamedly circling and gathering around the huge rack of bread, possibly with a territorial scowl on my morning face.

 

 

  1. The Walmart discount cooler. I was elated to find this treasure trove of discounted sandwiches, vegetables and packaged perishables all grouped together in one section of a cooler. Pre-sliced deli meats, subs, bagged veggies and more are added to my cart, stuffed between all that bread.
  2. Aldi discounted perishables. Aldi slaps discount stickers on meats, non-frozen pizzas and more. (It’s non-expired food that just needs to be moved a little faster.) It’s so fun to find that $1 or $2 off sticker on a package, I usually swing by there first and last before exiting Aldi.

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  1. Rainy Day Fund.  I am new at this one, but it seems like a unique way to save a stash of cash. This app incrementally sucks money out of your bank account, securing it in a “rainy day” fund and updating you on your progress.  It might be a cool way for young people to aim toward a savings goal..at least my son thinks so:  digit.co/r/WyhQbEBYVN?aw

Photo credits:

Michael Longmire

Fabian Blank

{ 7 Questions }

I received a list of thoughtful questions from a dear one.

Answering these questions might be an excellent end-of-year exercise to rouse my sluggish brain cells out of their post-Christmas sugar stupor!

So…here goes.

(If you also would like some brain exercise, feel free to answer one of the questions ~ post your answer in the comment area below!)

Happy 2019.

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  1. If the last year could be summed up in one word, what would it be? Doors. Doors are pathways to growth, discovery and change. There were subtle but real changes in our family; new job opportunities, new friendships, and new “life tributaries” that occurred in our growing young adult children.   They are blossoming into their own persons.  This is hard sometimes for a mother.  I must bite my tongue when older children don’t automatically mimic our parental ideals. God is molding them uniquely; they have brains, prayers and dreams of their own.
  2. What are two or three major themes that kept occurring? Change. Reality. Release.
  3. What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of? Small internal victories, like: Holding my tongue at the exact right time. Deciding to wait and listen before reacting. Asking another question instead of responding emotionally.  Ignoring a perceived offense rather than retaliate with a sarcastic / witty comeback. Choosing faith instead of worry.  (These might seem like itsy bitsy successes hardly worthy of mentioning, and they might have only happened once or twice in all of the 365 days of 2018. But to me, they seemed to be larger accomplishments than completing an Ironman triathlon….)
  4. What do I feel I should have been acknowledged for, but wasn’t? Hmmm….I will think about this one…or maybe I shouldn’t dig around to find something?
  5. What disappointments or regrets did I experience this year? Spending time doing unimportant, useless, time-wasting things.
  6. What was missing from my year as I look back? Nothing that I can think of. 
  7. What were some major life lessons I learned this year? Time passes faster than I think it can or want it to.  

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Photo credit:Josh Riemer

Questions adapted from Lore Wilbert ~  http://www.sayable.net/about/ 

{ January 2}

On January Two, I know what to do —
I’ve got resolutions ~ the year is brand new!

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My diet will start and miles will be walked
I’ll dust off the weights and the scale will be shocked

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I’ll stop biting my nails, stop checking my phone

Stray socks will be matched, each one with its clone;

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I’ll start on the taxes and organize rooms
Spiders? Homeless! — when I’m done with my broom.

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I’ll read meaty books that challenge my brain,
I’ll cut down on coffee & from sugar abstain,

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I think I can do it, it’s not so absurd…
….but I’ll be ready to quit on January third.

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© Lisa M. Luciano 2018

Photo credits:

Pixabay, Shutterstock and Unsplash:Kristopher Roller

New Year’s Resolution-making: one of your traditions?  Do you make them?  Do you keep them?  What are your goals for 2019?

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Reposted from Betty Jo’s site: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/47394897/posts/10105

{ reblog: dear diary – hope. always. forever.}

My daughter Sophia’s Christmas thoughts on her blog inspired me today…

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Yesterday at church, I was Mary.  I stood and read those all familiar verses about Mary and for the first time, I realized the enormity of Mary’s need for her own Son.  Like, crazy, right?  That “this Child that [she] delivered would soon deliver [her]”.   Later, I watched the Nativity movie, and Mary held her Son out to a wizened old shepherd man, as if to say, “He’s for you too.  No one escapes the need for this baby. ”

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{ Untamed & Dangerous }

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The tongue.  That fiery, kind, brutal, life-giving, encouraging, poisonous puppet.  It doesn’t do the damage on its own; there’s a mysterious channel that runs from the heart and brain, looking for a way to get out. So, the tongue obliges, spilling its venom, or healing balm — whichever the heart dictates.

“She’s written about the tongue before,” you say.

Yep. I wonder why? Because it’s an ongoing, never-ending battle. I’m not what you’d call “a talker.”  But, I think a lot of thoughts and they boil just like anyone else’s.

So, I had a lot of these bubbling thoughts the other day — and it was a stinky brew. There was a real and present danger that it was going to force its way out of my mouth, via the formidable tongue.

Which led me to read (again) the words from the book of James (see bold words below) And, I read and wrote and summarized what I was reading, hoping that I will totally understand and assimilate the living, powerful word of God. The basic thing I want to remember: the tongue is untamed and untameable — humanly speaking.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I cannot try to control it.  When I ask God for His help, He will give it.

This is my uninspired paraphrase of James chapter 3, the revealing and helpful “tongue chapter” of the Bible:

We are prolific stumblers.  If you don’t stumble when you use your tongue, you must be a mannequin or a robot.  Just like small bits guide the big bodies of horses…and just like seemingly insignificant ship rudders control unwieldy, bulky ships, the tiny tongue effects enormous power and potential — for good or evil.

Forest fires are started by a small spark, and the tongue’s work is like that at first — a mini controlled blaze – one that turns into a menacing, chaotic firestorm.

The tongue is the Creator’s design, but it is a notoriously sinful member of our bodies — staining lives, reputations, and setting relationships ablaze. The tongue is a useful weapon in the soul-enemy’s arsenal.

Wild creatures worldwide have been tamed by humans — but not the wild, unruly tongue. It never can be tamed.  It’s restless and seems to be always itching for trouble.  Our tongues are double agents — blessing and cursing at will. How can both poison and healing come out of the same opening?  But that’s the sad truth about the tongue.  Kind words, and cutting words; helpful and damaging, encouraging and murderous — all pouring out of the same mouth…

James 3: 2-10 from the Bible:

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. ~ James 3:2-10 ESV

 

Photo credit: Sarah Louise Kinsella

{ No Selfies in Bethlehem }

God had it planned:

Jesus was born into a

non-digital,

less mobile,

less global

earth.

 

That meant:

No shepherds Instagramming.

No angels captured on YouTube.

No Mary & Joseph taking selfies.

No wise men following a GPS.

No paparazzi hovering.

 

How peaceful.

 

 

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“O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past!” Micah 5:2 (written about 700 years before Jesus was born)

In the Bleak Midwinter

This is my favorite Christmas carol, based on a poem by Christina Rossetti:

“The only people who soul can truly magnify the Lord are…people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.”

-John Piper

{ Closed Doors and Open Windows }

Life is a series of closed doors and open windows. And open doors and closed windows.
Then, there are doors that you thought were open that shut abruptly in your face.

On the other hand, doors you thought were locked can be surprisingly easy to kick open.
And occasionally, a tightly closed window will fall open, unhinged, enrapturing your soul.


Why write this?
In a desire to avoid a traditional Christmas letter, I still want to look over the year thoughtfully and learn the lessons I’ve been given. That’s what you do when you are fifty-plus. You learn that it’s worthwhile to spend 30 minutes reflecting, so that you can avoid months of making the same mistakes.

Or to be more honest, if I don’t write it down, I will forget.

January 2018 began with some confusion and a closed door. It brought the opportunity for us, as imperfect parents, to seek wisdom from the Wisdom Giver and use it to give sage advice. It’s a humbling tightrope to tiptoe upon, but asking, seeking, knocking and walking in faith will always get you to the destination God has for you.

When a door slams, the breeze it creates can heal and cause growth.

June brought another graduation, which means pasta and purple-frosted sheet cake. I leafed through old photos, amazed at how God closes precious doors at the same time He offers those looming, open windows. They lead to who-knows-where and it’s a little scary. But He is holding our hand as we slide our way through them.
Summer 2018 days were traditional and new at the same time:

  • Swimming lessons in a different pool.
  • Beach trips to new local shores.
  • New project ideas at the same old county fair.

The garden was stingy with tomatoes, but generous in zinnias, bees and butterflies.

Then came a wide open window, a chance to see an old friend after many years. That meeting was unexpected & sweet.
Summer ushered us gently into fall, so we basked in apple-bounty and we crafted on a shoestring. New doors opened for my husband and his job shook up our schedule, but it also gifted us with new stories and opportunities.
In November we celebrated Turkey Bowl #19. My husband is almost 60 and runs around a football field with such agility that his fellow amateur athletes think he’s 35. I will continue to thank God for my husband’s good health, even as I get out the Tiger Balm and Epsom salts.
And shortly after we hosted new friends for Thanksgiving, I looked at my kitchen with fresh eyes:

We have lived here for 20 years. It’s time to give this place a face lift.

  • I am shutting the proverbial door on those faded chicken curtains and poultry art in general.
  • I am ready to toss threadbare towels and lose that bright yellow bathroom.

(These are the types of Home Decorating Mission Statements that I hope will propel me through 2019.)
So, paint chips have been secured, walls stripped bare of rooster paraphernalia and Pinterest has been feverishly scanned. I hope next year’s recap will include some home decor success stories.

Still in 2018, we have a son who is following an idea, a dream, a possibility. It’s progressing; it’s full of many little steps. And if — after all the steps — this son finds a closed door, it will be okay. The hallway he walked down has been worth it.

Sometimes a closed door gives you the oomph to scale a ladder and pry open a window, where you find something better.

And sometimes, you just pivot, re-trace your steps, turn the corner and look for another inviting door to try.

Oh, I forgot the books.

Books and audiobooks (new & old favorites) inspired and entertained us in 2018:

In 2018, we saw new babies born and sick marriages die. People entered our lives and our church, and people exited. A dear family moved miles away and started a new chapter and we are happy for their open window…but it looks a little like a closed door on our side.

And still in 2018, our peers became in-laws and grandparents and we were reminded that we are all getting older. This happens slowly–and never in our hearts — but always in the mirror.
Well, I’ll end here for now — unless I God opens a window in my brain and reminds me of something important I forgot.
© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:

white infinity doors:Filip Kominik

colored locker doors:moren hsu

blue windows:Paul Fleury