#My500Words

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“And what do writers do? They write.” – Jeff Goins

I want to write more. I hanker for a regular blogging practice. I have dreams about writing books that get published. I believe what people say: that the only way to become a writer is to write. I am learning at Weight Watchers that it is important to do things regularly that you truly want to do and that bring you joy (there’s actual science that says this helps weight loss!). I feel like this writing thing is always in my mind as something I want to get to, but never do.

For all these reasons and more, this 500 Words challenge sounds like a great jumping off place! I like the rules–especially “only write, don’t edit” and “if you miss a day don’t try to make up days.” I have found that in trying to create other habits, for example reading the Bible everyday. Best thing to do when you miss a day (notice I didn’t say if you miss a day) is to start right where you are–don’t read two days’ worth, just read for today.

I have found that short term goals in  other areas of my life are helping me reach long term goals. For example I have a lot more weight to lose, but right now I’m focused on the 18 pounds I have to lose to get me past a weight that has caught me dozens of times, stalling and finally reversing my progress. Just writing this gets me excited and hopeful about how it will feel to reach this milestone. When I get there, I’ll set a new goal.

The other piece that I find helpful in short term goal-setting is it seems more doable. I can imagine buckling down and writing everyday for 31 days, when I cannot quite imagine it for the rest of my life.

So, 31 days of writing 500 Words each day is one of the things I’ll be working on this month. When I get there, I’ll set a new goal. Some of my 500 words will be here in this blogging space, some will not. Some will be on a keyboard, some will be longhand. I am looking forward to the journey!

Help Others, Help Yourself!

donkey
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. – Isaiah 58:10-11
 
I’m reading “Get Off Your Donkey!: Help Somebody and Help Yourself” by Reggie McNeal right now (this is the season of the year I read several books to consider for next Fall’s All Church Study at my church. It’s a great book. Reggie asks some tough questions like, “With all the committed Christians is this country, why is there even ONE hungry child?” He makes a great case that Christians should be helping the world–joining Jesus in His mission of bringing restoration and healing and wholeness to the world’s ills. AND he says that one of the crazy things that happens in God’s economy is that when you help others…you help yourself, too.
That got me to thinking that one of the best things families can to do together is make a difference. There’s a great list of 100+ ideas here. I am planning to incorporate one of these into a “Buffalo Adventure Day” I’ll have with my Godson sometime in 2016. Some of the ones that stand out to me are:
  • Create snack packs for Ronald McDonald residents
  • Do yard work for an elderly neighbor
  • Write thank you notes to the people who serve you: postman, doctor, etc.
  • Complain less
  • Invite friends to Vacation Bible School (ours is July 18-22, 2016)
The Good Samaritan had to “get off his donkey” to make a difference (Luke 10:25-37). I think our families do, too!
P.S. If you have good ideas of a book for an All Church Study, send ’em my way!

Hello, October!

apples

Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in October

  1. Apples and pumpkin-flavored-whatever. Apples in October are so yummy. I will eat more than one a day. And I love the pumpkin stuff, too.
  2. Finding out exactly who will be on our 2016 Haiti Mission Team (trip is January 11-18,). There has been a flurry of interest and the applications are coming in. It is always interesting to see what team God puts together.
  3. Watching the leaves change out my back window, day-by-day. I sit at my dining table to have my Face Time with God each morning and so I see the progression. It’s beautiful. God is an artist.
  4. Our All Church Study at church. We’ll all be reading “Joining Jesus on His Mission” by Greg Finke and I absolutely love it when we’re all focusing in the same direction and learning and hearing from God’s Word. I love the connections people make in their small groups, too. So much fun.
  5. Vacation. It feels totally decadent to be taking a vacation in October (I usually focus on the once a year in April). But, here we go! And Zanmi gets to come this time. So I treasure reading books for hours at a time, long conversations with dear friends, pool and beach.

So long, September!

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My mom, Neva Rose Stewart Steege

Five things I’m grateful for about September 2015

  1. The weather, all-told, in Buffalo was GLORIOUS. Golden, sunny days with low humidity. Absolutely beautiful.
  2. Family Fun Days for elementary Sunday school kids. For three Sundays to start the year, we had kids come with their parents and learn how to hold Family Huddles at home. My heart melts to see kids huddled over the Bible with their parents and grandparents. Really–I have to choke back tears.
  3. So enjoyed going to the UB Football game on September 26. One of those golden days (see #1). Close game practically in my backyard (we walked part of the way there). Good friends. We had a shared simple-and-delicious meal together afterwards.
  4. The responses to a post I made on Facebook for my mom’s birthday. It was so fun hearing from people who knew her (even her hairdresser–how does Facebook do it?) and people who didn’t as I focused on all the things I loved about her.
  5. The fun start to the Buffalo Bills season. Oh my. It’s just a start, but I am really loving it. Reading the paper, listening to sports radio. Just enjoying the sport of it.

Finally, something that feels right.

      Honestly, I have felt like things are “off” since a couple weeks before Christmas. Little things really: I got the stomach flu a couple weeks before Christmas…and then it proceeded to make it’s way through most of the staff (I think it may have started in the Preschool staff), which meant people were not present through the holidays at different times. Jason’s family got hit especially hard. Started with the stomach bug and then got a whole ‘nother respiratory virus. They were down for the count and had to put off going to Cleveland on Christmas Eve. Then, Christmas Day my best friend Kath came down with the stomach flu and she was hosting Christmas dinner for 12 of us. We pulled it together with several visits into her room throughout the day to make sure she was hydrated. We had a nice day, I remember celebrating that Jesus has come (the real point after all). Got through it all–but didn’t really feel like Christmas. Christmas Day we usually open gifts with Jim and Kath and Andrew and Lea, but it didn’t happen (and it didn’t happen until January 2). Gifts are far from the biggest deal anymore, but again, just “off”. And then Jim and Kath left the next day for a week to Milwaukee to visit family. Lots of alone time for me, which was great in some ways, but different for a holiday week. Enjoyed New Year’s Eve at friends’ lake house and stayed the night with that wonderful extended family, traveling back to Buffalo on New Year’s Day.
     And then, January 3 (still the holiday weekend) came word that I still cannot wrap my arms around. If I thought things were mildly “off” before that, they careened off the edge of “right” when a dear friend died in a car accident. He hit an icy patch on a country road. His son and nephew (my godson) also in the car, were spared. There were hours in ICU for his son. A congregation that took a “sucker punch” with this news. I know these things happen. But to have that kind of hole created in the family and friends that I love and hold dear is a momentous thing. We celebrated Christopher’s life and eternal life through Jesus. The days of the viewing and the funeral were at once gut-wrenching and grace-filled. God continuously showed His presence and provision for all of us wounded souls. I will never forget those moments.
    And then it was time to get ready for our Haiti mission trip. Wonderful trip. Come to the Sharing Event on March 22 to hear all about it. God is doing great things in Haiti. And mission trips to Haiti don’t feel like “home”, really. They are a unique time of watching for God and trying to join His mission. They are special and set apart. Also while we were away our Preschool Director’s dad died (a retired pastor who was a member of First Trinity). It felt just wrong not to be here for the viewing and funeral.
    Today is the 20th anniversary of Christine and Christopher’s wedding. Talk about “off”.  I spoke at their wedding. I never thought I would speak at Christopher’s funeral.  I weep to think that Christine and her kids are walking through this life without Chris. I marvel at the way they keep showing up to their faith in Jesus and clinging to it.
    And this winter? Brutal. Unrelenting. And several days when the weather has been very similar to the day that Christopher died. Just seems unfair to me. And so cold (in every way).
    Today is also Ash Wednesday. Finally–something that feels right and good. I am in a Lenten journey, spiritually. I welcome this time to consider the seriousness of what Jesus did for us. I welcome this time to repent and turn to the Lord and wait for “times of refreshing” (Acts 3:19-20) to come. I need more time in worship, not less. I need more time in God’s Word. I need more time in prayer. I am at the feet of Jesus, looking for comfort and care and wisdom about how I can help others walk this road. I am so grateful because He is faithful. He carries me. He brings me joy in the sadness.
    Welcome, Lent. I am thankful to walk your way for the next six weeks.

My Favorite Moments Today

I love Sundays. Worship and study at First Trinity is my cup of tea. Today, I had several moments of pure joy and they all had to do with generations in worship:

  • A man who gently guides his beloved mom now struggling with Alzheimer’s into worship every Sunday. Beautiful picture of the kind of love Jesus showed to those around Him.
  • Sitting behind a “clan” of worshippers. Grandma, Grandpa, kids and grandkids. Taking up the whole pew, they dance to the songs with the little ones, share hugs all around. All while focusing on praising the One who made them family.
  • I think I counted 8 more of these multi-generational families at worship today.
  • Sitting directly behind a young couple I don’t know–their babe-in-arms wiggling and squiggling and snickering at me and at Marsha who sits behind me.
  • Watching kids at the children’s message make sad, happy and mad faces–and seeing how comfortable they feel in God’s house.
  • A mom and her teen-aged daughter singing in the Worship Band together–helping us all worship Jesus.
  • A Grandma visiting her grandkids (and their parents) from Ohio on her birthday, headed into worship with a huge smile on her face.
  • A teenager who stepped up to help with Child Care during the 8:45 service.
  • A young adult who stepped up and said “yes” to being a Shepherd in Kingdom Quest. “Glad to help”, he said, filling a gap we’ve been working on for months. And he’ll be fantastic at it.Total answer to prayer.
  • A young couple, brand new ushers starting today, being guided and helped by our veteran ushers. A beautiful thing to see.

In some churches, the kids are excused to their own “kids church” during worship. I understand why people like this. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE the generations in worship. I love an occasional baby cry or the sound of little feet heading to the restroom. Where in this culture do we have the opportunity to be TOGETHER–all of us: the brand new beings and the wrinkled ones? I can’t even explain the power of children hearing their elders sing and praise. Or when they hear them speak a Bible passage during the children’s message or sermon. It forms them deep inside. And when they see their teen-aged friends doing the same? O my, God uses that to shape their soul And when we all see the chidren? And remember that Jesus called them to Himself and told us to be like them? Come on. It’s awesome. We need each other, all of us.

 

So if you happen to be reading this and you are a parent with little ones in worship: hang in there. I know it’s hard. I AM SO GLAD YOU AND YOUR KIDS ARE THERE. God is using you to build faith in that little heart. He’s using all of us. Mmmmmmm. So great.

 

 

Recipe: Yummy Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is one of my very favorite things about the Fall. I decided to try making a recipe similar to the “Amazing Butternut Squash” recipes I love, but Weight Watcher friendly. This one turned out great!

Yummy Butternut Squash

(4 servings; 1 Points Plus, Simply Filling)

1 Butternut squash

Cooking spray
1/2 c.  non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Pierce squash with a fork several times and bake in oven for one hour, 15 minutes. Leave the oven on. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Then scoop the squash into a bowl (may need to use a hot pad to handle the squash, unless you wait for it to cool).
Using a large fork, mash the squash with the spices, yogurt and egg. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour the squash mixture into the casserole dish. Put back in the oven, uncovered for 15 minutes (longer if the squash has cooled significantly). After 15 minutes, turn on the broiler and watch carefully to see when the peaks begin to brown.
*Pensey’s website says that Sandwich Sprinkle is “hand-mixed from: coarse salt, garlic, black pepper, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram”.