My 2017 Word of the Year: Words

For the past couple of years I’ve chosen a word to guide me through the year. In 2014 I used the word Simple, in 2015 Listen, and then last year Create. In the few years that I have done this, I have seen a tremendous change in myself. 

Since choosing the word “simple”, I have become more mindful of my time, money, space, relationships and things. I came to realize that with this one life I’ve been given, I need to be more aware of how I spend my days and who and what I surround myself with. 

To concentrate on the word “listen”,  I became a better friend, wife, and mother. I’ve learned to really listen. I change the station when music or a tv show comes on that my soul knows I shouldn’t hear. I stop those voices in my head that are telling me lies. I spend time listening for God’s voice.

Last year I truly embraced the gift God gave me to create. I made bags, dolls, aprons, and lovies to sell in order to give all the proceeds to missional organizations. I honed my craft to become a better artisan. I went on an artist retreat and spent a week with others who are like me. Instead of being embarrassed about this need to create, I’ve embraced it and am using it to bring joy to others. 

This year I prayed about my word. I had no idea what it should be. Then with this election year, I realized how damaging words can be. Receiving a sweet card from a friend, I know the power of encouragement from the written word. Reading the Bible I kept coming across verses about being careful with our words, the power of words to build up and to destroy. My word of 2017 is “Words”. It isn’t very pin worthy, but it does keep me focused on what I believe is important for me this year.

I’ve been known to speak before thinking and this usually has me in a state of pulling my foot out of my mouth afterwards. What if I were to T.H.I.N.K. before speaking? What if I asked myself…Is it true, is it helpful, is it inspirational, is it needed and is it kind?
In order for me to be encouraging and truthful, I need to have my heart filled with what is true and right and filled with love. Have you ever noticed how the topics of conversation depend on who you are with. When you are with Connie Complainer, do you agree with her negative thoughts and fuel her negativity? What about your conversations with Gabby the Gossip? Or Sally Sludge-Mouth? It is so easy to fall into ugly conversations when we are around people who don’t have happy hearts. On my own devices, I fall right in there with the judging, gossipy, ugly speech. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1   The Word is active and living. Jesus said that she who abides in Him will have life. To have my heart filled with love, I must pour into my heart the only true, unfailing, everlasting love which can only come from Jesus. I plan to drink up the words in my bible.I can talk the talk, but can I walk the walk? Here are some actions I’d like to practice:
*Fill my heart, soul and mind with things of God by reading the Word of God.

*Increase my prayer time, my conversations with God.

*Practice the habit of pausing before speaking and T.H.I.N.K.

*Stop complaining. 

*With eyes that can see the good in everyone, compliment others.

*Write cards of encouragement.

*Continue to write a blog that finds joy in the ordinary, messy, beautiful thing called life.

In a world that is saturated with hate, judgements, lies, corruption, and self importance, it isn’t easy to stay joyful. In a nation that is split in two, protesting, looting and killing, I’m more and more convinced that our words mean something. I can’t change the world, but I can do my part to show people the love of God through laughter, notes, cards, sweet conversations and even through this blog. 

Do you have a word of the year? I’d love to hear about it! Let’s encourage one another to stay on track. Thank you for stopping by!

Some Things I Learned in Bellagio, Italy

Twenty women and one brave man from around Noth America: Seattle, Virginia, Texas, Georgia, Utah, Toronto, Southern California and good old South Cakalacky, settled in Bellagio, Italy for a week of Art, Faith and pure Italian Goodness. Well, at least that is what I thought we were going to be there for. Me, of little faith, failed to realize that God had been orchestrating this event from the start. I’ve been home for a couple of days now, and I can’t stop thinking about all that happened. Please let me share a few insights.

* Art comes in many different forms

As the Bellagio Men’s Choir sang for us on our closing night, I got goosebumps listening to the men of all ages sing songs about their special village. There was the woodworker in town who worked with his son making spoons, bowls, toys and other wooden items. Many of the ladies on the retreat delved into the creative art of photography. Each photo represents a memory or a story that needs to be told. I love this guy peering out of the window, I assume looking for his loved one to come home. I love the whimsy he has about him. So what’s the big deal about art Mary? Our God is the first and great Artist, Creator, Father of Song and all beautiful things. He created us in His image, so we too, are artists. 

*Truly, Laughter is good medicineI know, I know…I am the last person on earth who does not know how to take a selfie. On this particular night, ten of us had a table by the shore of the lake for dinner. Stories were shared, lots of pictures were taken and some funny moments happened. (Brownie, brownie, brownie, Soup!…you had to be there.) So after dinner we decided to walk around town and then thought of the ingenious idea to airdrop our photos to each other. Gathered together in front of the church, we waved our phones around to get a signal, then Poof! names started popping up…Stacey, Mimi, Sissy, IPhone2 (Uh, yeah that would be me) and JaNana. Who in the heck is Ja-Na’Na’? (Oh, and you have to say it in your best rapper voice., with your head cocked to the side and hands in a weird yo yo way. JaNaNa. It does not rhyme with banana, but sounds like JaHeyHey!) Any way, we kept thinking that some rapper dude must be vacationing here too. Also, it was fun to say. But Guess what?! Do you see that sweet, quiet woman, grandmother to two darling little girls?!? That’s JaNaNa! We busted a gut right there in the middle of town. And it felt so good. A few women have been going through a tough season of life. You’d never know it by their smiling faces, but one confessed that she has felt dead for the past 10 years or so. And here she was with a bunch of strangers laughing her heart out….and she felt sooo good.

*Don’t DelayOnly a week before our planes landed in Italy, this couple decided to join us. They were living the harried life that most of us live. Long hours of running a medical practice, raising three sons and doing the day to day crazy. Until one day their life was shook up a bit. A very dear friend of their’s was dying of cancer. This couple decided to gather the old group together to remember the good times and to say good-bye to their friend. Over a potluck dinner at the man’s home, the wife shared with the group that although having 20 or so people over for dinner while her husband is in his last days here on earth was a bit overwhelming, she knew that the time was now. Yes, please come over and visit. Don’t delay. Those two words wouldn’t leave Beth’s heart and mind. With Tim sound asleep beside her, she said “Honey, remember last year when I shared with you about that art and faith retreat in Italy?” Tim mumbled “Sign us up.” There were two openings left in the retreat, they found people to watch over the practice in their absence and seven days later, they were on a plane to Italy. Beth knows first hand, we can’t delay. We can’t wait for the house to be remodeled, or the perfect sofa or more time or when the house is clean. She confessed that she and her dear husband had taken too long to take some time off.  Their sweet friend went home to be with Jesus just a few days after the gathering of friends. The funeral would be happening while Beth and Tim were in Italy. Say yes to lunch. Invite someone over for coffee. Tell the people most special to you how you feel about them. Sing. Dance. Live with joy. Don’t delay

*Gnocchi with Bolognese requires timeThat looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it? If I say so myself it was DeLish! The gnocchi was pillowy soft, melting in your mouth. The bolognese is very simple, but requires time. Each step must be honored in order for it to be so yummy. Vegetables must be cooked alone in the olive oil until soft. This takes time. The meat needs to cook until all the water evaporates. This takes time. The wine, white or red, whichever bottle you have opened, must cook until the alcohol evaporates. This takes time. Then finally, you add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. While stirring often, cook on low heat for 4-6 hours. That is a long time. Home made gnocchi? No problem! Cook potatoes, mush through ricer, cool, add flour, egg, nutmeg, knead, roll, cut, poke n’pull, drop in boiling water, swim to surface …Presto! All done! No problem. In our split second information world that we live in, we forget that the good things in life take time. Relationships require time. Being well studied in school requires time. To learn a new skill or heal from a hurt or pain requires time. Take the time.

*Fresh is Always Best

 Before we started cooking, Elizabeta, took us to town to buy the ingredients for our dinner. First to the butcher for fresh ground meat. The grocer picked the perfect tomatoes, carrots and potatoes. The bakery wrapped up a beautiful loaf of bread. Of course, we stopped in a neighbor’s yard for rosemary, basil and oregano. Which all fit perfectly in the adorable basket I carried. Sooo cool! We cheat ourselves when we choose to take the easier option like fast food or half present relationships. The gas station food is quick but it depletes our bodies of nourishment. Going to church on Sunday’s to get our ticket punched, then leaving it all behind Monday through Saturday, leaves our souls depleted of the everlasting nourishment we were created to have in order to thrive. Pop culture, new age mysticism, even ourselves can’t and won’t ever be able to fulfill that great hole in our heart that can only be replenished by Gods love. We need the fresh, unaltered truth of God’s Word to continually, daily, moment by moment renew and revive our souls. 

This week in Bellagio was so much more than just stickers and water colors. I’m still getting teary eyed when I think about all that God had planned for me. 

Thanks for dropping by!