Lists: Top Tips, Goodnight Thank Yous, and Blessings

If we’re to write using lists in today’s challenge, I might well start with this trusty old post card that is usually pinned to a noticeboard in my kitchen.

10 Tips to Stress Less:

  1. Remember to get your zzzz’s
  2. Talk out your troubles
  3. Notice something beautiful
  4. De-clutter your life
  5. Do more of what makes you feel most alive
  6. Practice compassion
  7. Learn to listen and be heard
  8. Delegate
  9. Plan date nights with your friends
  10. End the day well
Ten Tips to Stress Less

Ten Tips to Stress Less

Tonight, I had the unexpected delight of minding other people’s children. Not that I expected it would be awful or demanding. I just didn’t expect that it would be a delight.

I arrived to find the kids fed, dishes done and a meal kept warm for me. The kids and I played my all time favourite ‘quieten down the kids’ game – ‘Boxes’ – not putting the kids in boxes – rather that little game of dots on a page eventually joined up into boxes.

This was followed by staggered bedtimes, strictly adhered to. Some reading aloud to the youngest, some quiet companionable reading with the older siblings. Followed by tuck-ins and bedtime prayers. I asked each child for some things from their day, for which we could thank God. Here’s a collected summary:

  1. Friends
  2. Fun at school
  3. Comfy beds
  4. Term being half way through
  5. Holidays coming soon
  6. Books to read
  7. Sleep
  8. Friends in another country

While we’re in the business of saying thank you, I could list some things from my day, for which I am thankful to God:

  1. An afternoon nap when I needed it
  2. Chocolate that my brother left in the fridge
  3. An easy-reading book
  4. Quiet companions to read with tonight
  5. Some final duties completed for the year
  6. A good-morning pat, for the Stella the cat, on the outside mat
  7. Work companions, including a lovely catchup with one not seen for a while
  8. Purple flowers everywhere
  9. Friends to pray with
  10. A roof over my head

Tonight, while reading with the youngest before he was tucked in and wished a good night, we read these words, spoken from a mountain by Jesus, to his disciples and a great crowd of people:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Matthew Chapter 5)

As I left the youngest child’s bedroom, turned out the light, and said goodnight, I heard him quietly say from his bed, ‘God bless!’.

God has blessed me, indeed!

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The Month of June with Shazzameena

A few of the blogs I follow have been doing a ‘What I did/read/didn’t do in June’ kind of post the past few days, and it got me thinking. What did I do in June?

I could list a whole load of things I didn’t do in June – things I cancelled, postponed, put at the end of the list. I could list lists I didn’t even get around to making!

I started the Photography 101 challenge in June…then went on holiday away from technology that would allow me to post my photography. Thus, I dropped the ball on that challenge, photographically speaking.

I was reading the Bible this morning and was reminded not to worry about the things I can’t do anything about. Not to worry about tomorrow, or yesterday, or the things I didn’t do last month. The notes I was reading alongside reminded me to be like Jesus, to stop and notice the flowers and how they’re dressed. To take time and hear that well-fed bird flapping past me.

Sky, Sea, Grass, Flowers

Sky, Sea, Grass, Flowers

So I’ve taken a little moment, looked at my diary, made some notes, done a bit of remembering, and I’ve come up with a list of things I did in June – things I have every reason to be thankful for – to stop for a moment and enjoy – just as Jesus would.

1. I started the month singing with a Jazz band at a fundraiser night in Wollongong.

Empty Jazz Cafe - later filled

Empty Jazz Cafe – later filled

2. I turned up to work as I was meant to – then enjoyed the break I got because the students were doing exams then on vacation.

3. I walked with several old friends and coloured in more streets on my walking map.

4. I got help from people who know what they’re talking about, and started to see lighter days ahead.

5. I saw ‘The Mafia Only Kill in Summer’ at a lovely, local cinema with a lovely, local friend.

6. I enjoyed the generosity of a friend’s holiday cottage for two nights in the Blue Mountains – with the company of a lovely, old friend.

7. I got my hair cut.

8. I completed the ‘5kg lost in 2 months’ challenge – and celebrated with a favourite food item.

It has to be pink. It has to be from Donut King.

It has to be pink. It has to be from Donut King.

9. I had a lovely holiday with two lovely friends in another cottage loaned to me by other lovely people on the South Coast.

Kiama to Gerringong Coastal Walk

Kiama to Gerringong Coastal Walk

10. We walked for 4 hours on one of the days!

Reassuring signs along the way!

Reassuring signs along the way!

11. We managed to walk the three sections of the ‘Minnamurra to Gerroa’ walk – over three days – with the vital accompaniment of dates and water.

Dates, Water and Water

Dates, Water and Water

12. I cooked one of the recipes from one of Margaret Fulton’s Cookbooks – inspired by the challenge on the Cookbook Guru blog.

Margaret Fulton's Lime Grilled Chicken

Margaret Fulton’s Lime Grilled Chicken

13. I read some books (and rated them):

‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman (5/5)

‘True Word for Tough Times’ by Dale Ralph Davis (5/5)

‘The Rise and Fall of Great Powers’ by Tom Rachman (3/5)

‘The Rosie Effect’ by Don Tillman (4/5)

14. I took risks! (not my normal mode of operation)

Risks!

Risks!

15. I enjoyed many a crossword and coffee

Coffee and a Crossword

Coffee and a Crossword

And shall continue to do so….

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #10

Today brings us to the end of Ten Days of Ten Things I’m Thankful For. Not that I’ll cease being thankful! At least my aim is to continue quietly in this vein over the coming days and weeks.

This morning, after fulfilling my usual Monday morning duties at work (that’s introducing out visiting speaker for the week), I headed in to speak with my boss about the possibility of taking a day off each week for the next few weeks – I’ve been struggling to keep up with life and work since arriving in this country and the struggling was getting the better of me. After a helpful chat, he sent me out with the instruction to take a couple of weeks off – effective that hour!

So I, and my pot-plant, walked back out of the college grounds, into my car and down the road to my apartment. And here I am – prescribed rest and quietness.

The pot plant is still experiencing some fragility in its return to full health. So, though the students and staff at work were delighted to see its return today, I trust they will be even more delighted to see it even more strong and healthy in a few weeks’ time. I trust that I too will follow the plant in its trajectory toward well-being.

Today I am thankful for:

1. Over-hearing the tail-end of a talk this morning, from 1 Peter, reminding me that God does his best refining work in us through our trials and confusion.

2. Encouragement regarding my work so far.

3. Permission to leave that work behind for a while.

4. A wise boss that not only gave permission to rest, but gave suggestions in order to make that rest even more restful.

5. A cancellation on a meeting with a student – before I even had the chance to make the cancellation myself!

6. A book to read.

7. Sunshine on my back as I read it.

8. God’s free, unending love for me – without me having to barter with him.

9. A dinner tonight with my family.

10. Hope to hold onto.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #9

This morning I did something I shouldn’t have done. To be more precise, it was something that I regret doing. It’s not that it was something that, in and of itself, should or shouldn’t be done. It’s just that I wish I hadn’t done it.

I looked through a folder of photos on my computer.

The other day, I was intending to download just one photo from my camera to my computer and normally it would just download the one (or ones) that hadn’t already been downloaded. This time, for some reason unknown to me, it downloaded every picture on my camera. That meant I had two years of photos neatly collected in one folder. A lot can happen in two years.

So it was to this folder that I went, looking for one or two photos to ‘pretty up’ today’s thankfulness post.

What I found was many pretty photos, many memories, many friends and family members, many photos that, when taken, captured moments of joy. But in that mix, inevitably, there were photos in which, with hindsight, I now see pain and confusion peeking out from my eyes. There were photos that made me miss my more familiar ‘home away from home’. There was beauty in other lands that just made me sigh.

Within a matter of minutes, my flicking through the photos had produced a growing pain in my heart – a pain of love, loss, regret and yearning. All I had wanted was a couple of pretty photos!

Mercifully, I had to cut short the journey down ‘photographic lane’ to go to church.

It was the best thing I could do. Though, inevitably, there were challenges waiting for me there, I also found comfort. I was reminded that loss is the way to gain and that I follow a Saviour whose victory came through pain.

My heart still feels tender but, at moments like these, I am helped by focussing on the present. Today is the 26th April, 2015 – not some other date or time or era.

So at this moment, on this day, I am thanking God for:

1. The whisper of a friend’s recent encouragement to keep writing no matter how I feel, as I ate my sandwich today and wondered if I could be bothered writing or not.

2. The will to get up and walk to my computer.

3. The blessing of a quiet afternoon and evening ahead to rest.

4. The sound of rainfall outside which gives me every reason I may need to stay indoors and curl up under a quilt in front of the heater and read (or sleep).

5. An old friend at church making me laugh out loud (very loudly!) as he recounted some very ordinary tales of being drenched in storms on his way to work this week.

6. A functioning computer and internet connection.

7. Memories of last night – a ‘Mental as Anything’ Concert that I’d been invited to in order to make up a table. Turns out that I knew (and loved) most of their songs. I smile now as I picture my foot tapping along. I almost had the courage to get up and dance – almost – but I certainly danced on the inside.

8. Boiled Eggs – ready comfort in a neat package.

9. Prayer and a hug from the minister and his wife at church this morning.

10. One beautiful reminder from the photos perused this morning – of one moment in time when I was truly in the moment – and loving every minute of that moment.

Sunshine, an espresso, some reading material and something purple. All good things to have in any given moment.

Sunshine, an espresso, some reading material and something purple. All good things to have in any given moment.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #8

Last night I had dinner with two good friends who happen to be readers of this blog. One of the them commented on the impact the ‘thankfulness’ posts are having on her. The thankfulness lists have been directing her thoughts to things in her own day for which she can be thankful.

I’ve noticed, that the more I am inclined in my thoughts and my heart toward thankfulness, the more it impacts those around me. It’s true for all of us. The things which consume our thoughts will, inevitably – even indirectly – come out in our speech as we share with friends.

That’s not to say that we should never share the things that are difficult in our lives; the struggles we have to come to terms with our present experience. It would be false not to. Last night all three of us shared the things which are troubling us – the areas in our life where we are so in need of help and clarity. However, that sharing was done with our hearts, minds and dinner conversation already engaged in thankfulness. It made all the difference.

Today I am thankful for:

1. Sunshine and warmth, allowing me to open the windows and let the house dry out a little after the storms of the previous week.

2. Dinner cooked for me last night.

3. The gentle heat of a pleasantly spiced Satay.

4. The comfort and familiarity of my own kitchen. We were eating and cooking in the apartment of mutual friends who are away (we had permission!) and therefore reflecting on the challenge it can be to find the necessary implements when cooking in someone else’s kitchen. We can take the blessing of familiarity for granted.

5. A beautiful view of a bay and the city lights from our friends’ apartment.

6. A Magnum ice cream for dessert.

Chocolate and Ice cream: Could I ask for more?

Chocolate and Ice cream: Could I ask for more?

7. Friends to share and pray with.

8. An opportunity to stay in bed a little longer this morning.

9. The anticipation of a sandwich for lunch. The two slices of bread are thawing as I type.

10. A cup of tea in a mug made of fine china.

Daily Prompt

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #7

Today, it’s all about lists!

Lists are right up my alley – or should I say street? I’ve been walking street after street in the Inner West and, if I were so inclined, I could make quite a long list of them.

I’ve also been visiting cafe after cafe – ticking them off the list in the index at the back of the Good Cafe Guide. It’s from 2014, but I figure that makes me a little ‘yesteryear’ and makes me quirky-ly short of up-to-date. Dare I say that it gives me ‘street-cred’?

20150214_180143

The Guide!!

Today I am thankful for:

1. A friend offering to get up early and walk with me this morning.

2. Wisdom shared as we walked.

3. The patience of the friend as I ran down the little cul-de-sacs shooting off the main streets, just so that I could colour them in on my map later.

4. The surprising glimpses of bits of Sydney Harbour as we rounded bends and peeked between houses.

5. The quiet streets of gorgeousness that run parallel to the main roads of despair!

One such quiet street of gorgeousness.

One such quiet street of gorgeousness.

6. God-given imagination to wonder at who might be blessed by the $10 note that fell out of my pocket while we walked. (We’re trusting that note may appear on someone else’s list of thankfulness today!)

7. The anticipation of breakfast at the local bakery in the area where we were walking.

8. Anticipation that proved well-placed!

9. Perfectly cooked poached eggs on soy and linseed sourdough toast, in the bakery.

10. Discussions over breakfast about our God who invites us to ‘dialogue’ with him – no matter how pain-filled and confused our side of the dialogue may be.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #5

The rains and winds continue – as does my thanks for shelter and warmth.

However, today my thanks is inspired by an entertaining email sent by a friend regarding ‘collective nouns’. The list contained many examples I’d heard before and many I hadn’t.

I had never heard of a ‘troubling of goldfish’! So today’s thanks are inspired by the lovely goldfish, Dorothy, that I’ve been minding for friends while they are travelling.

Today, I am thanking God for:

1. The fascinating variety of collective nouns.

2. One goldfish to mind being no real trouble at all. A collection of goldfish? Now, that’d be another matter entirely.

Dorothy - pausing her enthusiastic swimming for photo opportunity.

Dorothy – pausing her enthusiastic swimming for photo opportunity.

3. The reaping of rewards after a little trouble taken to clean out the filter pump.

4. The joyous sight of Dorothy, after the filter was working again, forgetting her troubles and swimming ‘like she just don’t care!’

5. A no-trouble stir-fry for dinner tonight (with chicken…not fish).

6. The reward of groceries purchased, after troubling through the wind and rain.

7. News alerts and broadcasts to warn us of potential storm trouble brewing.

8. The comfort to my cold feet, after the trouble taken to fill a hot-water-bottle.

9. Life lessons learnt through troubles.

10. Answered prayer as God helped me to diplomatically and warmly welcome visiting speakers at work today – a mostly trouble-free day.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #2

There are various ‘thankfulness tips’ I’ve discovered along the way.

During times when I’ve practiced being thankful for ten things in the day, I’ve found it causes me to take note of what is happening around me. I wouldn’t naturally do this. Some people do.

I have friends that take in much of the physical world around them at any given moment. They’re the friends who stop mid-sentence in a cafe conversation as they see someone unusual come in the door. Or the friends who suddenly seem very quiet because, as it turns out, they’re taking in the details of a conversation beside them – not in a nosey way – just because they can’t help hearing it.

I’m the kind who must deliberately lift myself out of my thoughts to notice things. Or ‘awake’ from a conversation when I finally notice my companion is distracted and, only then, will I notice that the cafe has filled with an enthusiastic party of ten complete with balloons and presents for one of their party.

So thankfulness helps me take notice of what’s going on around me. Things happening to me (that I might not have noticed in the depths of my thoughts); things happening to others; things happening continuously around me and in the world.

So, on Day #2…

I’m stopping to take note and be thankful for:

1. The taste of the honey on my bircher muesli – honey from the beehives that my Mum takes care of.

Mum and the honey from her bees. The darker frame is due to the kind of sticky stuff that comes from the one of types of trees on their land.

Mum and the honey from her bees. The darker frame is due to the kind of sticky stuff that comes from the one of types of trees on their land.

2. The claw of a prawn that was artfully and tantalisingly peeking out of a small, hollowed out cob-loaf containing seafood chowder at the restaurant last night. It made me want to rip that lid off the loaf and eat that prawn! And I did.

3. The name of the restaurant we ate in: ‘O Crab’. The play on words afforded a whole day (earlier with my brother, niece and nephew) and a whole evening (with my friend) of linguistic humour. We didn’t have time that night, before the theatre show, to order a crab and wait for it to be cooked (hence the order of chowder), but we did stop to take note of the little wooden hammers ready for customers to take hold of and let loose upon the crab before them.

4. The unique pleasure of watching a play on the stage: the way the audience’s knowing chuckles, gasps, sighs and laughter join with the actors’ efforts on stage. That lovely “we’re watching your lives played out, but you’re acting like we’re not” thing that happens in live theatre.

5. Jo, the friend who took the trouble to book the tickets, pay for them, and get them to me. I took a moment to notice the price on the two tickets she’d sent me and gave thanks for friends and their thoughtful, playful generosity.

One of Two Tickets - A Great Gift

One of Two Tickets – A Great Gift

6. A free car park appearing just at the moment we were going to give up and pay for parking.

7. Lunch out with the brother, the nephew and the niece. A lunch in a place that has a great deal of chocolate on offer. As always, I took many moments to take notice of how much my niece and nephew have grown over the years that I’m away from them. I love them to bits.

8. Public Transport.

9. Public Libraries.

10. Public Displays of Affection (some of them, anyway)

Daily Prompt

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #1

Yesterday I posted an introduction to this little project. In summary, I plan to post ten things I’m thankful for, over ten days.

Here, on Day #1, I’m already pausing to wonder if my title is grammatically correct? I will, however, forge on!

I’m waking today thankful for:

1. Dorothy (my friend’s goldfish that I am minding) still being alive. Each morning I head to her tank with my breath ever so slightly bated…minding a friend’s fish is a weighty responsibility.

2. A beloved plant that had all but died, showing ever increasing signs of revival.

3. The first sip of a coffee made from beans that a colleague roasted.

4. The second sip of coffee 🙂

5. The day that’s ahead of me – starting with a pick-up message for a book that I requested from my local library.

6. Anticipation of two outings: one including chocolate; the other including theatre.

7. Washing machines: their general convenience; and the fact that there are two of them in the apartment block laundry, so I can get my washing done in one trip.

8. A warm, sunny day to dry the washing when it’s done being washed. Having spent the majority of my adult life living in the rainy climate of Ireland, I have not yet lost the sense of antipodean novelty in hanging out my washing to dry, and bringing it in…dry…on the same day.

9. A prefect dinner with a friend and her family last night. From the afternoon tea served with fine china cups that only appear when I visit – to the game of Rummikub where everyone’s a winner – to the Lebanese Feast lovingly planned, prepared and laid before us. Such love!

10. The hope of new life, for my life and others’.

The Parabolic Plant – A Tale of Near Death and Revival

The Plant (thriving) and the Desk at Work

The Plant (thriving) on My Desk at Work

Convalescing Plant on Table at Home

The Plant (convalescing) on My Table at Home

Please Note: photos of the plant’s ‘near death experience’ have not been included. Scenes may have disturbed some viewers.

Daily Prompt

Ten Things to be Thankful For – For Ten Days

A few years back, a friend was going through a fairly horrific time in her life. There was little she could do about the circumstances but her counsellor encouraged her to practice being present in the moment and seeing the things around her that she could be thankful for – each day.

So, each day on facebook, she posted ten things she was thankful for that day. We readers would guess it had been an extra challenging day for her if she included something as basic as ‘running water’ in her list. It helped her and it helped us.

Around the time she started posting these updates, I had been challenged by a talk at church about grumbling. I had been grumbling a lot. I needed to stop. For my sake – and others’ sake.

I had been neglecting to see how God had been blessing me in so many ways. I was neglecting to give him the thanks he deserved.

So I asked her for permission to copy her idea. She said ‘go for your life!’.

I did just that and it changed my life.

It started out as a bit of a novelty. As time passed, it really started to change my thoughts and my heart. There were days when, I have to admit, I had to sit for a very long time in order to come up with a list of ten things! Those were the days that had not gone well, when there had been much pain or frustration. But if I sat there long enough, I could always see something – even ten things – that God had done in my life or others’ lives. Little things. Big things. Fleeting things. Long-lasting things.

I had a break from it at times – usually because I was taking a break from facebook. It didn’t take me long to notice that I was feeling increasing discontentment in those breaks. I’ve had one of those breaks recently. It hasn’t done me any good.

I’m gearing up to take a break from facebook again. Not because it’s awful or bad for me – but because it’s one of the habits I find more easy to break for a short time. I should possibly work on some of the other ‘addictions’ in my life – but for now, addiction to Scrabble online and a general ‘fear of missing out’ are things I can tackle!

So I’m going to be thankful here.

I’ll try ten days to start with and see where things go from there.

Feel free to join in!

I’ll start with Day #1 tomorrow.

Thanks to Julie over at Light and Life for the prompting this morning to be thankful.