Savoring Life in General
It took me longer than usual to find my word for 2024. It was a few days before the New Year when I asked God to reveal it. By the time the “ball dropped,” it came to me: SAVOR. Was it an ad for a restaurant (we do have a breakfast place by that name in Wilmington) that brought it to mind? Maybe it was a devotional. I don't remember. But what I do recall was an “ahhhhh, yes—that’s it”!
Lately, I've noticed I'm slowing down. I think it's part of the normal process of aging. I can't multi-task anymore. I have a need to accomplish my tasks one by one, not three at one time. Normally, that would stress me, but lately, I'm enjoying that ‘one thing’ I’m working on at the time. There’s a calm in my day, and a spring in my step. It's a joy to accomplish those tasks because I don't feel pressed or rushed. Partly because I've learned to space out my appointments, tasks and errands. I try not to be out around the town more than once a day—or once every two days.
IS IT WORTH THE WORK? THINGS THAT SATISFY
I never would have guessed that a preschooler would teach me an important lesson about things that satisfy. This past July (and every July for the past 31 years) my hubby and I attended a family Bible Camp at Conference Point in Wisconsin. Our days were full of worship, good food, fellowship, and teaching from God’s Word. And of course there was fun in the sun— everyone’s favorite activity.
As I would rather be on the lake instead of in it, I was satisfied with a front-row seat on the beach where I could people-watch (one of my favorite activities). Kids and adults of all ages enjoyed swimming, diving, playing tag, sunbathing, and chatting. Some were floating on the surface of the water in an inflatable chair.
However, only a subset of attendees were actually satisfied with working during their vacation, and I found that curious. It was the toddlers and preschoolers who were busy digging trenches and building forts, while the older crowd took it easy. One young girl, early on in her task, worked alongside two boys digging a long trench perpendicular to the beach. After a while, the boys got bored and left. But the girl? She soldiered on, like she was engaged in a marathon. Intent on her job, the tike journeyed to and from the lake, filling her bucket with water, pouring it into the trench and then padding back to the lake to fill it again. She must have made the trip 12 times before I lost count.
But what I did note was this: as soon as she'd turn to fetch more lake water the last bucketful would begin slowly seeping into the sand. So by the time she returned, the water had disappeared.
FRUITLESS EFFORT TO SATISFY
I wondered how long it would take before she realized her efforts were fruitless—that no matter how many times she filled the trench, it would never hold water?
Well, soon after I contemplated this, she stopped at one point to examine her work, a puzzled expression forming on her face. I could just imagine her inner thoughts: “What happened to all that water? I know I poured lots in—where did it go?”
And then it happened. The realization was too much. So, with determination, she took a breath and threw the bucket on the sand, then stomped away. Ahh, the youngster finally understood. She had expended all that effort for nothing!
It was a lesson for me, too. How many times had I put energy into something I thought would satisfy, only to be disappointed? A new self-help book that will change my life. A pair of shoes with an arch the ads say will allow you to walk all day in comfort. Classic wicker furniture for our screened-in porch that will fit perfectly. A visit to a nearby tourist spot that promises good food and even better shops.
In reality, the book is shallow and unhelpful. The shoes rub in the wrong places. The wicker furniture is too big for the spot. Most restaurants and shops in the touristy areas are closed on Sunday.
And so on. . .
So what does satisfy? Really, only Christ can satisfy. He has made you and delights in you. He wants what's best and knows what's best for you. Pouring yourself into people and digging into and meditating on God’s Word will change your life. It will bring you peace and contentment. Here’s what the book of Isaiah has to say:
Wow! Can you think of anything more satisfying than to repair the breaches in this world? To restore relationships? To make a difference in people’s lives?
Each one of us has a sphere of influence that no one else holds. Start today—with a friend, a college student or a grandchild. Take them out for a treat. Offer to help them with a problem. Tell them they are in your prayers.
Invest in things that will last. Things that satisfy. Not stuff and meaningless activity, but people. It will renew your heart and give you a fresh perspective on life.
Can you think of one person to encourage or one ministry to engage in that will bring deep satisfaction to your soul? Let me know in the comments below. . .
Letting Go of the Familiar Things
The nomad life can be both freeing and frustrating. Freeing, because I have less stuff to deal with, and fewer responsibilities since I've left my hometown, job, church, friends, and family. Less appointments on my calendar. Fewer options for date night.
But, the nomad life can be frustrating. I don't have the clothes I need for each season because I didn't count on being homeless for a year and a half. Most of my books, files and all of my photos, craft supplies to keep me busy, and, hardest of all, I have only a tiny percentage of my favorite kitchen tools. As I mentioned in last month's blogpost, I'm making do, but it's not the same. I still stubbornly refuse to purchase a new garlic press, even though I need it for almost every dinner I make!
Embracing Gratitude Helps Me Through My Nomad Days
There’s something about being grateful for what I do have, that helps me get through—and even enjoy—my nomad days. Thankful for the roof over my head, and a washer and dryer IN our cabin, and not down the road. Grateful for new (to me) grocery stores that sell organic products and produce. They may not be the brand I'm used to, but they are still organic.
Goodwill has been good to me. I've been able to fill in the gaps in my wardrobe inexpensively, since I did not choose the proper clothing to pack (or not pack), thinking we’d be in our new townhouse by the fall of 2022. Instead, it would be an entire year later. That's four seasons of clothing! I've also found a few pots and pans along with kitchen tools—and even a set of weights.
I've also found ways of exercising, mostly online, Yoga-Go and Grow Young Fitness, both using chairs, since my osteoarthritis excludes me from performing floor exercises. And honestly, the landscape we've encountered is quite hilly and at times, dangerous, as the main road winds around and up and down, mostly through forests. Not a safe environment in which to walk!
But there again, I'm thankful for the ability to drive my car to the grocery store, local restaurants and shopping malls, and a few parks, where I can get out and walk, even for a short while. But I do miss my bike rides around our former neighborhood, and group exercises at the local community center.
One Sunday, we enjoyed a 4.5-mile walk around the largest natural habitat zoo in the world: The North Carolina Zoo We try to explore at least once a week, visiting the larger towns in the area to see the local sights. It's quite an adventure, and you can't beat the price. Another thing to be grateful for in this nomadic life. It satisfies my longings to travel. As long as I'm discovering something new, no matter how small or insignificant, I'm happy!
Embracing the New, the Ordinary and Even the Frustrating
Even something I took for granted—my hairdresser—ended up in a blessing. I found my interim hair stylist after admiring a senior woman’s hair on a visit to a new church one Sunday. She happens to be in the Winston-Salem area, which is accessible from both camps we've volunteered at. And Dara, after I showed her a pic, beautifully imitated my hairdresser Kathy’s technique!
That's another perspective of the nomad life—visiting a variety of churches who worship the same God, but in different ways: some contemporary, others conservative, Some with rock bands and country music, others with traditional hymns and songs led by a small band. We have Christian brothers and sisters everywhere!
And there's always a place to retreat when I need peace and quiet. This outdoor chapel at Camp Mundo Vista is a short (and steep) walk from our cabin, nestled in the Uwharrie Mountain range. It's not my park down the street, nor a place I can bike to, but a quiet respite nonetheless. Another entry for my gratitude journal.
Letting Go of My Idea of Home
A nomad’s home is any place to lay his or her head. Ours at the moment is this quaint camp cabin turned tiny house (yay!) with an added strip kitchen. Spacious and cozy all in one! It might not have comfortable chairs and a dishwasher like our last double-wide, but it’s quiet, safe and has a crockpot and comfy bed! Another change, but we are learning to be grateful and adapt as necessary.
I do whatever I can to make our home livable. In all three locations, I've made sure to have lamps to add ambiance to our environment. Fluorescent lights don't do it for me. So, off I go to our local Goodwill to find the right lamp for our space. Can you see the one in the picture above left? It blends with the pine walls of our cabin. I found it for the incredible price of $3.99 (shade included). And I will leave it behind as a gift for the next occupant, along with extra paper goods.
In lieu of end tables, I got creative and covered a few of the storage bins we carry from place to place. That way, there's no need to clutter the cabin with randomly placed cargo, since we have no closets here..
To summarize, at times in our lives (whether we are nomads or not) we must let go of things we think we need to survive, but in fact, don't. They might be preventing us from living life fully in our sliver years or any stage of life. Because it's when we let go, we see God work in our lives and provide what He knows we need. Isn't that comforting??
Is there anything you need to let go of to enable you to move forward in life? If so, let me know in the comments below!
Well, those are my insights on the nomad life this month. If you (or anyone you know) are a silver sister and would like help in preparing for the next stage of life, click HERE for 10 tips to Prepare You for Your Silver Years and Beyond.
Rethinking My Nomad Life
This post begins my new journey into a life of change. I call it “My Nomad Life.” We all experience change at one time or another, so I hope to give you the courage to flourish in a time of uncertainty and change.
Today, I will share some kitchen hacks I've discovered during our journey. Since our townhouse won't be finished until the fall, my hubby and I have been volunteering at various Christian ministries that offer lodging. We've found it's a double blessing. They bless us with a place to live, and we in turn fill a need neither of us anticipated. And through it all, God is blessing us with a measure of testing and faith—watching Him provide our next location just when we need it.
Why the Necessity for Kitchen Hacks?
So what does that have to do with kitchen hacks? Imaging moving every two to three months to a new location, a different-sized lodging, and an unfamiliar kitchen that does or doesn't have the supplies you normally use to prepare your favorite meals? BTW, if you typically prepare fast food in a microwave, this isn't for you. There are microwaves in every location (including hotels and Airbnb). No worries!
Well, in this nomad journey, I've had to make do with what is available. I can hear some of you say, “What's the problem? Can't you go out and buy what you need?”
I have what I need in our PackRat, but it's hundreds of miles away. Being a minimalist, I certainly don't need an extra one when we finally move into our townhouse. Although I could purchase many of them at Goodwill, we don't have the space to carry them from one location to another. Our two cars, which are essentially our suitcases for a year, are chock full already, and our money has to be used only for necessities.
Kitchen Hacks in Disguise
Some of these are obvious, like using an everyday teaspoon/tablespoon and cup for measuring, as long as it's not a recipe that depends on exact measurements, like a souffle or angel food cake. The large pot with lid I borrowed from the camp kitchen is used for frying eggs, making soup, a casserole, stirfy or chicken cacciatore. After all, pioneers cooked with one iron skillet, and made everything from stew to griddle cakes over the fire.
Since there are no cake or bread pans, I use my Pyrex dish to make a small gluten and dairy-free cake on occasion. And along with my cake, I must have tea! So, in lieu of a teapot, which is packed away, I discovered an alternative: my Yeti travel mug! It keeps my brewed tea (English Breakfast, loose-leaf) hot. I add some honey, collagen, and heated walnut/almond milk. Yum!
This is a favorite hack I accidentally came up with. Since I make all my food from scratch, I like to keep a variety of whole herbs and spices on hand. But, since I don't have the space, I broke down and bought seasoning mixes. Harissa is a North African spice I use in meatloaf or veggies. Curry and Italian seasoning are self-explanatory. Citrus herb is great for steaks, and Herbs de Provence for anything French, including lamb, chicken, zucchini and asparagus.
I had some whole rosemary and stick cinnamon, so I pulverized them in my (believe it or not) coffee grinder, after I had cleaned it thoroughly. Back in my container, I have a coffee grinder specifically for this purpose but hadn't room for it in my travels. Parsley is used in almost every dish, so I dried some fresh organic parsley.
Must-Have Kitchen Supplies
Notice the touches of coastal blue?? It reminds me that some day, Lord willing, we will settle into our home 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. Until then, I will continue to use these hacks even after we move.
No matter the state of your baking sheets (dirty, clean, stainless, aluminum), parchment paper is a worthy investment. You can safely bake on any surface with it, as I have done with meatloaf. Since there were no loaf pans, I formed it on a baking sheet. Easy!
I like to add chopped veggies to almost every meal I make, and meatloaf is no exception. I couldn't live without a processor. I sold my large one and bought this tiny one that is sufficient for our nomadic needs. It can even puree guacamole!
This next hack, although I really wouldn't call it such, is a sharp well-made paring knife (of sorts). This one was a gift from a friend I consider to be a culinary expert. Little did she know how much I depend on this knife! You cannot do without a sharp paring and utility knife.
If you are going to invest in something, make sure it's the best all-purpose knife you can afford. There are so many types to choose from, but this one does all the everyday meal prep work. The next investment would be a knife sharpener if you end up in a place with dull tools. It's a chef’s vexation!
I've managed to make our double-wide trailer (aka The Lodge) a home. All I need is a spot to read and write, and a good hot drink and fragrant candle. I've been a ‘happy camper’ at Hickory Cove Bible Camp. But, it's time to move on. We've had a productive, peaceful and satisfying time here, due to the welcoming nature of the staff. Lord willing, we will continue to bless others as they have blessed us on our nomad journey to the coast.
Which of my hacks have you used? Have you needed to ‘make do’ with something in your kitchen through the years? I'd love to hear how you creatively solved your problem! Let me know below.
Since my husband and I are without a home at this time (our townhome construction in North Carolina has been delayed until spring), we are wanderers and sojourners, traveling across country, visiting friends, house-sitting and staying with very generous church family members a few weeks at a time. Above, you see me in a "here's proof I was at one of the most popular spots in the US" pose.
I'm the Happy Sojourner. . .
. . .and he is not. Dan is a home-body who can spend his vacations in his workshop or music studio, and not leave the house. He loves ritual and hates change. I, on the other hand, love variety and crave changes. It inspires me and tickles my little grey cells (as Poirot often says).
So, I must applaud my hubby for his bravery. I am coming very quickly to the conclusion that it's the thing we dread that keep our minds sharp. Getting adjusted to a new lodging and routine every couple of weeks (not to mention moving our belongings), jiggles our thought processes and comfort zones. Last month, we spent four weeks at Conference Point Camp in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. We volunteered three weeks, and attended our annual family Bible camp the fourth week. Working in the kitchen was exhausting, and ramped up our appreciation for restaurant and camp meals.
During our last week of volunteering, I was asked to manage the snack shop for a friend who flew out west with her husband to visit their daughter and family. The first part of the week, I worked alongside my friend as she showed me the ropes. But come Thursday, I was on my own with two well-trained and capable (thankfully) teens. Occasionally, my husband, Dan, would help out, but he was even more of a novice than me.
I was amazed at how my multi-tasking abilities returned (thank you, Jesus!) as we served a hoard of 107 band kids who literally swarmed in for their ice cream, smoothies and slushies. Whew! It confirmed my hope that I was not ripe for assisted living just yet.
So, What Does Sojourning Have to Do with Writing?
Ready for a surprise? I am moving my focus from Middle-Grade Historical Fiction to Memoir and nonfiction, specifically addressing aging and its many facets. Of course, I will offer ways to grow older gracefully, and point out the issues we silver-haired folks face daily. Does that sound like something you resonate with? I would love to have you comment below, if that is the case. What is your biggest roadblock to moving forward as you age? What are your fears?
If you receive this blogpost via email, click on the title of the post, and it should bring you to the blog itself, where you can comment below. I truly want and need to hear from you! Even if you are in your 40s and 50s, I want to know what concerns you about the future.
The Serious and the Silly
Looking forward to your comments. And I guarantee some of them will show up in my next book!
Fear rises up in the pit of my gut. I'm signing away my home with no place to go. Is that wise? At least nine long months stretch out to the end of 2022 before my hubby and I will lay our heads on our own pillows in our own bed within our own new townhome. But until then?
I am thankful for friends and family who are willing to give us a place to lay our tired bodies for a short time as we wait for the construction crew to break ground, build a foundation for our new abode, and finally the home itself. Some weeks, we will travel, other times, we maybe rent an AirBnb. Or live in a tiny house—yay!
The Ukrainian Refugees: Fleeing Home
My thoughts immediately turned towards the heartbreakingly tragic situation in Ukraine. Now, I can't profess to know much about the situation. For more on that, click HERE for a newsletter from an author friend who lived among them and wrote two historical novels based on her research.
But, I can imagine what it would be like to leave the home you loved in exchange for the unknown. Of course, I am not being driven from my home. Nor are we fleeing. Well, maybe. Taxes and the political trajectory of our state is motivating us. Not to mention the weather. But the Ukranians have no choice. Not only when to leave or how to leave, but the choice what to take, keep or store. I'm sure they had little time to think about what to pack. Only the necessities: food, clothing, a bit of money, maybe a pet or toy for the children? Speaking of which, did you see the photo of a bridge into Poland lined with stuffed animals from the local community for the bereft children crossing the bridge to safety with their parents? If you haven't seen it, take a LOOK.
I on the other hand, have been clearing out the clutter and giving tons away. Later, we will have an estate sale. And frankly, it's a relief. The less you have, the less to lose. Less to get attached to. Less to care for. But it was my choice. The Ukranian people have no choice. Maybe owning less is a good idea?
Luke 12:22-24 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” And from what I'm hearing from refugees’ stories, God is providing in so many ways. So why am I worried about this temporary transition to our new home? He has so many ways to provide.
Something to Ponder
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Jesus was talking about Himself! He had no place to call home. But His friends and disciples where happy to host Him. Can you imagine showing hospitality to the Son of God? Wow.
So, in a small way, I will be able to relate to Jesus in His homelessness. How much more will the Ukrainian refugees? Thankfully, there are ways to help them. If you have a desire to aid the Ukrainian church, click on this link for Christian Ministries doing so.
What am I learning in this time of year, homeless transition?
What about you? Have you made a move recently? I'd love some tips on surviving during that time of upheaval. Do you have a heart for the Ukrainian people? Have you found a way to help? Let me know below!
After a year of surrendering my will for God's (I can honestly say I was not 100% successful), I've moved on to REST in 2022. Since God is the one who knows and loves me best, if I truly trust Him, I can REST in the events He allows into my life. I’m slowing down, taking things easier. Moving into my silver years, I find (being a visual learner) that too much visual clutter stresses me out. A clean desk, a made-up bed, toiletries in order beside the bathroom sink help me to stay calm and breathe more peacefully.
Since we plan to move in the fall, I am decluttering in warp speed. As our Christmas decorations were carefully boxed up, I determined which things I would not take to our costal home. They went into a separate box awaiting our summer estate sale. The same goes for scrapbooking supplies, photos and thank you cards from friends who have enjoyed our hospitality. Keep what I know I will use, and let go of things I will not. I feel lighter, and somehow, more joyful. Marie Kondo was right!
Applying REST to my Writing World
I have cut down my emails, unsubscribing from anything that does not serve my focus this year: Memoir. You won't find me on social media as often, but you will see me reading at my bedside or in a corner of our Victorian sitting room, and less running around on shopping errands. But when I am out and about, you can be sure I'm taking in every word of an audiobook. No wasted time.
I make do with what I have: no more clothing sitting in my closet unworn, no new appliances (unless one breaks down) or unwanted clutter on my counter. How does this apply to my writing world, you ask? Well, the more I own, the more I have to care for, and that caring can distract from my career—less time to write and reflect.
Our potential move to the Southeast coast forces me to declutter, for which I am grateful. No more tchotchkes and lace doilies. No more tables with extenders. And heavy Victorian curtains are out. In comes the coastal look—fresh, light and airy.
As I get older, noise stresses me. I want quiet. Peace. REST. I look forward to the beach and its soothing motion and refreshing breezes. I've purchased a stunning sterling silver bracelet with serene blue beads to remind me of my goal in 2022. And, a bonus: it's a coastal color!
What is your word for 2022? Do you have a new focus this year? I'd love to hear what it is. Let me know in the comments below. I want to celebrate with you! Let's all determine to rest in God’s love and delight in His love letter to us: the Bible. They are soothing, insightful, living words for our hearts.
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.