HEalthy living



Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP10er @ 10:50 PM



You probably think I don’t know how to spell that word, don’t you?  Actually, it’s the brand name of our treadmill.  And, the treadmill taught me a valuable spiritual lesson last week.


I like to think of myself as purposeful.  By that, I mean, I like to have a purpose for everything I do.  My knitting serves a purpose:  to give a gift or make a useful tool for our home.  Three seasons of the year, my yard and garden give me great purpose. Not only do they provide beauty for my eyes; rest for my soul; food for our table; spiritual insight as I am alone and pondering; and exercise for my body.


But the winter months fail to create much exercise.  There is snow scooping but my husband hates to have me scoop snow.  I actually enjoy it.  He despises it but he feels like less of a man if he lets his wife do the lifting.  So, I let him use his snow blower and leaf blower to accomplish the task and I watch. Honestly, reading and knitting, and even housework have not offered me much physical exercise during the non-gardening months of the year.


We have had a treadmill for a decade or more and I’ve resolved to use it and failed in the long term application of my resolve.  I do well for a few days or even a few weeks and then fall out of the routine.  This year, I’m trying to do better.  I try 5-6 times a week to walk and I’m happy if I can get 3-4 sessions completed.  I’m also working on my ‘just do it’ attitude because it is very easy for me to find other things to do first.  I don’t love it.


I dug out some ancient CASSETTE praise tapes made for walking and found my little pocket sized cassette player to keep me stepping.  Intent on making the most of this 30 minute event,

I moved the speed up and increased the incline.  I did fine for awhile and then I decided to take my pulse.  This requires holding a special handle.  I found that it was easier to walk when I was holding on to something.  


Not only was it easier to trot along, I could close my eyes and keep up.  I focused on the music which was really an opportunity for me to praise the Lord right along with the lyrics.   When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was that label: Sole.  And, it occurred to me that my soul is in better shape when I focus on two things:  praising the Lord and holding on to Him.  


You see, I tried closing my eyes and walking and I stumbled because I wasn’t hanging on to a handle or the pulse bar.  The treadmill must be 24-30 inches wide.  It isn’t a narrow path, but when I wasn’t watching some distant point while I was stepping or holding on to the side rail, it was easy to lose my balance and fail to stay upright.  But, I could close my eyes and hang on to the side rails and the pulse bar and listen to that music and focus on the One who has me in His hand.


Lest you think I was just walking on a flat surface, the incline was greater than 50%.  It was a steep climb for a little old lady.  It generated some aerobic activity from my heart . But the most important lesson was what I hang onto to keep my balance; remind me to focus; live my life the way it is supposed to be lived; and do more than just get through it all.  


Today and since then, I kind of look forward to that Sole.  I feel as if I am accomplishing a little something.  And, if I can avoid moving into a larger pant size, I’ll really rejoice!

The New Neighbor

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP6er @ 6:49 PM

The New Neighbor


The snow fell (again) just after the driveways cleared from the melt the previous weekend.  It was the light, fluffy kind of snow, easy to move with the leaf blower or a snow shovel, depending upon what one had.


Matthew and I watched out the front window as the new neighbor across the street, donned in his winter gear, came out with his ergonomically correct snow shovel to master the driveway.  I commended him for his work, mentally, as he cleared the driveway so the woman who comes and goes from his side of the building would not have to step into a snowbank when she returned from wherever she had driven earlier in the day.  


I asked my son how he would approach the same driveway.  It’s a duplex with a covered stoop.  Each unit has space for one or maybe two chairs on either side of the entry door.  From the stoop, a short sidewalk extends to the expanded concrete which offers parking and composes most of the front yard.


The other neighbors had 3 cars parked on their side of the concrete slap.  The scooping neighbor moved his snow methodically.  He even shoveled behind the neighbor’s vehicles, perhaps because it expedited the ability of his car to enter or exit regardless of whether they pulled in or backed into their single parking space.


What interested me, though was what he did not do.  He did not scoop the 3 feet of sidewalk from his neighbor’s side of the stoop to the concrete parking area.  I turned to Matthew and asked him, ‘What kind of a man is he?’  My husband approached the window and I asked him if he would have run the scoop over the neighbor’s sidewalk.  He acknowledged he would have.  I was not surprised.  I’ve seen him help our elderly neighbors and even the new kids who live next door, void of much snow moving equipment.


My opinion of what kind of a guy he was formed from what I observed in him.  A man who would go beyond what was required but not by much. Then, another storm blew in.  He faithfully scooped his sidewalk and driveway. But, the second time, he DID scoop the extra three feet of his neighbor’s sidewalk.  


The story doesn’t stop there.  Storm #3 arrived just days later.  He not only scooped his own driveway and the neighbor’s sidewalk.  He also scooped around each of his neighbor’s three cars. 


What a great reminder as I watched the progression of his workmanship.  Observing him over the course of several snowstorms gave me a glimpse into his heart.  Perhaps he had a time deadline the first time he shoveled.  Maybe he had a conference call to get to.  Or, maybe he is studying for a test and put himself on a ‘take a break’ time that was ending.  I don’t know why he only did a little extra work the first time.


What this demonstrates to me is that we are known more by what we do than what we say.  I’ve yet to meet this fellow.  He and his housemate have only lived in the neighborhood less than a month.  I’ve never spoken to him.  The cold and weather mean we get outside long enough to do what we need to do and head back to the comfort of the house as soon as possible.  


Furthermore, I’m not suggesting that our ‘works’ are what gain us favor.  Our works are an outward expression of an inward attitude.  Even though my neighbor is still a stranger, I have developed the idea that he is a nice guy because he has gone the extra mile to help his adjacent neighbor out of the goodness of his heart.  (Maybe she is reimbursing him for his effort.  I don’t know the facts.)  


Let’s be good examples because our hearts are in the right place.  Because the world doesn’t care how much we know until it knows how much we care.  

Soup's On

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP1er @ 1:32 PM

Soup’s On


At our house, the coldest week of the winter clamors for soup.  It’s easy to make; refreshing to eat; filling; and nourishing.  The varieties of soup span the globe from oxtail to legume; from vegan to meaty.  


Soup is a great way to use the bits and pieces of leftovers for delectable reruns.  Use the little bit of roast beef and the broth left from cooking it, mixed with bone broth, all the vegetables in the crisper, time in the crock pot and dinner is done in a dash.


After reading a couple of books by a food author who studied culinary arts in France, I decided to follow their lead and save the vegetable peelings by storing them in a ziplock bag. When the bag is full, everything is dumped into my large crock pot and covered with water.  It simmers for 12 or more hours before being drained.  The cooked vegetable pieces go into the compost pile and the broth is strained and stored in quart containers in my freezer till I have a recipe asking for vegetable broth.  It is effortless and frugal.  Every batch yields a different flavor based on the variety and ratio of different vegetables.  And, broth is ready for the next batch of soup.


This week our menu boasts soups:  oxtail beef and vegetable; spicy split pea and ham; chicken gumbo, chili,  and black bean.  Most of them require some kind of broth or advance planning.  It’s one of the reasons I make a menu.  When I include something that has beans in it, I write in my ‘to do’ list for the day before ‘soak beans’.  I defrost the broth from the freezer the night before soup assembly. It takes some extra planning to make it all come together, but none of the steps require much time.


My husband finds soups satisfying and filling.  Served with a side salad, crackers or biscuits, and a fruit, we comply with our nutritional needs and leave the table not wanting another bite.  


When the temperature refuses to rise above zero, there is something comforting about sipping hot soup. It warms from the inside out. Give it a try this week.



Winter Has Arrived

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA10er @ 10:00 AM

Winter Has Arrived


We missed the white Christmas this year.  It became a joke in our house.  I have a January birthday and some of my children wanted to come home and help me add another zero to my age.  I objected because as a child all I asked for on my birthday was a blizzard.


This is very logical when one lives in the country far from school.  A blizzard translates to a day off school in the rural areas.  As I finished school, I noted that mid-January usually ushers in a blizzard.  


My objection to having my children plan to come for my birthday was simple:  they would not make it and my anticipation would be dashed.  So, with sibling conference calls, the singletons convinced the married with child to come the weekend before so there would be an overlap of visitors from the 3 different states and we could have 3 generations together on one weekend.


That was a lovely weekend in many ways.  The temperature was mild.  Everyone was under one roof.  Two of the family units joined me at church.  And, someone else made dinner one night.  We took many walks with the dog who comes with one of the singles and we enjoyed it all.  And, my son, whose main focus in life is teasing anyone who is near him for the reaction wanted me to ‘eat my words’ about a blizzard near my birthday.


Low and behold, the next weekend, just one day after my birthday, the snowfall came.  It was just a normal snowfall here but where our married daughter lives, snow fall estimates ranged from 12-17 inches.  They would not have made the trip.  I sent pictures to the tease and reminded him that my predictions were only off one day.


Despite the cold and blustery weather, being outside in the winter is a good idea health wise.  I was surprised to learn a significant amount of research has gone into the benefits. Rather than be a bear and hibernate in the winter, it’s a good idea to head outside, let the cold air invigorate your body. Whether you are out to scoop the sidewalk, help a neighbor in distress or sled with the children, it will do your body good.  Be wise. Dress for the event.  Take breaks if you are working in the weather.  



 Being outside will increase your serotonin levels because of the increase exposure to light. “Physiologically, we know serotonin levels in the brain are lowest in winter. Going outside can increase positive mood and alleviate depression,” says Kathryn A. Roecklein, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. 


It increases your vitamin D absorption.  Less sunlight in the northern hemisphere during the winter season also means less sunlight in the house.  Being outside increases the vitamin D, even if much of your body is covered.  Ten minutes outside can increase the amount you absorb.


It helps you be mindful:  leave the cell phone turned off and put it in your pocket.  Better yet, leave it in the house.  Be wise to be safe.  If you are walking in the woods, having a cell phone available is probably wise, but don’t walk and use the cell phone.  Unplug and observe nature or the city around you.  Listen for sounds.  Watch for colors and shadows to refresh your brain.



It can improve your memory.  A study done in Michigan showed that memory improved 20% in individuals who spent time walking in an arboretum vs. the group that didn’t.  "People don't have to enjoy the walk to get the benefits. We found the same benefits when it was 80 degrees and sunny over the summer as when the temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in January. The only difference was that participants enjoyed the walks more in the spring and summer than in the dead of winter."



It charges your immune system.One Japanese study measured the ability of “forest bathing,” or a short, leisurely spin around a forest, to improve immunity. Researchers found that forest bathing decreased stress hormonesand increased intracellular anti-cancer proteins. Plus, exercise, even walking out in the cold, may help keep illness at bay because it flushes bacteria out of your airways and lungs, according to MedlinePlus, a website from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.


If you are headed out to remove the last 6 inches of snow from the driveway or sidewalk, consider the benefits besides a clean driveway.  And, contemplate a warm mug of hot cocoa and the toasty sights and sounds of a crackling fire in the fireplace when you come inside.  Put the kids to work.  Be smart and live well.





The Daily Mile

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA11er @ 11:59 AM

The Daily Mile


We all hear about the epidemic of obesity.  Iowa now ranks in the top five for states with a high population of obese residents. We all know we should make wise food choices and exercise.   It’s just hard.


It was with great interest I learned of a program developed by pure happenstance in Scotland that solved an obesity problem.  A principal at an elementary school noted that many of the children in her school were not very fit; obesity reigned; and only one in five children were physically fit.


As an experiment, she asked every student in her school to spend 15 minutes each day running in the school yard.  It was not meant to be a competitive run.  The children needed to run the entire time and they could go as slow or as fast as they desired.  The fifteen minutes turned into an average of one mile.  The program is now called, ‘The Daily Mile’.


It isn’t surprising that some of the children were competitive.  Others ran at a pace that allowed them to stay with friends. Whichever method was selected was fine. They just had to move the entire fifteen minutes. 


This experiment was not part of the physical education program.  Sometimes, one class would run.  Other times, the entire school would run at the same time.


The experiment lasted one month:  4 weeks; 20 days.  There was a complete change in the student body.   Independent research observed the students were physically stronger. Mental health improved.  Better classroom performance was observed.  The children interviewed loved the improvement they saw in their own classroom ability as well as the social component.


More than half of the schools in Scotland have adapted this method.  It has spread through thirty-two countries.


Principal Elain Wyllie commented, ‘Something which we didn’t plan, arrived by serendipity and almost accident and has turned out to be a silver bullet for children’s health. It’s easy to scale up and implement across schools.’ 


Schools in Finland use physical activity as a learning tool.  They incorporate MORE recesses for the primary schools.  Teachers believe the opportunity to move burns off excess energy; allows for better concentration in the classroom.  Rather than eliminating outside time to focus on academics, they increased physical activity to improve classroom performance. Fewer minutes per day are necessary to teach science, math, language arts with an increase in academic results.


In the book SMART MOVES, research underscores that physical activity helps memory.  It improves retention.  This is one of the reasons people who take notes remember main points better.  Writing the main idea ignites the brain in new avenues.  Hearing is one way to gain information; recording it helps improve retention; reiterating it is another layer of learning.


One of my children was a kinesthetic learner.  This child needed to move and touch whatever the concept was for retention.  As the teacher, I could force said child to sit at the desk until a bit of work was memorized or hand the child a ball and say, ‘Repeat this while you dribble.  Return to me when you have it learned.’  The difference in time required could be an entire school day. With the dribbling exercise, five minutes was probably the optimum time necessary.  Without dribbling, the brain just didn’t remember and the poor kid could sit at the desk and never learn.


This child could sometimes look at me and say, ‘My legs are going to explode if I don’t move.’  A five minute recess to shoot some basketball hoops would be all that was necessary to alleviate any explosion and return to the classroom ready to absorb information again.


It isn’t difficult for me to understand the benefits of physical activity for learning.  What IS more challenging for me is the application in my own life.  I do know I sleep better and less during lawn and gardening season.  Winter requires more intentionality for movement on my part. 


Some of us are exceptional at the physical fitness regimen.  The rest of us just need to commit to the concept of ‘The Daily Mile’. Here’s to a healthy effort for this year.

Holiday Hangover

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP10er @ 10:40 PM

Holiday Hangover


For me, the months of November and December look like the graph from an EKG.  There are ups and downs that are as regular as my heartbeat. Now that we are in the twilight years of our life (meaning 2/3 of it is behind us), it takes more energy to do just about everything.


We spend more time thinking and planning than we did.  We might be less spontaneous because we consider the cost in terms of energy required and exhaustion.  


Preparing for the holidays is like climbing a mountain.  There is a lot to do.  We gift our children with money these days so they can buy what they want with no exchanges for color, size, or preferences.  They can take advantage of post-holiday sales, or finally purchase  something on their wish list.  It makes shopping almost non-existent.  Aside from the trips to the grocery store and food preparation.  That seems to be the big change when the children file into town.


Dietary restrictions create a challenge for me.  Several family members have discovered them and it means making menus that accommodate our traditions minus some of the main ingredients.


Honestly, the mountain of preparation overwhelms me some days.  And, then my children arrive and none of it seems to matter.  Because they are home.  We are cramped in our little bungalow but we know it won’t be forever. It’s the peak of the graph for me as long as it lasts.


The descent comes when they start to depart and return to their own lives, homes, and schedules.  The mountain top experience is so grand and all my concerns in advance of their arrival were unfounded.  I am able to enjoy their presence, quirky sense of humor, engaging manners of affection to and with one another.  And, then they leave.


Once the avalanche of laundry is caught up and the inventory of refrigerator left overs is complete, I’m left with an empty house.  My heart vacillates between the memories we made and the longing I feel when they are absent.  Our house seems to echo silence.  


This is the decision-making moment for me.  I can dwell on the depressing side of the issue, feeling sorry for myself that seventy-five percent of my children call other states ‘home’.  Or I can remind myself that my children are pursuing their passions and exercising their natural gifts and talents in places that need them.  I can thank God for the years we had with them, gifts from Him that continue to amaze and bless me (and continue to refine me). I can be thankful that they come home and we enjoy one another most of the time.


It’s a daily choice for me. Sometimes, it is a moment by moment choice.  Will I make my children and family my idol or will I remind myself that God is first and the family members are gifts from Him?  


This year, I have a new habit.  When I go to bed at night, I put my Bible on the top of my closed laptop computer.  It reminds me of what needs to come first. Because when I get that right, everything else seems to fall in the right place.  My heart beat continues in rhythm and regularity.  And, I know the source of it all.





Blast from the Past

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OP2er @ 2:20 PM

Blast from the Past


Frustrated with the tunes, I reached for the tuner on the radio and selected another station. Normally, we listened to classical radio but during the holiday season, I wanted more than Bach and Beethoven.


The Christian Radio station wasn’t playing anything unique to the season.  It was the same songs I’d heard in July:  not one note about the Christ child’s birth.  Another station blended the sacred songs I yearned to hear with the jingles I’d listened to as a youngster and through my growing up years. It stirred me to wonder why I was discontent with the Christian station.


The memories and familiar tunes, sacred and secular,  were part of what made the season alive for me.  It brought back the excitement Christmas elicits for a young child.  The mystery of gift giving: the joy of making or choosing a special gift; the anticipation of the response; the happiness of the receiver, all part of what makes the season remarkable.  We delight in giving.  All the senses are engaged as we meander through stores or plot to create. The songs on the radio delight our ears; the scent of cinnamon in the air and holiday baking reminds us of good things to come; the taste of hot cocoa after a cold day of running errands warms our inner being.  


 Andy Williams,  Michael Buble, Jim Brickman, and a host of other unknown artists sing songs that cause me to belt out the familiar cultural songs.  You have heard all about songs and the culture this year, I’m sure. Songs that are offensive.  We’ve been singing about Rudolph and his bullying companions for years.  Yet, he seems to have turned the other cheek to lead Santa and his sleigh.  It sounds to me that he took the high ground and his companions had to take a back seat.


Then, there is Baby, It’s Cold Outside:  the bell ringer for cultural shock this year.  Maybe you have read articles about the cultural nuances of the time in which the song was originally penned to understand it isn’t about coercion as much as a statement of how people viewed such proposals.


Which leads me to wonder how much of the Bible we really understand if we don’t have the cultural context.  So many parables are written in terms farmers, shepherds, carpenters of the day would understand.  There are no references to electronic games, media, Star Wars (though we could probably generate some galactical battles if we stretched it a bit).  So, how do we relate the Word to our daily living?  


We study the context. We have to dig deeply to mine for the treasures buried in the cultural context.  When we do, lights come on in our hearts and minds.  Perhaps during this season, when we are thinking about what we can give and how joyous the recipient will be, we might turn the situation around.


We might think of how delighted God was to send his very own son to live as a man, overcome the temptations of daily living in a victorious manner, and offer himself as the one way to relate to the Father, without being mindful of hundreds of man-made rules to avoid disobeying any of the ten commandments.


And, the Son simplified it so we just needed to follow two simple things:  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  


Consider the delight that God would have when folks like you and me listened to the Son and desired to have relationship by believing and following.  It’s so simple.  Regardless of the cultural context in which we view this, it is simple.  God gave the best gift.  The best gift showed us how to bless and be blessed.  


That’s the Reason for the Season.  Regardless of how much baggage we attach to Christmas with our silly cultural songs and traditions, the reason is simple.  It is profound.  It is amazing.

So, while you are busy creating memories for your littles, point them always to the Reason for the Season and keep it simple so their understanding is not encumbered with the culture that wants it to be just happy holiday.


From my family to the heart of yours, Merry Christmas! Joy to the World, the Lord has come!



Christmas or Garbage?

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA7er @ 7:47 AM

Christmas or Garbage


Have you seen the ‘tiny house concept’ on your Facebook feed?  Little spaces with all the essentials to make it home but no excess square footage.  These little abodes remind me of the campers that used to fit on the back of a pick up truck.  They are complete with the tiny requirements of a kitchen:  a small sink and a 2 burner stove.  The table becomes a bed.  A mattress rests above the roof of the cab of the pick up for more sleeping.  Home on wheels.  


It is a step up from the log cabin where one room serves as the furnace and cooking center (the fireplace); the table becomes the entertainment center and the office and the classroom.  The bed is the only place to lie down.  A trundle pulls out for any children to sleep on.  You get the picture.


Now contemplate the home in which you live.  It is probably larger than the 500 square foot tiny house.  It likely offers more conveniences and certainly more space for living, storing, sleeping, bathing, washing, cleaning than either of the above mentioned options.  


Post WWII, our productive economy made goods and services available to us.  Women had entered the work force in large numbers and cash was available for more than essential living.  Now, luxury could be bought.  


Appliances saved time and energy.  Plastic made household goods and toys cheap and easily acquired.  And, according to a recent Time article, “…we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumptions…We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.”


Most of us aren’t old enough to remember those days.  But we understand the concept of more and more and newer and better.  Some of our jobs revolve around producing, selling, insuring those items.  About 30 years ago, American consumption began using half the annual expenditure to NONNECESSITIES.   The advent of credit, big box stores, discount stores decreased prices and profits. This changed our community.


The influx of online shopping and almost immediate availability expanded our view of the market place.  Two-day shipping; free shipping and the item could be ours with the click of a mouse and not a retreat from the chair.  We no longer have to visit several stores to find the item we want, we just visit several sites to find the desired find and poof, with the wave of the fairy godmother’s wand (the click of that mouse) it can be found at our doorstep in days. Maybe if UPS uses drones, we can decrease the time from days to hours.


And, why?  Because we can.  Goods are cheap.  We are able to buy without a moment’s hesitation; without interruption; without a monitor on whether it is essential to life.  We are not spending half our income on food and the other half on taxes as some do.  Even if we are struggling to get that food on the table or clothe our children, chances are they are better fed and clothed than many in the world.    


Unfortunately, goods have sometimes replaced relationship.  We buy to become happy.  We buy to make ourselves look good.  We buy to keep up with the neighbor or the other kids in school.  We buy so we don’t seem to be without.  Yet, the thrill of the purchase or the sale or the deal doesn’t last forever and soon, there is a need for the thrill of the purchase again.


How do we know this is true? Look at the businesses that have come into existence because of our consumerism:  storage units; Got Junk?; professional cleaners and organizers. Even thrift stores thrive because of our consumerism.  So, what is the clue for combatting consumerism for the sake of purchasing power? 


  1.  Minimize.  Keep what makes you happy or what is needed.  


How often do we keep things because ‘it belonged to [some relative with whom we have a fond memory]’ or ‘my son would be devastated if I got rid of the gift he gave me.’?  I have a pink painted rock that says ‘MOM’ in blue. Turned upside down, it says ‘WOW’. One of my girls made it for me.  I don’t know why I keep it.  Maybe I think she will miss it if I give it away.  What a lie.  She probably doesn’t remember making it.  But, somehow, it floods me with the emotion of love from her diligent efforts to create the perfect gift for her mother.    


We tease my husband about the ‘crepe paper from the 8thgrade dance’.  It’s true.  It is in one of the boxes of archives stored in the closet no one can reach.  He thinks it might be a wonderful remembrance but we wonder by whom.


David has a friend who declared great liberty after he and his wife purged through every drawer, cupboard, closet, and storage cranny, eliminating duplicates, removing excess, and cleaning out space from the unnecessary.


We are often amazed at our home.  Built in 1920, it was originally a one bedroom bungalow.  The bedroom might have held a single bed, shoved against a wall. When we moved into the house, my 8 month pregnant belly wouldn’t tuck under the lavatory of the original bathroom when I was seated on the throne.  Sitting side saddle was equally as difficult because my short legs were pressed against the bathtub.  This home might be the expansion of ‘the tiny house’.  It was built with every convenience of the time but it was not large. And, why should it be?  The homemaker might have had 3 dresses and 2 aprons.  The father may have had two sets of work clothes and one church outfit.  They probably had little need for much stuff or couldn’t afford it if they needed it.  And our home was huge compared to log cabins where the one room served as kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom.


Today, we live in mansions. Seriously.  Even my home, which has had some additions and enclosures to enlarge bedrooms, is a mansion by the standards of many in the world outside America. There seems to be a principle of expansion:  we fill the space we have and then get a bigger space.


What if we each took one room or one closet, removed everything, returned only the few things we NEED or even USE and recycled the rest?  It could be donated to one of many groups or organizations.  It could be put on a garage sale to raise money for a missionary family.  It could be reused in a new way.  What if we spent fifteen minutes sorting out a drawer and removing the extraneous tools or utensils that are duplicates?  What if we made space that allowed us to breathe and move without clutter in our midst?


So during this season, as we anticipate gift giving, perhaps instead of more ‘stuff’ for our homes, we can make memories.  We can cancel activities for a night and have dinner by candle light; we can skate at the ice rink; we can cut and decorate a Christmas tree; we can be intentional about being with family and making positive memories rather than adding to our already crowded households.   Take a picture and file it in a special place so the memory lasts but takes up less space.  Make the season count with the folks who matter.


Though the wish lists have been made for this season; some shopping started; occasional wrapping concluded; Amazon sites bookmarked, ready to decide on which gifts to ‘arrive in 48 hours’, consider taking some time this year to plan memories.  As the many gifts are being relocated from under the tree to the toy room or bedroom closet, remove as many as you store.  It will be good for your mental health!





Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA11er @ 11:38 AM



I don’t know what incites it, but it seems to happen just before the holidays.  I go on a rampage.  I recognize that it is sometimes irrational but there is something within me that insists I do it.  Clean, from the inside out.


This year, I knew the cause. After my mother in law’s death, her apartment had to be cleaned out.  Lots of things came to our house for sorting, keeping, donating.  And, that began the avalanche of closet, drawer, shelf cleaning, sorting, reorganizing, and donating.  


Additionally, we were preparing for holiday guests.  My propensity is to deep clean the rooms or areas of the house they would be occupying. We had just played bed dominoes to better accommodate the sleeping preferences of each guest.  It had taken weeks to make decisions and act on them. Deep cleaning for me means inside out cleaning:  cleaning drawers, shelves, closets and after all that, dusting, vacuuming, etc. Anything less is superficial.


During the growing up years of our children, the boys shared a bedroom and the girls shared another. Each room sported bunk beds.  The bunk beds found new homes, replaced by something to better accommodate adults, some married with children.  And, the basement classroom from our homeschooling days morphed into a family room with a hide a bed for one of the three ‘family’ units.  We decide which rooms/beds to use based on who is coming and when; what overlap and what sleep preferences each has.


And, so it began.  My rampage of sorting, cleaning.  In the process of cleaning a shelf of toys, I decided I needed to store 2 children’s toys together for our new granddaughter’s benefit.  Of course, I was certain I knew where one of them was (in storage).  It wasn’t there, so my progress on one shelf was diverted to sorting through the ENTIRE storage room of our basement till I found it (with the games, not in the storage room where it once was).  This a huge pile of things my husband needed to evaluate before anything could return to the storage room.  Let’s just say we ‘store’ things differently.  And, I don’t pitch anything unless he gives the nod.  This was the avalanche.


Our basement is the old fashioned, no finish on the ceiling kind of basement.  It’s not very deep and tall people notice how low the floor joists are.  Between the joists, run air ducts, pipes, electric things.    When we were in the basement every day home schooling, I noticed any cob webs that arrived.  They didn’t live long.  These days, my time in the basement is usually to rotate loads of laundry or find some ingredient in the pantry.  Few minutes are spent searching for cobwebs.


After feeling pretty smug about all the organizing and sorting work done in the basement, I decided to take a lantern to shine into the recesses of the floor joists, just to be sure there were no dust particles, hanging out together.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The light revealed more than I imagined.  My heart sank.  I had not observed those lingering cob webs.  They were as fine as fishing line, invisible to the naked eye till the light illuminated them.


I knew the perfect weapon against those critters:  my grandmother’s Fuller brush broom.  This is not an ordinary broom.  It’s a triangular shaped device on a pole.  The bristles extend 360* around each of the three sides and the respective corners.  I suspect she used it to clean corners and the joint between ceiling and wall. Though my basement ceiling isn’t very tall, neither am I and the handle was just the extension I needed to conquer the dust above and beyond the air ducts and other utilities.


Maybe because I’m always asking the Lord for revelation of Him in my life, this came to me.  Each of us has some cobwebs that are invisible to our own eyes:  dirt and dust that clings together, forming lines of imperfection.  When His light shines on it, even the smallest of disgusting particles are seen for what they are:  dirt, maybe even sin.  And, only the work of the Trinity, an extension of His grace cleans it up.  The Holy Spirit shows us; the Son cleanses us; the Father instructs us.  


If you come to my house, there is no guarantee you would find my basement rafters dust free.  The cobwebs I discovered yesterday are gone but new ones will find their way and I must remain diligent to keep them from accumulating.  It requires maintenance rather than an annual rampage.


Perhaps the Lord wants to remind me that daily maintenance of the cobwebs in my spiritual life are most effective.  Letting my sin mount for a period of time before attacking it  creates more difficulty than I want to face.  It could become an avalanche.  


Especially during the holiday season, we have more to juggle with extra events, time with extended family or loneliness enlarged; financial restraints or lack thereof, there is more need to focus on His ways and to hear His voice so we don’t move in the wrong direction and have a lot of cleanup to do post celebration.  Food for thought, at least.


There might be more to say about rampages.  For the moment, I have a few more drawers to sort and organize; a little more dusting of some shelves; and some additional sweeping to do before my company comes. Happy Holidays!





'Tis the Season

Posted by Mary Jo Hudson on OA10er @ 10:06 AM

‘Tis the Season


It’s time for a reminder. It’s advent season.  You may own an advent calendar that offers candies or scripture or a new decoration for the Christmas tree as you open each little number to count the days till Christmas and the inevitable GIFT EXCHANGE.  It’s an important element of the season and holiday.


There are lots of ways to celebrate the season.  We didn’t do it perfectly.  But every year, we made some kind of effort to focus on the Reason for the Season: Jesus.  Some years, we did special readings.  Sometimes, we didn’t get up from the dinner table till specific scriptures for each day had been read.  It didn’t matter how we did it.  We tried to focus on Jesus rather than gift giving.


We did other pre-Christmas things as well:  Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan’s purse.  Each child got to select a gender and age range and select gifts for a child in another part of the world by filling a shoe box with necessary and special items.  Tooth brushes, soap, toys, colors, paper, coloring books, and any extras that would fit in the boxes thrilled our children as each one imagined the joy of the child receiving it.


We Christmas caroled for care centers and OWL.  It brought joy to the residents and reminded us why we do special things.


We made a tradition of decorating the tree and our home with specific things to remind us of Jesus and the gifts we have from him.  When it was all complete, we would turn the light on the Christmas tree, sit on the fireplace hearth and enjoy the first of the Christmas cookies and hot chocolate. 


However you celebrate the season with your family, focus on the why of gift giving; the One who came as the best gift for our souls.  In our world of consumerism and the importance of ‘getting’ vs. giving, it’s the least we can do.  Mark the season with things that build memories.


Merry Christmas.



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