Summer’s here!

summer
summer
Image source: Google

Today is the first day of summer (you can get great summer deals today, including a free small blizzard at Dairy Queen), when it’s the longest day of the year in the U.S. and the shortest day of the year for people in Australia and residents south of the equator).

Heather, Andy, and their kids
Heather, Andy, and their kids

Our daughter Heather, her girls, her boyfriend Andy, and his kids, took off fast today for a much-needed break from work and a vacation in Branson, MO. It was a surprise for the kids.

There’s lots to do in Branson, although I joke to Ray that it’s “an old people’s place” with country hick singers and the entertainment shows (he loves it). However, Branson has beautiful scenery at Table Rock State Park and nice shopping and restaurants at Branson Landing.

Heather made a fun scavenger hunt at her house, where the kids looked for clues all over the house, until they got to the last clue which read that they were going on summer vacation in Branson. She is such a fun mom! The kids loved the scavenger hunt!

Me & Leah at our home for Thanksgiving 2017
Me & Leah at our home

Today I went to lunch with our youngest daughter Leah. When she was still living at home, she and I would go to lunch every two weeks when Ray was paid.

This was our mom-daughter special time together. After she moved out, I wanted to continue the tradition. Leah now stays busy working, taking her violin lessons, drawing her art, and doing stuff with her friends. We still try to go out every couple of weeks for our “mom-daughter” time.

A Moment's Pause Art Print
A Moment’s Pause art print
Copyright 2018 Leah Jones

You can follow Leah on Instagram @leah.merae to see the art she’s working on recently from daily prompts. You can also check out and buy her art at her Society 6 online store (Leah Merae).

I try to do lunches with Heather, too, only she lives much further away (an hour), she works more than full-time hours, and she is constantly busy, but we see each other when we possibly can.

Eden & her family
Eden & her family

Our middle daughter Eden stays very busy too, working 3 jobs, but she and Ray regularly text and video chat. We drop by to see them at times, since they and Leah live down the street from us in Butler. 

Heather, Eden, and Leah
Heather, Eden, and Leah

While our three precious daughters stay on the go every day and live their own, busy lives, I’m still trying to adjust to the empty nest. (I digress from the first day of summer, but I’m going with the writing flow for now.)

I’m not going to lie. It’s hard. Real hard. The house feels so empty at times. (My marriage isn’t what it should be yet, though we are in Christian marriage counseling now.)

insomnia
woman with insomnia
Image source: Google

At night when things are often too quiet, I lay down, wrestling with insomnia again, and then the mom guilt attacks me. The regrets. The painful ache in my heart, missing their beautiful, sweet faces and their physical presence here.

The haunting, condemning thoughts of, “I should have done more fun things with them” or “I shouldn’t have yelled at them so much” or “Why was I so focused on a clean house instead of just enjoying my time with them more?” Sometimes I miss them so much.

These days I do stay busy with my speaking and writing books. When I’m in between books, I get so restless, and feel like I’m just going to absolutely come out of my skin from boredom and anxiety. Today at lunch, Leah wisely told me, “You need to find new hobbies, mom.”

burger & fries
burger & fries

“Like what?” I asked her in between bites of a juicy cheeseburger and french fries drowned in ketchup. 

Creative things like painting or playing a musical instrument. For example, right now I’m learning to make origami.

Nancy Wilson of Heart
Nancy Wilson of Heart
Image source: Google

I told her that while origami is cool, I don’t want to do that and that I don’t know how on earth to draw or to play an instrument. The only instrument I’ve ever wanted to learn how to play was piano (which I quit my lessons as a child) and the guitar, so I could pretend to be Heart’s musician Nancy Wilson.  But I wanted to play bass guitar, not rhythm. I never learned how, and now I have no desire to be a rock star.

“What else can I do?” I asked my child who is wise beyond her years.

Whatever I want, she said. And Leah thinks that anyone can learn to draw or to play an instrument, no matter what your age is. It’s not too late to learn something new!

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher
Image source: Google

Here are some things I DO want to do–this summer:

  • Spend time with God and our family;
  • Travel somewhere new;
  • Start my walking/jogging routine again (pray for my self-discipline, puh-leeze! I’ve gained all my weight back!)
  • Drink more water and continue healthy eating (cut carbs and sugar dramatically, more salads and fresh veggies);
  • Restore our marriage;
  • Possibly write a children’s book with Leah illustrating the art on the front cover (she’s thinking about it!);
  • De-clutter my office (tame the paper tiger!);
  • Go horseback riding somewhere;
  • Have some much needed down time at the beach, my place of rest and refilling;
  • Visit my family and friends in different states;
  • Go on another train ride;
  • Speak at a women’s conference (several times would be great!);
  • Lead at least one person to Christ, hopefully more;
  • See God moving in our family, drawing us closer to Him and one another;
  • Visit the mountains; 
  • Ride a hot air balloon ride with Ray, drinking champagne;
  • Have roses bloom in my home garden;
  • Grow more Christ-like, in the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Laugh more. 

These are just some of the things I’d love to do. What about you? Share your comments below.

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Love anyway

Valentine's Day Image source: Google
Valentine’s Day
Image source: Google

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. The other day when I was eating chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant, I heard a man griping to his (male) friend that Valentine’s Day is “just a made-up holiday to force men to buy flowers and candy for their girlfriends or wives.” In my head, I was thinking, “Actually, no, it’s a perfect opportunity for a man to show his wife how very much he loves her!”

In my recent blog post on love, I shared how God has called us as Christian believers to love as He loves–not to hate. 

The way we learn to love God, others, and ourselves is by spending time in the presence of the One who is the epitomy of love–God. God is love. (1 John 4:3) By praying. Worshipping and praising Him. Meditating on His Word, the Bible. Having fellowship with other believers. Operating in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) Crucifying our flesh daily. (Romans 6:6) Repenting of sin. (Acts 3:19)

God’s anointing–the presence of His Holy Spirit–teaches us all things, including love. (1 John 2:27) 

Jesus at well with woman
Jesus at well with woman

I guess it’s easy for God to love because, well, He’s God! But what about us mere humans, we who are fragile jars of clay, so prone to sinning and who eventually return to the dust from which God made us? (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

Asian woman praying
Asian woman praying

Let’s face it. Some people are not easy to love. In fact, sometimes they are downright unloveable. 

They can be:

  • Rude.
  • Hateful.
  • Mean.
  • Spiteful.
  • Harsh.
  • Cruel.
  • Arrogant.
  • Indifferent.

And let’s face it; you and I can be very unloveable, too. 

Unhappy couple
Unhappy couple

What to do with these kind of people?

You and I make an intentional choice to love anyway. 

Jesus on the cross
Jesus on the cross

The way God does with you and me. He loves and gives first. The way Jesus looked down at those who crucified Him and mocked Him and said, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 22:34, International Standard Bible)

Jesus DIED for them, the same as He did for you and me! Love lays down one’s life and prays for others–even those who hate and despitefully use you. (Luke 6:28)

couple holding hands
couple holding hands

Love is a decision. Love is an action. Love is a verb. 

Is it easy? NO! I really struggle with this at times. I constantly have to ask God to help me to love others the way He does. (Sometimes this is hardest to do in your own family!)

Is it what God desires for you and me, to be vessels of His unconditional (agape) love? YES!

*******

eBook cover
eBook cover

I’m writing a new book now, Metamorphosis: Transformed From Hate to Love. 

If you sign up with your name and email address for my personal mailing list, you’ll be first to hear about its release for sale for your Kindle on Amazon. You’ll also get a free gift when you sign up. 

Just sign up at the top of the page on the right hand side.

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I adopted a cat!

Me & Natalya our cat
Me & Natalya our cat

Recently my husband Ray went to Texas for a week to help his mom Judy after her eye surgery. He and I have talked many times about getting a cat. We had to give away our last family cat, a calico named Sierra, several years ago when we moved to a rental home and the landlord didn’t allow pets. Our daughter Leah misses her and wants a cat of her own again one day. 

I wanted to wait until we finished remodeling our home that we bought last year, so the noise wouldn’t stress out the cat and so he or she wouldn’t pee everywhere as a result. But I really wanted a black cat with green eyes and was tired of waiting. While Ray was gone to Texas, I adopted a cat at a local animal shelter!

Natalya
Natalya

I went to three shelters. The first one in Butler, MO, where we live, House of Hound, only had dogs. The second one in Harrisonville, MO, had just two cats. One was a sweet, long-haired, calico mix named Lucy. She went to my arms instantly and purred, but I wanted a black cat with green eyes. I think they are beautiful and look like little black panthers. The staff told me there were several of these at the Belton shelter.

How can you resist this face?
How can you resist this face?

The Belton, Missouri HELP Human Society has over 200 cats and a few dogs. It is a no kill animal shelter that helps animals find loving, good homes. There’s lots of sofas and chairs for the kittens and cats to roam all over the building. The dogs are in a separate section. I really liked that the cats had this freedom.

A few cats are placed in cages when they are first brought there, until they get used to it, or unless they have health issues. I laughed when I walked in and cats were walking around on Sarah’s desk (one of the paid staff). It was hard to pick one, as they were all so cute.

The shelter had many black kittens and cats; ironically, some people are superstitious and think black cats are spooky and bad luck. Black kittens and cats are the least adopted and have the highest euthanasia rate. 

My black cat
My black cat

It took me about 30 minutes to choose which one. I was drawn to her name, her personality, and her story. I also asked to make sure she had a good health record. Natalya was a little reserved with me at first, but when I brought her home, she couldn’t be petted enough! Every night she sleeps with me. She loves me and wants to be constantly petted! Here is a funny pic of me with her with her mouth open. 

Funny pic of Natalya
Funny pic of Natalya

Natalya is about four years old. She has an interesting story. Her family was in a house fire. They thought she was killed in the fire, but she escaped and later came back to the area. The family had to move in temporarily with another family while they found another home to live in, so they had to take her to the Belton shelter. Since I have “been through the fire” many times in my life, her story intrigued me.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”–Isaiah 43:2, NLT

You can read my own powerful story here at Amazon.

To adopt a pet at HELP Humane, you have to fill out an application, show your driver’s license, and pay a fee. Some shelters have stricter requirements than others. A dog’s and a kitten’s fee is generally higher than a cat’s. After filling out the one-page application, I was interviewed by Sarah.

This shelter takes care of the animals’ food and water, gives them shots, and spays or neuters them. There’s many volunteers with a compassionate heart for animals who work there. She was due for her rabies shot in a few days, so I took her to the vet to get that and for an exam. The shelter gave me a certificate so that most of the visit was covered. I was happy to hear that she is in good health.

Natalya's cute paws
Natalya’s cute paws

After approval of my application, I went to Walmart to get cat supplies, came back, and took my new kitty home the same day! I bought two bags of Iams cat food, a pet carrier, two cat litter boxes, giant boxes of cat litter, a brush, a scratching post, and a toy ball. The shelter also gave me some food for her, a toy mouse, and catnip as a going away gift for her.

food bowl
food bowl

 

water bowl
water bowl

 

brush & ball
brush & ball

 

litter box
litter box

 

scratching post
scratching post

In the morning after I cook my egg, I have “coffee with God,” praying, reading the Bible, and journaling. A friend on Facebook, Tanna, joked that Natalya likes to read, too.

Natalya "reading"
Natalya “reading”

I have a very soft, multi-colored blanket on the love seat that I use while I drink my creamy coffee and read the Bible. Natalya LOVES this blanket. She often “kneads” it and she lays on it often.

Natayla loves this soft blanket
Natayla loves this soft blanket

The first couple of days after I adopted her and brought her home, Natalya walked all around the house, meowing constantly. I think she missed her cat friends at the shelter and was a little scared. This is normal. It takes time for the pet to adjust to his or her new environment. Eventually, she started acting more like a cat, being curious and getting into everything and jumping onto counters and high places.

One morning I was eating breakfast and heard her meowing from the utility room. I walked in there and she had jumped to the highest shelf of the cabinet, which is about 7 feet tall! I was worried that was too far for her to jump down to the floor, climbed a stool, and got her down. She still does it sometimes and I still rescue her!

Natalya on top shelf
Natalya on top shelf

When I work on my laptop to write books, speaking presentations, or blogs like this, Natalya sometimes comes into my office. She jumped on my laptop, which kept me from writing! So I laid out a soft comforter for her in there to occupy her instead.

Natalya on my laptop
Natalya on my laptop

One of my friends on Facebook commented that she is queen of the house. I do think she looks like a queen and elegant like royalty–like the Queen of Sheba!

Queen of Sheba
Queen of Sheba

Because we live in a busy neighborhood with lots of traffic and the health risks from neighborhood cats and other animals, she is an inside cat only. Natalya loves to look outside the window at the sky, trees, birds, squirrels, neighborhood cats, cars, and people walking by in our front entry room. I have a teal green ottoman that is a perfect stool for her to do this. It snowed recently, so here she is looking at the snow.

Natalya looking out the window
Natalya looking out the window

 

Natalya on her stool
Natalya on her stool

My Facebook friend Maria gave me the great idea to buy some yarn to play with her. This is especially good to do with her at night to wear her out before bedtime (so I can sleep!). She loves the green yarn, and it makes me laugh that she chases it as I run across the room.

Natalya in action chasing yarn
Natalya in action chasing yarn

 

Natalya playing with yarn
Natalya playing with yarn

 

The green yarn matches her eyes
The green yarn matches her eyes

She is a beautiful cat, and has such a sweet personality…and I found out that a Christian friend of mine had prayed for her to get a good home! After I posted pics of Natalya on Facebook, my friend Carrie Lemon asked if I had adopted her from the Belton HELP Human Society.

I said yes, and she told me that she and her two daughters often went in there to just love on the kitties and that Natalya always followed them to the door, as if wanting to go home with them. They prayed for her, that God would give her a loving home. God is amazing! My husband Ray is a “cat person,” and he loves her, too.

My sweet kitty Natalya
My sweet kitty Natalya

Did you know that having a pet has health benefits? Some are:

  • Pets can decrease depression, stress, and anxiety. Dogs help soldiers with PTSD, with Walter Reed Army Medical Center using them for veterans and finding them to have a decreased suicide rate;
  • They can lower your blood pressure, build your immunity, and decrease your risk of heart attacks or strokes;
  • Pets can be the best medicine when dealing with chronic pain, like arthritis or migraines;
  • Having a pet can help with loneliness; animals love unconditionally, unlike some people;
  • Owning a pet can help lower cholesterol;
  • Having a pet can improve your mood, making you laugh and relax more;
  • Owning a dog can increase your opportunities to socialize;
  • Pets help children to emotionally develop.

Most of all, a pet is fun. These fur babies make great companions and people often consider them part of the family.

Natalya giving me a kiss
Natalya giving me a kiss

Do you have a pet? What kind? Leave your comments below. 

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