Scarcity vs. Generosity

A couple of years ago my husband and I built a new house.  My husband, Doug, is a creator at heart. It really isn’t a choice – he is always building something.  My youngest son Joel inherited this trait.  He loves to create things whether it is with yarn, or paper, or wood – he’s in.  Despite his shared joy in creating, he wasn’t very excited about moving.  He didn’t want to move, or sort his toys, or hear about what wonders we would have in our new house.  He was focused instead on what he would be losing.

I think what my son was experiencing was a normal thing.  We all experience loss when there is change.  The trick is to name the loss, and then at some point, also to be able to be grateful for what you have.  Often losses turn into amazing gifts.

How do you see the world? Is there abundance?

For me, this fine balance ties in with the scarcity mindset, which I have been thinking about lately.  Our mindset is influenced by so many factors, and how we see scarcity and abundance isn’t a simple matter. It’s not really just about income either.  Sometimes, people who have everything money can buy are stuck worrying if others are taking advantage of them or find themselves constantly reaching for more.  I have also met people who might have less economically, but are able to live with great generosity.  And vise versa is definitely true as well. So at least some part of it is not what you have, but how you view what you have.  Being able to switch from grasping to gratitude has been meaningful to me at different points in my life, and remains something I challenge myself to reach for.

Since our move my son has gained a great new friendship with a next door neighbor.  Together they have explored the fields around our houses and even built a couple tepee forts.  A while occasionally, he still misses the trees at our old house, we are planting new ones at our current home and remembering to be grateful while we plant them.

I hope that in trying to teach my children to have a generous mindset, I am also learning that there is enough for all of us.

How do you cultivate a generous, abundant mindset in your own life?

Generous God, teach me how to live contentedly and give generously, without reservation. AMEN

Routine to overcome anxiety

Anxiety and loss have been very real feelings during this past year.  Being intentional about how I face these feelings of loss have helped me cope.  

I saw a short video last week where a person who had struggled with depression in the past, shared that routines were an important part of staying mentally healthy.  It hit me as I watched the video how many routines and normal activities have been disrupted in my life by Covid-19.

Routines help us to feel grounded and help us navigate the day with fewer decisions to make.  During times of stress and upheaval, routines can bring peace.   For example, knowing every Tuesday night is taco salad night lowers the stress around what to eat for dinner.  Having regularly scheduled mealtimes and snacks keeps our bodies fueled and operating at their optimum.  Nighttime routines can help us drift off to sleep and stay asleep longer.  Even the natural world around us follows routines.  Thank goodness for the changing seasons and the sunrise each new day.

Recent sunrise outside our home. Thank you God for the routines of each day.

Routines are also very important for children.  When you’re not the person in charge, it is nice to at least know what is happening next.  Having a routine creates security and predictability.  Keeping regular meals and bedtimes help children feel well mentally, emotionally, and physically.  I’m not always the best at keeping routines going in my family, but acknowledging  how helpful they are not only for me, but also for my children, helps me to put more effort into making them happen.

Also, routines create the perfect opportunity for the occasional joyful surprise.  And who doesn’t need one of those every once in a while?

What are the routines getting you through the unpredictable winter weather, Covid-19, and just life in general?

God of the day and night and Creator of the seasons, thank you for the routines you have created.  Thank you for being ever present in our lives, even in the smallest routines.  AMEN

Deep breathing II

Sometimes I have trouble naming what I am experiencing as anxiety.  I bumped into a friend at the grocery store recently (well not actually, we saw each other from a safe 6 feet apart), and she asked how I was doing.  I answered.  And ended up in a brief conversation that probably made her wonder, once again, about my sanity. Upon reflection I realized that I was just feeling very anxious and our conversation happened just when all those thoughts were swarming around in my head.  For me, my list of wrong things grows exponentially in my mind and my response is a disproportionate feeling of overwhelm that isn’t tied to reality in any significant way.

So, what to do?  One option is to avoid the grocery store, but my family needs to eat!  Here are some more ideas to add to the list I started last week.

My son and our dog have found the perfect anxiety busting activity!
  •  Breathe deeply.  Okay this was on the list last week.  It is just so important for me.  Taking several deep slow breaths requires me to stop, slow down, and it gets some extra oxygen to my brain!  Breathe!
  • Get outside.  I find that in the winter it is easy to avoid spending any time outside.  However, when I find the time to get outside it always helps me to feel more settled.  My chickens currently take me out each morning, at least briefly, to melt the ice in their water bowl.  So I have two reasons to be thankful for them: eggs and outside time.  Getting the mail also involves a short stroll.  Both these activities are pretty short but help me to feel less anxious.
  • Curate your time.  Each of us, depending on our personalities, has dealt with this pandemic time differently.  Some us probably need to reach out with some more “Yes’s” to others.  Some of us probably need to say “No” more often.  Hopefully, at the end of the day at least some of the time, we can feel we have been awake and present in the day we just had.

Do you have some great winter anxiety busters? How do you embrace the winter months?

God of this present moment, ease my anxious thoughts, I pray.  Help me to breathe in Your love deeply and exhale kindness to those around me. AMEN  

February anxiety busters I

I have mixed feelings about February. The good thing list includes lots of family birthdays: my son, my mom, and a niece and nephew (some cousins too!) All wonderful people to celebrate. Oh, and it is the month that holds Valentine’s Day. I love an excuse for an little romance. However, the truth is, I often struggle with winter in February. I sort of have to battle it out with the last of the cold and the lack of sunshine and flowers.

I thought maybe some of you also deal with blahs and anxiety as winter gives us one more cold shoulder. I’ve been trying to take positive proactive steps this winter towards better health, real self care, and less anxiety.

Here are some strategies I have been trying:

Snow on a giant sycamore tree in the field next to our home.

Deep breathing – There are all kinds of methods for deep breathing. And although we often take breathing for granted, taking a few conscious deep breaths can really help relax your mind. When your thoughts start to take a downward spiral, stop what you are doing, and breath in slowly. Then breath out slowly and repeat. Simple. You can also try breathing in to the count of 10, holding your breath for 10, and then releasing it slowly. Another great idea (although I seem to have trouble remembering this when I am feeling anxious) is to combine prayer with deep breathing. So on your breath in you say part of a one sentence prayer and on the outward breath you finish the sentence. Like “Jesus, Son of God, (while breathing in) have mercy on me a sinner (while breathing out)”. Or maybe “Creator of all things, (while breathing in) thank you for this moment (while breathing out)”.

Examine your values and live by them – I have been reflecting on this one. I found this suggestion in a list of anxiety reducers from the Cleveland Clinic. It makes perfect sense. I sort of reinterpreted it to mean: Know who you are and what you believe, then live that out with confidence. Some days it can be difficult to speak up for what we believe is right, and even harder to live out these ideas. But it pays off by reducing stress in the long run! Something I will continue to ponder.

I’d love to hear how you overcome winter blues and stress. What are one or two of your ideas?

You can share them below or email them to me at gwenlantzlib@gmail.com

God, thanks for walking with us through stressful and anxious times. Thanks for friends and community that encourage us along the way. Thanks also for deep breaths which are there to take whenever we need them! AMEN

Snow muffles the noise

Snow capped birdhouse in a quiet field.

I woke to the snow’s muffled blessing of quiet
Peace – be still.
Quiet all you ramblings
Quiet, peace
to Covid viruses and fearful mind wanderings
Quiet, peace
to political mumblings and reporter babblings
Quiet, peace – be still.
Even my busy boys settle down
while the snow blows.
The dryer rumbles a quiet tumble of clean clothes.
The snow coats the mud and gravel of all our
construction and deconstruction.
Quiet, peace – be still.
It will last only a few hours
then the snow plows
will roar forth.
Our busy lives resume.
The quiet will dissipate
with the snow.
Until then
Quiet, peace – be still.

Book Reviews: Miracles and Atomic Habits

Two books I have read recently and really enjoyed are Miracles and Other Reasonable Things by Sarah Bessey and Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Miracles is a moving memoir/spiritual reflection by Sarah Bessey. Some parts of this book read like a novel, where I was completely immersed in the story and couldn’t put it down. Other parts had wise tidbits that have stayed with me even though I have long since read them. She has left me considering what is the difference between self care and self comfort. And with the beautiful image that her son drew of what prayer means to him. If you are looking to be inspired, encouraged, and stretched and somehow enjoy the experience – this is the book for you!


Atomic Habits is a completely different kind of read. It is still in the non-fiction category but is a efficient presentation on how small changes, over time, in the right environment, can become habits that are life changing. One tidbit that stands out to me was to was the idea that self control isn’t so much about our personal will but more about how we create an environment for success around ourselves. The author, James Clear, explains how he wanted to eat more fresh fruit so he put a bowl of apples on the counter. And, not surprisingly, he started to eat more fresh fruit. As a librarian, I think this is an excellent argument for all teachers taking their students to the library regularly. In a room full of books how can you avoid consuming a few? Here’s to successful habits in the new year!

Holding Jesus’ hand

This is the image I am holding onto today. I am reaching out to hold the hand of Jesus, and he is reaching back and holding my hand. Sometimes life is tough and this is the only image left that gives me hope.

Science and scientists can give us lots of scenarios and advice. For example COVID-19 is a virus. It is better not to travel. Wear your mask and wash your hands to stop the virus from spreading. They can tell us how many people have died from COVID-19 and predict what will happen if everyone refuses to wear masks and social distance. Wonderful scientists have created a vaccine! Actually, more than one vaccine. And I am grateful.

However, the questions I hear myself and others struggling with the most go more like this: Should I go home to visit my father who has a terminal illness? How will not attending in-person school affect my child over the long haul? What big picture am I teaching my son when I say it is more important to be apart than to be together? If we are all in this together but separately, who will hug the person who lives alone? Will we want to go back to church? Which is more important: That I am safe or that you feel loved?

A recent heavy frost highlights a lavender plant.

Sometimes (okay most of the time) life is complicated and we cannot control it. That is the lesson I have been learning. I was hoping that was a lesson for 2020 and not for 2021 (see some of my early Jan. posts), but today it doesn’t feel like it! Today feels like this lesson of not being in control might be one I just have to keep learning. Maybe, eventually, I will get better at it. Until then I will keep trying to hang on to Jesus’ hand. At least that way I have one less hand available to meddle with the control button.

God, who I freely choose, thank you for holding my hand during this crazy time. Give each of us the courage we need to not have all the answers. Renew our love for one another. AMEN

Delicious, Quick Chili

This chili recipe is one I’ve modified slightly from its original in Esther Shank’s Mennonite Country-Style Recipes Cookbook. (Follow this link to order a copy: https://amzn.to/3mZ0cxO

It is just the thing for a cold winter evening!  So tasty but also so simple. 

Delicious chili, ready to serve.

Delicious Chili con Carne

2 tbsp vegetable oil (optional – I usually use some if I use ground turkey)
1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
1 med. Onion, chopped
1 med. green pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

Saute in skillet until slightly browned.  Drain if you have lots of fat from the meat.

1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, chopped
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. chili powder
¾ tsp. crushed oregano leaves
1 tsp. salt

Add to sauteed meat mixture.  Cover and simmer about 20 min. Stirring occasionally.  

2 (16 oz.) cans kidney beans, drained

Stir in.  Heat several minutes more.
Yield: 6 servings

Bless this food to our bodies, oh Lord, we pray. By living in Your gracious love may we use the energy it creates to spread your kindness in the world . AMEN

Chili over rice with all the toppings! Yum!

Saying goodbye to 2020, and hopefully Covid-19

There is no doubt that Covid-19 has touched all of our lives this past year.  While there are some common threads for all of us (toilet paper shortage anyone?), our experiences of the past year have also been very diverse.  Some of us felt stuck at home with children who were bored and bouncing off the walls.  In the same moment others wished they could stay home but instead spent another day at the ICU caring for those with COVID.  Some businesses succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, while others closed their doors.  Some people were alone, while others longed for just one moment alone in the house by themselves.  What a crazy year!

One joy for our family this year was acquiring chickens. They didn’t like the snow much!

So how will we move forward from this moment?  I know that Covid-19, sadly, isn’t over yet.  But for me there is hope as I see the vaccine roll out on TV, and hear about friends and family who qualify to get the vaccine.  So, as life gradually and hopefully, changes back to “normal” in the months ahead, what lessons do we want to take with us from 2020?  Is there anything worth saving?  This is a tough question.  Mostly, I would like to forget the year 2020 ever happened!  However, perhaps because of the rough times, it is good to remember how I felt God’s kindness in the past year.  Naming out the ways my family was cared for, help me have hope for the future.  Seeing good in others’ lives also gives me hope.

What do you think?  Are you ready to throw 2020 in the garbage can?  Is there anything worth holding onto?

Mothering God thank you for sheltering us under your wings when we needed it most this past year.  Give us eyes to see the past from Your perspective.  With humbleness we are thankful for your kindness in our lives.  Hopefully we lean towards 2021.

New Take on New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions.  Usually, I end up making a goal that seems perfectly reasonable and the next thing I know I am failing miserably.  I try to be more gentle with myself these days.  This year instead of setting a New Year’s resolution I’m trying for meaningful life rhythms.

Okay, I realize this might be a bit corny or just semantics but sometimes the way that we say something, even (or especially) to ourselves changes how we feel and perhaps our success.  Here are some life rhythms I am choosing.  Hopefully they will trigger some ideas that are meaningful to you:

Where will your new rhythms lead you?
  • Choose a word or phrase for the year. (last year was gratitude for me & the year before that was courage)  Post (virtually or in paper form) it where you see it frequently.  I think I need a screen saver with my word for 2021.  This excellent idea was shared with me by some friends who love Gretchen Rubin. Check out all things Gretchen Rubin at https://gretchenrubin.com/.
  • Instead of saying “I will lose weight.”; I will try saying, “I will keep fresh veggies cut up and ready to eat in the fridge.”.
  • I am putting important, life-giving things on my calendar.  For example: coffee with a friend and actual appointments to spend time writing

Do you like New Year’s resolutions?  How are you facing the new year with grace and courage? Are you excited for 2021 or worried about what it will hold?

God of the past, present, and future guide us as we bravely step into a new year.  Grant us renewed hope at a time of new beginnings.  We long to embrace the year ahead with trust You will remain with us no matter what it holds.

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