Thursday, December 31, 2015

Indiana State Parks turn 100!

     This is so not what I was planning to write about today, but I saw something on Facebook this morning and I had to share the information.  The Indiana State Library has teamed up with the Indiana State Parks to offer state park entrance passes that can be checked out at local libraries!  Anyone with a library card (which is free), will have free access to the state parks in Indiana for 2016.  I think that this is an amazing opportunity for people to check out the fantastic state parks in Indiana.

     Anyone who knows me and my family, knows that we are huge fans of the state parks in Indiana.  We make it a point each year to visit several throughout out the state.  The fee to most of the state parks is $7 per carload (for instate cars), my family buys a $50 pass that is good for the entire year to all the state parks in Indiana.  We get our moneys worth every year because we visit so many of the parks.

     We live just down the road from Spring Mill State Park.  We go there to hike on a regular basis.  We love the easy hike around the lake, but there are some that are more challenging.  Delainey did her photography project for 4H at Pioneer Village.  We make use of the pool several times during the summer.  And while our house was getting sprayed due to a flea infestation, we stayed at Spring Mill Inn.  I have friends who spend their anniversary each year at Spring Mill.

     For my fiftieth birthday celebration, we went to a new to us park, Lincoln State Park.  We had a picnic lunch, hiked, and enjoyed nature.  Delainey and I went swimming in the lake, while Jim found a quiet place to fish (yes he fished in the same lake where we were swimming, fish live in lakes...).  It was a perfect way to celebrate my birthday.  I have camped at Clifty Falls State Park several times, with my family and friends. The trails at Clifty are awesome, some follow Clifty Creek and lead to a water fall, a beautiful sight to behold!  My boys, who were not big on hiking, even enjoyed the hike that took us through the creek, great on a hot day!

     Turkey Run State Park has been part of my life since high school.  My girls group at church went camping there each year.  The day after prom one year was spent there.  One year our family vacation was going to be spent at Turkey Run.  The heat sent us home after a day though...100 degree heat in a tent with no fans or air was to much for us!  My girlfriends and I camped there one weekend.  We can laugh about it now, but we went tubing down Sugar Creek during a drought.  If you want to do that, make sure that the water levels are high enough so that you don't have to walk most of the would have been fun tubing, but walking, not so much!

     My favorite hidden gem of a state park is Fort Harrison.  Fort Harrison is a state park in Indianapolis.  You don't expect such a secluded place in the city, but it's there.  I wrote about Fort Harrison earlier this year, so I won't repeat myself, but it truly is worth the visit.  So many precious memories of my family have taken place at Fort Harrison.

     I could talk all day about the state parks in Indiana.  I went on a field trip in third grade to the Indiana Dunes State Park (my mom was the rebel chaperon that let us stick our feet into the water).  During a rough spot in our marriage, Jim and I took a trip to Brown County State Park that helped us reconnect and take time out from the difficulties that we were facing.  I went on a youth group retreat to Pokagon State Park.  I have been hiking at McCormick's Creek, Falls of the Ohio, Shades, and Versailles.  Each park has its own identity, something that makes it special.

     If you haven't been to a state park in Indiana, take some time in 2016 to visit one.  Go to the library and check out an entrance pass.  Spend the day getting back to nature.  Enjoy the hiking, the fresh air, the sounds of the woods, the time with your family.  This is a great opportunity that we have this year.  Celebrate 100 years of Indiana State Parks with some of the special activities that are being planned this year!  I know that I will be there with my family!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Letting Go

     2015 is coming to an end.  As the year closes, we are all taking time at our house to let go of some of our things that we no longer want or need.  We don't go crazy with Christmas gifts, but we do need to make room for the new items that we received.  Jim let go of some of his jeans and tee shirts.  Delainey actually donated some of her stuffed animals.  I need to check out my closet to see what I no longer wear.

     I struggle to let go of things that have sentimental value to me.  I don't want to let go of things that have been given to me.  I have things that don't blend with my style that I am keeping.  I talked before about purging my things, but I have been at a stand still lately.  I need to go back to what my friend Deb talked about on her blog, keeping things that bring me joy.  I don't need to keep the things to remind me of people, I have the memories...and I can always take pictures.

     I have a good friend who is doing the hard work of pruning the negative from her life.  That hard work is not just getting rid of things, but people as well.  I admire her so much, it takes courage to do what she is doing.  I don't do drama in my life, but it seems that drama has been creeping in through various people.  I need to evaluate those relationships and see if they can become more positive.  If not, then I need to decide what I will allow in my life.

     I am on vacation for the next week.  I need to do spend some time doing the hard work of letting go.  I need to evaluate what brings me joy and what is just sitting around taking up space.  I need to look at the drama and see if it can be turned around.  I need to enjoy my vacation and at the same time, take a look at what I want to take with me into 216.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


     I know that we need to keep our kids (and ourselves) safe, but have we taken "stranger danger" to an extreme?  Are we so afraid to step out of our box and speak to strangers that we are missing out?  How do we strike a balance between speaking to strangers and keeping safe?  I don't know the answers, but I was glad that I welcomed two strangers into my world this week.

     The first stranger was a customer in the store where I work.  I don't often interact with the customers due to the nature of my job, but during the holidays I spend less time time doing "my" job and more time on the sales floor.  I was on a ladder when I sneezed.  I don't have a tiny little sneeze...I have been known to wake my family when I sneeze.  A customer gave me a "bless you" and I apologized in case I startled her.  We had a silly conversation about sneezes that made me smile.  You know that you have met one of your people she tells that if she is going to pee when she sneezes, the sneeze should be a big one!

     The second stranger that I met was during a tornado warning.  We don't have a safe place in our house during storms, but we live close to our church, which has a basement.  D and I grabbed the dog, Pink Bear, and Mrs. Hannon and headed to our church to wait out the storm.  There was another car in the parking lot.  I invited the lady in her car in to share our shelter.  As we waited out the storm, we chatted.  She shared with me the story of her miraculous healing from cancer.  After being told there wasn't much hope or many treatment options left for her, her husband had a dream that she was cured.  She had a PET scan done.  The scan showed that her tumor, which at the end of her radiation and chemo was still the size of a small ball, was completely gone.  She has been completely cancer free for almost 16 years.  Her doctors couldn't explain it, but she could...she received a miracle.

     Two strangers.  Two completely different conversations, but both left me with a smile.  All because I stepped out of my box and opened myself to a conversation with a stranger.  Maybe it's time to open myself up more to strangers and let them into my world.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

She gets it!

     As a parent, I always wonder if Delainey understands the things that we are trying to teach her.  Some days, I don't think that she understands at all.  This year, we were lucky enough to have extra, so we were able to help out a friend in need and take a name from our county's angel tree.  The plan was to spend black Friday shopping for these special gifts.  More than once, I had to remind her that our budget was not for us, but for others.  It was hard and frustrating.  I questioned whether or not she understands that others won't be celebrating Christmas in their own home, without plenty of food, and little to no gifts.

     Earlier this month, Jim and I were able to take a group of youth to Indianapolis to work with a church that serves a hot meal on Sundays to the homeless and needy.  D was the youngest member on the team working.  She jumped right in and asked to work in the kitchen.  She helped wash dishes, worked on the line serving the food, and then jumped onto the cleanup detail.  She hasn't said much about the experience, other than she wants to go again, but I could tell that she was taking it all in.

     As part of Advent, we are doing a Jesse tree devotion using her Jesus Storybook Bible (can you tell that I love this book?).  We read a story each night and then one of us prays.  One night after reading the story of David and Goliath, D prayed.  She thanked God that he uses the small and the weak to do His work. Be still my heart!  She is listening to the stories and lessons that she hears.  She is taking it in and making it meaningful to her.

     Our church hosts a Blue Christmas service for the community.  It is a service that acknowledges that not everyone is excited about Christmas, that personal issues are preventing people from enjoying the season.  D and I went, not because we are sad this season, but because we support our church programs.  D helped throughout the service, lighting the Advent candles, passing out tea lights to people as they shared their sorrows, passing out blue ornaments to decorate the tree.  She was very serious as she listened to people share their sorrows.  During the service she was crying.  She couldn't explain why.  She regretted not lighting a candle for her sister that I miscarried.  She did tell me that she was glad that we went.  She saw the joy in people as we finished decorating the blue Christmas tree.  It was a meaningful service for both of us.

     I sometimes forget that she is 9.  There are going to be days that the whole world revolves around her.  And it will frustrate me...but heck, there are days that I think the world should revolve around me.  But I am seeing that there are more days in the life of my little girl, that she sees the bigger picture.  She sees sorrow and loss and pain of others.  She wants to be part of the solution.  She really does get it!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

'Tis the Season

     I love Christmas, I think everyone knows that about me.  In our house, we start decorating for Christmas in November.  All three of us enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas.  In the past, I have over planned for us and often left us all tired.  I end up disappointed that we didn't do something that was on our list.  This year, I have changed my focus.  I have lowered my expectations and focused more on the peace of the season.  I am doing things daily this year to prepare the reason that we celebrate Christmas in our house.  I am celebrating the season of Advent.

     Last year, I tried to do an elaborate Jesse tree, with paper ornaments that needed colored, long scripture readings for each day, and I failed.  I had the tree ready, but not the ornaments.  I think that we did one or two days together as a family and then, nothing.  This year, we are using my favorite storybook Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible, as our Advent reading.  The stories are simple, sweet, and all of them lead to Jesus.  After we read the story, one of us will say a prayer and then we put a simple circle ornament on our Jesse tree.  This time that we spend together as a family has been such an amazing time for all of us.  To hear Delainey read one of the stories or listen to Jim pray just makes my heart happy.

     Each morning before I hit the shower, I have been reading a daily reflection that one of my Facebook friends shared. I am enjoying the readings and reflections each day.  The readings and reflections give me pause throughout the day.  I like starting my mornings with this.  It doesn't take long for me to read and I have time throughout the day to process what I have read.  I end my day with an Advent reading that I received from my church.  My day is beginning and ending with words that are building me up, giving me strength and knowledge.

     As I am experiencing this season that we refer to as Christmas, I am taking time to enjoy the season of Advent.  I am taking time to reflect and worship.  I am taking time to prepare my heart to celebrate the birth of my Saviour.  I am taking time to enjoy my family and count my blessings.  I hope that everyone is able to take some time in the stillness and just be in the moment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Food for thought

       In October, Jim went on an Emmaus Walk.  If you have never been, I encourage you to find out more about the weekend, there just aren't words to describe the weekend.  I went on my Walk in 2013 and tried to describe my time, but didn't have the words (although I tried in a blog post).  I still don't!  It can be a truly life changing weekend.  Jim's walk has changed not just him, but our entire family.  I have been challenged in so many ways since he has been home.  Jim came home and has really put Christ in the center of his life...and in doing so, has made me focus so much more as well.  By following Jim's example, I am learning to keep Christ as my center as well.

     One of the things I am being led to do, is watch what I am filling myself with.  I love to read...almost any type of book.  I just finished a book for my book club and as I was reading, I was being nudged.  The book was very suspenseful and very dark.  My heart would race as I was reading because of the subject matter. It was a good book, but was it good for me?  Do I need a book that talks about the darker side of life?  It the book nourishing me in a positive way?  How would I feel if D started to read this book?  I have decided that I need to monitor the type of books that I read.  I don't think that everything has to be happy, fluffy, and fun, but I want the books to have a more positive message for me.

     Jim and I have also been discussing the movies that we have in our house and the tv shows that we watch.  Not everything has to be family friendly, but we want things that we don't have to worry about what Delainey will see if she watches them.  I don't have a problem with movies that are fantasy, like the Harry Potter movies, or even the Hunger Game movies.  The Hunger Game movies are not age appropriate for D yet, but there will be a time when she will be okay to watch them.  Other movies that we  have, I don't see us sitting down as a family to watch them ever, so why am I still keeping them?  Don't think that we have a stash of X-rated movies laying around the house, we don't.  But do we need to keep movies that have more adult themed material?  Probably not.

     I am not going to judge anyone for what they are reading, watching, or listening to.  Everyone has to make their own decisions about what is acceptable.  I am just finding that my level of acceptance for me is changing.  I want things to fill my mind with positive thoughts and images.  I don't want to read a book that scares me with what could be.  I don't want to watch a movie that is full of images that I don't need to see.  I want to take steps to keep my books and movies appropriate for me and my family.  I think that this will be a painful process for me.  I don't like to let books and movies go, but for me, it feels like that is what I am being led to do.