Books to Feed Your Spirit

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Welcome to Visitors from No Longer Quivering!

Welcome to my new blog visitors!  If you are looking for the cross-post of  my post on No Longer Quivering, you can find it on my blog  www.WatchTheShepherd.blogspot.com. The direct link is Moving on from Broken: My Church and Life Transition Story.  While you're here, please feel free to poke around on my blogs!

Virginia Knowles


Friday, April 11, 2014

Mom's Chauffeur and Courier Service (A Little Encouragement)


My day "off" started off not with a bang, but my teenager's gentle voice around 6:30 in the morning: "Mom, I missed the bus.  I tried to let you sleep as late as I could, but I need a ride to school."  Huh?  What?  Oh.  Up I go. Change into day clothes, keys in hand, we can do this.  Let's enjoy the beautiful sunrise and a little time spent with a very sweet son.  I'm a mom of 10 with seven still living at home, so one-on-one time is precious.


I got home in time to make sure my youngest daughter's hair was combed and that my youngest son was out of bed.  Keys in hand, off to the elementary school several blocks away.   Then home again in time to eat some breakfast and take another daughter and a neighbor to their middle school bus top several blocks away.  Done yet with driving?  I thought so...


But no.  Within minutes, I got a text from my daughter that she had left the Cheetos for a class party in the van.  Could I bring them to school for her at lunch time?  Sure, why not.  Not so far away, eh?


And then, and then, I got a call from one of my adult daughters asking for a "big favor, Mom."   Could I bring the set of her paint brushes she had left on her bed? As soon as possible, please?  I had to laugh.  Yep, got it.  I took a shower, threw some laundry in the washer, printed out my To Do list for the next few days.  Keys in hand, off to the college to bring my amazing artist her tools.  (I can't wait to go see the college's juried art show opening night next week.  She had six pieces accepted for display, out of the 60 total. Did I say she is an amazing artist?)


On the way back from from the college, I decided to take advantage of being in that end of town and stopped by an antique store I spotted.  The owner was just unlocking the door, a half hour past the regular opening time.  Chatting with her in the store, I discovered her morning had been much like mine, running around town taking care of stuff for her adult son's family since he was sick.  We both smiled and agreed: "We do for family."  Yes we do.


After sorting a huge laundry pile into baskets for the kids to fold, and then doing a prep little work for school (I teach three days a week), I crashed for a much needed nap in the afternoon.  My husband kindly offered to pick up two kids from school, and another from a bus stop.  But I still needed to take one son to work at Chick-Fil-A.  The two youngest each had a coupon for a free small pizza from Dominoes.  Yes, we could stop by on the way home, couldn't we?  Sure, why not?  At least I didn't have to make dinner, right?  Except that when we got there, we found out they didn't take those "Student Reward" coupons, which were issued by a store several miles north.  Just as well, that would give me time to order ahead by phone so we wouldn't have to wait long.  Off we go again. Serendipitously, this Dominoes was right next to a used book store I had been wanting to visit since I had seen it on the way home from the college in the morning.  And even better, they take trades, and I just happened to have a bag of books in the van that I had intended to sell at a different bookstore closer to home.  I was able to find three very encouraging and timely books to apply my store credit from what they wanted from me.  Yes!  My son was also enthralled with their amazing manga collection.  And eating pizza in the van.  His very own pizza.  All for him, and all gone now!

    
So yeah, today I've been "Mom's Chauffeur and Courier Service."  Lest you think my kids are taking advantage of me, it's rare that one of them needs to be bailed out, and truth be told, they bail me out just as often by driving a sibling to work, picking up something at the store, making dinner when I'm rushed, baby sitting, helping the younger ones with homework...  It's all good.

It's been a day.  A good day. A Mom day.  But now, my keys are in my purse!




Oh yes, those books!  Here is such a relevant snippet from one of them, starting on the very first page.
"And it's not uncommon to find ourselves wondering, How does this whole crazy puzzle fit together?  Anne Morrow Lindbergh observed somewhere in her timeless little book, Gift from the Sea, that most of us don't really mind pouring our lives out for a reason.  What we do resent is the feeling that it is being dribbled away in small, meaningless drips for no good reason."  For me, one of the greatest frustrations of walking through the "dailiness" of my life is that I don't always get to see how the bits and pieces of who I am fit into the big picture of God's plan.  It's tempting to see my life as a meal here, a meeting there, a carpool, a phone call, a sack of groceries -- all disjointed fragments of nothing in particular.  Yet I know I am called, as God's child, to believe that they do add up.  That in some way every scrap of my life, every step and every struggle, is in the process of being fitted together into God's huge and perfect pattern for good (Romans 8:28).  As difficult as that is to "live into" daily, it had become for me a transforming truth, adding meaning to the mundane and purpose to the plodding."  (Kaleidscope: God's Pattern in the Bits & Pieces of a Woman's Life by Claire Cloninger)
(I picked up the book because the concept of the kaleidoscope is one I've been pondering lately.  You can see more here: Kaleidoscope.)

Grace and peace,

Virginia Knowles
www.ComeWearyMoms.blogspot.com



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Brain Boosting: The Physical Factors

BRAIN BOOSTING: THE PHYSICAL FACTORS


 In a mental fog?  Feeling sluggish or forgetful or distracted?  I’ve been there, too!  Our brains are amazing, complicated organs, affected by so many factors.  I’ve been working on various areas of brain boosting over the past few years and thinking lately about how to increase my mental accuity and focus even more.  

I've been planning to write this post for a while, but my memory was jogged this morning by these electronic sign messages outside my son's high school about preparing for the upcoming standardized writing tests.



Great reminder, but it's not just for students preparing for tests!  We all need to remember to care for our brains!

Before we take a look at the physical factors affecting brain function, I want to mention two books that I am currently reading.  Please note that I haven’t finished either of them yet, and I’m sure I would not endorse everything in them, but they are extremely helpful for both inspiration and practical ideas.  Next time, we’ll cover mental, emotional, and life management factors. 
  • How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael J. Gelb: This book takes a long look at how da Vinci approached life and learning, incorporating curiosity, learning through experience/persistence, cultivating sensory attention, embracing ambiguity, balancing between the arts and sciences, nurturing the physical body, and an appreciating interconnectedness.
  • No More Brain Drain: Proven Ways to Maintain Your Mind and Memories by Readers Digest: Based on more than 100 scientific studies, this easy-to-read, visually pleasing book is full of practical and innovative ideas for boosting your mental edge – foods, exercises, mental games, sleep tips, etc.  Please note that there are other books with similar titles.  Maybe they're good, too! 

Ready for a little tour through the brain factors?  

Sleep

This is the biggest one for me.  I have a hard time making myself go to bed on time if I don’t have somewhere to go the next morning.  Then I pay for staying up until 1 AM with grogginess the next day – and even for a few days sometimes.  Working too late on the computer is also said to overstimulate the brain, though I don’t seem to have much problem getting to sleep once I’m in bed, so that’s not as much of an issue for me.

The other thing that affected my sleep for years is that I have a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea, which means my airways get blocked while I'm in bed at night, and my brain doesn't get the oxygen it needs.  Untreated, this would cause me to wake up briefly at least once per minute.  Even though I am not conscious of it when it happens, it definitely prevents a good night’s sleep and creates other health risks, including heart attack.  Last year, I finally went to do an overnight sleep study at Florida Hospital, and started using a CPAP machine with a breathing mask every night.  I breathe so much easier and sleep so much better with it!

Another thing that helps me sleep better at night is using a side pillow to support me in the correct position.  If I don’t use it, my back is too uncomfortable to sleep well.

If I find myself getting really foggy or cranky during the day, I will lie down for a nap.  Sometimes it is just five minutes to close my eyes, and sometimes I need to crash for a few hours to get my brain back.  I guess it should also be said that too much sleep can also impair brain function.  Find out what works for you.

Some people take sleep medicines, but many of these are known to cause serious side effects or make you feel groggy in the morning. Melatonin is a more natural supplement for assisting healthy sleep.

Aim for eight hours of nightly sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room.  The ideal hours are before midnight!

What is affecting your sleep?  Going to bed too late?   Chronic pain? Anxiety?  Too much caffeine?   Too much household noise?  Small children?  Too much screen time?  What can you do to get more ZZZZ's?


Nutrition

This is probably the other biggie for me, but it’s very confusing.  There are so many opinions out there about what we should eat and how it affects brain function.  You have the paleos and gluten frees on the one side, and the vegetarians and whole grainers on the other side.  I think all agree that junk food is detrimental to clear thinking!  I don’t have much to say about nutrition at this point, except for try to be aware of how individual foods affect you personally.  I do best with protein first thing in the morning.  I try to stay away from inflammatory foods since I have arthritis and other joint problems.  My biggest struggle is sugar.  I keep saying I want to cut it out, but then I go right back to it.  I’m sure the extra weight I’m carrying around is no help to my physical and mental health.  Blech.
Some of the brain-happy foods listed in the No More Brain Drain book are olive oil, nuts, fish, whole grains, fresh produce (blueberries, apples, bananas, spinach, brocolli), flaxseed, garlic, low-fat dairy products, and green tea.  What I'm confused about is that Dr. Perlmutter, the medical consultant for this book is also the author of the book Grain Brain, in which advocates a low carb, gluten free, higher fat diet with minimal grains.   You can read his article 5 Keys to Eating for Better Brain Health. I guess the jury is still out on brain nutrition!  Like I said, I'm not sure quite what to think.  I guess I will stick to what is generally known as healthy food, and all in moderation.  Other brain foods I've seen on multiple lists are almonds, coconut oil, eggs, avocados, dark chocolate (yes!), salmon, kale, strawberries, curry/turmeric, rosemary, sage, apple cider vinegar...

Oh, and don't forget to drink plenty of clean water!   A body that is not properly hydrated can feel sluggish and tired!  How much water?  Take your weight in pounds.  Divide that in half.  Drink that many ounces per day.   That's a lot of water, but your body needs it for so many reasons!

Exercise

Exercise - especially aerobic - gets your blood and oxygen flowing to the brain, and improves mood and general stamina.   It also increases physical awareness, such as hand-eye coordination, that is crucial to strengthening your mental muscles.  It helps posture and flexibility, and, done correctly, can alleviate pain.  It releases calming hormones like serotonin and dopamine, reducing stress.   All of these will help you think better, too.

Can't afford a gym membership or just can't get out much?  Lace on your sneakers and take a brisk walk in your own neighborhood!   Walk with a friend for extra motivation. Or buy yourself an exercise DVD to use in your own home!  I just bought the "Keeping Fit in Your 50's" DVD set at Sam's Club, but I need to go to the chiropractor before I start using it!

Health & Medications

Other health issues that affect my own mental powers are low thyroid, chronic pain, seasonal allergies and Attention Deficit Disorder.  (See ADD and Me? We’ll Manage!)  Fortunately, there are medications for these and other maladies.  

Unfortunately, some medications have side effects which hinder brain power.  For example, some allergy medicines cause drowsiness.  Make sure you buy one that specifically says it is non-drowsy or daytime. (I use loratidine, and my children use chewable Alavert.)  

Some pain medications and anti-depressants can make you more tired and foggy brained.  According to friends who take it, Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant stimulant, doesn't seem to have that effect.  It is known for helping people with ADD focus better, as well as promoting energy level and weight loss.   For pain, I use ibuprofen (not every day since it has long-term side effects), Icy Hot arthritis lotion, chiropractic adjustments (every several months) and occasional massage therapy.  Muscle and joint pain can be a huge mental distraction to me, so I have to deal with it in order to concentrate well. 

Other health factors which commonly effect brain function include high blood pressure, vision/hearing problems, smoking, alcohol or drug use, migraines, brain injuries (even mild ones), and neurological & psychiatric disorders, etc.   Be sure to go in for regular physical exams, and, if needed, ask for referrals to a specialist such as a nutritionist, optometrist, audiologist, allergy doctor, chiropractor, endocrinologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, or cognitive behavioral therapist.  This goes for your kids, too!  If your child has a health issue which impairs learning, better to catch it and treat it early!
  
Other supplements are also used to increase brain power.  Vitamin B complex, vitamin E, fish oil, potassium, magnesium, calcium are all ones listed in the No More Brain Drain book.  Gingko biloba is another one commonly used, but I don't know much about that. Caffeine can be either positive or negative.  I only use the sugar-free drink packets when I really need to be able to focus for a few hours. It's not good to drink a lot of it, get dependent on it,  or use it within a few hours of bedtime.

Stay tuned!  Next time, I'll write about the mental, emotional, and life management factors of boosting brain power.

Virginia Knowles


Monday, February 10, 2014

Good Words from Colossians 4

Good Words from Colossians 4


DEVOTE:
commit effort and affection

PRAYER:
communion with God and intercession for others

WATCHFUL:
attentive to God’s voice and 
to what’s going on in the world around us ~
ready to respond appropriately

THANKFUL:
gratefully aware of blessings (even in disguise) 
and acknowledging their source

DOOR FOR OUR MESSAGE:
a divine opportunity to move into
a fruitful communication of grace



PROCLAIM:
call attention amid the distractions of the world 
and then share the details of the gospel

MYSTERY:
a story unfolding to open hearts,
not immediately clear but progressively revealed

WISE:
prudent choices, 
carefully thought through
and then carried out

EVERY OPPORTUNITY:
the chances and choices are there ~
what will we do with them?

CONVERSATION:
out there interacting, not in isolation,
not a lecture but a dialogue

SEASONED WITH GRACE:
attractive ~ inviting ~ savory ~ intriguing

 

KNOW HOW TO ANSWER:
intelligent ~ informed ~ listening
appreciating nuances ~ responsive

FAITHFUL MINISTER:
constant ~ diligent ~ active
on behalf of real people with real needs

ENCOURAGE HEARTS:
spur others to faith, love, and courage
in the inner core ~ it flows from there

GREETINGS:
friendliness sent forth ~
“I am thinking of you and I care”

WELCOME:
“well come” ~ make it a good and gracious arrival 
not awkward but accepting with open arms and hearts


KINGDOM OF GOD:
where our citizenship belongs and our loyalty is due ~
what are our responsibilities?

COMFORT: 
we all need this, from the timid to the zealous ~
a place for soul to rest ~ embrace grace ~
be filled with peace

SERVANT: 
“in the Lord” and “of Christ” ~
action with humility

STAND FIRM: 
 “in all the will of God” ~ 
time to sink down roots ~
grounded in truth learned through study

MATURE: 
not presumptuous or hasty or naive,
but confident and patient ~ seasoned

 

FULLY ASSURED: 
letting faith seep in and
fill up the crevices of doubt ~
convinced through testing

WORKING HARD: 
going the extra mile ~ above and beyond ~ pressing onward

COMPLETE THE WORK:  
follow through ~ get it done ~ persevere

REMEMBER MY CHAINS: 
know the injustice which exists in the world
so you can intercede and intervene


When I went to the Refresh Retreat a few weeks ago, we were each encouraged to take most of our time there to read through the book of Colossians and journal our responses.  I finished up through chapter 3, jotting down key "Good Words" on one part of each page, a “Jesus Is…” list in another area, and tucking in “Exhortations to Me” and other notes wherever they fit.  It’s a good thing my newest journal has big pages!  I used some of my good words on my Kaleidoscope picture.

I’ve been meaning to get back into Colossians to journal through chapter 4.  Yesterday, while I was waiting for my children to get out of youth group, I took out my journal and my iPod Bible app and worked away.  This time, at least so far, I only did the “Good Words” section, and didn't even finish that much until today.  I decided to expand this section, and write a brief impression of each key word or phrase.  That’s what you see above.  Obviously there is much more to Colossians 4.  You'll have to read it yourself.

I also thought about what I would write in an “Exhortations to Me” section for this chapter.  I think the main gist of it is to be fully engaged with my Christian life, to be immersed in fruit-bearing spirituality and ministry, not as a hobbyist but as a disciple of Jesus.  It means living authentically and on purpose, looking for opportunities to serve and share.  It means not letting myself drift into apathy or empty busyness. It means doing my part, with my unique gifts and sphere of influence, to extend the Kingdom of God through the good news of truth and grace.  It means multiplying these efforts by equipping and encouraging others to do these same things in their own way with their own gifts.  In my life, so many of those “doors for the message” are right in my own home with my own children.  So much of that depends on living with Christ at the center of my life, which can be the most powerful example in word and deed.  I’m certainly not there yet, so this is a lot of meat to chew.

I have more to say, perhaps in another post, but for now, a few extra encouragements for you: 
  • Read all the way through Colossians.  It’s a wonderful book, full of both inspiration and practical instruction.  Take it a little section at a time.  Meditate on it.  No need to hurry. When you are done with that, work through the Gospel of John.
  • Jot down your impressions.  It doesn't have to be formal or fancy or even terribly profound.
  • How do the words speak to you right where you are at in life? 
  • While the words in this chapter were written in the context of a larger ministry setting, how can you, as a mother, apply them as you seek to disciple your children?
More posts!

Nurturing your own spiritual life:


Teaching children spiritual truth:

Virginia Knowles

P.S.  The photos are from the EPCOT Italy pavilion.  I thought I had lost them, so I didn't use them in my other photo post here:  Impressions of EPCOT

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Refresh Retreat



Dear friends,

Nearly two weeks ago, I had the immense privilege of attending a Refresh Retreat hosted by my friend Sandy Traugott.  I'd like to share it with you through pictures and captions.  It's funny that "Refresh" was my "one word" for 2013, and I still need it now more than ever.


Sandy is a veteran home school mom
whose children are all grown.
She is a seasoned saint,
well-acquainted with the trials of life,
but filled with a flourishing love of Jesus.

She inspires me.

Drop your cell phones here!
This is a day to get away 

without distraction.
(But it's there if you need it.)

A time to breathe and stretch,
in a posture of devotion and worship.
It's called DoxaSoma, an integration
of Christian prayer and movement.
Pray and praise 
with body and soul.
I loved it.  Sandy brought the mats.

After a time of listening 
to worship music,
we each sat with our own 

Bibles and journals,
turned to Colossians,
and asked God to speak 

into our hearts
as we reflected on his Word.
This was not a lecture and workshop retreat.
It was mainly a silent retreat.

Communion was available
to take in solitude as we wished.

Plenty of healthy snacks - strawberries,
hummus and gluten-free crackers,
lemon water, a variety of teas...

We also brought our own lunches.

Only six ladies come to each retreat.
One of my fellow participants
is my son-in-law's sweet grandmother.
Chatting on the porch with her,
I find that she hosted dozens of ladies' retreats
at her mountain cabin in North Carolina.
Between that and visiting missionaries,
2,000 people from 20 nations 

stayed overnight at Higher Ground
which is now available for week-long rentals.
She is also active in homeless ministry,
as are most of the others who came that day.
Shirley's hospitality and grace astound me.
I am so grateful for the 

family legacy she lives
for my soon-to-be born grandson Lucas.

Art time with lots of supplies -
a way to creatively express 

who we are in Christ,
and who we want to become in him.

Everyone else made 
collages from magazines.
I had already decided,
after pondering on Colossians,
to sketch my version 

of a kaleidoscope image,
inscribing Scripture 
words 
of grace and truth
onto the broken pieces my life, 
reflecting radiant beauty in the 
light of God's glory.
You can see and read about 

my finished piece here:

Kaleidoscope (Big Words)

We ended our day with a brief time 
of sharing what we had learned,
encouraging and praying for one another.


Our view out the window
of the condo clubhouse...
I went outside later
to take pictures by the lake.
You can see them here
in this related hymn post:
What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

What a refreshing day! 

If you live in the Orlando area, and would like to attend one of Sandy's free day long (9 AM - 4 PM) retreats, please visit her web site here:  Refresh Retreat.

Note on February 10: I finally finished journaling through Colossians 4.  Here are my Good Words!

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles
www.ComeWearyMoms.blogspot.com

P.S. Please enjoy one of the songs of worship from the retreat... "I Need You Now" by Matt Redman.  I downloaded it for my iPod, of course.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kaleidoscope (Big Words)


What is this?


It's my blooming kaleidoscope flower!

I created it today at the Refresh retreat 
hosted by my friend Sandy.
It was a mostly silent retreat, 
and I'll write more about it later on another blog.

But for now, just the story behind the picture.

It started here on the couch,
before I even picked up my colors. 
In my private devotional time
reading through Colossians.
I wrote down key words
and pondered how they applied to me.



I came in weary and grieving this morning.
Last year, my most challenging ever,
left me feeling fragmented.
It's not yet over.

Today, in my meditations on 
Scripture and my tumultuous life,
I thought of the word:

KALEIDOSCOPE

Broken pieces,
raised to the light,
jumbled and reflected,
turned and turned
and raised up again,
ever-changing 
beautiful patterns:
redemption.

Why yes, I did just write an impromptu poem.

So when we sat down at the art tables,
while the others made collages,
I knew what I would draw with markers instead.



My outlines uneven,
shading splotchy,
as my life often is also.
I started filling in around the edges.


The words came from 
my morning's journaling
chapter by chapter in Colossians in my



 I apply words of TRUTH
to the broken places of my life.




Love
Wisdom
Grace
Truth
Joy
Glory
Hope
Peace
Reverence
Gratitude
Encouragement
Growth
Devotion
Treasure
Endurance
Prayer
Singing
Service
Reality
Unity
Fullness
Strength
Sincerity


And on the stem, the words:

Rooted
Growing
Bearing Fruit

That's what I want to be and do.

At the end of the day,
one of the sweet ladies shared
what a blessing it was 
that she saw me blossom into joy
during the day
as I spent extended quiet time with God.
It happens that way,
doesn't it?

More later.

Oh, here it is now, two weeks later!
Two more posts featuring this retreat!


Virginia

I often link my posts to these blogs:


  • Still Saturday
  • All Manner of Inspiration
  • The Sunday Community
  • Raising Homemakers on Wednesday
  • Whole-Hearted Home on Wednesday
  • Wise Woman Link Up on Wednesday
  • Walking Redeemed on Wednesday


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