Today is Doughnut Day AND Chocolate Ice Cream Day!

20190208_090059I am surprised everyone is not off from work today. After all, it is National Doughnut Day AND National Chocolate Ice Cream Day! I know this because one of my favorite bakeries in Greeneville, Tennessee, Peggy Ann Bakery, has been counting down the days until National Doughnut Day on their Facebook page for the last week. They are giving away a free, glazed doughnut today to every patron. Jerry and I considered driving up there this morning but a four hour drive for a free doughnut is just a fun dream.

Then, later in the morning, I received a text from Yogurt Mountain in Hermitage offering me a 20% discount because it is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Our niece’s daughter worked there for a couple of summers and it became a favorite hangout when our grand kids were visiting. We have been known to stop by on a warm, summer evening for a cup of YOMO when it was just the two of us.

Sadly, this double whammy of national days is especially upsetting for me this year.

In February, I confirmed what I had already suspected about cow’s milk and wheat. My delicate digestion just can’t take the stress. I could hear the concern in the voice of the nurse from my allergy doctor’s office. “You may want to write this down,” she said, before she started the lists of things I needed to eliminate at least for the time being. She seemed more upset about it than I did. For me, it was a relief. It was an explanation for the misery I had been experiencing, well, since I ate pumpkin cake doughnuts from Peggy Ann’s back in October. To make matters worse, I washed them down with a delicious, lavender latte. My gastroenterologist wasn’t able to help me even after numerous tests and blood work. OK, if I will feel better by not eating these things, I will do it!

Krispy Kreme

I haven’t talked about it much. Of course, anyone who has eaten a meal with mrecently knows that I am “special” and “one of those people.” It is interesting the comments people make when you say you can’t eat wheat or milk products (yes, that includes cheese). They think you are either a freak or un-American. Frankly, that was my attitude before all this happened. I am a little ashamed to admit that now. A couple of weeks ago, a lady looked down her nose at me and said my unhealthy diet had caused my current situation. At the time, I was discussing Krispy Kreme doughnuts and how I believed the manna God provided was similar to Krispy Kremes. She may be right but it seemed like a mean thing to say to a total stranger.

Don’t feel sorry for me. I feel so much better. I have not eaten wheat since November and no dairy since February. My doctor suggested I eat an elimination diet for at least six months but probably more like a year before I start adding some items back in tiny doses. It is not that bad. Fortunately, I cook quite a bit so I have been able to modify many of my favorite recipes. My sweet husband has been understanding. God love him. The doughnuts on the orange plate shown above are are made with gluten-free flour and almond milk. They are yummy! For Memorial Day, I made homemade, vanilla ice cream with almond milk and everyone loved it. It was nice to have someone want to eat something made for the freak.

Please. Go. Eat. Doughnuts. Chocolate ice cream. I won’t miss them at all.

 

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Where have you been, girlfriend?

One of my goals for 2019 is to simplify my life by focusing on the things I deem most important. Since my husband has reduced his work week to three days, I am trying to do the same so we can spend more time together. One way I am trying to simplify is by reducing the amount of time I spend on social media, primarily Facebook. I realized the other day that I had perhaps gone a little too far and folks might wonder where I have been!

Here is a quick recap of the last few months:

20180902_165716I had a crazy fall.  I accepted a writing assignment from my pastor to do a fall small group study based on Jesus’ prayer for unity found in John 17. The study is a small group study guide with questions and weekly challenges. A great deal of time went into researching the topic and I was quite pleased with where it was going. One day near the finish line, I lost the whole thing in a computer glitch. I did some hasty, fervent prayer and miraculously was able to recover it. (Don’t ask me how!)

The week before Medicare open enrollment and my busy work season began, we took a weekend trip to our daughter’s home where I indulged on honey lavender latte and pumpkin doughnuts. My delicate digestion was not ready for it after almost a year on a low carb diet. After a trip to the ER, multiple appointments with the gastroenterologist and allergist, an abdominal CT, liver fibro scan, genetic testing and allergy blood tests, the experts finally discovered in February what my body was already telling me. No milk. No cheese. No wheat. No gluten. No yeast. And several other things. Don’t feel bad for me. Knowledge is a good thing. My husband and I both cook from scratch so adjusting has not been terrible and I feel 100% better.

Layered over my busy work schedule and feeling bad was a master bathroom remodel. It started in September and was supposed to be finished by Thanksgiving. If you have ever done a remodel, you are not surprised to hear that it was mostly finished by Christmas. It turned out beautifully but we are still waiting on new windows for the bathroom and adjoining bedroom so there are currently no window treatments.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were lovely. We were able to spend quality time with our family, my family and my husband’s family in East Tennessee. Neither of his older brothers were doing well physically but we had a good visit with them. Ten days into the new year we made a quick, nightfall trip to East Tennessee to be with his middle brother who was suddenly at the end of his journey with cancer. When a child of God goes home, it is bittersweet. My brother-in-law’s wife had passed ten months prior, so it was an especially hard time for his family. Two weeks later we returned to East Tennessee for his memorial service. Between those two weeks we took a 2200-mile train trip between Chicago and Seattle that we had previously booked. God knew we needed some alone time experiencing His glorious handiwork to recharge. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on train folk.

20190211_170918In December, I finished writing a five-week study for our church to use in January. I had procrastinated the writing and had to scramble to finish on time. The study accompanied the sermon series, “Good News,” and is based on Luke 4:16-20. The booklet is suitable for small group or independent study and includes a daily devotional.

If you would like a digital version of UNITY: Jesus Prayer for Unity or Good News!, follow these links to email me. I will also add you to my newsletter list.

One of my other goals for 2019 is to be more focused in my writing so I am not losing files or almost missing deadlines. I am making plans, taking courses and attending conferences to improve my skills and see where God is leading me. He has a plan for my life. He has Good News for me to share. I need to be about His business. In January, I had to buy a new phone and, last week, a new printer. I am ready! New tools, new health and new determination to serve the LORD using the gifts and strength that He has given me!

Traveling with Less

Recently, I have been thinking about how much stuff I have accumulated during my years on earth and especially what has piled up in the 15 years since we moved to Nashville. A while back I read Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” It was interesting though a little odd. At that point I was not ready to get rid of my stuff (and I’m still not). Some blogs did inspire me to create capsule wardrobes to downsize my closet. I was fascinated by a woman who wears a “uniform” to work every day (black pants and white silk blouse).

I shared with Jerry a blog about a family of four who traveled to Europe with just a backpack each. We were planning a trip to Boston and the coast of Maine using plane, train and car. Jerry suggested we try just taking a backpack each. Our 13-year old granddaughter asked why were doing such a thing. It was just something we had never done, was challenging and would make traveling easier. To see what I packed in my backpack, go to my Pinterest board at  https://www.pinterest.com/wanda_o_holt/mini-capsule-for-bostonmaine-trip/

Traveling with less was freeing. We were able to move easily from shuttle to plane, plane to bus, bus to subway, subway to hotel, hotel to train and train to car. No stopping at the desk to check luggage or wait for luggage at baggage claim. We only had to double check that we had four items – two backpacks, my CPAP bag and my cross-body bag – and we were off.

We were amazed that we took more than we needed. I bought two souvenir t-shirts and we both bought rain jackets while at LL Bean in Freeport, Maine. Jerry had planned on his shopping spree at LL Bean to supply what he would need for the week. I had a long-sleeved tee and a maxi skirt that I did not wear. Based on what we learned on this trip, we can tweak what we will pack next time. Yes, we will definitely do this again.

One important thing we learned was that we needed to practice carrying our backpacks prior to traveling with them. We both had to use the sample sized muscle cream we packed in our miniature toiletry bag.

This exercise has reminded me of some life lessons. (You know I always find an analogy.) First, we are carrying too much baggage. We need to let go and let God. Second, we should follow the example of what has worked for others. Read the manual God has provided us.  And third, we need to learn from our mistakes, so we don’t repeat them. Even at my advanced age, I am trying to learn to travel with less.

 

Can’t but trying anyway

Today is Wednesday, so, I have been to my pottery class this morning.  My daughters gave me these lessons as a Christmas gift.  Today was my fourth class and the teacher was on vacationPottery.  I “threw” four things (pots, mugs, bowls, who knows?) on my own.  Someone asked me if I was having fun.  That is not how I would describe it at this point.  I am enjoying the experience.  My artist sister said to “Let myself go.”  Being a rather structured, control freak, I am not sure what that even means.

Learning to do something new and outside of my comfort zone is challenging.  We all tell ourselves we can’t do certain things.  I say I am creative but not artistic.  What makes it hard for me is that I am the one who tells my grand kids, or anyone who will listen, that “Can’t never did anything” or “If you think you can’t, you are right!”  You know, stuff like that.  I find it is easier to believe these platitudes when you are saying them to someone else and not yourself.

I have always struggled with a low self-esteem.  I know, it’s shocking!  Maybe it is because I grew up the middle child or because I am only 5’1” and have something to prove or because I am blind as a bat.  Honestly, I have never been really good or really special at anything.  I am a jack of all trades but master of none.  This lack of extraordinary talent has perhaps caused me to over compensate a bit which has lead me to a life of control — what I wear, how things look, what I do.  I have a tendency to gain my worth from what I can accomplish instead of from who I am or, more correctly, whose I am.

Before becoming a health insurance agent, I worked as a manufacturer’s sales rep calling on companies across East Tennessee who needed the electronic components that my manufacturers made.  I had worked very hard for 13 years to achieve, what I considered, “my perfect job.”  I had the expense account, the company car (with a car phone, no less) and a nice compensation package.  I thought I was all that and a bag of chips.  One day a friend in the industry called to ask if I had heard about my company being sold to a competitor.  Uh, no, I had not.  As I feared, it was only a few months until my job was redundant, and I was laid off.

My self-worth had been based on my job description and pay check.  When that was all gone in a flash, my fears and self-doubts resurfaced except now they seemed to be based on facts.  I thought, “If I had only sold more, they would have kept me.”

In my devotional book, BROKEN: Finding Purpose from Brokenness, we study about the disciple Peter and his infamous denial of Jesus just when Jesus needed him most.  Not once but three times.  Talk about feeling like a failure.  Peter’s self-esteem hit rock bottom.  He decided to believe the lies in his head, give up on ministry and go back to something he knew he could do, fishing.

Jesus very lovingly asked him, “Peter, do you love me?”  He responded, “Lord, you know I do.”  Jesus asked him this question three times, once for each time Peter had denied Him.  I like to think of Jesus saying “Then what in the world are you going out here fishing?  You are no longer a fisherman! You are Peter, the rock. You are to be a shepherd of people.  Go feed my sheep!  I need you to build my church!”

Our self-esteem is not based on how well we perform our job or how well we can throw a bowl in pottery class or how modern and stylish our clothing.  It is not based on our failures.  It is not even based on our successes.  Our self-esteem is based on who God, the Master Potter, made us to be.  I am a child of the King.  That makes me a princess!  My success or failure is not based on what the world thinks.  It is based on what God thinks and he thinks I am someone special!

And He thinks you are pretty special, too.  Believe it!

Created by the Creator

Rock spring

I have been reading Jordan Raynor’s “Called to Create.” He talks about how we are all creators. “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.” (Genesis 1:1) God is the Creator. We were created in His image; so, we, too, are creators.

My dad, whose birthday was today, was a stone mason by profession. He created beautiful stone buildings and fireplaces. It was not until later in his life that he realized that the job that he loved was also an artistic expression of his creativity.

I know I have been called to create. I write. I love to do it and can spend hours on a project. I am currently helping my uncle by editing his memoir. I have decided to treat this “hobby” as a job by setting a deadline for completion so that I don’t get behind on some of my own projects.

What are you called to create? Do you have a hobby that uses your creativity? Maybe you need to treat it more as a job so you can be more productive. Do you have a job that you love? How can you use your creativity to make your job feel more like a hobby?

After all, you were created by the Creator to be a creator!

 

The Spectacular Gifts Have Arrived

books-in-box.jpg

What a blast!  Opening a box including books with my name on the cover!  This time last year I would have called you crazy if you had said this would happen in 2017 but it did!

 

 

I am truly humbled by this whole experience.  God has certainly taken the wheel on this journey because I never saw any of this coming.  I picked the books up on Monday and by Wednesday I had booked two book signings — one as the first author to do a book signing at a new, local bookstore in my neighborhood.  Listen, I am a sales professional so I can assure you nothing ever happens this easily or quickly.  Someone else is at work here.

Also, I did not pay a penny for these books.  The money to cover the self-publishing costs was supplied to me in a spectacular way.  Back at Easter I was trying to decide IF I was going to have the book published and, IF I did, how I was going to pay the substantial cost.  I prayed about it and came up with the idea that if I could, with the Lord’s favor, sell a few more insurance policies then I could fund the publishing that way.  But, that wasn’t good enough for God.  He impressed upon me during my morning quiet time that these books are to be a gift, like Jesus was a gift.  “Let me do something spectacular!” was the message I heard.  You see, I am something of a control freak.  I had already figured out in my head how I could WORK to pay for these books.  God had other plans.

The husband and I were in East Tennessee visiting our daughter and family for my May birthday.  While there, my brother-in-law handed me a check for a large sum of money.  He laughed and said it was for my birthday but I knew that the money was an installment payment from the sale of some jointly owned property.  I played along and put the check in my purse.  I even kidded with my husband about what I was going to buy for my birthday with MY big check.

The next Sunday, after missing church due to my trip to East Tennessee, a young woman came up to me with a thick envelope.  “This is for you.”  She said someone she didn’t know gave it to her to give to me but I hadn’t been there.  I slit it open and found a wad of $20 bills.  I was speechless (which is rare).  The note inside said it was for my books.

I was excited about the “spectacular” gift but it also made me feel a little sick at my stomach.  Where did this money come from?  Maybe that person needed the money more than I did.  Turns out I am a better gift giver than gift receiver.  Finally, I had to gratefully receive the gift and put it to good use.

So, OK, now I needed to get the rest of the money in some “spectacular” way.  As I discussed how much more I needed and by when, my husband said, “You already have the rest of the money.  That check, remember?”  Oh, dear, you guys are making this hard for me.  Accepting a wad of money from an unknown person is one thing but having my husband willingly support my project in this spectacular way was extremely humbling.

Two members of my church, who knew I was waiting for “spectacular” money, work at my local bank.  When I went inside to make my deposit, we laughed and cried a little about the spectacular gifts.  Together the two gifts more than covered all the publication costs of the book.

These spectacular gifts of love and grace will enable me to share this book with lots of broken people and God’s message through scripture will help them find some purpose from their brokenness.  I will sell lots of books and that will cover the cost of the next printing. But I will also be able to give some away because they were all spectacular gifts!

 

 

 

Glad it didn’t work out with the British

Last week was July the 4th and our annual neighborhood parade.  We have participated almost every year since we moved here in 2003.  While she was still able, my sweet mommy would ride in the front seat of the convertible and wave a small American flag to our neighbors standing in front of their houses as we passed by.

Turner Carson parade 070409

The grands have rode in the parade many years with mixed levels of excitement.  I thought for sure my grandson who will be 16 next week would want to drive Grandpa’s convertible in the parade.  Instead, it was me driving, my embarrassed 12 year old granddaughter on the boot and my daughter holding her dog, Ace, in the front seat.  My grandson did not even get out of bed to watch us drive slowly by.

I think next year it may be me and Ace.Ace parade.png

All this got me thinking about how thankful I am to live free in a place where you can have a neighborhood parade.

 

I am glad the early colonists weren’t able to work it all out with the British.

My husband and I enjoy watching TURN: Washington’s Spies about the early days of the American Revolution.  Sometimes during the series, I will forget that I know the outcome and I will be worried for Washington and his Continental Army.  The methods of communication were painfully slow and unreliable.  It wasn’t like you could text someone and say, “The British are coming!”

Perhaps if there had been better communication, the founding fathers could have just picked up the phone and called someone on King George’s staff to voice their discontent with the taxation.  Better yet, John Adams could have Skyped King George himself and settled all the issues in one video chat.  I’m really glad they didn’t.

Broken communications can cause broken relationships.  Broken relationships can lead to broken hearts.  Like most brokenness, it sometimes takes years before you can find any purpose in all that misery.  Sometimes it takes 241 years.