Winter and Life Extremes: A Time to Hunker Down

Do you get any of winter’s deep freeze days where you live? You know, those days that start in the single digits or below and if you’re lucky climb well into the teens? We shiver our way through days like that each winter here in southeast Kansas. And I am not a fan.

In fact, I’m not a fan of winter in general, but I must admit, like everything else, winter has its perks. One of those perks for writers like me unfolds as nature speaks something new to us, something we can share through the written word. And sometimes those words come out as poetry.

So here’s my latest poem, friends—inspired and served up by Old Man Winter himself. I hope it blesses you. Even if you shiver a bit while reading it!

A Time to Hunker Down

We all notice the day
when winter blows in,
when autumn’s refreshing nip
takes a frigid turn.
Jackets and sweaters give way
to gloves and down,
and we all settle in
for Old Man Winter’s stay.

And then one night
the cold becomes colder
and we’re plunged into
deep freeze days,
days when nature itself hunkers down,
when nothing moves or makes a peep,
when frozen silence is all we hear.
Yes, nature holds its breath,
shuts down and waits it out.
The bitter extreme calls for a break.

As ever, we can learn from nature.
Let’s take our cues, follow its lead
when bitter extremes hit our lives.
We too might benefit
by stepping back and taking a breath,
by getting quiet and waiting on God.
We too may need to hunker down,
we too may need to take a break.
And one day the sun will come out,
one day sweet life will go on.

“. . . ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” Mark 6:31

*When have you had to hunker down?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo

Theme Word 2018: Listen

Any other theme word junkies like me out there? Yes, I am indeed hooked on the practice of choosing a theme word for each new year. For a goal-oriented gal like me it seems only natural to have an over-arching word—a quality, an attitude, or an action—that I can focus on and that can give me direction throughout the year. 

In November and/or December I start thinking and praying about what my word for the upcoming year should be. Some years I think I know what it will be and then the Lord brings another word to mind or to my attention through multiple avenues. When that happens I know God is at work directing me to the word he has for me in the upcoming year. I so appreciate his guidance. After all, he knows the future and he knows what I need to help guide me through it.

This year the Lord has directed me to the word listen. As usual at this early stage, I don’t know all the ways God will use this particular theme word in my life over the next twelve months. I just know it’s a word I’ve been noticing and that has been resonating in my spirit. And so, I want to listen to those inner nudges and begin to focus more on listening this year.

So here’s hoping by the end of 2018 I will have grown in my listening skills. Listening more often and more attentively to God, to my loved ones, to others, to the natural world, and even to myself—to what my body or spirit may be trying to tell me.

And as ever, it will interesting to see what God has in store this year and how he will use listen in my life. He has a way of surprising us, doesn’t he? So I say, “Lord, help me keep my ears and my spirit wide open so I don’t miss a thing!” 

“. . . Everyone should be quick to listen . . . ” James 1:19

*Have you chosen a theme word or anchor verse for 2018? If not, feel free to adopt mine!

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by mpeterke, Creative Commons License

7 January Stress Busters

by Cheryl Barker  CherylBarkerWriter

Happy New Year, friends! What say we kick off 2018 with some January stress busters? Hopefully you’ve been enjoying—and benefiting from—the monthly Stress Buster blog series I’ve been offering over the past few months. I pray you’re finding some new ideas and also being reminded to try some strategies you may have heard of or tried in the past.

As far as January goes, some might think that since the holidays are over, January would be smooth sailing. But January holds stresses all its own.

Many are coming face to face with paying for their Christmas spending while others are paying in pounds for their holiday eating. Some may be battling the stress of cabin fever and others are dealing with the stress of winter blues and seasonal affective disorder. And then, of course, there are the regular stresses of life that plague us any time of year. So yes, Virginia, there is indeed stress in January.

May the following January stress busters help get your 2018 started off on a good foot. Be blessed as you try them, friends!

7 January Stress Busters

  1. Before getting out of bed, start each day with a short prayer. You could say good morning to the Lord while telling him you love him and asking him to go with you through the day. Or perhaps you can give your day—and yourself—to the Lord and ask him to help you be a blessing to him and to others. As you put your focus on him first thing in the morning, you’ll be more likely to turn to him when stress begins to mount.  
  2. Increase your physical activity in simple ways. Try standing or walking while doing some of the tasks you normally do sitting down. Or take the stairs at work rather than use the elevator. Think of your own routines and get creative. Let endorphins released during exercise combat the stress of the day.
  3. Take some time one evening to relax and re-read the Christmas cards and letters you received in December. Most of us are so busy during the days before Christmas that we don’t have the time to truly savor the beauty and messages of the holiday greetings we received. After reliving those greetings, go ahead and recall some of your favorite moments of the season and give God thanks. 
  4. Soak up some sunshine every time you get the chance. January can have an abundance of gray days so when the sun comes out, take advantage and recharge. Whether at home or out and about, when it comes time to find a place to sit, choose a spot in the sun. And if possible, spend some time outside when the sun is shining. Soak up the rays even if the air is still cold.
  5. Make a few simple changes in spending habits to help pay off your bills more quickly. Instead of buying bottled water or expensive hot drinks, fill up a stainless steel insulated bottle or tumbler with your favorite hot or cold drink and take it with you. Also, don’t spend your change. Save it and apply it to a bill that’s weighing on your mind. Spend a few minutes evaluating your habits and see what else you might be able to do.
  6. Make the most of the cold weather and enjoy the cozy comforts of January. Savor the warming effects of candlelight, comfy throws, snuggly sweaters, and fires in the fireplace. And don’t forget to wrap your hands around a cup of hot cocoa, coffee, or spiced tea. Enjoy!
  7. Break free and go on a spur of the moment outing. If you’ve been snowed in or are staying in as much as possible due to bitter temps, brave the elements and get away from the stir-craziness of your four walls. Go see a movie, meet friends for coffee and conversation, or go wander the aisles of your favorite home improvement store and make plans for spring and summer projects. Do something to re-energize your spirit.

Here’s to less stressful living in 2018—in January and beyond!

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

*Which of these stress busters will best hit the spot for you?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Caaru, Creative Commons License

Wisdom and Encouragement for the Mother of the Bride

by Cheryl Barker  CherylBarkerWriter

Mother of the Bride, I’d love to help start your 2018 off on a positive note by offering you wisdom and encouragement straight from the Word of God. I’ve discovered over the course of my life that there is no better wisdom or encouragement to be found than what we find in the Bible.

Chances are you’ll be celebrating a wedding this year—and the demands of life may get a little overwhelming as you’re in prep mode. My prayer is that the following scriptures will provide the refreshment, encouragement, and wisdom you need to see you through to the big day and beyond. And if you’re hungry and thirsty for more after you read these, why not read a passage from the Bible each day. God is sure to provide just what you need!

Be blessed, MOB, as you drink in these precious life-giving words from the Word of God! (All scripture is taken from the NIV or NIV84 unless otherwise noted.)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

“. . .‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you . . .’” 1 Chronicles 28:20

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

“. . . ‘Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.’” Deuteronomy 33:12

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12

“ . . . wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Proverbs 13:10

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

“Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:8

“ . . . serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’” Matthew 11:28

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way…” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

*You might also like to read Spirit and Soul Refreshment for the Mother of the Bride and A Prayer for Weary Mothers of the Bride.

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by charamelody, Creative Commons License

My Life in One Word: Blessed

Two sets of twin grandsons (left to right – Isaiah, Silas, Samuel, James)

(Fyi, I won’t be posting during Thanksgiving week. Everyone enjoy your time with loved ones!)

Have you noticed the challenge on Facebook over the past few weeks to describe your life in one word? Because of time restraints, I usually fly right past Facebook games and challenges, but this one caught my attention. This one was worthy of thought. And not just worthy of thought, but as a blogger always alert to new post ideas, I decided it would make a timely, thought-provoking blog post during this month of thanks. 

So how would I describe my life in one word? I had to think only a second before the answer came. My life in one word is blessed. At other seasons of life, the answer may have been different—as yours may be. But right now, the word blessed sums up my life pretty well.

I am blessed in my personal life. The picture above is evidence. Just look at those four sweet boys. Above and beyond blessings. In amazing answers to years of prayers, God blessed with two babies for our older daughter and her husband—and then blessed again with two babies for our younger daughter and her husband! Yes, God gave us two sets of twin grandsons! Double blessings doubled, huh?

Of course, I am blessed personally in many other regards as well. My husband and I will soon celebrate forty-two years of marriage, our daughters have been and continue to be two of the greatest blessings of our lives, and we have two wonderful and God-honoring sons-in-law as well as extended family relationships and decades-long friendships. Yes, I am extremely blessed by God.

In addition, I am blessed in my professional life. After years of hard work to position myself for possible book publication, God opened the door for my book Mother of the Bride to be published last year. A dream come true for sure. I also feel incredibly blessed to be part of the BroadStreet Publishing family and to be represented by Karen Neumair of Credo Communications, all godly folks who seek to glorify God through the books they help bring to life.

Through my work life as a writer and author, I’ve also made a host of new friends and acquaintances in the business. I feel incredibly blessed to be connected to such a fine group of people. We offer each other encouragement, support, instruction, and empathy as we understand the unique challenges and joys of the writing life. 

And finally—and most importantly—I am blessed in my spiritual life. The God of the universe is my Father, his Son Jesus is my Savior, and the Holy Spirit is my Counselor, my Comforter, and Friend. The Three in One loved me even though I was a sinner and they continue to love me unconditionally. They walk with me through life each day and I have the promise of life in heaven with them for eternity. I can know these things because God has given me the Bible, his Holy Word, to provide me with truth and to be my guidebook through life.

God has also blessed me with the spiritual gift of encouragement, and through the abilities he’s given me to write, he has allowed my written words to touch many lives—some I won’t know about until I get to heaven.

Yes, friends, I am blessed. And no matter what may come in the future, I pray I’ll always be able to see God working in my life. I pray I’ll always see his blessings.

“Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” Psalm 84:12

*How would you describe your life in one word?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*My photo