Winter Trees and the Church: Beautiful Support

This may sound odd to some people, but I see a unique beauty in the naked trees of winter. Many would describe them as stark, drab, or depressing. I, on the other hand, think they have a beauty all their own when winter strips them of their leafy glory.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the leafy glory of trees as much as the next person. Watching trees bud out and turn green in the spring holds a special excitement for all of us. Summer then brings lush, full trees to pleasantly fill our landscapes before autumn arrives and sets them ablaze with color. I delight in each of these seasons and the changes they bring to trees.

But I think trees are beautiful in winter as well. Some might think it’s like looking at skeletons, but I see what looks like arms and fingers reaching for and pointing to God. I love looking out and seeing the intricacies of the branches. Winter allows us a view of the support system of the leaf laden trees we enjoy the rest of the year. Without the drab looking branches, there could be no beautiful leaves.

Winter trees actually remind me of other support systems in our lives as well. Just think about our bodies and all that’s working together beneath the surface to keep us up and running. The same can be said for just about every company, group, or organization we might name.

Consider the church. Many programs and people are highly visible, but there are just as many or more serving behind the scenes. And it’s the behind-the-scenes-type activity that makes it possible for the more visible ministries to take place. Everyone needs to do their part to keep things running smoothly—and more than that, to enable growth.

What role are you filling in your church—or life in general? Are you a part of the highly visible, leafy-glory, or is your role a part of the vital support system that’s needed? Maybe a little of both? Just keep in mind that neither is better. Both are needed and valued.

So take another look at the winter trees. Beautiful, huh?

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

*What support systems in your church, workplace, or organizations are you most thankful for?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out Feb. 1st. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $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.

*Flickr photo by Oakley Originals, Creative Commons License

*I hope you enjoyed this revised encore post from January 2008!

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

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

Winter Wedding Cake: Pinecones and Baby’s Breath!

Mother of the Bride, is your darling daughter planning a wedding this winter or next winter? If she’s getting married in the next two or three months and hasn’t decided on a cake design yet, today’s simple style might be the one she’ll love. And if she’s planning for next winter, add this idea to the list of design options she’ll consider in the coming months.

First she’ll need to decide if she wants to incorporate a winter theme in her cake design. She may not want to choose a cake that’s seasonal in design—and that’s fine. A wedding cake doesn’t have to be dictated by the season. But if she’d like her cake to feature a winter touch, be sure to share this post with her.

One classic and perfect option for a winter wedding cake is to adorn it with pinecones and baby’s breath. The baby’s breath tucked into and around the pinecones will give the appearance of snow and will be perfect set against the backdrop of a pure white cake. The cake shown above is a country chic style, but pinecones and baby’s breath will work with other styles of cakes as well.

So MOB, if your winter wedding bride wants to add a touch of winter’s snow to her cake, suggest this design. And then run out and collect a few pine cones!

*You might also want to read Winter Wedding Cake Idea: Snowflakes!, Blogging Break Plus Favor Help for Winter Weddings, and Winter Wedding Favor: Dancing Socks! 

*Have you subscribed yet to Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue? If not, sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, just scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Graceful Cake Creations, Creative Commons License

Winter Comfort

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Sometimes winter visits our souls at the same time it visits our neighborhoods. If you happen to be feeling the gray of the season in your spirit today, I pray that God will minister some winter comfort to you through the following poem I wrote several years ago. Be blessed, my friends, as you read:

The Wintertime

“O Lord, I need a touch from You
For it’s wintertime in my soul,
I feel so lonely and discouraged,
Extra stress has taken its toll.

Lord, it’s even winter outside
And the gray, cold days mirror my heart,
Father, please speak peace to me
And lovingly give me a fresh new start.”

As I finished my prayer
His voice I longed to hear,
But instead His touch I saw—
Snowflakes started to appear!

Silent snowflakes, pure and white,
Came drifting gently down,
Making the wintertime a wonderland—
God spoke to me without a sound.

“’I, even I, am he who comforts you…’” Isaiah 51:12a

*How has God comforted you during a wintertime of the soul?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a Starbucks gift card and a signed copy of my book to use personally, to give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by [WW], Creative Commons License