Create in Me a Clean Heart

So how goes your January? Still working on your New Year’s resolutions? I am. One of the goals that I am hoping to accomplish this year is to: Live More Simply. To use the “stuff” that I already have, and clear out the clutter. To try and eliminate what we cannot use, and to share our wealth with others. To prepare more and be less “pre-packaged”. To be more real and whole. And from the amount of videos, posts, plugs and pod casts on the topic, I’m guessing it is a goal that many of us have. Especially after the abundance of Christmas and the indulgences of the season past, there’s just something about that clean slate that brings a sense of peace and tranquility back into our lives… at least for me it does.

As I said, there are lots of helpful hints out there on how to purge, clean and organize your life. I’ve been searching out many, and gathering helpful hints and tips as I go. Some work, and some don’t work for me. Have you seen the news about this new cult following of the “queen of clean”? After chatting about my goals for this year, someone mentioned to me that I should look up Marie Kondo and her so called konmari method of cleaning and organizing. For those of you who have not heard of this Japanese guru on zen methods for cleaning, her minimalist style encourages you to keep only the things that “spark joy” for you. Thank the rest of your stashes for their faithful years of service and say adios to the discard pile! Then learn to fold everything in some obscure space saving stand up rectangle thingie and be all neat and tidy going forward! Yeah! I’m in.

This past weekend, I enlisted the hubby to help clean up and purge the furnace room. We don’t have a proper garage at our house, so the furnace room is a big space that holds a lot of our storage-type stuff: decorations, tools, camping equipment, that kind of stuff. My workshop bins also get stored here. Now, I am pretty confident in my organization skills… it’s one of the things that gets my juices flowing, so I am all in for folding bits of tissue papers and saving tiny pieces of ribbons — just in case. But the goal is to live more simply not just more organized. So the entire contents of the left side of the room got emptied out into the hallway and family room. (The right side has tools and will take another whole day to move around). We pulled off the old shelving from the wall and considered our options. There are some exposed pipes and such, as well as the furnace and hot water heater in this room, so we wondered how best to conserve space. I wonder if the “konmari konverts” can fold Rubbermaid bins of Christmas lights to store vertically? I am pleased to say, that we decided not to spend more on new shelving, and use what we had and simply stack the bins. (Hurray for small accomplishments, right?)

The BEFORE

I sat with the youngest crew member and sorted through gift bags and spools of ribbon and tried to be purposeful in what bits I kept. We tossed the 3 air mattresses with holes in them, and I refused to keep storing the aquarium light fixtures that might work if we need them someday. We initiated a project that has been on my to-do list for 10 years. I struggled too. I have two bins left in my family room that I still “need to deal with”. One is the kids old soccer stuff. Cleats and shin pads that won’t fit anyone we know, but are too good to just toss. I need to post them up for sale. The other bin is…yes, I admit it… my craft supplies that have been in the bin forever… but I just might use some day! (I’m one of those girls who could pass on a new pair of shoes, but a brand new pack of colourful paper — oooh…yes please!) I could say that they bring me joy, but I’d be lying to myself. The joy comes when those items get used and turned into something beautiful.

The AFTER

As we dusted and mopped and started to put things back, I reflected a little on how our hearts are like our furnace room. We store so much in there! Useful things, things that truly bring us joy, things that we may only use for a season, but bring renewed happiness each time we bring them out. Then there are the other things. The things we hoard and hide and hope they work… eventually. Or the things we are not willing to give up. Like the box of baby clothes I simply closed the lid on and slid back into place. (Why am I keeping baby clothes?! My youngest is almost 11!) Perhaps you have some bits of ribbon and trinkets that you want to someday make into something beautiful… but haven’t made the time for just yet. So they get stored away in that little space left in the corner of your heart. I will be the first one to say: I hear ya, friend!!

So in this first month of this new year, I am praying the prayer of David in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your Presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” I want my outward de-cluttering to be a reflection of my heart. I want to live simply and use what has been given to me to benefit others and not let those things be quickly tossed away because I have chosen to be careless with it. I am discovering it is a very, very slow process. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes thinking ahead and making conscious choices. It may be simpler… but it is certainly not easier.

So, I am asking you to join me for the next few weeks as I blog about some changes that we are trying here at the Mitton house… to live simply. Hopefully, it will create in us some “cleaner hearts” as well.

Advent

I hate waiting.  I hate waiting in line, I hate waiting for my food to be cooked, I hate waiting for the kids to get out of school.  I just don’t like sitting around with nothing to do when something else should be happening.  I bring books or snacks or my phone or a crochet project on long car rides because my hands need to be doing something (or else I crash into a nap… which is a whole other story).

So, when I discovered that the real meaning of Advent was anticipatory waiting… I wasn’t too keen.  I don’t think many of us are good at waiting.  Have you noticed that radio stations are playing Christmas music already?!  The stores have been in Christmas mode since the day after Halloween!  The marketers out there certainly don’t like waiting!  They want us to be spending our dough faster and faster these days… no waiting!  Order now!  Direct ship!  Buy online!  Available 24 hours, seven days a week!  

Let’s step back for a minute. In case you are not familiar with the term “advent”… it is a traditional practice of the Christian church to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and then, in turn, His final return to earth.  Similar to the practice of Lent before Easter, it gives us a chance to slow down, to think and ponder, and to hope for the future.  It’s something I have to work on… this waiting.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.  The ones with the little doors you would open every day from December first until the 25th.  Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant… I simply enjoyed the treats everyday!  Later, we began to celebrate the four Sundays of advent at our church.  It was then, that I understood the symbolism, the tradition, and the true meaning of the practice.   It is something I have come to cherish as an adult.  It’s a discipline that that reminds me to slow down, to appreciate my family, to encourage my church family, and to rejoice in the season — and not to be so caught up in the rush of the “stuff”.  It forces me to focus each week on learning to wait.  To anticipate.  To revel in the beauty of hope.

Here’s what I have learned about the traditional advent symbolism:  it begins with an evergreen wreath… the symbol of a circle of eternity.  Our Christ is timeless.  He’s been around much longer than the babe in the manger.  Surrounding the wreath are four candles and one central candle.  Each candle is lit on the four Sundays of Advent, and culminate with the lighting of the white, central candle, which is lit on Christmas eve.  This central candle is sometimes referred to as the Christ candle… and represents His purity and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.  

The first candle is purple.  It represents “hope” and the prophecies that Isaiah spoke about when He described the coming of our special Christmas baby.  The second purple candle represents love, and is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem candle or the manger candle.  So much love happened in that lowly stable…. I imagine my own beloveds and how the whole world fell away the moment they were born and I saw them for the first time face to face.   Can you imagine Mary’s first glance at her special baby?  Yup, love for sure.  The next candle is pink… and represents joy.   It is the shepherd’s candle.  It embodies the joy and celebration the shepherds must have felt when they were given the good news that a Saviour had been born!  The last candle is also purple and reminds us to be peaceful.   This “angel” candle points us to worship, to reflection, and to remember that the season is not about gifts under a tree, but the ultimate gift given to us.  The One the angels were made for… simply to worship for eternity.  

So… as you prepare for your Christmas season, and you rush out here and there, be reminded of the advent tradition of waiting.  Take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas… Christ’s coming.  Anticipate through hope, love, joy and peace, and the pure and holy sacrifice that Christ paid for you.  May you be blessed, my beloveds, as we journey towards the holidays together.   Take time to rejoice in waiting.  Oh… it shall be no easy task!  Especially if there are Christmas cookies in the oven! But we can practice it together, shall we?

Want to learn more about Advent?  Check out my Pinterest Boards for more ideas on DIY calendars, symbols, studies and more!

Hosting a Fall Brunch

I love Chip and Joanna Gaines and all things Magnolia.  I wish my “fixer upper” house was as beautiful as theirs, but a little thing called my budget gets in the way far too often.  That, and hockey playing children.  Pooh.  But, a girl can dream, can’t she?!magnolia table's cookbook  Therefore, I was super excited when I found the Magnolia Table’s cookbook on sale!  I snapped it up and longingly poured through the pages.  Everything looked so yummy!  Down home, southern-Texas-hospitality yummy!  I needed an excuse to make some of these goodies!  Thus, the fall brunch was born!how to host brunch

I decided to have it on a Friday morning so that the kids were all occupied at school and since clean up day was Thursday, all would be neat and tidy for my guests!  I decided to go all out… handmade invitations, fancy china dishes, and little take home goodies.  If we were going southern hospitality in Canadian fall, by golly, we were gonna go big!  I got some tiny pumpkins and a matching orange Gerbera daisy.  This was my easy centerpiece with some strategically placed candles and fall leaves.  Easy and fall festive!  I wanted to make some cool gabled boxes as favours for my guests that I had seen on Pinterest, but I had to hand cut the template with my scissors — and they just weren’t turning out the way I wanted.  So, I scratched that idea, and went with these cute little boxes instead.  (see the tutorial here).  I decorated mine with some fall foliage and ribbon, filled them with either a teabag or a coffee pod, and we were good to go!  (As an aside, I am putting that gable box die cut on my Christmas list for the next time honey… hint hint…)fall brunch

My menu consisted of fresh fruits, yogurt, a coleslaw I made a few days before, bag o’kale salad,  a warmed up squash soup I had made earlier and frozen, and a few delightful recipes from the new cookbook:  a spinach and cheese quiche, roasted asparagus, baked brie and the star of the show: Joanna’s cinnamon squares!  A bunch of these were things my kids won’t eat, so I was happy to share… but the cinnamon squares were a hit with the whole household!  They are a labour of love… you have to let the dough rise and layer the filling by folding in layers of dough.  The book made it look easy and Ms. Gaines’ squares are beautifully symmetrical… mine were not quite as aesthetically pleasing… but did they ever taste yummy!  Coffee, juice and tea, and we were set for a delightful morning of meaningful conversation and fellowship!

I invited a variety of ladies… some neighbours, some from church, all of us at different stages of life, and we made introductions and chatted easily of education, our families, crafts, and how yummy the cinnamon squares were!  I hoped it was as delightful for my friends as it was for me!  I’m not always good at being social, (introvert that I am), so was stretched a bit to be the delightful hostess.  Yet, as I looked around the table, I was struck by how strong the women who gathered there were.  How each of them had significant influences on my life through their example, their mentor ship, their friendships, or a way they taught me personally through some action of theirs.  Unique ladies, and yet, here we were, gathered to enjoy a bond of good food and good conversation.  To celebrate nothing in particular, simply the joys of being invited to share at the table.friendship and coffee

Oh, my friends, it encouraged my heart to plan, and knead the dough, and bake, and tidy.  To laugh with friends and enjoy simple things like a warm cup of coffee.  We crave that time as moms, don’t we?  We were made for relationships.  Even introvert me.  Perhaps we have lost our old fashioned desire to connect the way women used to.  Before texts and meetings and running here and there.  Maybe the southern belles had it right.  Be a hostess.  Share a lemonade on the back porch.  Enjoy the company of a good friend.  Or get to know a new one.  And if ya’ll live way up in Canada, host a fall brunch with some warm soup and great cinnamon squares! It will make your heart glad.

 

How to Re-pot a Cactus (Without Getting Poked!)

Re-potting CactiGreetings!  It’s been a hectic week and I am just catching up on a few things (like laundry and housecleaning… what an exciting life I lead, eh?).  We are almost into our third week of our 30 Days of Blessings challenge and I am being so encouraged by how people are being blessed!  One of the challenges we recently enjoyed was to discover all about plants!  Now, I am no green thumb, but I do like plants.  It’s just crazy how diverse they are.  So many colours, shades and textures.  I garden a bit… but I’m really too lazy to tend the land a whole lot.  Houseplants are my jive.  I don’t have the space for a jungle, but we do have a few potted beauties hanging around.  The recent prompt encouraged me to buy two more little succulents… they are all the rage right now!  Seriously… How many Instagram pics have you seen with that tiny green thing on the perfectly clean office desk?  It’s so unreal, people.  Do computer desks look like that?  Not mine.   Although I must say, one of my new little guys looks like he needs some googly eyes and a sombrero… it’s so funny!

succulents are fun!

I have a few other succulents, too, which I love to share as they are so easy to propagate.  If you need some help with that, you can read about my simple teacher’s gifts here.  I once “adopted” an Aloe Vera plant that was huge when I got it.  I have shared that one so many times that I only have a few sprigs (apparently the correct term is “pups”) left.  I will have to leave it alone for awhile to grow back.  But, I digress, we are here to talk about my cacti!  I received two little cacti as a souvenir from Arizona.  The hubby brought them back from a trip he took several years ago.  Recently, they were beginning to look a little sad.  One was definitely leaning over (yes, I stuck an old knitting needle in the soil to prop it up!) The other was starting to spot a tad in the middle where it had touched the other one.  They had grown too big for the shallow dish they were in and needed to be re-potted for more space… only issue… they are very prickly!!

I had tried once before to re-pot my cactus using tongs to prop it up and some gloves… but the spines went through the gloves!  Someone told me a towel would work… but the spines stuck in the towel.  And so… YouTube became my friend once again.  A lovely expert from California (all things cacti there!) re-potted a huge, tall, spiky beast using bunched up newspaper… and voila!  It worked!   I carefully dug around the bottom with a fork and used my oven mitts and some crunched up newspapers to lift the cactus out.  It’s pot partner immediately flopped over in shear depression at the thought of being left alone forever — but was soon rescued as well, and placed back with it’s beloved in a new home.  Unfortunately, because I had procrastinated moving them so long, the roots had grown slightly sideways, so the plants are still slightly leaning and currently propped up again.  I am hoping with more room to grow, they will grow fat and healthy!  Newspaper hugs did the trick!newspaperhugs

What about you, my friend?  Ever get stuck in a pot too small for your liking, but too afraid of getting poked to move on?  Ever feel like you are being prompted for something bigger, somewhere you can bloom and flourish,  but doubts and fears keep you leaning over because you’ve procrastinated too long?  Or are you afraid to get poked by people who want to see you fail?  The Bible tells us to “Be Strong!  Be fearless!  Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you.  He won’t let you down and He won’t abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 (CEBA))  How encouraging!  I know, I know, you are right — easier said than done.  So how do we turn the hard parts to our advantage?  Take the example of our plants.  Even though the spines are added protection for the plant, cacti use their spikes to retain water as well — a necessary resource in the desert (because they lack leaves).  Our struggles often produce defensive spikes that keep our predators at bay.  We must learn that even though times are tough, our defenses can become our greatest assets.  They help us survive in the desert of life.

Sometimes, we forget.  We get stabbed with the consequences when we are not protected.  I got a jab by one tiny spine through my oven mitt as I propped up my leaning cactus without the added protection of the newspapers.  I tried to do it on my own.  When our Godly defenses are down, we sometimes react without being properly guarded.  And it hurts… let me tell ya!  So use your newspaper to wrap one another in love.  Hug a cactus with all the encouragement and grace you can find!  Cushion them with space and then gently lift them forward.  Only then can you begin to see them flourish and bloom in their new space!  bloom & flourish

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

Old mother Hubbard has gone to the cupboard… and it is bare again.  With two teenage boys in the house, (and a tween girl who grazes constantly) there is regularly heard the complaint that there is nothing to eat in the house!  Honestly:  it’s often true.  Rightly or wrongly, I shop for groceries only once every two weeks.  I have a delivery of fresh veggies come to my door once a week (Shout out to mamaearth organics — fabulous company!)  and yeah, we have to pick up milk and bread sometimes… but grocery shopping  tends to be an event for me, rather than a  regular occurance.  To which I muse…adventuresinshopping

I was feeling ill this week… stuffy nose, fever, the whole deal… so grocery shopping got delayed again.  The household is feeling the pinch.  I am scrambling to think of things that will combine in some way to be edible enough to satisfy.  School lunches are the worst.  I try and come up with delightful healthy alternatives to jam sandwiches… but there is just no going with “colourful beetroot spinach wraps with avocado dressing” for picky teens.  And forget the organic alternatives and smiley face cookie cutter bread with strategically placed apple slices in their separately cooled containers.  I’m lucky they even remember their lunch bags, let alone read the love notes I dutifully sign with hearts and x’s and o’s to wish them a lovely day and to remember their memory verses….  okay — NOT.  I would love to be that Pinterest perfect, Instagrammable mom, but alas, I am not.  Cheese and crackers it is.  Packaged.  That I bought at the dollar store.abundance

Seriously though, I actually like to grocery shop.  As I said, it’s more of an adventure than a task for me.  I shop at a big store with lots of choices and housewares and a pharmacy too… so usually it is a one stop deal and a very full cart.  I once got asked if I owned a group home 🙂 and get many a strange look as I strategically pile the bags at the checkout.  I have it down to a fine science now, which scares the hubby, who refuses to help bag anymore.   (Don’t get him started on coupons either — there is no fury like a girl who price matches!)  Needless to say, the crew was not surprised on a recent trip south when I wanted to go to a place called Jungle Jim’s International Market in Cincinnati.  With over 200 000 square feet of shopping adventure… why not?!

With all its colourful and slightly kitchy displays, it was kinda fun to walk through this giant store and marvel at the simple abundance of food we have — cheeses, wines, fish, various cuts of meat, and candy!  The back of Jungle Jim’s even had little stores for various countries where you could find your “taste of home” if you needed to.  It had organic, gluten free, fresh, frozen and local.  We actually commented on the difference between American and Canadian groceries… we are way more apt to have international choices as our “normal” selections here in Canada.  At least in our big, diverse city, anyway. tasteofhome

So, as I sit here contemplating what on earth are we going to have for dinner (nope… still haven’t been shopping yet!) I am reminded of how blessed we are.  Sure, we complain.  But I can walk to the convenience store (convenience… ever notice that?!) to get a snack. Or stop and grab something “to go” on my way home, or spend the time and load my cart up to the hills with whatever I want.  We are richly, richly blessed at our house.  Many mothers pray they will scrape enough together to keep their beloveds from starving, let alone spend the time cookie cuttering their lunches into fun and colourful shapes.  According to world hunger stats, some 95 million people are undernourished in our world.  One in five children go to bed hungry.  Even here in Canada, where many fall below the extreme poverty line.  Yet, we waste one third of the food available to us.bugprotein

Did you enjoy your abundance last week celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family?  Did you bring your canned goods to the Food Bank Box during their fall harvest drive and feel good about it?  Oh my friends… like you,  I am guilty of gluttony in a world where convenience and abundance is so prevalent.  Where grocery shopping is an adventure, not a need.  Where I stack up my points and fill my cart with sales just because “I want”.  Let’s make the effort, together, to be conscious of our brothers and sisters who struggle.  Let’s be truly thankful for our abundance and not take it for granted.  Let us share and serve.  For the adventure may not be at Crazy Jungle Jim’s International Market — it might be right here, in our own hearts, when we light the flame within, and train our brains to be aware of, and provide for,  the needs of others.Jungle Jim's 2


REMINDER: 30 Days of Blessings is the brainchild of mittonmusings and has finally launched!  It’s our attempt to be conscious not only of the many ways we are blessed by God, but also to think of ways to bless others.   We will be starting our challenge Oct. 15th… but it is not too late to sign up!  Join us, visit our 30 Days of Blessings page to get started!30 Days of Blessings!

Extra! Extra! Read all About it!

Welcome to the special weekend edition of mittonmusings!  My weekend has been super busy already!  In fact, I am plum tired out ! (or is it plumb?… fruit or copper fixtures…neither get tired…I am confused…hmmn…will have to muse about strange idioms one day…)  Nevertheless!  I just wanted to let you in on the reason why I have been working so hard.  I am super excited that our 30 Days of Blessings! challenge is completed and ready to launch on Monday, Oct. 15th!  That is only two days away!

I have been working on and praying about it for some time now and really want it to fly!  To launch and soar from the nest to heights unknown — like a baby bird discovering it’s wings for the first time…. okay, okay, you get the picture…  Lemme just ask you to pray that all the learning curves work out and that the daily emails get sent as planned!  If you will remember, the purpose of starting this blog was to learn technology.  This challenge is a continuation of that goal, but has blossomed into a true heart ministry for me.  I have been promoting it like crazy around Facebook, and hoping that lots of friends sign up.  We’ve teamed up with my local church and they are backing me up as we reach our community here at home.   And so, please take this as your personal invitation to join us as well!  I would so love for my blogging community of friends to join in the fun.  30 Days of Blessings!Coming Monday!

The challenge will be a daily prompt or thought to help us focus on a way to be blessed or to bless others.  I have already learned so much through the preparation, that I can’t wait to see what will happen when we launch!  A word of caution though… be prepared for some spiritual push back… Satan doesn’t want to see our fruit flourish!  I have already been feeling the doubts creep in.  I’ve been emotionally scattered and tired.  Yet, I know that our great big God is in control, and He is just waiting to use us to make a big impact in our communities.  Will you join us?  Will you stand with me and take up the challenge?  Follow our link below to sign up, and we will see you on Monday!   Happy weekend from the Mitton crew 🙂


30 Days of Blessings!

Using our Gifts and Talents

A short post today for all my adoring fans.  Ya’ll are too stuffed with Canadian Thanksgiving Turkey anyway, right?  It’ll be short because a tonne of my energies have been working on our newly created 30 Days of Blessings! challenge!! Hurray!  Which got me thinking… why don’t we get tired of doing what we love?!

For any of you who have taken any kind of personality test or giftings survey, you will know that each of us were created with distinct personality types.  Introvert, extrovert, planner, partier, type A, type B — all those kinds of things.  Then, of course, we have certain talents and spiritual gifts as well.   Some of us are good at organizing, some – not so much.  There are the creative ones who work with their hands, and others who flourish in relationships and relate to people.  Some of us have our cat as a best friend.  I have actually studied a lot about this topic — especially with regards to learning styles and how we learn based on our personalities (perhaps another day I will enlighten you all about that!)  For now, let’s just say we are all different.Using our

It is because we are all different that life tends to flow rather well… we all fill in gaps that someone else has left behind.  God designed it that way!  Take for example, our 30 Days of Blessings endeavour… I have been thrilled to be tweaking photos and planning and promoting and writing up all the blurbs.  I love a project, and so I believe God has gifted me in administration…. I so adore a to-do list!  I don’t always get it all completed, of course, but I love to see the list!  My beloved, on the other hand, is a relationship guru.  He would rather spend time doing something with the family than sitting in front of a stack of papers.  So… we are trying to work on this venture together.  It’s been a learning curve, but he keeps me in checks and balances so that I don’t become a total hermit in front of the computer, and I give him a sticky note collection of what he needs to do next.  Somehow it works.

My encouragement for you on this post-thanksgiving day?  Be thankful that we are not all the same.  Rejoice that God has made you just the way you are, for just the thing He needs you to do, for just this perfect moment in time.  Delight in the fact that by working together we can achieve big things, my friends!  When you are in His will, and doing His work, there simply is no getting tired.  Not even after turkey dinner! 🙂


Want to use those gifts and talents to bless others?  Join us for the 30 Days of Blessings! challenge.  We start Oct. 15th, 2018.  Check out the 30 Days of Blessings page for sign up.30 Days of Blessings!