Advent Musings

acorn advent blur bright
Photo by Pixabay on

The weeks leading up to Christmas have always been a time of joy for me. Watching ever increasing number of presents pile up under a beautifully decorated tree thrilled me as a child. Now I enjoy hunting for the perfect gift for loved ones and transforming them into works of art with wrapping paper and string. Anticipation of the coming day of celebration wells up as Christmas carols fill my home. It’s the one time of year I know the lyrics and sing along with the familiar tunes.

The season of Advent in the church begins on December 1st. Like Christmas, it’s a time of expectant waiting and anticipated joy at the birth of the Christ Child. It also reminds us of Jesus’ promised return, when the sorrows of this world will be swallowed up.

Both Advent and Christmas inspire us to focus on joy, to think of others, and live in faith. It’s a time to give of self and resources, to spread good cheer, and to receive like a child the gifts our Father bestows upon us. Let us be thankful for the good we have, and with faith, look forward to the time of fulfillment of God’s Word, when all creation will rejoice.

Jesus IS the reason for the season. Amid the hustle and bustle as the days tick by toward Christmas, I pray that we can stay focused on joy. Let hope fuel our days and peace fill our hearts while we reach out to others with kindness and generosity during this blessed Christmas season of Advent.

Quiet Time = Surrender

For a quiet time to be truly effective it must contain the element of surrender—a complete letting go of self and focusing on God without agenda. This is where praying with a Rosary or committing to a Bible study really helps. It guides us on a journey in the spirit with complete focus on God instead of our own concerns.

When I’m in a hurry and spout off a prayer without taking time to connect with the Spirit, I’ve missed an opportunity to fill my spiritual well. God hears the prayer, but I lose the benefit of receiving—as I am praying—the knowledge, comfort, and healing of His presence.

And God’s presence is transformational. It fills us with peace, gives us strength, and opens our minds to His wisdom and direction. The longer we abide in His presence, the greater understanding we gain of how He works in our lives. Like guitar strings, our spirit get tuned to His purposes so the music we play throughout the day sheds beauty instead of discord.

When you pray—whether it’s one minute or twenty—surrender each moment to the One who  holds you in His hands—and He will take care of the rest of your day.

belief bible book business
Photo by Pixabay on

Zones Of Life


I was thinking about comfort zones and how leaving them often leads to enhanced personal development when I did what any postmodern person would do….I Googled it. Eureka! Did you know there are two other common zones besides the “comfort zone”? Here is the trifecta:

  1. Comfort Zone
  2. Panic Zone
  3. Learning Zone

Wikipedia defines Comfort Zone as “… a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.”

Cool. Slow and steady wins the race. Or does it? Let’s look at the other two Zones and see how they measure up.

The Panic Zone. If your heart is beating so fast you can’t think straight, you’re probably in the Panic zone. There’s no progress to be had here because the only thoughts that makes sense are: you are uncomfortable, things are way over your head, and there’s no way to get out. Hence, the panic. Either you are under high stress and can’t think straight, or you attempting something that is personally dangerous. Either way, this is not a productive state of being.

Let’s look at the Learning Zone. This Zone is somewhere between the first two. The identifying factor in the Learning Zone is that something is “just out of reach”. We are motivated to get out of our Comfort Zones to grasp it, and far enough away from the Panic Zone we remain sane while doing so.

You are in the Learning Zone when whatever you are doing is neither boring or too easy. Rather than simply going through the motions, the Learning Zone forces us to engage all levels of attention in order to grasp the task at hand. It asks us to risk failing in order to achieve. Learning new skills is never comfortable, but can be very rewarding.

There is a circular movement between all three zones. Eventually, as we become more comfortable learning new tasks they slide over into our Comfort Zone. Even things that initially triggered panic can morph into the Learning Zone once we calm down and embrace the challenge.

While the Comfort Zone is our most preferred state of being, we get the most enjoyment and fulfillment when we engage in the Learning Zone. So the next time panic hits, take a deep breath and reassess. Is there any way to turn this into a Learning Zone? If yes, then do it!

You might be surprised with the results.

Tea Plantation

CharlestonteasignI’m a tea drinker. Every job I go to provides coffee for the participants. Hunting down hot water for my own tea bags is not always welcome, and I often get the evil eye from the receptionist for asking if they have any. So when we visited my mother-in-law in Charleston a couple years ago I took a little solo side trip to Wadmalaw Island and the Charleston Tea Plantation.

 Owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, the plantation grows tea sold under the brand name American Classic Tea. Their gift shop hosts a tea tasting buffet of nineteen different types of teas and flavors. I tried every one of them while waiting for the next Trolley Tour.


IMG_3246A fire-engine red trolley took us tea enthusiasts on a fun and educational tour of the beautiful plantation. Learning the history of tea growth and production was fascinating. We saw every stage from the young plants in the greenhouses to the harvest ripe fields. The vibrant green bushes were planted close together so new growth shot straight up—which is how the tender new tea leaves were harvested. Giant tractors with long cutting arms haircut the IMG_3233new growth at just the right moment for the type of tea being made. I learned that green tea and black tea come from the same plant. It’s the processing afterward that makes the difference.

 The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only tea plantation in the United States. In 1799 a French botanist brought the first tea plant to the States as a gift for a plantation owner. Over the next 200 years multiple companies and individuals tried growing tea in numerous areas in the South without success. In 1963 the Lipton Company bought one of the failing tea plantations and moved it out to Wadmalaw Island where they researched the plants for twenty-five years.

IMG_3253 Horticulture professor, Mack Fleming, who was involved in the research, teamed up with Bill Hall, a third generation tea tester from England, and purchased the plantation from Lipton. They started the successful Charleston Tea Plantation in 1987. Though the R.C. Bigelow Company now owns the plantation, Bill Hall keeps it thriving with distribution throughout the United States.

I have fond memories of our time in Charleston, but the highlight of the trip  was immersing myself in the beauty and culture of tea at the Charleston Tea Plantation. Now when I sip my hot savory liquid, I know where it comes from.



Faith is a funny word: it tells us to believe something without proof. With everything going on in this crazy world, it’s no wonder many find it hard to do that. Much of what we see, touch, and feel these days seems temporary at best. The world is progressing at lightening speed. Things change all the time. Before we get used to the last update, there’s already a new one flashing in our faces.

To believe there’s something stable and permanent that’s unaffected by the chaotic life around us is tricky. God exists—but one has to believe He does before knowing for certain.

It’s called a leap of faith.

Faith requires surrender when most of us have built our lives around control. The funny thing is we actually have very little control over what happens to us, even on a daily basis. Fear strives to keep us bound in the physical realm with limited physical resources. But faith opens the door to unlimited spiritual help that can change lives and lift spirits when nothing else can.

When you choose to believe God exists, and that He cares about what’s happening here, your eyes will be opened to the miraculous ways He’s already impacting the world around us.

Faith in God frees us to trust that something greater than ourselves has our best interests at heart. It gives us hope even when life seems to be spiraling out of control. We don’t believe only when things are going well, but most importantly when things aren’t. That’s when faith becomes real in our lives.

Faith assures us we are not alone and that we are loved unconditionally. With faith, help comes in miraculous and unexpected ways. But there’s a catch. We have to believe in order to receive. We have to step off the cliff and trust that God will catch us.


Vegetarian, as in Flexible


There’s a new way of eating taking the health-conscious world by storm. These erstwhile proponents of mostly whole food plant based diets now include a little protein. They are called “Flexitarians” or flexible vegetarians. According to Webster’s Dictionary (2012), a Flexitarian is a person “whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish.”

Eureka! Count me in. Having bravely trekked through every fad diet on the planet in an effort to control Diabetes without drugs, I’ve finally found one I can really get behind.

I was on insulin for ten years before I embraced a very strict raw food/vegan diet in an effort to free myself from the injections. Goodbye insulin, hello good health. The diet initially worked, but after a while I found I had little to no energy and couldn’t sustain it while working full time. I felt better immediately with the addition of a little protein. I’m happy to report after seven years I’m still insulin free and my Diabetes is under control.

I often joked that if I were to write a cookbook I’d call it “Mostly Vegan”—because it’s become the best way of eating for energy and optimum health that I’ve found. I was a Flexitarian before I knew what it meant!

The woman who coined the phrase in 2008 was Dawn Jackson Blatner. She wrote a book called “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Diseases and Add Years to Your Life. Her recipes include occasional bits of dairy and eggs.

Blatner says, “It’s not about slashing meat consumption as much as it is about prioritizing veggie rich dishes. Grains, nuts, dairy, eggs, beans and produce have a place in the diet, but processed foods and sweets should be avoided.” (Sorry, you chocolate hounds!)

The benefits of eating this way include all the plus sides to being a strict vegetarian, with the easier social graces of being able to eat what’s on the menu in most restaurants, and at dinner receptions.

A Time magazine article about extending the length of our lives recently cited the following:

“A 2015 study of 450,000 European adults found those who ate a diet that was 70% plant-based—fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and beans—had a 20% lower risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than other people. A Harvard University study found that people who ate eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people who ate less from the plant group.”

Popeye was right! Eat your spinach. Be a vegetarian MOST of the time. Then enjoy the occasional burger and fries with your friends.

Your body will thank you!



Life is a Maze


All of us begin life with a blank slate. Or is that true? Heredity, environment, family, circumstances. Not everyone has the same starting point. Life deals a set of cards we have to play. It’s what we do with them that makes the difference.

We step into a maze of choices and reactions that set us on paths that determine our future. Whether we find dead ends, U-turns, or open roads, it’s how we respond that influences the journey.

‘What ifs’ are futile and waste precious time.

Don’t allow voices from the past, nor paralysis over the future, to determine your forward progression. The next step is always in the present moment. Unwillingness to deal with what’s trying to get our attention now is what keeps us stuck.

We spend so much time bumping into walls and wrestling with dead ends we lose the internal awareness that can guide us successfully through this maze called life. And yet the truth of the journey is found on the inside.

It takes courage to stop and listen—because to do so means we must be willing to be wrong. Assumptions fall away and new pathways will open when our need to control morphs into curiosity with a willingness to change and move forward.

Healing comes through embracing what is. Strength is found in quiet places of surrender. Acceptance brings peace.

We never know what’s around the corner in this maze through life. We can’t control our futures or destiny—but we can choose how we respond to it all.

Therein lies the secret to a well-traveled maze and a happy life.

Choose to enjoy the journey.