Susan Heim, author and “Chicken Soup For the Soul” editor, has giveaways

I’ve known about Susan Heim’s blog for several years.  I don’t even know for sure when (or where) I first found out about her blog.  But, I’m glad I did!  :)  She always has some fun and interesting giveaways.  And, I’m pretty sure I’ve won more than one prize from them.  (Thanks, Susan and Rafflecopter.)

She currently has several giveaways that I’ve entered, as well as a few I’ve not yet entered. Here’s some of them:

One lucky winner will receive their choice of a personalized hoodie bear or sweater bear from Teddy Bears Personalized, hopefully just in time for Mother’s Day! Giveaway ends May 1, 2016 and is open to U.S. residents only.  Click here to go enter!

Mother's Day Teddy Bear

One lucky winner will receive a three month Hulu gift subscription and a Curious George youth T-shirt!  Giveaway ends April 24, 2016 and is open to U.S. residents only.  Click here to go enter!


One lucky winner will receive three National Geographic children’s books and a pair of binoculars!  Giveaway ends April 26, 2016 and is open to U.S. residents only.  Click here to go enter!  (This giveaway is a part of a group of giveaways that several blogs are hosting.  You can find out more information when you click on the link to go enter.)

National Geo Prize Pack

Despite my mention of the giveaways, I hope you will look around Susan’s blog and let her know you found out about her through my blog, unless of course you already knew about her.🙂  She is MUCH, much better at maintaining her blog than I am.  (Many bloggers are.  I’m simply a novice.😀 )  On Saturdays, she has a giveaway ‘linky’ where you can link-up your own giveaways or others’ (who often give an extra entry or two if you take that step).  Oh, and the best thing about Susan?  She’s a sister-in-Christ!

Seeking success through Clarity or Trust?

Those of you who know me and/or have read my blog in the past know that I struggle with on-going depression.  For the majority of my adult life (since I was 21 or 22 years old), I’ve struggled with it.   I’ve taken meds.  I’ve seen doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists (and yes, there is a difference between the last two).  I’ve been hospitalized as an inpatient and as an outpatient.  I’ve gone to several therapists and counselors, stringing out over several years.  I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I will most likely struggle with depression in some way for the rest of my life.  Does this mean I’ve given up hope?  No.  It means that I’ve accepted it and am learning how to live and cope with it.

So as one might imagine, when I see things like this video1 which basically say that it’s a matter of my outlook on life, I struggle again.  I wonder to myself, “Is it as ‘simple’ as he says?” I’d never heard of Tony Robbins (a motivational speaker) before seeing this video a few days ago posted on a Facebook friend’s wall.  Based on my new-found knowledge of Tony, I asked myself, “Just because he’s apparently a successful businessman, does that make him an expert?”  Somehow, I think not.  (No offense, Tony, if you happen to ever read this.)  Granted, I don’t think he meant for this to be a cure-all for people who have been diagnosed with depression.  But, he does mention that he no longer gets depressed because he changed his habits.  He says he used to be depressed all the time.  He changed his way of thinking.  He mentions doing it for something greater than yourself.  (Prior to hearing who he mentions, I immediately thought of the Lord.)

Additionally, I recently saw this motivational video2 by Steve Harvey.  (Many know him from Family Feud.  He also has a national radio program and has been successful in other ways.)  There’s another version of the video that shows him on the set of Family Feud, sharing something with the studio audience.  Basically, he claims that in order to be successful, you have to jump.  You have to take a risk.  I agree.  Risks have to be taken.  I ask myself this, “How can (if indeed it can) ‘jumping’ help me overcome depression?”

But it’s not just these two videos or even the articles and video that I mentioned on Friday that have me thinking.  My own pastor has been talking about “Decisions” this year.  Our biggest decision that I believe any of us will ever make is the decision to follow Christ.  Outside of that, the decision to continue following Him often leads many believers to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”  My pastor puts emphasis on the first use of the word “all.”  If we truly want success in life, we need to strive to trust God with ALL of our heart… not just part of it.

Today, the pastor took it a step further.  He said when we seek direction from the Lord, “a lack of clarity is a wonderful thing.”  That may not make any sense whatsoever, if we’re seeking direction.  But, let me tell you how he explained it.  He read a story from Brennan Manning’s book, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God.  (I did a little bit of research, and it seems to be a story that’s been told several times.)  John Kavanaugh, a Jesuit priest, travelled to India from the United States to visit Mother Teresa and asked her to pray for him to have clarity.  Here is how she replied…

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.”    When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”  When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So I will pray that you trust God.”

My pastor went on to share three things that a lack of clarity will create for us:  1) intimacy with God, 2) leaps in our faith, 3)paralysis (meaning we have to stop and rest… as Psalm 46:10a says, “Cease striving and know that I am God;” or in another translation, “Be still, and know that I am God”).   I guess all of this particularly ‘hit home’ with me because I’ve been telling God I trust Him, but I have also been praying for clarity… using that specific word in a prayer I voiced just within the past 24 hours before I went to church services this morning.


It’s almost as if we’re waiting for something to come into focus (clarity).  And, until we put on the proper lenses (completely trust), we will continue to fret, worry, and wander around aimlessly.

(back)1How to Pull Yourself Out of a Funk, Tony Robbins, 31 Dec. 2015.
(back)2You Gotta Jump, Steve Harvey, 14 Apr. 2014.

Saturday Evening Post

Here’s something I accomplished today…


I put together this 500-piece jigsaw puzzle!  It shows Lamplight Brook (one of four puzzles in a boxed set) a copy of an original painting by Thomas Kinkade.  I have long enjoyed his paintings and their depiction of light.

I think I had forgotten how much I enjoy jigsaw puzzles.  Not sure why, but my mother gave us a puzzle this year for Christmas.  So, my daughters and I enjoyed putting it together and then, to our surprise we found this boxed set of puzzles virtually ‘in tact’ in a freebie bin at a local used books/records/CDs/DVDs/etc. store.  None of the bags in which the puzzles came had ever been opened.

(As I put the final pieces in, I counted down from the last 27 pieces or so.  haha!  So many of the “sky” pieces look similar; it was getting a bit tedious.)


I did not receive any compensation for writing this post.


A New Year With MANY Thoughts

What escapes me is how and why a whole year has passed since I created a new blog post.  I have 16 drafts… the most recent one was saved seven months ago according to WordPress.  As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to psychoanalyze myself quite often.

I’ve read and heard several different things just in the past couple of weeks that I feel have been somewhat helpful and insightful, but also somewhat overwhelming.  As a high school friend of mine said, “Being overwhelmed doesn’t mean you get a free pass…” He was referring to discipling our children, but I believe that statement applies to all areas of our lives.

As for an insightful instance, this quote from one of the articles I read recently jumped out at me as I went back to re-read the article to find what I wanted to share with you…

If a doctor uses a treatment with a clinically verified high rate of success but presents it in a negative light, the probability of a negative outcome increases.

That caused my thoughts to jump to an episode of M*A*S*H when they ran out of pain medication and used placebos to tide them over.  One of the doctors was skeptical, and the senior ranking officer ordered him to present it with a positive attitude or it would never work.  After the placebos were administered, most of the patients respond very well, much to the surprise of the one who was skeptical.  So, our attitude toward things (our expectations, as this same article points out), obviously has a great impact on the outcome of events/circumstances.

Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’m writing a blogpost now.  I felt the need to post something.  But why?  More self-analysis?  That leads me to something else I recently read, “The Hyper-Examined Life Isn’t Worth Living.”  There are many good things that the author shared.  Here is one (of many) that I found interesting…

An obsessive preoccupation with what others will think and a paralyzing fear of failure go hand in hand, and both are symptoms of a hyper-examined life.

The fear of failure and the obsession of what others will think is not just a trait of Millennials, as he suggests.  I think anyone with a tendency toward introspection could easily be drawn into what he calls a hyper-examined life.  (Just the fact that I’m bringing this up could prove that point.)

So, what is MY point?  Good question.  I know that I am striving to daily re-submit my life over to Jesus.  The past is gone, and there is absolutely NO WAY to change any of it.  The future is not yet here, and ultimately God is the only One who controls it.  We have the joy, privilege, and responsibility to seek out the best way to join God not only in the future, but in the here and now.   Will we trust?

Continue reading “A New Year With MANY Thoughts”

Blog Stats and Self-Analysis

Looking at my blog stats over a period of several months and even years, I realize that the post that has brought people to my blog more than any other is the one about House Finches.  I don’t think that it was such a wonderfully-written post in as much as Google picked up on it and apparently people are really interested in finding out about house finches.

Regarding the quality of my writing, I continually am complimented by acquaintances and a few friends.  I view my writing almost like I view myself.  I do not have a very high view of it or myself.  As I search inwardly and outwardly to determine a cause or reason for this self-doubt (for lack of a better term to describe it at the moment), I am somewhat amazed to discover that part of it may be due to not ever having been myself.  This may seem strange to some, but please try to understand what I’m trying to say.

Note:  I will be using ‘he’ and ‘himself’ so that I won’t constantly be having to put the / symbol to include both genders such as he/she.

Think about a recent high school graduate who goes from living at home straight to living in a college dormitory.  There are some new-found freedoms in making that move.  However, the person is still considered so-and-so’s child and possibly so-and-so’s grandchild or sibling or [fill in the blank].  Does this person have his own identity yet?  Most likely not.  As this person progresses through college, he makes new friends and starts to develop a broader understanding of life.  This person still goes home for holidays and summer breaks.  During those times, the ‘child’ is often at a loss as to how to reach out to others at home because now the child is no longer completely under the same guidelines as he once was.  (Note to reader:  Are you with me so far?)  Let’s say that at one point, this ‘child’ considers that college may not be for him but feels pressure from peers, family, and even self to ‘press on.’  Was that ‘consideration’ something that was far too easily pushed aside?  Could that have been some form of him trying to figure out ‘self’?

Fast forward to college graduation and the summer right after…  this ‘child’ gets married and starts a new chapter in his life.  Wow!  Now, this ‘child’ is suddenly an adult?!  Or… did that happen one night in the middle of his junior year in college when his 21st birthday rolled around?  So… what is this person’s identity now?  Simply a spouse?  No, he is still a child, grandchild, sibling, but has also added ‘spouse’ to the mixture.  What about ‘self’?  Who is he?  Deep down inside, has he taken the time to truly realize who he is?

Moving forward even more, this ‘child’ one day becomes a parent… adding yet another label.  What about ‘person’?  Has this child/grandchild/sibling/spouse/parent ever considered himself a person?  If so, what kind of person?

Now that I’m divorced and have been on my own for real (as if I never was before), I have come to realize that I really do not fully know who I am… due in part to me not ever allowing myself to be me, to discover who I am.  Being thrown into the dating world simply because I am technically single has caused me to pose strange questions of myself…  like, “what do you like to do?”  I honestly have no idea what I like to do.  Okay, I suppose that’s not entirely true.  But it feels as though I have no idea because I’ve never given it much sincere thought.  I’ve simply gone from being a ‘child’ to being a ‘spouse’ to being ‘alone.’  And, I have very little idea of who I am.  I am slowly learning who I am … who I am in Christ is most important, many would say.  But even that is not something that is easily explained.

As a follower of Christ, I do not group myself with most Christians… meaning this:  I do not automatically agree with everything that every “Christian” says or believes.  I think I used to think that I did.  I think I used to assume that if a Christian believed something, then it must be right.  (1 Thessalonians 5:21 says otherwise.)

Somehow, I know that I am not alone.  I am not the only person who has ever faced this kind of self-analytical pondering.  I am sure there are many people younger and older than myself who feel they never psychoanalyzed themselves as much as I have.  Likewise, I’m sure there are many who can relate to this self-analysis.  Even that alone is something to ponder.  Why do some people do that and others seemingly see it as silliness or childishness or unnecessary or… [fill in the blank]?

As a side note… to me, it’s interesting that I would write something like this so soon after Robin Williams died.  I think that he was probably one of the ones who thought about these things.

Amazing Perspective

The place where I live is indescribable.  God truly has amazing creativity and imagination.  I’ve been here in American Samoa for over six months, and I never tire of seeing the ocean.


We’ve had Spring Break this week which seems somewhat comical considering that it’s rarely spring-like weather here.  I joke that I’m still waiting for August to end, and I arrived here on the 6th of September. ha!  Despite the VERY warm weather, there have been plenty of times when I’ve seen Samoans wearing sweaters, hoodies, and even an occasional winter coat.  (If only I had had my camera ready for the little girl I saw wearing it.)  Their bodies are so accustomed to the temperature remaining at about 85 degrees Fahrenheit that even 79 degrees feels cool.

That reminds me of another small “difference” here that seems to be a HUGE difference.  The speed limit is 25 mph in most places on this island.  Once, while riding somewhere with some of the others who also come from “the mainland”, it felt like we were going faster than normal.  I looked, and we were going 30 mph.  In the States, we do not normally notice the subtle difference between 25 and 30.  Here, it was almost like night and day.

Perspective plays a big role in things, much more than we realize.  Living where there are no stoplights, no streets with more than one lane headed in each direction, no mailboxes, no mailmen, no UPS or FedEX, no WalMart, and yet there are two 24 hour McDonalds… brings a whole new meaning to perspective.  And, that’s not even mentioning the night sky (with a whole new set of stars to gaze upon) or the bright sun or the roosters that crow at 11:30 p.m. and 11:30 a.m. or the dogs that roam free or the lack of horses, cows, squirrels, blue jays, cardinals, and robins.

I could write so much more, and perhaps at some point I will.  A friend on Facebook recommends I do it now.  I’d like to take his advice.  I tend to be my own critic and (gasp!) worry that I’ll write the wrong thing or say too much or too little or …

Perspective.  How do you perceive the things around you?

Christmas Pondering

As I sit pondering last Christmas and how I loved being with my children on Christmas morning… seeing their eyes light

Christmas tree from 2012

up as they pulled things out of their stockings.  Watching as one daughter lined things up in an organized manner while the other simply relished in the moment, I thank God for this Christmas.  Even though I’m 6,000 miles away from my sweet daughters, I feel blessed.  This year I don’t have to tell my daughters good-bye as they leave to enjoy their time with their dad.  They don’t have to leave me or my house on Christmas Day.  And while that is a bit sad, it is also somehow comforting and indeed a blessing.