A look back at the blog for 2017

At the end of the year I like to look back over the blog posts of the year and reflect on what God has done in my life through the year.

Besides holidays, birthdays, and everyday blessings, some standout happenings this year were:

  • Meeting my blog friend Melanie in person when she moved from FL to TN this year, and meeting her for lunch pretty regularly since.
  • Spending a night in the ER with atrial fibrillation and having surgery for it in August, followed by a rougher than expected recovery. Things continue to be stable now – a few flutters here and there but nothing major.
  • Mittu having a (thankfully non-cancerous) growth removed.
  • The solar eclipse!

Some favorite pictures from the year:

My mother-in-law’s birthday:

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Timothy at a July 4 parade.

Timothy parade

Jason’s 30th Birthday:

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Easter:

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Timothy likes to help in the kitchen. 🙂

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Meeting Melanie for the first time!

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Every Friday I participate in Friday’s Fave Five, where we share five blessings from the week before, then usually a couple of Saturdays a month I share ” Laudable Linkage,” links to Internet reading that I’ve found particularly noteworthy in some way. I usually have a book review or two during the week, and I shared the books read this year and then my top twelve a few days ago. Occasionally I post various other “stray thoughts.” Usually about once a week, lately on Mondays, I share something God has been teaching me. I debated with myself about whether to just share some of my favorites from this last category or to list them all. I decided to do both. 🙂

My own favorite from this past year are:

Here are all of this kind of post. I started out sharing a quote or quick summation, but then it got very late into the evening. 🙂

January:

Loving As Jesus Loved.

Finding Beauty in Bleakness.

Protection For Wounded Spirits.

Manufactured Spirituality.

February:

Thoughts About Women’s Ministries.

15 Things You Might Not Know About Me.

“Negative” Book Reviews – bad idea or helpful sometimes?

March:

Sandpaper Christians – the kind who rub us the wrong way. What is God trying to do in our lives through them?

Don’t Make Your Spouse Feel Like an Outsider.

Trusting God in the Dark.

Faithful in Obscurity.

April:

12 Things You Should Know About Caring for the Elderly.

“That’s Just the Way I Am

May:

My Ebenezers.

Finishing Well.

The Bible and Slavery.

Problems, Blessings, and Dangers of Middle Age.

June:

The Highest Calling – does the Bible name one?

When the Message Isn’t For Me. Might God have a message for me in a passage or sermon which doesn’t seem to directly apply at first?

Why Study Doctrine?

July:

Tune My Heart to Sing Your Grace. Interesting look at what the Bible says is to be the subject of our songs.

Mentoring Is More Than Affirmation.

With All Our Minds. “God doesn’t want to touch just our hearts from His Word, He wants us to use our minds, to engage our brains.”

What Are You Seeking?

August:

The Holy Spirit’s Activities. Despite the controversies over what the Holy Spirit does in our day, the Bible is clear about plenty He does without controversy.

It’s Not For Nothing. When caregiving seems like it’s not accomplishing anything.

No Pat Answers. “We should acknowledge the hard places God sometimes brings our loved ones to without being flippant about it.”

September:

Nice, But Still a Rebel. “Is it possible to be thoroughly nice and still not right with God?”

Word Studies in the Bible. Problems, considerations, and tips for doing a word study.

Dealing With Disappointment and Discouragement.

Looking to Jesus’ Example in Discipling Our Children. “There are ways ways Jesus interacted with His disciples that I could apply to my interactions with my own children, who were also my disciples.”

October:

Living and Praying in the Light of God’s Name. “Have we ever prayed for forgiveness, as Daniel did, or help, as Asaph did in Psalm 79, for God’s sake, for the sake of His name, for His glory? I have to admit, most often my focus is on my own need and wanting it resolved as soon as possible.”

Keeping Balanced in an Unbalanced World. “Feeling unbalanced is disorienting, even scary sometimes, occasionally paralyzing. Balance is an essential part of walking. It’s hard to move forward if you’re constantly fearing a fall, but even aside from fear, without stability your mind and body can’t process moving forward.”

Reading the Bible Literally. “The better way to read the Bible is in an ordinary way like you would any other nonfiction, taking it as meaning what the words would ordinarily mean unless the context indicates it is figurative speech.”

A Stirred-up Woman. “The power of a stirred-up woman for evil or for good.”

When God Asks the Impossible. When God asks people to do exactly what they can’t do.

November:

The Strength of My Faith. “It’s not the strength, size, intensity, or maintenance of my faith that makes the difference. It’s the One I have faith in.”

Everyday Gifts. “Sometimes in longing for the “big” moments we can overlook the everyday evidence of God’s presence, love, and care.”

Watching Angels. “Who knows what little babies and elderly people actually see when they fixedly stare at some point like that.”

Keeping Minimalism in Balance.  “Like anything, it’s possible to become unbalanced one direction or another.”

December:

My Sin Is Not Someone Else’s Fault. “God has promised a way of escape in each temptation. Too often I am looking for a reason to give in rather than a way to get out of temptation.

Tips for “Managing” Christmas. “There’s more to do, a lot of it enjoyable in itself, but it adds to an already packed schedule and can leave us feeling frantic rather than enjoying the season, much less pondering the meaning of it.”

For God’s Glory. “God doesn’t seek glory because He ‘needs’ it. He seeks it because we need it.”

I like to see which posts seemed to impact the most people, and according to my WordPress stats, my most viewed post of the year is the same one it has been the last few years, one from back in 2011, Coping When Husband Is Away. Most of my most-viewed posts are older ones. The one viewed most from this year is my review of The Magnolia Story by “Fixer-Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino, but that’s way, way down the list. the next most-viewed of this years posts is Thoughts About Women’s Ministries and after that is Problems, Blessings, and Dangers of Middle Age.

If you’re still reading this post, give yourself a pat on the back from me. 🙂 Thank you for sticking with me, for reading, and for commenting and encouraging me.Though I feel like I “have” to write, and I think things through best by writing them out, knowing that God uses some of that for good in other people’s lives is a great joy to me. Hopefully we’ll continue to learn together in 2018.

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Favorite Posts of 2016

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Another end-of-year activity I like to do is look back through old blog posts. Not so much the “just chatting,” book reviews, memes, laudable linkage, or even the Friday Fave Fives posts (though the FFF posts are by their very nature favorites!) But the ones where I wrestled through an issue or shared something God was teaching me.

January:

4 Reasons to Face the New Year Without Fear.

I’m an Older Woman…So Now What?

February:

Our Church Ladies Booklet.

March:

To the Shy.

April:

The Value of Housework.

May:

Fleeting Pleasures, Eternal Joys.

My Father, My King.

Uncontrolled Reactions.

Christians With Political Differences.

June:

Receiving Criticism.

Summer.

Bible Verses For Caregivers.

July:

Nursing Wounds.

But That’s Not My Spiritual Gift!

August:

Bookcases (Nothing profound here – I just enjoyed sharing them. 🙂 )

Communicating With God as a Person.

September:

Across the Will of Nature.

Going to a Church With Problems.

Those Perfect Friends.

Principles For Interpreting the Bible.

October:

Thankful For God’s Protection.

The Introvert in Assisted Living.

A God We Don’t Understand.

November:

Ornaments For Timothy. Again, not a deep one, but a pleasant memory.

Thoughts on the Election.

“Edgy” Christian Fiction.

December:

When God Wants Me To Do Something I Don’t Want To Do.

Interestingly (at least to me), according to my WordPress stats, the top ten posts they say got the most views do not contain any posts from this year. At first that makes me wonder if my day-to-day readership has dropped off. 🙂 But I think it means that some of these show up in search engines, so are viewed a lot that way. Those top ten are:

  1. Coping when husband is away.
  2. Christmas devotional reading.
  3. What does it mean to magnify the Lord?
  4. Through Gates of Splendor.
  5. Thanksgiving reading.
  6. A Passion for Thee.
  7. C. S. Lewis on love.
  8. Transverse Myelitis.
  9. Paul Harvey on fathers.
  10. When God Is Near.

I don’t know a way to look at the stats for just this year’s posts, but it looks like the one with the most views is I’m an Older Woman…So Now What?

I don’t know if this is of any interest to anyone but myself, but I like to reminiscence on the year plus see what other readers found most helpful.

I’ve enjoyed this blogging year and am looking forward to the next. Thanks so much to YOU for reading and commenting! It’s a major encouragement, and I have been so blessed by the blogging friendships we’ve made along the way.

10th Blogging Anniversary!

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Ten years ago today I published my very first post to begin this blog!

Wow, a lot has changed in 10 years.

If I am calculating correctly, my youngest was in junior high, my middle son had just completed his freshman year in college, and my oldest had just graduated. Now they are all young men, out of school, and working (well, except one got laid off recently but hopefully will find a new job soon).

We’ve added a sweet, beautiful daughter-in-law and the world’s cutest and smartest grandson to the family. After a rough start in the NICU due to arriving 10 1/2 weeks earlier than his due date, he’s doing just great.

We moved my mother-in-law from ID to SC to live near us in assisted living, and just three years ago moved her into our home.

We moved from SC to eastern TN.

My husband and I have enjoyed another decade of marriage and our hair is a little greyer than it used to be. We’ve helped each other through his kidney cancer surgery and detached retina and my heart rhythm problems.

But a lot has remained the same. I wonder sometimes if I should change my blog, with all the talk of “branding,” platforms, and niche in the last few years. But I have always felt comfortable with this hodgepodge of “stray thoughts,” just sharing personal life, amusing or interesting observations, and what God has been teaching me along the way.

Earlier in the year I anticipated this anniversary coming up and thought about doing some kind of big giveaway or planning some kind of hoopla. I forgot about it and just now remembered that today was the day.

So I’ll just quietly observe it without a virtual party. But as an anniversary gift to me, I’d love for you to say hello in the comments! Tell me something about yourself or how you came here.

Thank you for reading. You make this a lot more fun than if I was just talking to myself. 🙂 I treasure the friendships I’ve made along the way.

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My favorite posts of the year

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Around this time of year, I like to skim back through the year’s old posts to find the ones I especially want to remember. I love the book reviews, weekly recounting of blessings in the Friday Fave Fives, the occasional meme or “stray thoughts” post, but I especially like to look over the posts where I thought through an issue by writing.

Before I did that, though, I received an e-mail from WordPress with some of my “year in review” stats. According to those stats, my most often read post is once again Coping When Husband Is Away from 2011. I had no idea when I wrote that it would hit such a nerve, and while I can’t say I liked the circumstances discussed there, I am glad God is using it to help other women in the same boat.

An odd thing, though, is that none of the top ten viewed posts according to my stats were posts from this year. In fact, the top two written this year, my review of Out of a Far Country by Christopher and Angela Yuan and Elisabeth Elliot In Heaven were way, way down the list of top viewed posts for the year. I don’t know what to make of that. 🙂

Anyway – on to this year’s posts:

January:

Are We Responsible For God’s Reputation?

February:

The Quiet Person in the Small Group.

Finding Time to Read.

How Not to Become An Old Biddy.

March:

“Special” Music in the Church.

Why Listen to Audiobooks?

Is It Nice to Call Someone a False Prophet or a False Teacher?

April:

Praying for the Lost Scripturally.

A very special birthday.

Camouflaging Dirt.

When the Message Isn’t For Me.

May:

Finding Time to Read the Bible.

Spots and Wrinkles.

Dealing With Caregiver Resentment and A Few More Thoughts on Caregiver Resentment.

June:

Is it more important to be nice or to be right?

Elisabeth Elliot In Heaven.

Not a long life, but a full one.

July:

Upcoming surgery is not a favorite because of the surgery or the post, but because of your sweet comments after I bared my heart over several concerns.

Exceeding Abundantly, But Unseen.

It’s ok to say it hurts.

Fallow Hearts.

August: None. Must not have done any deep thinking that month. 🙂 Actually, I was recovering from a procedure at the beginning of the month, then my son was in town for a week later in the month, so I was otherwise occupied.

September:

Middle Child and Other Syndromes.

October was mostly 31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot.

November:

Help For Changing Thought Patterns.

From Depletion to Abundance.

Am I Doing Any Good?

December: Another busy month.

So that’s it for this year! It’s so hard to believe 2015 is about to come to an end. Thank you for reading and for making the blogging experience so enjoyable!

 

Do you see ads here?

I know WordPress places ads on its free blogs, but I don’t see them myself. So I wanted to ask my readers: how often do you see them here and what kinds are they?

If you ever see anything offensive on them, would you please let me know? If you could take a screen shot and e-mail it to me (click on the link in my sidebar) that would be helpful so I would know specifically how to address it with the powers that be.

Thanks so much!

My favorite posts of the year

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There is something about the end of the year that invites reflection. One aspect of that for me is that I like to look back through my posts of the previous year and remind myself what I have been thinking about. I don’t necessarily look back through book reviews (other than listing the books I’ve read this year and then my top ten favorite books of the year) or Friday Fave Fives (though the top ones of those would probably be when Timothy was born and then when he came home from the NICU 10 1/2 weeks later) or Laudable Linkage or anything like that. Rather, I like to look back over the posts when I’ve been thinking through an issue or wrote about something that affected me or something I felt God was teaching me. So from those posts, here are some of my favorites (favorites not in the sense that I necessarily enjoyed them the most, but they are the ones that impacted me the most):

January:

Christian Fans. “How sad that people will defend at all costs a media personage, even a Christian one, who will never know them or care about them, at the expense of a relationship with someone they know and are supposed to love in their very own church and community.”

February:

Be Still? Or Fight? “Sometimes God will supernaturally win the battle for me while I only watch, but sometimes He gives me victory by handing me a sword.”

The Spiritual Value of a Secular Job.

The Value of Homemakers.

March:

Can We Let God Down?

Strong Women.

YA Censorship. A question about censorship in YA lit led to a further discussion about objectionable elements in any literature.

April:

Trusting God in the Dark.

Helping Parents As They Age, part of the Adventures in Elder Care series.

May:

None. I was spending a lot of time at the NICU that month. 🙂

June:

Eternal Glories Gleam, written after our pastor’s announcement of his terminal cancer diagnosis.

July:

But If Not….Another that grew out of my pastor’s illness: thoughts on the reality that God does not always answer prayer the way we’d like.

When People Say the Wrong Thing.

A Plea to Caregivers, another in the Adventures in Elder Care series.

August:

It was a busy month, so there is nothing in the way of “deep thoughts” except for some book reviews, but I did finally get all of my favorite cookie recipes into one post. 🙂

September:

Absent From the Body, Present With the Lord, on my pastor’s death.

My Ebenezers.

Irritating vs. Irritate-able. My biggest problem is not what irritates me, but my ability to be irritated.

October:

31 Days of Inspirational Biography. This was a series of posts through the whole month: this post contains a list with a link to each one. It did me good to look back over the lives of saints who have gone before and to learn from them.

Why Read Biographies?

November:

No Mere Mortals.

Why Read Fiction and Christian Fiction? I discussed why read at all, then why read fiction, then why read Christian fiction. This was a post that had been in the back of my mind off and on for years, so I was glad to finally get it written down. And, it’s funny, after thinking this would be my magnum opus, I don’t think it made a splash in the blog world much at all. 🙂

A revival of what?

December:

Grieving at Christmas is one I have reposted a number of times under different titles. Each year, sadly, I seem to know someone grieving the passing of a loved one this time of year.

Looking at my WordPress stats for the year, none of the current year’s posts is near the top of the number of viewed posts. The highest of them is 31 Days of Inspirational Biography at #15. The post viewed most this year (almost four times as many views as any other post) is Coping When a Husband Is Away from 2011. I’m amazed but thankful that God is using it to help women dealing with that issue.

Only a few days left of this year! Except for the monthly What’s On Your Nightstand post tomorrow and a book review or two to finish out this year, I am ready to look ahead to 2015.

Carrie at Reading to Know is celebrating her 8th blogging anniversary with a giveaway of a $50 Amazon card, but to qualify she asks readers to post a photo of themselves with a favorite book.

The hardest part for me was choosing just one book. Of course the Bible would be the all time #1 favorite, and I don’t want to just take that for granted. In a recent book meme I had a hard time choosing just one book in any category. But Evidence Not Seen (linked to my review), about a missionary wife who was taken captive and confined to a Japanese prison camp during WWII, would definitely be up there in the very top echelons of my favorites.

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My 8th Blogiversary!

Photo Courtesy of marthastewart.com

Photo Courtesy of marthastewart.com

It’s hard to believe I have been blogging for 8 years!

Our family has experienced a lot of life changes in that time: high school and college graduations, a wedding, a grandson, a mother-in-law moving in from out of state and then into our home, surgeries, a move to a different state, crossing from the forties into the fifties. More grey hair, more wrinkles, hopefully a little more wisdom and experience.

When I first stepped into the blogosphere eight years ago yesterday, the blogging community for the most part felt more like neighbors chatting across the backyard fence than a business, and I’ve endeavored to share my “stray thoughts” about family, home, Christianity, and just about anything else I find interesting or amusing with other online neighbors. I’ve always wished I had come up with a more creative name, but it still aptly describes the content. I’ve been amazed and so grateful that anyone has stopped by at all to read, and that some of you have stayed for years amazes me even more. Occasionally I’ll read blogging advice articles and wonder if I should think more about my “niche” and “platform,” but then I think…nah. If I ever need to have a professional blog for any reason, I’ll probably start a new one: I hope to keep this one as a personal and  hodgepodgy place to fellowship.

I’m so thankful for any way in which God has redeemed and used anything here.

Thank YOU so much for reading and commenting! Thank you for your patience with my foibles, your words of encouragement, your prayers through our various family crises. Without you this wouldn’t be much more than an online journal. You make it both more fun and more of a blessing.

In appreciation, I am going to host a little giveaway of one of a couple of different gifts to two different winners. I traditionally like to give away something that I have enjoyed, so I am going to offer a copy of the book Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins (linked to my review)

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…and a copy of the Galkin Evangelistic Team‘s CD Be Still. It is actually a set of two CDs. One has very peaceful and soothing instrumental settings of various hymns and spiritual songs, and the other has Scripture readings with the same music as background. You can hear clips of the songs on the CD  at the Galkin’s site here or on iTunes or Amazon.

Be Still

For many months this has been my go-to CD while puttering in the kitchen, especially on Sunday mornings, and it has greatly ministered to me.

If you’d like to be entered for either of these gifts, just leave a comment below. Let me know if you have a preference for one or the other and whether you’d like the electronic or physical versions (you would need a Kindle app for your computer, phone, or tablet for the electronic version of the book, but the apps are free). I can only send the physical versions to US addresses (and possibly Canada – will have to check on shipping prices there), but the electronic versions can of course be sent anywhere. And this isn’t required, but just for fun in your comment let me know how you first came across “Stray Thoughts” and how long you’ve been reading here. I’ll draw a name using random.org a week from today (August 4).

Thank you, once again, for a very enjoyable eight years.

The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Ivory Spring for winning the book and Amy for winning the CDs! And thank all of you for your kind and lovely comments.

A look back at 2013

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Proverbs 27:1 says, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth,” and that is certainly true of a year full of days as well. We had no idea at the beginning of this year that we’d be facing my husband’s kidney cancer and surgery, his retinal detachment and surgery, and subsequent cataract surgery or his mom’s hospitalization or her move to a nursing home. We had been thinking about bringing his mom to our home but had not decided on that until later in the year. And we cherished hopes of news that we’d be becoming grandparents but didn’t know when that time might come: we learned a few weeks ago that Jason and Mittu are expecting their first child this summer. (I’ve been sitting on that news and it has been so hard to wait to announce it! But exciting, too!) We enjoyed a visit from my family that we hadn’t known was coming at the beginning of the year as well as visits from a few out-of-town friends.

At the end of the year I like to take a quick look back through the year’s blog posts, aside from the book reviews and weekly “Fave Fives” (which I love), to remind myself of what the Lord’s been teaching me through the year, to trace back through some of my thinking, and even to remember a few fun times. Here are some of my favorite posts of the year:

January:

Thoughts for the New Year.

Devotional tips, a repost from an earlier year. but it helps to go over these things from time to time.

When the Living Word Comforted With the Written Word.

February:

What did you read as a kid? It was fun thinking back through some of my childhood favorites.

To celebrate or not to celebrate…Valentine’s Day. 🙂

March:

Themes of My Life.

God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

Encouraging ourselves in the Lord. Another repost and reminder to myself.

April:

Thoughts About God’s Wrath.

Time Management.

What God Ordains Is Always Good

May:

Myths and Maxims of Ministry.

June:

Spurgeon on Criticism.

Spiritual Snobbery.

July:

Thoughts on Being an Introvert.

August:

Solitude vs. Community.

To look back or not to look back.

September:

Tension and Balance.

Wanting Things to Be Perfect.

We follow our focus.

October:

31 Days of Missionary Stories.

November:

Tense anticipation. Spiritual lessons learned from my mother-in-law’s physical therapy.

Thanksgiving Bible Study.

Pedestals? A list of missionary biographies I’ve read and recommend and some tips for reading missionary biographies.

December:

Christmas Grief.

My Top Ten Books Read in 2013.

Expectations. 😀

I just got my year-in-review summary from WordPress, and according to that my most-viewed post this year is one from a couple of years ago, Coping when your husband is away. I still get e-mails about that one. As much as I hated that my husband had to travel so much over the years, I’m so thankful God has used that experience to minister to others.

As we put up new calendars tomorrow, we’re looking forward to being grandparents for the first time this summer, and I am sure that will be one of the major focuses of the year. Jim will probably have to have one more eye surgery: the doctors recently told him that the retina that had surgery is developing a film over the retina, so the film will likely have to be removed at some point. I need to sit down and plot out some goals for the year and reevaluate some priorities and pray for wisdom and direction. But overall we’re back where we started – not knowing what a day, or a year, will bring forth. Yet God knows what’s ahead and has promised us strength, grace, and above all His beloved presence for all our days ahead.

My 3,000th post!

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It seems that my 3,000th post should call forth something witty or wise or philosophical…unfortunately it is a busy day and nothing along those lines is coming to mind. 🙂

But I do plan on some kind of giveaway later this month to commemorate my 3,000th post as well as my 7th blogging anniversary coming up at the end of July. As soon as I decide what to do for that, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, thanks for being there. I write sometimes just to express myself or to work things out in my own mind or to pass along something the Lord’s taught me, and it’s a wonderful blessing when one of those things connects with some of you. I appreciate the blogging friends I’ve made!