Welcome to Mary Lou's Sitting Room

Hello! You are entering the world of Mary Lou...hope you have fun here! I created this blog to be a place of refuge in the storm, inspiration in the fog, light in the darkness, and hope for your life. I love to encourage people and have fun-I hope you will find this true as you visit me here. I plan on writing about all types of subjects, because I am interested in all the good things God has made, so hang on for the ride~! I love to sew and also cook...hence the name..

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

Thanksgiving is a Holiday that I believe is important for us all. It is said the pilgrims celebrated with a meal to thank God for His provision after much difficulty and trials.  Governor Bradford proclaimed
a day of thanksgiving in the year 1676. October of 1777 witnessed a time when all the 13 colonies joined in a communal celebration. It also marked the victory over the British.

After a number of events and changes, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November of thanksgiving in the year 1863. This was due to the continuous efforts of Sarah Hale, a magazine editor.

When we take time to be thankful it gives God glory and it also gets our minds off of ourselves.  People are constantly striving to be happy-I see news stories about it all the time, and the answer is so simple: bless others, consider their plight instead of your own. My grandmother used to say "There is always someone else who is worse off than you."  And she was right...all we have to do is go look for them.

We take so much for granted.  There are people in our own towns and cities that struggle daily for food and heat in their homes.  I've never known that kind of struggle and sometimes I feel guilty about that, but guilt about something I had no control over is counterproductive.  What God desires and even expects from us is to reach out and help those that are less fortunate.  It's not hard to find them..all we have to do is call a local church or a church located in the inner city, a homeless shelter or Salvation Army office - they will have a long list of ways we can bless others, I am sure!

Yes, Thanksgiving is important and I pray we never let go of the tradition of celebrating together as families and neighbors and friends.  True confessions: I didn't look through the whole bible myself, but  there are at least 46 bible verses that speak of giving thanks. Here are a few:

Psalm 100:4  "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
      And into His courts with praise.
      Be thankful to Him, and bless His name."

1 Chronicles 16:34  "Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever ."

 1 Thessalonians 5:18   "...in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Happy Thanksgiving Day!  Enjoy your meal and time with family and friends and if you don't have someone to celebrate with, know that the Lord God is always near.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Christmas from a Woman's Perspective

The birth of Christ is certainly something to celebrate. The Incarnation...God come to earth and became flesh - came to earth to make his dwelling among us.   A miracle!

He allowed Himself to be subject to Mary - a very young, first-time mother, and Joseph a first-time dad.  Risky stuff if you ask me..

Let me ask you a question: Do you stand in the awe a wonder of that? I must admit sadly that mostly I stand in awe & wonder at all I have to do!

We are women and we know how to celebrate a holiday!  Tell me honestly...can you picture what Christmas would be like if all the prep was left up to the men??  (At my house, if there was a tree at all, it would likely be strung with one set of lights stretched sparingly across it, we would have burgers for dinner, and there might be plain, white envelopes under the tree with cash inside..)

 We decorate our homes, we bake special goodies, we send cards with loving sentiments, we host family and friends for delectable meals, we sing in choirs and we shop, and shop and shop! We lavish loved ones with gifts galore!  (I'm exhausted just thinking about it..)

But as much as I enjoy the celebrations of the season, I find myself in the midst of a dilemma:  how do I participate in the wonderful traditions of Christmas without becoming so distracted that I disregard or ignore the very One I am celebrating?  I have lists upon lists of things to accomplish in a very short amount of time!  And after all - it won’t be Christmas if I don’t serve the old favorites to the family, or have the house looking festive, and won’t people be offended if they don’t receive a card from me?  And then there is the shopping...sales on items that I simply must purchase or certain people won’t be satisfied...stores crowded, traffic, rude people to deal with...and deadlines!  I am challenged by all of this every year.

I don’t know that I have ever truly asked the Lord how HE would have me celebrate His birth, but I think it’s a good idea.  The shepherds were so excited after hearing of the birth of the Savior that they hurried off to find Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.  They didn’t seem to be too concerned with the sheep & other responsibilities.  God took care of them and he will also take care of ours if we be sure to put Him first. “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

A picture just came into my head - In it I am celebrating my husband’s birthday with family & friends, food & gifts, but he is sitting in the back of the room in a corner by himself...

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning...The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and Truth.”

Isaiah 9:6,7 “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

He is awesome and amazing! He loves us so much! So let’s take time with the One we are celebrating and bless those with whom we celebrate!  For we are WOMEN and we know how to celebrate our Savior and King!

May your Christmas celebrations be filled with joy and may you take time every day with the One you are celebrating!  That's how to have a truly "Merry" Christmas!

I know it's early - but Merry Christmas!!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Quality of Life-who decides?

The elderly. Those in comas. Those with dementia & Alzheimer's. Society wants to end their lives early because they think there's no reason for them to be here. No quality of life....don't get me wrong - I don't want to be hooked up to a breathing machine or be kept alive when brain-dead, but here's what I believe the Lord has shown me:

1) There's a LOT more going on that we can see. A person is more than a body. We are a spirit-being and God is preparing us each and everyday of our lives for eternity. We simply have no idea of what He is communicating to our spirits when we can't communicate with people...but God can get through! So why does mankind think they know best when to end someone's life? We dare not!
2) God is also preparing us as we care for our elderly family & friends. We are being taken out of ourselves to care for those that cared for us. It's VERY uncomfortable and draining and agonizing, but it's what they did for us and now it's our turn. He's using it for our good & growth. Once again - don't get me wrong - we all need to get help when we are care-givers or we will get sick & depressed. When we were young parents we got help from babysitters, neighbors, etc. But we still cannot end their lives early because we think there's no reason for them to still be here.  How can we be so presumptuous as to assume we know that a person's life has no more meaning! 

We did not create these people and we have no right to decide when it's time to end their lives.

Don't forget to take time to visit the elderly folks in your life - or even those you don't know at your local nursing home or assisted living center.  They need to feel needed and loved. They have amazing stories that we can all learn from!  Trust me, you will be the one that feels blessed and fulfilled at the end of the day...as you give your time & attention, they will bless you in ways you never imagined.

These are my parents and they have passed on to a better place. What a blessing it was to have them in my life! They were good, hard-working people who loved their Lord and Savior and served him to the very last breath.  I thank God for them and pray I will leave a legacy as rich as theirs.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Just a Simple Girl

Well, let me start off by saying I'm not really a "girl" anymore since I'm beyond the age of "girl-hood", but inside my head I am still a girl.  :)  So, that being said...I am not fancy, I'm not beautiful, I'm not rich, I live in an average home in an average neighborhood. I don't have great ambitions - never have - but I do want to make a difference in this world.  And that is actually a huge ambition, and yet each and every one of us can attain to it!

How?  Just by being you and using the talents and personality you've been given...that's how!  It doesn't take a great ability or beauty or money to start a chain reaction of blessing in this life.  A smile.  A helping hand. A prayer. A thoughtful note.  Some people call this "random acts of kindness."  I call it bearing fruit for God.  It's what we're called to do.  We all have our "sphere of influence" - people in our lives that no one else can reach but us.  This is important to realize because when we do, we understand the importance of showing them Christ's love that they may not get to       experience anywhere else.          

One of the keys to success in bearing fruit for God in this life is not comparing yourself to ANYone else!  One side of comparing is pride and on the other side is depression.  Neither are healthy or productive.  So we accept ourselves as God made us, with whatever gifts he's given, and we go forth in His name to just love on people.  And everyone can do that!  Just be a simple girl-or guy. Be who you are and let God show you how you can make a big difference in someone's life today.

The pics I've added show ways to be simply "you"....make muffins for a neighbor, invite someone over for a visit, give flowers, sew a tablerunner or something else for someone - or just smile!
 Just go out there and be simply, beautifully YOU! And let the love of God flow...
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Patchwork Life

If your life is anything like mine, it's a combination of the good and bad, the beautiful moments and ugly moments, the fun, carefree times and the stress of trying to hold it all together as a parent or in a workplace environment.  Some days I'm just glad to be alive and other days people and the world around me are so negative and disappoint me so severely that I just want to leave it all behind.

How can this be?  It's because we have been created with emotions and also because this world is not paradise.  In the Bible Jesus tells us that "in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)  So we have basically been promised that we will experience trouble and hard times. Rich Mullins wrote a song about troubles that I can relate to and it also encourages me. You can find it on YouTube. A lot of his songs encourage me because he's just real and sings about real life.

The hard times will make us strong if we let them.  I've heard people say that trials will either make you bitter or better, and I believe that's true.  It's a matter of perspective and attitude.  When I was in grade school I was made fun of all the time.  I would often go home in tears and my mom would just tell me that kids do that because they're jealous of me...although I couldn't for the life of me see anything they would be jealous of!  I was just a normal kid - not really pretty, not rich, not stylish, not good at sports..just ordinary.  But what I learned from the pain of being treated that way was that I never wanted to purposely cause that kind of pain to anyone else.  It helped me to become compassionate.  And God also taught me about forgiveness at that young age.  Forgiveness is freeing.  Compassion is essential to live a Christian life effectively.

So as I reflect on these things I see my life as a quilt that has been pieced together of all types of fabrics (I am a quilter, so this is a good analogy for me).  In a scrap quilt there are all colors and types of prints used - some are spectacularly beautiful- some very ordinary; some I might not even like, but when you add them to the scrap quilt they become one lovely piece of artwork and you would never even notice a particular fabric....you see the whole, not the individual pieces.  That's how God sees us - one beautiful creation and that's how we should see ourselves.  Don't obsess over the not-so-nice or  repulsive parts of your life - see what God sees!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Summer Fruit Idea & Smoothie Recipe

I am addicted to the strawberries, peaches and blueberries of summer! I drink smoothies all year round for lunch most days for their refreshing, sweet flavor and also for the benefits of antioxidants that the blueberries can add to your diet as well and the other vitamins they provide.
Blueberry pie!

 In the Midwest where I live, strawberries are cheapest and best-tasting from about April through July.  Peaches are best in July and part of August and blueberries in July and August as well.  A couple of years ago I had the bright idea of buying them in large quantities while fresh and freezing them. (You're probably already doing this, but in case you aren't...)   :)

 I use the strawberries in smoothies and quick bread recipes and they can also be  used to make ice cream topping.  Peaches and blueberries are also great in smoothies and we also enjoy cobblers and pies.  Blueberry pancakes and muffins are also favorites we enjoy year-round.  I rinse & dry the strawberries and blueberries and sort them, discarding any that are overripe or cutting out the bruised portions, etc.  In order to keep them from freezing together in lumps you can place them in the freezer on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.  Just spread the fruit out a little and then freeze for about 4 hours or so.  Afterwards, drop them into freezer bags and put them back in the freezer.  They'll keep for several months if sealed well.

The peaches take a little more prep, but it's worth it.  You'll want to peel them, so you can use a blanching process that makes it a whole bunch easier!  Just bring a large pot of water to boil, cut an "X" just through the skin on the bottom of the peaches and place them in the boiling water a few at a time until you notice the skin beginning to pull away a little - should be only 2-3 minutes or so.  Have a bowl of ice water ready and with a slotted spoon drop them into the ice water for 40 seconds or so.  Then, using the slotted spoon again, place them on paper towels to dry.  Peel and slice them and then follow the same instructions as for the berries above.

Mary Lou's Smoothie Recipe

1  frozen banana
1 8 oz container of vanilla yogurt (I use coconut or almond milk yogurt because of my dairy sensitivity)
Approx 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
Approx 3/4 cup frozen strawberries
Approx 1/2 cup frozen mixed berry blend (purchased at the store)
Approx 1 1/2 cups 100% juice (I use cherry-apple or whatever looks good)

Place the banana, yogurt and about 1/2 the fruit and juice in the blender to begin...then slowly add more juice and fruit until it mixes well and is not too thick or too thin.

It's very important that you realize these amounts are approximate - I generally start with half that amount of the frozen fruit & keep adding fruit and juice until it's as thick as I want it. It makes about 3-4 8-10 ounce servings, so I just keep the rest in a pitcher in the fridge.  It should be fine for 3 days.

Here's hoping your summer is full of nature's finest!  Make the most of the delectable fruit of summer!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Oldies and Broken Hearts

Music is one of my favorite things on this earth.  Even as a little girl I loved to sing and to hear my dad or mom play on the organ or piano.  I was a teen-ager in the 1960’s and listened to the latest music on my parents’ old wooden radio cabinet that stood about 3 1/2” tall in my room.  Discovering the Beatles and Beach Boys and Motown music was magical.  We could’t wait to hear the latest hits from our favorite groups.  As I now listen to those “oldies” I realize that a large number of those songs told of broken hearts and rejection.  It’s a common theme even in today’s music.  The reason must be because relationships are important to us and we thrive when we are loved and we die a little inside when people leave or reject us, and that can be a friend or lover hurting us by deserting us or through death as well.  Hearts break for a lot of reasons, but the result is the same...grief and deep hurt.

The good news is that Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted.  It’s one reason He was sent here.  It’s the result of accepting His love into our hearts and following him day by day according to his word.  Often our gut reaction to pain of this type is to run and/or hide.  To try to avoid future hurt we strive to protect ourselves and we build walls.  But that only prevents us from receiving love and healing.  It’s been said that you can’t heal a deep wound by placing a bandaid on top.  It has to be cleaned out and some sort of medication has to be administered which is often painful. (my mother was raised on a farm and they would put rubbing alcohol on cuts, which she did for us also and boy, did that burn!) But going through that painful experience is what helps bring the healing.  Leaving the cut or abrasion alone allows bacteria to grow and cause infection.  Our hearts are like that.  We need to go to our Creator and pour out our grief and pain to him so he can clean the wound and apply his mercy, compassion and love.  Trying to be strong and handle it on our own will only keep us from experiencing this wonderful, healing balm from our great God.  A friend and pastor once said that people that feel deeply laugh a lot and cry a lot and that’s just how God wants us to go through life - feeling deeply.  I’ve known people who are so guarded that they seldom laugh and don’t allow themselves to cry, but to my way of thinking that’s not really living.  It’s just going through the motions of life.  So take your broken heart to Jesus and let him do what only he can do effectively - heal us from the inside-out.

Psalm 34:14 “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Do you see what I see?

We love traveling to Florida for time away and have been blessed to do so many times.  One of our favorite past times while there is to hunt for shells.  In the northern panhandle there are not many shells to be found because of a sandbar several yards out that inhibits the larger shells from reaching the shore area.  

 We especially enjoy finding sand dollars, but they are difficult to obtain in one piece.  By the time they reach the shore the waves have beat them up till they are in small pieces.  Most of the ones we locate are about the size of a quarter or less.  They are known to get as large as 4 or more inches in diameter.  You usually have to swim out beyond the sandbar and dive down to retrieve the larger ones, which we have never tried.

Along the shoreline many smaller sand dollars may be found, along with a variety of other types of shells.  If you are persistent you will discover the unbroken ones.  When I am searching for my treasures oftentimes I see other footprints in the sand, indicating that others have searched the same spot, but even though that’s true I still find some lovely shells intact, not beaten up or broken and I wonder “did they miss this one?”  Which leads me to my point:  If we are diligent when seeking God and His truths, we WILL find him!

Jesus himself is a treasure that cannot be compared to earthly riches...he taught this about the kingdom of God, but I believe it can also be applied to a person finding Him.  He alone can satisfy our deepest desires and needs.

Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Jesus has made us this promise, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7

Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on him while he is near.”

So, the question remains...do you see what I see?