Archives for : New Beginnings

A Fireplace and a Stack of Books

A Fireplace and a Stack of Books: What more could a couple of English majors possibly want?

By Sharon Sheppard

The circumstances surrounding what could have been our own “winter of our discontent” (to quote from a famous first line in Shakespeare’s Richard III), looked bleak. The doctors had pretty much reached the end of treatment options for my husband’s multiple myeloma.

But some of the most precious times in our marriage occurred during those last months of his life as we spent wonderful hours in front of our cozy stone fireplace indulging in our passion for reading.

As ex-English teachers and avid readers, we now had lots of uninterrupted time to read. Often with a snack or a hot drink and the warmth and crackle of the fire, we were in a cocoon of our own making. And reading books out loud to each other gave us the chance to comment, agree or disagree, critique, debate, and laugh together.

The books we chose were, in many cases, lighter reading than the kinds of literature we had both read in college. But they were no less enjoyable. Each evening we began by reading from The Message, The New Testament in Contemporary English, for a fresh look at Scripture.

Then we read historical novels by Bodie Thoene, including her World War II series chronicling the era my husband’s father and uncles had spent in the military, followed by her series about the establishment of the nation of Israel. We read several political thrillers from a more contemporary era—nail-biters by Joel Rosenberg involving scenarios as up-to-date as current newspapers.

But what is most memorable about those evenings of reading is simply the shared coziness, warmth, and closeness of those quiet evenings by the fire: The gift of books and contentment on borrowed time.

Uptight About Shifting into Back to School Mode?

Uptight About Shifting into Back to School Mode? by Mary Zigan  Good Housekeeping recently posted the ultimate back-to-school supplies shopping list from kindergarten to college. It appears the cost to send an elementary student back to school is in the $170.00 range. Yikes…  supplies only! This is to say nothing of haircuts, shoes, and clothes; it makes me feel anxious just thinking about it. It also gets me wondering if our children are feeling anxious about starting another school year.


Psychologists understand our ever-changing culture of “fast, more, and doing,” and   they also see and hear the effects it is having on our children. According to Vanessa Lapointe, PhD, a parenting author and psychologist in British Columbia, “Children are not accessing the outdoors, engaging in enough regular physical activity, and experiencing the benefit of child-led free play. This changes the chemical makeup of the brain and leads to increases in anxiety and related mood shifts.” Lapointe goes on to say, “Kids also need daily time to connect and engage—eye-to-eye—with their parents in a relaxed setting where stressors are minimized and the volume of life is turned down.” Good counsel, I would say!

Over two thousand years ago, written in the best-selling Holy Book of all time, the Bible, it states, “Be anxious for nothing, don’t worry about anything. Tell God what you need, then you will experience His peace.” Those of us who are Christians have heard that powerful Scripture verse many times, but have we heeded that Word? It seems the world and situations in this world are getting more anxious by the minute. Let’s apply this truth in our lives so that we may know this peace, and offer it in good measure to our children. Being anxious can be replaced with peace. It requires getting still, really still, being mindful of thoughts that rob us, and giving our full attention to the work at hand. Tucked in that Holy Book, it also states: “As thy day is, so shall thy strength be.


What a promise and what provision!    Thanks be to God!

A New Beginning for 2018


My name is Julie D, and I would like to share a personal journey my husband and I began in February, 2017. The reason I am so excited to send my message is that I hope my personal journey could help someone else who might be struggling with weight and trying to figure out how to “lose those excess pounds.” If I can help at least ONE person, then this blog will be so worth it!

A little background about myself: Growing up, I was as thin as a rail and eventually hit 100 pounds at age 21. There were never any weight issues that I had to be concerned with until I hit my 40s! A position that took me all over the country, which included business travel with all expenses paid, brought me up to 185 pounds.

In 2005, both my husband and I had started counting points with Weight Watchers and lost more than 85 pounds between the two of us.  We decided to add some physical activity, and purchased two bikes.  During that first year we rode a total of 300 miles. But 12 years later, we found that we had gained back 70% of the weight we had lost, and knew we needed to “do something” to drop the extra pounds and get healthier, as our health providers kept reminding us at every physical.

Last February, I was invited to a small fellowship of ladies who felt like I did about my weight. We agreed to gather and discuss some of our personal concerns and whether we would like to begin the journey to a better lifestyle. The 3 of us decided to gather weekly to begin evaluating our personal goals and desires to get healthier. This was not just a food strategy, portion control, weight loss program; but, more importantly, it would be an in-depth reflection on the true reasons we overate and what we could do to manage our habits. After 10 months, the good news is that, between my husband and me, we have lost more than 55 pounds.  But, more importantly, we have gained the tools and dedication we need to keep the momentum going forward!

Are you ready for the New Year?

It is always a challenging time of year for us to embrace the past and look forward to the future. I can’t tell you how many years I would have to brace myself for constant advertisements highlighting New Year’s resolutions and “Quick Weight Loss” programs that kept repeating and repeating. I thought if I heard about another stranger who lost over 90 pounds, I would scream!!!  Losing weight is NOT easy. If it were, few people would be in the shape that they currently are in.

The most difficult step I had to take was the first one: Facing the accountability to go to that first get-together with the ladies who were also suffering with excess food and fat. For the next month, we collaborated weekly to discuss personal struggles, strategies, and successes. After 4 weeks, I wasn’t like all the weight loss commercials promised, and I had barely dropped one pound!! It was not the idea of losing excess weight quickly that motivated me (I didn’t think a woman in menopause could lose a pound), but the friendship and faith-based meetings that allowed me to think much deeper about food and control. Believe me, consuming food is a MIND game, and changing your habits and attitudes is half the battle.

I do not have any secrets or magical schemes for weight loss and lifestyle adjustments. Most weight loss programs offer some sort of come-on that implies you will get slim fast and furious, and then you will be set for life! This is only a fantasy!! It is proven that most plans will work initially, but then the weight will eventually return if you have not made a deeper commitment.

After 10 months of success and still on track, I want to share some key principles you may want to consider for your own individual lifestyle and New Beginning:

* Be honest with yourself.

* Maintain a 2,000 calorie plan every day, knowing you will have better days and worse days. It is OK to “cheat” every so often, but you must be mindful of what you are eating and stay on plan consistently.

*Never refer to your new lifestyle plan as a “DIET.” It is right next to the word “die” in the dictionary, and if there is any one word that is a complete turnoff for any normal human being, it is this word. Ask yourself when you purchase food, “Is this a need or a want?” You will be surprised at how much food is not necessary and a poor dietary choice.

*Eat REAL food. Stay away from processed foods. Select food that is “colorful” and rich in nutrients and vitamins. (And, yes, this should include fruits and vegetables.)

*Limit your portions. Get to know what an actual portion should look like.  (You will be shocked!) Most restaurants serve guests 3-5 portions per plate! If you dine out frequently, make sure to recognize your (1) portion, place it on your plate, and immediately request a To Go box to be brought to the table before you devour it all! Remember, you can eat just about anything, but you must be aware of the fat and calories you are eating.

*Don’t get hung up on a “number” for your actual weight loss. I try to stay away from scales and numbers. My pants will tell me where I am each day! Be aware your weight loss may not be immediate, but consider your overall measurements. When you decide to start your new plan, make sure to take all your measurements and keep them for future reference.

*Think LONG-TERM goals. This will take patience and planning. This should be a realistic goal (one year or even longer). I continue to look at the “future goal,” not a finite date when I can return to my old habits!

* Try to find some sort of additional physical exercise. It might be as simple as lifting a few weights, walking, biking, or anything that you might enjoy!

*Don’t take it too seriously, and try to enjoy the new foods and benefits you will discover if you stay on plan.

You can do it! Dedication will bring amazing results that can last you a lifetime.



Countdown to Baby Griffin!

Countdown to Baby Griffin! By our favorite financial blogger,

Mr. Jamie Griffin      Holy Cow!  Baby Griffin is almost here!

Becoming first-time parents is really a rollercoaster ride.  We have no baseline of what to expect, so any strange pain or feeling Jenna experiences gets us concerned about something going wrong or the baby coming early.  I’m sure we’ll be much less sensitive for Baby #2.

(In case you haven’t noticed, we really like to plan, so I have a Baby app that tracks our pregnancy to the day.)

Our Crib is Fully Assembled!

Baby Griffin has a place to sleep.  Our crib is beautiful.  It was also free, which is my favorite price for anything.  Our friends gave it to us only asking that we never give it back.  45 minutes with an allen wrench and our beautiful crib is ready to hold our adorable bundle of joy.  Not bad, huh?


I can’t believe how unbelievably expensive daycare is.  It’s insane!!!  It makes me wonder if I went into the wrong career.  In our city, daycare ranges from $800 a month to over $1,000 for just one kid.

Luckily, we got a jump on this and found someone we know and trust in the lower price range.  Some have waiting lists until August of 2019!!!  With Baby Griffin due to arrive in March, that leaves us with about 7 weeks left of the school year, when Jenna’s 6-week paid maternity leave expires.  Here’s the plan:

Part 1:  Use our own sick time to extend maternity leave.  Jenna and I each get 8 sick days a year, and they carry over if we don’t use them.  I have about 40 days and Jenna has roughly 35.  She can extend her leave by taking sick days.  When she goes back, I’ll take 2 weeks of sick time to get one-on-one Daddy time.

Part 2:  Family has volunteered to help.  Both of our families are amazing! Jenna’s brother called randomly and asked if he could fly down from Alaska and care for Baby Griffin for a week.  Seriously, you can’t make this up!  We were blown away and obviously said yes!  Jenna’s brother is awesome and will take our little tyke for all kinds of hikes.

Jenna’s mom is planning on traveling from southern Illinois to watch the baby for a week.



My family has also offered to come up for a week or two.  I have 3 sisters, and all of them said they would love to come and hold the baby for hours on end.

What’s left?

  1. Pack hospital bags.
  2. Work out daycare in case Baby comes early.
  3. Call insurance company to make sure everything is in order.
  4. Write out birthing plan:
  • Avoid epidural if possible
  • C-section only as a last resort
  • Nobody else in the delivery room but Dad
  • Dad gets to announce gender and present Baby to Mom


It’s the Final Countdown!


With only a few weeks left, we’re so close to meeting our little guy/girl we couldn’t be more excited.  I get all giddy and smiley just thinking about it!






Enjoying Everyday Life

I, Mary, just received my winter edition of ENJOYING EVERYDAY LIFE, by Joyce Meyer. The first thing that caught my eye when I opened the magazine was an article entitled, The Ultimate Stress Reliever. Seems we need such wisdom in our troubled world today.

The article reads, in part:

               “Trusting God is the greatest stress reliever in the world.

Joyce Meyer goes on to say…  “We cannot rely on our own insight and understanding, endlessly thinking about our problems, trying to figure everything out ourselves. Worrying is caused by not trusting God to take care of the various situations in our lives.”

In John 14:27 Jesus says, “My (perfect) peace I leave with you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.”  (Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.)

The truth is, God knew about your problem before you ever got it, and He already has a plan for your solution. In the meantime, you can choose to enjoy your life while you wait. With God’s help, you can trust more and stress less.

For complete article go to:  Joyce Meyer Ministries,