Perception: Who Says I Can’t Have Two Words for 2015?

Perception: My Star Word for 2015

Perception: My Star Word for 2015

Since we moved into our new home in Boise, Idaho last March, so many things have been new. I was introduced to a lovely new tradition at church this Sunday, as we celebrated the Epiphany, or the day that the Magi visited the Christ child.

After we received communion this Sunday, we each received a Star Word for the year 2015. As I turned over the star-shaped paper, I read my word: perception. In my previous blog post, I wrote about my focus on the word “mercy” for 2015. As a lover of words, I will gladly ponder, pray and learn from my Star Word, too!

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

At first glance, the word “perception” brings to my mind the age-old question, “do you perceive the glass as half empty or half full?”


Merriam Webster tells us that perception is

  • the way you think about or understand someone or something
  • the ability to understand or notice something easily
  • the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses

To perceive can also mean to discern, realize, recognize. The word “recognize” reminds me of the walk to Emmaus after the crucifixion, when the disciples did not realize that the stranger who was walking with them was the risen Jesus.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Luke 24:13 (NIV)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

Will 2015 be a year of sharpened perception for me? Will it open the eyes of my heart and bring the word mercy into clearer focus? Will I see Jesus in places I didn’t expect to see Him?

Mercy and perception: so I’m starting the new year with two powerful words. Stay tuned to see what these words teach me this year!

My Word for 2015: Mercy


At first I resisted the idea of choosing a focus word for this year. I was tired of resolutions, tired of words, tired of thinking, just plain tired. But one word kept showing up, whether I was listening to the radio, knitting, meditating, or watching the news. It ran through my fingers as I washed dishes and got under my nails as I repotted our new poinsettia. There it stayed, just below the surface of my thoughts.

So that is how the word MERCY insisted on becoming my word for 2015.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

The word mercy is kind and gentle, but it is not passive or easily overrun. It searches out the most difficult situations and places on earth. It teaches us to step out of our comfort zone without the need for recognition or applause.

If you have the spiritual gift of mercy, you may be drawn toward helping people who are suffering. You may enjoy volunteering with a ministry to the homeless, or you may be the person others turn to when they are troubled.

For centuries, people have pondered the word mercy:

The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Psalms 145:9

For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you. Psalm 86:5

Where mercy, love, and pity dwell, there God is dwelling too. William Blake

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. Abraham Lincoln

I hope that in 2015, this word will keep returning my focus to my relationship with God. I pray that it reminds me that my sensitivity to others is not a weakness. Let it encourage me to encourage others, whether I am cooking for my family, listening to a friend, or writing articles about wellness or sustainability.

As a writer, I know that words choose me as often as I choose the words. I am grateful that mercy got my attention these past few weeks, and can’t wait to see what it teaches me!


Compassion Bloggers: Precious Gifts


Image by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar, on Flickr

The Christmas season can trigger a variety of memories and emotions — some bittersweet.  As we anticipate the joyful arrival of the infant Jesus into our homes, we are surprised when the shorter days darken our moods. We are disappointed to find ourselves feeling exhausted just when we are supposed to feel cheerful and inspired. We avoid much needed rest because we want to go the extra mile to make the season “perfect” for our families, our friends, ourselves.

I tend to find comfort and inspiration from nature — especially plants and flowers. I am encouraged when I remember a few facts about the poinsettia, one of the most popular symbols of the Christmas season. Its showy, red petal-like leaves or bracts decorate homes, offices and churches between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those brilliant colors are only possible if the plant gets enough hours of rest — total darkness, in fact — from September through at least mid-November.  The uninterrupted hours of darkness trigger the colorful bract formation and turn the poinsettia into the familiar holiday symbol.

I remember the poinsettia when I catch myself postponing much needed rest, solitude or quiet. I remember to honor the cues that tell me to look within, to close my eyes and retreat from the lights, the trimmings and the to-do lists. I realize that rest and regeneration — the good stuff — sometimes need darkness to carry out their work.

Advents kranz

Image by Pete Jeliffe, on Flickr


When I look within, I remember the quiet joy that comes with the first dawn of Christmas. I remember that the glory of Christmas began with a child in the humblest of circumstances. I think fondly of the child I sponsor through Compassion International and pray that the light from the Christ child will greet her early, before the sun rises on Christmas morning.

The beauty of nature brings many gifts, whether they are life lessons, pretty colors, or a bountiful harvest. Garden seeds, for example, can save a family from hunger or provide an income from crops. You can share this and other precious gifts from the Compassion International Gift Catalog with a child or family in the poorest areas of the world. I hope you’ll consider looking over the catalog.

Wishing you the light and love of the Christmas season!



Recipe: Miso Maitake Soup

It’s that time of year again — no, I’m not talking about the Christmas shopping frenzy. I’m talking about the sore throats, aches and sniffles that tend to show up just as the holiday season kicks into gear. With flu season in mind, I decided that a nourishing, warming pot of miso soup was a good idea for lunch today.

Rich in vitamins and minerals, miso is a fermented, usually salty paste that is used as a seasoning in traditional Japanese cooking. In fact, the Onozaki family, who trace their ancestry 500 years back to the Samurai, are among the most respected makers of miso today. Miso can be made from a variety of ingredients, including rice, soybeans or barley. I usually use barley miso in my soups. Miso soup often contains a highly nutritious sea vegetable such as kombu or wakame. There are many recipes for miso soup, and I’ve combined some of my favorites to come up with my own recipe.

First, a word about one of my ingredients: maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa). Also known as hen-of-the-woods, maitake is valued as a medicinal, immune-boosting food in many Asian countries. You can buy dried maitake — as well as dried wakame and pickled ginger — from health food stores including the Kushi Store online. Just soak the maitake mushroooms in water before you cook with them.


Dried maitake mushrooms


Miso Maitake Soup


5 cups water

1/3 cup dried maitake mushrooms

1 3-inch strip dried wakame

1 carrot, sliced

1 tablespoon pickled ginger, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons barley miso

3 green onions, thinly sliced


In a medium pot, soak the mushrooms in the 5 cups of water for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the strip of wakame in a small bowl of water for about 5 minutes. Remove the wakame from the water and cut it into approximately 1/2-inch pieces.

After the mushrooms finish soaking, add the carrots to the pot. Gently simmer the mushrooms and carrots in the soaking water for 15 minutes. Add the wakame, garlic and ginger and simmer for another 2 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat. In a small bowl, combine the miso with a small amount of broth from the soup. Keeping the soup off the heat, stir the miso mixture back into the soup. The miso will give the soup a cloudy appearance as its beneficial cultures activate. Serve in bowls, sprinkling the green onions over the soup in each bowl.

The ginger and garlic add a warming layer of flavor to this slightly salty miso soup. My sweet husband — my initially skeptical meat-and-potatoes guy — finished his bowl and was surprised how much he liked the soup!

I can’t guarantee that a bowl of miso soup will keep every cold and flu germ away, but a delicious soup loaded with vitamins and minerals may just give you a fighting chance this winter. I’ll bet you come up with your own recipe.

Be well and be blessed!




Time to Share a Real Neat Blog Award

Thanks to Christy Birmingham at Poetic Parfait for this award!

Christy Birmingham is a most talented blogger and poet, so I was honored to learn that she had nominated my blog for this award! Do pay a visit to Christy’s blog, Poetic Parfait, where you’ll find inspiration and verse.

The best part about receiving an award is having the chance to share it with my fellow bloggers. At the end of this post, I’ve listed the blogs that I have nominated for the Real Neat Blog Award. If you are nominated and would like to participate, here is what you can do (if you prefer not to participate, no problem):

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
  4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
  5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

Here are my answers to the questions that Christy used, and I will pass these questions onto the nominees 🙂

  1. Where do most visits to your blog come from?  Mostly the good old USA and Canada; I am blessed to have many good friends in both countries!
  2. What is your favorite sport? Basketball — go Spurs!! We lived in San Antonio until this past March, and we will always be Spurs fans.
  3. What has been a special moment for you in 2014? Moving into our new home in Idaho, and seeing our new home and garden for the first time.
  4. What is your favorite quote? I like this by John Barrymore: “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.”
  5. What was your favorite class when still at school? History. I have always felt strongly connected to the past, and I especially like to read about the American Revolution.
  6. Anything you had wished to have learned earlier? It took some detours and wrong turns, but I have finally realized that I want to be a writer when I grow up 😉
  7. What musical instrument have you tried to play? I love to play the guitar and violin, and I hope to have more time to play after I finish finals in a couple of classes. My husband has a guitar, too, and it will be nice to have time to play music again!

My nominees for the Real Neat Blog Award are gifted writers who encourage and help us heal with their words:

 Cecilia Marie Pulliam

John G Evans

Kristin Bridgman

Just a Thought

Some thoughts on the high price of remaining silent:


According to the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” regardless of the color of their skin, status, gender, or disability. (

As the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. states, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” My premise being should I choose to remain quiet about our brothers and sisters of color, I feel I am indeed presenting myself as an enemy to not only the African-American populous but, to family, friends, and all people who are indifferent to me in every subtle and conceivable manner, even yourself perhaps. Therefore, this would not be wisdom in its purest form. This great American prophet of the 20th century spoke for all…

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White Boy

This post from Pastor Marci Glass offers refreshing, honest perspective on our country’s racial divide and the search for healing.

Glass Overflowing

I’ve not blogged about Ferguson (or any of the many other situations in the news that reveal the way our culture still has so many racial divides). Partly, it’s because I have no idea what to say. Also, I’m a white woman in Idaho. What in the world do I know about racial tensions? Nothing. That’s what I know.

Each day I read more and more in the news and I recognize my role in this is partly to stand in witness, to acknowledge I have much to learn from people who live with fear about how they will be treated because of the color of their skin.

I also was beginning to feel that my silence about this was becoming consent for the status quo.

Neil Patrick Harris’ character, Dr Horrible, in a rant about the mess the world is in, talks about  “Destroying the status quo…

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