Friday, August 31, 2018

Changing Signs of Changed Seasons

As I drove to Nashville yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but notice all the color draining from the trees. On the surface everything looks green and lush, but just under the surface I can feel the colors of fall trying to push through... a yellowing here, an orange tinge there, leaves trying their hardest to hold on for “true fall.” 
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Here in Alabama it’s been dry. Really dry. Our lawn feels and sounds crunchy under my feet. I drag a hose around to try to keep it green, but I know it will all be Bermuda brown too soon. That’s ok. But the leaves that fall in our yard already make me sad. I know that the kudzu privacy wall will dry and fade, the trees will lose their leaves. The maple sapling up front and the redbud out back will never be the same...they’ll turn and shed leaves and come back a foot taller with the Spring glory. Seasons do that, ya know. 
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They do that to us too, though I’ll never be a foot taller come Spring. 😉😄 There’s the feeling of change pressing from within. Knowing something is going to happen, but not knowing when. Just acting out of obedience and finding out later why you had to do that THEN. It’s come up a few times in the past week, this prompting of the Holy Spirit, then obeying without understanding why, and then, on the flip side seeing the reasons why. Getting it. 
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A few years ago I had more VA clients than I knew what to do with. It was my ministry, my job, and I loved getting to make art and get paid for it. I enjoyed contracting with a national card and gift company for a blog they owned, working with different writers and ministries in promoting their platforms, and helping their online presence perform well. Although my own creativity was set aside, I was filled with joy at helping others succeed. I loved being a part of the team. Each one. Then God started whispering “smaller” to me.
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I thought it was meant for my personal blog, my own words, but it seemed each year He asked me to let go of more. Then one year He just snatched my big account out of my hands, with no warnings or explanations. I was a little shellshocked. Or a lot. Yet between each thing He asked me to release to Him, or each thing He took away, we moved. KY to AR. AR to AL, where I had no high-speed internet, then to a different home in AL that better suited our needs. 
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Looking back now, I KNOW why He whispered, released and took away. If I had been unwilling to let go of things when He prompted, I would of left people in a big mess! Although I hate not being a part of those teams today, I know that their growth would of been hampered if I’d tried to stay with it, and the year without internet could of done damage to their ministries (and my sanity). God knew. He was not surprised and He was fully aware of what the future would hold, for me and for each of them. 
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Now I’m delighted to see them fully operate without me, and although I’m not as involved as I would of been, I’m able to support them in other ways. It’s all good! My life looks different, but right for me, in this season. And I’ll continue to delight in each season He brings me through... all glory to God! 

Monday, August 27, 2018

New in the Neighborhood

Whew! As I finish content for Roy Lessin's new blog site (meetinginthemeadow.com) and prepare to get grandkids again, I am {pausing} and *reflecting* on this summer.

Yes, there are playgrounds full of school children already, homeschooling mommas have already put their plans in place for the new year, and we're losing daylight each day (which makes me SO sad!), but there's still some summer to be enjoyed! Days are still warm (ok, HOT) and there are still plenty of hummingbirds at the feeders. Despite the fading daylight, the lake water is still warm and inviting and summer's blooms are still bright and cheery. Sunsets are still to be enjoyed from the front porch (or landing) or on a walk in the cool of the evening. There's plenty of summer left to enjoy a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea!

It's also the ideal time to get out and meet your neighbors! Our neighborhood is slowly-but-surely being built. I don't know if any other houses are sold, or when the sold houses will be occupied, but I'm praying for the people that will move in, in time. I'm praying for the neighbors I've met recently too, for the new family next door, and the few empty-nest couples on our street. I'm praying for the family that keeps to themselves, and the single grown-ups that are alone. Mostly, I'm praying that we can be salt and light, encouragement and help to all of them, that we continually point them to Jesus.

Ours is a brand new neighborhood, so we are all coming from someplace else, but sometimes I've been the new person on the block, and everyone else has known each other for a longer time. There are already disagreements in place and boundaries drawn, people know each other's stories and have formed opinions on issues. Everyone else knows who roots for Alabama and who cheers on Auburn (the struggle is real around here!). Sometimes being the newest on the street leaves you feeling like you're living in a fish bowl, with everyone looking in at you and you not being able to clearly see or perceive what's going on in the rest of the neighborhood.



Take heart, dear friend. It's ok if you're not warmly welcomed with a plate of warm cookies and a casserole. Find your feet in your new home and take a little time to catch your breath. Then bake up a batch of cookies and go visiting your neighbors, or just take a walk when you notice everyone is out doing yard work. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself and extend a hand of friendship. It's so much better to make acquaintances on the neutral turf of a front yard rather than over the fence about the barking dog. Lay a foundation of friendship and build on what you have in common (a property line? leaving for work at the same time? kids in the same school?). Don't be afraid to expose your real-life messy and invite the other stay-at-home mom over for coffee, or to linger at the bus stop a little longer to exchange pleasantries. Friendships are to be made, and it just takes a smile and a hello!

So be brave, dear soul, and open the door to all the possibilities. Prayer walk (or ride or drive!) your neighborhood, and let the Lord lead. Listen to the Holy Spirit prompt you, nudging you in whatever direction He pleases to bring you a new friendship. Take advantage of these last days of summer to see what will come to bloom before the short days of fall rush in. It's not too late to plant a few seeds of friendship and see them take root!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Busy to Best Challenge

"We ask for a map to deal with all of this (messy life), but instead Jesus gives us a compass and says, "Follow me." - Jennifer Lee
I had to go outside and take a photo when I read these words... because, God's got a sense of humor like that... here I am, dragging this silly compass around from house to house (it's been at the past 6 of them!). Sometimes it's inside, sometimes outside, like now. OH, and that window underneath?? That's my office. ((gulp)) He's got my attention...
"Some of your pain came because of all the things you are trying to do... and you are TIRED. Some of your pain came from all the things that have happened to you... and you are BROKEN." - Jennifer Dukes Lee (emphasis mine)
I CAN NOT STOP reading this book and I'm SO excited about the Busy to Best Challenge! I ordered two copies of materials for the challenge... does anyone local want to join me? Just ONE week, at the end of September, and we'll just meet TWO times... (so don't worry... you won't have to see me every day 😉 ) DM me and we can talk about it! If more than one of you responds, there's still time to order more!!
#busytobestchallenge #marinaskitchentable #itsallundercontrol 




Monday, August 13, 2018

Ways to be Involved in Your Community

I had the opportunity to share with the readers over at June Foster's blog last week! You can visit her website here. Be sure to share your ideas or ministries you've been involved with in the comments section!

Ways to be Involved in Your Community
Marina Bromley

Often we feel helpless if we want to be involved in helping our community and changing our corner of the world. It’s clear that we should be involved in “here, near, and far away” ministries, but we don’t always know what to do, or how to do it. We may give to a larger organization for missions—helping the “near to us” Judea or the “far away” Samaria referred to in Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere–in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” But how do we engage with sharing the gospel and making a difference here in our “Jerusalem”?

Here is a variety of ideas that could be of benefit in your own hometown. If there is a program going on in your area already, get involved instead of starting something new. Unity in the body of Christ is never bad, and He is glorified as your community is strengthened. Volunteering is a great way to make new friends, as you come together to solve a problem. Focus on what you have in common with others, instead of the ways you are different. It is good for the heart and the Spirit!

1. Ways to make a difference with hotel toiletries

What could be easier? For frequent travelers, these are easily accumulated and don’t cost you any more than what you’ve paid for your room already. Often you bring your own favorite products from home, and the hotel versions are left untouched in your room. Here are some great ideas for donating, that only take a quick phone call to coordinate, and you can do it alone, or as a group, on an ongoing basis.
  • Donate to a local Homeless, or Women’s Shelter.
  • Check with the Home Economics or Health instructor at the local school, to see if they can utilize them in their curriculum.
  • Talk to the counselor at the school to see if they could be sent home in “goody bags” for students that may need assistance.
BONUS: Often, when people are displaced, they also find it difficult to stay in touch with loved ones. Donate cards (and postage stamps) for people to send birthday or holiday cards to their loved ones, or a thank you note to someone who has made a difference in their world.

2. Ways to make a difference with shoes

It seems that there are certain times of year that certain types of shoes are purchased regularly. We can take shoes for granted, and often we have way more shoes than what we need, or could ever wear. Consider doing these things to bless someone who may not have the resources to purchase appropriate seasonal footwear.
  • If you purchase a pair of shoes, buy an additional pair exactly the same as yours, then donate them to an appropriate shelter, or job placement program (often people don’t have necessary shoes to wear for job interviews, construction job sites, or office work. This is perfect to do during the “Buy One-Get One” promotional offers.
  • When your children outgrow their sports shoes, if they are still in excellent condition, donate them to the coach to share with another child coming in the program who may not be able to afford even a pair of used shoes.
BONUS: Find out the size of a child on the team and buy them a new pair, or ask a shelter volunteer for details for a specific recipient, perhaps someone who has just arrived, or someone who is preparing to leave because they have found a job and are able to make it on their own. Even if you don’t know the name of the person receiving them, take time to pray for the person who will be wearing them, asking God to reveal Himself to them in new ways and for them to see how He is walking with them in this season.

3. Laundry Love

Who doesn’t appreciate clean clothes? There are several programs with this name that are administered differently. Here are 2 ways that I’ve seen it work well.
  • As a church ministry, arrange to sponsor a night of laundry on a regular basis at a local laundromat. A church team or small group can bring in donated quarters to feed machines, laundry soap and fabric softener, and even dinner to share with those who are doing laundry at a specified location.
  • After discovering that “nothing clean to wear” was a reason children from impoverished homes didn’t come to school, a church raised money to purchase a washer and drier for a local school (with the school’s permission). Church volunteers attended the machines, and school children were invited to bring their personal clothing (not the families) for laundering, dropping them off on their way to class in the morning, and picking them up after classes in the afternoon. Truancy was reduced, and the children built mentor-relationships with those serving them, encouraging them to attend school more regularly.
BONUS: If you do this on a regular basis, you’ll build relationships with the people that return to do there laundry weekly at that time, and you can invite them into spiritual conversations. Bring along paper and Illustrated Faith embellishments and turn the boring time of waiting for the wash to dry into a crafty time to introduce and encourage others in His Word!

4. Sew In Love

What’s happened to the sewing circle? This is a great way to help preserve hand-work in the community, and also bless those that have a need. The type of hand-work done would dictate the items made and how they are dispersed. This would be appropriate for men and women of all ages to work on!
  • Crochet or knit winter hats, scarves or mittens, and donate them to a school program or shelter that has a need for them. Be sure to make them age-appropriate in sizes, colors, and textures of yarn.
  • Quilting and sewing can be done to create quilts of different sizes and stocked in the trunks of Emergency workers to be used during appropriate situations. If there are policies against them carrying them, ask the local Family Services office how they could be donated for children taken into foster care, or to the families that receive them.
BONUS: Invite your church or community to clean out their unused yarns and cotton fabrics for volunteers to use for these projects. Ask the people constructing them to pray for the person who will be using the finished project, as they are making them. Include a little note, folded inside a blanket, or tucked inside a hat or gloves, letting the wearer know that they have been prayed for.

Were you involved in a community ministry that worked well, or do you have other ideas? Please tell us about your story or idea in the comments below.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Why the name, Marina's Kitchen Table?

Why the name, Marina's Kitchen Table?
- Marina Bromley

Ever since I was a little girl, the kitchen table, of ANY home, represented the heartbeat of the home and family. I remember the gray and white formica table set that was in my home growing up, how my mom would sit there with her cigarettes and coffee every morning (and was sometimes still there when I came home from school!), and my older sisters "cool" autumn harvest set in her home around the corner from mine. I remember the long picnic style table that our neighbors had, large enough to seat their very large family.

I recall eating at the counter or in front of the tv after my mother passed away... the table just seemed too big. There were places at other tables from my dad's other wives, but none of them seemed to fit me as well... all pressed oak and over-sized... it wasn't the same.

I remember my favorite tables; my Auntie June's at Easter was equipped with at least 3 tables and a counter, and there was so much laughter and love going around that I don't think anyone cared where we sat, we were there together and that was what mattered.

Of course, I remember my own kitchen tables, usually simple, sometimes mismatched, always room for one more. There were hand-me-downs, and home-made ones too, but it didn't matter, we made memories there. We shared meals, discussions, games, and prayer, and often they were covered with homeschool papers or computers. That's where the name came from originally... as I sat at our hand-me-down computer typing out journal entries on a Yahoo Group site back in the 90's, and eventually it became this... my little blog.

I never envisioned it to be a grand thing, this blog. I've ventured a little from it over the years, at times I was writing for print publications (see the entries under "Auntie Em Writes") and my online writing seemed to take a back seat. Other times, busy with managing other people's blogs, I couldn't find my own voice at all, and that's ok. I would rather be sure I was writing from my heart than piggy-backing off of someone else's voice. There were times I vented at the horrid stuff going on around me (there's been lots of family drama over the years) and sometimes I've been too broken to put things into words at all. There was one year I ventured off of this platform and jumped in over at Wordpress, paying for a space to put my name and a dot com to sustain my words and pictures. At the end of the year, it wasn't me, and God was moving me along back to my space here. It was a time consuming and costly lesson, but I'm genuinely happy to be here at this little Kitchen Table site, with it's pre-formatted blog pages and all my history. I'm ok with that. :)

As we ended my year of no internet (because we lived in a house with dial-up speed) I've dreamed about this space, and prayed about what my table looks like in these empty nesting years. Where do I go from here? What do I share? What's God's purpose in all of this?

I have been out of habit of using my computer (GASP) and have done more on my phone this past year. My photos have been taken on my phone and posted to Facebook (and now Instagram too!) because Google apps and iPhones don't always play nicely together, and a blog is one of those places the limitations are apparent.

But tonight, my phone is to the side, and I'm back at the Kitchen Table (not in my office!) and I'm typing away in the middle of the night. It wasn't my intention. I had intended on working on the blog for one of my clients (Meeting in the Meadow, by Roy Lessin) and eating double-stuff knock off Oreos with a cup of milk to put me to sleep. I'm almost there. In my sleep deprived state of mind, I'm rambling on about why the name of Marina's Kitchen Table, and I feel like this next season in this new home, in a new neighborhood is coming together. The Table will stay the center of my home, whether I've got 7 grandkids surrounding it, or Mark and I are quietly playing backgammon over dinner. I hope that as I get to know my neighbors (and as more of them move into the neighborhood) that I'll find women at this table, sharing recipes and prayers, playing games and discussing books, encouraging each other and feeding hearts and souls. I want to hear laughter here, and I want to share scripture. I hope to see art take place and messes mopped up. I can imagine more cookies being dunked, and cookies being decorated.

And STORIES! I want to hear the HIStory of how God has been at work in people's lives!

So that's why it's "Marina's Kitchen Table," for so long. It may change again down the road. I will likely not get it right, and will post too many photos and not enough words, or the other way around. I might forget to share recipes and art projects, I might take another month off and just get into the old fashioned ways of writing with pen and paper, but for tonight, I'm here at the Table for you...

How may I pray for you?

-Marina
#marinaskitchentable #marinabromley