Tuesday, August 18, 2020

10 Arguments in Favor of Picnics

 It was our first time back in the states after three and a half years in Lima, Peru. My mother-in-law kindly (and excitedly) asked us, "What things do you want to do? Where do you want to go to eat?"


Our answer? We want to go on picnics!




Lima, Peru where we were missionaries is in the middle of a coastal desert on the western side of South America. It doesn't rain there. Everything is brown. Everything is dusty. And what few parks there are mostly weren't places you want to have lunch and let your toddler run around. So we were honestly craving green and outdoor eating.

Today we live back in the states and have a wonderful backyard and several nice parks nearby and I'd still rather go on a picnic than to a restaurant. Besides, Covid happened. Restaurants have been creative and we have eaten out a few times, but this summer picnics are more valuable than ever.

You might think a picnic is more work. But consider: If you have to work at your job for 1-3 hours to pay for a dinner for two at a medium priced restaurant, you've worked pretty hard. 

Here are 10 reasons I think picnics are better:

1. I'm eating healthier--I can make veggie salads and I don't deep fry anything! My potato salad isn't mostly mayo. Whatever I make is probably going to be fresher, cleaner, and healthier than average restaurant fare.

2. I'm wearing off calories instead of putting them on--Picnics lend themselves to walking around or even actually playing sports. Whether it's strolling over to the fence to watch the boats on the Mississippi, playing a game of bean bag toss, or an all out game of touch football, I am walking far more than I would be between the car and the restaurant booth.

3. I'm in the fresh air--Fresh air and sunshine is good for you, right? Not just your lungs and your vitamin D, but it's just good for you mentally to get out of doors and enjoy nature. I'm pretty sure that's why God created it so beautiful.

4. I'm appreciating God's handiwork--Nature is amazing. I love watching birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and sometimes other animals. The variety of greens that God has created is amazing. I just look around at everything I see and say, "How Great Thou Art!"

5. I'm saving money--See comments above!


6. I'm actually able to have a conversation--Restaurants are crowded and noisy and so many of them have TVs going now that it's hard to carry on a conversation--especially when you have hard of hearing people in the family, a demographic I'm becoming part of too quickly!

7. I have a quick escape from the ordinary--My husband is game for anything. So if I want to take a picnic to the park at the end of our street (really a very pretty place!) he's willing to take an hour and do that. We don't make a big deal, we just go there and eat, maybe take a short walk and then come back to do our yard work or whatever we need to do at home. It's a wonderful change of place.

8. I can make the menu whatever I want--Do you have a signature sandwich of something like Nutella and cucumber? You can have it on your picnic! I enjoy lots of fresh veggies and fruit that restaurants can not keep on hand, at least not at an affordable price!

9. I'm relaxing more than in a noisy restaurant--The noise, the activity, the constant questions about if everything is fine (or the stress of trying to get your server's attention), is just not relaxing. Sitting with a sandwich or a simple casserole of mac'n'cheese and iced tea, is much calmer.

10. I'm having more fun--Whether or not we have kids along, we have fun. We can laugh, get up and walk around, play a table game, play a lawn game, visit, or do whatever we consider fun...things we wouldn't be comfortable doing in a restaurant.

Make it a goal this summer to eat out once a week...outside, I mean!

Looking for ideas for eating outside this summer? Click here.
And here are some picnic ideas for kids and adults.



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Monday, August 10, 2020

Benefits From the Pandemic

It's become a cliche, but the pandemic has changed our lives. Personally, so many things have changed for us, I would hardly know where to begin. But, now that we've had time to evaluate, some have been for good, not just for us, but for lots of people. 



In our area we are free to go for walks and bike rides and we notice that there are a lot more people out everyday enjoying the fresh air and getting some exercise. My husband and I have started riding our bicycles a lot. In fact, we've logged over 700 miles so far this season! It's been a lot of fun.

We took our bikes on a vacation! Normally, my husband has five or six overseas trips a year with his ministry and I am able to join him on three or four. These trips are long, tiring, and so encouraging as we visit people who are using the Emmaus Worldwide courses to train, encourage, and spur them on in their ministries. We often have a few days in the trip that are just us and we can relax a bit. Sometimes we take four or five days at the end of one to have a little vacation. But these trips are not happening this year, so we took a trip that didn't involve any ministry or people visits. We stayed in motels, took day riding trips and covered 160 miles in six days! Pretty good for a couple of 60 year old grandparents. (Actually, the trip was to celebrate my 60th birthday.)

With all the traveling we normally do, we have always prayed that we would be in town when our parents might need us, all four of whom are living in our small city now. This has definitely been the case as my husband's father passed out due to heart failure brought on by dehydration. Now that he is not driving (for the time being at least), we're serving as part of their taxi service (along with the cars from the Retirement Community.) 

Grocery shopping has been another service we've taken up for them. Actually, since I have severe but controlled asthma, my kids and husband have asked me to not do grocery shopping, so my husband has taken that on for the three households. I recently started doing it for our main store online and picking it up to relieve him from some of the work. The process of having someone else shop for me has forced me to plan more efficiently. I'm back to making weekly menus for dinners and making sure I have everything on hand to make those meals. 

Which bring me to family mealtimes. (You knew I would get there, didn't you?) More people are making time to eat together since eating out is harder and so many extra activities have been cancelled. What a great opportunity to make this a new habit for your family. If you have started, find ways to include everyone in the choices, preparation, activities, and clean up. It all makes it more fun!

If you are new to this, start simple, you don't have to have fancy food, you just have to be together.

Take advantage of whatever restrictions you have in your area and enjoy your family!




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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Lessons I Learned about Sin on Family Bike Rides pt. 3

This spring bicycles here in Iowa have sold out completely. As people couldn't do the usual things for entertainment, they turned to physical outdoor activities. We are so grateful that we were not confined to our homes as so many places in the world were. My husband and I have logged over 600 miles already! As we rode, I remembered the lessons I learned when we did bike rides with our children. This is Part Three.

Part One
Part Two

Accept Warnings Graciously

"Car coming!" "There's a little kid weaving on that bike ahead!" "Use your brakes!" These are the things this mother said when she took her brood on a bike ride. Sometimes the reply was a snapped, "I'm not blind!" Then I would give my Mom Pep Talk: "Sorry. I'll always be your mother and always try to protect you. It just comes with a mom loving her kids." Then someone hollers, "Mom! Look out for that pothole!" How do you think I responded?

I remember an older woman taking me aside once to explain several reasons why my comment to her was not appropriate. I didn't say much to her, but my husband heard all about how wrong she was when I got home. Whether she was right in what she said or not, she was trying to obey what James says, "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from his error will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20, NIV)



Just as we need to give warnings in love, we should also accept them in the same spirit. Have you ever thought that someone was looking to catch you in some sin? It's so easy to become defensive and even angry. But the proper response is a humble and grateful spirit that takes the warning to heart and learns from it. And that attitude can save us from a lot of trouble.

Persevere Until You Get There
I remember one sunny holiday when we loaded our bikes onto our car and drove to a park downtown. From there we had easy access to several major roads which were closed for the day to cars and open to bikers, roller skaters and pedestrians. We joined the exercising crowds and began to ride. The wind was in our faces, but we were excited because we were headed to the airport where we would have lunch and watch airplanes. 

On the return trip we discovered to our dismay that the wind had changed and was blowing against us again and even stronger. The long road became wearying, especially to the younger ones, but the only way home was to keep going until we got to the car. I realized this was another lesson about sin.



The author of Hebrews understood the endurance needed in the Christian life and encouraged his readers, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1b NASB) As a teen my husband was privileged to listen to the preaching of many godly, well-known preachers and he dreamed of the time in his life when he would be like them, so godly sin no longer tempted. Imagine his disappointment when he began to hear them mention a greater awareness of sin in their lives as they matured in their faith. Now we both know it is true: sin will never quit trying. Amy Carmichael said it poetically, "There is no discharge from our warfare...for us swords drawn up to the gates of heaven."

On the path of life, we will experience temptations of many kinds. Satan will not let us slip by easily, but God has promised a helper. We need to learn many lessons to make it through and at the end be able to say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7 NASB)


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What does your family like to do together?
Write a comment and let me know. I'd like to hear about it!


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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Don't Ride Too Close to the Edge and other Lessons About Sin from Bike Rides


Don't Ride Too Close to the Edge -- Part 2
This spring bicycles here in Iowa have sold out completely. As people couldn't do the usual things for entertainment, they turned to physical outdoor activities. We are so grateful that we were not confined to our homes as so many places in the world were. My husband and I have logged over 400 miles already! As we rode, I remembered the lessons I learned when we did bike rides with our children.

There must be a cautious gene because I've got it and have passed it on to my children. We'll never be a family of trapeze artists or rock climbers. In fact, they often walked their bikes across narrow plank bridges over the ditches along our bike paths. Of course, only pride kept me peddling over the same rickety planks. Actually, I'm glad they don't try to see how close they can get to the edge. That made me realize there was another lesson about sin on our bike hikes.

Developing a spiritual caution gene is part of the Christian's maturing process. Psalm 1:1 reminds us to not only hate the sin, but also the path that will lead us to it. "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers." (NIV) Sitting comes after stopping and standing with sinners, which follows walking along with them and their ideas. The first step already puts us on the path to sin.


One area that is a spiritual battle for me is my overactive imagination. I can dream up for myself the most fascinating imaginary situations. God had been working on me in this area for many years. I discovered a long time ago that reading a romance novel gives me a story to "ride away" on for days, so I have come to the conclusion that I can't read them. The novel isn't sin, but daydreaming away my time is. This is one way I have begun to hate the path that leads me toward danger.

Be Alert
When our family rode our bikes along the road, my husband went first, our oldest son was the "rocking chair" in the middle, and I tagged on at the end. That gave us three vigilant pairs of eyes and ears to keep tabs on what is coming toward us so we can watch out for the others. Even then, a bus might bear down on us, a biker in front of us may suddenly stop, or a distracted person could step directly into our path. We could never let down our guard. Sounds like a good strategy against sin to me!

Temptation so often appears where we least expect it. It seems to come out of nowhere! This is why the apostle writes, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes," (Ephesians 6:11, NLT). We need to keep a lookout in all directions because as Peter warns, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour," (1 Peter 5:8b, NLT).


One of the easiest times for any of us to let our guard down is when we are tired. Whether that is at the end of a long bike ride or late in the evening of a busy day, I often find I've quit talking with the Lord. My only goal is to veg out and then go to bed. When my kids were young if they reappeared after I got them in bed, I'm afraid I often exploded. My guard was not only drowsy, but AWOL. To keep from sin, I needed to be the way I was when watching my young children ride their bikes along a busy road, "self-controlled and alert" (1 Peter 5:8a, NLT).

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How are (or were) you active together as a family? I'd love to hear about it. Please write me a comment below.




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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Lessons I Learned About Sin on Family Bike Rides

Part One -- Changing Focus
This spring bicycles here in Iowa have sold out completely. As people couldn't do the usual things for entertainment, they turned to physical outdoor activities. We are so grateful that we were not confined to our homes as so many places in the world were. My husband and I have logged over 400 miles already! As we rode, I remembered the lessons I learned when we did bike rides with our children.

When our four children were growing up we loved taking bike rides together. Bogota, Colombia, where we lived had been building new bike paths that even reached our end of the city. But even when we were pathless, we took bike hikes. Sometimes we rode a mile behind our house and turned off the road to bump along beside the seldom used train tracks. Or we crossed the expressway on a pedestrian bridge to ride through the quieter lanes on the other side.


As mom, I loved having an activity that our children with a nine year age spread could all participate in. And I just loved having all my kids together, looking out for each other, challenging one another to friendly competitions, and maybe even enjoying one another in a season when sibling rivalry sometimes seemed to rule our home.

One day as I was being jolted along a rocky path, I became frustrated that every time a larger rock or hole loomed in my path, I would make a direct hit on it. No matter how hard I watched it, it seemed as if my bicycle had a guided missile system locked onto it. Finally I decided to try another tactic: I would take note of it and then look beyond it. Doing that, I was able to ride on smoother ground. This was my first lesson from the bike ride: If you focus on an obstacle you will hit it every time.


It dawned on me that it is the same with sin. If I focus on the temptation, it will trip me up every time. Think of being on a diet--by constantly reminding myself of it, I think about food even more and eventually end up eating those calories I'm trying to avoid! I need to change the subject of my thoughts. That's what Paul was talking about in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

I've found that that the first test--is it true?--takes care of many thought sins in my life from worry to discontentment. Do I start to dwell on what might happen in my life and body if the biopsy comes back positive? "Is it true?" I don't know that it is. So I ask God to help me not think about it and focus on other things. Did my husband have an accident when he doesn't come home at the expected time and doesn't answer his phone? No. Stop dreaming up non-existent scenarios, Sharon.


But not thinking about it is hard. If I tell you, "Don't think about polka dotted kangaroos," what are you thinking about? But I just told you not to! Paul told us to focus on something else, something true, noble, right, pure, lovely or admirable. So when I'm struggling with the temptation to eat or worry or whatever, I have to remind myself over and over of who God is and what His attributes are. When I manage to keep my mind centered on God, He helps me avoid the sins by changing my focus.

What unexpected lessons have you learned through activities with your children? I'd love to hear about them. Comment below or write to me at: aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com.


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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

How Many Verses Tell Us Not to Fear?

You know that thing that went around on social media that said the Bible says, "Do not fear" 365 times*, once for each day of the year? Well, it's not true.


But, the Bible does give us hundreds of reasons for trusting God in every situation, anywhere, all the time. 


In these days of Covid-19, I decided that it would be a good time to look for these verses. I hadn't felt any special fear or even lack of peace when I started this project, but I figured finding these verses, reading them, and copying them out by hand would be a great way to reinforce this in my mind and heart for the days that come, whether during this virus, or in many of the situations that will come in my life. It was also a follow-up for the study God led me to do in November and December on preparing for trials. (A side note: I do feel He led me into this as I was prepared for a situation that came into our own lives and for this bigger, worldwide situation.)



So I used a Bible search engine and looked for the word, "Fear" and wrote down every verse I could find that told me not to fear. I found sixty-eight verses. Then I looked for "Afraid" and found forty-five more. I decided to look up "Tremble" and "Dismayed" because my verses for the year, Joshua 1:8-9 include those words. After that I looked for "Refuge"--one of my favorite words for describing the place of protection that God is for me. I looked for "Courage" and "Courageous", "Anxious" and "Ashamed", "Deliver" and "Deliverer". Then I got fancy and did a two word search: "With you". 



After copying out 249 verses, I still plan to look for "Help", "Uphold", "Peace", and "Comfort". I'm looking for verses that specifically say God is these or gives these to those who believe in Him.

It has been good for my soul. I've shared them with others who have been excited to see these promises over and over in the Bible. I have shared twenty of these verses with you in a printable format. These are set up to print on Avery® Business Cards 28878But they can be printed on any paper or cardstock and cut apart. Use them as reminders around your house, memory verse cards, or even bookmarks so that you be able to trust God more.



Here's another idea: how about at devotions tonight, you take time to teach your children how to use a concordance or Bible search engine and each of you find a verse that will bring you comfort. Then write that verse on a card and place it somewhere it will be seen in your house. You could do this several nights until you have dozens of verses around your house to remind you of God's care and protection, even in the time of Covid-19.


* Interestingly, the word "peace" appears 365 times in the NASB version of the Bible. Not all telling us that God gives peace.


Pages from my journal with the verses written out.



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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Good Medicine!

Twenty-twenty will be a year to remember!

We are all filling our days with things we don't usually do. 



Here are some of the things I'm doing:


  • Keeping a somewhat regular routine: up early, time in the Word, exercising, eating right.
  • When the weather allows, going for a walk with a friend. The other day it got up to the upper 40s and a friend and I walked along the Mississippi for an hour. Later the same day spring fever hit my neighbor and we walked to a park near our house.
  • My neighbor called because I had contacted her just make sure she was okay. I got in touch with all the neighbors I have phone numbers for, especially the older widow behind us, just to check up on them and let them know I will help in anyway I can.
  • Staying in touch with family. Our family WhatsApp group
    has become very talkative. I think we all want to make sure we're okay, helping each other, sharing jokes, sermons, and insights, and just having human contact outside our homes.
  • Today I read three books to three of my granddaughters via the Internet. I don't think the nine month old was too interested, but the two and four year olds were! Maybe their mom got a couple minutes to do something or at least had them entertained for 15 minutes.
  • Working on German (I am not getting real far with this, but I have two granddaughters growing up in Germany, so although they speak English, I think I should at least attempt to learn some.)
  • Trying my hand at making an informational video for the ministry my husband and I work with.
  • Reading--my library still allows us to order books online and they will deliver them to us outside the library, so I'm getting some on my TBR list!
  • But my TBR list is growing as I listen to a couple of podcasts I found recently where I hear about at least one or two books  each week that sound like I'd enjoy them! Strong Sense of Place and What Should I Read Next
  • Besides podcasts, I love audio books when I'm doing household chores. I can download them from my library or order them on CD and listen through my bluetooth earphones as I go around the house.
  • And cleaning projects. I haven't advanced a lot on this one, but I'm planning to tackle the outside of the kitchen cupboards which I haven't done in a while. Listening to a good book will help the time go by as I scrub!
  • Trying to stay positive. Of course Covid-19 is the main source of conversation these days, but I'm trying to find other things to learn about and have as topics of conversation. One of my prayer partners and I "met" by Skype the other evening. She told me that she wants to be able to ask people she might have the opportunity to talk to, "What is your hope in these days?" And then she would love it if they turn the question around and ask her because she wants to "Always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in her to everyone who asks." 1 Peter 3:15
Doing these kinds of things will help me trust God and not worry about the what ifs. After all, Jesus said, "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:27 And these will bring me joy.

A joyful heart is good medicine.
Proverbs 17:22a



I would love it if you would tell me some of the things you are doing these days!

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