From My Palette…

I haven’t done much writing in recent months but I have managed to work on my art here and there. For quite a long time now, I have wanted to do a series of post cards of our beautiful area and it’s well-known landmarks and am happy to say I finally finished my first set.

These are my renderings of 6 of the main landmarks for which our area is quite well known. I sketch the scene with a fountain pen first and then do the painting with watercolor.

Of course this set, like all my notecards and prints can also be found at my little corner of the internet at TeresaMillerArt.com.

“Little Pitchers Have Big Ears”…..and Eyes

If you’re among the ‘older generation’, as am I, you might recognize that little ditty in the title. I remember my mother saying that off and on when I was a child. It pertains to the fact that children are always listening and watching the older folk around them…soaking everything up…both the good and the bad. This all popped up on my own internal “feed” this morning, as I was doing my devotions. As I turned a page in my Bible, there was an old yellowed piece of paper with my dear Mom’s handwriting. If you read my blog regularly, you will know that I am a romantic, sentimental old soul. As I opened the folded paper I was transported back to my childhood home with my beloved Mother. She had written the following poem and given it to me at some point…most likely when I was a young mother myself. She did not compose the poem herself and there is no author listed, so I cannot give credit, but I thought it a lovely and very meaningful one to share. To remind us all of the fact that there are “littles” around us who need to hear and see lots of GOOD and WHOLESOME things in order to grow into GOOD and WHOLESOME adults. If we ourselves do not model that for them, we should have no expectation that they can somehow “magically” end up that way. The importance of that responsibility lies with all of us, no matter how brief our time with them or whether they are our own children, our neighbors or just random kids we encounter in one way or another. They’re watching and listening. We must all be mindful of that.

A Little Chap Follows Me”

A careful man I want to be;

A little fellow follows me

I do not dare to go astray,

For fear he’ll go the self-same way

I cannot once escape his eyes;

Whatever he sees me do, he tries

Like me he says he’s going to be,

That little chap who follows me

He thinks that I am good and fine,

He believes in every word of mine

The base in me he must not see –

The little chap who follows me!

I must remember as I go,

In summer sun and winter snow

I’m building for the years to be,

That little chap who follows me!

You Can Do It Yourself…But Should You?

This post is part PSA, part life lesson.

I am constantly learning new things. Since I generally love to learn, I love that about life…….most of the time. Learning new things can also be very hard at times and come with some degree of “blood, sweat and tears, as they say. The latest “new thing” that I learned also came with a LOT of frustration.

As the photo above suggests, this little tale has to do with batteries. I’m sure many of you will roll your eyes and puff up your egos when I tell you that I had no idea that the above said battery is what powers the all-important car key fob …..that handy little marvel that lets us in and out of our cars and, if so equipped, also facilitates remotely starting the car from inside the comfort of one’s home on a cold, blustery day. A little wonder of technology that I’ve only been blessed with for the last 4 years.

It was precisely this capability that I noticed was not working a couple weeks ago. Life has been very busy for me lately with a new job and I just kind of swept it “under the rug”. Something then triggered an old cobweb-covered memory of a time a few years ago when a former key fob totally “died” and I could not get in my car. This pulled the tripwire on my procrastination and I figured I better get on this before it happened again. Unfortunately a few years ago when this happened, I had not yet acquired this new little tidbit of knowledge and ended up being “relieved of” enough money to buy at least a dozen of these batteries by the dealership that I depend on for everything car related. In the words of my son-in-law, I “was had”. It’s ok….go ahead and laugh….I am …..along with being disgusted with their exploitation of my ignorance.

So, for you other ladies who, like me, might not be aware of this, when your car key fob starts showing signs of an impending ‘stroke’, you CAN fix this yourself! YouTube contains videos of any and all kinds of projects, step by step, including this one. In my case, however, my daughter and her husband showed me via FaceTime, bless their hearts. I will say, however, that my own experience was not quite the same slick performance that my son-in-law Wes so expertly detailed. In fact, mine ended up being more like a 3 Stooges routine; which is what many things I try do these days ends up looking like.

For starters, this size battery is apparently the most popular size of all, as it was the only one out of stock at the first place I tried…..of course. Luckily I found one at my second stop. The next issue was getting that sucker out of the package. I’m telling you, I cannot fathom why everything has to be packaged these days in iron-tight packaging that could withstand Armageddon. That combined with the arthritis that has been slowly stealing the strength and range of motion of my thumbs and hands in general has made so many packages almost impossible for me to open. This definitely fit into that category for me…even with scissors in hand! I’m not too proud to tell you that before this whole seemingly simple task was over, there were tears shed. It is no simple or easily acceptable thing to gradually lose the physical ability to do certain things you once did without a second thought. Aging is not for the faint of heart.

So, I finally got the package open and the battery out. I then got the fob itself opened up…no problem. The problems started when I tried to get the old battery out. It was held in with 4 seemingly unmovable prongs. This combined with my increasing lack of dexterity had me starting to get frustrated. It had looked like Wes just popped that booger out, I kept telling myself; but every time I tried that, the backing of what the battery was attached to kept pulling away from the framework of the whole thing. After several futile attempts, I finally got a flathead screwdriver and just pried it out of there. I popped the new one in much easier. However, when I then tried to close the whole fob up, I could hear my car alarm out back start to go off, plus, I noticed that one of the little “buttons” with the icons on it was now out of place in the framework. So, I took it all apart again , straightened the button and tried to squeeze it shut. Again with the car alarm. I frantically turned that off and pulled the gizmo apart again. Now ALL the buttons fell out of alignment in the framework. This was the point at which the frustration and tears ramped up. I finally got it all to work but only after wondering why on earth it had worked so nicely for Wes but not for me. The story of my life, I’m afraid. Alas, I still ended up feeling some degree of satisfaction that I was ultimately able to fix this problem and replace this battery myself without paying an arm and a leg, as before.

This episode reminded me that actually, we really shouldn’t even attempt to fix life’s problems — big or small — all by ourselves; that there is nothing “weak” about needing help with that, especially when that help comes from our Heavenly Father. That is precisely what He is there for and wants us to do……to go to Him for help with all our issues and concerns, no matter how trivial they may seem. He truly loves us so much and wants us to fully rely on HIM, not ourselves. That can be a tall order for some of us who have grown too independent. Sometimes He finds it necessary to “bring us to our knees” with difficulties so that we will come to a place where we realize our own abilities to fix things are nonexistent. We then have no choice but to rely on Him. As my body fails me more and more, I am learning a “new thing” that can be very hard……giving up the control to God and trusting Him to use HIS methods, which may include other people, to help me fix it. Self-sufficiency in today’s society is touted as something to be ‘revered’, but in the life of a true follower of Jesus, it is a fallacy. Jesus is the designer and director of our lives from start to finish and none of us are truly “self-sufficient”. We just need to accept that fact.

So sometimes we can replace life’s “batteries” ourselves, but more often than not, it’s so much better all the way around if we swallow our pride and stubbornness and let God use His methods to help us instead.

Home For The Holidays…

Having just started a new job a mere 3 weeks ago, I haven’t had much time lately for my art. I did, however, manage to do 1 very important project….a secret project that I can now reveal. One of my main Christmas gifts to my daughter and her family was this painting I did of their home. I have to chuckle every time I think about it. When I do a house, I MUST have a really good photo to work from. In this particular case, I had waited too long to start this project so I was “under the gun” as far as time. So, on my way home from a shopping trip a few weeks ago, I decided to surreptitiously swing by their house to snap a couple photos so I could get started on the initial sketch. When I know I’m going to be passing my daughter’s workplace, I have a habit of texting her a “Hello” and a few words of encouragement. I did that on this day and low and behold, she texted back that she was home sick. I was instantly taken aback and panicked a tad bit because of my time crunch and my situation was such that this was really going to be my only opportunity to get the much-needed photo. I decided to proceed and hoped and prayed she wasn’t looking out the window. I stopped my car a little ways up from her house, to get the right angle, zipped my window down and took a couple shots before slinking on down the street. Luckily she never knew. I’ll always wonder, though, if her neighbors saw the crazy lady taking pictures from her car that day!

Enough With The Iris Already

About midway through these 4 piece watercolor collections that I have been doing, I start to get rather bored and ‘antsy’ to move on to something totally different. The same was true as I worked on these four iris paintings. So, I am very happy to be done with them today!

I’ve transformed them into both notecards and 5 x 7″ prints available in my Etsy shop at http://www.TeresaMillerArt.com. I can also do 8 x 10″ prints but I haven’t gotten those physically posted into my shop yet, as the whole process is all very time consuming. Soon.

Iris #3

Since I am off this week, I have had more time to work on my art projects and am pleased to have been able to finish my Iris #3. Only 1 more to go to complete my collection and then transform them all into notecards and prints for my Etsy shop at http://www.TeresaMillerArt.com.

As with the others, I first sketched this with pencil, went back and inked with a fountain pen and Noodler’s brown ink, then painted with Daniel Smith watercolors. Arches 140# cold press watercolor paper.

Iris #2…….In The Bag

About a month ago I decided to try my hand at drawing and painting an iris. I enjoyed it so much that a week or so ago I decided to do a set of 4 different irises in order to create a collection of notecards for my little Etsy shop at http://www.TeresaMillerArt.com

So, I got to work this week drawing three more to add to that first one. Yesterday was the day I finally got ahold of myself and said “Hey Chick…..you need to get this done!” It so happens that I tend to be rather “moody” about working on my art projects. I have to be in the right mood and have the right amount of “unfettered” time available. Those two do not seem to join hands as frequently as I would like. One of the quickest ways to shoot one of these “opportunities” in the foot is when I get pulled into the million other tasks of the day. So, in order to actually make headway on my art, I literally have to seize the time by jumping right in, in the early morning hours BEFORE I do ANYTHING else other than my prayer and devotions time. If I even stop to take my shower and get dressed, it seems like the moment is ruined and I get wrapped up in one task after another and by the time I get done, my mood and energy are caput. I’m my very best in the early mornings and since I am now going to bed around 8 and getting up around 3, weekend mornings are perfect for diving right in. So don’t come to my door on a Saturday morning or you will likely encounter a very disheveled and “bed-headed” me!

I’ve been researching iris and was tickled pink to find a green variety, as green is one of my favorite colors. This first photo was taken after I inked my original sketch. I use a fountain pen filled with Noodler’s brown ink. The second photo is obviously the finished iris, done on Arches 140lb. cold press watercolor paper.

Inked Sketch
Finished Watercolor Iris

So….on to iris #3. Hopefully I can at least get the painting started before the BIG Ohio State game starts here at noon.

Think About It…

As I prepare to embark on a pretty significant career change in this rather late stage in my life, I feel compelled to share some of what I’ve learned while working with and for the senior citizen population of Richland County over the last 15 years. According to my blog analytics, I have readers as far from Richland County as India, Germany, Taiwan, Belgium, Malta, and Canada, to name just a few. However, I am sure these same issues can be applicable far and wide. Some of this information may shock you, some may break your heart, as it has mine time and again. However it impacts you, I hope you will allow it to color your future thoughts and actions, especially as we enter this Thanksgiving week, where we give thanks for all we have.

You may not be aware of the fact that there are many seniors in our area who have a NET monthly income of $500 or less. Think about that…..now go back and think on it some more. Think of all the many things you have to pay for each month. First on that list is usually a mortgage or rent. How many of you have a mortgage or rent payment less than $500? If you do, count yourself pretty fortunate. Most do not. Most people, even in meager accommodations, have a payment much more than that. Now add in your utilities….you can’t go without heat, water, or electricity. Although, I will tell you for a fact that there are some who are doing just that. I’ve been in such a home where there hadn’t been any running water for 20+ years. Think about the implications of no running water in a home that is designed for running water. No water to bathe, wash your clothes, flush your toilet, wash your hands after you use the bathroom, wash your produce. This is real. There are folks who, when something big breaks, that’s it….they have no way to get it fixed or replaced. Period. The generation that is currently in their late 70’s and older are less likely to complain or ask for help and may even go to lengths to conceal their degree of poverty and need. In many cases, it only takes 1 unfortunate incident in someone’s life to be the turning point between things going along ok and things going downhill rapidly leading to poverty, depression and despair.

I could give you hundreds of examples of just that…..people whose lives were ok up until they fell unexpectedly or their water well failed or they lost their job through no fault of their own, or their only child or spouse died….the list is endless. These events then naturally lead to others and then others, with each step after that worse than the previous one, until a person may find themselves in a “hole” that they cannot dig themselves out of. When this happens to many seniors, they have an especially rough time because now they usually have physical limitations and health problems that cost money and that prevent them from going out and getting a job to help pull them back out of that ‘hole’.

Next, let’s talk about your monthly food budget. If you’re having to use all your monthly check on a place to live, how are you affording any food….or toothpaste, soap, deoderant, laundry soap, etc. etc. not to mention medications! I can’t tell you how many seniors I’ve known over the years who are literally having to choose between their medications and keeping food in their bellies. People who are existing on the cheap loaves of white, nutrition-less bread from a bakery thrift store and a jar of peanut butter every month…maybe some packets of ramen noodles thrown in too……seriously. And we wonder why there is a need for so many medications and healthcare as people get older.

What about seniors and their pets? It is a known fact that our pets are vitally important to our general mental health and welfare….but especially so to folks who may have very few people in their lives for one reason or another. How do they feed those dear pets? How do they get them medical attention when needed? Have you priced pet food lately? I can tell you that my 2 cats cost me an average of $40 a month for food and litter and that does NOT include any medical care. How does that figure into a $500 a month budget? And yet, I’ve seen countless seniors who would die before they gave up their dear furry companions….and understandably so. I can also tell you I’ve seen heartrending situations of pets living with deplorable ailments and in horrific conditions because their senior owners could not afford otherwise.

How about a car payment? Where on earth would that fit into this financial nightmare of a scenario?! Well, quite frankly, it usually doesn’t, and many seniors are therefore without any transportation to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, church, visiting friends and family and just for general independence. Those who are lucky enough to still have a car often have no way to pay for any repairs or maintenance, let alone gasoline. What about ‘public transportation’ you say? Well, I say you go try to stand in the freezing cold waiting on a bus and then get up into the bus with a walker and even just 1 bag of groceries when your body is stiff and wracked with the pain of arthritis or other infirmities. Not to mention that buses are not available 24/7 and don’t even figure into the lives of those seniors living out in the country. There are so many things we take for granted every day that it’s hard to even wrap our minds around how this can be happening here and now in 2021.

So, let’s start at the beginning of one type of entry into this vicious cycle and take a closer look. What are 2 of the main things that seem to fall apart as we get older….not for everyone, of course, but for MANY? If you said your teeth and your hearing, you would be correct! What are the 2 things that Medicare….the insurance for SENIOR CITIZENS….. does NOT pay for……dentures and hearing aides. A full set of dentures could run anywhere from about $1000 to $15,000, depending on their quality and where you live. Hearing aids will run from about $1600 to $8000 with the average around $4700. That, however, doesn’t even include the ongoing enormous cost of batteries that have to be replaced very regularly. Now how do you suppose someone with a net monthly income of $500 or less is going to come up with the money for either one of those? What happens when you don’t have teeth? For starters, you can only eat things that don’t require much or any chewing. What kinds of foods don’t require much chewing? Soft white bread, pudding, mashed potatoes, soup, foods that are highly processed, salted and extremely lacking in any nutritional value. What causes high blood pressure, obesity, chronic constipation and a myriad of other health issues that seniors especially suffer from……eating these kinds of worthless, highly processed, cheap, sodium filled foods. What kinds of foods can you NOT eat without teeth? Fresh vegetables, lean meats, and all the higher fiber foods we know to be necessary for maintaining good health.

How about your hearing. You may say that’s really not all that bad when it starts to go…..but, let me show you how wrong you would be. When people start missing pieces and parts of conversations because they can no longer hear, a couple things start to happen. First off, people around them get annoyed at having to repeat things over and over and annoyed that the person is turning up the volume on the TV or radio. This creates tension and issues in relationships. People start to avoid the person with the hearing deficit. When the person with the hearing issue starts to notice more and more that they are missing things, they start to pull away and become less involved because they know they can’t keep up and feel frustrated or embarrassed. This can lead to more and more isolation away from interactions with other people…..from both sides. What happens when people become more and more isolated? They run a much higher chance of developing depression and Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. You can probably now see how little it takes for 1 issue to spiral down quite quickly.

Speaking of isolation amongst seniors, that is a whole other can of worms. If I had the power to send a message to all corners of this planet…..oh…., I guess I do…it’s called the Internet….here is one thing I would like to say LOUD AND CLEAR……..People…..go see your parents!!! Call them, talk to them, send them letters, take their grandkids there to get to know them….spend time with them. DO NOT let them just fade away into the sunset, dying of loneliness and a broken heart!!!! I can’t stress this enough….there are thousands of seniors who hardly ever hear from their adult children or grandchildren and it is literally slowly killing them!! Oh they may not admit it or ask you to keep in contact with them because of their fear of rejection and the pain of you not following through. I don’t care what they may have said in the past to make you mad or how much they annoy you or that you think you don’t have the time to give them any of yourself. Quit being so self-centered and thoughtless. No, parents are NOT perfect, and yes, I’m sure they made mistakes as you were growing up….but so have you. Do not let them die thinking you couldn’t care less about them. They raised you, they provided for you the best they knew how. Yes, maybe they parented you the way they were parented…and maybe that was NOT a good thing. Are you aware of the concept of “forgiveness”? When you mess up…….and, if you haven’t yet, you will…..don’t you really hope that the people who mean the most to you will forgive you and continue to love you and include you in their lives? Jesus Christ forgave each and every one of us, for all our sins….past, present and future…..he died an excruciatingly painful death on a cross for us. Yes, you too….whoever you are….wherever you’re reading this. Therefore, He requires that we, in turn, forgive each other….of everything….if we want to have a proper relationship with Him. This means you need to forgive your parents if you’ve shut them out for some reason. Take the steps you need to take to extend the “olive branch” of peace towards them. I can’t tell you how many seniors have talked to me on the verge of tears about how they almost never hear from their families and have no one to help them …or no one who is willing to help them. I have seen enough pain and loneliness in the eyes of a senior to last a lifetime and could talk heatedly about this for days. I think you get the point. Seniors need other people……more than ever before. Many times, though, the other folks need to reach out first because of pride and the fear of rejection. Feeling rejected by your own child is an almost indescribable pain that once felt, a person will go to great lengths to never feel again…..no matter what. Don’t live YOUR senior years full of regrets because you didn’t look after your parents. As our “Operating Manual” states…….”…….honor your father and mother, so that it may go well with you and so you will live long……” Ephesians 6:1 – 4.

With so much emphasis in this country on children and youth, I get very frustrated with the way senior citizens and their many needs and concerns are just conveniently swept under the rug without much of a second thought. Line items pertaining to the issues of seniors are cut from budgets, denoting their very low priority to those making powerful decisions. I very often think that if those in ‘high places’ could see what I’ve seen, they would make different choices and realize the importance of revering and looking after our elders.

These issues, like most, start in our own homes and in our own families. I think we all need to grow up and step up to the plate in regards to looking out for and making sure that the needs of our parents and the other seniors in our lives are taken care of. After all…..we will ALL walk into those same shoes at some point ourselves…God willing. I guarantee we will all wish we had modeled an example to our own children of actively caring for our parents and the other elders in our lives. Think about it.

Don’t Do It …

Is there something in your life you’ve always done a certain way….a way that works OK but maybe isn’t the standard or “traditional” way of doing it? Have you ever decided to try the “traditional” way even though your way is working just fine?

I have….many, many times with many different things and each time I usually RE-LEARN the lesson that is really quite true: “if it aint broke, don’t fix it!”. I can’t tell you how many times this old gal has had to re-learn that. You’d think I’d know better by now. This morning’s latest event proved otherwise.

I happen to love chestnuts….always have. When I was a kid, I preferred them raw and crunchy. Then I hit some kind of invisible life point when those were nasty and cooked until soft was the only way to go. So, as fall rolls around each year, I find myself starting to search the stores for this rather elusive nut, as they can be very hard to find. During my lunch break last week I ran out to Apple Hill Orchard, home of the world’s best cider and was thrilled to see a little basket of chestnuts on display. Even though they were the small, less desirable ones, I put a few handfuls into a paper sack and proceeded to the check out a “happy camper”. As the afternoon progressed, that got me to thinking that the larger ones that I like better might still be hanging around somewhere too. I’ve had great luck with Wayne’s Market in years past so I decided I would stop there after work to see if they might have some.

Sure enough, 2 bins full of the larger chestnuts were there just waiting for my arrival. I didn’t weigh them myself but I suspect I came home with at least 2 lbs of the once-a-year treats.

Now came the time to prepare them. I’ve experimented a bit over the years in trying to get them just right. Of course, since I only get them once a year, my memory in regards to these different ‘experiments” tends to fade by the next year. I know for a fact, that poking holes in them with a “corn holder”, covering them with water and microwaving them for about 6 minutes gets them to where I like them. So, you would expect that is what I did last night to try a few….of course, you would be wrong. I decided 6 minutes was too long, so, I turned on my electric kettle, which is only a savings of about 3 minutes, and poured boiling water over them and let them sit for about 5 minutes. Of course they were NOT cooked very much at all…..still crunchy and “blah” tasting.

This morning I decided to have another go at it but instead of using my tried and true microwave method, I decided to try the more “traditional” oven roasting method. I Googled it first, just to make sure I did it correctly. Sir Google instructs you to start by using a sharp knife to cut an “X” into the round side of each nut first. Well, I was frankly kind of worried about that step for multiple reasons, one of which being that I HATE getting cuts on my fingers and hands. So, I took time to sharpen my little paring knife first. If you’ve ever spent 10 minutes watching a cooking show, they always tell you a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife. I try to follow the rules…..most of the time. Well, despite having my knife sharpened, either it still wasn’t sharp enough or my arthritic fingers and hands were just having a really hard time with this step, but, I could not get the knife to pierce that tough outer shell. So, after about 10 tries, I gave up…not wanting to end up in the ER. I decided that when I poke a couple holes in them with my trusty “corn holder” and nuke them, they seem to do just fine. So, I put the knife down and proceeded to do just that…a couple holes in each one. I then popped them onto a cookie sheet and into the oven and set the timer for the 20 minutes as instructed. I went back to finish my morning devotions.

Another thing I’ve learned in my lifetime is that instructions are there for a reason and if you decide to go “rogue” and veer from them, you are doing so at your own risk. Apparently, a couple little holes do not equal the needed steam release space that a large “X” provides.

The first “pop” wasn’t terribly alarming, as once in awhile I’d have ONE or TWO do that in the microwave. But after a series of increasingly violent-sounding ’rounds’ coming from my oven, I decided maybe I better go back out and see what was going on. That is when the idiocy of my decision to try this particular method of cooking those darn chestnuts really hit me in the face. When I opened the oven door I was disgusted to find chestnut “guts” EVERYWHERE….on all surfaces of my oven….the same oven I needed to use to bake a quiche that was ready to be popped right in next. Obviously there can be no other baking until the whole thing cools, I scrape all those innards out and run an hours-long cleaning cycle. Thank goodness for toaster ovens, of which I cannot do without.

The moral of this frustrating tale…….if something is working for you, don’t change it….don’t experiment. Just stick with what you know works. Unless, of course, you actually ENJOY adding extra work and hassle to your day. The extra “clinker” to this story is that, much to my extreme disappointment, most of the chestnuts I’ve opened thus far have been black and moldy inside….after all that trouble!!! Maybe next year’s crop will be better. I’m not sure I’ll be able to say the same about my memory….but there’s always hope.

Are You Using Quality Tools ?

Most of us have some sort of toolbox or collection of tools that we use for various household tasks…maybe a hammer, nails, a screwdriver…..you get the idea. When you stop and think about it, every type of profession has it’s own unique set of “tools”. Artists have brushes, paint, canvas or paper. Teachers have blackboards, books and their training and experience. Politicians have knowledge, information, experience and lots of people assigned to help and guide them. We all use a slightly different set of tools to get our jobs done and to impact the world around us. There’s one tool, though, that we ALL use for ALL our work….and it’s the most powerful one in the toolbox…..our mind.

In my devotions this morning, I decided to go back through the book of Philippians, one of my favorites, and was reminded of something so very important that is so overlooked in our increasingly evil world. “Whatever we put into our mind determines what comes out in our words and actions”. Read that again. Such a simple statement and yet with such PROFOUND meaning and truth. Our mind is the priceless “computer” ….the “operating system” that we use 24/7 to run our lives.

Paul tells us to “program” our mind with thoughts that are “true, honorable , right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise”. In practical terms this means we are to replace harmful and negative input from TV, movies, magazines, the internet, books, and conversations with other people with wholesome material. It means that WHAT you watch, WHAT you let your children watch, WHAT you look at on the internet, WHAT books you read, WHAT kinds of conversations you have with others and the things you talk about, WHAT kinds of thoughts you think about yourself and others….what we put into our minds and those of our children, friends and families, determines what will, at some point, come back out in our actions and words. Junk in……junk out. It’s really that simple.

Another step to this that many overlook is WHAT you ALLOW others to put into your mind. You can eliminate your own inputing of “junk” with lots of effort, prayer and determination but then we have to go a step further and make sure we’re not allowing or tolerating other influences in our lives that add “junk” to our ‘toolbox’. I’m referring to things like tolerating foul language wherever you encounter it. Someone starts dropping the “F” bomb in your presence…..walk away. Someone starts viciously gossiping to you about someone else….walk away, or change the subject. Someone complains constantly every time you talk to them, they always seem to have an “axe to grind” about something…everything is always negative with them…avoid them. You’re watching a movie and the language starts getting foul ….turn the channel or walk out of the theater. What we allow has just as much of a negative impact on our mind as what we actively put into it ourselves. Even more critical, what our children see us allowing makes a huge impact on their minds and the way in which they program their own, in turn. Let it be crystal clear to those around you that you will not tolerate this kind of “junk”…..period.

If I’ve given you the impression that I think I’m perfect or that I’ve never allowed any “junk” or put any “junk” into my own “computer”, I want to pop a hole in that little balloon right now. None of us is or ever will be perfect this side of Heaven, myself very much included. It is only by making some of these kinds of mistakes and experiencing the outcomes that I can stand on the other side and see them more clearly and wish that I had been more watchful of them over the years. That and my ever evolving and deepening relationship with Christ who helps me see the error of my ways and then helps me make much better choices.

The bottom line is the same whether we’re talking about your hardware tools, your artist tools or the greatest tool God blessed you with……your mind. Quality matters. What you put into it directly determines what you will get out of it. Choose wisely.