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iola reader’s winter Joys

We asked some of you, our readers, what your favourite winter activities were, here’s what you said:

“Making Christmas wreaths”
Katie Gamble

“Curling up with a cup of tea and a warm blanket while reading a book.”
Katherine Nadene

“Going to the bookshop with my daughter, letting her choose a special book, then taking it to a local hotel and reading it whilst drinking hot chocolate.”
Gemma Holbird

“Our family like to play Scrabble, Yahtzee, Battleship and other games.”
Carol Fowler

“Snuggling up with a blanket and mid-morning coffee, while a stew cooks on the stove.”
Lisa Saccoia

“Getting all of the Christmas/winter decorations out. I put on my favorite Christmas Spotify Playlist while homemade hot chocolate simmers on the stovetop. The Christmas tree cannot go up unless the house smells like chocolate and Nat King Cole’s, ‘The Christmas Song’, plays softly in the background.”
Celia A Miller 

Reading an inspirational book and reflecting on it while sitting next to our stone fireplace with a crackling warm fire and a cup of coffee.”
Laura Rizkallah

“Gathering with friends around the fire pit to share a meal (usually chili or chowder) and good red wine. It’s even better when it’s snowing!”
Michelle Layer Rahal

“In the winter I take a twenty minute walk in the woods daily. I drink hot tea before bed. I warm the bed with a heating pad before getting under the covers. I love that it gets dark early!”

“My absolute favorite activity in the cozier months is hand embroidery by a fire.”
Cynthia Stuckey

“My favourite activity during winter is crocheting something like a rug or a scarf to keep my loved ones warm. Even better with the wood fire going and a spicy chai latte on oat milk while crocheting!”
Sherri Smith

“My favorite is snowshoeing! (Canada life!)”
Laura Thomas

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Maximise joy – Mary Mahan-Deathrage

Living in the moment is hard. Keeping my mind on the task at hand sometimes takes superpower strength. As a freelancer, I’m often deep in a specific task, for example, writing a lively client article, when suddenly, in mid-sentence, I have an urge to add ‘avocados’ to my grocery list.

What’s up with that?

My go-to prayer at times like these is asking God for concentration while reading and re-reading Colossians 3:23-24 

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Our work is God’s work. Whether you’re raising babies or building a bright new career, creating beautiful art, or climbing the corporate ladder, all tasks lead to His glory. But I admit I create reasons to pause during my workday to check out the latest Instagram posts, TikTok fun, or browse my playlists for a new favorite song – all in the name of market research. But when I’m locked in and determined to get a job done, those random mind twinges are a sure way to sidetrack my progress.

Maximise joy with the Pomodoro technique

If you’re like me, you’ve searched for ways to curb your mental wanderings long enough to accomplish work and home responsibilities. I’ve found a great solution to ward off those pesky mind pangs. It’s The Pomodoro Technique. Sounds daunting, I know, but it has worked well for me and might be useful for you too. It’s a simple time management practice that helps maximize focus and creative freshness so I can finish that client article or mountain of laundry.

The process is simple and works great for those days when I’ve put off important tasks – work or personal – and I’m experiencing a bit of overwhelm.

For big work projects, I budget my time into short increments, taking breaks periodically. I work for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break. During that break I try not to wander to the kitchen for a snack, but hey it’s your time – have fun!

Each 25-minute work period is called a ‘pomodoro,’ named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo, the creator of this method, used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his tool, and Voila! The name stuck.

After four pomodoro work sessions have passed (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of short breaks), I then take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. Give yourself a small reward. I take a walk, read a chapter in a fun book or yes, watch one short Netflix episode.

Using your phone, a notebook or calendar page, mark that pomodoro with an ‘X.’ Note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears for each 25-minute chunk of time. This helps you recognize your attention length and work to build up your endurance, much like a runner training for a 5k race.

The point is that these frequent breaks keep your mind engaged and the shorter chunks of work time feel more do-able than spending a stretch of endless hours. If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by motivating you to adhere to specific timing. Spreading a big chore over two or three pomodoro sessions can keep you from getting frustrated and hitting your Netflix app. Minimizing procrastination plus increasing relaxation and fun is a goal for every new year, isn’t it?

After trying this method for a week or two you’ll be in a great rhythm and will notice your free time is longer and more enjoyable and your stress has diminished.

My goal in the new year is to spend time with the people I love and enjoy my free time without stressing over my undone work tasks (said, me, the procrastinator Queen!). Maybe the Pomodoro Technique is one resolution to maximize your joy in the coming year, too.

The Pomodoro Technique link is I’m not in any way associated with this company.

Mary Mahan-deatherage

Mary Mahan-Deatherage is a freelance writer, brand designer and strategic planner.

MMD Creative is her flagship company specializing in branding and strategic planning for small businesses. She owns Spoken Women, a creative community bringing the Catholic perspective to the world through bold writing, podcasts, and art. Her blog, Divine, Clever, or Whatever is a Christ-driven endeavor to lighten your soul through her uplifting stories. Mary is a mom of two and Mimi to a pair of rambunctious grandsons. She and her husband, Greg, are enjoying their vibrant, amusing, busy empty-nester life in Dixon, Illinois in the 127-year-old Craftsman home where she grew up.,, 

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Day of Perfect Being – Mary Mahan-Deatherage

I have achieved a peaceful life. I’ve learned to savor most every moment of every day. This peace doesn’t come easy. But it’s a practice I’ve grown to love, so I work at it. Recently, while reading ways to honor my weekly vacation day, Sunday, I ran across a phrase I’m unfamiliar with: Yom Yahveh. I learned this Jewish phrase has two meanings: Day of the Lord or Day of Perfect Being. In our modern world, most of us understand Sunday is the Lord’s Day. But I became intrigued by the second meaning of the Day of Perfect Being.

Joyful Waiting

Simply put, it’s a practice focusing on just being in the here and now. No worries. Joyful waiting. You may recall Psalm 46:11 “Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” One of the most popular verses across Christianity, it encompasses that concept of a Day of Perfect Being.

So, how does a Day of Perfect Being happen? Choose your day. It could be Sunday but with busy lives and varied work schedules Sunday may not work for you. Then, for your entire day purposefully let go of all that has happened in your past. Set aside all that may happen to you in the future. Stay in the moment and let God be God.

Impossible! I thought so. I’ve spent years wishing days away – wishing even seasons away.

“The weather is too hot this summer! I wish it was fall.”

“Too much snow this winter; I wish spring would hurry and get here.”

And on and on and in an endless loop. Then I’d add on every event of my life. It started when I was a child.

“I can’t wait until I’m in high school … college … married … the baby comes … I get that new job …”

It’s not that I wasn’t grateful for all the good blessings and people in my life. My younger self was constantly striving because that’s what our culture taught us to do. Nothing wrong with striving. It’s noble and good and God wants us to do good works in the world. It’s the constant, endless striving that steals your peace. It’s missing being in the moment.

For instance, while feeding your baby you’re mindlessly running through the laundry and house cleaning chores that are left undone. It’s toiling on a work project and fretting about the fun you’re missing with your kids. It’s being at a family get together and worrying about that undone work project. And the big one – writing your grocery list in your mind while making love.

I’ve done it all. Embarrassingly, especially the last one. I think I need to apologize to my husband.

Baby in white bear onesie holds bauble under lit Christmas tree
iola joy issue Day of perfect being

Cardiac arrest

We’ve read countless articles touting the wonders of living in the moment. Why is this one different? Well sister, for me it all came to a crashing halt a few years ago when my husband suffered a cardiac arrest after mowing our lawn. Just a regular, warm Friday afternoon, just a healthy guy living his best life, just a mundane chore, just a moment in time that hit me like a cannonball.

God uses whatever he needs to open our eyes. There’s a purpose for each event big and small, tragic, or joyful. We just need to take the time to see, to listen, to hear His whisper or maybe feel His thunder.

I felt God’s thunder that sunny summer afternoon. I had no choice. God has always been a partner in my life, and I had let Him slip into the background with my busyness. He found a way to bring me back to Him and He’ll find a way for you, too.

The Day of Perfect Being is a good place to start.

One question I wondered, ‘Is constantly living in the moment reckless at best – irresponsible at least?’ 

It can be!

Another question I wrestled with, ‘How do I run my life without planning what’s for dinner?’

We’re not abandoning our responsibilities here. Plan your meals. Manage your life. We’re looking at the big picture. It’s not meant to add to your stress. Baby steps. Start with one day – your Fun day.

If you are dissatisfied with your season of life right now here are a few ways that might help relieve some stress and, with practice, aid in achieving a bit of peace.

First, identify the season you are in as opposed to the season you want to be in. Watch for and enjoy the blessings of the current season while you’re working toward the next. Appreciate what’s happening now and don’t worry too much about the later.

Second, be patient. Recognize the fact that you’re growing, we’re all growing, no matter our age.

Ask yourself, ‘How do I want to continue my life in a way that feels like a total place of joy?’

Third, be active. Do the work of the day. Then, pose the question, ‘What are the things I need to be working on in my life so I can be that great mom, employee, friend, artist, writer, wife.

More importantly, ask, ‘What do I want this one gorgeous life to be like on a day-to-day basis?’

Awareness of God in the present moment

Finally, have awareness of God in the present moment. God is communicating His light, His holiness, His grace right now!  To be holy is to be present to God’s will.

Ask God, ‘What is the best thing for me today?’ 

Then listen. Start with an open mind. Start with tiny steps. Even a smidgen of stillness with God has benefits.

Winter scene of snow, trees, and bench overlooking a river. Day of perfect being Mary Mahan-Deatherage iola the joy issue
Photo: Mary Mahan-Deatherage

Ways to practise your Day of Perfect Being?

Look at your baby while feeding her and feel her joy. Thank God for her and ask for the strength to be the best mom you can be. Or commit energy into your work projects. Find a way to enjoy them whether your job feeds your soul or is simply a stepping stone to feed your kids. If your family is a joy to be around or a thorn in your side, be in the moment and try to see what God is teaching you in that situation.

It’s the voices of fear and scarcity and striving that may have you wanting to hold on to things or thinking you need to keep everything balanced or handled or you’re going to lose. If you find yourself in an obsessive loop of planning or rethinking every decision, ask Him to see what He saw on that first Sabbath day when He rested. You’ll be surprised at the answer.

Do I worry? Definitely. But I don’t worry often. Do I strive – you betcha! I have goals and plans and God is right there with me in those plans. But offering Him my life has made all the difference in my sanity and peace. Staying in and being grateful for today has blessed me with a clear understanding of what matters most.

 My go-to scripture is the tried-and-true Philippians 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And … you might be thinking what happened to my husband? My strong, brave son immediately started CPR, called the paramedics, and saved my husband’s life. We got another chance. It changed our lives. It had to. We attempt to get it right. We aren’t always successful, but we listen for God’s voice and thank Him for His peace in this one gorgeous life.

Become an expert in living in the moment. 

Mary Mahan-deatherage

Mary Mahan-Deatherage is a freelance writer, brand designer and strategic planner.

MMD Creative is her flagship company specializing in branding and strategic planning for small businesses. She owns Spoken Women, a creative community bringing the Catholic perspective to the world through bold writing, podcasts, and art. Her blog, Divine, Clever, or Whatever is a Christ-driven endeavor to lighten your soul through her uplifting stories. Mary is a mom of two and Mimi to a pair of rambunctious grandsons. She and her husband, Greg, are enjoying their vibrant, amusing, busy empty-nester life in Dixon, Illinois in the 127-year-old Craftsman home where she grew up.,, 

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