Most of you know that I’m a list-loving gal. Making lists helps me clear my brain; helps me think, and plan, and organize. Once they are made, I don’t necessarily have to follow the lists. It is the making of them that is significant.

For those who have followed this blog for the past year and a half (really? It’s been that long?!!), you have seen my lists of things to do. You read my plans for a “personal year of jubilee” leading up to my 50th birthday. You heard some of my resolutions and listened to my ramblings about “what’s next.”JILL EMMELHAINZ-0008

As this year ended, I tried to join some friends in looking back over 2012. The idea was to answer questions and capture the highs and the lows of the past year. Somehow, I just couldn’t get motivated to do that pondering.

And as the new year loomed, I tried to get excited about making new lists; lists to give direction and focus to 2013. Usually I find such list-making to be invigorating. But, again, I was totally unmotivated to do that type of pondering. (I know, I know…I must be ill…no lists?! How could that be??)

At first I thought it was because of the traveling I wrote about last week. After all, wandering in Europe with 2 of my daughters is compelling. And living with friends in Germany for a few months is exciting.

But eventually, I realized my hesitation at list-making was something more than not being a focus of time and attention. I realized that God has been trying to call me in a still, small voice.JILL EMMELHAINZ-0047

I haven’t wanted to hear what He is calling me toward. It was easier to ignore that quiet voice and strain to hear a roaring thunder of clear direction. As a friend likes to say “first-born have to be in control” and I’m definitely a first-born. And I like to be DOING, keeping busy, helping others, exploring my surroundings, trying new things, pursuing dreams, encouraging others to do the same.

My call for this year? My “one word” for 2013?


I am challenged to live a life full of “being” this year. Active living, not just sitting around; but focused on “being” rather than “doing.”

I will keep you posted on how I do with this great-big-challenging-task…

(Photos taken by my friend and professional photographer, Jo Blackwell. See her website HERE. Specific wording of “be-living” came from a blog post by Ann Voskamp which can be found HERE.)


Lessons in Procrastination

I have always heard that procrastination is a bad thing. Sometimes I beat myself up about this character flaw. Other times I just laugh about being an adrenaline junkie and needing a looming deadline to kick into high gear.

Early this summer I realized it was time to jump through the hoops and get our 15 year old son his driving learner’s permit. I knew the process with our older kids—walk into the license bureau, pick up study materials, have the teen take the written test, sign up for driving school somewhere in the neighborhood.

But that was back in Ohio—a very civilized, generally-has-its-act-together state. Now we live in a remote area of New Mexico. Things work differently here…

I discovered that walking into the license bureau was ahead of myself. My son needed to be signed up for drivers ed since he is still under 18. So, I went back home and researched online driving schools. I found an affordable one, but when I tried to sign up our son, I discovered I was (again) ahead of myself. He had to be registered as a homeschooled student with the State so I could give his registration number. I tried that process, but didn’t get a number. In frustration, I gave up.

Over the next few months, I regularly added these tasks to my to-do list. And I regularly ignored them, working on other projects instead. Our son was busy with other things and didn’t hassle me about the lack of progress in getting his learner’s permit…but I beat myself up about it.

I avoided it and avoided it and avoided it. Eventually, this fall, I decided I just HAD to sit down and do whatever it took to get him that permit. And now, 2 online homeschool registrations (does this mean the state thinks there are 3 JLE’s being homeschooled out here this year?!), one form mailed to the Transportation Department, one on-line school registration, and two (count ‘em, TWO) more trips to the license bureau later…he has those temps!

And…when he was asked if he wanted to be an organ donor, it suddenly came crashing in on me why I had procrastinated so long. Yes, I often put things off. Yes, I hate red tape and inefficient bureaucracies. But this time, that wasn’t really the cause. There was a lesson to be learned behind the procrastination. Something to be faced…

I realized this teen’s older brother had proudly gotten his temps 5 years ago. Once I explained what being an organ donor was, that son felt it was OBVIOUS that everyone should say yes to being a donor. And then just a few weeks before he could take the driving test and get his license, that son died unexpectedly. And, yes, we donated as many parts of that body he no longer needed.

But…but…but…I really didn’t want to face the idea that my current 15 year old is almost the same age as his brother was then. (Actually, on Sept 12 this son is now older than his brother will ever be…) I didn’t want to explain organ donation again. I didn’t want to look forward to the big day of another teen earning a full-fledged driver’s license…and never reach that day.


Maybe next time I repeatedly put something off, I will look behind the procrastination. Perhaps there will be another lesson to learn, another hurdle to cross, something else to sort through. Perhaps procrastination is NOT always a character flaw…but is a sign of a wounded heart.

(PS—as I was putting off writing this blog post, I found a really good book about procrastination on the “new books” section of the library—it’s a quick, encouraging read. Go find it…now…not later!!

quick encouraging read…

The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing*   by John Perry        *or, getting things done by putting them off)

Pushing Past the Fears…

I have recently been pondering the difference between Risk-taking and “risky behavior.” Sometimes when I’m facing something challenging, fear steps in and tries to convince me that participating in that activity would be “risky behavior” (in other words, something “bad”) rather than merely “risk-taking” (or something “good”). In the past few weeks, I have stepped outside my comfort zone and tried some new (scary) things. Most of you know that when it comes to living outside the box or trying new adventures, I’m all in. There are indeed some areas, however, that scare me; some opportunities that fill me with fear rather than exhilaration.

(portrait by the wonderful Jo Blackwell—see more of her work HERE )

In the past month, a number of opportunities for stretching and trying something new came up. I wrote last week about attending a conference for Community Health Evangelism. I had no idea (and still have no idea!) how I would use this. But the cost was manageable and the topic was interesting. I’m glad I gave it a try…

Earlier this year, I downloaded information about training to participate in a (mini)Triathlon. I enjoy being challenged by the posts on the Impossible blog. I decided to follow the writer’s advice, and reach for a physically challenging goal, rather than just doing adventurous, outside-the-box things that I enjoy. I dabbled with training, signed up for a mini-tri at the beginning of September…and chickened out at the last minute….sigh… I hope to do more consistent training and sign up for another mini-tri at a lower elevation sometime next spring. (Looking back, I’m sad that I let fear overwhelm me…)

I wrote on my art blog last week about taking a risk and signing up to submit illustrations for possible inclusion in an upcoming book by a favorite inspirational author. When I read about the opportunity to participate, I was excited. Then I was convinced it wasn’t really for me. After all, I have no experience with painting, or with collage, or with illustrating anything in particular. I’m definitely not a professional artist. Who was I to think that I could do this? and…and…and…

I tried to forget about it. But it kept coming back, over and over. Finally, I decided to sign up. I could at least look at the passages and see if I even had any ideas of what to try. Besides, anyone who sent in a submission would receive a free copy of the book. That, at least, sounded good. Okay…deep breath…

I finally managed to shut up those fear-filled, despairing voices inside my head. I asked for two passages. I read them over. Ideas immediately came; pictures in my mind that could illustrate the words. I was still fearful, but moved forward. I don’t know what will happen with the submissions…but I already know pushing past the fears, taking a RISK, has given me more confidence in playing with art!

Finally, I participated in a recent “Prophetic Art” seminar down in Albuquerque. Again, this felt quite risky. I enjoy artsy things like crafts and scrapbooking. But “real art”? That doesn’t seem to describe what I do. I dabble. I play. I don’t see myself as an “artist.” Plus I struggled with the idea of “prophetic” art, as I explained in an art-blog post this week. Again, all those fears about not being professional, not being an experienced painter, not being good enough, shouted in my head. Again, it felt too RISKY to participate. But, again, confidence came as I pushed through the fears and attended the seminar.

These are little things in the big picture of life. But, perhaps, for me they will turn out to be “big things.” At least pushing past the fears and quieting the voices has given me a new level of confidence! And I guess that’s a good start…

Hated Goodbyes…

I greatly enjoyed a few days with both of my older daughters recently. It has been a year since we were all three together. Some days that makes me sad. Some days I HATE the goodbyes.

But the time we do get to spend together tends to be sweet. Oldest daughter Celia lives and works in Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Middle daughter Nettie is finishing up a seasonal job with the Peregrine Fund in southern New Mexico. Celia was home for just a few days so we arranged a get together for the three of us. (Thanks, Hubby, for letting us spend the money and the time to meet together!)

Crafty Time Together

We met at a scrapbook/craft retreat at a camp in Capitan NM. We had almost 24 hours together to laugh, talk, get crafty, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. I worked on a scrapbook all about Girls and Girlfriends—time spent with my daughters and other special women in my life. Celia finished an altered book she started many years ago, and painted a picture of her cousins. Nettie hand-crafted some beautiful cards. Yes, time to craft was good…but time together was even better.

Then at the end of the weekend, Celia and I drove 4+ hours to Deming to spend another 24 hours with Nettie and her work/room mate. (16+ hrs of driving in 4 days all within one state…distances out here in the West still confound this eastern girl…but that’s another story for another day!) More time together to laugh, talk, get silly, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. (Plus we got to see the hacksite where Nettie spends her mornings and evenings releasing endangered falcon chicks to the wild…another story for another day!)

Silly Time Together

Chili Mangos — Hot and Sweet

On Monday afternoon, we spent a few hours at the local fast food joint, using internet. At first I thought it might be a waste of valuable relationship time…but then we started sharing things we were reading, music we were listening to, and helping each other find resources. Turns out it was another chance to spend time together to laugh, talk, learn something, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. Plus, we got good drinks for cheaper than *bux prices!

Computer Time Together

But then that dreaded time came. The time to say Goodbyes. Did I tell you I HATE goodbyes? Yeah…

And just a few days later it was time for Celia to get in the car and head to the airport, leaving for another year in Kazakhstan. Yes, another dreaded goodbye…

I’ve been thinking about that. Perhaps we should not have encouraged our kids to follow interests and passions. Perhaps we should have kept them close to home. (Of course, we keep moving where “home” is located…but you get the idea.) If the kids never left, there wouldn’t be so many goodbyes…

But as I’ve thought about that, I realize without Goodbyes, there are no reunions. There are no happy Hellos. We would start taking each other for granted. We might not set aside time together to laugh, talk, have fun, eat, and enjoy each other’s company and that would be a bigger loss.

I guess I just have to accept all those hated Goodbyes…and look forward to the next Hellos!

Waiting for the next Happy Hellos!

“Heaven’s Gift”

I’m playing 5 minute Friday along with other folks at

Want to play Five Minute Friday? It’s easy peasy!


1. Write for 5 minutes flat on the prompt- no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Meet & encourage someone who linked up before you.

OK, are you ready? Give us your best five minutes on:



Thirty years ago I was pregnant with baby number five. Oh my, was I grumpy. I had been on the pill. This wasn’t supposed to happen. We already had enough kids. Why, oh why, was another one on the way? And this one was so active—seemingly always flipping and spinning morning, noon, and night. All I wanted was some SLEEP!

And then our red-headed mischief was born. And within a few weeks he was smiling at us. And I realized that what friends had said really was true. He was indeed heaven’s gift.

He was no saint growing up. He was an obnoxious little brother. And sometimes so “full of himself.” He was talented athletically but that didn’t excuse “lording it” over his big brothers and sisters.

He fell in love with the feeling of flying over the ice; dancing, spinning, and jumping as a competitive figure skater. As long as he had ice time he was happy. And his smile…ahhh…his lovely smile. It lit up a room. It stayed with you long after he had bounced off to do other things.

But he was still a mischief, still bending rules til they almost broke. He spent far, far too much time on the computer, playing Puzzle Pirates as captain of an on-line “crew.” So much for the “one hour of screen time per day” family rule…sigh…

And then, almost four years ago, he reached the pinnacle of gaming. He won a major competition against players of all ages from around the world. He WON! He was (obviously) SO excited… And we eventually learned what he named his prize, a monkey to sit on his shoulder in the game: “Heaven’s Gift” He laughed, he talked incessantly about it, he pondered what to do with his prize (he had been offered zillions of on-line dollars to sell it).

a stain-glass window we had custom made after his death to include James' Puzzle Pirates figure with "Heaven's Gift" on his shoulder...

But just four days later, he was gone. Our gift from heaven was back in heaven too soon—jumping and spinning and laughing with Jesus.

Some days I still moan “why, why, why…” And on other days I celebrate the memories of the time we got to spend with Heaven’s Gift…

Love you, James. Miss you…


shrug atlasWhat do you do when the world is heavy on your shoulders? When it feels like you are carrying more than you can handle? When others expect you to carry the burdens because they can’t…or won’t…or don’t…?

Years ago I read a book which I keep coming back to. Over the years the picture it paints of American culture becomes scarily more and more true. The book is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Yes, it has some preachy sections that go on and on about the author’s economic views. Some of those views I agree with, and many I just skip over. But it also has good advice for life: When the world is too heavy on your shoulders…SHRUG!

And that’s what I’ve been trying to do recently. We love being here in Navajoland. But living and working here takes all of my emotional energy. There is great joy in working with children and young adults. There is excitement in witnessing an “a-ha” moment. And there is great pain in walking with our friends through tragedy. I have realized that I have enough energy for what I am called to do, including nurturing relationships with family and friends. But no more than that.

So…I’ve decideworld in handsd to put up some boundaries in daily living. I choose to pursue things that I’m passionate about. While that often involves serving others, I do NOT choose to continue carrying burdensome weight that could or should be carried by others. I do not choose to have my energy drained by negative comments, or backbiting, or second-guessing by others. I plan to SHRUG!

I am no longer willing to carry the world on my shoulders. When I carry my piece of the world in my hands (with God’s help) it is not overwhelming. With passion, the work becomes enjoyable and the world feels manageable.

What are YOU carrying? When is your time to SHRUG?


(images from Microsoft Office clipart)


Over the weekend, I woke up a number of mornings with a sore jaw and sensitive teeth. I finally realized I must be grinding my teeth in my sleep. Ugh! I haven’t done that for years.

shadow boxingTaking time to think about it, I realized I’m stressing about an upcoming meeting. I cope fine with direct attacks or specific roadblocks. In those situations, I make my plans and ready for the fight. But this? It feels like I’m shadow-boxing, turning this way and that, trying to avoid an attack, trying to prepare an offense, all with no specific opponent clearly in sight. There has been no attack, no specific dissatisfaction voiced, no direct opposition. There are only innuendo, vague comments, and possible displeasure, all voiced with concern, stated in terms of “someone said…”

I HATE feeling like I’m at the mercy of others, especially ones who don’t seem to be willing to take responsibility for their own thoughts, concerns and feelings by talking to me directly.


Then I was reminded that I am NOT at the mercy of others—I’m under the mercy of God. On the one hand that is a comfort. My God is bigger than any obstacle or roadblock. He is the one who protects me from unknown assailants. I can stop shadow-boxing and let Him hold on to me.

On the other hand, God is not physically with me. I can’t SEE Him protecting me or working on my behalf. It’s easy to have faith when life is good. And when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I usually turn to God. It’s hard to have faith when I’m feeling strong but under attack…

handsGod works hard to catch my attention during those times that I’m independently readying for battle. The same day I realized what was happening and why my jaw was so sore, I had two encounters that were greatly encouraging. One was a person that has a vision for work which might end up being mutually beneficial with things we want to be doing. Another was a conversation with a few young men who gave me excellent ideas for resources and possible funding sources for future ministry in this area.

So…I guess I will try hard to stop the shadow-boxing; remember often that God really IS taking care of the details. I will unclench my fists and reach out for HIS help.  And maybe, just maybe, I will stop grinding my teeth in my sleep. It would sure be nice to get rid of this jaw-pain…

Previous Older Entries