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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Big Plans for 2020

I’ve seen quite a few social media posts where people are sharing their “word” for 2020. Are you picking a word or a character trait to work on in the coming year?

I enjoy writing lists! Last year on New Year’s Eve, I stayed up late writing a huge list of all the things I'd love to accomplish in 2019. Mainly, it was a fun brainstorming session.

I started the year with high hopes for lots of accomplishments. But six months into 2019, a feeling of failure hit me. While many of those fabulous ideas still churned in my head, I’d hardly put a dent in my list and the year was fading fast. I was tiptoeing into discouragement, and I had to do something else quickly.

So, I erased the bullet points on my planning board and made a downsized list. By November, I revamped it again.

I learned that while my goal setting is meant to motivate and inspire me, it can also drag me down like weights around my neck. I don't want that to happen in the new year.

I want something better for you—and for me—in 2020!

If you're working on a yearly to-do list, or choosing that special word, and it inspires you, encourages you to think joyful thoughts, or helps you stay focused on the wonderful things in your life, that’s awesome! Keep doing those things!

But, if something doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, don’t let it whisper “failure," either. Give yourself a break. And, if others don’t succeed at their “word” or goals, give them a break, too.

We all need to have more grace with each other, and with ourselves.

Also, it’s fine to revamp the plan, make a new list, or choose a different “word” at any point throughout the year.

Why do our goals, plans, or word have to be set for a whole year or set on January 1st?

What about if we did a planning session on the first day of every month? Or the first day of every new season. Or even once a week.

The main thing is to find out what creative planning works best for you.

This New Year’s Eve I’m not making any lists. If I were going to pick a word for 2020, it would be “stubborn.” I want to be stubborn about some good things. And I’d only do that topic during the month of January.

In February it would be something else—like finding joy!
Maybe in March, I’d pick dancing to a different song each day.

Life is an adventure and we don’t have to compare or contrast achievements with anyone else. We don’t have to set goals or make plans like anyone else is doing.

Find out what works for you and do that!
Do what inspires you and brings creativity and hope in 2020!

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20:4

Happy 2020 to all of us!


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Journey of a Mosaic

Have you ever wanted to do something, but you didn't quite know how to accomplish it? That was me on my journey to creating a unique table.

In April of '18 we bought a house and then spent a couple of months remodeling it. For a centerpiece for our ocean-themed home, I wanted to find a special dinner table. We visited local furniture stores and checked out tables online. Nothing grabbed our attention. Well, one did, but it was too expensive.

In July, I began playing with the idea of making a mosaic tabletop. Not a simple one, either. This would be a big project. Might take two weeks or something. ;)

I watched YouTube videos and spent lots of time looking at mosaics on Pinterest. I had some design ideas of my own--it had to be about the ocean, and not just to go along with our decor. I was writing a book about a seaside town. I'd lived on an island in Alaska for twenty-five years. I love the sea, so it just had to be.

About ten years ago, I bought a few pottery plates from the thrift store and busted them all up with a hammer--that was cool. Then I made an extremely simple mosaic on an end table. Perhaps that experiment gave me the courage to tackle a bigger project in the world of mosaics.

My husband, Jason, built a farm-style table and painted the top white. I ordered a bunch of glass mosaic tiles. I had no idea how many pieces it would take. I shopped at and chose tiles by color.

Honestly, I didn't know what I was getting into with this project. But I can say, I loved almost every step of the process. A friend asked me how long I thought it would take to do a mosaic that size, and I really did tell her two weeks. (Big chuckle.)

Our table is about 3' x 5', and we needed a sketch. I tell people my drawing skills are that of a five year old. But I determinedly spread out freezer paper and drew my design on it. Don't laugh!

Originally, I was going to do a scalloped circular design in the center, with an Alaskan scene in the middle. But then, we purchased a captain's wheel at an antique store and put it on the living room wall, so my design changed to replicate its shape.

I needed a more detailed drawing now. Jason's artistic skills bailed me out again. Thanks, Jas!

I used carbon paper beneath the sketch--I know, they still sell that stuff?--and I traced over the top to get this design transferred onto the table.

I decided to put a shell design in each corner of the tabletop, making freestyle, colorful waves going around the perimeter. At first, I used bright colorful pieces for the shells--I don't have a picture of that stage. But when they turned out looking more like cartoon shells, I scraped them off--which was difficult once they were glued down and dried--and then it was back to the drawing board. About that time, a friend gave me a shell that I loved. So I used it as inspiration in the new design. I think that turned out better.

My waves are, I admit, still quite colorful and cartoonish. If I were starting over, I would choose teal or gray for a better water color instead of the brighter green. Oh, well. I wasn't willing to scrape that part off.

Most of the mosaic tiles had to be cut at least once, sometimes two or three times to get the shape and size I wanted. I tried to make action in the waves around the sides with a mismatch of color and tiles going in different directions.

Finally, the exciting day came when the outer portion of the table was finished. I could now work on the four ripples of water. This was an emotional phase for me because of the symbolism I envisioned. I arranged four dinner plates on the table to make equal sizes for the ripples, and drew around them.Then, in the center of each circle, I placed an inch-wide gray tile, trimmed in a circular shape, that would represent a rock. Four rocks in the center of four ripples, symbolically thrown into the sea of life--our four kids making their own ripples in this world. Gets me teary still. I loved working on those ripples, praying for and thinking about my kiddos who are all grown now, while I did it.

The tile work was slow. Much slower than two weeks! My hands ached from all the cutting, but I was determined to have my table ready by Thanksgiving. (In all, it took about four months of part-time work.) I was also busy writing and editing a book. However, I worked on the table in the evenings when I didn't want to stare at a computer screen any longer. Doing anything artistic is therapeutic and inspirational for me. I loved experimenting with this mosaic! Piece by piece, it formed into something new and interesting.

Each time I moved to a different section of the table it was exciting. It was so much fun to see the pieces coming together, making a whole.

Here, I must say, I told myself I probably wouldn't like the finished product once I grouted it. I'd read that using a dark grout was best for a piece of art. That it makes the design pop out better. But part of me wanted to keep it light. I'd grouted with dark gray around white stones for the back-splash in my kitchen, and I didn't like it at first, either. Time would tell about this one.

I couldn't wait to begin tiling the center of this project. I feared doing it too. It would be more intricate in design. The pieces smaller. A more challenging scene.

I kept cutting glass and filling in more and more white space. I ordered mosaic tiles four times!

The center picture took a lot longer than I thought it would. The boat lines were the hardest--so very thin.

Also, I struggled with recreating the northern lights. How could I make the gorgeous lights I'd seen in Alaska look like they were dancing in a mosaic picture? I tried various colors. Turned the pieces this way and that. Some I scraped off. Tried again. And again. Sigh.

Finally, for better or for worse, the glass work was done. Hallelujah! Now came the scariest part of all: grouting. Covering the whole design with goo, not knowing how it would turn out, freaked me out. Would I hate the finished project? Once I started, there was no turning back. Part of me didn't want to move forward. However, Thanksgiving was drawing near.

When I put the grout on this center portion, I was so nervous. What if I couldn't get it off? I also had to try not to make a mess of the other parts I'd already finished and cleaned.

It did work! Yay! And I didn't hate it. However, like I thought, I didn't love the darker grout around the white ripples.

The change was an adjustment for my artistic side. Although, after a month of looking at it, and smoothing my hands over it, I can affirm that the dark grout ties all the elements together in a cool way, making one "mosaic" out of many pieces.

Kind of reminds me of the body of Christ. Alone we are jewels, shining bright. But together, we create an awesome, beautiful picture of love and grace and resilience.

Jason stained the table legs and sides black. I spent about eight hours running a tiny brush dipped in sealant over the tiny lines of grout around every piece of glass, being careful not to get liquid on the tiles. That was challenging, but the time was worth it in preserving the integrity of the grout. Some people have asked if we are going to put a glass piece over the tabletop. We've decided not to do that. In the future, if something stains the grout, it will become part of the picture, changing through the years--kind of like us.

We used the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas!

And I can say, I'm hooked on mosaic artistry. I can't wait to begin my next project. I hope these photos will inspire you to give mosaics a try too.


Mary Hanks writes inspirational romances about couples finding their way back to love and grace. She also enjoys dabbling in various art forms. To follow her journey, "like" her author facebook page at

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rekindle Your Romance Date Night #3: Plan!

We need a date night plan! Without one, Jason and I will stay home, relax, and settle into our comfy rut. I mean, we've been developing this rut for a long time. (Ahem, a few decades.) Sometimes, having a rut to share with your spouse sounds great. Like the weather is terrible. We're exhausted at day's end. And if you're like us, you're playing catch-up after Christmas spending. So staying home may seem like the perfect solution.

Yet, what about romance?
What about the date night challenge?
What about spending quality romantic time with your spouse as much as you can in 2018?

I confess, this week, we didn't have a plan.

However, in full disclosure, after my workshop last Saturday, Jason suggested we go to dinner. So we went to a restaurant, chatted about the workshop, and talked about the type of house we should live in next. But, as thoughtful as the outing was, it wasn't a date.

You know what I mean, right? There's a difference between the things we do on a regular basis as a married couple--eating together, shopping, watching TV--and the things we do when we're focused on being romantic and dating. For each couple it's different. For me it means flirty glances, hand-holding, stolen kisses, and experiencing something new together. And did I mention ... flirting? (Yes, even as a long-time married couple, flirting with each other is still part of our dance.)

Actual dating is something new for us, and we can easily slip back into our stay-at-home comfort zone. However, my goal for this year is for us to date more and focus on rekindling our romance.

How about you?
Do you and your spouse have a date night plan?

If not, may I recommend my free resource "Rekindle Your Romance! 50+ Date Night Ideas for Married Couples?" I apologize for the blatant advertising. But, hey, it is free. It's packed with ideas for date nights. Couples can use the suggestions they like, and hopefully the 50+ ideas will stir up some creative date night possibilities of your own.

For us, we need to talk about our plans early in the week, or else too many days can pass without us dating or working on rekindling our romance.

Then we get too comfy in our rut.
Perhaps, feel bored.
Or even get grumpy.
(Or is that only me?)

Spontaneity has its place in marriage too. I'm all for surprises. An unexpected romantic getaway sounds fabulous, especially in the middle of winter.

But I also like having something to look forward to.
I enjoy daydreaming about Jason and me dating.
Where shall we go next?
Is there a local venue we haven't explored lately?

Where will you go with your spouse this weekend?
What are you going to see or do?
Remember, both of you can come up with ideas. If you can't agree on one, toss a coin. Go with one of your ideas this week, and your spouse's idea next week. The point is to go. Have fun. Be together.

Hold hands.
Smile at each other.
Tell each other special things along the way.
Whisper sweet nothings during that movie or walk.
Share ideas.

Let's make our marriages stronger, happier, and more fun!

Plan something enjoyable with your spouse for tonight or tomorrow, or next week.
Dating your husband/wife is worth every bit of effort it takes: planning, saving, getting a babysitter, etc. If you have a tight budget, that's okay. It's not about going anywhere fancy. It's about being together, being romantic, and having fun.

Date your spouse!

Mary Hanks writes about second chances, marriage restoration, and rekindling romance. Visit

If you missed the first two blogs in this Date Night series, check out:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Rekindle Your Romance Date Night #2

Last week, I asked Jason if he would date me. And he said, "Yes."
(Big smile.)
It's easy for us to get busy with life, or to feel lazy and stay home, and forget about dating each other.
We're great friends. That in itself is pretty cool after forty years of marriage.
It might be easy to think friendship is enough.
But I still want to experience romance with the man I love.
I like for us to remember what drew us together in the first place.
And to talk about those things.

So we're dating.
And I'm sharing a little of our journey as we date as a married couple.

For many, a weekly date night is nothing new. If you've been dating your spouse regularly, good for you! You are a giant step ahead of us.
But for those who have kind of forgotten what it means to date, this blog might serve as a tiny reminder to rekindle your romance.

Things to think about:

  • Dressing up can be fun. And it says something, doesn't it? You're worth a little fuss. I'm putting my going-out face on just for you! I've been looking forward to our time together.
  • Going somewhere new can be a fabulous shared experience. And making new memories together can be priceless.
  • Dating doesn't have to cost a lot of money to be special.
  • Holding hands with your spouse is a beautiful connection.
  • Kissing in the car (or on a walk) is still exciting.

One time, before we were married, Jason pulled up to a stop sign in a quiet neighborhood and gave me a big kiss. Guess who happened to drive by just then? Yep, my mother! (I was sixteen.) Oh, was she mad! And, boy, was I embarrassed! That night, I got a huge lecture about never doing that again--especially on our way back from church. (Yikes!)

But you know what? Ahem. Forty-plus years later, I still like stolen kisses from my sweetheart. It's exciting. And maybe a little sneaky--still. (Giggle.)

Not too long ago, I got an idea to compile a list of inexpensive places to go for date nights, so I asked some of my married friends to help me generate ideas. We came up with over fifty suggestions! Isn't that cool?

Here's #34 from Rekindle Your Romance:
  • Use Coupons for your next outing. Clip those coupons to go to a restaurant for less—or to one you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. One of my contributors said they like to go to a discount movie and then use coupons or a buy one/get one free deal at a restaurant. This is a great “deal” date night.

The thing about using coupons or a gift card is that you can go places together where you haven't been before, or to somewhere you haven't been able to afford. For our date night, we didn't clip a coupon, but Jason had received a Christmas gift card from his employer to a restaurant we think of as too expensive for us. So, on Saturday night, we went to that restaurant for a nice meal and an enjoyable time together. We did a lot of smiling and talking. Remember, dating is something you do intentionally. It's spending quality time with your spouse, sharing the experience, and bonding together. And it's practicing those little romantic things that add spice to your relationship.

We're more of the get-a-hamburger couple. But in my younger days, a great meal out meant a steak and a baked potato with the trimmings. Your special food might be sushi or a buffet dinner or going somewhere with a great view of a lake. On this date night, we both ordered steak and a potato. Knowing we had the gift card to cover half of our expenses helped in our decision-making. You can see I like mine well-done! (If you don't eat meat, I apologize for the photo.)

I have to admit, even with the $25 gift card we went a little over the $25 date-night budget.

But we had a great time. And the company was pretty fantastic.

Dating is a bit of a novelty for us. Yes, we're that older, comfortable couple. But I want to keep experiencing romance with my man. And now that we live in town, we can go places easier than we could living in the country. I'm also collecting date night ideas. And I'm hoping you'll catch the spirit of dating your spouse too!

If it's been a while since the two of you have spent time doing fun things together, maybe you should ask your spouse for a date. Remind him he's "still the one."

I did. And we're still having fun!

Remember those things that drew you together in the first place.
Hold hands.
Sneak a few kisses.
Have fun making new memories.

Since Jason and I started dating again, I find myself daydreaming about our next date. Where shall we go next? What can we do that would rekindle our romance? Aren't his eyes beautiful? See there! Dating my spouse is already rekindling our romance!

If you'd like some fun (inexpensive) ideas for dating your spouse, get the free resource, Rekindle Your Romance! HERE.

Mary Hanks writes stories about second chances, marriage restoration, and rekindling romance. Visit her website at

Monday, January 8, 2018

Rekindle Your Romance Date Night #1

Married couples, have you been on any date nights (days) lately?

With jobs and family and household responsibilities, our date nights can get put on the back burner. Let's change that up in 2018! I challenge you to go out and have more adventures with your spouse this year.

You can even start with something simple like we did.

From Rekindle Your Romance Date Night Ideas #1:

  • Hiking together, or even walking hand in hand, can be an inexpensive, yet memorable, day out. Other than the food you pack, possibly gas, or an entrance fee (rare), this is a day you won’t soon forget. Remember how it was when you were first dating? Flirt a little along the trail! Kiss at every bridge or switchback on the path. Take silly selfies. Laugh and have loads of fun together.

A group of fourteen ladies and I gathered over 50 date night ideas--under $25 each--with married couples in mind. Jason and I need a little prompting to get out and have more fun. So we are taking the challenge! Who's with me? Will you take the challenge to date your sweetie more often in 2018?

I'm even going to blog about our adventures and misadventures of dating at 40+ years of marriage! Truth is, we could use a little romance rekindling. Couldn't you? We still want to have fun together, and I bet you do too!

To kick off our challenge, we started with something familiar. Jason and I went on a Sunday afternoon date to a place where we've walked and talked in other seasons. But this time, it was smack-dab in the middle of winter. We wore mittens/gloves and held hands--better to get closer and keep each other warm. And per the instructions, we found a couple of places to sneak a kiss. (Ahem, no pictures of the kissing.)

The boat dock and park by the Resort in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, is one of our fave places to hike. You can see Tubs Hill in the background--which was a setting in Winter's Past. Normally, this area is jam-packed with boats, and I love looking at them. But it's mostly empty now.

However, there were a few boats snuggled up tight for the winter:

After we circled the dock, we walked all the way around the park. Then we found coffee and hot chocolate in the Resort Mall--for a grand total of $10 (including tip). A pretty cheap date, huh?

But getting to walk and talk with the man I love? Priceless! It felt great to get outdoors and exercise together too. We talked and reminisced and bonded.

And that's the good stuff that should happen on a date, right?

Here's your challenge: date your spouse this week! Maybe you can go on a walk/hike, chat, and end up at a coffee shop. If you need some inspiration, download Rekindle Your Romance! Use the ideas that sound just right for both of you.

Do you accept the challenge?

Here's to lots of dating with your husband/wife in 2018!

Romance makes the journey sweeter.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Waiting Again?

Waiting can seem endless.
Like life is flying by for everyone.
But me.
When will my turn come?
Will things change for the better?

Ever been there?
If you’re like me, you've experienced the waiting season many times.

Waiting can be so hard. But hope keeps us watching for something good.

Maybe the house will sell this week.
I might get that job I applied for.
My acceptance letter could come soon.
Tomorrow, I'll feel better.

Do you count the days until you're going on a trip or to a special event?

I do. But there are times when we don't know how long it will take for something we're waiting for to happen.

I waited a whole year for my house to sell. We'd spent several months remodeling, and then we moved out at the end of last summer, thinking it would sell right away. But after six weeks and the place didn't sell, we moved back in, feeling a little defeated. Had we made the wrong choice in trying to sell? Did we jump the gun on God's plan for us? We didn't know the answers. So we spent the winter and spring and summer in our country home--that was quite nice since it was freshly painted and beautiful--allowing it to be shown in all the seasons, but not knowing if it would actually sell. It required special financing, so the right person had to come along. Would that happen?

We kept praying. And waiting. And I wrote a book. :)

Finally, toward the end of this summer, the house sold. Hallelujah! Our waiting time was over. Then we had a lot to accomplish to get everything out of the house again and to do the final cleaning. It was comical because the next weeks went by really fast. Time is like that. When we're hyper-focused on what's not happening and we're stuck in the waiting season, everything seems to take a long time. Then zoom. We're on the fast track, and we can't believe how quickly the days go by.

But, oh, those waiting times ...

Remember when you were a kid waiting for summer break? Then, later, did you tire of summer and get super excited for school to start? Then, did you turn around and count the days until Christmas?

Or have you waited for a highly-anticipated event, like a wedding or for a baby to be born? Those months can seem like forever.

Or, perhaps, you're in a waiting season now.

Maybe you're waiting for someone to return from military service.
Or for the grandchildren to visit.
Or to take a long-awaited trip.
Or you're waiting for a job.
Or for a healing or a personal need to be met.

Life has many waiting seasons.
Does this particular season seem to be taking forever?
If so, I totally empathize with you.

And while I admit to being a less-than-successful waiter at times, here are a few practical ideas that have helped me during my seasons of waiting. 
Try to stay busy. Start a project or hobby. Paint a picture (or the house). Do puzzles. Write a book. Time really does seem to go by faster when you're busy.

Visit with friends. Don't become a hermit, which is my tendency. Get out and have coffee and a nice chat with a friend as often as possible. Sharing your struggles with someone who understands helps. As does hearing about someone else's life, which can make our own problems, or waiting time, not seem quite as bad.

Laugh. (Snicker, giggle, guffaw.) Become childlike. Sometimes I take myself and what's happening around me way too seriously. Laughter is medicinal. Tell stories and laugh. Watch a funny movie. Really belly laugh. Life is beautiful. And honestly, even though it may not seem like it right now, life is passing by fast. Let's look for ways to enjoy it.

Read. Take an adventure through reading. A waiting season is a great time to visit the library and get a stack of books, or download books on your kindle, and experience life in someone else's shoes.

Maybe you've always been interested in treasure hunting. Now is the perfect time to read books on that topic. Maybe you've wanted to learn knitting. Grab a how-to book--and a skein of yarn and needles. No better time to learn than now!

Walk. Get a step counting app and see the world around you by walking and keeping track of your steps. Have a competitive friend or spouse? Make a race of it to see who can do the most steps in a week or month. Winner buys dinner or coffee?

Pray. Hope. Believe good is on the way. Because surely it is. Also, pray for others. Being concerned about others helps us get our mind off of our woes.

I confess that I've struggled with my waiting times. Why doesn't God answer sooner? Did I sin and that's keeping Him from resolving my dilemma? Did I miss the boat? Depression and low self-esteem can sneak in and rob my joy way too easily.

But it seems to me that waiting is a kind of testing ground of personal struggle that builds something good and strong in us. Like this verse says: "We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Rom 5:3-4) Waiting can be a form of suffering, that builds strength, which builds character, and we can learn from that process, if only we are willing.

A friend of ours would say, "What is God trying to say to you in this situation?" 

Which makes me sit back and ponder, is God teaching me something through my waiting? Do I need more character building? Um, probably so. But it can be such a painful process.

Lastly, looking for the good in a situation, and being thankful, can be a powerful stepping stone to hope. Jason and I realized we were extremely thankful for a warm house during the winter. We got the chance to say goodbye to a home that had been the last place we lived in with our four kids. It seemed we needed the sentimental time of letting go. God knows our hearts and what we need, sometimes even when we don't realize it ourselves.

If you are in a waiting time right now, I pray that you find peace and joy right in the middle of the struggle. And that you will see how hope can overcome discouragement--even in a waiting season.

And don't forget, something good may be just around the corner.