JOY

Joy.  I wonder if any of us can “choose joy” for even just 1 day.  I first must give a disclaimer – this post is not about anyone.  It is just something I am thinking about.  I have many people in my life personally and professionally who are really struggling right now, and this is not about you.  I have just been mulling over and chewing on the concept of joy and wanted to express my thoughts a bit.

Here’s joy defined: 

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In my case I’ve been thinking of the 2nd definition.  Bringing joy to someone and truly allowing the source of joy to overflow in one’s heart. 

I wonder if we truly could go one whole day choosing joy over judgement, joy over complaining, joy over whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.  It’s definitely a mind over matter thing.  And it’s the silly things that become joy-robbers in life, at least in my case. Often things that rob our joy are out of our control, like the weather

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We immediately start thinking of all the things the weather will cause in our life and in a quick swoosh of a second our joy collapses under the snowflakes. How silly.  Maybe a little close to home with this example since so many of us have had some real experiences with some harsh weather this winter, but still, it doesn’t have to rob us of our joy. Interruptions often rob us of our joy.  Maybe you’ve just sat down to read a book and have been looking forward to that “me time” for a while and quick as a wink you hear the knock at the door, a friend stopping by to visit because they were in the neighborhood. You muster a fake welcoming face and sit down for a chat. You focus on the frustration of the interruption.  But….what if instead you focus on searching for the pockets of joy the circumstance outside of your control may have caused?  A snow day to stay home and do whatever it is you’ve been wanting to do for the past several months that you’ve been saying, “if only an unexpected day would plop into my lap, I could….”  Or the option to make a snowman with your toddler and have a good old fashioned snow ball fight – hours of play time guilt free! Or with the friend who stopped by, focusing on the gift of relationship instead of your time interrupted can free you up to really enjoy the conversation.  Our life is so cluttered with busy and “sometimes fake connection” through social media and the likes that having REAL facetime with a friend is a luxury that rarely happens!  What looks like the unexpected dark cloud can often be hiding a real joy gem if you breath, don’t let it overtake you and respond with an expectant attitude of joy.

Another disclaimer – this is not a post written by an expert at this, I struggle just like the next person and need the swift kick in the pants wake up call to joy just as much as you might.

It requires intention, this joy business.  It’s a process of clearing your mind of the first instinct – react, complain and give way to frustration – and choosing instead to take a deep breath, look for the gift in the unexpected and celebrate the adventure that you wouldn’t have had if something hadn’t come along an interrupted YOUR life and YOUR plans.

Joy outcomes of the unexpected have been many in my life – a different job, a new friend, a hilarious memory, unexpected time all to myself, a wonderful brand new little life, some really cool moments with God, the list could fill several pages long.  

So, this post is a little quirky, but my hope is that you might join me in being persistent in refusing to have your joy stolen from you and begin looking for the joy in the unexpected in your life. Some people call this silver linings. But call it what you will, your heart grows lighter from practicing joy and your heart grows as heavy as lead by constantly giving in to frustration.

Just some stuff my mind was churning on today.  

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Water not gasoline…

…a principle that I learned while working with some wonderful people several years ago.  The idea that into every situation you have a choice, you can bring water (soothing, refreshing, life-giving)

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or gasoline (heats things up, escalates, burns).

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Life has many layers and in the midst of these layers many conversations happen.  Sometimes conversations are wonderful.  Sometimes they are very difficult and suck the life out of you.  It is the latter where I have recalled this principle and tried hard to choose wisely in bringing water  to the situation.  I’d love to tell you that I manage this 100% of the time, really well…but that would be a flat out lie.  I’d like to think, though, that when I pause, take a moment, and reflect on this principle I really can regroup and avoid dousing the flaming words of a conversation with gasoline.

Not really earth shattering, this principle, in fact there are a lot of similar ways to reach the same goal – productive conversation, even in conflict.  I remember when my daughters were growing up Rob and I would always say, “You can make the best of the situation or the worst of the situation – it’s your choice.” Often followed with, “Why on earth would you choose to make the worst of the situation?”   Maybe they didn’t need the last statement, but our motive was to encourage them to evaluate every situation and look for how to make the best of it because there are many times in life you can’t change the circumstance.

It’s actually a principle found in the Bible as well.  Proverbs 15:15  says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

The bottom line is that this doesn’t happen automatically.  It takes intention.  It takes discipline.  It takes practice.  It takes time.  But the more you invest in making it a common response – water, making the best of it, a soft answer – the more your conversations will be sprinkled with an opportunity to open up and be more productive.

Nothing new, I realize that, but was reminded of this when I ran into a friend at work who said, “Water – not gasoline!” in response to my asking her how she was holding up in the midst of some rough waters at work. I’d shared this principle with her nearly a year ago.

So, not sure what you are facing today, but you’ve got this!  Just take in a deep breath, pause to collect your thoughts and words, and then as you breath out you can even just mutter under your breath, “Water! Not gasoline!” as you jump into your situation! :)

 

Looking forward…

Looking forward is a good thing.  In a practical sense, if you look forward, you can recognize obstacles in your path and not trip over them.  Looking forward or ahead of you can also bring you joy as you see things like a sweet little person who loves you dearly running towards you with a big smile, saying “Grammie!”  Looking forward can be fun if you’ve planned a trip and are excited for the day to arrive.  Or if there’s are precious new lives waiting to enter this world of ours. Or if you’ve promised your life to another and the big wedding day is ahead of you.  And you can have fun with forward – like when you can pay it forward, passing along blessings that have been passed along to you.  Looking behind in reflection can be helpful, but sometimes it’s good to remember what’s past is done and often can’t be undone, so the next step is to look forward and discover. Discover new opportunity, new promise, new life, new hope, new adventures, new trust.  The only caution is that you can’t control what is “forward” as in tomorrow.  Well, depending on your perspective in life, you can’t really control anything but you can choose how you respond and act in all things. Planning is healthy and actually smart in many cases, but being flexible as you move forward can be super helpful.  Building hefty life shock-absorbers, cloaked in God’s mercy and grace and supported by His power and strength can get you through so many unexpected things, I have discovered.  This past year has had its share of life. Highs and lows, joys and sorrows, hilarity and tears, and pretty much everything in between.  But…my favorite thing about being God’s child is that NOTHING is ever wasted.  No tears, no laughter, no pain, no joy – they all are molded together to keep building our character and to shape us into something more than we could ever have dreamed of.  For this girl, it’s about releasing control, living for TODAY, looking forward to what is to come – not with anxiety, but with assurance.  God was with me then - God is with me now -  and God will be with me in all of my tomorrows.

And so, 2013, I thank you for the many twists, turns, bumps, bruises, teardrops, laughter, adventure, silliness, reflections, ambitions, frustrations, and more.  Each episode has demanded I decide if I truly do trust God in all things.  Each episode has reinforced His presence and goodness. Each episode has brought me peace after the storms. Each episode has given me more than I wanted sometimes, but exactly what God knew I needed to become who I am today.  This journey continues for as long as He wishes for me to be on this earth.  The only thing I wish is that in the moments I’m strong enough to truly embrace all of this, I could capture the essence of that in some kind of capsule I could take on the not feeling so strong kind of days! ;)

And there you have it…musings and ramblings by yours truly from my heart to yours. For today I am thankful and enjoying the discipline of Psalm 46:10, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

For a listen to a BUNCH of Christmas songs, new and old enjoy this playlist: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Just a few things I LOVE about this time of year:

  • Family time – gathering to decorate, to celebrate, to love, to just be together
  • Traditions
  • Twinkling Lights
  • Music – I’m a sucker for Christmas music – LOVE it all! Well, most of it. :)
  • Reflection times – thinking over the year and the many ways God blessed me
  • Thoughtful gifts – I love to give and enjoy searching for THE gift that will bring the biggest smiles
  • Friend dates – catching up with old friends over coffee
  • Silly get-togethers with White Elephant gift exchanges
  • Peppermint White Mochas
  • Whisky Shrimp
  • Stockings hung on the mantel
  • God’s grace in sending the perfect gift of Jesus
  • PJs the one Christmas eve present we’re allowed to open
  • Watching my husband squirm when I mention wanting to decorate a little more :)
  • Mistletoe – kissing my favorite husband!
  • Making snowflakes out of paper
  • Worship times
  • Christmas cookies and other fun baking
  • Sappy Hallmark Christmas Movies
  • Snow – but not the bitter cold that we’re currently experiencing
  • Candlelight Christmas Eve Service
  • Sipping hot coffee, reading and staring at the Christmas trees all aglow  in the evenings
  • Reminiscing – as family is gathered at various times it’s fun to think back to the many happenings from years gone by. Lots of laughter!
  • Making once a year cinnamon rolls
  • Playing guitars and singing with my brothers – happens rarely now, but great memories of this from Christmases and Thanksgivings gone by
  • Homemade ornaments that have weathered decades now
  • Hot Chocolate with marshmallows – just tastes best this time of year
  • And newly added to this list….grandchildren experiencing the magic of Christmas!

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The years go by and some traditions need to be tweaked to keep them alive, but I still look for ways to keep them. They are important to me.  I am thankful.  I look forward to this time of year all year long.  A time of coming together. I am thankful.

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This is our tree topper – the snoopy angel, a little Kleenex, pipe cleaner, Styrofoam ball and marker features. Unusual to most, but precious to us.  Elise made it in Sunday School when she was about 2.  It is proudly displayed each Christmas and is the last thing put on the tree each year in great ceremony.  It gets hermetically sealed with special care by Rob each year.   :)

Dancing in the minefields with my sweetheart.

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Thankful to keep dancing in the minefields with my husband of 28 1/2 years.  This Thanksgiving I am thankful for many things, but as the lyrics in this song say:

‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of man
So there’s nothing left to fear
So I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands
Till the shadows disappear
‘Cause He promised not to leave us
And his promises are true
So in the face of this chaos baby,
I can dance with you

Life has many twists and turns, but to be twirled in circles by my sweetheart – nothing better than this! :)

Happy Thanksgiving, Rob.  You are always my one and only.