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Who of you by grumbling?

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Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.                                                                                                                       1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, MSG

“But I don’t want water. But I don’t want to do that. But I don’t like that. Ugh, that’s nasty.  But he never. She never. I want this. I want that.”

Grumbling. No rejoicing. All on a day I had planned just for them.  I don’t think the day went by with one single praise for anything He had done, or I had done, in fact.

It is on days like these that I would like to pack up my family. Move to some distant land. Let them see what “living” really is. Without internet. Without clean water. Without air conditioner, and the drive-thru of their choice.

There are days I need this reminder, too.

Because, quite honestly I have a lot of reasons to grumble. And on the days I find that maybe I grumble a little more, I also have many more to be thankful. Many more reasons to be grateful.

I’ll be missing one more person again this year during the holidays. While it seems I should be used to it at this point, it seems to be harder this time around. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s because my little family is now a generation larger since I have become a MeeMaw and life has taken on new meaning.

I still find reasons to grumble. But the things that used to bug me, just don’t anymore. I also find the things that used to get under my skin, and make me angry don’t have the same effect on me as they once did.

I have not always been this way. I am a scream in traffic girl. A glass half-empty girl. A “I hate people” girl. Yes…there are days I don’t like people. I really don’t like to be around them. On those days, I just want to be alone, with a blanket, and a book.

And because I have to force myself to see life in that glass half-full perspective, I also have to force myself to count my blessings each day, not just during the Thanksgiving season. So I simply started keeping track of three small things for which I was grateful each day. And, while it may not have made me forget that there is something missing again this holiday season, it has done a few things. Forcing myself to be thankful has also forced me to think about all the things on a given day that don’t cause me to grumble. That make me happy. That bring me joy.

Those three things give me reason to praise God through the loneliness, thanking him for all the times He has placed someone in my path in those times of loneliness or defeat to breathe life into those empty places.

To praise God for all the times He did answer me, even when I thought he was not listening.

To stop rushing to work every morning, and actually stop and enjoy a morning sunrise. To enjoy the quiet, calm of an office before the morning buzz takes over.

To appreciate cute baby onesies picked up for the grandson. Or a new mug to enjoy my morning cup of coffee. To reflect on the conversations that have value and meaning, with the people that mean the most to me. To remember the times that I laughed with my kids, and the times they also did not complain and grumble through the day.

To relish the conversations that a 21 year old still wants to have with his mother. And the memories that an older sister has with her once again absent brother.

I can grumble over all the things that are wrong. I can complain over all the things that are bad. Continue to be sad over all the things that are not going as planned. I will always find something that will fit into one of those categories.

And, I will also always find something to bring me joy.

I just have to take the time to look for it.

Stop my grumbling. Change my perspective. Choose to be happy. Choose to be thankful.

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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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after the decorations are gone

christmas-spirit

The days after Christmas. Memories of the laughter. The time spent with family. The remnants of gifts not yet put away. The lazy days. The leftovers. Naps. Netflix. The promise of a new year.

With this promise each year also comes the burning desire to reclaim the space in my house. Get back into my 10 and a half month routine. Everything in its place again. Time to rid my house of the Christmas glamour for one more year.

Usually this need to reclaim my territory fuels me. Sends me on a cleaning frenzy. But, this year was different. If it wasn’t for our choice of fresh fir, and the limp, dying branches that forced me to take the soon to be fire hazard of a tree down, all our shiny and glistening decorations would have just stayed.

As I packed up every ornament. Every tinsel wreath. Beaded garland. Dancing Santa. I had a thought.

Shouldn’t the spirit of Christmas, and the Christ child born on this day live all year long? Is the Christmas “spirit” really only reserved to one month a year. To a plethora of shiny decorations?

Certainly it couldn’t be! There must be something we can do to make sure that spirit remains here. Lives in this home. Lives in us as we carry out a usual routine for the remainder of these months.

But, how?

Well, it can begin with hope.

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:19

After the expectation of those wondrous gifts. After the anticipation of Christmas Eve night. Still lives the hope that His promises will be fulfilled. Living each day knowing, expecting, anticipating  His faithfulness. His strength. The promise that even though some days in the new year may be hard, we KNOW, and EXPECT that there is hope in the days to come. Bringing a promise of glorious days with Him in Heaven.

It can continue with peace.

“I have told you all this that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But, take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

It is not letting the stress, worries, and anxieties of living in this broken and rushed world cause our hearts to be troubled. It’s letting go and feeling relief. It’s choosing calm over the chaos that claims to measure success. It’s being still and rejoicing in Him, even when life gets crazy. It’s living in harmony with each other, even when we don’t agree. It’s accepting our flaws, and those of others unapologetically.

The spirit of the blessed babe can live on past Christmas day with joy.

You will live in joy and peace. The mountain and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Isaiah 55:12

The spirit of Christmas doesn’t live in packages and bows. It’s not the blessings under the tree that give joy after all the decorations are gone. Happiness doesn’t live in those boxes. It lives in the laughter of your kids on a family game night. It lives in the songs of praise raised to Him on Sunday morning. It lives in the full heart as you snuggle with a small child. It lives in the praise that escapes your lips for everything He has done. For the small things. For the blessings He has given that can’t hide under a tree. All He has promised. Made happen in your life. Not just on Christmas Day, but everyday.

And finally, how do we continue to show the spirit of love?

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12

Despite flaws. Despite differences. Despite who has “wronged” you. It’s being patient with the lady in front of you with too many items in the express lane. The driver that cut you off. The colleague that always comes in late. Talks to much. Does something too much. It’s remembering that once the ball has dropped. The last song has been sung. The clock signals the beginning of a new year, to be kind to each person we meet, not just those in our “circle.” It is responding with kind words, not words to tear down. It’s praying for our enemies, and those who have hurt us. It is forgiving and choosing to show mercy those that make is angry, frustrate us, and make our eyes roll. It’s reaching out our hands to life the fallen, and expecting nothing in return. Loving as He has loved us.

It is extending this love past the month of December.

And choosing to reflect the Christ child. His love. His light. His everlasting spirit.

After the lights have come down. The gifts have all been opened. The decorations are all gone.

All year long.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2016 in Like Jesus Does, You Make All Things New

 

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When Joy Seems Hard to Find

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The grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. -Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Chistmas

Usually Christmas brings me much joy each year. By the end of November, I have my tree up, my shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, and I am ready for Christmas music, lights, and festivities.

This year? Not so much. This year I have been somewhat of a Christmas grinch. Not really sure why the usual joy I have for the season has been replaced with the mood and attitude of Scrooge, and a cloud of perpetual gloom, that began long before the season ever did.

Back in the fall I made the decision to leave my part-time job in order to focus on my studies as a counseling student, my ministry, and my work in the evenings with teens and families in the community. While ultimately I believe God made it clear this was the move for me, it hasn’t always been an easy one. It has also come with a number of changes and adjustments.

Like the days at home while most everyone else is working. The days that have left me feeling lonely and isolated.

Like the missed appointments with clients that has meant missed paychecks, missed gifts, and missed “mommy” dates with friends. Leaving me feeling lonely, isolated, and broke.

Or, the nights spent mentoring, counseling, and helping others while my family is at home cuddling, playing, and bonding.

Or the cold, dreary weather that seems to have lingered, making it even harder to muster up the strength and motivation to just get out of the house.

Or, maybe it is the realization that comes when you visit your sibling in jail, give him a hug, and know that once again you will spend another Christmas without him.

Whatever the circumstances, I am left with feelings of loneliness, isolation, moodiness, and gloom. A deep ache and longing for some “thing” that just seems to be missing this year.

Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. Romans 15:32

I have tried to find that joy. I have tried to fix this bah-humbug mood of mine. I have tried every “remedy” I could think of.

Flipping on those shiny lights and turning on Christmas music just to get through a gift wrapping session.

I have tried to create happy moments with my family by scheduling times to cut snowflakes, make hot chocolate, or enjoy ice cream by the tree.

I even remembered the way my mom got us in the spirit-with good ole fashioned living room dance parties with Elvis as the emcee.

I plastered on smiles for my kids. I have gone through the motions trying to put the jolly back in this holly season. But I couldn’t find it.

I couldn’t find it as the lack of cheer now spilled to my children. So that those planned moments to spend together this season only ended in fights, declarations of “This is boring…” and meltdowns. So that Mommy is now the one making the ornament, cutting the snowflakes, making the Christmas cards, and decorating the tree-isolated and once again…alone.

I couldn’t find it, because all I wanted to do was sit under the tree I didn’t even feel like putting up, and cry. And then, cancel the whole Christmas shebang altogether!

“I bring good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born this day in Bethlehem. Luke 2:10-11

And, so comes that voice. The one that always shakes me out of my sulking, when all I want to do is drown in self-pity.

Look around you, January.

At what exactly, Lord? Yes, I am aware that this house is a mess. I can’t find the strength to do that either.

Look around at your home, January. The mess that means laughter, and yes, even chaos have filled these walls. A mess that shows you are blessed beyond measure. 

Listen, January.

To what? Those screams? The screams from a  desperately emotional child? The screams back from his weary momma?

Listen, January. To the laughter. To the fighting that means they are learning to navigate the world of relationships. 

Look at your mantel, January.

Really, Lord? Now you are going to point out the fact that my home is full of dust!

You mean the dust that is not unlike that of that lowly manger sitting there?

Oh, right.

The lowly manger of a king born. The king who we celebrate each season. The king who deserves much more than my isolated and lonely bah-humbug.

The joy that has nothing to do with money, lights, paper snowflakes, or abandoned cups of hot cocoa. The joy that lies in a manger. The joy of a baby, born alone, isolated and desperate in the midst of dust just to save me.

To save me from loneliness when that missing piece seems nowhere to be found.

To save me from isolation when I’m stuck in a cold and dark house alone.

To save me from self-pity and sorrow when the paycheck quits coming, the gifts aren’t there to wrap, and your feeling anything but holly jolly.

The joy that can’t be wrapped up in a bow. Can’t be placed in well-organized moments, and perfectly baked cookies.

The joy of Christ that reaches down to fill all the longing and lonely places that dwell in this heart.

The true joy of the Christmas season and every season in between.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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I’ll Keep My Joy, Thank You!

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17

I am not usually a glass half full type of gal. Rain puts me in the worst of moods, and I can at times have quite the self-defeatist attitude.

These are also areas I have been asking God to help me overcome. Asking Him to help me see each day and situation in a more positive light.

So, of course the devil sneaks in to tempt me into using my words as piercing swords. To turn my mood into something as dark as the clouds outside. To try his hardest to steal my joy.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10

And, I can let him, or I can take Paul’s advice in Galatians 5:22 and show the joy that is part of God’s spirit in me.

This thought makes me examine a few things. Do I let others determine how happy I am? Do I let my circumstances destroy my faith in God’s promises? Am I a beacon of joy that will bring others to Christ? Or a ball of negative energy that will cause them to turn away?

I had someone ask me recently if I was having a good day. I responded in truth, admitting that the morning had been a bit rough. After staying up into the wee hours of the morning to complete an assignment, and entertain two giggly girls over for a birthday sleepover, my exhaustion certainly made me want to feel anything but joy! I was tired, and I was pretty sure it was written all over my face.

“Yet, you are still smiling!” was the response. And yes, I do…I smile through a lot of the pain and sorrow that makes up this life.

 Why not? What’s the alternative? To grumble? To complain? To curse my circumstances and the God who allowed them?

Do these actions keep life from happening? Messes from growing?

Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

Sure, I can choose to respond negatively, or I can choose to rejoice in the God who promises joy each morning.

I can be the example of Christ, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross,” and live out this same kind of joy in the midst of my own suffering.

I can rest in the promise that no money, no bigger house, no job, no pursuit of worldly happiness will ever come close to the joy that comes from God’s spirit living in me, or his promises for me.

So, you can have the rest-the money, the house, the world. I’ll keep my joy, thank you!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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I’m Happy. Really!

A glad heart makes a happy face, a broken heart crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:13

I am going to be honest. I have a problem with this particular Proverb. Solomon while certainly wise and getting most things right, has it wrong in this one line. I just have to beg to differ here.

Why?

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Because of what I like to refer to as my natural “frowny” face. As you can see in the above picture, it is a frown, a scowl, a look of disgust that I have worn since my childhood. It is the reason I shy away from spontaneous pictures-because no matter how hard I try, I always look mad. In looking at most of the pictures of me past and present, one would think I was in one of the most rotten of moods.

But, really? I’m happy! My heart is glad even if it doesn’t show on my face.

My natural smile turned upside down has often been the subject that has made relationships and conversations anything but happy. Recently my “frown” has been the subject of various disagreements with my husband as well. See, I don’t always greet him in the evenings with a mega-watt smile. Sometimes this is because I am monitoring the cooking prowess of our five year old, or trying to discuss the importance of neat penmanship with our six year old. Most of the time, nothing is really wrong. Our teen and I have probably shared a joke or two on most of these afternoons. Hunter has probably said something witty, and maybe a little weird, and Hayley has probably amused me with her dancing moves.

I’m happy! Really!

I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. 2 Corinthians 7:4

But, my lack of a smile sends my husband this message: She must be ticked off about something. Better not talk to her!

Sadly, my husband is not the only one to whom I may have conveyed this message.

People have assumed my frowny face means I don’t like them. But, really…there are not many people I don’t like. I’m actually in love with most everyone!

Colleagues have assumed I am stuck up. But honestly…I am far from that. Remember, I am in love with you and most everyone else!

She’s mad. She’s mean. She’s cold. She must hate her life. Does she ever smile?

I am here to assure you that-no, I am not mad. I can be mean. We all can at times. I am not cold. I love hugs, and I love to give them. And although there are some things about my life that I would like to change, I love most of it.

Despite my frowny face, I really do like you. I really am nice-I promise. And, I am happy. Really!

So, after I professed my frowny happiness to my husband, his words were these: I need to work on not judging based on your outward appearance, or my perception of what type of mood you are in.

Ding! Ding! Ding! You got it!

This is what we do-judge on outward appearances. We assume the worst about what a person may be feeling or thinking. We miss out on meaningful relationships because we think someone is in a bad mood, or dislikes us.

“Every scowling face also contains the shapes of engaging smiles, just waiting to be released.” Dr. SunWolf

So, next time you see a scowling face, don’t be afraid to approach, or to strike up a conversation. You may just find that underneath that natural frown is a man or woman who has a whole heck of a lot to smile about!

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Inviting Laughter and God to Dinner

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

Patience. It can be one of the hardest virtues to act out in one’s life, especially when it comes to children. I used to believe I was not one who possessed much in the way of this patience mess, and there are many days I am still quick to get angry, and not so quick to check my frazzled mommy emotions at the door.

Then, God sent Hunter. My true test of patience. A test I often fail, but a trial I have learned I can endure with His strength.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

Even enjoy a disastrous family dinner out! I am sure most families with children have experienced an awful dinner experience once in a while. Dinner time is to be a cherished time, one with meaningful conversation, a time to connect with your children and spouse. Dinner out with a sensory overloaded child is no exception. It is another test of already frazzled parents’ patience, and another hurdle for an overly sensitive child.

Inviting God to dinner begins with the van on the way, because “It’s taking too long,” or “It’s too far away,” or because he of course is hungry NOW. God, please give me patience to handle my child’s impatience…so begins the call to be faithful in prayer.

Inviting God to dinner starts before the meal arrives, before we even enter the restaurant, as Hunter’s new obsession with opening and closing doors can consume a good 5-10 minutes of precious time. God, please give me patience to deal with this new phase in his life… faithful in prayer.

When every demand from this tiny child’s mouth is 20 times more dramatic and loud than it should be….

When the hunger that must be satisfied NOW leads to kicking feet and scooting chairs…

When he starts running around tables declaring he’s a rock star and other non-coherant chatter…

When it feels like your child will not learn to ever display an ounce of social grace and you want the floor to open up and swallow you…

….be patient in affliction.

Or when trying to convince him that the ice cream in the store is just like the kind he eats at grandma’s house, even if it isn’t in the same package….

or when for the 15th time that afternoon, he is hungry again…NOW, because when we get home just won’t do…

be patient in affliction.

I will show you and teach you in the way you should go. I will tell you what to do with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

In those moments when my patience has worn thin, I remember God’s call to be joyful in hope. Sometimes that joy means diverting a child’s attention, ignoring the stares from the people around you, and the need to criticize yourself as a parent, and choosing joy.

Joy in a game of parking lot Simon Says all to divert my child’s attention from his over-sensitive belly growling, or enjoying a child’s ability to laugh at himself in his less than glorious moments. And, if anyone has been so blessed to hear this child’s laugh, well, it is quite contagious. Certainly, if we invite God to dinner, we allow him to let laughter and joy help us overcome our dinner time afflictions, and teach us a little more about this patience mess.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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