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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

2019_selfie_siblingsThe greatest gift I received from my mom and dad was not my outward appearance, my good genes, or any present wrapped up with a bow. The best gift passed down to me and my siblings was a sense of humor. And I pray I passed that gift on to my children.

What is life without laughter? Without fun? Boring.

I love to laugh. I love to listen to others laugh. There is nothing as uplifting as a child’s giggles. I can’t help but smile when I hear an awful “dad joke.” Well, sometimes I groan too, but usually with a smile attached. I loved hearing my kids learning to tell jokes. You know those first few made no sense (except to them), but it was fun to watch them develop their own senses of humor. And to this day, no one can make me laugh like my kids. No one.

I am kind of picky about what types of humor I allow myself to engage in. I will not make fun of other people, or put up with listening to it from anyone else. I’m not a huge “slap stick comedy” lover, though my husband is a big fan. I don’t drink wine, but I do enjoy a nice dry sense of humor.

As I begin my journey into my sixties, I’m determined that I will not lose that sense of humor. I don’t want to get old inside, even if I can’t always control how old I look on the outside. I want to enjoy life even more now, than I did when I was younger. I want to laugh at jokes, tell hilarious puns at family dinners, make silly faces at children, keep others laughing with me.

The world we live in is in a precarious state. The news is dire every night. The future is uncertain and grim. But I can’t control those things. What I can control is my own environment, my own attitude – and I choose laughter and joy. I will smile at friends and strangers. I will spread the love of Jesus wherever I go. I will laugh at dad jokes.

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Singer/songwriter Ben Rector has a song called Old Friends, and the first time I heard it, I thought of my small town and the many school friends I still keep in touch with. We’ve grown a little grayer (me? a LOT grayer), maybe added a few pounds here or there, lost our parents and former teachers, but the bond we created 40+ years ago, hasn’t been broken by time or distance. And to be honest, social media has been the catalyst in keeping us up-to-date on each others’ lives.

My tidbit of wisdom today: Stay in touch with old friends.

Friends – true friends – will stay with you in the rough times, offering a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and many times, helping hands to get things done. You see – old friends know where you came from, what your roots are, or as Ben says, still dial your house phone. They don’t give up on you, on your friendship, just because we’re a little older. In anything, we hug a little tighter, celebrating our joys and mourning our losses together.

Don’t give up on staying in touch, no matter how busy life gets. Carve out time to get a coffee, make a phone call, send an email, meet in Galena for a Saturday shopping trip (YES!)…make more memories and spread more joy.

“Can you take me back when we were just kids
Who weren’t scared of getting older?
‘Cause no one knows you like they know you
And no one probably ever will
You can grow up, make new ones
But the truth is
That we grow up, then wish we could go back then
There’s nothing like old friends
‘Cause you can’t make old friends” (Ben Rector, “Old Friends”)

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You can’t make old friends. Classmates from Durand High School Class of 1978

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Friends through ups and downs. More ups, though!

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Girlfriends – many from kindergarten. Love each one!

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My special almost-daughter, if I were old enough.

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Every morning, after my shower and before eating breakfast, I sit down at my kitchen table and open a journal. Lately I’ve noticed I’m nearing the end of the empty pages, so soon I’ll go purchase another book to fill again.

img_2447Each morning I write down five things I’m grateful for…five gifts in my life. Some are silly (longer extension hose on the sump pump), some are monumental (healing), some seems small (the smell of brewing coffee), some are large (the furnace has worked great all winter long), some are spiritual (thankful for God’s unconditional love), some are physical (warm socks on a cold day), some are mental (clear mind for today’s work), some are emotional (joy over times with family and friends).

I began my gratitude journal on January 1, 2018 – by the end of the year I had written 1800 lines of thankfulness. I’m sure a few were duplicates (I love the smell of coffee – it probably showed up a couple of times). Today I wrote numbers 530-535 of 2019. It takes some introspection, some self-awareness. Those first few pages were easy to fill, but now it takes some real work to find those things that I’m thankful for. The practice of gratefulness has caused me to look over my day, even as I’m living it. What will I write tomorrow morning? What am I living right now that I’m grateful for? Who has caused me joy, or pain, that I can turn into a journal entry?

I know God has blessed me with health, love, joy, family and friends I treasure. I have work, shelter, provision, food on my table and blankets on my bed. I enjoy electricity, hot water and air-conditioning. We drive two cars, worship the Lord with freedom, and eat meat every day. And I know most of the world doesn’t have any of the above.

Would you take on the gratitude challenge? You can use a cheap spiral notebook, or purchase a fancy journal, but no matter what the pen and paper look like, it’s the expressions of gratefulness that will change your outlook on your life. And it will definitely spark joy!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

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img_2350I know I was raised in a different era. No cell phones, no Instagram, no social media outside of a party line. Don’t know what a party line is? Google it. Oh yes, no Google, either. Side note: Google would have saved so many arguments in my family. And IMDb – my dad and I “discussed” movies, actors, etc. ad nauseam. That little app would have come in so handy. I digress…

One of the skills my mom instilled in me, and I attempted to instill in my boys, was to write thank you notes. After receiving Christmas and birthday gifts, I provided kid-friendly cards for them to write a short little “Thank you for the…” They did it (eventually), but it was a battle most of the time. It wasn’t that they weren’t grateful. But the process of actually putting pen (or pencil) to paper was agonizing. Like I was asking them to rake the yard with a toothbrush. Tears, grumbling, scowls, sometimes outright defiance. I’d find their little stack (five, at most) hidden in their school work or under a stack of magazines. “Oh, I thought I finished those.”

I tried to make it easier (at least on the postman) – I wrote the names and addresses. Then I wrote out a sample of what to say…eventually it was, “Just write one sentence. Just one sentence. It’s almost March!” And then- I gave up. It wasn’t worth it. The battle had worn me down. I went from insistent that they provide a hand-written note to “just call Grandma and tell her you like the sweatshirt.” Just an acknowledgement of her act of kindness.

Fast forward 15 years – I know longer worry about my kids’ notes of appreciation. They thank me all the time for things I’ve done for them, or gifts I’ve given. But more importantly, I know they have a grateful heart.

Those excruciating sessions of writing thank you notes taught me one thing: showing appreciation, saying (or writing) “thank you” isn’t always easy, but it’s always necessary. Maybe not for yourself, but for the person who is on the receiving end. My mom (and mother-in-law) were thrilled to receive those painstakingly printed notes. They knew I forced the kids to write them, but I’d still see those little smudged letters pinned to a bulletin board or affixed with a magnet to a refrigerator. Everyone appreciates being appreciated.

We all have people in our lives who would love to receive a little recognition…an acknowledgement that they are not forgotten. Think of it as sparking joy without emptying your house. Surprise someone with a text or phone call. What a wonderful way to fill your Facebook or Instagram feed with love and good will. Take a moment today to tell someone “thank you.” Or go the old-fashioned way and write a note. The post office still sells stamps.

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Today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of the Lenten season in many Christian churches. Lent is a period of 40 days of fasting and repentance leading up to Easter (actually, they only count Monday through Saturday as “fasting” days, with Sunday as a “feasting” day, and therefore not counted in the 40-days). There’s your history lesson for today.

Last year I wrote a short blog for each day of Lent, which was a lot of writing and probably more than any one person should, especially any one just plain ordinary person. But it was a great discipline for me, even if no one read anything. I took the theme of fasting and chose a different topic each day to “give up.” I tackled giving up unworthiness, apathy, guilt, failure and a lot of other stuff. This year I think I’ll flip things around. This year I’m going to choose those things I need to add to my life.

Let me be honest. My schedule is very full. I work full time, tutor once or twice a week, lead a small youth group on Wednesday nights, attend a prayer and teaching session at least once a week at our WFM Missions Base in Robins and serve with my husband as he pastors Troy Mills Christian Church each Sunday. I also spend time volunteering, working out at least three times a week, cleaning my house (mostly fail this one) and giving time and attention to my kids and husband. In between all those things, I read my Bible, do the laundry, cook a few meals, walk a few miles, read a few books, keep up with the family finances, talk to my boys, go out with friends and live my life as joyously as I can. On top of all that, my youngest will soon graduate from college and my oldest son and his beautiful fiancee are getting married in May.

So, why do I think I need to add anything else?

Especially because I’m so busy, there are quite a few areas in which I need plenty of work. I need to add things like margin, compassion, patience, joy, adventure….You get my drift. Starting tomorrow, my blog will be short (promise!) advice to myself. My goal is to add those essential elements I’ve missed while sprinting through each day. The actual definition of “addition” is the uniting of two or more numbers into one sum. I’ll be uniting what is great about my present with what is necessary to make life even better.  I’m going to set my face toward the end of this journey, trusting God to show me ways to add richness to each day. You can join me if you want.

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I have a large basket on my counter that I try to keep filled with apples, oranges and bananas. Occasionally I notice an orange at the bottom will go bad, or a banana becomes brown, before I can get it eaten. And once in a while, I’ll bite into an apple that looks great on the outside, but is discolored and mealy on the inside. Yuck! No one likes rotten fruit!

The Apostle Paul knows all about rotten fruit. In Galatians 5, Paul talks about the fight going on in each of us. The fight between good and evil, between living according to our sinful natures and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your life. According to Paul, “these two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” (Gal. 5:17b) And when you give in to your sinful nature, all kinds of really nasty stuff happens…things like idolatry, hostility, envy, outbursts of anger, jealousy, division, quarreling, selfish ambition. That’s what I call bad fruit. Attitudes, habits and behavior which make us look and sound pretty awful. But, the Holy Spirit produces the good stuff. The fruit of walking in the Spirit is (say it with me)…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That’s a beautiful bowl of fruit!

Later on, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul gives us a “to-do” list for walking in the Spirit, for producing the kind of fruit I want to be known for – healthy, plump, beautiful fruit – which attracts others to you and to your life lived for Jesus. I love how The Message says Philippians 2:3: “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

By choosing to walk in the Spirit, you’ll constantly be producing gorgeous fruit and tossing out the bad stuff. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be known for my rotten fruit.

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joy

My 40-day blogging adventure continues today with help from my extremely intelligent and handsome husband Don. More from him later. Read on.

Today I’m going to try to stop. I’m going to stop chasing after something fleeting and start going after the eternal. Today I’m going to give up my pursuit of happiness….again.

Almost any American elementary child can tell you where the phrase “the pursuit of Happiness” was first introduced to us. It’s a phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence and is one of three examples of “unalienable rights” which the document says has been God-given to all humans, and which governments were created to protect.

Rabbit Trail Alert! Made me think a bit about what constitutes “happiness.” What makes me happy may not do a thing for you. And I know there are certain people out there who pursue their own brand of happiness in the form of physical and emotional abuse, and worse. Did God give us this right to pursue happiness? This blog could go on forever debating that question…so I’ll just let you ponder it on your own.

Back to stopping my own pursuit of happiness.

My happiness changes with the wind, or my mood, or my circumstances, or my financial situation, or my comfort level, or the weather, or my expectations. I’ve decided I spend way too much energy pursuing such a fleeting and capricious emotion. Happy is a catchy song (Thank you Pharrell Williams) but it isn’t so easy to catch in real life.

Here’s where my husband’s wisdom and insight come in. He writes a weekly Bible study and is currently working through the book of Hosea. Don prefaces the following remarks with an introduction to Hosea 9:1-9, saying the prophet Hosea, under the direction of the Holy Spirit provides a list of four things which the nation of Israel will lose because of their sin.

“The first thing lost due to their sinfulness was “joy.” Joy is more than emotion. Joy is the presence of God in our lives. Joy is something that comes from God, not from something external in our life. Joy and happiness are often mistaken for one another but it’s just not so. Joy is something deep down inside which is not controlled by circumstances as happiness is. I can be made happy by circumstances or by something someone else does. But Joy is something which transcends circumstances or the behavior of others.

God is more than our “source” of joy. God is our joy. As we walk with Him, no matter the circumstances we will have joy. The closer we get to Him, the more joy we will know.

Joy is something the world cannot give us nor can the world take it away.” Don McGarvey – Thursday Night Bible Study, study of Hosea. If this piques your interest, check out Don’s Bible Study on Facebook.

And how about pursuing the fruit of the Spirit which, in addition to joy, include love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Or how about just pursuing Jesus and everything else…everything of little to no importance falls away.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” (John 4:23-24 – MSG)

Jesus is really all I need to pursue. Because…and this is the cool part…He’s pursuing me!

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