When we think of joy, we often think of a child’s beaming face on Christmas morning. All of the anticipation that has been building is finally at its peak. That little body is all atwitter ready to leap into the magic of Christmas. Each of us probably has some keen memories of Christmas mornings past, some that were fulfilling of all the hype and perhaps a few that were found lacking.
How long does that intense feeling of full joy last? Are we able to summon that same level of anticipation to see what our heavenly Father has in store for us each day…
or does our joy feel like it’s in bits and pieces?
As adults we seem to catch glimmers of joy yet somehow that robustness of childhood joy eludes us. There are many references in the Bible about having a child-like faith. Perhaps the concept of unbridled JOY is a natural unfolding of that child-like faith: grab it with intensity and don’t let go!
“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for JOY and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14
Maybe we need to follow our children on this one…
–to discover the joy unfolding all around us, in the big and small details of everyday life
–to embrace the messy
–to surrender our agenda
–to adopt a child-like curiosity and anticipation of good things to come…
Seeking joy throughout the year…
in the ordinary days,
not just dusted off at Christmas timewhere can you find YOUR joy today?
My husband and I once scurried to an out-of-state hospital to be with friends in need. Their baby girl was in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit due to some birth complications. Phone calls and fervent prayers just didn’t seem like enough in that particular situation. We felt like we needed to have boots-on-the-ground, to be physically present to give them support. Right before their infant daughter went into surgery, we gathered in a loose circle and offered up our prayers. We prayed for the surgeons to be guided well, for the baby to be stable throughout the procedure, and for our dear friends to be surrounded in peace…that a wave of peace cover them during this tender time.
The surgery went exceedingly well. Their precious daughter was discharged shortly thereafter and our friends were able to return home with her snugly in their arms.
Several months later when our families got together, we rehashed those heart-wrenching moments and were able to laugh about our prayer being misheard as “swirled peas.” Our friend added that his “wave of peace“ felt a lot like nausea.
Now, whenever we have a prayer request, we do take it seriously and commit it to the Lord. But we also can look at each other and pray for “swirled peas.” Sometimes a hint of humor can make the serious situations just a little more manageable. If it gives us a bit more strength to endure a difficult time, then that is healing, too.
“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11
When my son was 4, his definition of patience was “waiting my turn.” Kids get a lot of practice with this at school, at home, at church, and on the playground. The adults around them encourage and reinforce taking turns.
As adults we probably get more “practice opportunities” than we would like…waiting our turn in traffic or in the grocery store line, being on hold, listening to toddler-babble all day long, waiting for news of a loved one’s life event, or biding our time until it’s our turn for a promotion. Sometimes we even have designated places to practice patience: those chilly waiting rooms outside of surgical suites and doctors’ offices–where time becomes squishy with an unusual mixture of uncertainty and hope. All these practices without a designated coach…it can get a little tricky with all of us out there trying to make the big play yet committing countless fouls in the process. This road to Patience is bumpy.
I asked Siri for a definition of Patience. In her all-knowing tone, she told me that having patience is to “remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people.” Geez! It’s probably good that we don’t have visible cartoon thought bubbles broadcasting how we reealllly feel in these daily situations of stress. Misplaced keys, a cracked phone screen, getting cut off in traffic…we face frustrations each and every day hour. How we respond to these hassles reflects upon how deep our level of patience is and how quickly we can tap into it. And all of us know that our darling children are watching, always watching.
Somehow the “big” trials seem to ramp up my patience and I churn out the calm vibes at warp speed. On the other hand, those little daily hassles can trip me up. Running late can zap my patience with my kids super fast. Those last five minutes exiting the house can be quite dicey as I’m calling out reminders in my not-so-calm voice: “grab-your-jacket! Got-your-water-bottle-for-practice?Remember-we-have-your-music-lesson-right-after-school-so-bring-your-instrument-now-so-it-will-be-in-the-car-later.Did-you-turn-off-the-lights?Your-shoes-are-in-the-family-room-where-you-left-them.Come-on-we’re-runninglate.Put-the-sword-down.Don’t-forget-your-backup-soccer-jersey.Get-out-of-the-fridge-we-don’t-have-time-for-a-snack.Oh-and-bring-out-the-trash-as-you-come-please“…[just insert all those “Mommy messages” here because it’s exhausting reliving those moments; oh, and remember to add “please” at the end of the monologue–gotta keep it “nice”–ha!] Needless to say, countless apologies have been made in the car as we’re scurrying to a soccer game, violin lesson, or (gasp!) even to church.
To get better at patience, we probably have to know our “buttons” – our stress points. If we aren’t sure, our spouse and/or children will be able to provide us with some quick insights. (ouch!) Patience can be quite a strength if we practice and build up our ability to use it consistently and effectively. Maybe one way to “bulk up” our patience is to spend a little time trying to deepen our sense of calm.
I have a friend that loves to color. It’s soothing and helps ground her. After a coloring session, she has more mental clarity and is more prepared to tackle her next challenge. Coloring books for adults are now marketed everywhere, so go for it! It’s not just for kindergarteners anymore; it’s “socially acceptable” for grownups!
Another friend of mine likes to bake.
I tend to find myself cleaning out closets or my car just to have a sense of control over something tangible when life circumstances are off-kilter.
For others, taking a walk to burn off nervous energy might help restore calmness.
Perhaps in the heat of the moment, you’re a “count to 10” person…or a “3 deep breaths” type?
The beauty of being unique individuals is that we can each have a different arsenal of responses to any given situation. Whatever flavor of calmness technique you adopt, it probably works best if it “fits” and feels natural to you.
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience.” Proverb 19:11
Patience may be one of the Fruits of the Spirit that we need more time to develop. It’s about being patient, not doing patient. It’s not a one-time “I’ve got it!” experience either. It’s an on-going process that we continually have to reboot. Patience is tough. It keeps us on our toes. As with many things that are difficult, though, it is so worth it. Just wait, and you’ll see.
We celebrate many anniversary events in our lives. Often what is unspoken are our anniversaries of loss. We all have them, yet we typically don’t collectively mark the occasion. Sometimes the emotional attachments are so poignant and intense it seems too difficult. Yet if we share just a bit, even a funny story…perhaps our grief feels a little lighter and our loved one is tucked into our heart memory just a little more snugly.
Today we take a moment to remember our mother-in-law, Kitty. It’s been six years — a speck of time in the grand scheme of things yet so long in a family’s history.
Rather than dwell on all that she’s missed, we remember her spirit at family events. She was ALL IN. She loved the chaos of little boys running all over, digging in sandpiles and leaving their handprints all over her windows. She relished those grubby little bodies crawling into her lap and reading with her. She instilled a love of reading into all of her grandboys. I have fond memories of our firstborn backing up with an armload of books, landing topsy-turvy upon her and being caught with love. She’d exclaim, “Whew!” and they were off, diving into reading adventures together.
She loved well. We strive to pass on her legacy well.
We pray and hope that each of you are able to reflect and share special moments of your loved ones with those around you. Relive a funny story together. Look through old vacation albums or family reunion pictures. Remembrance is an honor and weaves a deeper texture to your family tapestry.
“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” — remember that moment in Steel Magnolias? It’s such a great example of the tenacity of the human spirit.
When we come together, we are stronger.
(…and surely that increases the odds someone has Kleenex!)
“a time to weep and a time to laugh…” Ecclesiastes 3:4
A couple weeks ago I found a small pathetic-looking amaryllis bulb planter waiting to be claimed in the clearance aisle. The earthy bulb was trapped inside its packaging, yet trying to grow anyway. It had pushed against the paper sack so hard the stalk was bent and forlorn. I adopted it out of a mixture of pity and curiosity. My son helped me plant it when we got home, both of us a bit skeptical when we saw how bent and stunted the stalk was.
“Will it straighten up?” became a common dinner conversation. There were bets on when the stalk would straighten up strong and tall so that it could support its notoriously large bloom. We were all wrong: the stalk remained firmly bent over and remained height-challenged. The bloom, however, was determined.
What had been a dilapidated little plant the week before, turned into a gorgeous bloom…or dare I admit threeblooms all squished into one beautiful burst of color. Quite lovely. We just had to wait for it to blossom in its own way.
Similarly, God waits for us to grow in Him and blossom in our own unique way.
“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18
Life is indeed a waiting game. Our patience is tested with our growth process. Some of us are early bloomers while others are late bloomers. We may have to wait a little longer than we’d like for an answer to prayer or a specific direction for our lives. We are not alone; God is waiting with us.
Many of the Fruits of the Spirit seem to be qualities we get to experience or savor. Patience is more like a discipline. It requires some intention, having a “game plan” when something goes awry. Many things push at us and box us in. We bend under the weight of all types of stress, but do not break. We often grow in unexpected ways. God is betting on us to be strong and tall in the face of our challenges.
We’ve each tried different menu plans over the years. We’d like to share what works for us…most of the time. I know for me personally that the days I have “a dinner plan” go more smoothly because I can focus my energies elsewhere and tackle the dinner preparations with my designated helper when it’s time to hit the kitchen in the evening.
Menu board ideas are all over Pinterest. I adapted my own a few years ago by combining what appealed to me: flexibility, easy-to-use, and able to be quickly updated for the season.
I used a 12 x 12 scrapbook frame that holds up to 25 pages of paper:
I loaded it up with scrapbook paper for seasonal background color.
I used glue dots to affix tabs for days of the week and mini clothespins to hold menu items. This could be simplified further by using clothespins or mini chalkboards that have days of the week already labeled.
— alphabet stickers for the title: What’s for Dinner??
— a line of ribbon for color
— two mesh index card holders with small chalkboards labeled Entrees and Sides
— cork board attached by spray adhesive; this area gives you a place for extra food cards or new recipe ideas
I made pockets out of folded index cards to hold individual menu items, loosely organized by food group categories. **Adding the page number and name of cookbook for specific recipes is helpful to you later!
In each category pocket, there is a card with a specific food item. Some have been personalized by the family member that made the card or who is the “author” of the dish.
My kids take turns being my dinner helper. When we are discussing the menu plan for the week, they each get to pick what they would like to help make for dinner on their helper night. This helps their motivation tremendously!
I encourage them to choose an entree and two sides. Since there is only one card for each item, this is an easy way to get a variety of fruits and veggies throughout the week.
When I began this project I used paint chips to add a splash of color. I now have blank index cards pre-cut into strips to make additional labels as needed.
Start with your favorite foods and add as you go.
Although I’ve been using this system for years and making a grocery list each week, I just recently had the insight to keep track of weekly menus that have worked for us to use again in the future. #duh!
It takes a bit more time to make a menu plan and coordinated grocery list, but I think it will be worth it next month when I can pull out a weekly menu and head right to the store! I even did myself a favor and grouped the shopping list according to sections of the grocery store (produce, meat, dairy, frozen, canned/dry goods) and made a copy to use as a checklist, keeping the original in a menu planning binder.
You can personalize your menu board however you like. Pick the basic elements and streamline to your family’s needs. You can make it as simple or sophisticated as you want.
Give yourself a break and include cards for “Take out,” “Dinner Out” and “Scrap Night” (aka: Leftovers) as well as some simple themes such as “Soup & Sandwich Night” and “Pizza Night.” Adapt what works for you and your family now. You can always tweak it later.
I’m off to “test” my shopping list with 3 boys…I may rip my list in sections and challenge them to see who can locate all their items first. Since I’ve drug them to the store provided them with ample shopping opportunities before, they know to search for store brands and sales items first. They may grumble a bit now, but their future college roommates will be impressed with their grocery skills, right?
“So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” I Timothy 6:8
Yes, menu planning is a chore. It does take time and effort. Every once in a while I need a reboot. When I freshen things up, I get a little more enthusiasm behind the process.