One Word for 2017

This ended up being a long post, so grab a cuppa and get comfy. I hope to see you all at the end.

Back in 2015 I started choosing One Word for the new year instead of those pesky resolutions that are always broken before the snow thaws in the spring. In 2015 Entrepreneur was facing a cancer diagnosis and my One Word was Fearless (fear less). I believe it helped me focus during that time and continues to be a reminder today.

In 2016, my One Word was Present. I wanted to focus on trying to be more engaged in life, physically, instead of living vicariously through today’s social-media-technology-addicted world. Did I succeed? Overall, I’d say I had mixed results. I did really make an effort to not be obsessed with my phone at the expense of enjoying the moment. Some days were very successful…some were colossal FAILS. But it did make me realize just how easy it is to get sucked into living a virtual life instead of a real one. Last year helped me try and find a balance and use social media more sparingly. Plus, taking care of grandchildren doesn’t lend itself to distractions! In fact, I found myself so present in their well being, work and teaching that a lot of other things took a back seat….like blogging. Which also explains why this post is more than two weeks late.

This year, my One Word is Joy.

I’ve become painfully aware that, while I enjoy a lot of activities and have had many happy moments, a deep feeling of Joy is something that has been elusive the past few years.

Most people would define Joy as feeling extremely happy or something that gives great pleasure. But I think I disagree. Happiness and pleasure are temporary…and most of the time they’re dependent on external influences. Once the source of the happiness is gone, then what? I tend to go in search of the next happy or pleasurable moment. So my life becomes a string of happy/pleasurable experiences…or not.

No, I think Joy is something completely different. To quote CS Lewis,

Joy, must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.

And, oh baby, is it ever hard to find Joy in the world today. That is, if Joy is defined as something tangible and measurable. And, who doesn’t equate Joy with the feeling of satisfaction and happiness when our world is all good? But, what happens when our world falls apart? What happens when we suffer bitter disappointment, unbearable loss or extreme suffering? But, let’s not be so fatalistic. What about the days when those technology devices we are addicted to don’t work seamlessly? What about when the basement floods or the (pick an appliance) breaks? What about when, after picking up after a toddler, we turn around to feel like a tornado went through the house right behind us? What about the never-ending stress of worrying about your children’s welfare? We certainly are not happy campers during those times. How is it possible to still feel Joy when it seems as though Life’s purpose is to exhaust us into submission?

I suppose it depends on your worldview. Happy and pleasurable moments come and go. If I base my mental well-being on only the things that go right in my world I’m probably not going to be very enjoyable to be around much of the time.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
~James 1:2-3

So easy to say, so hard to live. Many times I wish God would not test my faith so much.

If I base Joy on having a worry-free, prosperity-filled life….well, let’s just say I’m setting myself up for an epic FAIL. No, I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

My goal this year is to be more aware of when Joy speaks to me; to pay more attention to my inner voice so I’m not distracted by the temporary elation of pleasure and happy moments when everything is going my way; to be able to feel calm amidst the irritations, inconveniences and injustices of this life.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13

And just to begin this journey with a positive attitude, here’s a photo of a recent instance where Joy made an appearance.

meridia-sunset
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
~Psalm 16:11

Dear Younger Me

If I knew then what I know now…….how often have we said that? Or, I’d go back if I could take the brain I have now with me.

Do you ever wonder how different life would be if your younger, more stupid self had been sent a letter by your older, much wiser self?

We’d be able to see what younger self was about to do and warn them, Hey dumb-@$$, don’t do what you’re thinking about doing or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. How awesome would that be? We could avoid a lot of pain, suffering and hardship.

And yet, all those stupid mistakes my younger self made…and the lessons learned….has molded me into who I am today. Okay, maybe I could do without some of those aspects but, on the whole, I know all those experiences happened for a reason. They all were part of a bigger plan and served to skool me in much more than academics.

lisa1976And yet…..if I could warn my younger self about life, here’s what I would say:

Dear Younger Me,

Love yourself. Regardless of what that tag on your clothing says, love the person inside those jeans. If, in your opinion, the packaging needs work, then take measures to become a  healthier me. And remember, you are more than a number on a pair of pants.

Stop being afraid to take a risk. But what if it’s a mistake? Then, it’s a mistake. The awesome thing about life is there’s always the opportunity for a do-over when the sun rises. Don’t look back when you’re 60, 70 or 100 and say, I wish I would have done…….

Life….your career, your marriage, your children….will be a roller coaster ride most of the time. Sometimes it will all feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, and other times it will feel like an out-of-control, downhill race to the finish line. And there will be those loopy-loops in the middle that make your stomach lurch. But the good and the bad serve a purpose, even if that purpose is above your pay grade at this time. So, don’t be afraid to live, laugh and love….a lot.

Don’t obsess over the small stuff….or small people. Everything from traffic lights to idiot drivers to that five cent error in the checkbook. Life is much too short to be angry or worried over these things. And, likewise about small-minded people whose mission in life is to make you feel inferior and inadequate. These are part of those character-building experiences your parents told you about.

Don’t wish away the pain. Emotional, physical, psychological. You’re going to feel all of it more than you’d like. It sounds trite, but the pain is there to teach and, if you let it, mold you into the best version of yourself. Rarely are lessons learned from the easy, good times in life. Life lessons are mainly learned through pain, heartache, struggles, challenges, devastation and loss. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is. So, embrace the pain and discover what you are supposed to learn from the experience and then move forward…not backwards.

Your faith will wax and wane like the moon. Life experiences will bring you to mountain-top epiphanies, but will also lay you flat with doubts. Through all of this, do whatever it takes to understand these are challenges designed to refine your faith and strengthen it. But even if you walk away and do unspeakable things, remember it’s never too late to turn around and come back. You are never too far gone for forgiveness and grace if you truly desire to have it. God may have just let you wander around feeling lost for a reason.

Some day it will all make sense. But, perhaps not in this life. And that’s okay. You don’t need to figure it all out. Trust that things happen for a reason and God has a specific mountain valley abyss path you need to take. Pray for guidance, and use your head and heart to make the best decisions possible. It will all get sorted out in the end.

With love,
Your Older, Much Wiser Me

And then I’d leave Younger Me with this music video.

Sharing with Life Through the Lens

LTTL & Quotography: Red

red-quotography-72
Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.
~Bill Blass

and hummingbirds….definitely hummingbirds.

I’m finally playing along again with Kelley and Quotography, and Lisa at Life Thru the Lens! Twix went down for a nap and I made the executive decision to grab the camera and go outside…specifically looking for Red.

The calendar says the first day of Autumn is later this week, but the thermometer still says it’s summer here in middle Missouri. Temps are in the upper 80sF with the heat index in the upper 90sF. Not very conducive to Autumn thinking.

The hummers were impressive this year. They buzzed around the feeders all summer and are still going strong. I figure they are beginning to migrate south and are catching a quick bite along the way. So, the feeders will stay up for a while.

I decided to take time the next couple of months for a Women’s Bible Study class on C.S. Lewis. We’re specifically talking about Mere Christianity and The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. He’s such a favorite of mine, and his story of how he walked away from Christianity and became an atheist…only to be drawn back to faith through logic and reason. Much of his writings make my brain hurt. Did you know “Jack” (as he wanted to be called) was the first Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at the University of Cambridge? That means he must have been an extremely well-read person. Good and bad, fiction or fact…he read them and gained insight, discernment and a respect for differing points of view. I may write more on Jack as the study gets further into the details of his life and writing.

But for now, I’ll just leave you with one of my hummers….just to make you smile.

Playing along with Kelley and Quotography, and sharing with Lisa at Life Thru the Lens

Sunshine and Grey Skies

quotography-sunshine72
Be someone’s sunshine when their skies are grey.
~Unknown

There are friends….and then there are Friends. You know the ones I mean.

We all have friends..well, most of us anyway. They’re the people we like to hang with, party with, spend a fun evening with; people we like to chase fun with. They are the ones who are more than willing to celebrate with us during the sunshine moments of our lives.

But friendship is much more than having a group of friends that are fun to be around, or lumping large quantities of acquaintances into a category….contrary to what Facebook would have us believe.

While I have lots of acquaintances, my circle of friends is much smaller. These are the ones who, of course, celebrate sunshine moments….but are first in line when life turns into those gray, Eeyore-ish days. They are the ones who go out of their way to bring joy…and sometimes they don’t even realize it.

One such friend, I’ll call her K, shared with me some iris and rose campion plants when she cleaned out a flower bed last summer. A small gesture of friendship. I accepted the dirty bundles and stuck them in a landscaping problem area where I’ve not been successful, not expecting much to happen. In other words, I forgot about them.

Winter was long and spring has been a bit unsettled for me, mentally and emotionally. The past few months have been challenging, and the last few weeks have left me exhausted on all fronts. My month of May-hem has been true to form.

So imagine my surprise when, one warm spring day, I rounded the corner of the house and saw no less than 10 irises in full bloom, with more on the way. The rose campion plants had taken hold and doubled in size from the scraggly tufts I’d planted in the fall.

And I felt joy. Perhaps for the first time in a very long time. Who would have thought a simple thing like an iris bloom could be an attitude changer?

And the juxtaposition of haphazardly planting these flowers in an area where nothing had successfully grown well in the past (except weeds) did not go unnoticed. Because that’s the beauty of real friendship.

They’re the people in our lives who accept the challenge of being there to offer joy to the problem areas of our lives. They cultivate understanding with grace. They are always there, willing to provide a shoulder on which to cry; an extended hand to pull us up from the abyss; a reassuring embrace that somehow makes us think we can make it through. And the beauty they give to our lives can be an attitude changer.

I am blessed with more than one of these types of friends. They are the women who have stuck with me through many seasons of life. I celebrate in the sunshine with them….and know they will always be there when my skies cloud up and become gray. They know my  strengths and weaknesses. They know my heart.

They are my sunshine.

Playing along with Kelly’s Quotography at The Road Goes Ever On and Lisa’s Life Through the Lens at Simply Living Photography.

 

 

I blinked and March was gone

March 2016
In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.
~Mark Twain

I have no idea how this  happened. One day it was mid-March and the next day it is mid-April. March seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye. In short, March was a blur. Spring began and I think I missed it.

I remember thrilling at the sight of daffodil blooms. I remember dreary, wet days of rain. Mom Nature teased with days in the 60F and when we got used to that, she plummeted the temps to a high of 40F.

I vaguely remember frantically trying to tie up loose ends with my class and work before spring break. Since The Recruiter wasn’t able to get off work for a week, Entrepreneur and I volunteered to drive the grand girls to Alabama to see their dad, hang around the area for a week and then bring them back home. This was Twix’s first time away from her familiar routine and surroundings and we weren’t sure how she would fare.

Re-entry after break was rough. Both girls came home sick, which was evidently passed to me during the 13-hour car ride back to middle Missouri. Sunday began one of the worst sore throats I can remember….prompting me to [gasp] go to the doctor a few days later. Twix is still fighting a cold, and thankfully it has not turned into anything worse. Behaviors in the 8-and-under crowd have been as volatile as the weather, which has not been conducive to making this Nana Nanny feel better.

The garden sits unattended with a partial fence built to keep out the critters. The spring booms are admired from afar as I don’t have the desire to fight the 20mph wind to go outside. And I honestly don’t know where the hours go in the day. Oh…wait…there’s a two year old in the house… who just announced she took the batteries out of the television remote. Ahhh…..now, I remember.

So, now it’s April?

Playing along with Quotography and Life Through the Lens

Reminds me there’s time to change

cuppa72Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair
Hey, hey, hey, hey
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there’s time to change
Hey, hey, hey, hey
~Drops of Jupiter by Train

 It’s been an interesting 30 days. The mug in the photo above has sat, untouched, in my cabinet for more than a month. A lovely gift from a kindred spirit who knows me well. It’s not that I don’t like it….I do…in fact, I love it.

But….I have not felt like an amazing woman lately. And every time I look at that mug, I cringed with the hypocrisy I’ve felt. The last 30 days have taken me down an unplanned archeological dig of self-reflection and discovery, and I wasn’t happy with what was unearthed.

While excavating my character, I tripped over more than a few boulders and fell flat on my face into some deep crevices. I call them Arrogance, Pride and Selfishness. And I’m not proud of any of those accomplishments.

It was an oh-so-easy slide down that slippery slope. Looking back, evidently, there was no resistance on my part. My brain did a masterful job fabricating justifications that glossed over reality and blinded me to the person I had come to be. The odd thing is, I hadn’t considered myself all that flawed. Guess that should have been the first red flag.

Sometimes, God has a funny way of getting our attention. His expectations are clear and his bar is set high…but he does realize he deals with fallen creatures that tend to turn a deaf ear to most of his instructions. Fortunately, he dealt with me on a personal level to not-so-subtly reveal these things to my heart. And to say it’s been a humbling experience is an understatement.

[Repentance] means unlearning all the self-conceit and self -will that we have been training ourselves into… It means killing part of yourself, under-going a kind of death. ~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

With those horrific realizations…and it was a horrible feeling when I finally owned up to them in my heart….my spirit broke. I felt very unworthy and ashamed at many of my actions, mindsets and decisions. I vowed to change, begged for mercy and  for divine help in reinventing my character.

And, although, this was a very painful experience and I’ve felt lower than an earthworm, I’m so very thankful it happened. I’m also thankful God, in his infinite mercy, decided to discipline me with grace. And that realization has not been lost on me. I deserved none of it.

The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us. ~C.S. Lewis

The mug is slowly coming front and center…not as an arrogant, narcissistic statement, but as a reminder that, with Christ’s mercy and grace, I can work towards becoming a godly woman; one that will be able to extend mercy and grace to others in the future. I also realized I can’t be a blessing to anyone while I’m beating myself up. So, as of today, I will try and put aside the personal and focus on others.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. ~Philippians 2:3-4

More than anything, I want to possess authentic Christianity, and for it to be evident….with words, or without. I know I’m a work in progress, and I will fail many more times before I leave this world. But, because of this experience, a veil has been lifted and I believe in moving forward, I’ll succeed in reinventing myself….again.

Participating today with lovely people in Songography

And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you’ll know by.

Twix-two 72

And you, of the tender years can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well, their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
~Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Teach Your Children

Twix monitoredTwix is TWO! It just doesn’t seem possible that just two short years ago she made her debut….right before a winter storm blanketed the area with seven inches of snow. Three weeks early, she gave us all a bit of a scare but to look at her now, you’d never know she had a bit of a rough start.

And now….now she’s perpetual motion and a non-stop talker! And, I’m not so sure she won’t surpass her sister in resourcefulness and intelligence. Noooooo, I’m not partial in any way. 🙂 And, I fully realize every grandparent believes their grandbabykins to be precocious. We have two pocket rockets and they show no signs of slowing down.

I think I’ve got this grandparent thing down pretty well. It does help when you’re immersed in the role 24/7 because they’re under roof. I felt fortunate when Peanut lived with us for the first two years of her life. Now, I feel doubly blessed to have the same bond with Twix. When she tugs on my hand and says, “C’mon Nana,” my heart melts. I never experienced that closeness with my grandparents…they were those old people we visited a couple times a year. I never really had the chance to become what I consider “close.” Fortunately, our children have had many opportunities to get to know their grandparents. As a grandparent now, I understand the emotions and feelings that go along with that title.

Ours is an unconventional arrangement, and Entrepreneur and I have yet to experience much of an empty nest. Life’s circumstances have brought our children back home for various reasons. We’re fortunate to have had the means to help their circumstances and provide stability in their lives, and have enjoyed many unexpected blessings in return. The Investigator’s current situation will be changing in the foreseeable future and we’ll all, once again, be adjusting.

But back to two-year-old Twix. Her discoveries, vocabulary and abilities amaze me on a weekly basis. And we are definitely in the throws of the “terrible twos” where redirection can cause emotional eruptions of epic proportions. “Me do it” is a common mantra, and she definitely has a little, mischievous sense of humor. But for all the challenges that come with being two, Twix is a joy to be around.

Helping raise this second generation has been an emotional roller coaster. I’m sure, at times, Peanut and Twix think they have too many parents. We’re blessed to be allowed to watch, first hand, these precious grandchildren discover, learn and grow. And I’m not sure I would trade this experience for all the empty nest perks in the world.

Today, as we celebrate Twix’s birthday, we listen to her run around the house chanting “happy birthday,” and are reminded how unpredictable life is….and how “failed” plans can turn out to be the biggest of blessings.

Happy Birth Day Twix!

two Twix

Linking up with Songography and LTTL