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

The value of a moment

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Sometimes you don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
~Dr. Seuss

Wow. Talk about a huge FAIL. Carol challenged me to a 3 Quote Challenge back in November. I got one in on Nov. 22 and then………oops. So, here is my second quote post. In my defense, I did mention I probably wouldn’t post consecutive days. 🙂

These two shots capture why I drive everyone insane taking photos. Entrepreneur rolls his eyes and others drag their feet when I mention “family photo time.” But let them gripe and complain. I think it’s important to capture as much as possible as often as possible. Most of those complaining are under the age of 35, so they haven’t hit that time in their life when looking back is just as important as looking ahead.

Precious memories. That’s what looking back provides. And that’s all they are now….memories. So often, we’re so caught up in life’s stresses and interruptions that we fail to really take in those fleeting moments. Photos capture those times when we, perhaps, were too busy to notice or care.

It’s only when your children are grown and gone that photos from their childhood take on a newfound importance.

It’s only when your spouse is no longer with you that those photos become cherished memories of a life together.

It’s only when you’ve had to say goodbye to those that now wait at the Rainbow Bridge that you realize how special those muddy paws were on your clean floor.

No, we rarely realize the value of a moment until it’s past and all that remains is a memory.

So, as we all enter the holiday season…get those cameras ready!

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

Sunshine and Grey Skies

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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.

 

 

That kind of woman

As if fashion magazines weren’t detrimental enough.

It’s common knowledge we, as women, feel more inadequate after viewing “women’s magazines” that are supposed to be targeted to us. Ridiculously thin, gorgeous models and unrealistic beauty expectations can make even the most confident woman shudder with self-doubt.

But if you really want to feel inadequate, read Proverbs 31. This is Super Woman, personified. And I wonder just exactly who was the inspiration for such praise? Because she doesn’t sound like anyone I know. And certainly not me.

Before we collectively throw up our hands in despair, know this….. the Proverbs 31 woman does not literally exist.

Nope. Never has, never will. Sure, there are those who may have come close, but they are few and far between. The majority of us will never evolve into this dream woman.

And that’s okay.

It’s speculated that King Lemuel may be King Solomon, which makes the person giving advice none other than Queen Mother, Bathsheba, wife of King David. A woman who knows a thing or two about what sort of wife a king might need by his side.

It’s also speculated the Proverbs 31 woman is most likely a combination of many women. She is the personification of years of wisdom…not a literal checklist to determine a woman’s worth. Of course, we should aspire to the virtues in this passage, but reality is such that most of us will never be able to live up to all these expectations.

So stop obsessing. This is not the gold standard for women. Stop and think about the women who are considered role models in Scripture. They may surprise you.

Eve: a woman who can’t follow directions.
Sarah: a barren woman who conspires with her servant, Hagar, to give Abraham a child. Then she turns on Hagar in resentment and bitterness, and has both her and her son exiled.
Rahab: a prostitute.
Ruth: a pagen daughter-in-law and despised foreigner.
Naomi: a woman who is without husband or sons.
Esther: a woman who manipulates events to sway the odds in her favor.
Bathsheba: a woman who succumbs to adultery with King David; and after her husband is murdered, she is made queen. Years later she plots against David to make sure her son, Solomon, inherits the throne over his older brother.
Mary, mother of Jesus: an unwed, pregnant teenager.
The woman at the well: a Samaritan woman who’s had five husbands and currently living with a sixth man. She is despised in both religious and secular circles.

Not a Proverbs 31 woman (in the literal sense) in the bunch. In fact, some ‘virtues’ are seriously lacking. What is important is God used each of these women to fulfill a larger, divine plan. He used their strengths and weaknesses and equipped them to be women he wanted at that given point in time.

I read Proverbs 31:10-31 and can’t help but feel I don’t measure up. When that happens, I have to remind myself that even though I’m seriously flawed, in Christ, I’m accepted, free from condemnation and can never be separated from God.

I’m a work in progress….just like all the other women listed above. But, the one thing that ties us all together can be found at Proverbs 31:30.

Proverbs 31

Playing along with those at 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

Quotography & LTTL: Smile

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A smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect.
It means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.
~Unknown

We all know them. The people who seem happy and smile all the time. Irritating, aren’t they? They’re the ones who see the glass half full. They trade in their lemons for limes and make mojitos. Regardless of what happens in their life, they try and look for the positive side of every situation. Or, at least they look for alternatives that might make their future better. They smile.

We all know them. The people who seem unhappy all the time. Irritating, aren’t they? They are the ones who see the glass as half empty….and it’s always someone else’s fault that their happiness was poured out. They seem lost in their misery and are consumed with the life they could have had if only…..…They dwell in the past and are reluctant to change any mindset/actions that would help them create a different future. They seem to be perpetually contentious and argumentative.

Which are you?

Me? Probably a little of both but would like to be more like the first group….as irritating as they are. I believe the secret in living this sort of life is to concentrate on being grateful for what I do have in my life at any given point in time. If I’m always consumed by what my life coulda, woulda, shoulda been, I completely miss what I’m being given today to appreciate. When I rewire my brain to notice the things I’ve been graciously given, even the little things are seen from a totally different perspective.

But that rewiring is difficult, isn’t it? Especially when we’re surrounded by reminders of what we’re missing; what achievements others are enjoying; what we don’t have in our lives. If you are not constantly reminded of that, then you probably don’t have a Facebook page.

So if you see me smiling, know my life is far from perfect. My home is organized chaos all. the. time. At any given point in time, my children and/or grandchildren are causing me stress. Know there are a numbers of situations and circumstances that are far from what I envisioned them to be a few years ago. Bad things happen in the blink of an eye. And you can rest assured that if I was in charge, many things would be vastly different.

But I’m not in charge. Oh, yes, I can have an impact on situations with the choices and decisions I make. And, I’m totally in charge of how I respond to any given situation. In reality, the only thing I’m really in charge of is whether to smile…..or not. 🙂

Linking up with Simply Living Photography LTTL.