Might have been bad timing….or not?

Can you believe I chose “Joy” as my One Word for 2017?

Joy. Really?

When I picked this word back in January, my crystal ball was evidently malfunctioning. For who in their right mind would choose Joy knowing their husband would be facing brain surgery in a month and a half? How in the world is one to be able to pay attention to Joy in the middle of crisis and chaos?

I had good intentions choosing Joy for my word this year. Yep, those good intentions were to try to see moments of Joy around me. But it’s oh so much easier to notice Joy when life is beautifully smooth, isn’t it?

Joy seems more elusive when we’re weary with one challenge after another. It’s hard to see the Joy in life when we’re up to our eyeballs in worry and anxiety. Choose Joy is a phrase batted around by those trying to offer help for people facing hopelessness, despair and uncertainty. Like “choosing” joy is as easy as choosing which pair of shoes to wear…or choosing what to order for dinner.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34

Isn’t that the truth.

Back in January, it was so easy to write that Joy doesn’t come from a worry-free, prosperity-filled life. In a more self-reflective moment, I wrote this:

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.

Very profound if I do say so myself. I just don’t know how well I’m doing in this department while in the middle of these “circumstances,” which are hard and more than little overwhelming at times. Left on my own, I don’t feel anything has settled in my heart except mental exhaustion, much less peace and strength.

But there I go again, confusing Joy with Happiness.

I have discovered my hindsight is working fairly well. In hindsight, I’m thankful for the flu. Yes, you heard correctly. I got the flu the Sunday before we were to leave on vacay. By Thursday, Entrepreneur was showing the first signs of it. A flu headache, coupled with the headache he already was experiencing is was drove us to the ER…and to the discovery of the cancer mass.

As terrifying as this event has been, in hindsight, I see it did provide opportunities to repair some family rifts, and opened up heartfelt conversations that otherwise might not have happened. I suppose there are things to be thankful for in the middle of chaos. Focusing on being grateful can result in experiencing Joy.

So, even though 2017 has not started the way I’d hoped, I am going to try and feel those moments of Joy in the middle of chaos and confusion by focusing on being thankful and grateful.

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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.

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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

Songography and LTTL: Desperado

Songography-Eagles 72

Desperado
Why don’t you come to your senses?
You been out ridin’ fences
For so long now
Oh, you’re a hard one
But I know that you’ve got your reasons
These things that are pleasin’ you
Can hurt you somehow

Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy
She’ll beat you if she’s able
You know, the queen of hearts is always your best bet
Now, it seems to me some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get
Desperado
~Desperado, written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the passing of Eagles co-founder, Glenn Frey. I was introduced to the Eagles’ music at the tender age of 14 years and listened to them well into my twenties. Of course, their songs will live forever on classic rock stations. Like so many other iconic bands, their songs are woven into the fabric of our culture’s music, and will endure for generations to come. For sure, their genre will outlast some of today’s music trends.

For songography, I chose lyrics from Desperado. On the surface you may envision a hardened man who lives the rough life of a Wild West Outlaw. A man who is running from love and commitment. I’ve always read into the lyrics the message of desperation (desperado, get it?) and confusion about life and how difficult it is to recognize the direction to go in order to achieve lasting happiness. All too often we chase after the “pleasures” of this world and find that, in the end, they are nothing but empty promises. We tend to overlook the blessings we’ve been given in lieu of chasing after shiny, new things that catch our eye. We want to chase after the Queen of Diamonds and her tempting promises of fame, fortune, status, prestige and wealth instead of focusing on the Queen of Hearts who offers loving relationships that will outlast any bank account or title.

From Take It Easy to Hotel California, the Eagles became synonymous with those intense, self-indulgent teenage years of the 70s, along with Bob Segar, Journey, The Beach Boys, Bad Company, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Credence Clearwater Revival just to name a few. Like any other band, they had moments of brilliance, mediocrity and downright trash. But for many baby boomers, they were part of the music scene that defined a generation.

Linking up with Songography and LTTL

Photo Blogging Challenge: Happy

photo blog challenge

PJ over at A ‘lil’HooHaa’s photo blogging theme this month is Happy. This should have been an easy prompt with photo opps for birthdays and family reunion events….but I struggled with this one. I’ve discovered being happy is a conscious decision most of the time. All you have to do is flip on the TV, listen to the radio or spend time in social media to become overwhelmed with all the sadness in the world. Sometimes finding things to be happy about can be a struggle. And when personal situations are less than ideal, it’s a quick descent into the abyss of depression and resentment. It’s easy to play the blame game when we’re not happy with our lives. Truth is, that’s just the way life rolls. But, we can choose what thoughts fill our minds. We can choose how to respond to challenges. We can choose to try to help others find something to be happy about in their lives.

Lately, I haven’t felt very happy. Our schedule, while filled with family fun events, has left me exhausted. Entrepreneur just had another round of CT scans to determine whether the kidney cancer from late last year has spread. Results pending. Helping raise a perpetual motion toddler and first grader is both wonderful and exhausting. Other life stressors have crept in to steal away more peace of mind. Work ebbs and flows, which becomes a roller coaster in itself.

So, what makes me happy? When I stop and make a list, I realize there are a number of things that make me happy if I will simply stop my pity party and pay attention. Here are five.

#1 Happy Children: Twix discovered sidewalk chalk. Up until now, we’ve limited Twix’s interaction with sidewalk chalk because she had a habit of trying to eat it. When we finally gave her a stick and showed her what to do with it…..the grin went from ear to ear. She quickly learned the word, chalk, and yells forcefully mentions it every time she’s outside. Chalk, chalk, chalk, chalk, chalk…….
Happy-chalk

#2 Happ(ier) kitty: Remember a couple months ago when Midget was on her last legs? And I was giving subcutaneous IV fluid infusions? We’d written her off as not long for this world when the vet said an old country vet told her to never give up on a cat without trying steroids. And you know what? It worked. Her resting breathing rate went from 130 breaths/minute back down to around 40. Normal for a cat is 30 breaths/minute while resting. She’s gained back almost a pound. The only drawback is she has to endure being “pilled” every day…which doesn’t make her a happy kitty. [Update: Greenies Pill Packets are freakin’ amazing!]
Happy-Midget

#3. Happy Birth Day! Peanut celebrated her 7th birthday this month at a local gymnastics gym. With an Under the Sea with Arial party, opening her first pair of roller skates resulted in this display of happiness.
Happy-Peanut

#4. Independently Happy. Twix wants to do everything herself these days….including eating. She is mastering the fork and spoon and was delighted to try her newfound skill with a little container of yogurt. Pure joy…and one big, happy mess.
Happy-Twix

#5. Happy memories. Earlier this month, our beloved Golden Retriever, Tanner, unexpectedly died. Unknown cause but we think it may have been an aneurism, heart attack or stroke. He was only eight years old. While this is by far not a happy event, our family will cherish the memories made with him. While I miss him a lot, I have to force myself to remember all the happy times and unconditional love he so generously gave us.
Happy-Tanner

So there’s my Happy five for September. Be sure to visit PJ and see what makes everyone else happy.

Finding Contentment

orchid-contentment

Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want,
but the realization of how much you already have.
~Unknown

Contentment: being mentally and emotionally satisfied with life.

Okay, just who are those people? In this day and age of more More MORE, finding someone who is content with their life is almost impossible. We all have visions of what our lives should be like. We all have aspirations and goals. Is that really such a bad thing?

I read somewhere if we have a roof over our head and a meal on our table, we’re richer than 93% of the people in the world. If we wear a pair of shoes, we’re richer than 75% of the world’s population. On average, every household in the United States has a credit card debt of more than $16,000. Despite having iEverything and living on social media, we still feel discontented and dissatisfied.

I believe the secret is timing. When we are impatient about where our lives are in the here and now, we become less content with the here and now. We begin to compare our lives with those who we think have it better than us (thank you Facebook). We find ourselves irritable and resentful towards family and friends, not stopping to recognize, acknowledge and be grateful for what we do have. Perhaps….just perhaps we are in this very place for a specific reason. Perhaps…just perhaps if we were granted exactly what we think we need, it would be a huge mistake. Be careful what you wish for……….

Perhaps….just perhaps what we want is not what we need.

In the words of a very wise carpenter:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ~Matthew 6:25, 32-33

But back to those dreams and goals…..certainly it’s not bad to want to better ourselves, our lives and the lives of our children. We should strive to be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be and strive for excellence in all we do. We’re all blessed with a working brain and skills to achieve amazing things in our lives. Knowing when to make those moves is elusive at best. Good intentions aside, make the wrong decision just because we want something different could make our lives a lot worse.

Trust. It’s almost impossible to trust that situations and event are unfolding for a reason…despite our best efforts to change our circumstances. We worry and become disillusioned with the way things are progressing…or regressing. We want what we want…..and we want it NOW! It’s very hard to be satisfied with our current circumstances when we long for something different.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:6-7

May we all find contentment in whatever situation we find ourselves in this week, and realize just how many blessings we have already been given.

For we know assuredly that if we are faithful God will cause all things to work together for our good ~Romans 8:28

Linking up with Lisa’s Life Though the Lens and Kim’s Friday Finds

Spring finds me happy!

Happy redbud
texture by Kim Klassen: elevate 50% soft light

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln

I found spring this week! And I’m a bit late but sharing it on today’s Friday Finds over at Kim Klassen’s Café.

I saw this quote and thought, yes, that is very true. Have you ever marveled at people who are obviously at odds with the world, but are happy anyway? People who don’t let life’s detours derail them? People who make lemonade from those pucker-face lemons?

I want to be like them.

I want to be able to…despite plans that don’t go my way…be able to find the happy things about my life. I want to be able to maintain a positive attitude, despite coming in contact with people who see only the bad things that have happened in their life. I want to rise above a bad day and be thankful that I had that day to begin with.

Not going to lie…I need a lot of work in these areas.

Today I had a 5-year-old home from school with a cold, a fussy 3-month-old baby who hasn’t slept for more than 45 minutes at a time, student presentation dress rehearsal feedback to write, and, oh yeah, work correspondence to maintain. And, Entrepreneur wanted me to clean the dog kennel so he could begin/finish some major renovations when he came home.

Pick any two or three and it might have been do-able.

But Spring is here and the temps will be in the 80s next week. So, I think I’ll just pour a glass of wine, wish everyone TGIF and call it a day.

Linking up with Friday Finds
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Inside, we're all swans

ugly duckling
Textures by Nancy Claeys 0601 overlay 50%
Kim Klassen Lily, overlay 100%

It doesn’t matter if you’re born in a duck yard, so long as you are hatched from a swan’s egg!
~Hans Christian Anderson, The Ugly Duckling.

Took another new route the other day on my mid-day walk. This time I ended up by a park lake and smack into a brood of Canadian geese.

When looking for a quote to go with this shot, naturally I thought of the Hans Christian Anderson classic, The Ugly Duckling. But, since I’m fresh out of ducklings and swans, geese will have to do to illustrate my point.

I read through this children’s classic story again and was struck by how sad it really is. I found my heart breaking for the “ugly duckling” as he was mistreated and ridiculed when younger. It’s a sober reminder that life is, many times, not ideal. And there are obstacles, struggles….and yes….very nasty people around every corner whose primary goal in life is to beat us down and break our spirit.

 It felt quite glad at all the need and misfortune it had suffered, now it realized its happiness in all the splendor that surrounded it.

In the end, the ugly duckling’s miserable life was rewarded. How much different would he have been if he’d hatched in a swan’s nest with a silver spoon it his mouth, and had never known hardship? Would he be better or worse? More importantly, how would the assessment of his life have been different?

Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wings, for he did not know what to do; he was so happy, and yet not at all proud…Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

Humility, grace and appreciation. Virtues that can only be achieved by going through, and surviving trials and tribulations. The opposite of these virtues? Pride, self-admiration and conceit. Because it’s only through raging storms that we can fully appreciate sunshine and not take it for granted.

We’re all hatched from swan’s eggs. We all have the potential to be beautiful creatures, full of joy, happiness and appreciation for the life we’ve been given.

The difference is the “yard” in which we’re raised.

Linking up with Tuesday Muse and Texture Tuesday.
Tuesday Muse
Texture Tuesday