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

O is for Olive Tree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe grandeur of the oak tree.
The whispering of the pine tree.
The gracefulness of the weeping willow tree.
The glorious reds and yellows of the maple tree.

Yes, trees are one of nature’s most majestic and beautiful creations.

What about the olive tree? Have you ever wondered about its claim to fame?

Gnarled and twisted, the tree is a survivor…it grows in almost any condition and is virtually indestructible with some trees growing from root systems more than 2,000 years old. The olive tree will grow ever green in extreme heat or cold, drought or monsoon, rocky or sandy conditions. Regardless of its circumstances, the tree will thrive and produce fruit. Many times wild and cultivated olive trees are grafted together to take advantage of each other’s strengths….creating an even stronger tree.

Remarkable in its origins, the olive tree is one of those beautiful creations and symbolic in both Jewish and Christian history. It grows wild in the lands associated with biblical history. It’s fruit and oil is a dietary staple throughout the region and beyond. Noah’s dove returned with a leaf from the indestructible olive tree to confirm the flood waters were receding. Solomon sent the King of Tyre 100,000 gallons (378,533 liters) of olive oil as a gift. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus spent a lot of time during his ministry. Olive branches have been widely used since the time of Julius Cesar to symbolize peace.

We can learn a valuable life lesson from the olive tree; we should remain as steadfast as the olive tree and thrive no matter what circumstances we endure in life.

But there is another lesson to learn. The olive tree is symbolic of God’s people. The olive tree represents the covenant between God and his children. A covenant that is indestructible and can survive through any circumstance. The root system of this covenant is God’s Word….strong and life-giving. The natural branches symbolize Israel and the Jewish faith. The grafted branches are Gentile Christians that have been added to the trunk to enjoy being part of the established tree. The two types of branches don’t symbolize two different trees….the plant is one tree that feeds from the same root system. It’s through God’s covenant with Israel that we as Christians enjoy the promises of grace, forgiveness and salvation through Jesus. Christians need to understand their Hebrew roots and realize the Old Testament is the foundation for everything we hold dear.

Linking up with ABC Wednesday
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