Houseplants – Day 45

I love houseplants.  Houseplants take a normal average room and turn in to a cozy little fresh air sanctuary.  Houseplants make things a little better and a little brighter, just by being around.

This time last year my husband went on a houseplant shopping spree and brought home several interesting and incredible plants.  Most have fared really well in our sunny little living room and others have taken a ride on the struggle bus.  Either way, it’s been fun to watch them grow and change and brighten our space.

Last night, as I was struggling to settle in for bed, I walked around the house for a bit and just looked at each of the plants.  There were a few that had some leaves turning brown, some that needed to be turned so that the other side could face the sun for a while, a few that seemed to be weighed down by vines hanging too long and still others that appear to be outgrowing their space.

As I was looking at each of the different conditions, I couldn’t help but make application to my own life.  You see, those plants that have a few brown leaves are not withering up and dying but they do have some leaves that need to be clipped and discarded.  The plants that need to be turned aren’t dying either, they just need an adjustment to how they are sitting and receiving the sun.  Same goes for the ones outgrowing their space, they just need to be transferred to a different pot or moved to a new location and they will be fine.  What about the ones with vines hanging too long, blessed by growth but weighed down by it as well?  They just need a few clippings removed and because those clippings are healthy they can be placed in a glass of water and left to sprout roots – leading to new plant life!

If I take a lesson from the plants, then I learn that periodically I need to evaluate my life and when I find habits, activities or even responsibilities that don’t serve me and my family well, then much like the little brown leaves, I might need to clip them off and let them go.  When I find that I’m discontent or my growth is stunted, maybe I need to change my surroundings or look at where I’m spending my time and determine what move needs to be made to land me in an environment where I can be pushed to grow and flourish.  When seasons in life push me to a place of new growth and depth with God, much like the plants with vines hanging long, I need to make sure that I use that new growth to help others become rooted in their faith and encourage new growth in them as well.

Houseplants are wonderful – and who knew they could teach us such valuable lessons? As you navigate this season of “sheltering at home” and “social distancing” what lessons have you learned?  Have you evaluated your life and taken in to consideration those areas that might need to change?  Maybe you need to let a few things go or maybe you need to make some adjustments so that you can grow and be the best YOU that you can be.  Maybe you need to take a deep breath and find a way to share your growth with others!  Whatever it is, I encourage you to take some time before things return to “normal” and look at your life like a houseplant – I promise they are excellent teachers.

Rainy Days – Day 44

I’ll admit it – I’m one of the crazy ones!  I love a rainy day!  We’re not talking about excess here, I wouldn’t want to live where it rains every day and is cloudy all of the time, but I do love the occasional rainy day.  I think it goes back to my childhood on the farm and memories that a rainy day stirs up.  Life on the farm was pretty busy but when it rained, things slowed down just a little.  They didn’t come to a halt, they just moved a little slower and brought us all together in the house a little longer.

Some of my best memories are from rainy days on the front porch sitting beside my daddy as he would hum and whittle and watch it rain.   I would curl up in a blanket in a lawn chair beside him, watch the rain move across the pasture and just soak it all up.  It makes my heart warm just thinking about it.  Rainy days can be good days, they can  be blanket forts in the living room days, card games around the table days or curl up with a good book days!

What are some of your favorite memories of rainy days?  How can you make the next one special?  Share them with me – I’d love to hear about them!  Add joy to your journey by finding the best in every day that comes along – rainy or not!

100 Beautiful Days – Day 43

My Blue Chair on the Balcony

From the blue chair on my balcony I watch the world go by.  I watch beautiful sunrises and gorgeous sunsets, I hear cars whizzing past, music playing and joggers pounding the pavement.  I take in the aroma of a freshly mowed lawn and the scent of dinner on a grill somewhere in the neighborhood.  The blue chair is my place to be and from that little seat I can take on challenges, read a good book, work, visit with family or just relax.

The world passing by the blue chair has looked a lot different lately.  Instead of cars racing by with blaring music in a hurry to get somewhere, I hear laughter and see children running down the street looking for exercise.  The little triangle field, at the bottom of the hill rarely sees visitors, but now it’s the entertainment hub for families who need a break from the house.  Moms drive up with children, unload and run circles around the field, load up and head back home.  Children roll down the grassy hill while their parents push the littlest one in the stroller nearby.  Dads show up with kites and teach the kids how to fly and couples come from out of the blue walking their dog together hand in hand.  At night, I’m struck with the silence coming from the town around me.  The crickets seem louder than ever and they are only rivaled by the volume of the birds during the day.  None of this was happening just two weeks ago.

This invisible enemy that we are fighting has brought life as we know it to a stand-still and yet in the middle of it all there are some beautiful things happening.  There are teddy bears appearing in windows, signs and banners going up in yards and Christmas lights turning back on.  What I’m seeing from my blue chair on the balcony reminds me of something out of The Andy Griffith Show or Leave it to Beaver – you know, simpler, easier times and in the middle of “social distancing” it almost feels like we’ve become socially closer.

I’m not downplaying the pain, the loss of income and loss of life– never no never would I do that.  I’m aware enough to understand that many are working longer hours, putting their lives at risk and for them life has not slowed down but is, in fact, harder than ever.  But – I’m an enneagram 9 (The Peacemaker) and empathy is number one on my Strength Finder so that means for me to survive I literally HAVE to focus on the positive.

So, from my blue chair on the balcony I’m taking note of the good things I see, and praying for the challenges.  I’m not sure what life will look like for any of us on the other side of this virus but I can guarantee it won’t be the same.  We will come out bumped and bruised facing loss and pain but I hope we also come out changed.  I hope we will remember what it felt like to slow down and focus on what really matters.  I hope we make lasting memories playing with our kids and looking our spouses in the eye.  I hope we talk on the phone and in person more and by text less. I hope we come to know our neighbors a little better and have renewed empathy and understanding in to the future.  These are a few of the things I’m hoping for myself and for our world.

From my blue chair on the balcony I’m hoping and praying for a lot of things. I’m hoping that when this is over kites will still soar, children will still laugh and couples will still walk hand in hand.  We will never forget the year of the Coronavirus but we will get through this – together – and from where I sit, that just might be the best part.

100 Beautiful Days – Day 42

Whose Voice Defines You?

Every morning I roll out of bed, throw on my clothes and fit in a quick workout.  Combined with a podcast, this routine gets my heart pumping and my attitude in check.  This morning, I was listening to one of my favorites, Jonathan David and Melissa Helser, as they talked to a group of worship pastors about the voice that defines us.  The podcast is an old one but is hands down one of my favorites and today, in the middle of this coronavirus mess – it seemed even more applicable than ever.

Over the past few weeks we’ve gone from being a work driven, non -stop, on the go society to a stay at home, shelter in place, screeching halt world.  In the blink of an eye – everything changed.  The cares we had a month ago seem trivial in the face of income loss and loss of life.  Now, we sit on the edge of our couch cushions waiting, watching and wondering when life will return to normal.

As we navigate this season of social distancing, quarantine, job loss, fear, economic collapse shortened academic year and much more – whose voice will define us?  Will it be the press conferences and news reports that we hear on TV?  Will it be the messages we receive through our social media platforms?  Will it be the feelings that surround us as we face a slower than normal schedule and days filled with waiting and concern?

For our sake, I hope that it will be the voice of our Father and the whispers of our faith that defines us.  I hope that we will be able to close our eyes amidst the mayhem and hear our Father’s voice reminding us of who He is and whose we are.  The word says that we are loved, purposed, woven in to the tapestry of all He created, made in His image, redeemed and forgiven.  He has called us by name and we are His!  I don’t know about you but that’s the stuff that I want defining me. Not headlines and news reports and labels.  Not clicks and likes and follows and shares.

If something other than our Father’s voice defines us then we will find ourselves much like Adam and Eve in the garden.  In this season of uncertainty, it could be easier than ever for our insecurities to raise their ugly heads and if we listen to any voice other than the Father then we will believe those lies.  But if we can listen to His still small voice then this difficult time can be covered with hope and faith, seasoned with beautiful acts of kindness and love and sprinkled with grace and mercy.  We can be reminded that when God’s voice is the loudest in our lives – it will calm the raging storm around us and lead us safely to the other side.

Let’s do that!  Let’s choose to let His voice define us, not just in the middle of this mess but each and every day.

100 Beautiful Days – Day 41

This is my story.  It isn’t anything fancy or extra special and I don’t tell it often.  It doesn’t hold wild tales of adventure or encompass actions that led to close calls or brushes with death, but it does reveal a great deal about me. It reveals why I am the way I am, why my faith is at the core of who I am and why I view the world a little bit differently than some.   This is my story and I want to share it with you.

When I was just four years old I became deathly ill with what would be diagnosed as Viral Encephalitis.  I had been sick for a few days with what seemed like a normal virus but instead of getting better I continued to get worse.  Soon, I was lethargic and lifeless and my parents knew my life was at risk.  I was hospitalized and became paralyzed on the right side of my body, my left lung collapsed, I was in a coma and kept alive by a breathing machine.  I remained in this condition for a few weeks and the doctors gave my parents little hope that I would survive and if I did, they were certain the swelling in my brain would likely leave me in a vegetative state.  This was the early 1970’s and while medicine has come a long way since that time, those were the days when little was known about this illness and very few options could be found.

We serve a big God though and He didn’t need the advancement of medicine or the permission of the doctors to bring about a healing like they had never seen.  He just saw a four year old child, surrounded by prayer warriors, heard the cries of a mother and father and He intervened.

I was completely restored from that illness.  The breathing machine came off, life came back to the right side of my body, I learned to walk again and soon, I resumed life as normal.

Fast forward a few years to the age of 9 and once again, the illness returned.  This bout was not as bad as the first, there was no coma, no breathing machine but the left side of my body was paralyzed and I was afraid. You see, I was older this time and I was more aware.  More aware of my condition, the reality that I could die and the knowledge that I might never walk again.  I remember being afraid to fall asleep for fear I wouldn’t wake up.  I remember wondering what my friends were doing at school and if I would ever run on the playground again, play the piano again or experience life in a normal way and I remember the looks on my parents faces.

But, in the middle of everything I also remember a peace.  You see, just before I became sick again I had come to know the Lord as my savior while attending VBS in my home church.  I was a new Christian and I was secure in my faith.  So, while I was afraid to sleep, because I thought I might die, I knew where I would go if I did.  It was a calm assurance in the middle of a raging storm and it made all the difference!

Again, we serve a mighty God and he saw fit to bring complete restoration to my body and brain and so after just a few months, I had regained the use of the left side of my body, learned to walk again and left my wheelchair in the dust! 

I spent much of my adult life feeling guilty for having been sick, the stress it must have caused for my parents, the sacrifices my older siblings had to make and the difficulties they must have faced.  It was only a few years ago that God actually set me free from those feelings and taught me that I needed to extend grace to myself, not just to others.  Now, I try daily to give myself grace and not take myself too seriously.

So, what does any of this have to do with who I am today?  Well, just about everything!  Because I know what it feels like to close your eyes and wonder if you will see another day, I try not to take a single day for granted – that doesn’t mean I don’t, but I really try not to! I don’t like wasting time in pursuit of meaningless endeavors, I don’t want to spend time being angry or unhappy, I love going on grand adventures, I never ever want to be in a hurry and I don’t want to miss any opportunity to show God’s love.

Because I know what it feels like to sit in a wheelchair, unable to get out on your own, I smile every morning when I swing my feet off the side of the bed and stand up, ready for a new day.  It’s a gift, and I don’t take it lightly.  I also have a deep understanding of that helpless feeling and as a result I find that I am drawn to the wheelchair bound and they have a special place in my heart.

I’m 49 now and I find that my body hurts a little more than it once did.  Some days I’m tempted to complain but then I remember how fortunate I am and do my best to keep my attitude in check.  Because there was a time when I didn’t think I would see my 10th birthday, I consider being 49 a blessing.  Every year that I’m still here is another year longer than it was believed I would be and I figure it’s all just icing on the cake at this point.

Knowing what life could have been like for me, short of God’s intervention, keeps me humble, grateful and light hearted.  It keeps me focused on the joys in life and is most likely the reason that I feel emotions really big.  I like to focus on the positives and I simply never, ever want to forget how differently it could have all turned out.  This part of my story shaped my faith and when I walk through challenging times I simply work to remember “But God” because I’ve seen him show up in big ways and I know that he will do it again.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have questions, doubts, frustrations or fears. That doesn’t mean I don’t have days where my attitude is in the tank and I have to be reminded to get it together.   I have all of those but at the core of who I am is a little girl that knows she’s experienced several miracles in her life and that she can trust God with all of the details and the outcome.

So, that’s my story – that’s very much the meat and potatoes behind Joy in the Journey.  Life is short and I know how quickly it can change and I’m passionate about reminding myself and others to look for joy, seek it out, watch for it and choose it!  Maybe that makes me hokey or weird but I think I’m ok with that.

Now, what is your story?  What has shaped you and made you who you are?  We all have a story, those things that make us unique and I hope you’ll share it with me… I would love to hear it!

100 Beautiful Days – Day 40

Four Words – Underlined in Red

Hey friend – I see you out there struggling and I want you to know I’m struggling too.  I’ve typically experienced seasons of smooth sailing but now – right now – I’m out on the battlefield all day every day and the enemy is big.  These days my feet hit the floor and I’m not even wasting time with the coffee, I’m going straight for my armor because I don’t want to spend a second of my day not waging war. I know you get it, I know you understand and that’s why I wanted to share this with you.

Through this season, I’ve had a favorite verse.  Oh, I’ve studied plenty of others but there is one that has been my go to scripture every morning as I start my day and every evening as I end it.  In 2 Chronicles 20:6-9 you find Jehoshaphat having just learned that a vast army was coming against him and so he goes out in to the temple courtyard and begins to speak to God.  He’s reminding God of all that He has done before and all that He has promised His people.  This reminder isn’t to rattle God’s memory but more to remind Jehoshaphat of the God he serves and the God that he can trust.

So, I’ve camped out in that scripture for several months now to remind myself of what God has done before in my life and what He has promised me that He will continue to do. But one day last week, as I sat in the courtyard outside of my home reading those words back to God, my eyes drifted up to several verses before this. In 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 I had underlined several random words in red ink.  Words like alarmed, resolved, proclaimed and seek.  My eyes just settled on those four words and I let them sink in to my war weary spirit.  I can’t tell you when I underlined those words or what was going on at the time but I can tell you what those four words meant to me on that hot, sticky August morning last week.

Alarmed:  As I looked at that first word I was struck by the reality that often, as we face hard seasons, we are alarmed at our situations and circumstances.  In verse 3, Jehoshaphat was alarmed at the news that a vast army was approaching. He was alarmed!  Here’s the thing – and it’s a comforting thing – when we are alarmed by our circumstances, God is not!  Whatever is happening in our lives right now, this very minute, it is not a surprise to God.  He knew it was coming, he knows our story and we can trust Him with the outcome.  When we have that knowledge, we can move from being alarmed to simply trusting God.

Resolved:  Verse 3 goes on to say that even though Jehoshaphat was alarmed, he was resolved to inquire of the Lord.  So, when we face our situations we can be resolved to inquire of the Lord, we can be resolved to trust and not lose hope, we can resolve to press forward and lean in to the strength of our savior.  Resolved simply means being firmly determined to do something.  Maybe in your hard situation you can be resolved to not give up hope, resolved to not be afraid or ashamed, resolved to listen to God’s voice over all the other voices in your life.  Let’s be firmly determined to trust our Heavenly Father who loves us and wants what’s best for us.

Proclaimed:  In verse 3 Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for all Judah and while I may not be able to proclaim a fast for all the land, I have been known to pray and fast myself.  But what this word said to me on that very day last week  is that I should be about the business of proclaiming God’s love; proclaiming God’s goodness, His mercy and provision and I certainly should be about the business of proclaiming that He will make good on His promises to me. I should be proclaiming His victory!

Seek:  Finally, Verse 4 says that the people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord.  As I looked at that red underlined word, I was reminded that I find my strength when I seek the Lord.  When I rise early to sit at His feet and seek His face and seek His wisdom for the next step I need to take.  When I go throughout my day, stopping to pray and seek His will; When I fall asleep at night chatting with Him, seeking his peace and presence so that I can rest. Walking in the valley, up on the mountain, through the dark and through the light just seeking His ways as my own.

So, friend whatever you are facing today, remember that you don’t face it alone.  Remember that you serve a big God and He doesn’t want you to be alarmed but rather resolved, seeking His face and proclaiming victory.  I hope that those four words, underlined in red, that jumped out at me will jump out at you too.  I hope that maybe in some small way they will encourage you and help you find rest as you fight your battles.  Put on your armor friend and keep moving forward.  Remember – the battle is already won!

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day 39

Day 39: Smart Life – it’s just a simple little app but it brings joy to my journey each and every day. You see, to make my life easier, my husband set up our balcony lights on a smart switch so that I can turn them on and off from my phone. It seems silly but I can’t tell you what a difference it makes in my crazy schedule. In the winter, when it gets dark early, I can hit the little button, several blocks from my home and wahla…my lights are on and waiting for me when I drive up. When I head to bed I can leave the lights on and enjoy the twinkling view until I’m ready to turn them off and then with the push of a button, off they go. I enjoyed the app so much that my husband now has my front porch canopy lights on a switch, the exercise with oxygen bikes on a switch AND timer also the living room lights and bathroom lights. It is so wonderful!!! The only down side is it makes it a little too easy to simply switch off the exercise bikes if I wake up tired and just don’t want to work out 🤪 Now, I’m fairly easy to entertain but let me say this little app has been tons of fun, I giggle most every time I use it and I play tricks on my family by flipping them on and off. It’s  just a little app but in the middle of some difficult days it has brought simplicity to my life and joy to my heart. So today, on Day 39 of 100 Beautiful Days, I celebrate modern technology, my husband who understands it and his willingness to use it to take care of me. Now, get out there and get yourself some smart switches but don’t tell your family. That way you can get joy in your journey by tricking your tribe too 🙂

 

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day 38

Day 38:  This very evening I looked at my husband and declared that I had done all of the “adulting” that I could do for the day and then I headed out to the balcony with my youngest daughter, bottles of bubbles in hand and soaked up a good 30 minutes of blowing bubbles in to the night sky!!

So much joy was added to my journey!

There was laughter and giggles and even guest bubble blowers and at the end of our time, my heart was happy and my shoulders much lighter.

I love a night out for dinner and a movie after a long week of work and I enjoy a nice massage like anyone else but let me suggest that you not discredit the mighty bottle of bubbles and this childlike behavior to send your cares flying away!

So today, on Day 38 of 100 Beautiful Days, I am thankful for bubbles and bubble wands and balconies and bubble buddies 🙂

If you’ve had a long day or long week filled with all the work and all the responsibilities and all the things then I encourage you to grab a bottle of bubbles and find joy in your journey!