100 Beautiful Days – Day Eleven

Day Eleven

Let me tell you a story about a lady who, just this very morning, woke up tired and a little grumpy. She was snuggled under warm covers with fluffy pillows and fuzzy socks and not one little bit did she want to get up. But, since she was a grown up with a grown-up job and grown up responsibilities she reluctantly climbed out of bed and got started on the day.

As she settled in to her office chair and started to work, she looked out the window at another gray, cold, windy day and wished the sun would shine, even if just for a little bit. She sighed a deep sigh and thought to herself “This weather won’t last forever, spring will come soon enough” and then she sighed again.

As the lady pulled her attention back to the computer on the desk in front of her, she saw something move out of the corner of her eye.  Looking back toward the window, she saw the tiniest little chickadee sitting on her windowsill.  The tiny bird was chirping and singing and jumping from place to place.  Soon the lady noticed other birds flying all around in the trees outside.  Male and female cardinals dashing in and out and all around the bird feeders that were hanging on the balcony.

Seeing these beautiful birds singing and flying with happiness and ease, she couldn’t help but think about the lesson they had to teach anyone who took the time to pay attention.  The birds didn’t seem to notice that the sky was gray or that the weather was cold and dreary.  They didn’t seem to complain that the bird feeder only had a few available perches for each to sit on, but instead they seemed to share without a fuss. It didn’t seem to bother the birds that the squirrels were waiting nearby for any little piece of seed that might fall to the ground and they didn’t even notice the dogs sleeping close to their beloved feeder.

Watching the birds, the lady couldn’t help but smile.  Not only did the energy and beauty of the birds warm her heart but their ability to be happy, when the world around them was less than lovely, served as a gentle reminder that people should do the same.  It reminded her that in the middle of difficult circumstances, pressing issues and trying situations we all have a choice to sing or go silent.  We can let the strong winds of life blow us down or we can lean in to them and let them help us soar like never before.

Turning her attention back to her work, her load felt a little lighter and joy filled her heart.  The birds stayed outside her window throughout the day and she reminded herself periodically to stop and watch them play. She was so very glad that she was a grown up, with a grown-up job and grown up responsibilities so that she could have a desk with a window beside it and beautiful birds outside.

Yes – this little story is about me and my beautiful Friday. I love how God shows up each and every day, with the tiniest little blessings, small encouragements to take heart and be of good courage and to always, always remember that he loves us so!

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day ten

Day 10

I see you friend, balancing a million balls in the air. Work, family, errands, school, homework, volunteering…the list goes on and on.  I see you and I get it. I’m right there with you. Life is busy and sometimes it feels like we are on a merry go round and can’t stop it long enough to step off.

But take heart…God has given us something wonderful to help us survive! I introduce to you…the dog!

 No matter how many times a day I come and go from my home, my dog is always sitting by the door waiting anxiously for me when I return. If I’ve been gone 5 minutes or five hours, her reaction to my arrival is the same every time.  Jumping, barking, running in circles, grabbing her sock for me to toss, and then of course, endless snuggles. It never gets old!

If I’m at home working, my little dog is right by my side changing rooms if I do.  If someone in the house is sick she dutifully lays beside them until they feel better.  She waits outside the bathroom door for me, lays in the kitchen floor while I cook, does tricks on command and is a wonderful listener.

She tolerates me putting goofy sweaters on her, forgives me when I buy the wrong dog food, gets straight A’s on her report card from the groomer and never complains when I ask her to run errands with me.

Today was a hard day in my land.  I’ve been balancing all of those balls all week and I’m running on empty. As I sat down with my computer to write about day 10, I wasn’t sure exactly what beautiful challenge or blessing I could share.  But then, my little Nickie dog curled up beside me, laid her head on my tummy and suddenly the cares of the day disappeared.

If you have a dog then you know exactly what I mean. You know that no matter how long your day has been, if you kept the balls balanced (or dropped a few along the way) your dog will still be waiting on you when you get home and love you unconditionally. And if you ask me, that’s a pretty beautiful thing!

 

P.S. – If you own a cat and not a dog…I’m sincerely sorry. 

100 Beautiful Days – Day nine

Day 9

I don’t know about you but I struggle with winter.  I’m a sunshine girl and continuous cloud cover can sure drag me down. Don’t get me wrong, I love cloudy days every now and then, spread out little by little, a week or two apart…but not one after another after another!!

Since we’re on the subject, I don’t care for the cold weather that comes with winter either. It’s too cold outside to go without a coat but it’s too warm inside to have one on.  So, you either wear your coat then take it off inside and lug it around trying to keep up with it or you go without a coat, dash as fast as you can to the car, teeth chattering, just so you don’t have to worry with a coat later. (I typically choose the latter)

Yes, if I’m not careful the winter months can really take a toll on my attitude and my gratitude.  If I’m not careful I can find myself with a bad case of the winter blues.

I was in my late twenties when I decided my relationship with winter needed to change, so I devised a plan. I decided I was going to work on my feelings toward the season, try and make friends with it, embrace the gray, stay home as often as possible, rest, relax and renew!  I concluded that if the animals could hibernate then so could I.

So, I pared down my schedule, left only what had to be done and began to embrace the winter season.  I looked for ways to make it most enjoyable, drinking hot chocolate, trying new flavors of hot tea, setting aside movies to watch during this time of year, picking out books that I would save to read during winter and of course stocking up on fire wood.  All of this created a shift in my feelings toward the cold and dreary days.

I actually began to look forward to December – February because I knew life would move a little more slowly.  Winter now had a life of its own and it suddenly brought anticipation and excitement instead of dread and sadness.

So, my shift in perspective has helped me survive the winter months and not go absolutely crazy waiting on the sun to shine.  It’s helped me see the beauty in these gray months and take pleasure in gearing down.

What do you love about the winter months?  Are they easy or hard? What do you do to make the cold, gray season more enjoyable? Pass them along – we could all use some ideas.

In the meantime, add a little cayenne to your hot chocolate…it will put a little pep in your step!

 

 

 

 

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day Eight

Dear day 8,

Let me count the ways you have tested me!!

Sometimes a beautiful day is the one where we really have to dig deep, look past the difficulties and choose joy.  This was that kind of beautiful day!  It was a day of long travels, crazy traffic, discouraging news and tested patience.  The beauty in today is that I survived!  (With the help of McAlister’s tea and some yummy chocolate chip cookies)

Trying days push us for sure and they test us to see if we can find beauty in the hard things.  To try and just look around the hard things and find beauty is perfectly fine, but the older I get the more I tend to want to stand with my hands on my hips, stare the hard circumstances right in the face and yell…

“I see you hard thing!! I know you want to take me down – but I’m going to choose to be joyful and thankful in all things! So, guess what hard thing…that means I’m thankful for you. Now, put em’ up…let’s duke it out!!”

 I’m not going to tell you that I don’t prefer seasons where everything is smooth sailing and the trials are few. I love those seasons, they’re my favorite. But difficult seasons sharpen us, they make us stop and think – we have to pray more, give thanks more, be a little more intentional and allow our faith to stretch and grow.

Having joy on good days is pretty easy but finding and choosing joy on hard days, well, that’s a real trick.  I think perspective has a lot to do with it and keeping our eyes set firmly on the one who orchestrates our days.  When we trust that we serve a good and loving God then we can rest in the knowledge that what comes our way must serve a purpose.  We rest in the assurance that all things will work together for good.

So – while I could choose to actually count the ways day 8 tested me, I think I’ll take a pass on that. I think I’ll choose instead to be joyful in the time spent with my daughter, the visit with my friend, the students who fill my classroom and that another safe journey is complete.

What challenge are you walking through that is testing your patience? How can you choose joy right in the middle and be thankful for the hard things?

It’s a beautiful day when we can count it ALL joy!

(and eat cookies…lots and lots of cookies.)

 

 

 

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day Seven

Day 7

I’m sliding in during the wee hours of the night to post Day 7 of 100 Beautiful Days.  Technically it’s day 8 but…since I’m just now heading to bed I consider it still day 7 in my land so I’m going to own it!!

Today was extra super, crazy busy and I had way more on my plate that one person could ever possibly, conceivably, imaginably get done!  (Clearly since I’m just now going to bed.)

I started a new phase of my job today which pushed me out of my comfort zone a little and kept me working pretty late. We start back to school tomorrow (today) so there was plenty of prep work for that and of course other regular areas of life still needed my attention. It was a wild ride let me tell ya!

I used to keep long hours and work in to the wee hours of the night when I was in the newspaper business. My kids were little and needed my attention during the day so I would knock out my interviews and then after I put them to bed I would stay up to write and do layout. They were much younger then and so was I!!

Many of you still work really long days and stay up late trying to fit it all in but I don’t have to pull the late-night shift very often.  Today was unusual but it was wonderful nonetheless.  My beauty for today was found in just a few moments like this:

  •  Working in my home office and hearing all three of my kids laughing together in the kitchen.This may not seem like a big deal to those of you with younger kids at home but mine are 21, 18 and 15 so having them all together doesn’t happen often enough and listening to them having fun was pure joy!
  • Finishing work and finding that my girls had folded and put away the laundry, picked up my grocery order and cooked dinner! Wow!! Need I say more??
  • Having a husband that put his own work on hold to periodically check in on me and make sure I had everything I needed and that all was going well.
  • Having a son that passed by my office door a few times, gave me a thumbs up and brought a smile to my face.

I could go on but you get the picture.  Sometimes, when we get busy, we forget to look for the beauty in the middle of the chaos. The day wasn’t perfect.  I spilled my tea first rattle out of the box this morning and I completely lost a document and had to re-type it from scratch.  Those were just a couple of the hiccups along the way but they couldn’t compare to the joy of a hard day’s work and the support of family.

What was the beauty in the middle of your chaos today?  What filled your heart with joy?

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day Six

Day 6

So, let’s talk about cooking!  How do you feel about it?  Maybe you just love being in the kitchen with your mad chef hat on, ingredients lined up on the counter, flour flying one way, sugar flying the other as you create all kinds of yummy dishes.

Me?  I’m not a fan.  I won’t even try to fib or lie or sugar coat this: friends, cooking is not on the top of my “favorite things to do list.”  If I could get out of cooking every day, I would, but I’m afraid that wouldn’t go over very well.  So, I simply cook to keep my tribe alive (also I think it might be the 11thcommandment…thou shalt feed your people.)

Today – I spent most of my afternoon in the kitchen doing some prep work for the week.  The next few days will be busier than normal in my world and I don’t want my family to starve so I worked hard to get ahead.  There was chopping and dicing and baking and slicing and mixing and steaming!!  The kitchen was abuzz with activity and I was in the zone.

Two hours later the refrigerator was filled, fresh veggies washed and cut, yummy snacks prepared and in containers and even a few dinner dishes mixed up and ready to just pop in the oven.  After I cleaned up the kitchen, I sat down with a piece of pecan pie and gave myself a mental pat on the back for getting the job done.

What does any of this have to do with joy or beauty??? 

Well, when I thought about spending my day in the kitchen I wasn’t too thrilled.  I might have even been questioning why I couldn’t live in a mansion, wear a crown and have a full kitchen staff to take care of things like this. But in the end, when I was all finished, I felt really good about how I had spent my day.  My family is prepared for and I’m headed in to the week feeling somewhat ahead of schedule. (Don’t get used to that from me…it doesn’t happen often)

That feeling brought joy to my heart and peace to my soul. Tonight, I will sleep a little better knowing I’m ahead of the game.  It really is just the simple things that can make all the difference.

What simple, seemingly insignificant task did you complete today that made your world feel a little more peaceful and beautiful?

 

100 Beautiful Days – Day Five

Day 5

Well the dreaded day has come, I’ve given in and I’m taking down the Christmas decorations.  I would probably keep them up all year if it wouldn’t make the neighbors avoid me or cast side glances at me when I see them outside.

So, as I’ve worked to put away the Christmas mugs and tried to keep from getting tangled up in the tree lights, I’ve been spending a little time reflecting on the Christmas season.  One evening, that stands out in my mind, was just a few nights before Christmas when at random we decided to jump in the car and head out for ice cream.  Since we were out we decided to drive around town and look at the Christmas lights. We made our way through the park, hit a couple of streets around town and then toward a complex that we knew had some excellent lights.  I was the fearless leader of this adventure and I didn’t have a clue where the lights display started, so I just picked a point of entry and said “turn here”.

As we were driving through, oohing and awing, we started to realize that we were struggling to make out what each design was supposed to be.  A little bit of a lively discussion took place at one particular display because I thought Santa was standing outside of a house on the back of a reindeer putting a star on top of a tree.  Others in the car felt like it looked like a house with a reindeer on the lawn attached to a sleigh and Santa standing on the rooftop.  After a few minutes of uncontrolled laughter over our unique observations we moved on down the road trying to make out the other displays.

Finally, we reached the end and suddenly realized that we were headed out the entrance.  We had just driven through the entire display…backwards!!  Of course, we couldn’t control our laughter at this point and we had to turn around and go back through the right way.  This time we could make out every single display without effort and everything made sense.

As I was thinking about that today I realized how life is so much like that. Very often the seasons we walk through look confusing or don’t at all turn out like we thought they would. We scratch our heads, we look at our circumstances from every different angle but we can’t figure it out to save our lives.

Sometimes we find ourselves in these seasons because of choices we made (like going in the lights display the wrong way) or sometimes it’s just the way things are supposed to be. We might not get it right in the middle of the mess, and honestly, we might not even get it this side of heaven.  But I like to imagine that someday when I reach the finish line I’m going to look back over my shoulder and have a good laugh, finally seeing clearly some of the things I don’t currently understand.

Remembering that night brought a little beauty to my day and a smile to my face.  What brought beauty to your day today?

Well – I guess I’ll finish tucking away the Christmas décor.  If you don’t hear from me tomorrow send help – I may be tangled up in lights and tinsel!