Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Back in the Saddle"

Hello blogging's been a while.
But I'm back. And motivated all over again to continue my joyfulness project of days before.

Things have changed over here. We're now a family of 5!
(That's right - 5!!! It seems so many when I say it that way.)
Chris & Breanne, Kaidyn (almost 4), Selah (2.5), and Riley (7 mo.)

And as January 2014 approaches I am once again re-evaluating life, reflecting on 2013, making "resolutions" for 2014, and recognizing aspects of life that need to change.

As our pastor so passionately put it a few weeks ago, I am re-evaluating what is drawing my affections! I am specifically making a list of things that are drawing my affections away from Christ and drawing my affections toward Christ (more on this soon).

2013 was a rough year for me....not because of any one event. Rather, it was a culmination of various events and circumstances that combined together to create a recipe for disaster in my personal and private world (to be re-visited in future posts).

Some of these circumstances are being addressed and I am seeing the positive effects of some simple life changes. This has renewed my interest in the original joyfulness project - and I recognize having an intentional focus on joyfulness is definitely one thing that does draw my affection toward Christ.

So, here I am, "back on the blogging horse," so to speak. I'm not here to "broadcast" my success and failures. I'm not here to "show-off" in my joyfulness. I'm not even here for readers.

I AM here for accountability. I AM here to keep a record of my journey toward joyful living. I AM here to "journal" the experience for future reflection.

And, should people read this blog, I am here for the glory of God, my Lord and Savior! Through the past year, if I have learned anything, it is that God truly does walk us through a path for a purpose. We may not ever know the "purpose" as we would want to define it. But that doesn't matter! The PURPOSE is that GOD BE GLORIFIED!!! And it is my prayer that whatever I may write here, whatever is read, will point people toward God. It is my prayer that whatever vulnerabilities are exposed will direct people toward God's saving grace and daily mercies.

Today I begin again my joyfulness encounter...may God be glorified! This coming year I intend to revisit some of my 2013 experiences (through blogging) for the purpose of reflection and joyful thanksgiving...may God be glorified! This year I will open my eyes to the bigger picture of where I have been, where I am now, and where God is taking me...may God be glorified!

There is a reason I have been through the valley this past year...may God be glorified!

"My soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, "My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord."
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, ...
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him.""
~ Lamentations 3:17-24 (ESV)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My journey begins today...

I never used to understand the "coffee mug" phenomenon...until now. Maybe you don't know the phenomenon I refer to - when someone in your home is extremely attached to "their mug." My dad has always been a classic example. He used to call out "Nobody move! I can't find my coffee cup!" on a frequent basis during my growing up days. And it was always the same cup. Now, I'm not a coffee drinker myself, but I have definitely taken to a certain mug in my home. At first my mug choices were more out of necessity. When you dislike the taste of coffee, you do whatever it takes to spare some mugs from the frequent stain of the coffee flavor! But this particular mug has become something else entirely. This mug is more than a coffee-free mug. This mug has become a life-line for me.
Allow me to describe the mug I speak of:
It is of a normal mug size; white on the outside and blue inside; purchased on a family vacation to Mexico, at a sought out Starbucks. But most importantly, the words inscribed on the outside of "my" mug - "MY JOURNEY BEGINS TODAY"
You may be wondering why I am going on about a mug in my Joyfulness blog (especially at 1 am). Well, it is part confession and part inspiration. As I am lying here watching the minutes tick by on the first morning of March, I am looking back and reflecting on February. Keeping up with my monthly resolutions turned out to be easier and more rewarding than I had originally thought. But there is often a downfall when something can seem so this case not putting in as much effort toward daily joy. This past week especially was much less than joyful (partly due to the annoyance of an enduring migraine). When I let my guard down and stopped working toward Joyfulness, I lost the intentionality, and the diligence in choosing Joy.
Which brings me back to my mug. What is so important and special about "my" mug? Every day I use this mug (typically for hot chocolate or tea), I am reminded "MY JOURNEY BEGINS TODAY." No matter what Joy successes or failures were had the week, day, hour, or even minute before filling "my" mug, I can start my Joyfulness encounter fresh because, "MY JOURNEY BEGINS TODAY."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Joy is...

Wow - mid-February already! I am past due for another Joyfulness post!

"[Joy] can take different forms at different times. Joy can be contentment. Joy can be delight. Joy can be elation. Joy can be mirth. Joy can be celebration. But joy is always infections, and joy always begins with a thankful heart...why not strive for an attitude of gratitude?" ~ Cindy Sigler Dagnan, Who Got Peanut Butter on My Daily Planner?: Organizing and Loving Your Days as a Mom (p. 205)

It is amazing to me how such a simple 3-letter word can carry such power! I am finding more and more often that when I choose Joy, it can flip my day entirely upside down! So, in an attitude of gratitude...

Joy is a sleepy morning smile from the baby that kept me up all night.
Joy is the gift of chocolate-covered strawberries for me to enjoy all by myself on a quiet Valentine's evening while my husband is away at an important meeting.
Joy is clean dishes when I get up in the morning.
Joy is a husband who consistently takes out the trash!
Joy is the delight on Kaidyn's face when he sees snow falling on our need-to-be-shoveled driveway (and especially as he tries to catch it with his fingers as we venture out for groceries).
Joy is the warm camaraderie of moms sitting around the living room, together enjoying the chaos of the babies/toddlers life-phase.
Joy is Kaidyn repeating flashcard words as he develops his growing vocabulary.
Joy is watching Kaidyn scribble on his paper, saying "A, little a."
Joy is a snuggling baby when Selah doesn't quite make it to "nap time."
Joy is a good-night kiss, particularly after a late-night conversation.
Joy is the silliness of a 2-year-old as he catapults himself off the couch and into my back.
Joy is a text/photo from my sister and niece, when distance can seem especially difficult!
Joy is finishing a meal, but remaining at the table to enjoy the companionship of the one who is meant only for me.
Joy is bedtime prayers with my 2-year-old.
Joy is a little voice singing along with "This Little Light of Mine" and "Jesus Loves Me," no matter how many times they are repeated!
Joy is finding a new treasure in the Word of God, particularly within a well-read section!
Joy is an impromptu lunch-date, despite the foreboding pre-nap meltdowns :)
Joy is noticing the differences between Chris and I, and appreciating how we have been created unique. 
Joy is the irony of plans made, and plans thwarted!
Joy is the contentment of a peaceful afternoon after a long-suffering morning.
Joy is capturing silly faces on camera
Joy is the anticipation of new life, and a visit with family :)
Joy is witnessing life-change.
And one from a well-loved, dearly departed soul:
"Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls." ~ Mother Teresa (Thanks, Kristin, for the inspiration!)

I am finding it increasingly more incredible how God can use something as simple as the word "joy" to speak to my heart, over and over and over again. Have you ever noticed how often a word pops up around you when you choose to focus your attention around a word? Even in the most unsuspecting places...

For example:
Our Senior Pastor spoke a few weeks ago on the parable of the talents (found in Matthew 25). This particular parable has been covered in numerous ways, by numerous pastors, throughout numerous centuries...But! Guess which word is hidden right there in the middle of the parable? Joy!
"His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the Joy of your master.'" ~ Matt. 25:21 (ESV, emphasis added)
Ya - never would have noticed that before. I tended to focus on the "well done" section. But the "well done" doesn't just end there. Since we have done well, we are given more responsibility and given more work. And what is our response to this additional responsibility? To enter into the Joy of our Master! We are welcomed into Joy for our faithfulness and Joy to continue in our faithfulness! And the application takes on a whole new light when you see the parable through the perspective of Joy. It is an application for stewardship (my finances, as pertaining specifically to the parable) and responsibility in all areas of my life. I have been especially convicted of showing this faithfulness in my attitudes (Joy) and relationships!
"For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." ~ Matt. 25:29
The master is coming, and I will be held accountable! How am I investing my "talents" (joy, relationships, resources, etc.) RIGHT NOW?

Come, be thankful, be faithful, and enter into the Joy of the Master; begin to infect the world around you! It will change your life - it will change your perspective! You'll be amazed by what you see!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Joy & Love

Welcome to February, Everyone!
February is my favorite month!!! I don't really know why that is...maybe because it means January is over (the longest and coldest month), maybe because it means spring is coming, or maybe it's because I have three strategically spaced special "events" in one short month!!! Whatever the reason, there is a bounce in my step today because it is February 1st :)
I suppose, since it is the beginning of a new month this means the beginning of new resolutions. In complete honesty, I went to my resolutions envelope with some trepidation this morning. It's one thing to keep some resolutions in January (everybody does that), but to continue keeping resolutions, and adding new ones in February...
I guess it gives a real sense of reality to what I have taken on for the next 6 months! If I start this next month, I can't go back! Not that I necessarily want to - I like where this has been going (albeit, a difficult journey) and I like the person it is making me into. But it's so much more final to continue through 6 months than to just give it a "good 'ol try" for the first month! In any case - read on to discover the next step in my Joyfulness Encounter!

February - the Month of Love
Is it not fitting that I should randomly pull the category titled "Wife" for the month of February? Honestly, it was random draw!!! I even had the smallest inclination to put the category back and draw again...but that would not have been very honest (or random)! Not to mention, this category in particular has been looming over my head since the day I put all these resolutions safely into my Joy envelope, ready for the coming day of truth, when I would have to make some serious Joy changes!
Don't get me wrong - it's not that I don't love being a's not that I don't enjoy being a's not that I would rather be anything else...but...being a wife is HARD! Way harder than being a girlfriend, or even a fiancee. And it got a whole lot more difficult when we picked up our new marriage and moved out to Ontario, harder still when we had our son two years ago, and yet harder still when our daughter was born this past summer! Dating was easy in comparison (although I would not have said so in the moment - "the grass is always greener on the other side" and all). There were no household responsibilities and "conflicts" of interest. There were no jobs or children taking what seemed like "first priority." Both my husband and I were putting our best foot forward to keep the spark alive and guarantee the other would still be falling in love with you "tomorrow." In marriage, the spark somehow becomes less important, and the only foot of any importance is the cold one you are kicking over to "their" side of the bed :)
I say this so you can know just how meaningful this month will be for me! I'm in neither the far right or far left end of the marriage spectrum. I make no claims to be in the "honeymoon" phase of my relationship! I make no claims to be on the verge of a marital break-down! I'm somewhere in the middle - just a stay-at-home wife seeking to find the most Joy within the blessing of God's ordained marriage for me. I don't want to focus anymore on the realities that marriage is hard! I want to focus on the Joy that is given through the blessing of marriage, and the good things God has been and is still doing in my relationship with Chris! I think it's a good month to be making an effort toward that Joy! So here are my monthly resolutions for February:
  1. Take initiative!
  2. Say "I Love You!"
  3. Be present in the moment. (for example - stay at the dinner table until the meal is over for both parties; actually focus on conversations; etc.)
  4. Eliminate "You get...then I get" mentality.
  5. Find daily obvious expressions of Love.
  6. Remember - prayer causes things to happen - So Pray!!! (about my marriage, for my marriage, for my husband, etc.)
Well, there you have it, friends! I look forward to seeing where God will challenge me most in this month, and where I will find new realms of Joy within my marriage.
Thank you again to those who are reading this Joyfulness ramble...
And special thanks to those who have sent encouraging messages, phone calls, etc. Joy is definitely easier (and more rewarding) in community!

"Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are." ~ Marianne Williamson (emphasis added)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January in Review

Well friends, my first month of The Joyfulness Encounter is quickly drawing to a close so I figured I better write one more January post! For your reading pleasure I will review some January highlights, and then inform you of slight changes I'll be making to the completion of this project :)

January Highlights:

Kairos Joy - it has been so beneficial to search out those Kairos moments in each day, and be intentional about keeping my Kairos "memoir" (a simple doc on my computer at this point). It has been an integral part of keeping my focus on Joy, rather than fleeting happiness!

Motivation - after a month of choosing Joy, I am finding my motivation has increased! Motivation to get out, to make connections, to pull myself out of a slump, etc. One practical application of this motivation is my newly scheduled Tuesday Coffee/Playdates! I sent out a message to a number of other young moms in my church, suggesting they bring themselves and their little ones over on Tuesday mornings to get out of the house and hang out together! I finally feel Joyful enough to do something about my winter cabin fever and my winter loneliness - killing two birds with one stone :) (Unfortunately, we are a bunch of sickies in our home right now, so we won't actually be beginning this new playdate until next week)

A few things that need some more intentionality through the next months...
I need to work on Beginning and Ending my day in Joy! My Joy awareness has been increasing throughout each day, particularly during moments of stress (although I would be lying if I claimed to change my attitude immediately!). But I have not been intentional enough about getting out of bed each morning with a prayer of Joy on my lips, and laying my head back down at night with whispers of gratitude and Joy!
I need to focus my intentionality into certain areas of Joy. Through the month of January, I randomly chose resolutions out of my collection ending up with resolutions in various categories of life (i.e. my roles as mother, wife, friend, etc.). But I really struggled this month, feeling as though my focus was spread too thin trying to cover so many areas of Joy! Which leads me to the change I'll be making for the following months...

I have grouped my resolutions into areas of Joy so I will be able to give more intentional focus to those areas (i.e. mother, wife, friend, home, etc.). There will still be an element of random-draw to choose the category each month, but I will have the opportunity to concentrate each month on one area, which I'm hoping will help with the focus issues I've been having. And maybe this will give me a higher "success" rate as I won't be constantly flitting from one area to another throughout my days. We shall see...

Well, friends, that's all I have to say for January (my head is a little fuzzy from this cold...can't remember anything else I had wanted to mention)! Until tomorrow, when a new month of Joy begins :)

I'll leave you with the lyrics from a childhood favorite:
"Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart...for the King is in residence there." ~ Joy is the Flag :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Joy 101 (or maybe 102?)

Thus far, I've learned two very basic and blatant lessons about Joy:
  1. Joy needs to be intentional, and...
  2. Joy is a choice!
These may seem like no-brainers to you, and they were such for me in the beginning as well. But just because something takes "no brains" to comprehend, does not mean it is simple to live out!

Let me share some of my learning process with you...and let's look at a very real-life example (2-yr-old tantrums?) of choosing intentional Joy!

Intentional - (adj.) done on purpose, deliberate.
Joy is not the same as happiness. Through my own experience with Joy vs. happiness I have learned that happiness is fleeting, often shallow, and motivated by circumstances. Whereas, I have come to learn that Joy is lasting (when intentional), Joy has depth (when intentional), and Joy, regardless of circumstances, can be motivated through perseverance (when intentional).
Joy is not the same as happiness. Take a look at the grammar behind the words:
Happy - (adj.) feeling or showing pleasure or contentment, having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with (a person, arrangement, or situation).
Joy - (noun) a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, a thing that causes joy.
Happiness is an adjective, a word used to describe. Joy is a noun, something that can stand alone! 
But, just because Joy can stand alone, does not mean that is does stand alone. Not without intentionality! Joy must be deliberate! I can preach and blog and think positive thoughts about Joy until "the cows come home." But if I don't do something intentional and deliberate about choosing to be Joyful (my next point), all my blogging and whatnot will mean nothing! My Kairos moments will just look like fleeting happiness, until the next 2-year-old tantrum hits!Good intentions are just intentions until coupled with Choice!

Choice - (noun) an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
To Choose - (verb) pick out or select (someone or something) as being the best or most appropriate of two or more alternatives; decide on a course of action, typically after rejecting alternatives
Joy is about making a choice! Let's go back to the 2-year-old tantrums for a moment. Happiness says, "I'm happy my son is not throwing a tantrum." And when the tantrum hits, the happiness dissipates into frustration, anger, embarrassment, etc.  
Joy is an entirely different approach and choice! Joy says, in the midst of a tantrum, "Thank you God for my son. Thank you for his opinions and for his voice. Thank you that he is learning that he can choose one from another. Please give me patience and wisdom in directing my son to discern his choices as he learns to express his opinions within a godly character!" Joy is a choice! 
In reading this, please don't put me on a "Supermom" pedestal! Please do not judge me for being "idealistic" or living in a dream-world. Please do not assume that my son has no tantrums, or that his tantrums are "mild" by comparison! I can assure you, he can wail with the best of them! And please don't assume that I have this seemingly "oblivious" mentality each time my son hits a tantrum (which can sometimes be more than daily)!
The tantrums are not the point! The point is the intentionality of choosing Joy in every circumstance and letting the perspective of Joy re-align your focus!

Like I said in the beginning of this post - Thus far, I've learned two very basic and blatant lessons about Joy:
  1. Joy needs to be intentional, and...
  2. Joy is a choice!
These lessons are basic, but no less difficult to apply. These lessons are blatant, but no easier to remember in the midst of trial. These lessons I am learning, but I am no closer to "complete success."
But I can say...
I am more aware of my choices!
I am more aware of my intentionality! 
I am more aware of my Joy!

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith (or patience, or humility, or trust, or love, or "parenting skills") produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." ~ James 1:2-3 (emphasis and parentheses added)
"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:" ~ Lamentations 3:21 (emphasis added)

For those struggling through a current trial, I encourage you to read Lamentations 3, specifically focusing on verses 21-24 "His mercies are new every morning." And pray James 1:2 over your heart and mind - "consider it pure joy."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kairos Joy

I've been doing a whole lot of processing these past few days - ever since my last post. After writing, I felt as though I really had nothing of value to say, other than a check-yes-or-no to my success or failures. That was definitely not my intention with this blog, or this project!
In any case, shortly after writing my last post, my mom sent me an incredibly inspiring and challenging article entitled "Don't Carpe Diem" (you can check it out for yourself here: The part that really challenged me was when the writer spoke of Kairos time. I've included a snipit, in her own words: 

"Then there's Kairos time. Kairos is God's time. It's time outside of time. It's metaphysical time. It's those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them. Like when I actually stop what I'm doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can't hear her because all I can think is -- This is the first time I've really seen Tish all day, and my God -- she is so beautiful. Kairos."

After reading these words, I began to look for Kairos moments in my own day. Moments when God would break through my "chronos time" and I would be transported, for just a moment, into "kairos time," overwhelmed by the wonder of God's grace and blessing in my life.
As I was still pondering the importance of "Kairos" in my everyday, I started reading a book titled Who Got Peanut Buter on My Daily Planner?: Organizing and Loving Your Days as a Mom, by Cindy Sigler Dagnan. And what should I read in the first chapter, but a challenge to "Cultivate a Hearty Sense of Humor." This may seem unrelated to you, but read this section I pulled out of the first chapter:

"The truth is, kids, and our lives with them, are hilarious. Get a fun-patterned spiral notebook and start jotting down the cute things they say or do, together with the date and their age. Whenever possible, tuck a snapshot of the moment in next to it. Not only will it be fun to look back on, but it will craft a touching and priceless log of your days together." (pg. 19)

Still unrelated? Well, let me attempt to guide you through my train of thought.
  • I am focusing for the next 6 months on cultivating an attitude of Joy in my daily life! I want to encounter Joy in every day and every aspect of my being (mom, wife, friend, etc.).
  • In reading Don't Carpe Diem, I was convicted to pay more attention to the Kairos moments in my day. Be attentive to the moments when God pulls me from Chronos time to make me fully aware of His blessing in my life.
  • Within a week of my Kairos conviction, I am reminded that God has blessed my life with humor! Humor as a mother, especially!  And, through Cindy Sigler Dagnan, I am given practical tips for creating reminders and intentional memories of these humorous moments!
  • Within this past week, it is as though I have been given very clear, practical advice for intentional joy:
Seek out Kairos moments, gifts from God, and keep them as Joy memoirs!

In light of this thought process, here are 3 Kairos moments from yesterday:
January 24, 2012 (Kaidyn, age 2; Selah, 5 mo.)
  1. While attempting to feed Selah her cereal, Kaidyn sat beside me at the table and struck up a conversation with his little sister. They smiled and laughed together, clearly aware of something that Mommy was not :)
  2. During my morning kitchen clean-up, I put my ipod on with some Christian pop tunes. Kaidyn came running into the kitchen saying, "Dance. Dance." Then he proceeded to fill my kitchen with dancing that only a joy-inspired 2-year-old could create :)
  3. We were having company for dinner last night and I was trying to get ahead on my to-do-list. So I set the table in the morning with a fancy table cloth, plates, silverware, napkins, fancy glasses, etc. Kaidyn came by and set himself, his Lamby, and his Puppy up at each place setting to enjoy their own fancy pre-dinner imagined meal :)
Kairos! Thank you, Lord for Joy!

"This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” ~ Nehemiah 8:10b