Tag Archives: joy

Sparkles

In Texas, the past week has been horrendous with a major hurricane hitting our coast and flooding cities. Weather watchers now report that two more hurricanes are now gearing up. Our country is going through some things too. And, our world is teetering in several places on the edge of serious conflicts/wars. People are going through things as well. Tough things. Unspeakable things.

Every week when I write this blog, I have to acknowledge the tough things because that is the context in which we are living. It just is.

If I was left to my own feelings, opinions and media consumption, I’m pretty sure I would lose it and float off in a sea of anger and anxiety…because, well, the tough things keep happening.

Thank goodness, that is not the only input I have. Thank goodness, I journal, pray and read scripture and devotionals. I know it is a good practice for me because that discipline always offers me a surprising perspective.

Today, for example was about sparkles. Jesus Always by Sarah Young: When you are feeling joyless, you need to pause and remember: I am with you….seek to see Me in your circumstances….Keep on looking until you can discern the Light of My presence shining on your difficulties, reflecting sparkles of joy back to you. p. 260

Sparkles of joy…I did not see that coming. I’ve always been big on the whole Light of the world theme and that all will be made well in the end. But, sparkles? Now? In the midst of our current day messes, problems, worries and griefs?

And then I started thinking about all the recent sparkles: our one year old evacuee grandson devouring a warm buttered blueberry muffin; a cottontail bunny I saw on my walk; rainbows that draped the sky after hurricane Harvey; acts of compassion, giving and heroism for others; JJ Watts’ fundraising miracle; churches opening their doors, making flood buckets and doing disaster relief. Funny things and beautiful things and unexpected things. Sparkles.

A friend of mine faced major cancer surgery last week. She and I actually laughed on the phone the day before at a tiny bright spot in the whole thing that no one but breast cancer warriors would understand. Sparkles of joy.

I don’t know what you are going through. My guess would be that it is something tough, unimaginable or even unspeakable. The surprising word of faith is this: look for the sparkles of joy. It turns out, they are everywhere.

 

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Breaking News: I Care

Have you ever had one of those seasons with so many conflicting emotions swirling around inside you that you feel you might just explode or implode? I feel that way lately.

It is Holy Week. This is the first Holy Week in many years that I have not worked in a church. I am newly aware of how distracting being on a church staff can be especially during the peak seasons of faith. It is hard to focus on Holy Week when you are working in a church because you are busy doing church so that everyone else can experience the wide range of emotions from the Palm Sunday Parade, the Last Supper, the Cross and finally the Resurrection. Yesterday was the first Palm Sunday in decades that I was really able to pray and meditate about Palm Sunday.

As I walked, I thought about all the people waving branches and walking alongside Jesus. I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I tried to think about all the conflicting political issues of that day; all the agendas. I couldn’t help but reflect that not much has changed. Religious leaders entangled in politics. Power plays. Injustices.  Politics colored by religious agendas. Human rights in question. Chemical attacks. Tomahawk Missiles flying. Warships poised. Much discussion over what to do and who is right. A massacre in places of worship. And, that is just this week. Lord, have mercy. Seriously.

Holy Week contains every emotion. After the seeming Joy of Palm Sunday, came that little incident where Jesus lost his temper in the temple courts, overturning the tables of the money changers. No matter how much we’d like to believe Jesus was above anger, this shows he wasn’t. Matthew 21:12-13 Next thing we know he is cursing that fig tree causing it to wither and die. Matthew 21:19-22.  This all happens in this same week when everyone betrays him. He cries out to God, sweats blood mixed with tearful angst. The week gets worse for him from there.

In an interview on Beautiful Writers Podcast, I heard one of my favorite women talk about writing, faith and the wide range of emotions of our time. Anne Lamott confessed she gets hopeless regularly. She said when left to her own devices she dreams of  her next book being be called “Doomed” about how things are bad and only going to get worse. But then she says this, “Thank God, I am not left to my own devices. Thank God we are called to stay in community and in solitude so we can to stay grounded on that fact that Holy moments are happening in our midst.” When asked how she does this, she said, “I just take an action. I give money to organizations I believe are making a difference. I put feet to prayers and show up somewhere. I look up. I go outside. I flirt with older people and little kids. I just do the next expansive and loving thing.”

Her words reverberated through my soul. Thank God, we are not left to our own devices in Holy Week or any other week or we would surely get stuck in a “doomed” part…the anger, the fear, the betrayal, the angst, the death and miss the rest of the week. Thank God we can take the next expansive and loving action.

On Saturday, we had a job fair in our community for those seeking employment. Because I wanted to take a step toward the light, I offered my time for the afternoon. I was assigned resume reviews and mock interviews. I sat with people of all types from teenagers to professionals and we talked about how to polish resumes, sell themselves and shine during an interview. I met people of all cultures, religions and walks of life. I used every bit of my work, life and people experience to meet people where they were and to encourage them a little.

Toward the end,  a young woman came in wearing a hoodie that said, “Breaking News, I Don’t Care.” I don’t know everything about job seeking but I do know this is probably not the upfront message job seekers need to lead with. I wasn’t able to give her feedback on her hoodie because she wasn’t seeking any.

In my swirl of emotions this Holy Week, in this current America we live in, in my understanding of faith and humanity, here is what I know: we have to care. We have to wade through all our emotions from apathy to anger to be able to move beyond our own devices. We have to take that next loving step. We have to help each other. We have to hang out with God through a whole bunch of rough and horrible things in order to get to Easter.  Our faces, our clothes and our actions have to say, I care. Otherwise, we are doomed.

I pre-ordered Anne Lamott’s new book “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” before she ever even wrote it. It arrived at my house just as this Holy Week began. Thank God I’m not left to my own devices.

Celebrate!

Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it in its fullness.” John 10:10

Oprah said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

I love it when my favorite people agree on things.

With our new grandson, we are in a season of celebration. Recently, my daughter told me she felt a little weird with everyone giving them presents, meals, showers and parties just for having a baby. I told her, “Life is hard and peopel need reasons to celebrate. Everyone loves celebrating a baby. Let them.”

But it is more than the grandson. It is me being in a new, easier, more restful, peaceful season of life. (On Monday my one chore was to get two hummingbird feeders, fill them and hang them because now I have time to notice them.) It is being five years past breast cancer. It is having three beautiful children who are at the moment happy and engaged with life. It is having a loving attentive husband that I still like after 31 years together. Did I tell you our sweet grand baby was born on our 31st anniversary? No one could have planned that gift.

It is that fall is coming; I am sure of it.  It is last Saturday having two family gatherings at our home and seeing our grandson meet 2 sets of great grandparents, 2 great aunts, aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time. It was my mom’s 80th birthday too. We surprised her with her great-grandson. She screamed, smiled and cried and told me it was the best birthday party she’d ever had. Even Alzheimer’s couldn’t take away that joy. One tiny baby and all those relatives just lining up for a snuggle, a smile.  We even loved it when he cried.

It is tomorrow, the 28th anniversary of when I became a mom. I celebrate the wonder of watching our daughter grow from adorable baby, to funny toddler, to goofy child who made up her own words, to awkward middle school kid, to dramatic high school student, college girl, married woman, speech therapist and now happy, attentive new mommy/wife and professional. The girl who made up all those words is teaching kids how to say them right. My celebration cup seems like it can’t hold one more drop of joy.

There’s still hard stuff happening, of course. A funeral for a dear, longtime colleague, gone too soon; normal worries; aches and pains; life stuff. But laced through it all are sweet gifts: sunrises, sunsets, hummingbirds, babies, soft pillows, good books, friends, coffee, family, milestones… so much to celebrate!

Lock Eyes and Smile

Even though it was 27 years ago, I still remember my daughter’s first smile. I’d been giving and giving and giving to that child. I shared my body with her. I gave birth to her which was a pretty major endeavor. And then for those first six weeks or so it was that endless cycle of nursing, diaper changes, getting to know her, miles and miles of rocking her to sleep. On this one, crisp October morning she locked eyes with me and smiled. It was a for real smile not a gas or accident smile. I remember being astounded. I even said out loud to her, “You mean you’re going to give something back?” It filled me, that smile.

So fast forward a few decades. Her son is now six weeks old. He’s been smiling a bit but those were just accidental smiles amid the myriad of faces he makes awake and asleep. I love all his faces. His mad cry face is one of my favorites, but I like them all. I just happened to be there the week he started to smile (because I can’t quit going back to take him in.)

He locks eyes and smiles. I wish I had words to describe how that felt…like connection, wonder, rebirth, joy, love. Then of course, I was beside myself trying to get him to smile again and again. He has a crooked smile and it is gorgeous.

And now he joins that great company of people, all around the world who can gift one another with a smile. A smile is the same in every language amazingly. It cuts across cultures, traditions and socio-economic classes.

The day my grandson smiled at me, I decided I was going to do that too. If he could bring that much joy to me, I can share it. So, I’m practicing: just lock eyes and smile; lock eyes and smile. Strangers seem to like it. Wait staff at restaurants do too. My husband enjoys it and so does my big football player son. You have to look up from your phone or your work or your computer and notice people to do it. It takes practice.

Mother Teresa, always wise and perceptive, said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” I’ve learned it from babies.k smile Lock eyes and smile and see what happens.

Joy!

I have a friend who has taught me about joy.  She’s shown me that God gives us joy when we least expect it; often despite our circumstances.  Because she loves joy so much, she’s incredibly easy to buy for.  Anything with the word joy on it delights her.

This year for Christmas I bought her a rather big red sign with the word Joy boldly on it.  We met for lunch at Panera last week and there began my dilemma. The sign was really too big to wrap so the question was, do I just walk in Panera with my joy for everyone to see?  Or, should I leave the joy in the car for a more discreet after lunch presentation?

It took a minute but I finally decided joy needed to go in with me.  I set it that joy right there on the table.  My friend hasn’t had an easy time in life.  Neither have I for that matter.  Imagine the two of us, chatting over soup and salad with this huge unspeakable joy between us.  That’s the beauty of the kind of joy God gives.

On Sunday, I’m preaching about Biblical/Christmas joy.  I can’t wait.

A Golden Season

Yesterday morning, as I was driving to church, I noticed the sun was at just the right angle to cast light over all the changing trees and, for a few minutes, everything just glowed golden.  It was breathtaking.

We are entering a golden season as we head toward Thanksgiving and Christmas; a golden time of gratitude and joy; of things that glitter and shine. Some years I’ve resisted the holidays, claiming we rush the arrival of Christmas and over-do just about everything, making the season gaudy, loud, stressful and over-the-top.

In my better moments, I find a way to embrace the golden season; especially the simple expressions of it…food shared with friends, one candle in a window, a worship service, a simple tree or wreath or nativity scene. No doubt, the holidays can easily be too much but they can also be rich, golden times; times like no other.  This year, I’m choosing to embrace the golden..

Pumpkin Joy

For the second year in a row, our church has sponsored a Pumpkin Patch to raise money for our church’s teenagers to go on summer mission trips.  Having a Pumpkin Patch is quite an endeavor, requiring a massive amount of volunteers to staff it daily for all of October. It takes a village.

We have a teenager who loves the summer mission trips, so we’ve been trying to do our part this fall by working multiple shifts at the Pumpkin Patch.  What I’ve re-discovered about myself is that I just love pumpkins.  How can a piece of produce actually produce joy?  I’m not sure.  It is one of those mysteries of life, I guess.  I love the color of pumpkins-the orange ones, the white ones, the multi-colored ones all delight me.  I love the size and shape of pumpkins.  I love the stems, the bigger, the better.  I love huge massive pumpkins and those little bitty tiny ones with the cool curved stems.

Every time I work at the Pumpkin Patch, I buy more pumpkins.  They are on my back porch, my front porch and now, on the mantel, nine of those adorable-sized curved stem pumpkins.  Every time I see my pumpkins, I feel a little surge of joy.

I think I feel such pumpkin joy because a pumpkin is just a sure sign of fall; of nature’s bounty and of God’s wildly varied, colorful, imaginative creation.  Pumpkins are just one of the countless ways God shows off.

In many ways our world is a scary place right now with Ebola, Isis and a few other threats.  People around me, including me, have experienced tough things and are a little bruised and battered.  Somehow, in the mystery of how God works, a little pumpkin joy makes up for that.  God is good, all the time.