Joy

Chasing down joy and contentment in a world gone mad.

I jogged last Friday.

But let me explain what precipitated this ridiculous event. It certainly didn’t happen on purpose.

Lulled into a false sense of security by the sunshine, I decided to go for a walk after dropping the kids off at school. I dressed warmly enough for a March morning, but not warmly enough for the sneaky, icy wind I hadn’t noticed. I swear this wind had come straight from the bowels of Canada, ripped right over Lake Michigan, then plunged into our little town as soon as I locked the van and hit the trail.

It blasted me in the face and I thought, “Sheesh. It’s going to be a long walk with this wind. Maybe (this is where things went terribly wrong, dear reader)… I could go faster.

And here’s the thing. I sort of pride myself on my non-competitive, slow forms of health. If a three mile walk takes me an hour and a half, I take that as a badge of honor. That’s ninety minutes I spent tending to my health! If I need to change my diet, I pick one tiny little thing and then master it, like “eat more fruit.” That one decision can take two years to fully implement, and then as a fruit-eating expert, I add one new small thing into my diet.

So going faster on this walk was sort of out of character. But the wind was literally stinging me in the face so I decided that since I was on the trail and no one would likely see me, I would jog.

And then I did, actually, jog.

It wasn’t actually so terrible for the first tenth of a mile. Then I walked for another tenth of a mile to get my breath back. Then I hit an open field, and the wind started howling and I started running out of self-preservation. My eyes involuntarily teared up. I think perhaps snot was running down my face, but my face was frozen so I couldn’t be certain. My legs were completely numb, so the only evidence I had of movement was that I was actually passing things.

If any of you actually saw me in this state, I apologize for not greeting you. I believe my corneas may have been frozen for several minutes.

I jogged for two tenths of a mile that time. Breathing raggedly, like a marathoner who has accidentally run for two solid days, I turned the corner on the trail and was blasted in the face with another round of ice-oxygen.

That was it. I was done. I turned around immediately, putting the wind to my back, and started for the van. My rear was now taking the brunt of the cold but that is far less bothersome than frozen corneas, so onward I went at my usual walking speed.

And because I was walking, taking in the sights, I was able to notice the tiny green leaves just starting to push out from the smallest of the branches. Small shoots of woodland greenery were just beginning to poke tips out of the dirt. A robin shot me a dirty look, like I was somehow responsible for his discomfort.

I couldn’t have seen any of this if I was still jogging. There’s beauty and joy all around us, just waiting to be noticed, but too many of us are missing these small things. We’re chasing contentment and joy, but chasing it is the worst possible way to find it.

We’re running hard after our dreams and our desires, filling up our calendars with more obligations, our carts with more plastic doodads, and homes with more shiny screens. And we wonder why joy and contentment remain elusive.


This world has gone mad. It’s made us a million false promises, enticing us to believe that more stuff, more fun, and more money will eventually lead us to what we seek. We just have to catch it.

This is ridiculous. Joy and contentment are decisions. They’re willful states of mind, choosing to be joy-filled and satisfied right where we are. They come when we slow down enough to notice the people in our home, the new signs of spring, and the pantry with enough food to make dinner.

I’m not saying the world will ever be perfect, or if we slow down enough that perfection will present itself. I don’t think it works like that. I think we find joy and contentment when we decide it’s time to be unreasonably thankful for what we already have, even when there are other things that remain difficult and unchangeable.

Two hours later, I decided to be joyful about the warm blanket around my legs and my home that kept out the wind. Yes, my lungs were revolting from the jogging incident and I coughed for three hours. Yes, my butt stayed frozen until lunch and unwarranted tears kept slipping out of my thawing eye sockets. I’m not saying the situation was ideal.

But it was enough. I chose to slow down and notice that I already had exactly what I needed, and it was enough.

 

 

 

The Ms. Mediocre, Slightly Chubby, Often Cranky, Bad Hair Day Pageant

pageant for normal womenIn a move noted as “bold” and “long overdue,” a new pageant arrives on the scene this season.

Viewed by many as the obvious alternative for 99% of human women, the Ms. Mediocre, Slightly Chubby, Often Cranky, Bad Hair Day Pageant offers what traditional beauty pageants lack– common sense and a firm grip on reality.


Competitions are scheduled in the following crucial life skill departments:

  • Chasing a toddler through a busy parking lot while holding two bags of groceries
  • Politely helping your best friend realize her eyebrows have grown out of control
  • Speaking to teenage offspring without using all the swears
  • Messy buns and other half-arsed hair options
  • Yoga pants vs pajama pants: how, when, and where

Interested applicants are encouraged to apply quickly and decisively. Judges expect a torrential onslaught of candidates, as no one has ever shown interest in the common woman before.

Perky, thin, gorgeous women with full and natural breasts will be shot immediately upon application, officials stated in the press conference held early this morning. Shot to death, they clarified.

The pageant is expected to be held sometime in spring, but an exact date is hard to determine, as NORMAL WOMEN HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO TO BE PRANCING AROUND THE STAGE AT A STUPID PAGEANT.


When an official date is scheduled, we will be the first to let you know. Stay tuned for further details.

When the dark, black doom of math homework falls over your Monday afternoon

I’m standing in the kitchen right now, with one eyelid twitching and a migraine starting somewhere in the middle of my brain.

A few feet away from me, my husband and son are wrestling the most ghastly page of math homework we’ve seen to date. Every problem is taking us, two college educated adults, at least five minutes to figure out so we can help him. There’s multiplying and dividing and evening up and possibly sacrificing a goat.

Thankfully I had to step away from the situation to make dinner. I don’t know what’s going on over there, but no one is having a good time.

We love this child. We don’t want him to grow up to be a dullard, but I think maybe it’s time to consider career paths that don’t include fractions.

For example, ballerina. OSHA inspector. Race car driver, banana harvester, cowboy.

Perhaps gym teacher, barber, or even mail man.

Caleb says the race car driver seems pretty cool to him, but the banana harvester thing might be okay, too. Well, hallelujah. We’ve narrowed down our options.

Romans 8:26Parenting is going to be the death of me, I swear. How on earth am I going to move these children through middle school to adulthood? Is this even a possible thing that might occur? I see friends with older kids and those children are actually growing up and moving out. It seems like magic. I certainly don’t know the secret of making it happen.

But then again, I see our young friends who have little children, and they’re still staring down potty training like it’s a magic occurrence. They have no idea how to get those kids out of diapers and into the next stage of life. And all I can tell them is that you try and fail and try and fail about three hundred times, and then eventually the kid gets it.

All the stress of life seems to be insurmountable in the middle of the challenge, doesn’t it? Whether it’s math homework or potty training or ministry or career problems, the stress we’re currently facing might need a big of magic to get us through.

But what if we had something more powerful than mere magic? What if the power of God rested on us and the Holy Spirit was able to help us beyond human capabilities? Wouldn’t that be better than relying on our own strength or ingenuity?

(Yes.) ((The only answer to that is yes.))

As I’ve been writing, things have calmed down on the homework front. We’ve thrown in the towel for the night and written a note to the teacher to help us all out. WE NEED THE TEACHER TO HELP US OUT, pretty please and thank you.

And in regular life, the part of life that doesn’t include stupid fractions, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to get us through. So today, if you’re facing a giant stressful page of math homework that’s about to kill you, I suggest you take a break and pray about it.

And if you’re facing anything else, I’m quite convinced God is good at many things, even when they don’t involve the black doom of math homework. Write your metaphorical note to the teacher and ask for his help!

***Are you interested in an eBook to help you with your stress? I’ve written a little devotional just for you! Click Here!
And thanks for reading. I appreciate it so much.***

 

 

 

Stress: Let’s do something about it (other than just sitting there and feeling miserable)

I don’t know about you, but when life gets stressful I often do exactly the wrong things. I tend to sit and brood while my mind spins. I come up with ever more implausible, terrible things that could happen. I create monster nightmares of the future, all while shoving too many chips and cookies into my face.

So shortly I feel stressed and fat. Delightful combo.

And then I snap at my children and anyone I find annoying. I nap too much to avoid reality or find myself at Lowes buying enough paint to redo the entire house. (Because who doesn’t love to repaint a house every two years? ) ((Yes, I am in counseling for my painting addictions.))

But mostly I sit and brood and worry about the future. I’m very good at that.

Are you very good at that too? 

If not, then feel free to move along to another blog post by someone else who doesn’t worry. But if you are also a Grand Master Brooder and General Worry Freak, then I invite you to do something better with your stress.

Instead of just nurturing it and letting it grow out of control, let’s face it head on. Let’s sit down with it and examine it. Let’s invite God into the conversation, letting him sort out the mess. Because, let’s be honest. Sometimes the stress is absolutely not our fault. We can’t be held responsible for a bad health diagnosis or the ensuing medical bills. We can’t force our children to be obedient at all moments of the day. Sometimes the stress attacks and we didn’t do anything to attract its attention.

But sometimes the stress is– stick with me here without needing the vapors– exactly our fault. Sometimes it’s the consequences of our sin or terrible choices. Sometimes it’s just that we’re sort of block headed and we’ve dug our own hole.

And when we’re stressed out, we often can’t see the way clearly. But God can, and he’s more than ready to help us sort out the stress. He’s waiting for us to come to him, no matter our emotional state, and then restore us with his peace and grace.

So let’s try that instead of brooding. Let’s do what Lamentations 3:40 says, and see what our loving Heavenly Father can do with our stress.

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. (bible gateway.com)

Want more? I’ve written a devotional on stress, with more thoughts just like this!
Click here and you’ll be taken to the Amazon page. 

They don’t make greeting cards for these hellish sorts of days

Yes, and I’m sure the carpet is sorry too.

If, by some miracle, someone mailed me the perfect greeting card today it would read:

I’m sorry you were up until midnight scrubbing vomit out of the carpet.
I’m also sorry the bathroom still smells pukey and you can’t figure out why.
And further, I’m also sorry that your husband’s sinus infection blew a hole in his eardrum last night (while you were scrubbing the vomit), causing everyone in the house to be quite, quite miserable. 

They don’t make greeting cards for these sorts of days. And really, how could they? This is our own personal problem; I don’t expect Target to foresee our issues and prepare a card in advance.

For my young nursing friends, who are always having some sort of trouble.

But I think maybe I’ll start a company and address everything possible. My line will address needs such as:

  • It’s too bad your baby won’t nurse and your left breast is the size of a grapefruit and feels hot to the touch. 
  • I apologize for shouting at you when you wouldn’t take the Advil last night, but you’re a full grown man and you should be able to take care of yourself when you’re sick.
  • Honey, the budget is destroyed. But look at this cute stuff I bought at Target. Please stop yelling. 

And so forth. Please feel free to comment below with any additional Hellish Days issues I could address. I will attempt to meet all needs.

Just shhhhhhh.

Maybe you’re having your own Hellish Day right now! Maybe you are stuck in your own personal misery and feeling worse as the day progresses. I’m with you, my friend. We can handle this mess together. It’s just a few more hours until bedtime, and tomorrow is a whole new day.

Tomorrow is a whole new day. Let’s hold to that hope and make it through.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

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The Lord’s cat is peeing on the Lord’s carpet

You should see my basement right now. It looks like a deranged person has neatly placed random things all around the edges of the room. Laundry baskets, the sewing machine, buildings from the kids’ old train set– it’s all tucked up right next to the baseboards.

We’re trying to keep the cat from spraying on the walls. He got all sorts of mad at us for something a few weeks ago, and I found him peeing and spraying all over the edges of the room. Ever since we started blocking his favorite areas with stuff, he’s knocked it off.

(I know some of you cat lovers are worried about Captain Kitty’s urinary health. Let me assure you there’s nothing wrong with him physically; he just has scrambled eggs for brains.)

I took to yelling in my kids’ general direction, “Your cat is peeing on my carpet!” It was all very upsetting.


But our small group is doing a financial study from Crown Financial Ministries, and our first lesson was on God’s ownership of all things. All things. Even the cat. Even the carpet.

Deuteronomy 10:14
So now I wander around the house saying calmly, “The Lord’s cat is peeing on the Lord’s carpet.” It’s helping. If nothing else, it makes me laugh.

Now you try it. If the Lord owns all things,

  • The Lord’s minivan smells like the Lord’s children’s smelly feet.
  • The Lord’s checking account needs a fresh influx of the Lord’s money.
  • The Lord’s children just spilled Coke down the Lord’s couch.

And so on. Any time you feel stressed about money or things, just apply our little formula here. Does anyone have an example handy? I’d love to hear them.

 

Tis the season to be sneaky

  
 I have gifts hidden in three separate zip codes at the moment. It will be a true Christmas miracle if I can remember where they all are before next week.

Our old house had many terrible features, like a stairway of death, a basement of horrors, and a complete and utter lack of respect for the profession of modern architecture, but it did have plenty of hidey holes for Christmas gifts. Not only that, but our kids were too terrified of the dark corners to go skulking around for gifts.

Also, spiders. That house had fat spiders in the dark corners. We were all afraid of those suckers.

We’ve lived in our new house for three years already, and the only downfall is the lack of decent hiding spaces for things like this. Well, that and the taxes, which are way higher than my liking. But this isn’t a gripe session about the tax code, so let’s go back to the storage issue.

We have one good room for all the random things like the cat litter, the washer and dryer, the water heater, and the furnace. Unless I want to build a fake wall onto the studs, I have to resort to madness to make sure our kids can’t find their gifts before Christmas.

Therefore and thus, this is where it’s all hidden:*

  • All the new socks and underwear are in the van glove compartment.
  • The new box of Q-tips Audrey asked for is buried in the back yard.
  • Caleb’s new apron and mixing bowl set have been mailed to Great Grandma’s for keeping.
  • Eric’s comprehensive set of Janet Evanovich books has been duck taped to the back wall of his mother’s closet. (He is going to be so surprised on Christmas morning!)

What about you? Where do you hide Christmas gifts?

*Portions of this post are complete lies, as my children have a tendency to go to school and read this blog to spy on me. I can’t blame them, as I would have done the same thing if blogs had existed in 1988.

Hiding Places: all the spots the kids can’t find you

In the course of normal human parenting, there will come a day when we need to hide from the children.

Of course we love the children. We love them to bits.

It’s just that sometimes we love them best from a distance of ten feet to one acre. We need a little time to pluck our eyebrows, to finish a chapter in a book, or to take a nap.

(Please, dear Lord. A nap. I’m not asking for much.)

As an introverted parent I’ve become an expert on hiding from my own kids. Here are some of my best ideas.


Suggested Hiding Spots:

  1. Behind the washer and dryer. I know it’s a little dusty back there, but I think we can make this work. Use the extension on your vacuum and get out the lint balls, then install some sort of a shelf and sleeping bag combo. Be careful not to set the sleeping bag on fire from the hot dryer parts.
  2. In your kids’ own messy closets! Artfully rearrange their crap until you have a parent-sized hole. Cover yourself with a sheet.
  3. The neighbor’s back yard. Make sure you can see your own house in case of flames or sibling death-matches. Pull a lawn chair over to the adjoining property, cover your face with a hat, and snooze away. Your kids will assume you’re the neighbor if they don’t look too closely.
  4. Under your bed. I can’t do this right now because our mattress and box spring are sitting directly on the floor, due to some issues we’re having with Eric not being willing to spend over a thousand dollars on a bed frame I’ve picked out. (And we keep breaking our other bed frames. But that’s a discussion for another time.) You probably have some space under your bed. Crawl right under there and rest. You deserve it.
  5. The back of the van. Our van windows are so tinted you can’t see a dang thing from the outside. The kids can’t see me without actually opening the back door or peering over the back seat, and we all know kids give up looking long before this. Just don’t move and they won’t be able to see you, like in Jurassic Park.

So there you go– permission to hide and concrete ideas of where to do it. What did I forget? Where do you hide in your own house?

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Just in Case You Wake Up Cranky (hypothetically speaking, of course)

I have been told that it’s humanly possible to wake up and be actually awake. Right away. My brother-in-law just opens his eyes and ta-da! That’s all he needs. He’s awake and ready to go.

I have no idea of what this would actually feel like, or how it’s even possible, as it takes me about 30 minutes and a gigantic mug of coffee before I can function.

But this morning was worse than usual. I wasn’t just tired, I was cranky. The sight of the cat infuriated me. The light in the bathroom was horribly bright. I hated the curtains.

The curtains. The curtains I picked out and like just fine, thank you very much.

At that point I had to realize that maybe the problem wasn’t outside of me. Maybe it was inside of me. Maybe I was a nut.

Maybe I’d crossed the line to Crabby Town and needed to reel myself back in before I injured someone in the house. I have a long, long list of things that need to get done today, so crawling back in bed until I feel better isn’t an option.

Psalm 123:1 to the rescue. I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven.

Lord, I need your help to get these kids off to school without emotionally scarring them. Lord, I need to empty the dishwasher and feed the cat and get to work and then do worky things. Lord, I am not in the mood to do any of these things with a good attitude. Please, please help a girl out.

I lift my eyes to you, O God.

Amen.

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Mushy Peas: Something American Mothers Don’t Force Kids to Eat

 

[My friend David and I are simultaneously posting about peas today. Click here for his side of the debate.]

What looks like baby food, tastes like baby food, and is, in fact, probably baby food?

Mushy peas.

Americans everywhere are wrinkling noses in confusion. They’re running through memories of all kinds of peas– frozen peas, snap peas, canned peas, sweet peas– but not coming up with anything resembling mushy peas.

For today’s blog I went to the largest grocery store in Kalamazoo and searched the international food aisle for genuine mushy peas. I did find digestive biscuits, weird tomato sauce, and something called barley water. But no mushy peas.

This was the best I could do after searching two separate aisles at length:

Picture this in a little paper cup, like we put ketchup in at a fast food restaurant. Now you have exactly the idea.
Picture this in a little paper cup, like we put ketchup in at a fast food restaurant. Now you have exactly the idea.

A few months ago on Facebook, my friend David mentioned this international approach to an already sketchy vegetable and we were all grossed out. They’re basically pre-chewed peas, it appears.

When we were in Ireland I found a pub that served gluten-free fish and chips, a delight I haven’t been able to eat for almost six years. The meal was served with a little container of mushy peas, so I had my chance to try them.

Um, no. No good. My kids and my husband weren’t fans, either. Not even my own mother liked them, the very woman who forced me to eat peas from 1977 to 1994.

We asked the waiter how he liked mushy peas. And he made a little grimace and said, “Well, then. I don’t like the fish.”

Which was a random sort of thing to say, we thought. But after clarifying what he meant, it turns out mushy peas are always served with fish and chips. They go together, or so it is believed in the general area that is not America. Maybe nowhere else on the globe except England and Ireland, I don’t know.

I’m glad my British friend likes mushy peas, I really am. I’m glad everyone has different things they like and hate, different strengths and weaknesses. I’m glad God thought to add some variety to his creation and how we respond to it, because the variety adds a lot of fun and delight for us all.

But I’m not really that glad for the peas themselves, really.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10

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