Moments of Joy: July 2015

Last month, I shared a cartoon about homeschooling that gave me a chuckle because it struck way too close to home for us this year.  (My daughter is now scheduled to finish her Algebra lessons about three days before we begin the next school year in a few weeks.)

This month’s true story recounts a touching connection of friendship that was interrupted by an embarrassing rescue.

empty highway stretching off into distance

Several ladies I know and love have put together a plan to have monthly devotional/relationship-building meetings to help all of us learn more about each other and grow closer as friends.

“What a lovely idea this was!” I think to myself while scanning the faces of a circle of women spread across a crowded living room during our second gathering.  My attention is drawn to a lady in the corner as she stands up with a couple of sheets of paper that slightly vibrate back and forth in her nervous hand.

I send her a wide smile of encouragement as her trembling voice begins reading the heartfelt words she has so painstakingly prepared to tell us this evening:

“Share your weaknesses.

Share your hard moments.

Share your real side.

It’ll either scare away every fake person in your life, or it will inspire them to finally let go of that mirage called ‘perfection,’ which will open the doors to the most important relationships you’ll ever be a part of.” *

I don’t know if you remember or not, but last time we met we went around the room saying something about ourselves that the others may not know. When it came to my turn, I mentioned me and my family performing at the community theater.

We were dressed as frogs and performed ‘Green-Eyed Lady.’ As part of my costume I wore huge swim goggles, I guess to resemble frog eyes … I also mentioned that the only way I got through that was that as soon we hit the stage my goggles fogged up and I couldn’t see two feet in front of me, much less the audience, so I was good to go and able to act a fool.

Everyone grins or laughs at the image of her and her family, all green and goggled.  She glances around the room, smiles, and continues:

I need those goggles today! Believe it or not, my husband likes talking way more than I do. I tend to listen more than speak, which I guess in some circumstances is a good thing, but not for what we are here for today.

For some odd reason, when I get around you all I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged to do things that I would never do; I’m encouraged to be better; I am on fire for God. So when that sign-up sheet floated around last time, I was prompted to sign up …

For the last several weeks I’ve gone back and forth about what I would like to speak about today and over that same time I, myself, have evolved into the subject I’ve decided on. That subject is BEING REAL.

Over the last few weeks I’ve come to know more of you on a deeper level, and in turn it has allowed me to lower my infamous relationship wall. I’ve come to realize that once I got to know some of you better I found out that we are so much more alike than I ever thought.

We are told in James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” I believe that this is a crucial part in forming the relationships that God intended us to form.

I have to admit that you guys SCARE me! When I look at all of you, I see all the goodness that you exude. When we first started attending worship, I was so intimidated by you all. I felt as if I would never live up to any of you and your abilities. That you all were so much further in your walk with Christ, that somehow you all had figured out how to get it all right.

Looks of surprise flash across many faces in the room.

“Scared of ME?”  I think in amazement.  “ME… ‘having it all together’?  Yeah, right!”

I didn’t feel that way because of anything someone said or did, but it was my own insecurities in all of their glory. You all have been so good to me, to my family, to each other. You all have shown me what being Christ-like truly means.

You see, I didn’t grow up attending church. Until I married, I never really had a christian example. So I’ve needed a huge learning curve when it comes to attending church, becoming a christian, and living the way I should.

As the years have gone by and I’ve continued my walk with Christ, I’ve grown to learn that I most definitely am a work in progress, and that is OK! The more I get to know you all, I understand that you feel that way as well.

We all fall; we all need start-overs; we all need examples. What is important is that we get back up; we brush ourselves off, pray to the Father, and start again.

What is also important is who is there when we do fall. My hope is that when–not if, but when–I fall that you all will be there. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.”

A few eyes around the room are getting misty as we all meditate on the meaning of her words that strike so true.

So, I will begin…This is me, being real. Hi, I’m Tabitha.** I often fall short, and I sin. I do things that are against God and His word. Do I regret it? Yes. Do I pray for forgiveness and repent? Yes. Do I need your help? Yes.

Everyone’s eyes are glistening now…

More times than not, I’m a wreck. If you come across me and I appear to have it all together, I promise, I do not.

You may see me smiling while coming through the door on Sunday morning, but there is a high probability that me and family were just arguing in the car. I work 50 hours a week outside the home. I have laundry piled up, and we eat out too often. I watch too much TV, I don’t work out enough, I get too many Pedi’s, and the list goes on and on.

I don’t study enough. I don’t reach out to the lost enough. Although I fail at so much, I try, I strive, and I keep on keeping on. I pray to God for forgiveness and strength. I love God.  I believe in Him and His word.

This is me, me being real. I need each and every one of your help. I need you in my life. I need you as my friend. In order to do that, I need to be me, to confess my trespasses, and to know that you will love me as Jesus does…flaws & all.

“And she thought she wouldn’t do a good job speaking to us?” I think as I wipe a tear from the corner of my eye.  (Yes, I’m a crybaby.  I freely admit it.)

I not only need this, but I believe by doing this we are fulfilling a commandment given by Christ. Church and the christian relationships we form are just like anything else in life. You get what you give.

You can’t walk into the Church building, find your designated seat, listen to the sermon, and then as quickly as the final “Amen” is said, rush to your vehicle. Believe me, I tried; it didn’t work.

Over time, I found myself sitting in the sanctuary with this suffocating feeling of loneliness. As tears fell from my eyes, it occurred to me that there was something extremely wrong with this picture. I was sitting in a room full of the people who loved me most in this world, and my wall was so tall that none of you were getting over it.

If it were not for those who kept pecking and pecking at me week after week

She narrows her eyes and targets meaningful glances at several women, which elicits chuckles from many of us.

and for me fervently praying about it, I would still be covered in that feeling of loneliness.

So, this is me…goggles off, my heart shown, me being real.

My prayer is that this talk has made some sort of sense and it has fallen on loving ears. Thank you for listening; I love you all.

Tears and hugs are shared all around, amid exclamations of praise and approval.  Tabitha has opened her heart, taking a risk by reaching out to her friends and allowing us to do the same.

What a blessing friendship is!  It requires nurturing and commitment from both sides of a relationship, but what rewards it reaps!

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Once our eyes are all dried (for the most part) and all the sniffles snuffed, we are encouraged, in order to further “break the ice,” to share either our scariest or funniest moment we can remember.

The first story involves a misunderstanding in a foreign country: several people yell animatedly at a woman in a vehicle who is waiting for her husband to return.  She sits huddled between piles of luggage, weeping aloud with her children pressed to her chest, thinking she was about to be attacked or even murdered…until she finds out they men were only trying to tell her she was in a vehicle where children and luggage are not allowed.

I smile and think to myself, “That was a good one!  Scary AND funny!”

During the next story, I notice I had missed a text message from my spouse.  I step out of the room to try to contact him, with no success.

Hearing a pause in the conversation, I walk back through the doorway, raise my hand and announce, “I have a funny story to share!”

Everyone settles in and kindly gives me their attention, so I begin, “I just noticed this text message from my husband.  It says…’Your husband has run out of gas near the Tinytown** exit.  Forgot I was low.  Light never came on.  If your meeting is almost over I’ll wait for you.  If not, I can walk back to Tinytown.’ “

A loud round of laughter and expressions of “Oh, no!” erupt around the room.

“So, where is he now?” one lady asks.

“I don’t know.  I tried to call him twice, but he won’t answer.”

“What are you going to do?”  “How will you find him?”  Other women inquire.

“I guess I’ll drive down the highway and search for a beat-up silver truck sitting on the side of the road.”

I proceed to explain how this is not the first time my dear hubby has been in this situation, and that his warning light probably didn’t come on because the bulb burnt out from being used so often.  (I’ve seen him literally roll up to a gas pump because the car engine died as he turned into the gas station!)

“Are you really going to go rescue him?  If he has to walk, he might learn a lesson.”

Upon hearing this comment, I can’t resist a brief recount of the time my husband walked seven miles in penny-loafers at 2 a.m. after running his gas tank empty.  (Remember those shoes?  Those were not built for comfort!  Ahhh, the adventures we had in the days before cell phones!)

All joking aside, though, I am beginning to get concerned that he is not returning my calls.  It has already been over 20 minutes since he sent the text message so my daughter and I share a few more hugs before bidding an early goodbye to our friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Another 20 or so minutes later, I turn off the highway at the Tinytown exit.  I turn left to cross over the freeway and ask my daughter to look farther down the freeway from the bridge to see if she can spot her daddy’s truck.  Nothing.

After coming down off the overpass, I spot a tiny figure in the distance, bobbing along through the tall grass beside the highway.  Relief relaxes my tension and I debate whether or not to blow the horn and watch my husband jump like a scared cat.  (Yes, along with being a crybaby, I must also admit I can be a little ornery, too.  Lol)

As we draw near, I can see that my poor man is dressed head-to-toe in navy blue and black synthetic dress clothes that are clinging tightly to his sweaty frame.  The air conditioner in the car is blasting on high to combat the 98 degree temperature and nearly 100% humidity of the sultry summer evening.  I decide to have pity and give only a small beep on the horn to alert him of our arrival.

He turns around with a guilty grin on his face as we approach and quickly climbs into the back seat with a sigh of pleasure at feeling the cool air blowing.  He says he decided the 45 minute walk was a better alternative than sitting in the “oven” of his truck.

On the way home to get the gas can, my husband declares, “I wanted to walk more, so I definitely got my exercise today!”

I appreciate his positive attitude.  When it’s all said and done, why not try to have a laugh about the situation, rather than letting it ruin your day?  He was glad to discover that his new shoes are comfortable (and well broken-in now), and he’s sure he must have sweated some toxins out of his body.

He arrives home later after filling the truck’s gas tank to the brim at a nearby station.  I hear him immediately go to the kitchen to prepare a tall glass of ice water; then he steps into the living room where my daughter and I are reclined on the couch, turns sideways, and asks, “Am I thinner?”

I just shake my head and laugh, wondering how long it will be before we get to do this all again.

~~~~~~~~~~~

If you’ve read this far through this post, you are a patient person, indeed.  Before you go, I’d like to reward you with the following tidbits of wisdom.

From my husband:

Wow, those off ramps from the highway are SO much longer than they look! They don’t seem long at all when you’re driving, but WHOA when you’re walking they seem to go on FOREVER!

If you run out of gas right after an exit on the freeway, it’s not the best choice to coast as long as you can before pulling over.  It just means you have that much farther to walk back to a gas station.

From my father:

Gas up your vehicle when it gets down to a quarter of a tank.  That way you won’t suck up into your engine as much of the junk that has settled to the bottom of the tank, and you won’t ever end up sitting on the side of the highway because you ran out of gas.

Sharing your

[*quote by Dan Pearce in his book: Single Dad Laughing]

[**Names of people and places have been changed for privacy.]

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Links to Joy: Expressions of Appreciation

Last spring, the trash truck would come by every Friday morning while I was homeschooling my daughter, and we would usually hear the noise and peek out of our high living room windows to see if a visitor had pulled into our driveway. One of the workers noticed and started watching for us and waving to us each week; it seemed to entertain him.

I observed the men loading the smelly garbage into the truck, and began to think about the rain, heat, and cold they worked in throughout the year. I thought how they were frequently in danger from impatient drivers zipping past the garbage truck, stray dogs, glass, chemicals, and the germy refuse that splashed out of the trash cans.

Seeing an opportunity to teach my daughter about compassion for others, I talked to my her about the subject of unappreciated, unpleasant jobs as we watched the truck continue down the street.  We decided as a result of our discussion to leave the workers a thank you note the next week.

large, green, wheeled trash can sitting in the grass with a yellow thank you sign

Our trash can sat by the street on the following Friday with a large piece of bright-yellow posterboard taped to the lid.  Written on the posterboard was a letter about how the garbage collectors’ jobs seemed to us to be difficult and usually ignored or unappreciated by most people.  We stated that the town would be a disgusting mess without them working hard to gather people’s trash every day and that we wanted them to know we appreciated their efforts.

When we heard the squeaking brakes and roaring engine of the approaching trash truck, things quickly became very cloak-and-dagger at our house.  Overcome with embarrassment and fearing the trash workers might think us insane for leaving such an unusual note on our can, we threw the curtains closed and waited.  The truck pulled up in front of our house and idled for a long time.

My daughter and I sneaked around to a different window and peeked out to see the friendly waving worker hand the posterboard note to the driver in the front of the truck.  Searching the house with his eyes, he proceeded to empty the trash from our can, close the lid, and slowly wheel the can all the way up into our carport before walking back to the truck.

For several months now, that worker has returned the empty trash can into our carport every week. Once, I forgot to set the can out by the street, and he took care of everything for us.  Any time he sees us in the yard or looking out a window, he waves and yells hello with a big smile on his face.  It seems that our simple gesture of gratitude made quite an impact on the man.

Everyone enjoys being appreciated.  Have you ever noticed in your own life that it is easier to work hard at something when you know that someone really appreciates what you’re doing?  If no one cares about what you’re doing, or worse, if people continually complain about how you do it, it can make you think about throwing up your hands and quitting, right?

I believe that everyone around us will have a more pleasant day if we make a conscious effort to spread a little joy via appreciation:  Rather than complaining every time someone does not do something the way you’d like, try instead to compliment the person when you catch them doing something well. With the example of my garbage collector story, that would mean moving from the attitude of

Ugh!  The trash guys left my empty can too close to the street!  Hey, man, someone could have run over my can!  Why don’t you do your job right?

to an attitude of

I’m glad it’s trash day.  Thanks, mister, for working hard for us and for hauling that bag with the stinking, rotten meat off my property!  You deserve a bonus!

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Details Revealed

In the last post, I presented some photographic macro mysteries for you to identify with your discerning artistic eye.  Today, I will reveal the true subjects represented in those interesting images.  (Ooo, doesn’t that sound fancy? ha ha  Anyway, here’s what was in the pictures from the last post…)

Macro Mysteries Solved photography logo by Merry Hearts Medicine

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It’s All in the Details

Macro Mysteries logo small

Photography has become a little bit of a hobby of mine this year, when I have time to get out my camera.  The camera I have is older and has its limitations, but I have managed to capture some descent shots with it the last few months.  I’ve particularly enjoyed trying my hand at macro photography.  For me, it’s relaxing and adds a bit of joy to my day.

There are interesting details to discover all around us, if we have the time (and macro camera setting) to explore them!

Can you identify the subjects of these macro photographs?

macro photo of sunlight shining through the leaf of a spider plant

macro photo of a small knot showing through the paint on a windowsill

macro photo of window screen that has rotted after years of sunlight

macro photo of sunlight shining through a brown velvet curtain

macro photo of finger joints on a knick knack shelf

macro photo of the ridges on a burgundy and white seashell

macro photo of aerial roots on a vining plant

What hobbies bring a spark of happiness to your day?

~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~

{Are you curious to know if your guesses are right?  The subjects of these photos are identified in the next post.}

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Links to Joy: Hope

When life seems to be at its darkest, turn around and focus on the Light.

 

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with stress, discouragement, or sorrow?  I saw that overwhelmed look in my neighbor’s eyes this morning after his wife passed away during the night.  As I crossed the room to give him a hug, his words were “This is SO HARD!  Pray for me because that is the only thing that will get me through this.

When you feel like your pain will never ease, like there is no way out of your misery, like no one understands or cares…you can find hope and comfort in the Light.

 

We are writing these things so that your joy may be complete.  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

~ 1 John 1:3-5

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

 

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

~ Romans 15:13

Being Complete

tiny house sitting upside down next to a concrete floor with a chair sitting nearby

Does it ever feel like something is just not quite right with your home? …your family? …yourself?

Do you often wish you felt more happy or fulfilled?

Is something missing in your life?

Check out the following video, and you may discover the keys to making your life feel complete.

For more information on this topic, please click on the audio links below:

Unfulfilled Believers.

What’s Missing?

It’s Never Enough — Covetousness.

Framework for Fulfillment.

Choosing Contentment.

Serve, Pray, Seek, Wait.

Moments of Joy: June 2015

Last month I shared a collection of small events which brought me joy — life’s simple pleasures.  This summer has been such a blurry flurry of activity that for the first time I am late in sharing my “Moment of Joy.”  Thus, June’s post will be short and simple compared to my usual monthly vignettes…

Cherish the moments while they last because time goes by so fast.

“Summer break”?!  How did it get to be summer already, and who has time to take a break from anything?

While perusing my WordPress Reader, I chuckle at this cartoon shared by Betty Jo in her homeschooling and humor blog called “Still Learning Something New.”

1239964_10152391170061204_1301493503_n

You see, In January 2015, my brain says, “My daughter will start high school soon, and this is the last semester we have to just enjoy ourselves and allow her to be a kid.  We need more free time to visit family and friends.  We need more time to bond and relax!  This will be wonderful!”

Then my mouth says, “Let’s take it easier this spring for a change, so we can enjoy more free time!”

Of course, my student responds, “Sure!  That sounds great! Yay!  Wa-hoo!  All right!  I love it…”  (She says something along those lines, anyway.  I don’t quite catch every word she is yelling while her sparkling eyes dance with excitement.)

Now, in July 2015, as I sit grading a stack of algebra papers on the couch beside my mildly-depressed daughter, my brain says, “The things you put off in spring, you will pay for in summertime.  Was it worth it?  I don’t know, but it sure was fun at the time.  Sigh…OK, the square root of 24 plus negative four times three X squared…”