Moments of Joy: December 2016

We traveled to a choir concert in last month’s post.  Today’s “story” is very much more simple, because I am very much too busy to blog lately and am behind on this publishing this post!

black rectangle with white frosted edges, representing nothingness

What a great month it has been overall.  My family and I were showered with blessings and special memory-making moments.  In today’s post, I could recount stories about our silly antics on a shopping trip or during the holidays.  Or, I could capture in words a poignant moment of deep sorrow or friendship, or a life-changing event I witnessed in one of my friend’s lives.

Rather than go into such detail, I’d like to simply mention something which brought me great happiness this month — a thing many busy Americans long to find.

Can you see the thing I’m talking about in the photo above? Do you know what provided one of my greatest pleasures recently?

That’s right…You see it…It is NOTHING.  An entire week of nothing scheduled and nowhere to be at a certain time.  OK, there wasn’t actually seven days in a row of nothing, but in the space of two weeks my daughter and I had at least 5-7 days of pure relaxation.  It was wonderful!

Usually for my daughter’s homeschool we plan only one week off for Christmas so that we can have an extra “spring break” when we are feeling burned-out from studies.  This year she suggested we push summer break back a week so we could have the typical two weeks off for the holidays.  I was very receptive to this idea because we spent most of the first holiday vacation week catching up on her school work (my daughter has been sick more often this fall than ever in her entire life, and we were quite behind on her work).

That extra week off was blissful!  It was just what we needed to get us rested and energized again.  You would never think someone could get so excited about nothing, eh?

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I’m amazed to think that I’ve written these posts for two years!  How does the time slip by so quickly?! Looking back on the second year of “Moments of Joy” posts, I can’t decide which one brings me the most joy. So, I will delegate choosing the favorite post of 2016 to my lovely daughter…

After reading through the selections, she says her favorite one is the post from July. That makes sense because it was a sweet, heart-warming event that involved an adorable baby.

(She had trouble picking her favorite, as well.  If you prefer funny stories over sappy ones, she said the August post was a very close second favorite…Have you ever seen a tree wearing clothing?)

Moments of Joy: November 2016

Last month, I described my favorite parts of fall party fun. Today’s story tells of another gathering of friends, this time away from home.

All-Region choir concert filing on stage

My best friend in the world is pregnant.  What a surprise for her and her family, as she and her husband assumed for years that they could not have children.  With her last few nauseous months, and my busy family’s schedule, I have hardly seen my friend this fall.  That changes today, however, because my daughter is participating in an All-Region choir concert near my friend’s house!

I leave the house with a smile on my face, eager to enjoy the afternoon with my buddy and the evening concert.  Forty-five minutes later, I pull into the Target parking lot, search briefly for my friend’s distinctive vehicle, and park near it.  We often meet here as it is on the edge of town, and she frequents the Starbucks coffee shop in the store.

Searching the coffee shop area, she is no where to be found.  A quick phone call later, and I meet her with a big hug in the Christmas decoration area.  We shop, we chat, we share thoughtful conversation that only best friends can, and before long it’s time for the concert.

We luckily find the venue without much trouble and find a parking space near the long line of school buses.  An image of my daughter’s face from this morning flashes into my mind, and I chuckle to myself. The least-favorite part of this day for my daughter was getting up at the crack of dawn to ride the very crowded bus to choir practice.  Overall, the experiences of the day definitely outweigh the inconveniences to her, and she loves the trip every year.  I’m proud that she is so successful each year in this chosen interest of hers (singing).  I’m also thrilled that from this year forward, the public school choir class is at 8 a.m., forcing us to get an early start on our homeschooling each day without any teen fussing about needing “five more minutes” to sleep!

My focus is brought back to the present, as we get out of the vehicle and follow the crowd inside.  This is the first time the All-Region concert has been held at this location, but we easily find our way around and luck into great seats on the third row.  At the last minute, family and friends file in and settle beside us.  I turn to check how my pregnant friend is faring, as evenings are usually her worst time of the day.  Luckily, it’s a good day for her today!

The lights dim and teens begin filing onto the stage.  My daughter is easy to spot in the crowd for a change, due to her burgundy and gold choir robe.  The girls’ typical black dresses weren’t ready in time for today, and this is the first time in all the years of singing that I’ve seen my daughter in a choir robe.  She wasn’t thrilled about it when she tried it on at home the day before, but we had some good laughs joking about how many of us could probably have climbed into the giant costume with her.

After a brief technical difficulty with the microphone (“What?” one person in the back yells, “We can’t hear you!”), the show is under way.  The singing is beautiful!  My daughter seems to do well on all the songs, even the new song they were required to learn earlier today in a different language.  A second choir files onto the stage after my daughter is finished.  One of their songs is an improvised piece, accompanied by bongos. It is interesting and lively, just like the comedic conductor. The final song of the night is a powerful spiritual that elicits booming cheers from the crowd and a couple of tears from my eyes.  What a great show!

It takes a while to reconnect with my daughter and gather our friends before we decide on the spur of the moment to have a late dinner together.  I’m thrilled that my pregnant friend even feels up to eating at this time of day — yay!  So, off we go, trying to follow each other across the busy town in the dark to the restaurant.  On the way, we get briefly separated in traffic and get a close-up view of a departing school bus swiping the side mirror off a small SUV.

Finally making it safely to the restaurant, we prepare to nosh on southern home cooking at Cracker Barrel.  We have a great time asking the waitresses to snap photos of all of us in front of the large, stone fireplace while we wait for the tasty “grub.”  Then we settle back in our chairs, and conversations fly back and forth across the table with lots of smiles and laughter.  My daughter tells the details of her day, with only one sad bit of news to report.  It’s sad to her, anyway…her teacher found it so easy to spot her students among the sea of black dresses and suits that she’s decided they will wear the giant burgundy robes again next year!

We eventually admit we all need to end the fun and head home for bed.  In the restaurant gift shop, we mill around and enjoy a few more minutes together while the tabs are being paid.  I notice a couple of people sneaking up to the register to purchase Christmas gifts after someone “Oooos” or “Aaaaahs” over an item in the store.  A few final hugs are exchanged and another blessed day draws to an end.

Moments of Joy: October 2016

Last month, I shared with you the one thing that brings me happiness every day of every month — the true source of joy in this world. Today, I am remembering an evening of fall fun and friendship.

collage of fall party with scarecrow, fire pit, and pumpkin pudding desserts

What makes for a wonderful evening? Some of the things I would include are all gathered together in my backyard:

  • friends, neighbors, and family — So many people I love are mingling and getting to know one another better.  What a joy this is for me to see!
  • fun games — We’re all laughing and cheering as we take turns catapulting decorative squash with a three-person water-balloon launcher.  The goal is to hit a target hanging on hay bales across the yard, but most of the squash end up in the grass or lodged into the chain-link fence.  My first shot lands in the chicken pen, and one brave hen comes to check out the strange object.  Party games don’t have to be complicated or expensive.  Kids and adults alike are happy tonight with the “Pumpkin Launch” game, hitting a beach ball over a volleyball net, a tetherball pole, and even just using sidewalk chalk to draw on a 20-foot-long roll of black bulletin board paper that is taped to the back of the house.
  • beautiful weather — A few wispy clouds highlight the sunset before the stars begin to twinkle and shine.  A gentle breeze blows on this cool evening, encouraging us to circle around the campfire.  You can see in the photo above where I threw on an armload of sticks that was too large for our little fire pit.  The flames shot above our heads and made roasting marshmallows a bit dangerous for a while!
  • food — Food is always a great thing in my book!  I’m particularly happy with the tasty pumpkin patch pudding cups (my first-ever Pinterest project).
  • singing praises to God — Gathering friends around a beautiful campfire to sing is always a great way to spend a cool evening.
  • costumes and decorations — Several of us agree, as we sit on a row of hay bales eating smores and hot dogs, that there should be a holiday at least once per month where we could dress up in costumes.  It’s funny to see your friends looking like a Harry Potter character, Superman, a lion, a football star, a pirate, a queen, or even just a grumpy girl in a bathrobe.  Then there’s the friends who enjoy a play on words: like the geeky girl with candy glued to her jeans (“Miss Smarty Pants”) and the lady in the shower cap with sacks from different stores hanging all over her (“A Bag Lady”).  It can be fun to step away from the everyday, get out of your comfort zone, and be a little silly!

The few weeks of preparation were worth it, I decide as I look around at all the smiling faces.  I appreciate the motivation this gathering provided to clean up and repair the property, and I momentarily forget the seemingly endless times I climbed ladders to trim giant hedges and fix the gutters and siding.  Seeing friendships, new and old, deepen and grow makes it all worthwhile.  Though, I’m not positive if I would do it all again next year…whew!

Moments of Joy: September 2016

In last month’s post, I showed you what kind of clothing is worn by large shade trees. (Yes, you read that correctly.) This month has been unusual and hectic.  Since two computers “died” on me this summer — the second one is currently off for repairs — I lost my list of fun memories I had collected for September.  Since it is late in the evening, and I’m just now realizing this is the end of the month (already?!), I’ll share with you the thing that gives me many happy moments every month…

SCRIPTURE -- 2 Samuel 22:2-4 written on a photo of mountains

There’s a song on my “PRAISE” page which will help you memorize these bible verses.

black-and-white image of pregnant belly with ribbon tied around it

Oh, and here’s another happy moment to wrap up this month:  My best friend of over 20 years called me today to say that the firstborn child she is carrying is a girl!  Ahhh, such excitement!  I’m so happy for her!

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Thanks for stopping by today!  My blog has been neglected the last couple of months.  Maybe things will slow down soon, and I’ll have the luxury again to enjoy playing in the world of WordPress.  Though, I hear from many, many people that time only seems to fly faster the older you get!  How could that be?!  Wow!

Moments of Joy: August 2016

In last month’s post, I remembered the past and glimpsed the future with the help of a sweet, cuddly baby.  Today, I’ll fill you in on a new and unusual forestry fashion trend!

tree line across Arkansas field in summer, with one dead tree

While my daughter drives me and my camera through the countryside, I find much of the typical rural Arkansas fare: trees, birds, weeds, flowers, cows, and winding gravel roads.  One thing I do not expect to see as we approach a sharp bend in the road is a tree wearing clothing!

“Whoa, stop!”

Gravel grinds under the tires as my alarmed daughter stomps the break and looks around in bewilderment.  “What is it?”

“Look at that tree,” I answer, pointing out the window past my daughter’s shoulder.  “There are clothes on that tree!  Why would someone dress up a tree?  I need a photo of this!”

Hopping out of the car, I snap several photos of the fashionable shade tree and then cross the road and squat down to try a few macro shots of the field grass and fencing.  A truck appears out of nowhere and slowly approaches the curve.  I check to make sure I’m well off the road before refocusing my attention on a particular strand of barbed-wire.

Suddenly, I realize the truck has pulled off the road near our car, rather than continuing around the curve.  I glance over my shoulder, but can’t see the driver from my position.

Hair prickles on the back of my neck as I hear crunching footsteps on the gravel road behind me.  “Ok, relax,” I think to myself, “It’s not likely the person is going to attack me!”  My car makes a distinctive “click” as my daughter hits the door lock button — there will be no help from her today!

Turning on my heel, I stand up to see the tan, time-worn face of a gray-haired gentleman approaching.  “What are you doing here?” he asks in a firm voice.

With as welcoming of a smile as I can muster, I respond with “We’re out taking pictures with my camera.”

“What?” he calls out loudly.  “I can’t hear you!”

Raising the camera in front of me, I repeat my answer more slowly and with greater volume.

“What?!  I can’t hear you without my hearing aids!” he bellows back while reaching into his jeans pocket.

“Taking pictures!” I shout, waving the camera in the air between us.

He pokes a tiny hearing aid into one ear as he again shouts, “What?!  I can’t hear you without my hearing aids!”

Ok, this scene is getting a bit comical!  This time I hold up the camera and point at it while smiling and nodding until he places the second hearing aid into the other ear.

Both our voices drop down to a normal decibel level as we begin a friendly conversation about photography and fashion-plate forestry.  The tree wearing worker’s safety gear and the fence behind it covered in orange cones and reflective tape are his handiwork.  He explains that his fence has been destroyed by vehicles three times in the past year by what he assumes to be drunk drivers.

I’m surprised that could happen so many times, even on such a sharp curve, since the fence is close to thirty feet off the road.  Before we go our separate ways, he shares a couple of funny stories that do seem to implicate the work of a drunkard.  Oh, the tales his cows could tell!

Moments of Joy: July 2016

In last month’s post, I mentioned the pleasure gained from having a simple family vacation and then coming back home to sleep blissfully in my own bed.  In today’s story — oh, baby! — how I’m reminded that pure love comes in small, sweet packages!

collage of adorable baby girl from birth to four months old

A vehicle pulls up to our house, and I look out the window in surprise.  I step outside with my daughter and call toward the driveway, “Hi!  I didn’t know you were going to come in your police car!”

My friend steps out of the car in full uniform and returns my greeting as he reaches into the back seat.

“Oh, no,” I add, “my neighbor is home.  He’s really going to give me a hard time for seeing your car at my house!  He teases me all the time.”

Pulling a baby carrier out of the seat, my friend stands up and faces me.  “What does he tease you about?”

“Everything!  He has quite a sense of humor!”

The words barely escape my lips before I hear a loud voice behind me slowly calling,  “Haaa!  Haaa!!  Haaa!!  HAAAAH!!!”

I shake my head and look over my shoulder as Mr. Ferguson‘s screen door clicks closed across the street.  My friend and I look at each other with raised eyebrows and burst out laughing before heading into the house.

The cool air conditioning feels refreshing compared to the midday sun outside.  “You can set her carrier on the couch for now, if you want,” I suggest as we cross through the kitchen and into the living room.

As he places the car seat carrier onto the sofa lounger, my daughter and I eagerly crane our necks to peek inside.  The beautiful blue eyes of his four-month-old baby girl look back at us, blinking sleepily.

I, of course, comment on how adorable she is and then begin to chat about her with my daughter.  Suddenly, I realize that my officer friend has grown silent and still.  I look up to see him staring at his tiny girl with a serious expression on his face.

“This is so hard,” he states aloud while continuing to stare at the precious bundle cradled in the car seat.

After a fleeting moment of contemplation, I ask in a surprised voice, “Is this the first time you’ve left her with a babysitter?”

“Yes.”

“Not even family?!”

“No,” he answers, briefly glancing my way before continuing to gaze at his daughter.  (He later explains that they had left her in relatives’ care before, but “not for long” and “we were never more than a block away.”)

I gape at him incredulously.  “Wow, I’m honored! I’m really honored that you trust us to watch her!”

After several cuddles and kisses with his baby daughter, my friend reluctantly leaves to attend a special police training drill for the afternoon.

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoy an hour of entertainment with the now-alert infant.  We watch her explore her wiggly toes, work her gums over on her teething toy, and react to the silly faces we make at her.  She practices her new-found skill of rolling onto her stomach, but becomes more fussy each time she is unable to roll back.  It’s easy to see that nap time is overdue.

Rocking in the recliner fails to lull her to sleep, so my daughter hands her to me to try a different method.  I hold the tired babe against my shoulder as I walk around the room, patting her rhythmically on the back as I had seen her mother do during past visits to our house.

She is such pleasant and quiet girl.  Even her loudest cries seem to be half the volume of most babies I’ve encountered.  Her protests dwindle as I stand near the living room window gently swaying back and forth.  Her sweet smell and warm snuggles send memories flooding back to my mind — memories of dancing my daughter around her room each night while singing “Jesus Loves Me” into her tiny ear.

That bedtime ritual was especially loved by my daughter.  As she got older, she would sometimes ask me to sing to her “like you did when I was little.”  The last few times, she was so tall that her feet nearly dragged the floor when I held her.

I am stirred out of my reverie when I notice a small forehead tapping on my shoulder.  Our young guest is finally losing the fight to stay awake and can successfully be transferred back to my daughter’s arms in the recliner.

My tall teen smiles in pure contentment while studying the sleeping baby on her shoulder, and I get a glimpse of what the future may hold for her in a few short years.  How amazing…where has the time gone?  My heart swells with feelings of love and peace, and perhaps a twinge of nostalgia, too.

Moments of Joy: June 2016

Last month, I retold the story of how my family began an experimental health journey that has had great results for all of us.  This month emphasizes something much more mundane.collage of dark draperies with sunny window in the middle

My husband is going to a conference to accept awards he has won for his performance at work.  Since we have old friends in the area, we contact them to see if we can visit them that day.  Sadly, we find that they are going to be out of town that week.

But, the friends kindly offer their house to us as a place to stay so we don’t have to make the long trip there and back in one day.  My husband decides to take a few days off work and turn it into a mini-vacation.

We spend several days exploring new back roads and towns, visiting art museums and botanical gardens, and generally just taking it easy.  What a relaxing week!

The things that bring me the most joy during the trip are: 1. time with my family, 2. seeing other friends in the area, and 3. coming home to get a long night’s sleep in my DARK bedroom. (Our friends have no curtains at all in their house, and the room we slept in faces the morning sun!  Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to nap or sleep when there is bright light.  I thought I had really slept in late the first morning when I woke up at 5:40 a.m. Lol!).

Family, friends, and sweet sleep — these three blessings are what bring a smile to my tired face today!