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?

~~~~~~~

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?)

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Photo 101: Bliss 2.0

 Day 4 goal:  Learn how to add captions to the photos on your WordPress blog.

Lately life has seemed very hectic around our home.  One of the most blissful things I can think of at this point is lying in my hammock, just swinging and relaxing as I listen to the birds and wind chimes.

small rope hammock tied between a tree and a metal pole

When we first moved to our current home, we did not have two big trees close enough together to hang a hammock. There are so few rocks in the soil here that the support wire for the metal pole is connected to a fence post that we drove nearly five feet into the ground!

 

My son, do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.  Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.  If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

~ Proverbs 3:21-24

 

Click the following link to see Bliss 1.0 — Bliss is the entire focus of my blog, so it was easy to think of a photo idea for this theme the first time I participated in Photo 101.

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Photo 101: Home 2.0

Day 1 goal:  Learn about your camera’s buttons and functions.

As I sat imagining what photo I could take to represent this theme I looked across the living room and saw inspiration amidst the mess.

HOME

section of messy living room with window, chair, house plant, tv tray, betta fish

Please allow me to explain…

Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’

~ John 14:23 

 

Click the following link to see Home 1.0 — My daughter helped me out with this theme the first time I participated in Photo 101.

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Roadblocks to Joy: Worry

Life cannot be lived free from all sense of anxiety and concern.  For example, being concerned about not having an automobile wreck will cause us to practice rules of safety…The problem is this:  it is easy to let our concerns become cares, and our forethoughts become fear-thoughts…Anxiety results.

~Wendell Winkler, 1972

A good friend of mine once described worry as the gap between what exists and what a person wants.  Unfortunately, reality does not conform to our mere thoughts of what we wish it to be.  (Actually, that’s probably a good thing!)

arrow pointing to the right with the word

We may worry about things that have already happened.  Does that change what occured?  Of course not!  Hmmm…that’s not a very productive use of time and energy, then, is it?

It’s not what you want that makes you fat; it’s what you get!

~Merry Hearts Medicine’s wise father, way back in the 1900s

When I was young and would complain about something being “unfair!” my dad used to repeat that old country saying to me.  It didn’t do much for me as a young kid, but I appreciate the message more now.  At the time, all it did was make me stomp off in frustration, giving my father a little peace and quiet to enjoy–so it worked out just fine for him.  Lol.

Let’s look for the silver lining, rather than gather more dark clouds.

~Merry Hearts Medicine, 2015

Ha ha, I thought I’d quote myself!  The point I’m wanting to add is this:  Though we cannot change the past, we can learn from it and shape a better future through the choices we make.

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We may worry about things that will inevitably happen.  Will that stop them from occuring?  No!  Hmmm…again, don’t we have more profitable things to be doing?

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

~Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789

Life IS change.  Things break, decay, and disappear.  People mature (hopefully, anyway!), grow old, and eventually die.  Fretting about it won’t stop the passing of time.

arrow pointing left and right with the word

We may worry about things that will never come to pass.  This one is popular among worriers!  Wow…what a waste!

I remember the old man who said he had had a great many troubles in his life, but the worst of them never happened.

~James A. Garfield, 1881

arrow pointing to the right with the words

So, how do we deal with these gaps between our “wants” and our “gets,” between “it’s gonna” and “I don’t wanna,” and between our hopes and future possibilities?  As my husband is wont to say:

Do something about it, or get over it.

~Merry Hearts Medicine’s loving hubby, forever-and-a-day

Easier said than done, right?  But it CAN be done and must be done if we are to achieve true peace and happiness in this complicated world.  We will likely never reach the point of having zero worries in our lives, but pursuing that goal will bring a brighter road to travel day by day.

Life can be harassed with worry or beautified with contentment, depending upon how I make it; for both are inside jobs.  Of course, there are outside influences that may encourage and prod us to be anxious and gloomy, but we do not have to open our hearts to the pressures which are sure to torment us.

~Leroy Brownlow, 1966

Want to be happier? Quit trying to herd cats.

Has someone ever used the phrase “control freak” when referring to you?  In the past, I’ve reluctantly had to describe myself that way at times.  These days I call myself a “Reforming Perfectionist.”  (That has a much nicer ring to it, don’t you think?)  Occasionally, I have to put the heavier emphasis on the word “reforming,” but I have made a lot of progress over the last few years in refraining from micromanaging my life.  I realized that trying to find happiness and security in that way is as futile as trying to herd cats.

“Like herding cats = (idiom) something that is very difficult to organize and do.”  (idiomeanings.com)

640px-Herd_of_Cats

“(It’s) like herding cats = This expression refers to the difficulty of coordinating a situation which involves people who all want to act independently.” (idiomcenter.com)

In order to obtain more of that warm, fuzzy feeling of happiness, I had to ponder some cold, hard facts:

  1. I will never be able to completely control my surroundings.  Life IS change, and sometimes life IS chaos!  To coin another old idiom:  “You will never have all your ducks in a row.”  Items will always be added to the bottom of my “to do” list as fast as (or faster than) I can check tasks off the top of the list.
  2. The only person I can completely control is myself.  (Some people say they can’t even do that.  “I couldn’t help it when I…”  But that is an entirely different subject for another day, perhaps.)  No one is going to spend his whole life doing everything just the way I want him to, so why exasperate myself by trying to make him?

There are much more productive uses for your time and energy than trying to have everything your own way!  And at the end of the day, you might — just maybe, mind you — just possibly — occasionally find that your way was not the best way after all.

To clarify, I’m not advocating that you accept injustice or refuse to take action when needed.  I’m simply emphasizing the need to cultivate contentment in our daily lives.

contentment cat picture smaller

adapted from photo by Chris Jones

Speeding Past Joy

Hurry up!  Scan through this post as fast as you can!  Better yet, just skim the first and last paragraphs and click to the next page!  Get moving–there’s a lot more to do today and only 24 hours to tick things off the list!

You’ve got to be kidding me–are you reading this paragraph, too?!  Don’t you know this is a fast-paced world full of fast-paced people who have a ton of important tasks to complete at a fast pace?

There’s no time for tedious details in your busy life!  This blog is about finding joy, right?  So let’s just toss up a few bullet points and move on:

  • Are you breathing?  I thought so, but did you know we sometimes breathe so shallowly that our bodies still lack oxygen?  Slowly take the deepest breath you can; now pull in two or three more sniffs of air. (You can do it!)  Hold it in for five seconds, and let it out even more slowly…Did that feel a little uncomfortable?  Slow, deep breaths can help calm and relax your entire body.  Stretch those lungs a few times every day (especially if you don’t do strenuous exercise on a regular basis), and you will be happy you did.
  • Squeeze your shoulders up by your ears for a moment–hold that position…pull them straight back…hold it…hold it…now let them drop loosely down.  You were probably carrying some tension in them without even realizing it.  (Ooo, that made my neck pop and crack!)  Make it a point to be more aware of your breathing, tension level, posture, etc.  Self-awareness is a first step toward self-control and peacefulness.  (We could all use a little more of those qualities at times, couldn’t we?)
  • Wow–did you see THAT?!  Probably not, if you’re always rushing.  If you are having a rough day, slow down, just for a moment, and study your surroundings; there’s beauty and wonder to be found.  Truly there is!  “Some tiny birds keep jumping up at that dried up bush in my garden and kicking it with their feet.  What in the world?  Oh, they are knocking seeds down onto the ground to eat–how funny!”  “Look at the fancy trim along the top of that building.  I wonder how old that place is?”  Stir up awareness and curiosity in your daily life and enjoy the little pleasant things that many people miss.
  • Here’s an allegory for you:  A lumberjack can furiously chop trees all day and get a lot done before he collapses in exhaustion.  In the same amount of time, another lumberjack can chop more trees and be less tired at the end of the day simply by taking occasional breaks to sit down and sharpen his axe.  …So what?  The connection is that your mind and body work the same way; they both need breaks to rest and rejuvenate.  Search for a time or place each day where you can be alone in a quiet spot and take a breather, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes.  While you’re there, try some of the previously mentioned ideas or whatever will help you to relax a bit.  You may feel like that is wasting time, but you will actually be more productive in the end.

Ok.  If you have actually read this entire post and tried a couple of the suggestions, perhaps you’re feeling (at least a tiny bit) more relaxed and peaceful.  I hope that is the case, but enough’s enough–break’s over!  Get outta here and get busy!  Step on it!