Thursday, January 31, 2013

Choosing Joy

 "For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are." - C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

At the beginning of this new year I set some goals for myself - personal, in my marriage and mothering, and my walk with God. I do this every year for many reasons - not the least of which is, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!" One of my goals this year is to choose joy - everyday - on purpose - in this place I am now. The year 2010 was one of great testing and change, 2011 was one of adjusting to the changes caused by the events of 2010, and preparing for and experiencing my mom's physical departure from us, 2012 was walking this road of life after it's been changed by loss and giving myself lots of space. What I relearned last year, as I have learned in some of the other challenging spots in life, is that though I usually don't have control of the situations I find myself in, I do have the powerful capacity to choose my reaction and my focus.

My reaction flows from those things I believe from the heart and the framework in which I view those circumstances (that's why reactions can come as such a surprise - sometimes there is a disconnect between what I say I believe and what I really do believe). My focus comes from the things on which I choose to think and meditate. There are so many times when I reach for wisdom from God's Word that I'm struck with how much God has to say about how I'm to think, what my focus should be, and where my mental energy is to be spent. There are no references to controlling our emotions (only directions on what to do with the emotions), just directions on controlling my thoughts. It's been so powerfully proved to me time after time, that if I'm thinking within the Biblical  perimeters for my thought life - my emotions are far different than when I cross those boundaries that God has put in place for my good.

I want to choose the right focus that leads to joy. Not hilarity, but deep, genuine, joy that springs from the peace that is found in the relationship I have with my God. Joy that stems from the embracing  the foundational truths that God is Good, God is Sovereign, God is Loving, and God is Faithful. I don't want those truths to be just mouthed but to so entwine every fiber of my being that it continues changes me from the inside out. A joy that's a reflection of who God is,  and in that reflection (which means I'm becoming more like Jesus) showing my boys a clearer vision of the God who loves them.

To help me in my goal of choosing joy, I've chosen to do the "Joy Dare" which was introduced by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. Her website has always intrigued me and though I've never read her book, I have used some of her other material for various things. This isn't so much for my blog readers as it is for me - and something to share with my children. But you're welcome to come along. I'll post these on the last day of each month.

January Day 1 - 
Gifts Heard
1 The laughter of friends who shared our New Year's Meal.
2 The noise of boys playing with their friends, Ethan, Uriah, and Josiah Kiser.
3 The quiet ticking of the mantle clock that reminds me tick by tick that another year is here and I will not pass this way again - enjoy each moment.

Day 2 -
4 A Gift Outside The dormant garden on the top of the hill, waiting for spring.
5 Inside A heated home through a winter's chill.
6 On a Plate Plastic Hearts - My grandmother used to take the ring on the neck of a milk jug that is used to seal the lid to the jug and form a heart with it and put it on my grandfather's plate in the morning at breakfast. As a young girl I thought that was the neatest thing - and now, I get to do it!

Day 3 - 
Graces you Overheard
7 Stephen singing "Hark the Herald Angel's Sing" in the hallway while I was combing my hair.
8 Good news that someone's having a baby.
9 That my dentist is going to be able to upgrade some equipment in his office which made me happy for him (I probably shouldn't have overheard this but they didn't close their door!)

Day 4 -
10 A Gift Old The dishes I have in my cupboard that belonged to my Grandma Slagenweit - it's a piece of her that gives happy thoughts every time I use them.
11 New  Philip and I are going on a retreat to someplace new, Innkeeper Ministires.

12 Blue Love my blue-toed socks - very comfy when there are cold floors.

Day 5 -

13 Something you're reading I'm reading "Large Family Logistics" again - thankful for people who are able to pass on wisdom that makes me better in my roles of wife, mother, and child of the King.
14 making We're on retreat so I'm not making anything other than hot drinks and meals - which is nice. Toasted cheese sandwiches and New England clam chowder is as good as it gets.
15 seeing Looking out over a beautiful snow covered cornfield - saw a dear loping through it earlier today.

Day 6 -
16 One Thing in Your Bag Chapstick - cannot do without it during these dry winter days.
17 Your Fridge  I'm thankful for the blessing of milk in my fridge here and at home and for the farmers who work so hard so that I can have some.
18 Your Heart God answered a huge prayer for us today. My brother-in-law's father passed away this afternoon - 9 days after being diagnosed with brain cancer and there are many indications that he made peace with God. What a beautiful reminder of grace and mercy!(Later - when they got the final reports it actually started as kidney cancer)

Day 7 - Three Graces from people You Love
19 a morning kiss from my husband even though I know my breath must be horrible
20 a sly hug from my middle son who is not into affectionate gestures
21 little Stephen who filled the soap dispenser this morning with water because the soap was running low. Thankful for his showing initiative.

Day 8 - Dusky light, Surprising reflection, Lovely Shadow
22 I love these winter evenings where the sun sets early and it's dusky as you're eating supper - leads right into a lazy evening
23 These lines on my forehead seem to be permanent - when did that happen?! So thankful to be aging - I know that sounds morbid but I've had too many friends who have not made it to my age to take the privilege of aging for granted.
24 The boys doing hand shadows on the wall on the way to lunch - today they were dinosaurs fighting each other - perhaps not lovely but a reason for a smile none the less.

Day 9 - A Gift Held, Passed By, Sat With 
25 - As I held my Bible this morning I was so impressed once again of the Gift His Words are - so relevant, saving, restoring, and sufficient.
26 Almost everything I pass in my home was given to me by someone. Today I was thankful for the doily I passed on the table in the entryway that was made by a lady in whose home I stayed for several days while in Romania when I was 17 - she gave it to me as a parting gift. It brought back such good memories.
27 So thankful as I sat down to eat my meals today at the beautiful oak table my parents gave us for a wedding gift.

Day 10 - A Gift Sour, Sweet, Just right
28 The supplement I've been taking for a month that a friend thought might help bring balance to some areas that became unbalanced after surgery in 2010. I don't like the taste but I'm hopeful for the first time in a long time that perhaps there is a better "normal" than what I had settled for.
29 Thankful for the honey I put in my Twinnings Breakfast Tea - lovely!
30 Banana bread - so good.

Day 11 - 3 Yellow Gifts of Fresh Mercy
31 - The bright sunshine - sometimes dreary winter days can get long but sun today!
32 The yellow lemons I have in my kitchen decor - so cheery and fresh.
33 The yellow ducks in my "ducky bathroom" that make me smile. All too soon my children will be old enough that I'll need to retire them but for now they make me happy inside.

Day 12 - Something
34 Above -  So thankful for electric lights and ceiling fans
35 Below - carpet, oh so thankful for carpet on these cold winter days.
36 Beside  - the end tables beside my couch that were the end tables in my childhood home at the farm.

Day 13 - Three Things about Yourself you are Grateful for
37  That I still have hair - female baldness runs very strong on the Slagenweit/Miller side of the family and I'm thankful I have as much as I do since I don't expect it will always be that way.
38 So thankful I can cook - what a blessing it is not to have to rely on someone or someplace else to feed my family - I'll forever be grateful to my mother for giving me that skill.
39 So thankful that I'm old enough that I'm not scared of my own shadow as I once was. Age does have it's advantages.

Day 14 - Three Startling Graces of God
40 One of my sons initiating a conversation about a topic that he's be interested in (and I've had concerns about) and showing the wisdom of listening to the training in Proverbs he's received every since he was old enough to sit at the breakfast table. "I have no greater Joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." 3 John 1:4
41 seeing the wonder in a little boy's eyes as he saw the results of an oil spot that became wet and spread out on the driveway in a fascinating array of colors.
42 a thank you card from a friend

Day 15 - A Gift
43. Given Away - encouragement to a friend who is having her own life buffeted by challenges that seem pretty hard to face. But for grace. And through the tears we can smile. It's not over yet.
44 Worn - a dog-eared copy of "A Celebration of Praise" by Dick Eastman that is such a source of encouragement and focus changing.
45 Shared - laughter of my goof of "donating" my household planner to Goodwill today. Oh, I do believe I've donated my brain - laughing and hoping someone knows how much I need to get that back.

Day 16 - Witnessed Blessings
46 - watching the students in the cafeteria - some of them have such horrible life scars - I've listened to their stories - but yet they are determined to follow Jesus and are here to prepare (and in many cases heal) for the awesome places God has ahead for them. What a blessing to be surrounded by young people like that.
47 Allan's excitement of having the opportunity to play a recorder in music class.
48 The sparkle I see in my husband's eyes as he shares about the classes he taught today. I'm so thankful God has allowed him to use his gifts in a place where he can do what he loves to do - teach.

Day 17 - A Gift Bringing
49 Laughter - the boys Playmobil castle that has brought hours of fun
50 Prayer This blessing called homeschooling - where I must rely heavily on wisdom from Him. Because I'm doing so much more than educating.
51 Quiet  So thankful for "Quiet time" in the afternoon - the mandatory hour where everyone says nothing and stays in one spot. It's such a sanity saver.

Day 18 Three Gifts from God's Word (I read Genesis 16, 17, and 18 today)
52 God's presence in Hagar's life - woman in a situation she never volunteered for because her mistress lacked faith - God was still there in spite of it all.
53 God always keeps his promises - always, just not on our timetable or within the confines of what makes sense to us.

54 "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"  Glad this is the God I serve - no limits, no boundaries, no hardships.

Day 19 Three Gifts that might have never been
55 Allan
56 Daniel
57 Stephen

Day 20 Gifts Only Seen Close Up
58 The repentance in the eyes of a little boy who lied
59 The gift of Invisilign braces and the prospect of soon being finished.
60 The pretty pattern in the sweater I wore to church and for the little boy who noticed and said, "Mommy you look beautiful."

Day 21 A Gift In 
61 Sky Blue, clean sky during the winter - not all hazy from the smog of summer.
62 Water - so thankful for water and how much better I feel when I remember to drink it only!
63 Memory  So thankful for the wonderful memories of my mother who would have been 58 yesterday - and even more thankful that she got to spend this one in heaven.

Day 22 - A Gift
64 Wrinkled - the laundry that was forgotten in the dryer (so thankful for clothes!)
65 Smoothed - Daniel's skin as I put his eczema cream on him.
66 Unfolded - a new tea towel for over the oven handle.

Day 23 - Three Gifts Found in Christ
67 Freedom from sin - knowing that if I die within the next minute - all I have to do is die - there's nothing that needs to be taken care of.
68 Freedom from guilt - "there is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
69 Peace - "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in Thee." Isaiah 26:3

Day 24 -  Three Things Blue
70 The blue striped dress I'm wearing that was a gift from my husband. Love it!
71 My sheer dusty blue curtains that my mom bought for my living room which compliment the brocade drapes.
72 The blue Rubbermaid pitcher that has seen scores of batches of Kool-Aid over the years. Such a handy thing.

Day 25 - A Grace
73 Borrowed - good neighbors that I can borrow from when I'm cooking and realize I'm out of....... That even in the city I have people who surround me who are my friends.
74 Found - So thankful my ID card was found in the bathroom where my son takes music lessons - sure don't want to have to pay for a replacement.
75 Inherited - I have inherited a good name from godly grandparents who have lived or are living exemplary lives. And my life is still bearing the fruit of their godly heritage.

Day 26- A Gift
76 Before Dawn - Slowly coming to conscientiousness  as my husband rolls to my side of the bed to put his arm around me. 
77 At Noon - Listening to my boys recount their favorite parts of having Ethel, Elizabeth and Evangeline Canfield here for a visit. So thankful for the example they set for my soon to be men!
78 After Dark - The blessing of having a husband who spends so much time training our little guys and is right now putting them to bed.

Day 27 - Three Gifts in the Kitchen
79 - My new black enamel drip pans - so easy to clean
80 - The Zjorushi bread machine that I received as a gift - what a blessing and wonderful way to save money.
81 - the cereal in my cupboard which meant I didn't have to cook breakfast this morning.

Day 28 - Three Graces Found in Friends
82 - a friend who is ahead of me and understands where I am
83 - a friend who is at the same stage I am and knows the frustration and can help me find the things to laugh at
84 a friend who is behind me that reminds me how far I've made it on this journey with God's help and whom I can encourage to keep doing the next thing.

Day 29
85 A Soft Word - my husband's gentle "good morning merry sunshine, how did you wake so soon, you shined away the little stars and scared away the moon." - which is not true, I overslept and the sun beat me out of bed this morning.
86 A Song Heard - "Trust and Obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
87 A Light Seen - very bright day with a breezy wind - a nice break in preparation for a 30 degree temperature drop tomorrow.

Day 30 Three Old Things Seen New
88 I ran across a box of letters in my decluttering spree that contain all the notes I received during the summer of 2010 - with new appreciation of the family of God. 
89 an old pair of slippers that I don't usually wear but one of my sons had cold feet in school today and dug them out - I need to wear these more!

Day  31 A Gift
91 On Paper - the delight that came on my son's face after he burst into tears because his "8" was leaning. After I watched him write it I understood. I'm not sure how he got any of them straight. Once I showed him how to make an "S" and close it he laughed and said, "Well, that helps!" Happy for straight 8's that build a little guy's confidence.
92 In a Person - persons actually - I'm hosting a baby shower this evening and I've been blessed with many helpers so that my load is light.
93 In A Picture - was digging through a family album this morning trying to find a picture of my mom and had a neat trip down memory lane, the farm, college days and grad school. "I've been blessed with many things, God's been good to me."

***I apologize for lack of pictures ....I thought I'd add pictures at the end (so I didn't end up with too many) and for some reason blogger is not cooperating - lesson learned, add them as you go and delete if you get too many!)

Happy Last Day Of January!


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