Joy Among Circumstance


Joy. It’s a small simple word. As one living with chronic illness and pain it is hard to come by. Paul tells us to have joy in tribulations, but it just isn’t that simple. Everything I do causes physical and often times emotional pain. Cooking lunch, grocery shopping, cleaning house, washing laundry, pretty much any physical activity causes me pain. And it is hard to see the good in pain, especially when the pain is constant.

I have to look for the silver lining.

As I journey through life, I do the things that are necessary for survival and pray for God to help me find that silver lining.

Joy can be stolen, squandered or overlooked.

I have to choose to see it. Many times bitterness takes root in my heart instead of joy. When that first bit of resentment sets in, my red flags go off and I have to pray for a willing heart. One that will find the joy. Otherwise resentment takes root and produces bitterness.

As you journey through this week regardless of your circumstances, I pray you can find joy in the chaos.

 

Question: How do you find joy in the pain?

Missing the Beat

Photo Credit: www.freeimages.com by waider
Photo Credit: www.freeimages.com by waider

I am a music virgin. Ask any of my family. When a great song comes on the radio I’m oblivious to it. If an old classic song comes on the radio I won’t know what song it is until the chorus. My family knows the song, the artist and what year it came out after the first note.

Don’t get me wrong, I like music. I listen to contemporary Christian, some early to mid 90’s and even some hit 80’s, but very few songs resonate with me. My daughter claims a line from Dirty Dancing (though she’s never seen it), “You’ve got to feel the music.”

“What? I don’t know what that means.”

Yep. That’s me. My body doesn’t want to move to the music. My heart doesn’t want to sing along. I have very little emotional reaction to songs. I think I’m broken.

The only way I truly have a connection to music is if it’s been in a movie. When I can associate it with the moment in Dirty Dancing when “nobody puts Baby in a corner” or that moment when Jenny from 13 going on 30 realizes “love is a battlefield” then I’m all in. Even instrumental music I like if it’s that moment when Harry Potter kills Voldemort or Jurassic Park has finally closed.

Should I be shocked that when I looked through my music 75% of them were soundtracks?

I’ve never been to a concert because they seem to loud. I don’t like “live” versions of music because the crowd ruins the original song. I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I’m sure something is…Tell me what I’m missing!

Music Memories

My earliest recollection of really listening and loving music were when I was around four or five years old. The farm house my parents rented had a jukebox in the upper bedrooms, and I remember my brothers and I punching the buttons and listening to the records play on lazy summer afternoons. One of the main songs we listened to on that old juke was Flying Purple People Eaters. The photo to the right was taken by Otto Phokus on Flickr.

During this time I also remember one particular perfect summer evening where the fireflies came out in abundance. I danced around the yard to Rockin’ Robin and Loves Me Like a Rock. Then there was Your Momma Don’t Dance and Alone Again, Naturally, Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me, and Song Sung Blue. However, my favorite by far was Sammy Davis Jr. singing Candy Man. These songs always bring me back to a happy place.

Photo by Michael Sauers
Photo by Michael Sauers

During my teenage years I spent more time listening to Led Zepplin and Aerosmith. My first boyfriend made me cassette tape of love songs (I still have it somewhere in my many containers of memorabilia in my garage). On that tape were Sunshine of Your Love by Cream, Tuesday Afternoon by The Moody Blues, and Crazy on You by Heart, and many more. These songs bring me back to a bittersweet place since we only dated a short while, but the songs stayed in my heart ever since.

If I had to name my all-time favorite artist or group, Led Zepplin and Journey tie for first place. Aerosmith would come in a close second after those two groups. But to be fair I also love the Eagles, Kansas and The Little River Band. Now I find myself listening to more adult contemporary songs.

So in the battle of rock vs. country, as you can see, rock wins hands down. Just for fun, here’s an entertaining video of a young group of musicians  playing Led Zepplin’s Kashmir. What an awesome teacher and some really talented students keeping the music alive. And can you believe they aren’t even looking at the music? Crazy good!!

Rock On!!!!!

The Simple Life

I often tell people I was born in the wrong era. At my core, I want to live a simple life. In this fast paced world of technology I often think back to life prior to the 1900’s. I know I’d have to function without the modern conveniences of air conditioning, washers and dryers and even cars, but simple living speaks to my soul. What was it like reading by candlelight? What was it like driving a horse and buggy?

The thought of working and living off what we build feeds my soul. And so does gardening. It is as close as I can come to living the life I want, in the era God placed me in. A couple of years ago my husband and I moved to the country. While it’s only three acres, it’s plenty for me to maintain.

We have been working the land gradually. Just this year we planted a strawberry patch,

Strawberry Plant

a couple of bluebBlueberry Busherry bushes,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuji Apple Tree

 

 

even planted an apple tree!

 

 

 

 

 

Garden

My husband tilled the garden up and thanks to my father-in-law, I planted more vegetables than I intended.

 

I’ve yet to see the fruits of my labor and probably won’t for several more years as I’ve learned much about pruning for optimal fruit production, but every time I see the growth, I’m reminded of how good God is. Now I can’t wait to bite into a good homegrown tomato and can the rest for winter!

In the next few months we are going a step further and getting chickenS! I’m SUPER excited about that!

 

Happy Anniversary to us!

Well, isn’t this a fun anniversary party? I’m really enjoying catching up with everyone’s five year highlights. And in true party fashion, there’s pressies. Leave a comment below (or on any other post this week) for a chance to win a surprise collection of books and an Inkspirational Messages mug. The winning name will be drawn by Random.org. The deadline to leave a comment is Friday, March 13.

Now down to business – my last five years. Whew…I could write a treatise. Don’t panic, I’ll restrain myself. The short version is pretty simple. Five years ago I got a freaky infection that has turned into chronic pain and swelling in my legs and feet. So my highlights tend to be all about doctor’s appointments, bone scans, the day I got the referral to the Hospital Rehab Centre and medical stuff like that. I’ll spare you all the gory details and fast forward to this week.

Today I sat down with my doctor to fill out long term disability insurance forms. That is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you. I’ve been off work since November 2014 and it doesn’t look like I’ll be returning any time soon. As my doctor says, “Our priority is to effectively manage your pain and increase your quality of life. Then we can consider what returning to work might look like.”

Part of me feels like a quitter. The other part of me is just plain relieved the hard decisions are finally over. It’s been an agonizing journey to reach this point. Lots of prayers. No shortage of tears. But Heavenly Father has been with me through the whole journey and I’ve seen His hand reaching out to me in so many incredible ways. I may not understand why I’m on this path but I do know I’m not walking it alone and that is truly amazing.

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me (And Probably Don’t Want To)

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  1. Spring not only brings sunshine and the glimpse of grass in my corner of Canada – it also heralds in the season of Laura Secord eggs, my all-time favourite chocolate treat. Divine. A decadent chocolate egg with the yummiest fondue filling on earth! It comes in sizes from big to small and, my favourite, minis. I won’t confess to how many of these delights I might consume in a season.

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2. I’m a vegetarian! And I eat tofu!! And like it!!!!! Especially when it means I can eat lovely meals like this one.

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3. I’m an advocate of buying local whenever possible as well as supporting fair trade initiatives like Ten Thousand Villages. There’s a store in my neighbourhood with so many lovely items crafted by artisans in third world countries who are fairly compensated for their work.

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4.  I have a basement full of storm windows waiting to be upcycled. You would not believe how many ideas you can find on Pinterest when you search that subject.

flood books

5.  I love to read. Oh, wait. You already knew that. I love to read so much that when I leave home I bring the book I am reading as well as a flood book. Never heard of a flood book? It’s the extra book you take with you in case there’s a natural disaster (like a flood) and you might not get back home to your TBR pile before you finish your current book. So, for example, I brought these two books to my doctor’s appointment today. I’m reading How To Catch a Prince, and Keys of Heaven came along as my flood book.

Don’t forget to leave a comment in order to be entered in our draw of surprise books and a mug. Tell me what you’re reading now and what your flood book would be.

 

 

Homeschool vs Public School

Photo Credit: www.freeimages.com by lhys
Photo Credit: www.freeimages.com by lhys

In this day and age when it comes to education, we have so many more choices than our ancestors. There are many advantages and disadvantages to both home-school and public school. Most people I know are on one side of the fence or the other. The homeschooling community I am a part of seems to educate at home because it gives the parents more freedom. Freedom to have a flexible schedule, freedom to choose what books, music and entertainment the child is exposed to. And educating at home gives the parent the option to teach the truth. Truth of history, truth of science and truth of God. And they do what is best for the child.

The public school community I am a part of works hard to serve. They help all children. People of different ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds and economic backgrounds. Most public educators I know have the heart of a servant. They work within the structure the government has created. And they do a pretty good job at it. What I have seen in our small community is teachers and administrators form relationships with the children. And that to me, is just as important as any book knowledge. They care for the student’s well being and stay within the laws set up by the state. They do what is best for the child.

All students learn differently. Whether one chooses to educate their family through home-school or public school doesn’t really matter as long as it is what is best for the child.  And I have found when you do what is best for the individual they grow and change in ways that is best for the collective. Because their needs are being met, they are fulfilled and thriving, and will be an asset to their communities.

I have two daughters. Both of them educated through the public school system through seventh and third grade. We opted to home-school both as we felt this was best during some transitions. One child thrived, the other did not. As we prayed and determined how to meet the needs of both of our children, we ended up putting one back in the public system. So we have one in home-school and one in public school. Now both of my children are thriving. Because my husband and I have met their individual needs. What works for one doesn’t work for all, otherwise we’d all be the same. Boring and predictable.

Are you meeting the needs of your children by home-school or public school?

Headline news

For seven years, I was a bonafide Girl Friday, a Lois Lane, a Nellie Bly: I was a newspaper reporter. I worked for several different papers, churning out multiple stories a week, interviewing people, writing many different types of news stories, and ultimately, learning how to be a better, faster, tighter writer.

While I have never published a novel, I have had thousands of newspaper articles published over the years, so here are a few things I learned in the newspaper business that I think can apply in any sort of writing situation.

Write a good lead.

How many news article do you actually read every day? For the most part, people just skim a news story for the highlights. Journalism students are taught to write a good “lead” (the first 1-2 sentences of typewrtiera news story) that will essentially capture the entire story into one or two neat little sentences. If it’s a feature story (a nice, feel-good story), it’s even more important to write a solid lead that will make people want to read the entire article.

This can be applied to fiction writing as well: write a good opening scene, or even better, a great opening sentence. I’ve actually decided against buying a book in the bookstore if I open it up to Chapter 1 and the opening sentence or scene doesn’t even remotely capture my attention. One of my favorite opening scenes is in a suspense thriller called The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry. Here’s the opening sentence:

“In fifteen seconds, Miles Lord’s life changed forever.”

Wham pow! I know something incredible is going to happen in the next couple of pages and it made me want to find out what changed his life.

Do your research.

When I worked for my college paper, one of the hard and fast rules we had was to have at least three sources (people that you quoted/interviewed) in your story. This is a good rule because when you have multiple sources, you have a better overall view of the story you are trying to tell, plus it doesn’t allow just one person’s bias to rule a story. This is the same whether you are writing a news story or a fictional story. I know historical fiction writers consult multiple sources when researching an era, and even contemporary writers need to do their research when writing about specific subjects, rather than lean on their own opinions of bias.

Be prepared!

You never know when you’re going to come across a good story, so always keep a notebook with you. A few years back, I literally stumbled upon a story. A 16-year old girl and her father were reporter notebooksdriving home with a large load of manure in the back end of their pickup truck. The girl lost control of the truck and rolled it into a ditch. Thankfully, she and her father were fine, but the manure was strewn across the highway for more than thirty feet. I came across this accident about two minutes after it happened as I was driving home, and since I had my trusty notebook and a camera with me, this accident became front page news (yeah, it was a rural community, so this was bigger than the time a piglet escaped a hog truck and decided to wander around downtown for a good hour. True story.).

But having a notebook isn’t just for journalists. How many times have you had a sudden inspiration for a story, and not had anything to write it down on? I’ve filled hundreds of notebooks with story ideas, notes, character sketches, even actual scenes! I wrote the ending of my first novel while sitting in a courthouse waiting for the trial I was covering to come up on the docket. I also have a running tab of ways for people to die by musical instrument that I’ve written while sitting in several symphony concerts (hey, I’m writing a murder mystery set around an orchestra!). You just never know when inspiration will strike.

Healthy Taco Soup

I cook lots of soup year round because my son isn’t big on vegetables except mashed potatoes. The only way to get veggies down him is in soup. For years, my family has loved taco soup.  But I recently tried something new. Shh. Don’t tell them. I substituted ground turkey for hamburger. They think I started buying a more finely ground beef. Shh.

Healthy Taco Soup:

1 pound Ground Turkey (browned)

1 can Rotel Tomatoes and Green Chilis

1 can Stewed Tomatoes

2 cans Pinto Beans (drained)

2 cans Hominy (1 white, 1 yellow both drained)

2 cans water

1 envelope Ranch Dressing Mix

1 envelope Taco Seasoning (original)

Brown turkey, then add 1/4 cup water, stir in dressing mix and seasoning. Simmer until well coated. Stir turkey and rest of ingredients into dutch oven. Bring to boil, then simmer until flavors blend. Can use corn instead of hominy or experiment with different beans.

Simmering the turkey in the taco seasoning gives it more flavor and helps disguise the turkey in case your family is as finicky as mine. And it’s so healthy, you can get away with topping it with Fritos and shredded cheese.