The Rainbow

Several days ago when I started working in my garden I noticed much of the sweet corn and a couple of tomato plants had blown over. I was shocked because I didn’t remember any strong winds lately. Apparently though, a strong gust must have blown through sometime, maybe at night when I didn’t notice it. I staked up the tomato plants and hoped for the best.

Today I noticed that the corn already looks taller as the stalks are straightening as they reach higher. Before long I’m sure the plants will be back to normal, and hopefully the tomato stems will strengthen enough to bear fruit later on.

The corn is prospering despite the damage done to it. The roots are growing deeper, giving it strength to withstand a storm. As the corn reaches for the nourishing sun, it grows stronger every day.

That wind-toppled garden reminds me of life at times. Just when things are going along nice and easy, a storm blows in, threatening everything in its path. James 1:2-3 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I’ll be honest here. I’ve always had a problem viewing trials as joyous occasions, but He’s expecting us to be gracious always. It’s easy to thank Him for the blessings He’s given us, but I have a lot of work to do in showing gratitude in the problem department. He knows our true needs better than we do, though it may not be what we want or think we deserve.

As true believers, God expects us to look for the rainbow after the storm so we may see His full glory and walk more closely beside Him.

 

 

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?

Joy All Day Long

First of all, I need to explain this post is late because of Mary Connealy. Yep, it’s all her fault.

Well, that and I can’t put down her newest release Now and Forever. And while this post may be late getting up today, her book has brought me a lot of joy in a rather hectic time.

Now&ForeverDoesn’t the word “joy” just make you smile? It’s not always easy to do as Paul said to “count it all joy” but when the Holy Spirit plants the seed of of joy in your heart, I find it easier to nurture joy by filling my home with things that remind me of God’s unfailing love.

I read about this idea somewhere years ago, and began to put it into practice. By purchasing certain products for my home, I am reminded of godly things as I go about my day. Here are a few of my favorites:

Joy Dish Soap –Makes me think about the joy in my heart knowing God’s love. Also, I teach a girls class called The J.O.Y. Girls. Our motto is “Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.”

Dawn Dish Soap– Sometimes, I buy Dawn instead of Joy. It reminds me that every day is a new beginning in Christ filled with hope.

DoveDove–I use quite a few Dove products. They remind me about how God keeps His promises and about the peace He gives. When I see the Dove, I try to stop and pray for peace when I’m harried or worried. Hey, I can use the same reasons to eat a Dove candy bar, too.

Tide–Tide makes me think of the ocean and all of the things that God has made which are so magnificent and vast.

Bleach–No particular brand here, but it reminds me that the blood of Jesus has bleached my sins and made me white as snow.

There have been others along the way, and obviously not all products work this way. Mop and Glo is just Mop and Glo. However, when given the choice between products, I often choose the ones that can serve as a gentle nudging to turn my heart toward the Lord in that moment, and nothing brings me more joy than that.

What do you think? Do you have any little reminders around the house? Are there any products I should add to my list?

 

Joy in the Rain

Living on a farm brings with it a boatload of trials and that’s exactly what we need this spring—a boat (not the trials.) Maybe rice can be our new crop this year.

Watching the weather can almost become an obsession, especially when it doesn’t cooperate with our plans. Rain after rain after rain has kept farmers from planting their crops and doing other field work. Normally planting season is finished by now and the planter put to sleep for the season. But not this year.

This is one of those springs when the moment the ground dries enough to get in the field, here comes another downpour. Little by little, with sporadic sunshine, the crops are slowly getting planted though, but we’re concerned now if it will have a sufficient growing season before frost. It’s hard not to worry about the “what ifs” when farming is our livelihood.

Several weeks ago while reading “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, her choice of devotion topics seemed written especially for these fears. In fact, the theme ‘finding peace’ dominated her writings for several days and the way I see it is this—if you find peace you’ve also found joy.

God has a purpose for all the rain He’s sending us. Yes our ponds will be full and our sub-moisture replenished, but how does that pay the bills, we ask?

Isaiah 41:13 reads, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you, Do not fear; I am with you.” Only God knows how to draw us closer to Him—sometimes it’s through worry or a fear. Everything that happens is a gift from God and part of His plan for us. Accepting these gifts, even if we don’t understand their purpose, is a sure way to find joy in every situation, even in times of trial.

Finding Joy

Sometimes it’s hard to find joy in our busy hectic lives, yet to keep balance in our lives it’s a must!

Here are five simple things that bring me joy, remind me to be joy-filled, and prompt me to thank God for the simple blessing in my life.

1. Hearing a favorite song on the radio. Whether it’s a new release or a golden oldie that pulls me back to a carefree time, I savor those few minutes. I mean really what is the first thing you do when you hear a song you love? Smile or sing along…that is JOY!

2. Stopping to smell the roses…or lilacs….or any flower. Even with seasonal allergies I don’t take the beauty of flowers or trees or shrubs for granted. Most flowers have a short blooming life so take a few minutes each day to really appreciate them. One year my sister gave me a variety pack of gladiola Joy blog 1bulbs. She planted some too. We reported their growing progress and the color of their flowers to each other. She called it our summer of JOY. It was!

3. Popcorn. Yes, popcorn. It was my dad’s favorite snack. We ate it every night growing up and enjoyed it wherever it was sold, car races, rodeos, carnivals. This buttery snack brings back happy memories…and that’s JOY!

4. Slipping into a soft, comfy pair of p.j.’s that have seen their better days and most people would have thrown away. Comfortable and familiar…a very simple JOY!

5. Taking a long, luxurious bath while reading a good cozy mystery after a hard day at work. Such Joy blogJOY!

Really, my list could go on and on. I’ve looked for the simple joys or blessings in my life for a long time and never take them for granted and always send up a quick prayer of thanks to God.

Do any of these things bring you joy too?

Joy and Peace and Hope

I like to think of myself as an optimist.

I’m generally a glass half full type of gal, the person who tries to find the silver lining in a bad situation, the one trying to find the positive thing in a sticky situation.

But a few years ago, I was in a bad place. I was working a job I didn’t like, getting paid much less than I thought I was worth, and no matter how many places I applied to, I couldn’t seem to get past a first interview. My writing was stagnating and my prayer life faltering. My husband and I had been married for several years, but buying a house and having children were out of the question financially. I watched as friends and colleagues got married, had kids, moved on to bigger and better jobs. They seemed financially stable, they were buying the houses that I wanted, they were taking the vacations I wanted to go on. They were living the life I thought I was entitled to.

I felt a lot like Rapunzel from the Disney movie Tangled, stuck in my tower watching the world go by, singing “When will my life begin?”

I’ve never been great about daily Bible reading, but I remember reading my Bible one night and coming across this verse:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Shamrock scriptureThe thing that stood out to me then was the double iteration of the word “hope.” I was feeling  hopeless, and yet here was the God of hope, my God, telling me that if I only trusted in Him, He would fill me joy and peace and overflowing hope. That’s a pretty powerful promise to a sad person.

I can’t say that finding that verse was a “come to Jesus” moment, and that everything miraculously changed after that. It was still a year before I found a new job, and still even more time before a few other of my “grown up” dreams came true. But it made a difference inside me, to place my trust in God and not myself. To find joy and peace and hope in the little things in my life, the things that were right in front of me all along.

Like Rapunzel, I needed to take a look around my tower and see the wonderful things I had and take joy in them instead of wishing for more. (“I’ve got my mother’s love; I shouldn’t ask for more. I’ve got everything, except I guess a door…”)

God has given me grace to take joy in the things in my life that I do have. I find joy in the encouraging text messages my husband sends me throughout the day. I find joy when my goofy dog brings me her bone. I find joy in seeing new shoots pop up out my garden, and the tiny purple shamrock that is growing in a pot on my deck. I find joy seeing old friends, and getting unexpected emails. I find joy in singing Broadway showtunes at the top of my lungs. I get joy from reading a particularly good book, or crying at a movie I’ve seen dozens of times. I get joy from worshipping each Sunday.

Trust in God, and he’ll grow your one small, purple shoot of joy into a garden overflowing with His Joy and Peace and Hope.

Elusive Joyfulness

I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart. Where?

One day in church we sang this song and I was feeling less than joyful. I was quite the opposite of joyful, and when the ‘where’ part came up it felt as if I were actually asking God that very question. Where, God? Where’s that joy down in my heart?

There wasn’t anything major wrong with my life. It was just one of those days. You know them.  They’re the ones that have so many little things go wrong that the walls start to cave in on you.

Oh, joy. You elusive, thing you!

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But, is joy really that hard to find? If you’re anything like me, joy can be as hard to grasp as water—it slides right through your fingers. So, these next two weeks we inkspers are going to be sharing how we find joy in everyday life.

Today was an unusual day. I had family gather for an unexpected get-together. I scrambled to get food and entertainment and had to cancel some plans I already made. I hustled to get everything, and while one of my strengths is adaptability, it still stresses me to rush around at the last minute.

I promised myself I wouldn’t sweat it, though. It was going to be a blessing, and it was. We got everything gathered for a grill out at our farm (fifteen miles from our home, so lugging everything was necessary), set up the yard games, and got some music cranking for an impromptu cook-out/family fun day.

Despite a storm blowing south of us, we had a blast. I’m sunburned and windblown to prove it! I’ve seen this type of situation bring out the worse in people. They grumble about having to plan something at the last minute. Complain about the prices of food, which had they known they would’ve gotten that on sale! Or simply let everyone know exactly how much they’ve done so that everybody and their dog knows the trouble they went through to put this shindig on!

That’s not joy.

Joy is knowing I still have family that wants to spend time with me. It is being blessed abundantly, enough to afford feeding several people on short notice. Joy is sitting down at the end of the day exhausted from a day full of fun and activity that was worth everything I went through to pull it all together.

I’ve got that joy down in my heart. How about you?

*Joy photo by Margaret Almon

The Christmas Wish

Pearlie traveled across the quiet neighborhood, gathering the prayers and requests from the children in her care. This was her first Christmas season as a guardian angel, and she wanted to do a good job for her Boss.

Most of the Children’s prayers were simple ones, thanking God for their parents, or their pets. Since this was December, more prayers turned to requests for toys or specific gifts. Pearlie shook her head, her creamy white curls swishing with the movement. Kids didn’t always understand that prayers were not like wishes to be granted. However, she wrote a few requests down in her notebook, and continued on.

Moonlight glittered upon the frost which blanketed the streets and houses. Only fifteen more children to go and her night rounds would be complete. She could go back up to her heavenly home and watch over the slumbering children.

Pearlie reached the last house on her list. It was a small home, with two little girls—five-year-old Holly, and seven-year-old Noel. Their mommy and daddy usually sat with them each night as they said their prayers, and tucked them in before wishing them both sweet dreams. Pearlie smiled, she liked this family.

When she floated into the bedroom, she heard it. Soft cries echoed between the girls. Pearlie realized something was wrong.

“Okay, Holly, Noel. It’s time for bed, girls. Do you want me to read you a story?” The girl’s Aunt Joy came in and crouched down in front of the bookshelf by the door, leafing through the girl’s books. “How about The Night Before Christmas?”

Holly and Noel sniffled and shook their heads no.

“How about the Twelve Days of Christmas?” Aunt Joy sat down on Noel’s bed. The seven-year-old’s lip quivered. She shook her head no again.

Aunt Joy thumbed through the books. “Hm. Here’s a couple good ones. How about A Christmas Carol? Or The Grinch?”

Holly and Noel hung their heads. “We don’t have a gift to give mommy at the hospital for Christmas.”

Pearlie frowned as her chest squeezed tight. Their mommy was gone because she was sick.

Aunt Joy set the books aside. “Oh, guys. I know. Hey, the best gift your mommy can get is you being there at the hospital with her tomorrow.”

The girls didn’t look up at their aunt.

“How about if I tell you some Christmas stories from when your mom and I were kids?”

Holly wiped her wet cheeks on her sleeve, and Noel blew her nose in a tissue, both nodding their heads yes.

Pearlie waited while Aunt Joy tucked the girls into their beds and sat down on a chair between them.

“When your mom and I were little girls, we loved wintertime. We would catch snowflakes on our tongues, make snow angels. build snow men, and sled until it was dark out. I remember one Christmas your mom and I got the flu” Aunt Joy made a cringing face. “We had really bad sore throats. It snowed, and snowed, and sssssssnnnnnnnnoooooooowwwwwweeeeeddddd that day.” Aunt Joy tickled them, and the girls giggled.

“It snowed so much we got stuck in the house. But guess what your grandma did?”  Aunt Joy’s  eyes sparkled as she looked first at Holly, and then at Noel. “She made us snow cream. Grandpa gathered up a bucket full of fresh snow, and grandma made the snow cream. Oh, it was absolutely the bestest ever!” Aunt Joy flung her arms open wide, a big smile filling her face.

“Yum!” Noel giggled and kicked her feet beneath the blanket

Holly squeaked and clapped her hands.“Yay!”

Pearlie smiled. She liked their Aunt Joy.

“And the best part,” Aunt Joy tweaked the girl’s noses one at a time, “is that the very next day we were better. But now, it’s time to say your prayers.” Aunt Joy folded her hands and bowed her head as the girls said their prayers.

Pearlie took notes as they all prayed together. At the end of their prayers Noel and Holly asked for it to snow so they could make their mommy some snow cream to take to the hospital the next day as a special Christmas gift.

Pearlie hurried back home. Her Boss smiled at Pearlie when she told Him about the girl’s request for their sick mother. He nodded His magnificent head, and winked.

The next morning Pearlie smiled when she landed in her neighborhood, smiling at the mounds of snow that had fallen overnight. Several of those shoveling the sidewalks and driveways murmured about the freak snow storm the weather men hadn’t predicted. Pearlie just grinned.

Pearlie headed for the small house at the end of her list first, and found Aunt Joy, Holly, and Noel with three buckets full of snow in their back yard. The girls, dressed in their snowsuits, were on the ground making snow angels, and Aunt Joy was rolling a snow ball into a large ball for the bottom of a snow man.

Drifting over the houses, Pearlie continued her work, jotting down prayers and special requests. It was dark before she got back to the small house to check on Noel and Holly. The girls were being tucked in bed by their dad.

“Can you believe how much it snowed today?” Their daddy asked them.

The girls nodded, their blue eyes wide with happiness.

Holly’s face grew serious. “It snowed for mommy.”

Noel nodded her head in agreement. “We prayed for snow cream to make mommy feel better.”

Their daddy smiled at them. “You did? Well, that was the best Christmas present ever.”

The girls faces shone with happiness.

Warmth filled Pearlie. She was so glad she could help make this Christmas wish come true.

The End

Snow Cream Recipe

1 gallon of fresh snow                             ¾ c. white sugar

1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk                    2 eggs beaten

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

In large bowl, combine evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla, and sugar until smooth. Gradually stir in snow until mixture reaches desired consistency. Eat at once.

Comment on any post this week and your name will go in the drawing for a copy of Shawna K. Williams’ Christmas novel, A Hand to Hold and a set of snowman earrings. Deadline: Dec. 8th, 11:59 pm central time.