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Posted on Jun 18, 2013 in Wisdom | 3 comments

Cultivating Joy

Cultivating Joy

Self-pity is not my friend.  It tries to pretend like it is, sneaking in and whispering to me like we are partners or something.  And I admit there are times when I listen to my ugly companion and give in to self-pity.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Eliana was unhappy.  Who knows why?  She wouldn’t sleep.  She wasn’t hungry.  She didn’t want to play.  She wanted to be held, but when I held her she wriggled around until she was in crazy-uncomfortable positions, then looked at me with total betrayal that I would let her get like that, and scream.  I walked, patted, bounced, laid her down, tried toys, sang songs, got quiet, tried the swing, gave her gas drops, gave her prunes and apple juice, put on more clothes, took off clothes, took her for a walk, a drive, and so on – all day long.

She wouldn’t stay comfortable or content for more than 10 minutes at a time, but usually it was more like 2 or 3.  I finally got her to sleep after 3 hours of struggling, only to have her wake up screaming less than 30 minutes later.  Exhausted, frustrated, and concerned for my baby, I let her fuss for a while and ate some ice cream.  Shoot.  That didn’t help.  I ordered pizza.  Gorging myself on pizza and falling asleep used to be my way of comforting myself.  I hated what the scale said later for it, but it gave me enough of a temporary fix that I got over the whole scale problem…  Last night it didn’t work.  I knew what I was doing as I drove to pick it up.  I didn’t care.  I deserved it after the day I’d had.  But my day wasn’t over and eating pizza is less exciting when one of the people you love most in the world is miserable.  I drank a Coke.  That didn’t work either.

She finally went to sleep at 9:00, five minutes before Rick got home from work.  He tried to talk to me, but I was too out of sorts to have a conversation.  After letting my frustration and misery be known to him, I begged him to just let me go to bed.  The sweet man who had been working all day himself came to bed early too (not his favorite thing to do) and rubbed my back until I relaxed enough to fall asleep.

Guess what happened then?

The baby started crying.

Rick got up and took care of her.  All night long she fussed miserably, and all night long her daddy held her, fed her, patted, rocked, bounced, and shhh-ed.  I got up a few times, reminding him that he had to go to work in the morning, but he sent me back to bed.  He ended up sleeping with her on his chest on the couch so he could comfort her immediately when she cried out.  That kept her mostly asleep for a few hours.  When it was time for him to get up for work, I switched places with him.  Thankfully, she kept sleeping for a few more hours and woke up happy and pleasant.

I took her for a long walk this morning, knowing fresh air and exercise would do us both good.  Rick and his parents have done such a nice job of turning the land into a beautiful home that it’s helping me to love country farm life more every day.  There are flowers everywhere I look.  It’s so peaceful and quiet, the early morning air was cool, and the sun was shining.  As we neared the end of our walk, we came upon the mama kitty and her five kittens that are about a month old now.  She had moved them under the car for shade and as we walked by, then ran out joyfully to greet us.  Delighted that they didn’t run away, I sat down in the grass and put the baby in my lap.  Together we giggled as tiny kittens crawled all over us, meowing and purring as we petted them.  Eventually the mama kitty laid down kind of under my leg in the shade and nursed her kittens.  I couldn’t believe it.  What a moment…  I turned Eliana so she could see them and we helped one kitten who couldn’t find a place get what it was looking for, then we watched with delight.

I hadn’t planned on that sidetrack, and I had things I wanted to do inside.  It was tempting to quickly put the kittens in their box so they wouldn’t get under the wheels of the stroller and slow me down.  Who wants to sit in the grass and get ants crawling on you?  But I’m so glad I did.  It was a few minutes of unexpected delight.  A sadness that I’d been working over in my mind came into perspective.  I was reminded of the dream I believe God sent me a few months ago to stop looking back and start looking around and forward.  The frustration and sadness and self-pity lifted and joy returned.

Self-pity is easy.  Self-pity is, in a way, comforting.  Nobody understands me.  This person hurt me.  That person ignored me.  My husband doesn’t meet all the needs I expect him to meet.  My baby isn’t always happy and sweet.  I ate too much pizza last night and now I feel guilty.  Why do I do this to myself?  Blah, blah, blah…

Shut up, self pity!  Just shut up!

And so I begin the process of cultivating joy again.  I remind myself of all I have to be thankful for.  I remind myself of those who have been kind to me, of those who have gone out of their way to spend time with me, of those who have encouraged me to keep writing, and of those who have helped out.  I force myself to look around me, to consider the future, and to stop trying to right the wrongs of the past.  I get my eyes off myself and see the look of love on my daughter’s face, the way her eyes seek mine out and look for approval.  I look at God’s creation, the trees, grass, springs, flowers, plants, sky, and kittens, and remember that I am a tiny part of this great world.  I will start again on my plan for healthy eating, I will once again remember the healthier way to handle frustration and pain (call a friend, go for a walk, get some sleep, write a letter, play with some kittens) than comforting myself with food.

My life is so good.  It would be easy to nitpick, to find things to be upset about, and to chew them over repeatedly until I’m a total mess.  But I can make a better choice.  I can look around and see the good, thank God for His many blessings, and look ahead with eager expectation.

At times circumstances make it difficult to see the good.  At times it takes some concerted effort to see the good and appreciate it.  It’s a choice I make every day and it keeps the smile on my face and a song in my heart.  Lord, help me to drive self-pity far from me and to keep my eyes fixed on You.

Do you ever find yourself giving in to self-pity?  What do you do to fight your way out of it’s grasp?

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Posted on Jan 9, 2011 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 9 comments

December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010

Caught up in the Christmas festivities, I neglected to post this writing.  Rereading it today, I felt it was appropriate to post it anyway.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you do, please hit the “like” button and take a moment to post a comment.  🙂 

Me, Rick, and his great-nephew enjoying the frozen pond

I wrote a post a while back entitled, A Good Day.  Today has been another good day for me and I’ve been happily singing goofy Christmas songs while I wrap those final gifts and think about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, snowball fights, eggnog, and (finally) having my love to keep me warm.  Then, out of nowhere, I found myself wondering what bad thing is going to happen to shatter this lovely moment in time.  In the last year, I’ve had moments of breath-stealing heartache, rejection, disappointment, and failure.  Is it possible that today I could be so very delighted and full of anticipation?

When will this magical bubble of bliss be rudely popped and send me crashing to the ground?  Nothing this good ever seems to last for too long.  So for a moment I sort of gritted my teeth, mentally trying to prepare myself for the crash. 

My own reaction disturbed me.  I began wondering what the proper response is to moments in our lives when the sun is shining on us and the white snow glistens and sparkles and we are warm and healthy and happy.  Life can’t always be this sweet, but TODAY it is.  Even if it’s only this very moment that’s so sweet, we do have this moment. 

It is simply a fact that life comes with problems and there’s no doubt that eventually I’ll have to come down off this (natural) high.  But for today, for this moment, I am going to enjoy the bliss.  I’m going to soak it up, call the day GOOD, and be thankful.  I’m going to raise my hands high in praise and make sure God knows just how thankful I am to feel Him smiling down and rejoicing with me. 

Anyway, I’ve heard that if a person is relaxed when they crash or fall, they’re less likely to get hurt because their muscles aren’t tensed up.  My plan is to relax and savor every moment of this bliss.  Let tomorrow’s problems take care of themselves.  Sure, when we relax into happiness and joy, we almost simultaneous open ourselves up to terrible pain and disappointment.  To love deeply is to risk equally deep hurt.  And yet, I am willing to take the risk, soak up the joy of it, and hope the pain stays away a little while longer.  Today is a GOOD day.

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Posted on Apr 9, 2010 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 8 comments

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

It’s been hard to know what to post recently.  Some of the things I’ve been going through don’t seem like things that need to be blasted on the internet for all to see…  Some things are deeply personal and too precious for publication. 

I hope the look on my face says it all.  I am happy.  I am full of peace.  God is good and He is blessing me in some wonderful ways. 

I looked at some pictures on Facebook tonight of a high school classmate.  She is beautiful; was a beauty queen many times over.  She married a handsome, successful man and they have lovely children.  It appears that they have everything anyone could want.  But the look in her eyes is far from happy.  She is smiling, she is wearing clothes that flatter her surgically enhanced figure, but there is not one speck of joy in her vacant eyes.  It made me sad. 

I wish I knew how to share this joy I have found with everyone.

I have written this before, but I will do it again.  This joy is only found in a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can have that relationship by getting to know Him through His Word:  Scripture, The Bible.  If you don’t like to read, listen to an audio-version of it.  Fill yourself up with God’s Word, spend time in prayer, talk about what you’ve read with others, think about it, write about it, study it.  Get involved in a Bible study with other believers, find a good church you enjoy going to and get involved, find creative ways to express your love for the Lord – but more than all of those things, learn His Word.  There is no substitute.  Spending time with God is the only way to have an intimate relationship with Him. 

I know it sounds boring, tedious, and time-consuming.  We don’t want to be dorks who can’t talk about anything else and start wearing our pants really high on our waists.  I get it.  I felt that way myself in spite of the fact that I was living my life in service to Him as a committed Christian.  I prayed and asked God to give me a love for His Word, and amazingly He did it.  Everything has changed now.   I’m even wearing my pants really high on my waist.  (So that’s not true, but you all let me know if I start looking like a dork, okay?)

Loving God isn’t easy because it takes work, just like being in human relationships takes work.  But It is worth it.  I promise.  Pick up a One-Year Bible and join along with me.  If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear from you. 

Jesus saves and He makes all things new.

*Photographer:  Leslie Coelho

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