Joy Journey Day 1: Choose Joy

Galatians 5

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…

What is the difference between joy and happiness? Gaio is the Greek root word for joy and it means great pleasure, rejoicing or happiness. Happ is the Old Norse root word for happiness and it means chance, fortune or good luck. This indicates to me that joy is more internal and happiness has more tied to external factors. If I am having a good day, doing a fun activity or things are going my way I am happy. Whereas, the circumstances of my life at the moment may be very tumultuous and yet I can still feel joy.

There is a quote by Tim Hansel that says, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.” This seems to indicate that we have no control over our circumstances but we do have a choice in whether we will seek and allow joy in our lives even during these circumstances.

I have loved studying the life and teachings of Paul this year! Now there is a guy who did not have a lot of fortune or good luck! And yet Paul seems like such an optimistic soul. He was constantly encouraging the saints through his letters and talking about running the good race and finishing well. What allowed him to be so joyful even when his circumstances were less than ideal? I believe this was possible because Paul was firmly anchored in Christ. He understood that joy was a fruit of the Spirit. The closer we are to the Spirit the better we are partnered with Him or yoked with Him the more naturally we are a joyful people. We have all met people who have had horrible things happen to them and yet they seem so happy and we wonder… How can this be? I am willing to bet that the majority of them have figured out how to meaningfully connect with the Spirit on a regular basis. They have learned to trust God with their lives. They have learned that life can still be joyful when they keep an eternal perspective and make Christ their treasured friend.

I love this quote by Pope Francis:

“Who gives us joy is the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit Himself who guides us; He is the author of joy, the creator of joy. And this joy in the Spirit gives us true Christian freedom. Without joy we cannot become free. We become slaves of our sadness.”

So how do we choose joy in our lives on a daily basis? I will share some of the things I have found that help me to feel joy. You may find relate with some of them as actions that bring you joy or maybe you have some completely different things that help you choose joy. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what brings you joy and commit to do at least one thing today.

*Connect with the Divine: When I take time to connect with my God I feel joy. Some of my holy habits include prayer, immersing myself in the scriptures, and taking time to ponder on His love for me. One of the most pivotal things I have found I need to do for connection is to create a space of silence. When I turn off the background noise of my life I allow the Spirit to communicate with me. I can hear His comfort, direction, warnings, and confirmations so much more clearly. When I feel this connection I feel joy. Another way I can feel my spirit connect with heaven is through uplifting media. I love how music can help me feel tethered to God. There are so many beautiful songs out there that can do exactly this. I also love listening to inspirational talks or reading books that ignite a fire in me to do better and be better. These are all great ways to boost joy.

*Remember and Itemize: There is something to be said for counting our blessings. It may seem a silly thing to do, but actually using a paper and pencil to write out all the wonderful things in our lives can do wonders to remind us of how very blessed our lives are. It is also a very rewarding exercise to think back on times in our lives that were hard, the fact that we survived them and all the things we learned from these times. It is good to see the hand of God as we were immersed from those situations and much easier to see in retrospect. I feel joy when I remember that my record for making it through hard things intact with God’s help is in fact 100%

*Serving in Love: Sometimes I take for granted my opportunity to serve my family. Sometimes I may even grow resentful. But I find that when I can add gratitude to my service by remembering how blessed I am to have these people who need me it is much easier to do my required tasks with an increase in love. When I feel this love it brings me joy to serve.

*Association with Friends: I am very much an extrovert! When I take time to connect with a friend either in person, on the phone or even through texting I find my joy renewed. I love conversations that refresh, renew and validate. I love doing the same for the friends I visit with. When I feel my battery drained and my energy level coming close to rock bottom I know a visit with a friend will increase my joy and bring these levels back to a healthy place.

*Interrupt Negativity: It is so important to be conscious of what thoughts we are giving center stage in our mind. If we notice that we are headed down a negative path we can intentionally interrupt these thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations, a better idea, a song, a quote, or a scripture. When we control the thoughts we have and only allow positive internal energy we can increase our level of joy. Remember we were made to be joyful!

*Creating: There is nothing that beats the joy of using the gifts and talents that have been given to me when I artistically create something! We have all been given different abilities by our loving Father to bless our lives and the lives of others. I love to create flannel board stories that help others teach their families a love for the scriptures and how to better anchor in Christ. I love to write. I love to bake. I love to create earrings out of clay. There are so many different ways we can create. If you have not found yours yet I challenge you to embark on a journey of exploration until you find it. You will be amazed by the amount of joy creation can bring!

Soul Searching Question: What is one thing you can do today to increase your joy?

Song:

Joy by for KING & COUNTRY

Face to Face with the Author:

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The God Who Sees

God Who Sees

Genesis 16:

13 And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

I am feeling such a strong yearning to write!  My life has been nothing less than chaotic the last month as we have packed, moved, cleaned, unpacked, picked the piecework of our home being built and dealt with other life surprises along the way.  In the midst of these life changes I have felt lost, isolated and alone at times.  A side effect of busyness for me almost always seems to be a disconnection, even if slight, from the habits that stabilize and renew me.  In this disconnection, coming from my end, I feel myself drifting a little and my heart yearns for the anchor I need so desperately.

I heard a song this week that shook me to my core.  I felt my spirit reawaken and my yearning deepen for a shift and reconnection.  It is so interesting to me how when we go through turbulent times, big changes, or even just an increase in life’s demands we tend to drift from the source that can soothe our spirits and heal our hearts.  We feel like we are in a wilderness or a desert, dry and parched and desperate for the living water that can revive us.  It is in these places that we can most appreciate the revitalization and renewal that only that spring of water can bring to our lives, if we choose to turn to it.  But we must take the time to seek and to drink. This song truly reminded me that we have a God that sees us in every circumstance of our lives and desires more than anything to not only be involved in the details, but also to comfort, lift and strengthen us.  I am so very grateful for the God who sees… me!!!

The song is on the long side, but it so powerfully  melds bible stories with music.  I promise if you take the time to listen to it, you will not be sorry!  Here are a few of the words that have infiltrated my mind and heart this week…

The God Who Sees by Kathie Lee Gifford & Nicole C. Mullen

Then He speaks in gentle whispers And He softly calls her name She feels His arms enfold her As He holds her And she’ll never be the same ‘Cause I’m the God who never changes And My promises are true And when this world deserts you This is what I’ll do

And I will be a ring of fire around you And I will be the glory in your midst And the power of My presence Will bring you to your knees Then I will lift you up again For I’m the God who sees

Sees you in your wilderness Sees you in your brokenness When you’re feeling lonely, I’m the God who sees In the desert places, in your empty spaces I’m the God who sees I’m nearer than you dare believe Here in the very air you breathe I’m the God who sees… You

Read more at: https://www.christian-songlyrics.net/2019/04/the-god-who-sees-lyrics-kathie-lee.html
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Tribute to a Friend


“We can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” Russell M. Nelson

I want to share my thoughts from the last couple of days. I am so very grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who gives me His strength when I have run out of my own.

Amidst the chaos that is my life right now (between packing to move and also getting ready for a 3 day event selling my flannel board stories in Bear Lake) I found out yesterday that one of my very dear friends has passed away. So I’ve been moving forward with the action that life demands but with a lot of breaking into tears moments as I grieve for myself at his loss. I just want to take a minute to pay tribute to my friend, Tom Petko, and share my top 6 things he taught me over the last 19 years of friendship.

1. You don’t have to be blood to be family. This man came into our lives and treated us as if he were an extension of our family. He treated my children, my husband and I like gold. I did what I could to reciprocate the love I always felt for him. That usually came by the way of a homecooked meal or baked goods, but it never seemed to measure up to his generosity. He and his parents always spoiled us!

2. Chasing your passion is a good thing! He opened my eyes to the sport of trap shooting, something I never knew I could love so much! He would always laugh about the fact that he and Chad made plans to shoot and I tagged along. He admitted repeatedly that he initially thought, “The ball and chain can’t just let her man have some time with the guys.” Then I asked if I could try… I always loved changing the way that man thought about things! We spent hours and hours shooting together or traveling to shoots with kids in tow to shoot little orange clay disks out of the sky and it was fabulous! He once bought me a shirt that said, “Happiness is a warm shotgun.” I fully concur with that! One of my favorite memories was a turkey shoot we attended in Weber County. We won so many turkeys together that there were some men who really wanted us disqualified from winning any more. (As Tom pointed out he probably just hated being outshot by a girl!)

3. Taking time to pursue my dreams actually makes me a better wife and mother. There were a couple of times that Chad (and my sisters) watched the kids so that I could take a road trip with Tom to go shooting. I always came back refreshed and ready to put more energy and love into my roles at home. Not only was the hobby enjoyable but Tom was such a great conversationalist! I am really going to miss our discussions!

4. You can have completely different beliefs from someone else and still respect and love them. I am a bit of a religious nut and Tom was far from it. But I honestly learned so much about myself and my beliefs from the deep conversations we had together. I knew he didn’t always agree with me, but I never for one second doubted that he respected me. He even nicknamed me the “shooting saint” because I refused to shoot on Sundays. And he would help me find the nearest church and drop me off so I could worship in my way while he “went to church” in his way (shooting).

5. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. After many years of “batching it” (as Tom called his bachelor days) Tom found love and companionship again. And though I was so glad that he was not lonely anymore, his new companion seemed to find me and my family competition for some reason. Because of this and Tom being restricted to a wheelchair, our relationship has been limited to phone calls, text messages and Christmas gift exchanges (Tom was the best gift giver I’ve ever met!) We have missed him so much over the last few years. We have missed our regular dinner dates (my kids learned a lot about patience as we would sit for hours in a “BS session” as Tom called it). We have missed his irreverent sense of humor and his hilarious way of looking at the world. We have missed his vocalized support and encouragement for us as parents. I have missed shooting with him. And I have really missed his giant teddy bear hugs!

6. Life is short. Tom was a big man! This caused complications with his knees. He was not a candidate for surgery unless he lost a certain amount of weight and being in a wheelchair eliminated the ability to lose weight through exercise. Tom had big dreams. He worked very hard for 40 years to save for retirement. He planned to travel and shoot and fish. He planned to go on safari and shoot some amazing pictures (a different kind of shooting he found a love for later in life). He planned to really live and enjoy what he called the “best years.” And so, even though I grieve for me and the fact that I will never get to have the catchup dinner he promised us once surgery restored his mobility, I mostly grieve for him and that he never got to do all those things on his bucket list that he worked so hard and saved for!

Tom was a good man! He had a huge heart! He was one of the most loving and generous men I ever knew. He was so good to me and to my family. He was our family! And he will be sorely missed. I realized as I looked for pictures of my friend that I don’t have them. But I am so grateful that I have hundreds and hundreds of memory pictures in my data bank! We made some really great memories together that I will treasure forever!

I look forward to the time when I will get to stroll along this giant of a man and catch up on all we have missed out talking about. That is going to be the grandest of all BS sessions!!!

Gratitude Challenge Day 7: Partner with Christ

One day there was an older married couple driving down the road in their pickup truck.  When they came to a stoplight, the woman looked over at a truck stopped next to them.  In that truck she saw a younger couple.  The young lady was snuggled up very close to the young man with her head on his shoulder.  The older woman offhandedly asked her husband, “Why don’t we sit like that anymore?”  He in turn looked out her window to observe what she was seeing and then responded, “Well, I haven’t moved.”
The first time I heard this joke I laughed because I could relate.  As we become more comfortable in our relationships we do tend to take them for granted until we remember the way we felt when they were new and appreciated.  I believe this joke is such a compelling reminder of our relationship with Christ.  Whenever we notice that their is a gap between Him and us, a space on the seat of our journey, it is because we have moved, not because He has.  Our Savior always wants a relationship with us! He wants to share our joys, our sorrows, our hopes and our dreams. His hand is outstretched still… ALWAYS.  Yet, when our lives get busy, or hard, or even too easy at times we tend to move away from Him.
My life has been blessed with so much.  I have always had the necessities of life. I have a safe and comfortable place to live.  I have clothes to wear.  I have never had to see my children go hungry. I find that much of the time I am blessed with not only my needs but so many of my wants as well.  I have family and friends that love and support me.  I have gifts and talents that have allowed me to recognize the joy of creation and connection.  And with all of these blessings swimming around in my head, the thing that I am most grateful for is my Savior Jesus Christ.  I am grateful that I know of Him and of His love for me.  I am grateful that I know Him and feel His presence in my life. And I am so very grateful that there is a way to move back across that seat when I have sinned and moved away from Him, either in not making room for Him in my excessive busyness, not taking time to read His word and communicated with Him in prayer, or even in much much bigger ways.  I am so grateful for His grace and for our access to that grace.  I am grateful that when I recognize that I have distanced myself from my Redeemer there is a way back and He welcomes it.
If you are feeling a distance between you and our Savior, I encourage you to examine your life and determine those things that are keeping you at an arms distance from Him. If they are big things, take care of them.  Confess and forsake the things that are holding you back from a relationship with Him.  If they are little things, slow down in the busyness of your life and look for ways to daily connect with Him.  As you do this, I know you will have more peace and contentment in your life.  You will find more to be grateful for.  You will find more hope.  You will recognize the joys of being anchored in Him.
Colossians 3:
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Song: My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness by Kieth and Kristyn Getty

Today’s Challenge:

Video Challenge by Oléa:

Gratitude Challenge Day 6: Create Connections

Human beings are social creatures by nature and yearn for human connection.  Studies have shown that creating connections with others boosts happiness levels, improves health and increases the longevity of life.  Studies have also proven that connections with others will decrease anxiety and depression. One study I read even said that having no connections with others causes more health risks than obesity, smoking or even high blood pressure.  Who would not want the benefits of connection in their life?
Razwana Wahid said, “Connection is the magic that is born out of souls feeling at home when they are with each other.”  I love that!  I personally can think back on my life and vividly recall specific memories where I did feel completely at home with different people in my life. That was truly connection.
Some of the ways we can create connections throughout our day are by acts as simple as offering a smile, a compliment, or a hug to someone we see.  We can also send a text, make a phone call, or pause long enough in our busyness to have a conversations with someone. Some of these conversations can even be online in a group or on your own Facebook page.  It is the interaction with another soul that stimulates these feelings of connection.
What if we don’t feel like we belong?  What if creating connections with others does not come naturally?  What then? How do we create these crucial connections? To start with, it will require taking the risk of putting yourself out there, but it will be so worth it! There likely will be some rejection, but the more we authentically open ourselves up the greater the possibility there will be in finding those people we do connect with. They are out there! I think we often get in our own way in this pursuit.  We allow ourselves to have preconceived notions about ourselves and our interactions with others.  We tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, or interesting enough, or that no one will like us, or even that there is a reason we are alone.  I am here to tell you that isolation is one of Satan’s greatest tools.  If we allow him to create these feeling of inadequacy in us and do nothing to push them out or prove him wrong, we are in essence telling God that what He created is of no worth.  That is simply not true!  We are each individual masterpieces of our God.  We each deserve to feel the love and companionship of other people.  When we allow ourselves to be isolated by our own thoughts, we limit the good we can do in this world and we limit our happiness.  Please trust God more than you trust the father of all lies when it comes to how you see yourself and your ability to contribute to this world! Tell the devil to get out of your head and ask for courage from our Father to make the connections you absolutely deserve to have!
Once you get out of your own way, here are some suggestions on places you can create connections. First, decide on an interest you have that you would like to pursue or something new you would like to learn.  Then sign up for a class or join a group that will you accomplish this.  In those environments you are more likely to meet up with others that have interests in common with you and you will naturally have more to talk about.  You can also volunteer for a cause you believe in. Even online groups can help you connect with people who share common interests and beliefs.
The key in any group, physical or virtual, is to participate.  Get out of your comfort zone, make comments, respond to comments, ask questions, interact with the other people who are present. Another great tip in creating connections with others is to focus more on being interested rather than being interesting.  We have all had that one friend who seems to want to one up any story we share (or maybe we are that one friend).  Even if they are only excited about having had a common experience, it comes across uncaring and self-interested.  One way to not come across like this is to ask at least a couple of questions about the experience they are sharing and sincerely listen to what they have to say. Then when we go on to share a similar experience of our own it will not seem like we were so eager to talk about ourselves that we did not really care about what they were sharing.  We will find that this has a great impact on creating genuine friendships. One of the best contributors to a healthy relationship is listening for understanding.  I know that the people I love best in my life are the ones who I know care most, the ones who truly listen and are genuinely interested in me.
Ephesians 4:
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Song: Happiness is Helping Others

Compassion by Andy Witt

Today’s Challenge:

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Gratitude Challenge Day 5: Compliment Genuinely and Generously

A number of years ago I was listening to an audio tape on which the speaker was explaining how the brain cannot tell the difference between negative thoughts directed at someone else and those directed at selves. If this is true about negativity then it is also true about positivity. The more that we think thoughts of appreciation and love the better we will feel. And if thinking them is good, then speaking them out loud is even better. In applying this concept the wonderful thing about a compliment is that it lifts us just as much as it lifts the person receiving it.
Now, I know that this might be hard for some people, especially if they did not grow up with this kind of environment in their home. But just because it is hard does not mean it is not worth doing. We can all learn to do things we have not done before or even how to get over the awkwardness of doing things that make us feel uncomfortable. The more we do it, the more comfortable it will become. This progress can be identified as what I have learned is called the stages of competency.
The first stage in the stages of competency is unconscious incompetency, or not knowing that you cannot do something. Stage two is conscious incompetency, or knowing that you cannot do something. The third stage is conscious competency, or being able to do something if you concentrate very hard. The final stage, or stage of mastery, is called unconscious competency, meaning that you have done something long enough that you are competent without thinking about it. We went through these stages when we learned how to walk and now we walk around as unconscious of the way to do it as we are of how to breathe. Every single time we learn a new thing we go through these same stages. I like the idea of being aware of where I am in the progression with new things I am learning. It helps me remember that I cannot compare my stage 2 to someone else’s stage 4. I am a work in progress with that particular thing, just like they were once a stage 2 as well.
So my challenge for you today is to be consciously competent whether you are comfortable giving compliments or not. Take the time to notice people around you, how they look, what they say, what they do and genuinely compliment them on something positive you notice. They will feel a lift in their day and so will you.
Our Savior has told us that when we do kind things for those around us, it is like we are doing it for Him. So take a moment and be conscious of what you are doing for those around you and treat them the way you would treat Jesus if He were standing in their shoes.
1 Peter 4:
8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
Song: Let it Start with Me by No Other Name

Today’s Challenge:

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Gratitude Challenge Day 4: Be Present

One of the things that impedes joy the most in our current society is our choice to not be present. There are many things that we allow to distract us from our life, from learning, growing and progressing. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of distractions in my own life is my cell phone. It has many good uses. It allows me to research interesting facts or facilitate my scripture study. It helps me stay connected with friends and family. It give me tools through social media to maintain relationships that would otherwise be lost with distance. It gives me a platform to share my witness of Christ and to spread light. But when I am not intentional in how I use it, it can easily become an escape from life. I can spend hours scrolling on Facebook, pinning on Pinterest, or get completely sucked into a game. I can get caught up in feeling sorry for myself as I compare my life to the pictures of what my friends are experiencing in their lives. I can even become frustrated and discouraged with myself as I begin to believe I am not doing as well as some of them are in my role as a wife or mother. In essence comparing my “behind the scenes to their highlight reels”, as Pastor Steve Furtick wisely put it. All of these things distract me from living the kind of life I know God wants me to live. He wants me to love my life and find joy and gratitude in it. He wants me to be focused on growing closer to Him and learning how to live more like His son. He wants my time to be spent serving others and spreading His light and love to the world. And to do that best, I need to be present. I need to be aware of my time and how I am spending it. How often have I allowed opportunities of truly connecting with another person through conversation or participation in an activity because I was distracted by my phone? These lost experiences haunt me at times. It is something I need to do much better!

Another way that we get distracted from being present that is worth mentioning is when we choose to live either in the future or in the past. Some people spend so much time working and building the future they wish to have that they do so at the sacrifice of the present. They lose the moments that are happening now because they are so focused on what they hope is coming. Far more of us, I’m afraid, miss out on the present because we are too focused on what we have left behind. In a class I was taking a few years ago a woman who had lost her husband suddenly and had grieved deeply mentioned that she had to learn to stop coveting her old life. I found that profound! How often, especially in hard times, do we spend our days thinking about and wishing we had back the happiness and contentment we remember from a past time in our lives. I know I have spent good chunks of time in my life living in a fantasy that no longer exists, so caught up in this memory that I am not engaged in my present life, focused on improvement and gratitude of my current blessings. This can cause us to sacrifice current opportunities, desires, and even relationships. I know this in not what our Father wants for us. Of course He wants us to plan for the future and He wants us to learn from our past, but He wants us to live in our present. He wants us to enjoy the life we have, appreciate the blessings that are currently ours, focus on serving and loving the people around us, and He wants us to work on discovering and pursuing our own special purpose on earth. This is where our time is best spent, living, truly living in the present!

Romans 12:

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Song: Love Like Jesus by Rhett Walker Band

Today’s Challenge:

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