When mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy!

Well that’s a lot of responsibility now isn’t it?  Can the same be said for joy?  If mama ain’t full of joy, ain’t nobody full of joy.

We’ve all heard this analogy before; when you’re on an airplane the flight attendant lets you know that in case of an emergency you’re to put your own air mask on before you help children, elderly or anyone else needing assistance.  The whole point is if you stop breathing you’re not going to be any good to those around you.

How does that relate to joy?  If we don’t grasp ahold of true joy (not happiness or pleasure) we aren’t going to be able to pass that along to our kids or share it with those around us.

In the last part of Nehemiah 8:10; Nehemiah was telling the Israelites to stop their weeping because the joy of the Lord would be their strength.  You see, the nation had been celebrating the Feast of the Trumpets.  It was supposed to be a party atmosphere, kind of like our upcoming New Year’s Celebration.  It marked the clean slate and fresh start for a new year.  So why were the people weeping?  The priest had been reading to them from God’s word and they were upset because they knew they had fallen short when it came to following God’s law.  Don’t we all?

Nehemiah noticed the weeping and told the people to stop crying and celebrate.  There’s a time to evaluate where you are in life and make necessary changes, but this was not the time.  This was a celebration!  It was a time to remember all the Lord had done for them.  It was time to jump for joy!

Photo Credit: rAmmoRRison via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: rAmmoRRison via Compfight cc

So where do we get our strength; same place, it’s the joy of the Lord.  It’s sitting and remembering times, people, places and events in our lives where we could see God’s hand.  The joy in knowing He’s been there through it all and will continue to be.  The knowledge that He wants a relationship with us and isn’t turning His back on us.

As women I know sometimes we feel selfish taking time for ourselves.  After all, if we take a break who is going to do all the work that needs done?  Well guess what mama; there’s always going to be work that needs done.   Taking a few moments to remember what the Lord has done in your life could mean the difference between you having a lousy day, working in your own strength, or a great day, because you are relying on the Lord the way you have in the past.  Remembering what He’s brought us through builds our joy in current difficult situations because we have a history with Him.  He’s carried us before and yes, He’ll do it again!

While we’re approaching the end of a year and looking ahead to 2014, it’s a good time to celebrate!  Take a few minutes and write down a list of things the Lord has done for you.  Better yet; start a gratitude journal that you can look through this time next year and remind yourself of a year worth of God’s blessings.  Then share it!  Tell your kids and your spouse.  Let them read the journal; pass on the goodness of God to those around you.

Don’t keep it all to yourself!  Spread the joy mama!

WHY I AM NOT CHOOSING TO HAVE JOY IN MY LIFE

I know what you’re thinking. “Really? Isn’t this what this blog is all about; finding joy.”

I certainly thought I was searching for the illusive. To be honest, most of us want some magic pill or glorious epiphany. We desperately search for the new job, house, perfect marriage, group of friends, or life purpose, thinking that once we find it our eyes and hearts will be opened to joy. (Queue the spotlight and orchestra as angels jump on the stage and present “JOY”.) It will never leave us and will stop any negativity from getting back into our lives.

Well I’m certainly disappointed here, but I have found out through my research,  joy is a choice. I know, let’s just throw in the towel now, right? If we’re going to believe it’s a choice, and we don’t feel joyful, we didn’t choose joy.

Could it be that simple?

No. Knowing it’s a choice is not simple at all! It means each day, multiple times each day, we have to decide to rise above our circumstances and draw from this internal spring of joy we possess as believers.

Think about it this way. You’re dying of thirst. You walk into the kitchen and God is standing there with a sparkling glass of refreshment and tells you that drinking from it will quench your thirst. You decide the bottle of Coke in the fridge is the better alternative. So, chug, chug, chug, and the Coke is gone and you feel refreshed. For a while. Soon you’re thirsty again. You’re family and friends are all gathered sharing sweet tea in the backyard and you head out there, passing right by God extending His glass. Surely tea shared with friends and loved ones, is going to be just the ticket to quenching your thirst. You definitely enjoy the time together, and the tea. Now you’re refreshed and this time it’s for good! Nope, again it’s fleeting. Now you’re out shopping. You go to the food court at the mall and there is God, again with His glass. Nice, but you see Orange Julius is right behind Him and that’s looking mighty tasty. Now you’re actually paying for something you think will refresh you more than the free drink God offered. The cycle repeats. Will you ever chose the glass from God?

The choice for joy works that way and God is the only source of true, lasting joy.

So how did I get so lost in life, searching for joy, when it’s been right there all along? It’s wasn’t my choice. Daily, and often multiple times each day, we have to reach out for that deep, centering joy from God. In the midst of family feuds, work stress, financial problems, loneliness, etc.; we have to turn to God time and again. He’s the only one that can provide true joy.

In her book Choose Joy, Kay Warren defines it like this…

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

In Galatians 5:22-23 we read about the fruits of the Spirit; the actual character traits that can be cultivated in our lives as Christians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

As believers, those fruits are in us as a deep resource to rely upon. Did you notice joy is the second one listed? But did you also notice the word fruit? Have you ever planted a fruit tree? In order to get the most appetizing fruit it takes some work. It takes returning to the tree often to keep the weeds and bugs away. It takes watering and fertilizing. It takes care; repeated care. It’s not a “one-time grow the joy-apple and you’re set for life” thing.

So why am I not choosing joy in my life? Because I’ve looked for other things to give it to me instead of looking to the Lord. I’ve tried changing careers, having toys, relying on family; all which gave a temporary sense of joy but not the true lasting joy I desire.

What am I going to do about it? The same thing I hope you’ll do. Before we try to produce it ourselves, purchase something we think will give it to us, or rely on someone else for it, we need to turn to God; take the glass and feel refreshed. Don’t worry that you’ll ever reach out and He won’t have a full glass. He will. He always will. You just need to reach out and take it. Again and Again.

What do you think?  Are you ready to accept God’s refreshing gift of joy?

Romans 15:13 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.

Reflection on 31 Days of Good News

I thought I’d take this 31 Day blog challenge as a way to develop a habit of blogging more often.  Once I decided I’d commit to the challenge I had to pick a topic.  It sure didn’t take me long to figure out what I wanted to write about.  I wanted good news; almost to the point of a need!  I was tired of politics, national debt, news stories of murder, kidnapping, corruption; it can really be enough to drive a person into depression.

As someone who lives with chronic pain that lends itself well to depression and a feeling of just being “down” I was able to truly see the value in searching for the good in the world each day.  You can spend an evening watching the local news, CNN or FOX NEWS and it can really bring an already rough day down a few notches.  I needed to turn up my faith in humanity!

I really didn’t expect the impact it would have on me.  For each of the 30 stories I wrote about there were probably another four that I came across each day.  Some of the stories made me tear up, some of the stories inspired me.  But most importantly it gave me the job of looking at the good still in the world.  I wish our news broadcasts told more of the positive.  I think it could honestly rub off on people and inspire them to great deeds of kindness as well.

Thanks for following along this month  – stay tuned, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the good news stories!

Stay Well ~ Live joyfully!

A Selfless Adventure – Meet the Cooke Family

Have you every packed up your house and kids and moved to a foreign place away from all family and friends?   Boy we sure did!  Twice!

I remember the first time I moved away from “home”.  My husband got a job three hours north of our parents and we loaded up the U-haul and our two year old daughter and headed off on a grand adventure.  We already had friends in the area and a church to attend so despite it being my first time so far from family it wasn’t a lonely experience by any means.

Fast forward five years and we left on another adventure.  This time we moved from Michigan to Virginia for my husband to attend Liberty University.  We didn’t know anyone except for one first year college student who actually started at the college the same time we did.  This proved to be a more difficult transition.  Pretty lonely.  Financially strapped.  Mountains.  No snow.  Cancelling school if you had to scrape frost off your car windows.  Very foreign!

On both of my life changing adventures I was still only a few minutes away from a McDonalds, K-Mart, Wal-mart, mall, etc.  The people in the communities all spoke English and had the same culture I was used to.

Think for a moment of leaving home and going where you weren’t separated from family by miles of  land connected by highways but by miles of ocean.   A distance marked by a 47 hour flight consisting of 5 layovers.   Now think about doing this for the sole purpose of telling others about Jesus and meeting their medical needs.  Oh yeah, and the fact that there’s no money involved – you’re going to be living on a tremendously tight budget of funds you have to raise yourself.  So….  Are ya packing yet?

Meet the Cooke Family!  Chris is an RN and Sarah is a stay-at-home mom with four beautiful girls (Riley, McKenna, Amelia and Lucy) between the ages of 11 and 6. This summer they packed up their belongings and moved to Papua New Guinea; an island just above Australia.  They are there serving the people of PNG along with 300 missionary families in the medical clinic.  Their first term with the Mission will be for four years.

cookes

A few years ago the Cookes began to feel God was leading them to international missions.  Chris heard about the need for an RN at the clinic in PNG.  Their medical care is very limited and most of the tribal people still believe in using witchcraft as a method of healing.  Believing God had led them to hear about this position the couple started searching for a mission organization to work with.  It took 2 ½ years of planning and preparation before they were able to get on a plane.  Chris needed to obtain his PNG nursing license (which took a year itself) and everyone needed passports and immunizations.  They had to sell their house and they also sold most of their belongings.

Chris doesn’t receive a pay check at the clinic; like a lot of missionaries they had to raise their own support.  Once all the preparations were completed they purchased their airline tickets and were ready to go.  Even though they were only at 45% of their needed support they were heading out on faith.

The Cooke girls catching a nap during their 47 hour trip!

The Cooke girls catching a nap during their 47 hour trip!

When they finally landed in PNG they were off on an adventure of their own.  Simple things like hot water we take so much for granted here in the states; in the Cooke’s new surroundings they have solar hot water heaters which means a shower taken in the morning or on a cloudy day are going to be quite chilly!  What about learning the cultural differences – over there raising your eyebrows at someone is similar to us whistling at someone with a bit more connotation.  Can you imagine gestures you’ve grown up with now mean entirely different things due to the cultural changes?  Not only getting use to new foods and having to cook entirely from scratch, but also spending your mornings trying to learn new languages so you can function in this new culture that has 850 languages.  The cost of living differences are huge as well; their produce is really cheap since the climate is great for agriculture however their prepackaged foods are horrible expensive since it all has to be flown in.  A single box of cereal cost $12 U.S. dollars!MARKET

Chris has been able to help meet the needs of the clinic as he serves as the RN.  Outside of routine illnesses he helps prepare medical supplies daily to be sent out to missionaries living out among the tribes.  Since there are no road systems the medical supplies are often delivered via airplane.

neighborhood

The family has also been able to minister to a mother and her newborn that are staying with them who arrived with a serious life threatening virus.  Sarah has been teaching the mother about infant care and hygiene and the baby is finally gaining weight!nasha

Currently they are looking into purchasing a home so they don’t have to move around from rental to rental for four years and also it will help lower their taxable income.  They will need to raise $10,000 for a down payment in order to purchase.

If you’d like to learn more about the Cookes or support their ministry to the people of PNG you can check out their blog page through New Tribes Mission.

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

Hitting Close to Home

I think today I’ll take a moment to stop and tell a few stories of kindness from good people where we were the recipients.  I truly believe these stories need to be repeated often; so we don’t forget where we’ve been and who has helped us along the way.  Our children need to hear these stories so it’s engraved in their hearts how helping those in need has been a blessing in our lives and in turn we need to pay it forward.  I have a few to recall so let’s get started.

We had moved from Michigan to Virginia when our kids were 6 and 3 so my husband could attend Liberty University.  Curt (my husband) had taken necessary steps to be sure he had secured a job for himself before we even packed a box.  But what’s that saying, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  Well awry they went.  When we arrived at the mobile home we would be renting, we were so excited for a new chapter of our life to begin.  We unpacked the U-haul and set up the necessities for our first night.

The next day my husband went to report in at his new employer.  They said they were sorry to have to tell him the full-time position wasn’t going to be available but they could definitely use him part time.  Great, huh?  Needless to say money was excessively tight for a while.  I distinctly remember a certain day when I looked in the cupboard and literally felt like Old Mother Hubbard.  My cupboards were bare; there was one can of stewed tomatoes and a box of instant rice.  It was a Wednesday and my husband got paid on Fridays.  I knew what we were having for dinner anyway.  You just tell the kids it’s Mexican night, mix the rice and tomatoes together and whalla – Spanish rice.  But what about Thursday and Friday?

A young man from our church gave my husband a call that very day – he was attending Liberty as well and was living in the dorms.  He asked if my husband could stop by his place because he had gone home for a visit and had brought back something for us from our church back home.  Can you see where this is headed yet??  Sure enough, my husband came home that evening with bags of groceries that filled our empty cupboards.  Our church had a food drive for us and sent us cans and boxes galore!  I’ll tell you what, Chef Boyardee never tasted so good!  They didn’t know how badly we were in need but God knew and placed it in their hearts to send this incredible gift of food to us.  Good people doing good things!!

We’ve had things happen throughout our lives that show the most sincere kindness from others but I will just share one more.

My husband had lost his job back in 2002.  Again money was tight.  I was working part time then and talked to my employer; they allowed me to take a full time position.  My husband started delivering pizza and we were scrimping by, barely some days but we were.  One day a friend called us to say we needed to stop by his house.  He had a very large box for us.  Someone else, who wished to remain anonymous, had bought us a huge box of meat.  I can’t tell you how many pounds it was but it was quite a large box and completely filled our freezer.  There was ground beef, hot dogs, roasts; anything you could want.  We got through that whole winter with that box of meat; and since meat is one of the largest expenses in a grocery budget I could stretch our money a lot further filling in the rest of the pantry.

Two occasions of awesome, generous people taking care of the everyday needs of those they loved.  Both of these times revolved around food , but isn’t that one of our basic necessities.  God never promised that we’d be eating filet mignon, roasted red potatoes and asparagus every day; but he did promise He’d provide our basic need for food if we trust Him and present our needs to Him.  Sometimes that can be a very hard and humbling thing to do but I think it’s those times God is trying to remind us who is taking care of us – it’s not an employer; although He certainly uses employment to help supply for us – but it’s ultimately in His control and His power.  And you know what?  Sometimes He’s going to use us, so let’s keep our hearts open to ways He wants to use us to supply for others!

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

Ann’s Clan – Support for a Special Waitress

I can take a moment to talk about a great group of 30 some 20 somethings that are doing something to make someone feel special can’t I?  Even if two of those 20 something’s are my kids?  Yeah, I guess I can!  J

There are some things that you really want to pass on to your kids and being kind to others is one of them.  However, I must admit, my kids go way past any example I’ve ever been to them at random acts of kindness.  They can amaze me at how they go out of their way at times to do good things for people.  Yes, the kids have become the teachers!

A large group of 20 somethings from our church go out to our local Applebee’s most Sunday and Wednesday nights after church.  The faces in the group rotate as some are able to go some days and others may go the next.  One thing remains pretty consistent though, that would be their waitress, Ann.  They always request her table and over time have gotten to know her pretty well.  A few weeks ago she even went in to my daughter’s work to give her my grandson’s shoes that were left behind at the restaurant after one such visit.  Ann is just a happy, special lady that has been an awesome waitress to this group of (can I still call them…..) kids.

Ann is moving on from her employment at Applebee’s and moving to another restaurant in our area.  This group was certainly sad to hear this, especially since they usually go out after 9 p.m. when ½ off appetizers are available.  😉

Knowing her last day was approaching my daughter contacted the group and gathered as many as could to go see her one last time.  Saying goodbye, tipping her very well, and wishing her well at her new employer.  That in itself was a wonderful act of kindness.

What is even better is that they are organizing a day next month, once her training is done and she’s out on the floor, to show up at her new employer.  They will be wearing T-shirts that say “Ann’s Clan” and will surprise her with as many from the group that can go.  Their goal is to show her how much they appreciate her, but more importantly, they want to show her new employer that she’s a great new add on to their crew.

Simple things, not really going out of their way since they go out to eat anyway, but making the most of it and showing a special person they are loved!

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

 

Ed Wares Woodworking Reaches Children In South Korea

Ed Wares grew up around wood in Massachusetts.  His parents owned a sawmill and he spent most of his childhood there.  He currently lives in Tennessee in a log cabin that he built 80% by himself.

It seems like a natural fit that he would become a woodworker.  He estimates he’s made more than a thousand wooden toy cars in addition to countless other woodworking projects. His motivation is bringing happiness to the children that will eventually play with his creations.  He feels it’s a way for him to give thanks to God by doing good things for His children.  He has one or two toys on hand at all times and is happy to pass them out to any child he meets.

Ed and his grandson in the workshop

Ed and his grandson in the workshop

Mr. Wares’ daughter Sabrina is a program manager for the Air Force Technical Applications Center and when he heard they were sponsoring an orphanage in South Korea he naturally wanted to help.  He started right away, carving the little wood toys in his workshop.  More than 100 of his little wood cars made their way to the Chechon Children’s Home, 75 miles southeast of Seoul in time for Christmas last year.
The orphanage was founded in 1962 by Jane White, an American missionary.  Since 1966 the airmen from AFTAC’s 452nd Detachment have sponsored the orphanage and helped provide for the children.  Originally functioning solely from donations and sponsors the orphanage now receives some government funding and helps the children transition into their adult life once they are able to leave the orphanage with life skill seminars and other programs.   With facility large enough to house 90 children from birth to 18 they take in abandoned babies and children from unwed mothers or families that for a time are unable to care for their children; with the intention to reunite them once the families have been equipped to care for them again.

Crossing national borders; good people doing good things.

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.