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!

9 Tips That Help Me Through Fibro Foggy Days

Well it’s Friday and around here I like to take a little time to write about my daily struggles with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

How do I say this?  I CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT THIS WEEK.  Ok, I guess I came up with those words pretty easy but if I wanted to speak past a 6th grade grammar level this week I would have needed a thesaurus.

Researchers are studying more and more on the topic of “fibro fog”.  At it’s very worst it can cause a disorienting affect that can leave a person not knowing where they are or where they were headed for 30-90 seconds or more.  I have  personally been fortunate to not have experienced things that bad.  My main problems are losing my train of thought sometimes mid-sentence, comprehending what I’m reading and having trouble following conversations.  Sometimes it can feel like a bunch of static in my head and I wish I could just tune in to whatever channel is my focus for that moment.  Sometimes I’ll have to ask people to repeat what they just said because it feels like it literally goes in one ear and out the other.

There are a few little tricks I’ve been keeping up my sleeves for days like this.  I thought I’d share a few of my personal dos and don’ts with you.

  1.  Don’t trust your brain.  Even though you think of yourself as a normally intelligent person who’s really focused; just face it.  For certain periods of time, possibly every day for some, you won’t be able to trust the little grey matter computer in your skull.  Don’t stress about it or feel less of a person – just work with it.  Determine that you’ll change how you do certain things so you can manage at your very best!
  2. Don’t panic – you’re not losing your mind.  I have a book by Dr. Teitelbaum called From Fatigued to Fantastic; a guide for Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue (I recommend this book!  Great for someone newly diagnosed or who’s been navigating the fibro waters for a while), he says that some patients will get really nervous that they could be losing their mind or developing Alzheimer’s.  He states how the two aren’t related and the one doesn’t turn into the other.  For example, with fibro fog I might forget what you just told me, but with Alzheimer’s I may forget who you are.
  3. Make lists!  And use them!  Use a planner too!  I am getting better at this all the time.  For example, I developed a grocery list that breaks down into 14 sections according to the 14 isles in my local grocery store.  This really helps me to stay on track and focused.  I don’t have to keep scanning through a list to be sure I grabbed it all; I just start at isle one and I’m all set.  I’ve made multiple copies of the list and I have them on a clip board hung on the inside of my pantry door.
  4. Sleep.  Please don’t throw something at the computer screen.  I won’t feel the hit anyway and you’ll have to fix your computer.  The problems with fibro fog will just be magnetized the more tired and wore out you are.  I understand insomnia can come with the territory too; try your best to do what you can to wind down at night and possibly talk to your dr to see what can be done to help.  Insomnia is horrible and can highlight the fatigue, fog, and pain.
  5. Talk to your doctor about possibly adding some supplements to your mix.  I discovered a supplement called ribose from reading that book I mentioned by Dr. Teitelbaum.  It’s a simple, natural sugar that your body uses in the energy molecules and can help the body process other nutrients as well; such as the B vitamins.  As part of my treatment my doctor has me taking B vitamins 3x’s a day; mainly for the fatigue because my body isn’t retaining B or D nutrients.  However, I have noticed a drastic difference with my fibro fog on days I don’t take them.  But like I said, check with your doctor first!
  6. Get oxygen moving in your blood!  Again, if you’re going to throw something at your screen right now, do yourself a favor and make it a cotton ball or something.  Exercise increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain and it does help with the fog.  I understand there are days we can barely shower let alone get out for a walk; for those days, I’ve even noticed sitting on my porch or even in the house in a quiet room for a bit and breathing deeply helps calm down my mind when it’s racing or foggy and it allows me to focus better.
  7. Cut back on the sensory overload.  I grew up in a house where the tv was on almost constantly.  Sad to say it’s on way too much in my own home most days.  To top it off I have my cell phone, my ipod, my computer, my husband, my kids and my grandson all contributing to the amount of input my brain is trying to process at any given moment.  On days I’m at my foggiest I find taking some time away from all the media noise helps!  I can’t turn off the people in the home, I’ve tried ;).  But I can limit what I can control!
  8. Uni Task.  Yep, did I just coin a new phrase?!  I don’t know who decided multi-tasking was the benchmark for productive women but they certainly didn’t have fibro.  I’m not militant about this, yes, I’ll do other things while I have a load of laundry in the washer but trying to do too much just adds to the already confused state of our minds.  Focus on one thing at a time and don’t allow yourself to be distracted with trying to do multiple things at once.
  9. Avoid caffine.  Trust me, a Coke is usually the first thing I want to grab when I need to focus but it only means you’re going to crash later on; trust me.  Also because it’s a stimulant it can make all those jumbled thoughts floating around in there move faster and making things worse!

Stay well – Live Joyfully!

Narayanan Krishnan-Feeding the Poor and Destitute of India

Narayanan Krishnan was born and raised in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.  He was a well-educated young man who realized his dream of becoming an award winning chef at the Taj Hotels in Bangalore.  In 2002, he had been chosen to be the top chef at a 5-star restaurant in Switzerland.  Excited about the new life ahead of him in a new country, Narayanan was all set to go until a simple walk through the streets of his home town changed the course of his life forever.

While on his walk Narayanan was shocked at what he saw.  An elderly man was lying on the side of the road, literally starving to death.  In that moment he decided he had to help that man.  In the paradigm shift that occurred he decided that helping those in need would mean he had lived a fulfilling, well lived life.  This new purpose game him a sense of happiness he had not experienced before and would likely never had if he had just walked on by.photo-krishnan-comfort

He went in a nearby hotel and asked if they had any food ready to serve.  They had idli; a breakfast cake of sorts made from fermented black lentils and rice.  Watching the man eat with a desperation for nutrition Narayanan’s life purpose became crystal clear.  He quit his job and began feeding the homeless and mentally ill in his hometown. Knowing those he would be feeding were in need of more than food, he knew that food was a good place to begin.

In 2003 he founded Akshaya Trust; an organization created with the purpose of feeding the homeless and mentally ill in Madurai.  Each day they feed three nutritious meals to over 425 poor, needy and elderly.  To date they have served over 1.9 million meals.

Going above and beyond to show love to these people and attempting to restore some of their dignity, Narayanan also gives haircuts, baths and shaves.

Now a decade later, Akshaya Trust is nearing completion of Akshaya House; a place of refuge for the destitute of Madurai.

If you would like to learn more you can visit Akshaya Trust’s website.

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.

Need Help Finding My Elf!

The day I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue the doctor left out one very important item.  My worker elf.  You know, the one who cleans the house, does the laundry, grocery shops, walks the dog and makes dinner.  Yeah, that little guy.  The doctor forgot to give me one.

Of all the problems that come along with my illness the fatigue is the one I despise the most; at least for today anyway.   My house is never all clean at the same time; and I don’t mean ready for a House Beautiful photo shoot, I mean just clean enough that I wouldn’t be totally embarrassed if someone stopped by.  If I go grocery shopping I certainly won’t have the energy to cook a meal that night, quite possibly I won’t even have the energy to put the groceries away.  Cleaning the bathroom has to be done but then you can forget going downstairs to do any laundry.laundry

I started writing this little post last night, but due to some pain creeping in I wasn’t able to focus enough to type anymore.  I would have appreciated the help of my little elf yesterday; he would have made all the difference in the world and this “Fibro Friday” post may have been written on time.  I woke up feeling pretty good and had quite a bit of energy compared to normal.  But by the time I had gone to breakfast with my friend, watched my grandson for a few hours, did a load of laundry and ran to the grocery store for 5 items the pain and exhaustion had crept in and I was done for the night.

I NEED MY ELF!

I know when I was working full time I always joked that I needed a clone.  I did.  But I don’t think you can grasp the way chronic fatigue invades your life unless you’ve experienced it.  The doctor told me that my body was almost totally depleted of vitamins b and d; I wasn’t retaining those nutrients at all.  Now I have to take vitamins three times a day to even function with the small amount of energy I get.  And you can just chuck the whole day away if I forget to take the vitamins just before bed; I wake up exhausted.

Christine Miserandino wrote an excellent article call the “The Spoon Theory” and you can find it at http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/wpress/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/If you’d rather watch it as a video it’s also on here on youtube.  Through her Spoon Theory she has come up with the best way I can imagine to explain chronic fatigue to someone who has never experienced it.  I urge you to read it if you’re not familiar with it already.  Whether it’s you who suffers from fatigue or someone you love.

I think the saddest thing for me is that it makes me appear lazy and possibly like someone who doesn’t enjoy being with people or doing fun activities.  I know my family and close friends understand enough, and care about me enough to know I’m not faking it; but sometimes I can sense frustration in them because this affects them too.  By all normal standards I should be able to accomplish a lot more in my day than I get done; things they’ve asked me to do for them or go places they’d like to go.  There’s even a lot more I want to get done for myself.  I used to do all sorts of crafts and would love to do some now, and I’d love to get my house organized better and I’d actually love to be making meals to take to my friend who struggles with her health but when you’re given such a limited amount of energy in a day you have to prioritize and it always seems like chores win over recreation or self-interests of any sort.

I guess that’s one of the things I have to learn how to do.  Accept the way it is now and prioritize.  However, making sure that I make time for things I enjoy isn’t going to be as easy.  I don’t feel I play the martyr; but I was brought up that work is done and the house taken care of before there is any time set aside for personal interests or fun.  That’s just how it should be.  So I have overwhelming guilt if I get out a craft project of any kind when there are still dirty dishes in the sink and a load of wet clothes still sitting in the washer. dishes

So that’s going to be my biggest battle this year.  You know, this year, turning 44, my bucket list and trying to have a more joy-filled life.  My birthday is definitely creeping up (this week as a matter of fact) and it sure is a hard one for me like I said.  I need to get this figured out.  It’s definitely not the way I planned for my life to be when I was a kid lying on my back in the grass looking up at the clouds.  My future looked awesome from there.  There was no chronic illness in that script I was writing.  But I need my life to look awesome from here!  It’s going to take some work, some refocus and some steps toward joy.  It’s the only life I have, it’s the one God has blessed me with and I intend to start living that way – like it’s a blessing!  Takes me back to my joy workout – gratitude and contentment!         

Lemonade – The Cure for Childhood Cancer

When I was four years old I believe I was learning how to write my name.  I had no concept of cancer.  I was four.  I was playing in my backyard and watching cartoons on Saturday mornings sprawled out on the living room carpet.

In 2000 there was another four year old with knowledge of illness you wish you could keep shielded away from your little one.  Alexandra Scott was diagnosed in 1997 with neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer; two days before her first birthday.  Stepping, too young, into the world of doctors, hospitals, and chemotherapy Alex began her fight.  The doctors had informed her parents, Scott and Liz, that even if she was able to beat this disease raging inside her they were doubtful she would ever walk again.

Very shortly Alex was able to show everyone she was a fighter; two weeks into treatment her parents asked her to kick her leg and she was able to move it; slightly, but she did! By the time she turned two she was crawling and could stand with the help of leg braces and was courageously determined to walk.

Despite her constant fight Alex’s cancer was still growing.  The day after her fourth birthday Alex found herself once again in the hospital receiving a stem cell transplant.  Of all the things that could have been racing through the mind of a little four year old, Alex (now with stripes of wisdom earned well beyond her years) was thinking of others.  She informed her parents that when she got home from the hospital she wanted to have a lemonade stand and raise money so the doctors could help other kids like they help her.  Later that year she opened her first lemonade stand in the front yard of their Connecticut home and raised $2,000.

Though her family was still in an ongoing battle with Alex’s cancer they began holding yearly lemonade stands and donating the proceeds to childhood cancer research.  As the word began to spread of this brave little girl, people all over the world opened lemonade stands and donated the money to Alex and her fight against childhood cancer.

By the time Alex turned 8, four short years after her first lemonade stand, she had been able to lead the way in raising over $1 million.  Alex lost her single battle in August of that year.  However, she didn’t lose the war!  The war continues against childhood cancers and due to Alex’s drive to find a cure her parents, along with her three brothers, have been able to continue the fight, giving inspiration to supporters around the world through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

Today her Foundation has funded over three hundred research grants, helps families with travel expenses, raised more than $25 million dollars and conducts multiple events across the country.  From their National Lemonade Days to Philadelphia’s annual “Yellow Tie” Gala, The Lemon Ball.  L.A.’s annual culinary event, L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, features more than 30 chefs who prepare dishes and allow attendees to participate in a popular live auction opened this year by National Advisory Board Member and friend of the Foundation Jimmy Kimmel.

How simple an idea, like a lemonade stand, mixed with the passion to help others, could grow into a huge, life-changing foundation.  Armed with childlike inability to be daunted by obstacles, we as adults won’t even try to tackle, Alex has made a difference.  We may take moments throughout our lives to think of what kind of legacy we’ll leave once we are gone; what grand plan will seal our name in the pages of history.  Maybe we should stop thinking and begin by actually making small, simple steps at helping those around us.  You never know what good may evolve from those first tiny steps.

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.