Tag: joy

It’s that first glimpse of the external that we define someone. Tall, short. Young, old. A description becomes our initial definition. It’s only the surface we define.

I would have been in the third or fourth grade when my family went to visit friends. They must have been business acquaintances because I don’t remember another time we were together as families. I clearly remember being in their backyard where their daughter, a couple of years older than me, was playing with their dog. She was sitting in the grass eating a popsicle when she held it out to the dog for a lick and then proceeded to enjoy the treat herself.

I was a bit astonished by this. My mama would have snapped that popsicle right up from me. But her parents didn’t intervene. Instead, they reacted as if this were a common thing for their daughter to do. Amy was retarded (as we said in those days). It was visibly obvious that Amy wasn’t like others. No doubt, her physical appearance was how she was defined.

When I remember that moment, what I most recall is her joy. She sat in the grass laughing as the dog jumped around her. She had no qualms about sharing all she had with her animal friend. I suspect she did the same with people too. Amy defined joy.

In today’s post, Kate wrote about how the hardest thing for a writer to write is often their profile. The blurb that defines them. How do you sum that up in a few lines? And how do you really define yourself?

I’m afraid sometimes I wear my profile on my face or in my tone of voice. It says: back off!

When we’re struggling to define ourselves, it’s best to remember that we are only really defined through the grace of Jesus. No matter our appearance, our status, our earnings, He defines us as worthy.


faith Five-Minute Friday grace

She looked to be 8 years old. Her long brown hair fell in wet strings around and in her face. She had no time to push it aside. She carried a skim board that looked to be more than half her size.

She looked ahead at the rolling waves, judging the time to throw her board on the water’s surface followed by a quick belly land on the board.

in the water

in the water

in the water

The Saturday surf class filled the ocean with boards and bodies, most of them tweens and teens. She sifted her way through the crowds going for the next wave. She was undaunted by age or experience. She was my hero that day.

I was drawn to her adventure. I was inspired by the lure of excitement in her eyes and cheered her on silently. I celebrated from the shore when I saw her face break out into a huge smile as the salt water splashed over her. She caught the wave she was after. Her size didn’t hold her back. Nothing kept her from experiencing the joy she set out to find.

skim board hero

girl with skim board

big smile

girl hero

Catching the surfing class or the boys who skim across the edge of the water are my favorites to watch. Their energy glides across the surface infusing me with a shared moment of fun. Their youth reminds me of my own, when life seemed to be waiting for me.

Our part of the ocean doesn’t produce big waves. Some days the surface is as smooth as glass. These days, they practice their balance and it reminds me of the off kilter days I have. These days are an opportunity to practice my balance but I forget it’s about practice. I forget the patience needed to realize the goal.

I imagine standing on a surfboard with my arms flying out trying to steady myself as the water moves under the board. Surely it would be more fun than balancing on one foot with dumbbells in hand in our garage. At least the scenery is prettier.

Sometimes I have my camera focused on the surfers waiting for the next wave. I don’t have their patience so I move on to the action. Another lesson they are trying to teach me that I’ve not learned.

girls holding board
girls holding board

The little girl has moved from the ocean to the sand and is hitting a volleyball back and forth with a woman. I forget how tireless 8 year olds can be. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget how much they can teach us.

Patience. Enthusiasm. Perseverance. Joy in life’s little pleasures. Excitement for life. She is not working for a prize. There is no one to announce her name and no podium for her to stand on. The only award she will receive is the one she wears on her face: joy.

Yes, she is my hero, pushing on through the crowds of older kids, making her way in her youth and inexperience. She is meeting the waves face on and she is laughing all the way.

Jesus called over a little child. He put His hand on the top of the child’s head.
Jesus: This is the truth: unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. In that kingdom, the most humble who are most like this child are the greatest.  And whoever welcomes a child, welcomes her in My name, welcomes Me. Matthew 18:2-5 the VOICE

faith hope photography

We played that song. You know, the happy one. The song that is humming through the background of everyone’s life these days? It’s bouncy and snappy and, well, happy. So we played that song in the chapel full of men, in their seats 5 minutes before our Tuesday night recovery meeting. This is when we play funny clips or bloopers or photo’s of them at a recent event or celebration. This is the time at the end of a long day they sit feeling a bit drowsy from a full belly from dinner and a fresh shower to wash off the work day heat.

I bounced and clapped and mouthed the words, hoping to coax them to be, or at least act, happy. Some returned the begged collaboration, some marveled (my interpretation) at my complete silliness, and bravery to display such and others remained unmoved. Externally at least. Unfazed, untouched, resilient to the ebullient mood around them.

12 Traditions play

 You can’t make me. Go ahead and try. And if you even make a dent in my heart I’ll not show it until later. Alone, when you won’t see you touched that part of me that was tender.

storm clouds

We can be made to go to meetings, get up at a certain time, stop at red lights and tuck our shirts in. We know the consequences of not following certain rules and we know the risks. But no one can make us happy. Our feelings can’t be mandated no matter how silly the person in front of you is being or how dang happy that song is.

Someone sat in front of us one day and said, “I just want you to be happy.” We weren’t sad, still, he felt he had the ability to make us happy. We ignored his statement. Until later, when a question went unanswered and I said, “You know what would make me happy? For you to answer the question.” He fell silent. Had he answered the question, my happiness was not in his hands. That’s on me.

12 Traditions play

What would it look like if we could make someone happy? For a moment, I suppose it would be fun. Smiles from everyone and that carefree air that often comes with the feeling.

But feelings flee and turn and faster than a snap of the fingers the bright bold color of happy is turned gray. That fast. Feelings are like that.

So I’ll take my happiness, thank you. I’ll be responsible for it and do my best to share it in hopes it can brighten the places I walk. But I know it’s your choice to join me or not. I know it’s just for a moment sometimes. Happiness is a feeling. But joy? Ah, joy goes all the way through the soul and stays there. Good or bad, joy is with me. Joy is more than a feeling. It’s a promise.

What does your happy look like? Where have you found your joy?

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 NLT


I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

WHERE? down in my heart

WHERE? down in my heart

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Down in my heart to stay

That old Sunday School chorus came quickly to mind when I read today’s prompt from Lisa-Jo Baker. The song was shouted more than sung and sometimes joy is like that.

family joy, 1981
yesterdays joy 1981

It seems in my younger years joy was noisy. It was filled with people and lots of laughter and it mimicked happiness a lot. They were intertwined in a way this young girl couldn’t quite separate but….But there’s always been that quiet knowing that joy is more. More than circumstances, more than happiness.

family christmas  family christmas


Deerfield Beach

Everything is quieter in our empty nest with family living hours and days away. And that’s when I hold fast to a joy that is quiet too but so lasting. It is in this season of life I am choosing in joy in the face of dementia and divorce. In front of addiction and recovery I can hold joy like a warrior. I am thanking God for this family, this family of blood and community,  that is imperfect and stubborn and fearful. I am thanking God because He is the Joy-giver and joy is that underlying current of peace of that remains in spite of us. Of me.

Some days it’s the quiet joy of breakfast alone and sometimes this joy will blow the doors off my car as my hand pounds the steering wheel in beat to the music. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart to stay.

Linking up with a host of bloggers over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s for Five-Minute Friday. To join in or read others on this weeks prompt, click here.



My hands need to be busy. Moving across the keyboard, moving the paint-filled brush or colored marker across a blank page. I’d say it’s something I get from mama or granny but maybe it’s women in general. Our hands are doing, caring, providing, healing, loving.


I looked at the red letters stenciled to the burlap and the nativity story was told in the color and texture. I spilled the red on the palette and loaded the brush thinking of the red blood at the birth of a baby. It’s good and normal and we welcome the sight of birth, even when it’s less than clean and it’s plain messy. It is the sight of love and we are immediately, firmly and deeply in love with this messy, squirming babe.



Will these words convey that love, that blood that was spilled for us? He was born as our gift and all we’re thinking about is getting and we forget about its cost.

This red painted on this rough and scratchy fabric because this is the trend but it’s more. His birth: messy and rough. No bed, no crib with fresh sheets, thread count making them soft. His first bed in a stable, perhaps cushioned by hay; rough, scratchy like the burlap holding these red words. Joy is the word and joy in his birth.

The mess, the scratchiness, not how we’ve sanitized his life, but closer to how he lived and we’re called to live. I prefer clean and organized and smooth, things I can control and make happen but it seems that doesn’t hold much life and control is a joke I play on myself. His birth has meant the poor are blessed and the ordinary, uneducated and misfits are called by Him to be part of his inner circle. Up is down and the lens of the world is broken because we only see clearly when filtered through the lens with rough edges and smeared with his blood.

I stop to write these words, to remember this ordinary thing of crafting a simple banner to adorn a tree and how it has drawn me into the story making it more than the symbols of the season. I stop to give thanks for this time of year when I get swept up in all the planning and doing and it comes and it is gone and I’m left missing this gift.

Joy to the World. The Lord is come. Here. Now.

Linked up with SheLoves Magazine today.


“If you need the foot up, I’ll do it, Baba.” She leaned in close watching her Baba sew the birthday banner that had become a family project. Our last quick visit here we gave her mama a tutorial in threading the sewing machine and I never would have remembered it from that one demonstration but she did. She texted “Tell dad I did the bobbin!”

birthday party weekend

birthday party weekend

birthday party weekend

She had the idea for the party for a group of 5 and 6-year-old girls and she’d make a banner with the birthday girl’s name on it. All ten letters! Together they decided on the flag placements and Christabel became the sewing machine foot worker, lowering and raising when needed. Our daughter, a good mama always finding ways for this little one to be part of what’s going on. She didn’t learn it from me as I was more than delighted to have her and her brother engrossed in anything other than what I was trying to do. Most of my creative pursuits were done while they were at school or after they’d gone to bed.

Our first stop, on the way home from a long road trip to say our earthly farewells to my mother-in-law, we hit the daughter’s place for its convenient location on our way further south. She pulled out the fabric and we planned and cut the pieces leaving them for her to sew.

birthday party weekend


birthday party weekend


birthday party weekend


cupcakes from a bakery (Even we have our limits!)
cupcakes from a bakery (Even we have our limits!)

This trip, I pinned and argued with Henry over who would sew them (he never argues, but it doesn’t stop me!) and in a moment of good sense I deferred to his superior skills, not just in sewing but I knew he’d do it right the first time.

In the kitchen Heather and her sous chef Christabel were making shortbread cookies to put in little bags as party favors. Party favors for 6-year-olds! We had pool parties with ice cream cake, or Showbiz Pizza. “Here’s some tokens kids, go play”. Now that was a party favor!


birthday party weekend


I’m watching Heather and how she moves with ease through it all, being reminded how much like her daddy she is. I wonder why she’s doing all of this, with a full-time job and husband a full-time student in a doctorate program, it’s so much. “It’s stress relief, mama”. Not sure why I didn’t know that, it’s what I’ve done for years. Throw myself into something else that I can see finished. Homemade therapy I’ve called it. It has served me well. Especially when it’s something I’ve been able to share with others and see their joy and that’s what she is doing.

She has created the Pin-the-teacup-on-the-saucer game the girls will play and drawn the board for it and the birthday signs. Tucked the cookie recipe inside each little bag of cookies inside colorful bandana’s the girls can take home.

in boas




birthday party weekend


birthday party girls 6499


cake face

Our mini-van was filled with the silver tea set brought from India by a friend, raspberry lemonade, little teacups and boa’s and gloves for the girls to be appropriately dressed for their tea party.

Joy. Joy running in dresses, running like a moving amoeba across the playground, joy hugging each other like I’ve never seen little ones do. Kids today!

It was joy spilled over and still spilling as I see their smiles and hear their giggles still in my mind. And my heart is full of the mama joy for a daughter who is also my friend.


faith hope photography

I’m not a fan of country music so I’m sure I’ll get this wrong, or offend someone, but wasn’t there an old joke about playing a country song backwards? If you play one backwards you get your wife back, your dog back, etc.? The inference seemed to be country songs are sad. They are about loss. I fear it could seem this blog is often sad and about loss.

I write about life as it surrounds me and it is those times of despair or loneliness or grief that grip me most. Those deep feelings that wrench my heart and twist my faith. I wonder if my posts were ‘played backward’ we’d get those things back?





flowers and trees

There is much sadness in families marked by dementia, divorce, addiction. And there is much joy. Much. JOY.

Perhaps it’s the joy voice I need to work on. But don’t you see it? It’s the voice that is spelled F A I T H. In the midst of sorrow there is faith and that carries joy. A quiet, not always smiling but always thankful, joy.

While mama doesn’t remember me, I remember her and all she has given me and still does: JOY

Another relapse, another one falls to the disease in the community that holds my heart but I turn to see three more who are celebrating two years clean, 10 years, clean, 22 months clean. JOY

A friend going through emotional heartbreak with a child but she is true and she faithful and she loves. JOY




I said something in the class I teach with the men in recovery and it came out wrong and they laughed like I never heard them laugh and my face was scarlet for an hour (I mean really!) and I’m not sure I can walk in that class again. JOY

My life is filled with joy. I am a happy person because I know I am loved by the only faithful One who can be joy in the midst of all life gives us. Make no mistake, when I share my heartbreak with you, it’s God’s way of soothing my soul and reminding me of His great joy.


faith photography recovery

“Crying may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b NCV

Are you like me and feeling the heaviness of the week? I could turn off the news but the tragedy and hate and sorrow would still be there. In our country, in our world, in our families. Not all suffering is played out on the nightly news. But when it is, when it pulls us together and we’re on our knees for strangers our hearts are worn down and out. I look for joy in the morning but find more sorrow.

our flag of freedom
our flag of freedom



Are you also like me and have this need to be happy and laugh a little but there’s this guilt, a sense of betrayal to our neighbors in TX and MA and funerals being planned and families split wide open?

The books of wisdom also tell us to cry with those who cry and rejoice with those who rejoice. Forgive me if you’re not ready for this, but I need to rejoice. I need to celebrate the strength of our people. Even in the loss we have seen incredible acts of selflessness and heroism. We can only know good in the face of bad and when it’s really bad, it’s really, really good.

It's by the cross we are made free
It’s by the cross we are made free

“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” Romans 5:20 NLT

Not all tragedy is the act of sin. Accidents, like in West, Texas cause as much sorrow. But when one of the men asked why does God allow this to happen, the only answer that offers me any sense is this: free will. That’s the gift God gave us all. He gave us the free will to choose. To choose evil or good. Right or wrong. Blue or Orange. Cold or Hot. It’s what makes us alike and different; our choices. God has given his guidelines to us through his word but he will not make us follow him. Friends, that is love.

And I choose to rejoice in that love. The grace that is more abundant in the face of sin, evil, sorrow and heartbreak. That is the joy we have with each new day. Yes, my heart aches for so many. Yet, I thank God for his free will and grace that will see us through.


faith hope

You’ve become use to my Saturdays being about our beach excursions or other points of interest. This one might surprise you. This week, this Saturday that I have longed for, finds me home doing the tango with my broom and waltz with the iron. Yep, that’s right. Housework.

This is not something I typically look forward to. I am not one of “those”. 🙂  But I have been coming and going so much that I need a ME day. One that I don’t have to do errands, get on a plane, prepare for a workshop or be in a car for a two-part 10 hour drive. I can commune with my house. My very, very neglected house. I can do it at my pace which means breaks for some blogging, a few games on my iPad, and watching my team not fare too well in college football. I’m home alone and it is lovely.

Reading up on personality types some years ago I remember introverts described as needing to be by themselves to recharge. Being with people drains them. Don’t worry. People would never accuse me of being an introvert. My husband is one. To the “T” of that description.

Conversely, extroverts get energized from being with people. I find myself somewhere in between. I identify a lot with David, the psalmist. His poetry provides us with great highs and lows of his personality. My mother-in-law would describe him as having a sanguine/melancholy personality. That is me. While David poured his tears and wailing into poems I pour them into my blogs. Those tears are much more silent in the public view. But the joy? Oh yes, the joy is loud! Loud and shouted about. I want it to spill over to those around me. I want it to spill on to the men that have been joyless too long. Life is joy. Ordinary, everyday life is JOY.

People do tend to tire me unless they are my closest friends. Then I don’t want our time to end. Whenever I can share some joy I am encouraged.

Hopefully, next week’s recharging will be done at the beach again 😉 How are you recharging this weekend?