Tag Archives: joy

Journeying Back and Forward All at Once

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This old branding was designed many years ago. The words and Scripture were reminders to me of what God wanted me to do with my writing. This is not my present “brand.” But it is still my heart.

It was as if God gave me a little shake, spoke to me, then let me return to my night’s rest.

It happened Saturday night. As you know, I’ve been fighting to rediscover Paula the Writer. Despite the fact I have two published books and over 300 published non-fiction pieces (not to mention blogging), I sort-of lost her.

Determined to return to consistent productivity as a writer, I’ve spent many agonizing hours at the computer in 2015. My friend says I’m like a gymnast who knows how to do flips and all kinds of wonderful things, but is out of practice.

So I sit, stretching my muscles, trying to limber up so I can return to the abilities I once had. I still know how to flip across the mat, but I’m out of shape and stiff.

As I entered 2015 the Lord promised me this would be a year of release. As I journaled and prayed I asked Him to help me find His rhythm as a writer. In response to His prompting I wrote that I was to spend my early writing hours on fiction and then switch gears in the afternoon to spend some time writing non-fiction. (This goes against typical advice of editors, publishers, and agents who tell you to focus on one, build your brand, and get established before thinking about doing the other, but I sensed He wanted me to start writing both–in the same day–something I had not considered.)

But I didn’t do it.

Once I started trying to write, I dug into a novel I’d promised my agent. I felt I wasn’t free to do anything else until I met that commitment. I’ve struggled fiercely with it and spent painful hours staring at the screen. I blew off the whole idea of writing non-fiction for a part of each writing day. I couldn’t even do fiction. Did I really want to add another stress to my over-taxed brain?

But Saturday night I briefly awoke, was told I was supposed to be doing both, and went back to sleep.

So Sunday I tried it. I wrote almost 1400 words on my novel, glanced at the clock, and closed the document. The second half of my allotted writing time would be non-fiction. As I meditated on which project to tackle, I had a sense I was to begin to compile the 205 devotionals I wrote several years ago. The goal is to add a few more and release them as a year-long devotional book.

The journey through what will be the first month of my devotional book has blessed me beyond imagining. As I relieve those hard-earned spiritual discoveries, my heart reaches to God in worship, so grateful for all He’s brought me through, touched even now, by His attention during that time. I’ve chuckled at His humor, teared at precious memories, and quite frankly been blown away by the richness of what I’m reading.

I can’t wait to share my deep spiritual journey of those years with whatever readers come my way. A marketing plan–which includes lots of give-aways and pricing that makes it affordable to many–is playing in my mind. I’m so excited I can hardly wait.

So I’d appreciate your prayers. One of these days–hopefully by late spring–I’ll let you know where you can get the book! My working title is Soul Scents: Longing for the Fragrance of Christ.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to have the excitement building within me. This book will be one of the deepest offerings of my heart.

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

PS Facebook messaged a good friend about this before posting the story here. She called with something that encouraged me greatly. She was praying on Sunday morning, asking God to light a fire underneath me to put together this very project! Talk about confirmation of the journey!

Sweeping Girls off their Feet

This is too fun! Last year my oldest son and his buddy decided to sweep girls off their feet for Valentine’s Day. See for yourself how the women at their school received their good-natured attentions.

Have a beautiful day!

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

PS It’s hard to tell what they are handing the girls who get swept away. It’s chocolate. ;o)

PPS Feel free to share and like this video. It’s had over 95,000 hits. It will only take a few more for it to be monetized. Who knows? If we all share it maybe it can start helping with college tuition.

PPPS While both of these fine men were foot lose and fancy free last year at this time, this year they each have their own special Valentine Lady. Now they can apply their charms to being sure ONE special girl stays “swept off her feet.”

Barnacles or Full Steam Ahead?

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Image taken from Wiki

Barnacles.

A crazy image for God to bring to mind.

But poignant.

Since He popped into my head, let’s go with it. Life is like a sailing ship. We have somewhere to go. We have a plan and a mission. It requires fuel and forward momentum.

The problem is sometimes crud attaches, and like a ship with barnacles we waste energy, get slowed down.

“It’s a problem as old as sailing itself. Ever since man set out sea, barnacles have been clinging like, well, barnacles to ships, growing into bumpy masses that slows down vessels and wastes fuel,” says Sarah Zhang. “Turns out these tiny creatures can make a ship burn up to 40 percent more fuel. Their collective mass is small compared to the overall ship, but their little bodies have an outsized effect creating drag around the ship’s otherwise smooth hull.”

Sounds like the crud in my life. Is this familiar to anyone else?

I’ve worked hard to change some thought and behavior patterns that are really no longer a part of me. Thanks to a good God I’ve had some inside-out healing. I’ve fought through to the truth, and it has set me free.

In freedom it is full steam ahead.

And I’ll be sailing along just fine, then I seem to slow down. It takes more emotional/physical/mental/spiritual energy to move forward.

Usually when I think to ask why, I discover stuff has attached itself to me that drags me down. A few that seem to cling too quickly to me are: worry, fear, perfectionism, self-doubt, frustration. I blogged about some of that last week.

And sometimes there’s just a general darkness making me feel sad or discouraged or inadequate.

Do you have anything that seems to easily attach to the ship of your life?

A friend and I prayed together about this stuff last week. She urged me to hold onto my joy. To take time out to say thank you. To praise my God.

As I typed I just got a picture of a barnacle slipping because I turned my thoughts toward good things and speak out positive, holy, joyful, stuff instead of letting my mind dwell on the bad.

The picture of the barnacle letting go sent me back to Goggle. According to The Economist The best way to deal with barnacles is to prevent them from attaching in the first place. The recommend a couple of chemicals, confusing the barnacles, and making the surface so smooth they find it difficult to attach.

I think praise and thanksgiving are like those chemicals that repel the barnacles of my life.

 

The method of confusing barnacles includes checker-boarding molecules that attract water with molecules that repel water. My analogy is this–what if I seek to confusing negativity by admitting its existence rather than living in denial of the stuff that hurts me. But instead of giving into it, what if I thank God anyway, saying, “I trust you, Jesus,” in good times and bad.

A lifestyle of joy is like that paint that makes a smooth service where it is hard for the barnacles to attach. What’s interesting about this analogy is that it works better for ships that are swift and active than for boats that spent a lot of time at harbor. That tells me that I need to keep moving forward, following my destiny in joy.

Here’s what I think. You and I are moving forward because God has called us forward, and He never loses. But there’s crud in this world that wants to slow us down, steal our energy, and make us work harder than necessary to cover the same space. So we need to be proactive, focusing on the good, praising and thanking the God of the Universe, admitting difficulties rather than living in denial, but choosing to believe in GOOD anyway. As we do this we seek to learn a lifestyle of living in forward momentum and joy, not grinding to a standstill when crud hits, but choosing to keep moving focused on positives.

I’m liking this.

I’m sure I don’t have it all figured out, and what I do have figured out I haven’t lived fully. This post is processing, me and God together, in an attempt to sail full steam ahead instead of giving into the barnacles of life that what to attach to the ship of my destiny and slow me down.

How do you reduce the drag of barnacles in your life? Wanna join me in full-steam ahead living?

Moving forward until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

PS I know not everyone who reads this blog sees God the same way I do. I hope you’ll still hang around and here at A Benew Journey and glean whatever makes sense to you. We can learn from each other even if we don’t always see things exactly the same way!

 

A Great Light Has Come

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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Jesus . . . said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

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The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

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In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.

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I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

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For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light

Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

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Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

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Truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Merry Christmas, sweet friends. May your holiday season–and your life–be filled with Light that shatters darkness. 

See you after the holidays,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

The above quotes about light are taken from the Bible . . .

A Sacred Space

His voice broke as he hugged his son.

Emotion from my steady-Eddy.

“I’m proud of you,” he says. Then he is wrapped in the long arms of the teenager who now towers above his dad. A manly bear-hug.

Our son’s face softens, his smile one of pure delight.

IMAG0234It seems funny to me–how this moment, this thing that once raised our eyebrow–today provides a sacred place.

He is only seventeen and needed our signature.

When he first asked for a tattoo for his birthday, I gave the party-line answer. “A decision this permanent should be made when you can sign for yourself. One more year.”IMAG0241

Then I tipped the scale the other way with my question, “What do you want and why?”

“A tattoo of the wristband they gave the men at church. It’ll be a reminder that I choose God and am determined to be a man of integrity.”

“That’s really cool, Sam.’ My resistance faded. “Maybe we should talk to dad.”

And so today we stood together in a giant hug, the three of us wrapped in the hallowed spaces of a tattoo shop.

And hubby’s voice shook just a little as he looked into this baby boy’s eyes and declared his pride in the man before him.

Another boy becoming.

Another young man finding his own way with faith and temptation and questions and answers all in the context of seeking relationship with the Creator.IMAG0237

Across the room sat David, getting the same tattoo, standing (figuratively) shoulder-to-shoulder with Sam. A brother thing from this newest sibling, this gift of marriage.

Our daughter divided her time between these two of her men, watching the artists at work. Solidarity flowed between all five of us.

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David’s new tattoo is placed below the tattoo that says, “love.” He and Sarah got them while they were dating, on the night they went to a concert to raise money for, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” a non-profit dedicated to helping the hurting.

The old Christian box Jerry and I lived in didn’t have room for these sacred moments.

But this new freedom of seeking God, not a cultural mindset, allows for such expression.

Today a simple band of black and red reminds these men who they are and Whose they are.

Someday Another will declare Who He is, “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”*

Riding with Sam as we drove home I said, “I’m so happy.”

His grin was wide. “Why?”

“I think because I feel your joy, and it overwhelms me.”

In reflection I know it was all of that and more. A Dad loving his son. A son knowing he is accepted. A mom watching the youngest take another step into the fullness of who he is.

A man forming before my eyes.

The delight in freedom.

Freedom to be who we are and to express it.

Until Next Time,

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*Revelation 19:16

 

 

 

 

 

Expressing All that Excitement!

“Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?” IMAG0120

My boys responded with the teenage eye roll.

Maybe I tend toward the melodramatic, but hey, a girl’s gotta express all that excitement.

This morning it was over the working burner in my stove.

Time again to be vulnerable about a “private” subject. Since 2013 I shared here about losing weight inside and out. I’ve mentioned periodically our struggle with money.

There it is. The taboo word. Money.

Always paired with the word struggle.

But as I’ve lost weight Jerry and I have also fought to lose the poverty mentality. The attitude that money is always pain and struggle and worry. That there won’t be enough.

I admitted last week that we had some really hard times in the years surrounding Jerry’s near death, times when I couldn’t get groceries. During this season my stove went out. We found a free one on Craig’s list, but the front glass was broken in the oven. Soon after the main burner of the stove started working on only one setting: high.

This morning I put turkey bacon in my skillet and used my favorite burner on medium. MEDIUM! Hallelujah. See, little by little, (and sometimes huge project by huge project), the nagging things that have made me feel pushed down are being fixed, replaced, repainted, re-purposed.

It’s amazing what a new oven door or fresh coat of paint or new fabric on old pillows does to that weary, poverty mindset.

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Picked a nice grey accented by white for my entryway.

 

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The walls are “stone white” and the trim a high gloss white. The china cabinet used to be bright blue, but it is now the color of the wall opposite it. The back of those grey pillows is the original blue fabric, which makes them feel custom made!

Yesterday we got new carpet. NEW CARPET throughout downstairs. The old carpet was original to the house 30 years ago. And I always hated the color. LOL.

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it’s so soft and squishy!!!!!!

Today? New shelves for the freezer. After the old ones broke I was determined to not be angry every time something fell out. It took a while to afford replacements, but thanks to that $75 needed, this is no longer an issue.

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Can’t count the times that jar of yeast almost hit my toes!

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Toes are feeling much safer now!

A friend tells me, “inch by inch it is a cinch.”

And it’s true. A little effort and money here. A little more there. It’s getting done. The upgrades long overdue in my home are actually happening.

The temptation has been to not even start these home projects. There are many, and we are weary. To be candid the first project was thrust upon us, and we had no choice.

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Coming home to old wall paper gone and new sheet rock hung.

But over the last three months much has been accomplished, and I have a peace about my home that is natural. It’s a peace I fought for, sometimes several times a day, when the need for repairs or the lack of beauty threatened to send me into despair.

During those lean years I changed patterns in how I lived, hanging out in rooms that needed less work so I didn’t get pulled down by the bad carpet or old paint. I cut fresh roses and brought them in from outside or made cloth napkins from old fabric to add beauty to each day. I lit a candle. Played some Beethoven. Used the pretty dishes. Cleaned out clutter.

Tried to give the family good memories by working hard to make a big meal even when I felt overwhelmed with the improvisation of cooking without a trip to the store.

We learned a lot in those years. The kids don’t take a gift for granted. Their hearts are tender when they see a need. They work hard. (They have some wounds, too, which I ask my Lord to heal.)

I learned to pray hard. That even in the worst of times I could find something to share with someone else. To find joy in little things, like those 1,000 gratitudes I wrote in marker on my ugly wall. (By the way, it took about seven coats of paint to cover that!)

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I learned to treasure the gift of laughter, of a peaceful home life, of friendship and walks in the sunshine.

The best things in life really can’t be bought.

I learned that God cares about little things. Like when I craved mangos in my weight loss shakes, but couldn’t afford them. I prayed for them and was given a whole flat that were on the verge of being too ripe. I cut those mangos up, froze them, and enjoyed them in my shakes for weeks!

My journey has not been as intense as others. A friend of mine went without food for some time as did her son. Both left the bag of a few cookies on the counter for the other to eat, choosing hunger over taking the last bit of food. I haven’t been hungry like that. But my own journey was significant for me. I fought hard to find joy and to rise above the broken things and broken places in my home and in my heart. Sometimes I cried. Many times I found victory after the tears.

As we’ve worked together in my home I’ve learned new skills like caulking, painting, and using a power tool. This knowledge also helps me rise above my circumstances to create the beauty I crave in my home.

Today I am grateful.

For the lessons learned.

For feeling like I can breathe.

For the fact that I shopped for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal without worrying if I would be able to pay for what I need.

I’m grateful for a new fence, new carpet, painted walls, working burners, shelves, and oven fronts. For a new-to-me couch and end tables. For pillows a friend and I sewed that spruced up furniture I already had. For new dish clothes and new shoes.

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I’m grateful for children who dug out old fence and scrapped off old wall paper and filled in holes in sheet rock. For a friend who contributed resources and taught us and for other friends who gave of their time and skills. For a husband who refused to abandon me to finishing projects even when he was bone tired from an eleven hour shift at work. Who fixed my stove burner and installed that new oven door. Who, with our son, helped hang shelves.

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Notice the old carpet! NOT my favorite color.

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Loving that new carpet beneath my new shelves!

I’m grateful for a God who is returning to us the things stolen during the hard season. For a God who cared even about the perfect painting to set the theme for my remodeled room and the 50% off candles that tied the colors of the new sectional together with the blues and greens of the walls.

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For a God who is teaching Jerry and me to live outside of the fear of not having enough and to trust Him as He teaches our hands to create the provision we need.

All our circumstances have not changed. But we are moving into a new season. We are dropping the weight of a poverty mindset.

We are learning a new place of freedom.

How about you, my friend? What’s your relationship with money? Is it friend or foe? Is there stuff at your house that drives you to despair? If so, what CAN you change? You might not be able to buy new carpet, but how about covering some old pillows or cleaning out a clutter pile?

If you’ve never had old carpet, old furniture, or old paint, have you realized what a gift that is? What about the intangibles like love and joy and peace?

May the God of all fill your (and mine!) heart to overflowing with gratitude and joy.

May He empower us all to lose the weight of the money issue and embrace the truth that He has provided and will continue to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Until next time,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

 

 

Does God Shop?

If you don’t believe God likes to shop, I’m here to challenge your perceptions.

Or maybe He just likes me to shop.

See last Wednesday was my birthday. I finish a tall cup of nice, hot tea and good conversation with a friend at Starbucks and had a little space between our time together and my next appointment.

Leaning back on the comfy chair I let the joy of unscheduled time wash over me. “What should we do next, God, for my birthday?”

I swear He said, “Let’s see what they have at Hobby Lobby.”

Bet you’ll believe me when you hear the rest of the story.

This whole new family room thing is a bigger deal than most of you know. I’ve prayed for at least ten years to be able to redecorate. I am going to be brave and admit to the world at large that the carpet down there is at least 30 years old and held together with duct tape. So when God brought the resources to give that space a face-lift, well, it’s an answer to years of prayer. (When we’re finally done I’ll take pictures. Promise!)

So back to my story. My birthday. Hobby Lobby. I was drawn to the pictures. Not the little ones. The big ones. And in that department I drooled, then stopped dead in my tracks.

In front of me was a photo on canvas. Not only did the picture invite me to saunter down to the ocean and dangle my feet in the water, the heart of its message communicated exactly what I want my new family room to say.

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Breathe.

Be at peace.

Relax. Be refreshed.

I stared.

It was also the perfect colors to connect that new pewter lamp with the “sand” sofa and the calming blues, greens, and grays of the new paint.

I flipped that sucker over and moaned. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money. “I’d pay half that,” I thought.

With a wistful sigh I continued my wanderings around the store. I resisted the temptation to look at the bracelet charms. I browsed the fabric, a past-time made enjoyable thanks to a grandmother who sewed me dresses when I was a child.

Then I saw it. A sign advertising 50% off canvas prints!

I rushed back to the picture section to inquire. Evidently, the sale was over, but one of the signs advertising it had been overlooked when they were taken down. Store policy said they had to honor the discount! I was told to check out with a particular cashier to receive that amazing price.

I grabbed the perfect candles (also 50% off) to continue with my sand and sea theme and headed to the check out counter.

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The cashier’s name was Joy.

Could it be more perfect?

“Do you want to hear a joyful story?” I asked.

“Of course!” She said.

I poured it all out. How the canvas was the culmination of years of prayer and a brand new look in my family room.

Her wide smile matched my own. “The Lord wanted you to have that picture!” she said.

Yes. Yes he did.

I don’t really know what He thinks about shopping, but I do know we have a Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. He knows our hearts. He cares about the little things.

Happy here in Colorado,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

Tromping on All or Nothing (Again)

Peace in the midst of chaos. Balance. You’d think I’d be better at it. I’ve had ample opportunity to learn.

I think (hope) I’ve made progress in cultivating joy in times of emotional struggle and sorrow. But old habits creep up in new places.

During early marriage there were a few phrases I heard often from my husband. One was, “it’s not all or nothing, honey.”

Here on A Benew Journey we’ve talked often about taking back our lives. I shared my story of how being benched help me learn to care about my own needs and find a healthier lifestyle, prioritizing my emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Enter the new test of balance: Overwhelming Good!

When my husband and I returned  from helping go through my mother-in-law‘s home we were emotionally and physically fatigued. God and loved ones met us with a wonderful surprise. A friend told me she’d prayed for years for an opportunity to bless our family. This came when she was able to gift us not only materials for a face-lift to parts of our home, but also her expertise. Having just remodeled her own house, she knew how to do things we didn’t.

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While we were gone she and our children dug in, pulling down old, out-dated wallpaper, emptying shelf after shelf of books, and reshaping the walls so they would look beautiful when painted.

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Notice the gratitude wall in the hallway . . .

Then my friend ordered the materials to rebuild our ancient privacy fence. These answers to years of prayer overwhelmed me with gratitude. After taking a day to unpack and assimilate, I dug in thinking I’d have a brand-new family room in a week, and that if the boys helped on a week-end we’d have the post holes dug. My friend and I could leisurely add the other boards while my husband was at work.

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It’s not quite what happened. We are on day 19 or 20 of the family room project, and only about half the holes are dug and filled with cement and a new pole. (And that much only happened with several friends pitching in.)

This morning I felt the call to be still. To talk these wonderful (though somewhat challenging) situations over with the Lord. I have other work to do, commitments to keep. I’ve been skipping my walks (isn’t painting enough exercise?) and giving into less healthy food choices out of exhaustion. I want to bury myself in this project. To GET IT DONE.

This morning I realized it isn’t just the bad that gets me out of balance. It’s the good. The exciting projects. The work I love. I felt His whisper, His reminder to be on guard against all or nothing living. (I guess He and Jerry are on the same page.) That what is accomplished in this day is sufficient. That healthy choices are important and pushing too long and hard, even in the good things, is a step backward not only in my physical health journey, but my joy. In my life.

There will always be overwhelming tasks. It is my goal to be a wildly productive woman. But if I forget the moments–If I don’t embrace life on the overwhelmingly busy days, then I’m back to square one, rushing, but not living. Meeting goals without enjoying the beauty of moments well lived.

I painted over my gratitude wall, my 1000 little breathless moments recorded in multi-colored magic marker. (We won’t talk about how many coats of paint it took to cover the marks of the orange sharpies!) As we painted I felt those thanksgivings were the foundations of the new, beautiful space. The color I chose is called “refreshed.” And that’s what noticing life’s good moments did for me, it refreshed my heart, helped it live more fully alive.

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Beneath these beautiful, refreshed walls is a foundation of 1,000 moments of beauty, things noticed by choice, by slowing down and savoring. Gifts from the hand of Creator God who gives all good things.

My BeNew journey continues. When the good (or difficult) things in life bring unexpected responsibilities, when something wonderful happens that requires more hours than I dreamed, I can’t live all or nothing, throwing myself into conquering the project. I’m learning to prioritize life. The moments. The beauty. The healthy choices that keep me strong for the next project.

Two days ago I completed bookshelf #1. Non-fiction neatly alphabetized and housed in cases of misty surf and calming celadon. (blue-gray and green)

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Do not be deceived. This bookcase is now full!

Tomorrow I’ll paint and hang a homemade bookcase for my fiction collection. Or maybe that will wait until next week. But it will get done. And I will chose to sleep. To be responsible with other commitments and not just bury in this project. I will take time to make Sam homemade biscuits. I will pray. Enjoy the outdoors. Breath the fragrance of fall and actually notice it.

How about you, my friend? Are you resisting tunnel vision? Are you living life, breathing in the breathless moments, or just conquering time?

As you work, embrace joy. See the faces of those you love. Hear their words. Taste your food. Have a little fun . . .

IMAG0586Until Next Time,

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Lessons from Sam and LOTR: “There’s some good in this world.”

The things we do for love.

Some of them aren’t so hard. My sweet Sam, still recovering from surgery and growing increasingly tired of being tied to crutches, requested a Lord of the Rings Marathon. Extended version, of course.

After 12 plus hours of immersion in the trilogy thoughts continue to surface.

Yes, I’ve read the book. Watched the abridged versions of the Peter Jackson movies. Even watched the extended movies all in one day before. (Sam’s request one year for his birthday.) But with something as deep as Lord of the Rings it seems there is always a new take-away.

One of the things I’m pondering is this scene:

Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

When I watched this part of the movie, what jumped out at me is “There’s some good in this world.”

Not great revelation, but don’t we sometimes forget?

Life can grow dark. My mind can dwell on the darkness. Perhaps this tendency fueled my journey of recording 1,000 gifts. 

Writing my gratitude all over the basement walls changed me. Not that I live every, single moment in gratitude.

But I look for the good. Notice it more often.

Like Sam I know good exists. The darkness must pass. The sun will shine out all the clearer because of the darkness.

20140729_153036I read recently that perseverance alone is not enough. That true persistence is waiting on God with joyful anticipation.

Much of my life has been persevering with clenched fists instead of joyful anticipation. But maybe I’m learning. And part of my new understanding is that to embrace joy in the hard times I must remember there is good.

It shows up in simple places. The beautiful green after rain. The deep-throated guffaws of my boys, now all young men, shoveling down dinner while they crack their jokes. The feel of my husband’s hand upon my waist as I drift into sleep. Fresh strawberries. Friendship.

His gifts are everywhere. Even in the shadowed times there is good. Sometimes it’s a fight in my heart to see it.

But good is worth fighting for.

Until next time,

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Refreshment

20140722_093918-1The breeze brushes my face, wispy fingers cooling my questions.

It’s funny what conquers the ragged places. You think it will take something big–like getting the answers you want–but sometimes it’s the simplest relief.

Like this light wind whisking away the heat as we sit beneath the shade trees of our backyard .

It doesn’t answer the questions I asked last night. It doesn’t change the circumstances of frustration.

But it is LOVE.

And isn’t this life full of Him when I open my heart to see?

Conviction hits with that statement. It’s not always about my ability to open my heart. Last night’s questions weren’t coming from this happy, open place.

The breeze, this quiet moment away from the sweltering heat of my home and the suffocating heat of my heart is a gift. I didn’t earn it by being some goody-goody person living open and happy.

I have cultivated the notice of such by an intentional decision to say thank you. I did ask God last night for help when I felt the doldrums coming on. But I didn’t make the breeze. I didn’t force my heart open.

I think only God can open the heart. My will can ask Him to. My logic knows it is good for me. But the heart? That’s something different all together.

The heart is where HE lives. And He is hope. Joy. Peace. Love. All the things I long for. He opens this place to the Good.

When I cried out in the sweaty night, hot and tired, unable to sleep, He granted my body rest and awoke me to this day. This moment.

I’ve no doubt that His Spirit tempted me outside. It started with notice of wilting basil leaves, so thirsty.20140723_124649 Then the act of running up and down the stairs, back porch to plant watering jug in hand, awakened me to the possibilities.

Sam’s hot and tired, too. Maybe even more than I with all of his aching surgery hip and sitting in front of TV and gaming station, being tied to crutches, mostly trapped inside.

So we breakfasted in the breeze. Talked of everything and nothing. How this summer was his favorite summer of baseball ever. He thanked me for his childhood, precious son that he is, as we stared at the swing set which sits mostly still these days. I guess kids reminisce, too. Even as I silently mourned the decaying tree house, the lack of shrieking, giggling little ones, he celebrates the good, sees the big yard and the tire swing and dangling climbing rope and remembers. Happy. (And yes, I hear the lesson in that.)

Now we sit side-by-side, lap-tops perched on the patio table that speaks love, too (It once belonged to Bernice, and I know she would rejoice in seeing us here). We let the fresh air clear our head, cool our bodies, lift our spirits.

A pure, white butterfly flits by. Lands on the rose bush.

Bird song wafts on the breeze.

We believe again in season, in ups and downs, and how the downs don’t last forever. His crutches will soon be abandoned. The stuff that weighed on my emotions last night will pass. We remember that even in those downs there is relief. We discover gifts. Embrace love.

I am happy, too. Son beside me. Cool breeze refreshing.

Hope you’re finding joy in the simple pleasures, too, my friends.

Until next time,

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