Tag Archives: wisdom

Finding Joy in the Pouring Rain

For many years I prayed for joy. What seemed to happen in response to those prayers was hardship upon hardship. But looking back I think I learned some of the same truths in this blog, especially the part about intentionally cultivating a capacity for joy. I believe you’ll appreciate these thoughts as much as I did.

The following is a guest blog written by Laura Padgett on Livin’ What You’re Given

FINDING JOY IN THE POURING PAIN

Praying for answers

Was Pastor Ashley out of her mind? How could she say that we can have joy no matter what the circumstances surrounding us? Wasn’t I sitting in this chair just a few weeks after a car accident that left me with two swollen, bruised kneecaps and five displaced ribs? Wasn’t I cringing under a load of guilt behind the fact that it was my fault? I totaled two cars, hurt another driver and if my knees could bend, I would be attempting to kick my own rear end. Bring on the joy.

Hadn’t I just received news of a devastating tragedy that befell a family I adore? Hadn’t I just been made aware, again, of a family relationship that no matter what I do will never be healed to the point of reunion? How do you find joy in the face of stories about one family member being seriously mistreated at the hands of another? Right, let’s join in the happy dance.

But there stood my pastor saying it really is possible to have joy no matter what trials we are facing and what questions loom over us. I love my pastor and never leave one of her messages without a nugget of truth and comfort. That day I chose to rage against the stubborn silence that fell like an impermeable granite wall in front of my questions.

I spent the next several mornings on my back porch meditating and watching it rain. It seemed to me it was going to rain forever.  Worse, yet, it seemed like it had been raining forever. I wondered if we would be in for a dreary season from April until November. There was another question. There was more silence.

One particularly wet and bleak morning, I stared into the faces of my twin enemies -anger and confusion. They were collaborating to mask the deep pain gnawing at me and the authentic feelings that could set me free if I would allow them out from behind the silent screaming. I couldn’t believe all this had happened within a month. I fought, I reasoned, and I demanded answers. All that came was the flood of water from clouds that mirrored darkness in the depths of my despair.

I realized verbal fighting was not working. So, I chose to throw myself onto a couch and beat my fists into pillows as if I could extract a truth that would take away the grief, guilt and helplessness. My ribs groaned, and my knees sent sharp, protesting throbs all the way to my toes. Finally, out of physical and mental exhaustion, I plummeted downward into a place I feared would be my emotional home for many days. I made a conscious decision to submit, lay down the tools of battle, and let go. It continued to rain. I continued to pour my heart out to God. Was Pastor Ashley out of her mind?

Then I heard it. It was faint at first but grew louder as my sobs subsided. It was the song of children at play in the neighbor’s backyard. I pulled my tear-soaked, limping self to the patio door and opened it to determine if my ears were playing tricks on me.

How could the wee ones be playing, laughing and even squabbling on this dark day? Didn’t they know that many worlds had been rocked by unspeakable sadness? Didn’t they know my heart was breaking for all that was broken in my world and the worlds of many I love? Didn’t they know it was cold and raining?

No, they knew nothing of the events or weather patterns. All they knew was they were going to live and laugh today, no matter what nature or the world presented. In their pure child wisdom they rejected the preset template of a day defined by externals.

I stepped outside and stood in the rain, listening to their little squeals, as I looked over the hedge separating our yards. I saw them jumping in puddles and delighting in this, even this – a downpour of chilly water. They danced in pools among patches of grass made green by relentless moisture.

The joyful chorus of song and dance was joined by robins flitting around them. No doubt the robins were looking for food. The gorgeous little birds took time to lend voices to the symphony of a fresh day. I smiled, breathed in the smell of clean air and thanked God for the laughter of children. I thanked Him for the robins and rain. I walked closer to the fence, “Hi Miss Laura,” they called in unison between giggles. I blew a kiss to two of my favorite wee people.

It wasn’t long before the guilt came back. How could I allow myself to be drafted into their little world? I should not feel joy on any level at this time. It wasn’t time yet. No I should not find joy right now.

But I did. For a brief moment my heart lifted, I saw parting of mental clouds, if not physical ones. And I remembered a quote I had heard by Berne Brown, “Joy is a spiritual discipline.” New questions surfaced. How does one get their joy back? What does it mean to be disciplined? Was my heart so heavy because I am undisciplined, unintelligent, and unable to make sense of a world that can be senseless?

“You want some lunch? Honey, please come in now. It’s cold and you’re dressed like it’s 85 degrees. Please come in now,” my husband called from inside the patio doors.

“In a minute,” I answered, not wanting to leave this moment just yet. There were still questions and guilt to deal with. I thought maybe, just maybe, answers were in the sights, sounds and smells of this early May scene playing out before and around me. I opened my right hand, allowing rain drops to hit my palm and stared at each while praying one drop would hold a key to unlock the door to my prison of pain. I was not willing to trade my miniscule slice of peace for a retro reach into the past several weeks of hell on earth.

When I did come in, I ate in silence. I was soaking wet and Keith cast a worried eye over me all through lunch as he attempted to make small talk.

After lunch, I went to my special prayer room where I could be alone, in my secret space, with God. As I started my little water fountain and lit a candle, I heard a small voice say, “Joy is a spiritual discipline. Like all things it takes practice, patience and persistence.”

I blew out the match, dropped my head and said, “Okay, Lord. I get it.” I finally heard what Berne Brown and Pastor Ashley were trying to tell me. The discipline is not in owning joy but in intentionally seeking it. It is in the awareness of children’s voices, new spring growth, tiny birds, and even the cleansing heavenly waters. It is in looking for, enjoying and not allowing guilt to overshadow the joys of this day we are given to live.

The work of finding joy is sometimes found while standing in pain with others while waiting and believing there will be a sliver of sunlight through the blinding darkness. The hard work of spiritual discipline is found in an obedient posture of seeking but not demanding answers. Finding joy is about resting in the one who has the answers, and still trusting Him when the answers are never revealed.

I resolved to not dishonor myself by shoving aside questions and grief under a pillow of anger. Instead I chose to allow time needed to process that which may not ever be processed thoroughly. I openly gave myself permission to heal. And I resolved to find the laughter, singing birds and love that are all around if I practice the discipline of active pursuit, even in the darkest days.

When I turned off the fountain, blew out the candle and returned to a day that held a long to-do list, I came away with a new belief. Eventually the joyful moments will stay longer and crowd out, or minimize, the moments where hopelessness and helplessness reign supreme.

I moved slowly (very slowly) out of my special space, kissed my concerned husband and said, “Maybe Pastor Ashley isn’t out of her mind after all.”

I Am the Artist

A friend of mine wrote this and posted it to Facebook. Such a valuable concept that I’ve been thinking about it over and over. Too often I’ve given the very design of my life over to others. To their opinions or expectations. But when the metal hits the road, I am the responsible for my own canvas. I choose to look to the Creator with a capital C to help me discover all He intended for this canvas. I often seek wisdom from the world around me, trustworthy people, good books. But in the end I choose. Thanks, David, for giving me permission to share this!

I AM THE ARTIST by David G. Colister

I am the artist and I am the artwork on the canvas of my life.

This canvas is and always will be mine. If it bears unwanted graffiti then I did not guard well enough my canvas. If my painting lacks the color, perspective, style, composition, or mastery I desire to represent my life then only I, the artist, am responsible.

If I lack the talent, tools, resources, and vision necessary to paint my life’s picture as I desire it, then I must devote the time, effort, study, ingenuity, and discipline necessary to realize the beauty I want for my life. And I will remind myself, demand of myself, and force myself, with all vigilance, to own up to the quality of my artwork at all times and in all stages of its development. My life is my design.

I must deny the incessant interruptions that would distract or delay my work. I must persevere in refusing access to the endless line of uninspired critics who insist on invading, without invitation, the studio of my mind.

I find nothing more heinous than the thought of someone forcing me to paint upon my canvas according to their vision. I will not let this happen no matter how much I admire, need, or fear a person — be it a relative, lover, friend, boss, co-worker, financier, celebrity, or ruler. This is my life, not another’s. I hope others love what they see on my canvas, but I will not sacrifice my authenticity for their approval, regardless of the cost to me or our relationship.

Likewise, I will refuse any selfish temptation to force my vision upon or touch my brush to the canvas of another at any cost to myself. Each one must take responsibility for the results of one’s own life’s canvas. I must give others the freedom to paint their life their way. Not only would it be wrong to take credit for the art someone else creates, but it would be artistically criminal for me to force my vision upon another’s canvas.

Therefore, I will make no excuses for the quality of my painting and I will pass no blame. I am responsible for the final version that will ultimately define my life. My painting will hang for eternity in the Museum of Humanity. I am ever mindful that I am only allowed one painting in those hallowed halls, so I will make my contribution count. I will add to the collective beauty of human history, not stain it.

With God as my witness and by His grace, I pledge to maintain my resolve to paint my life on my own terms and with my own hand and according to my own vision.

My mind is set, my hand is steady, my heart is full. I am determined to paint a masterpiece of which I am proud, that represents my truest self, that satisfies my soul, and inspires other artists both now and for generations to come. Therefore, I will paint well. I will paint true.

One day I will place my signature upon my masterpiece when my life is finished. On that day I will kneel before my God, the Creator of creators, to reflect upon the art that is my life and will do so with deep gratitude, humility, and awe for the opportunity to paint a human life…

I am the artist and I am the artwork on the canvas of my life.

You can read more of David’s stirring thoughts by connecting with him on Facebook.

Monday Morning Makeover ~ Open War II

If you missed Open War I watch this video first!

No good general chooses battle without first taking stock of the situation and the resources he possesses. Open war is upon us. We need to engage. But this doesn’t mean jumping into every battle without wisdom.

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Monday Morning Makeover video ~ Open War II

Encouragement for Thanksgiving

turkeySeveral of my friends are stressing about entering the holiday season. I get it. When you’re working hard to win the battle for a new body and more active life, all the excess food available is daunting.

But here’s the truth. Between October and Jan last year I lost 32 pounds, and you can keep losing, too. I don’t remember feeling deprived. I do remember being intentional.

Here’s a bit of advice for Thanksgiving from someone whose been there:

  • It’s not what you do one day that sabotages weight loss. It’s what you do 90% of the time
  • Even on the holidays it doesn’t pay to eat until your stomach hurts
  • Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite treats, just take smaller portions
  • If you’re using weight loss support, like the Benew products I used, keep using them that day
  • Consider taking a walk after enjoying your turkey. If that doesn’t fit the family schedule, make a point to exercise on Wed. and Friday
  • Be intentional about how you approach the day. Give yourself freedom to enjoy it without guilt, but don’t totally blow off wisdom.
  • Remember the tricks: More salad, less potatoes. If you eat big at lunch, eat less the other meals. Find a way to move.

Let’s face it: Thanksgiving is about the food. While that doesn’t mean you have to take seconds or thirds, you will eat more than you normally do. But one day won’t ruin what you’re trying to accomplish as long as you return to your new good habits on Friday and keep to them! Honestly, last year I think I had pie for breakfast on Friday morning, but I put it into my calorie counter app and kept the rest of the day within my goals.

The biggest Thanksgiving danger is not the day itself. It’s the day after and the day after that. Enjoy your day, but commit to making it only ONE day, not a week of celebrating that turns into continued betrayal of your goals.

And while you’re enjoying all that abundance, take a minute to thank those who provided, starting with the Giver of all good gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tips for enjoying Thanksgiving without self-sabotage