Saturday, February 28, 2015

One of the ways to find joy

A snow concoction made by Jack.
In my last post I wrote about how savoring memories is my pathway to joy.  Then, I read another blogger's post about tracking what she learns each month. She mentioned a tip about how she looks back over her pictures from the month to help her remember what she has learned.

As I read that and thought again about my recent post about Christmas in February (yes, you read that correctly, I was writing about Christmas in February and the post wasn't even inspired by the snow and ice), it occurred to me that this is a very good place for me to start: reflect on the photos from the month. This practice will keep me on the path of gratitude which then leads to joy. 
Sophie & Jack built a snowman.

I need to spend time remembering. I need to remember the fun, the delightful, the special occasion moments, and the ordinary moments.

Many times Scriptures urges us to remember. Isaiah 46:9 says, "Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me."

It is so easy to forget! This makes sense doesn't it? Our lives are full, right? Full to the overflowing cup, aren't they? Usually they are so full that I can't, more like... I don't make the time to remember.

Look! I can help decorate a table!
We run this way and that way. Recently our family has been running this way for a debate tournament and that way for a choir concert. Then while they are practicing I run to the grocery store for food and then to Target to get shampoo and dog food while my husband takes the recycling and works extra hours. Then, we race back to the tournament for the awards ceremony. Then after church on Sunday, we race to the choir concert. Whew! No wonder I am exhausted.

Gifts of love.
K&K Weekend Away
So, it is a given that when we're iced in for a week and all events are cancelled, I collapse. I'm thankful from the break of running around. Thankful to rest. However, when I arise from my sleepy stupor, I see the clutter, the walls that need painting, the light fixtures that need fixing...and many more 'things' that call my name and soon I begin to feel a different kind of exhaustion. This weather-imposed rest exposes how I live. I enjoy the time off but it is not enough time off of the hamster-wheel for me to tackle the clutter and the projects that will make my house more of the home that I would like it to be.

It is in this context of a running this way and that way life that I am finding that it restores my soul to look at my life that has recently flew past me. To stop, pause, and remember. I need to remember, lest I forget just as it says in Deuteronomy 6:11b-12a: "...then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord..."

I've been watching a love of reading burst into full flame with this one this year! As a primary goal of my homeschooling, this brings me such joy and is worth of much noticing!
For me I have found this pondering of photo moments so helpful. Remember it is my path, not all take pictures to remember. I can think of several joyful friends who don't take pictures and don't scrapbook yet they are joyful people. We each need to remember what the Lord has done for us; we are given much latitude in how we do that.

Hosting a friend of a friend at our house. She played games with the kids.

Barking & jumping to catch the tree.
This posting of pictures to highlight joy, thankfulness, and pursuing contentment is a tribute to the many bloggers who do a similar thing. It is not a new idea.

* Ann Voskamp's blog and her book 1,000 gifts. She writes about gratitude and offers many practical ways to make gratitude a practice.

*  The Like Mother, Like Daughter blog hosts { happy, pretty, funny, real }about pursuing contentment. She also has practical posts about managing a household of lots of children.

Our crazy dog can be sweet at times.

Debate partners.
Making cabbage bundles.

Fun taking pictures of the ice.

A closing thought about the pursuit of joy is that joy comes and goes. It comes as a byproduct. Let me close with these thoughts by Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection:Let Go of Who You Think You're Suppose to be and Embrace Who You Are. This is what she says about joy:
Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments--often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we're too busy chasing down extraordinary moments. Sometimes we're so afraid of the dark that we don't let ourselves enjoy the light.
A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy.That would eventually become unbearable. 
I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.

Oh, how she glows after she's done singing!

God's gift to us. These couples that represent life to me. We were hand-picked to be together. So many times in my life, I am lamenting the friends with whom I can not be with and miss the beauty of the new friends he has given me in my life. Life moves on. People move to different cities, or across town, or to different churches. The friendships can stay alive but they are not there in your day-to-day life anymore. I am so loyal that this aspect of friendship is hard for me. The bummer is that I allow it the lament to skew my focus and I miss the people he has given me. This photos is from a couple's night on Valentine's Day and what a great time we had. So good to be thankful for those here with me now.

In Nashville, when the snow and ice arrive you must play and picture quickly.

This one is after her mother's heart: taking pictures of the ice!

This post of pictures and thoughts is my attempt at being thankful for these moments that have been strung together gracefully for me in the month of February. One simple way of putting myself into the pathway of joy.
How about you? 

How are you intentional about finding joy?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Savoring the memories, captures the joy

Yep. It's true. You are seeing Christmas photos in February. In a culture that speeds ever forward, I am tempted not to post these pictures. The voices in my head say: 'This is not current. This is not what we are doing today. Social media is about the ever-present now.Who is interested in this?'

As it turns out, I am.  I'm posting these pictures of our recent Christmas celebrations to capture joy. It brings me great joy, not just now but long into the future, to reminisce about special celebrations. Not only is it easy to move on in the technological world and not post pictures of something that seems like old news, it is easy to speed on in life. The next item on the agenda comes so quickly, begging to be checked off the list. It makes it hard to savor the good times.

Since it will be awhile before I put them in a book, I will savor these memories in a blog post. It was a special time. I live 1,000 miles from my family. I used to take for granted that I could get to see them whenever we had planned. Then, my husband lost his job. Our situation changed. The first Christmas that I didn't make it to Minnesota to see them I cried hard.

But it taught me a great lesson. Don't take it for granted. So in the that spirit. Posting these Christmas pictures is also about being thankful and grateful that we were able to go. 

I asked my kids what they liked best about our Christmas trip. We saw our cousins and went to a basketball game, pizza party, went ice skating, and snow tubing. I assumed that those would be at the top of the list. But they really enjoyed the time being able to read at Grandma and Grandpa's house and play games with them. They liked the events, too. But they also liked time to just hang out all together.

So enjoy the trip of getting to know us a little better and the highlights of our Christmas. Perhaps you can also think of ways to remember and be thankful for the good and perfect gifts that you have been given.

I met two new members of our family: our great nephew (yep, it's true: I'm a great aunt!)  and our newest nephew. What joy it is to welcome new members of our family and also play with younger members of the family.


We enjoyed some winter activities: snowman building, snow shoveling, ice skating, and tubing!

We enjoyed extra family time: we watched my nephew's basketball game with a pizza party at my brother & his family's house, and a sleep-over at my sister's house. We played board games with Grandma and Grandpa.


We enjoyed traditional Christmas celebrations: looking at a Christmas photo album of my mom's that highlights 50 years of Christmas, eating our traditional polish sausage & poppyseed bread for Christmas eve dinner, conversations, and gift exchanges.


We enjoyed time with my extended family. We had a chance to join the annual Christmas party so I was able to see aunts, uncles, and cousins that I hadn't seen in 6 years. My children hardly remember meeting any of them so for them it could count as meeting my relatives. Santa even makes a special appearance every year for my relatives. See how special they are?

We had time to enjoy sleeping in, reading, playing games with my folks, and I even slipped away to see just a couple of girlfriends. So good to have down time to breathe.

Upon our return, we celebrated  our Christmas here back at home. The glow sticks were one of the biggest hits of the night. Truly it is the little things that turn out to be our favorite thing of all. It is so good to take pictures. It is so good to stop and savor the memories. It is so good to be grateful. I am thankful that pictures help me remember the good things in my life.

Here's to the joy of creating and the joy of remembering!
What have you created or remembered lately?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Quick & Easy Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is my new favorite quick & easy meal. I am always looking for these kind of recipes due to life always seeming more and more busy. Isn't it that way for everyone? How can it be that life continually gets busier and busier even with efforts to slow down? Well, I don't know that answer to that but I do know that lately it has been even more tornado-like than usual. I suspect it has to do with the holiday season.

When life gets busy, I'll buy more convenience items from the store, such as frozen pizza, to save money on ordering in pizza or going out for fast-food. Life may get busy, but my people still need to eat. So I love it when I come up with quick & easy recipes. This one has green stuff in it, which is always on low supply when life is busy, so it already had that going for it and then it was also a big hit with the family. It actually surprised me how much they liked it!

But because they liked it so much, we've had it several times in the last month.   It is also super easy to prepare right when I get home from the grocery store. It helps to have an easy meal after a trip to the grocery store; it's kind of like a reward.  This recipe took 15 to 20 minutes from in my door to sitting down and eating. Amazing!

So this is it:

Chicken Salad

1 package frozen, precooked chicken, 22 o.z. Servings said about 7. Cook according to package directions. This package said bake @ 400 for 8 minutes.
1 bag of romaine, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces. Our package had three stalks.
fresh veggies, whatever I have on hand, cut into bite size pieces; last night it was  carrots, cucumbers
croutons, if available
peanuts, if available
salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese
salad dressing, most of us prefer a creamy kind, such as ranch

This fed my family of six. We also ate pears and Christmas cookies and we were satisfied. There was certainly requests for seconds so it definitely could be doubled, especially if we wanted a second meal out of it.

I love filling my recipe box with quick, easy, delicious, and nutritious meals. 
And I need to be careful that I don't wear them out on this one. 
So what meals do you have that are super quick & easy? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas cheer: It's worth it!

My nine-year-old son has been initiating Christmas cheer around here. Not the teenagers. Not the parents. It has been the joy and wonder of the youngest that has motivated us to put up our tree, to read our Advent calendar, to decorate our house, to bake Christmas cookies.

I am thankful for this encouragement to find Christmas joy in the nooks and crannies of our home and our busy lives.

I get stressed at this time of year -- what mother doesn't? Yet, I don't always realize how much my children know that and dislike a stressed out momma.

During the past few years when life got a bit more topsy-turvy than usual (read about that  here and here), I haven't had the drive to create all of our usual Christmas traditions. This year the kids were asking to bake cookies again since we hadn't done it in a few years. My oldest noticed the look on my face; he said that he would rather not do the cookies if it was going to stress me out.

His comment caused me to pause.

I know that the look on my face was partly due to the sigh in my heart at letting traditions, such as the cookie decorating, fall to the wayside. I love the rituals and the traditions. I want to be able to say that we decorated Christmas cookies: Every. Single. Year. But... I can't.

So part of my look was that disappointment and part of it was wondering: 'How can we fit it all in?' My oldest took the look to mean: Mom is stressed by this request.

I'm glad he spoke. It got me thinking.

First, I realized this: Life is stressful.There is a lot to do in this season, a lot of which hinges on the momma. But taking out the meaningful or fun parts will never reduce my life to being completely stress-free. Therefore, I must make time for joy. We must do I the activities that give our lives meaning.

However, this is where discernment is needed. These 'must-do' activities are not to be confused with pressure, or the obligations or the images I have of  'just how things are suppose to be.' They need to be the essential ones we really love.

I need to examine in order to reduce how much I need to do; having less to do also helps to reduce my stress level. Keep it simple. Keep the list short. Then, I need to be sure to keep the activities that give meaning and energy to our lives do not fall by the wayside because I am too stressed.

Secondly, I realized this: not only do I need to do those important, meaningful life giving activities, such as decorating Christmas cookies. I also need to participate in them with a non-stressed look on my face. It would be best if I would be light and free spirit and truly enjoy the moment. 

It helps if I remember I have chosen this moment and it's worth it. I can do this by remembering that the fun, the memories, the traditions, they are not what add stress to my life.  Life is just stressful.

So instead of throwing out all of the fun we're making time for a few of our favorite traditions this year: Christmas cards, birthday parties, and cookie decorating. We are filling our lives this season with opportunities for joy, laughter, and memories due to a momma listening to the desires of a nine-year-old boy and letting it inspire her to keep on, keeping on the very best things in her world.

How is this season going for you?
In this busy -- often stressful -- season:
Which activities bring you and your loved ones energy & joy? 
Could you reduce your list to a small core of the 'most meaningful'?
What activities are the most important to keep doing for you and your family?
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