Sunday, July 31, 2016

Day 31: Joy in Goodbye

We said goodbye to our pastor today, who has led us personally for the past five years, but our church for over 11.  It was a bittersweet day filled with emotions.

Early into being under Troy's leadership, I wrote about the impact he had on my family.  You can read about it here, where I speak of him being one of three wise men who've led me spiritually in my life.

As I sat down to write today's post, my final "31 days of joy," it came to me that I began my joy challenge six years ago, writing about my Grandpa the first wise man, and ended it today writing about Troy, the last.

Since that post back in 2012, Troy has seen our family through so many milestones and has helped to shape us more than I could've ever imagined when we first walked through the doors at EHBC.  His words of wisdom, whispers from God, have helped us heal in loss.  His calm presence has been with us in times of need.  His prayers have no doubt held us together as we've walked through life.  Under his care, we've seen our family pews expand in size and spiritual growth.  And his family will forever be an example to us of what it means to be good and faithful servants.

I'm terrible at goodbyes, as emotions overcome me, and in the midst of hugging a few words is normally all I can blubber out.  Such was the case today.  But I've learned how important your presence is for letting someone know what they mean to you.

I will never forget the winding line of people who came to say goodbye to Austin and the impact that had on our family.  Since then, I make it a point to attend farewells, whether they are goodbyes of this earth or goodbyes due to distance.

Since being at EHBC, we've said our share of goodbyes and I've learned that no matter how much you'll miss the person, there is joy still present because you know they are answering God's call.  Wherever it is He is taking them, they will do great things and touch many lives.  In the path of Troy and Kim, I'm just grateful God allowed us to be along for part of their journey.

As followers, we must expect change and movement and be open and willing to go wherever God leads.

As a Christian, I know that earthly goodbyes are also just "see you laters" because we'll hug them again in eternity.  And so, despite the pain that comes with losing someone, there is joy because you know where they are and that you'll someday be reunited.

Goodbyes are never easy.  But the only time a goodbye is truly painful is when you know you'll never say hello again.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Day 30: Pickin Peppers

A typical Friday night for me is watching hubby snooze in his chair and turning in shortly after Noah gets home from work.  Last night though found me rolling in after 2 am.  Or, I guess you'd say this morning.  Sounds like a wild and crazy night, huh?

The most excitement we saw was a baby deer in the median and laughing until we nearly peed ourselves.  My niece was broke down an hour away and texted for help, just as I was about to call it a night.  Of course my son was eager and ready to head to her but momma was uncomfortable with him driving that far that late at night.  So, on went my co-pilot hat.

Crawling into bed in the wee hours of the morning, I figured my plans to hit the Farmers Market were nixed.  And I've been really jonesing for some garden tomatoes.

I must've mumbled about it to hubby, as I drifted into coma-status.  The next thing I remember is sunshine, a dog on the bed, and Tim asking how many I wanted.  After a few moments of talking, this gal was wide awake so I decided to just go with him.

Once in the car, I notice Tim's sheepish grin, as he mutters "It worked."

Being together all these years, he knows that if you want me up, just get me talking.  Once I can carry a coherent conversation, it's impossible to fall back asleep.  And while he would've happily picked tomatoes for me, he knows I love to linger over fresh veggies.

Getting there early gave me a great selection and it didn't take long before my arms were weighed down with produce.  My favorite red "fruit" was of course included but I also gathered peaches, green beans, cucumbers and a variety of peppers.

Glancing into my bag of jalapenos, banana and bell peppers, I was taken back to early days when Tim and I were first married.  All I had to say was, "This was a much easier way to pick peppers," and instantly he was laughing.

this is just a random picture
and I do not know the parties involved
but it made me chuckle
Newly married and broke, we were always ready for an opportunity to make a little extra cash.  When a man offered us cash to pick buckets of peppers, we quickly said yes.  How hard could it be?

But peppers can't just be plucked, they need to be clipped, or the plant will break.  You must bend, stoop and squat in the hot sun to harvest them.  And with each plant your bucket gets heavier to lug to the next.  About two rows in, we realized this was harder labor than we expected but our eyes stayed on the prize of reaping loads of cash by day's end.

Yet hours later and backs bent into a permanent crook, we left with barely enough to buy our dinner.

We went home grumpy, vowing to never work for that farmer again, but it was a lesson learned on many levels and has served as a funny memory through the years.

Much like in marriage, you can't produce fruit without work and effort.  Some days are difficult and even bring pain.  After a few months in, you realize it is harder than you imagined.  Yet, if you wear gloves of gentleness and tend to it with love, you help each other with the heavy loads, and you saturate yourself in the SON, the rewards are great.  A bumper crop of happiness, friendship, companionship, passion, laughter, and family will fill more buckets than you can carry.

Thankful for a joyful Saturday shared with my garden partner for life.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Day 29: Blogiversary

Six years ago, God woke me from the middle of the night and set me at our living room computer.  He whispered that I needed to search for joy and thus, this blog was born.  Sitting here tonight, thinking back on the journey and how far He's brought me is surreal.

Reading my first post after beginning this challenge, I wrote about the hope that this became my way of viewing life.  Although I am sure there are days I complain way more than pause to appreciate, overall this challenge has changed me for the better.  Rather, He's changed me.  And for a mom who was spirtually spiraling, I am eternally grateful.

Today I expected to be difficult.  Last night's emotions, though somewhat valid considering the flash floods we've endured, was in no doubt due to the anxiety of Friday.  For weeks I've known that this afternoon would be spent in a mandatory CPR training for work.

One might find it strange that a training meant to help prepare you to save someone's life would cause and emotional upset but, when you've lost a child, you are not in control of triggers.  Two years ago when taking this class, I did not expect the flood of memories that came with seeing CPR.  Without warning, I was drug back to that horrible night in the woodline by our house.   And with each count and push, my mind flashed to my husband performing it on our son.  Hours later, I left the training, crawled into bed and wept.

So today was met with much apprehension.

As with most Fridays, the morning began in Bible study and we wrapped up the final lesson in our book.  The exercises this week were somewhat a struggle, having to ask myself who I didn't care about, who I didn't take the time to see in this world. Those whose names I do not know.  The video summarized my earlier questions and shone light on the fact that, while I like to think I care about everyone, my actions don't always follow through.

This afternoon, watching the CPR training video, God helped distract the painful flashes that began to come by revealing more about seeing people with his eyes.

In one scene, an emergency worker is responding to unconcious male behind the wheel.  The first thing she does is ask his name, to the daughter distraught on the sidelines.  As she approaches him, she uses his name.  She's rendering aid he needs to live and begins with knowing his name.

The parallel helped me push away the nightmare of that night and focus on the future.

How many people do I cross every single day that I often don't take the time to see?  Do I pause to lock eyes with the cashier giving me my change?  The man beside me in traffic?  The tired mom shopping in the aisle?  The family behind me at church?

How often am I wrapped up so much in my day, my life that I forget every moment is His?  Who is desperately waiting for the first-aid that can bring them eternal life but I don't take the time to even know their name?

This may seem a somewhat heavy post for a topic about joy but truly, what is joy if it isn't shared?  And I can think of no other joy better to give away.

Thank you, Lord, that six years later you've not only restored my joy but you've helped me have a heart for sharing it with others.  Take my life and let it be yours....

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Day 28: Oily Life

A couple years ago I started a journey toward more natural living.  I'd like to say it was a quest to better myself from the inside out, and that was certainly a part of it, but the instigator was unemployment.

For the first time in my adult life, I was facing not having a job or insurance.  And that was a scary place to be.

At the time I was dependent on multiple meds, always sick and in pain, and suffering from a couple autoimmune diseases.  If you were ill and called me, I would probably catch the cold over the phone.  It seemed I was always on an antibiotic and the quick care was a revolving door.  Aside from not having insurance to pay for this lifestyle, I was sick of being sick.

Time and again my research kept bringing me to essential oils.  I had no idea what they really were and doubted they could really do all they claimed but it peaked my curiosity.  Centuries of people taking care of themselves with what was on the earth couldn't be wrong.

The more I studied, the more my research took me to doTERRA and I almost signed up as a wellness advocate several times.  But I always backed out because I didn't really know what I was doing or who I was signing under.  And then I was invited to a workshop by a friend.

I ordered my enrollment kit that night and never looked back.  Months of using personally and studying daily, I now consider myself a regular oiler.  In fact, I can't imagine my life without them.

Whether I wake up feeling nauseated, have a headache, need to clean my counters, or want to boost my immune system, there's an oil for that.  My morning starts with oils and vitamins, my middle is filled with oils for needs or emotions, and my evening ends with oils to support restful sleep and aiding my body with whatever it needs.  I've completely wiped out the need for OTC and feel better than I have in years.

The past couple days I've seen the need for a tad bit more emotional support than necessary though.

I'm trying to be brave and supportive, as my baby has his wings and is driving on his own.  But truly, I'm a wreck.  And I'm in constant prayer that my son doesn't have one.

He hasn't quite learned the need to send a simple "here" or "leaving" text, despite my pleas.  And the weather has been unrealistically unkind.  Tonight he ventured to a nearby town for sushi and got caught in a monsoon on the way home.  While I'd like to say I kept calm, it was not the case.

Jesus and lavender are all that held me together until he dripped through the door.

While today was on the unusually strong side for emotional support, I'm thankful no matter the need, there are natural solutions I can turn to for a little assistance.

If you're curious about alternative healthcare or would like a sample, I would love to chat with you.  My new passion is researching oils to find the best match for your needs.  It is my oily JOY!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Day 27: Hard Knock Life

There must be something about being newly licensed that helps one out of bed.  Because in my 16 years of knowing my boy, he's never sat his own alarm and been up/ready before I reached his door!

Ever eager for his new-found freedom, he traveled bright and early to our donut shop to surprise his dad with breakfast, when he arrived home from work.  The three of us enjoyed chocolate milk and sugary delights, before I headed out into a literal monsoon, leaving the boys snug on the couch.

By the time I walked into the office, I was dripping wet, drenched from the downpour.  Guess I needed two showers in one day!  I've heard ranges of 3-5 inches and there are areas still flooded that I don't recall ever being so high.  It's been a strange summer.  Scorching heat one moment, flood plains the next.

Because of the flooded roads, inevitably my schedule was rearranged.  Instead of being grumpy about shuffling things and working a now full Friday, I decided to make the most of it.  My new driver was marooned so I went home for an extended lunch to see him.

To my surprise, I found him asleep on the couch and his dad a busy bee, with fresh vacuum marks and empty laundry baskets left as evidence.  There's not much else that makes me happier these days than housework I don't have to do.

As Tim retired, Noah stirred and settled for noodles and movie on a rainy, wash of a day.  The movie of choice - Annie.  For years, we've sang, "Hard Knock Life" to the kids, whenever they'd whine about doing chores.  They never really got it and after seeing it as an available free movie, today seemed like a wonderful time to expose him to the wonders of a classic musical.

To my surprise, he enjoyed the movie and I loved the trip back in time.  My 40 year old brain may forget why I walked into a room but I remembered the words to every song.  And now maybe I'll get a chuckle out of Noah when I sing it to him in the future.

As he's matured, he's not one to complain much but everyone gets grumpy now and then.  Life is full of rain clouds ready to cloud up our day.

But as the sweet, red-headed girl sings...
The sun'll come out tomorrow.  Or around here, by the afternoon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 26: Solo Eagle

This momma bird is teetering on emotions today.

Her baby just took one big leap out of the nest.  After six months of being his co-pilot, he is now a licensed driver, able to be in the car solo.

Normally my guy is cool and collected, but this afternoon, moments before the test, I could sense his nerves had him shaky.  I tried to joke around to distract him, he turned up the radio to tune his goofy mom out, and I doused him in oils to settle and calm.  In the end, I turned to what we should've from the start.  We prayed.

Huddled together in his car, awaiting the instructor, we prayed for peace (for both of us), for calm and focus to do well in his test, and for safety on the road.  It wasn't the first prayer I've said for him concerning being on the road and now it most certainly won't be the last.  In fact, maybe God was thinking of moms of teenagers when he said, "pray without ceasing."

As he ran in the house later to show his dad and drop me off, I even put my hands on his car in prayer, envisioning God protecting it and him in angel bubble wrap.  He's a smart kid but there's crazy people on the road and this momma just needs to know he'll be safe.

Not surprisingly, his big brother sent lots of signs today.  More butterflies than I could count on my route this morning and on the way to pick him up.  A huge yellow one sitting on the window box as I opened the door to get him for the test.  We counted the stops on his exam route and there was, as you may have guessed, 23.  And as he proudly handed me the test showing he passed, his full release date is 1/23 of next year.  I have no doubt big brother will always be watching over him from above.

So many moments of joy, seeing him fulfill a huge milestone, the excitement and pride on his face as he pulled in to pick mom up at the courthouse, and watching him drive away on his own for the first time.  But perhaps the biggest - or at least the most emotional - was him calling his dad to share the news.

Tim works nights so he was deep into sleep on Noah's test.  We were in Noah's car for the test so I had him drive by my office to get something out of my trunk, a surprise "driver's survival toolbox" for him.  I noticed he was on the phone but it didn't register what he might be doing.  When he returned with damp eyes, my mom alarm went on alert.  Instead, he sweetly shared that he had to stop and call his dad, because he taught him so much about driving and Noah wanted him to be the first to know.

Not one to show his emotions, it was a touching moment that again revealed what a big, sweet heart he has.  It was special that he thought enough to stop and wake his dad, just to share the good news before anyone else heard.

We're so blessed to be his parents.

Drive safe, big eagle. 
And remember these life lessons along the way...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Day 25: Ain't Nothing Wrong with the Radio

It's hard to believe this is the final week of #31days of joy.

I'll have to admit it was a little scary going in, being out of the habit of writing every day.  There have been challenges and some last minute-I-almost-forgot posts, but I'm pretty proud of the progress this month.

Even a joy-seeking gal like myself needs a kick in the pants to remember to search it out daily.  And maybe most of all, to share!

Today has been a Monday in Kentucky in July.  I've sweltered some in 112 degree heat and been rained on more times than I count.  My company car is so confused it doesn't know whether to wipe, blow cold air or defrost.  But it gets me where I'm going and despite how worn it may appear, the radio works just fine.

In between visits, I spend a lot of time at the windshield, which most days I truly love.  This is a beautiful county and there's nothing better than watching the seasons unfold across the landscapes here.  Along with the views, I almost always have the radio going.

I have been a lover of music from the womb.  Mom jokes my eclectic taste must've come from taking a music appreciation class when she was pregnant.  In the job I'm in now, I do know there is research to prove that music a baby hears prenatally is recognized once born.  Music is powerful no matter what age you are and has the ability to move you emotionally, stir up memories and carry us places.

I'm sure nobody is standing in line to get me to sign a contract but I truly do love to sing.  When I'm in the pew on Sunday or in my car, really anywhere music plays for very long, I'll find myself singing along.  Sometimes without even realizing it. My love of music also means I know the words to many genres.  (Still on my bucket list to play on a music game show!)

And while I am a channel-surfing gal, hopping from anything from classic country, to contemporary worship, to neck-thrashing hair bands, if I'm in the car around noon, there is only one station I'm listening to. But it isn't for the music.

We have had a local radio station for as long as I can remember and, through the years, it has varied in style and location.  For the past several, it has been housed in the same office as our county paper.  Weekdays from noon to one is "Lunch at the Z," our hometown call-in show.

You literally never know what the topic of the day will be, there are always fun contests and giveaways, and the personalities are so colorful, even the most creative writer couldn't imagine these characters.

*You can catch our "local show"
no matter where you are 12 CST by clicking the link above.
Sometimes I'll take my lunch break in the car, eating a turkey sandwich on the side of the road, just to take in the show.  Often, I can only catch bits and pieces.  Today I tuned in during their "Match Game" contest and even got through to put my guess in for the prize.  Over the years, we've won free meals, books, concert tickets and more.  But what I really enjoy is hearing the conversations and the familiar voices who call in each week.

I have no clue what half of the callers look like, yet if I heard them talking in the next aisle at Wal-Mart, I'd be able to tell you their first name.  Some call in to discuss politics or religion, some the weather, many for hometown gossip or news, some are always grumpy and some ever cheerful.  Local personalities, representing all the nooks and crannies of our small space in this world.  Regardless who calls in, you're guaranteed to have an interesting hour of listening.

It reminds me of life back in the day, when all folks tuned into radio, as it was one of the first forms of technological entertainment.  I've heard recordings of some of those old time radio shows and can envision what it might have been like to sit cross-legged on the floor, ears bent, imaginations flowing as you pictured the story in your mind.

And perhaps I could find a show like that now, if I turned my dial around enough.  But I think I'll settle on 99.9 each day, for a little Lunch at Z with Jerry and the crew.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Day 24: What I Love about Sundays

Sundays are my kind of day.

Mornings lingering over coffee with hubby, spent together in our Bibles and devotion.  It is the one day of the week we don't have to rush out the door, provided we get up early enough.

Today's was especially sweet, as what started off as a random selection of reading turned into a whisper from God. And those messages from above continued once at church.  At times it felt like I was at a tennis match turning my head and smiling at Tim, because our pastor said something that connected to our reading, or to my mom on the right from our event/talk yesterday.

The morning ended on the highest of notes, watching three of my nieces and nephew get baptized.  I got teary during the service, thanking God for answering prayers with each dunk.  For Bryanna especially, I've witnessed her blossom from baby into the beautiful girl she is and how she has grown in her walk.  My prayer is that they continue to stay on the path God has for them and our family lineage grows in faith by generations.

Having an important lunch to get to, we didn't have time to hug their necks and tell them how proud we are but I know their momma shared the message.  We needed to dart on the other side of town for our older nephew's dinner, saying farewell as he heads back to service halfway across the states.

A morning spent with my family, an afternoon spent with Tim's.  

It was good to see all the Blair boys in one room, surrounded in food, pranks and laughter.  You have to guard your plate and your backseat with this crew.  One might lose a sandwich or get ice down their pants, if you're not alert.  

We had the dinner at our hometown fire department, where Tim began his own service over 30 years ago.  I smiled watching his walk down memory lane, sharing stories with his nephew of long ago.

Returning home, belly and hearts full, I snuggled into a nap with my sweetie.  Probably the hardest part of him working third shift is how much I miss sleeping beside him.  I never feel safer or more content than in his arms.

He stayed to finish a longer stretch of sleep, in preparation for work, and I got up to spend time with Noah.  Our last weekend before he is an official on-his-own driver, I soaked up the moments, as we went on a final practice run.  We arrived back home to have dinner with Tim and relax with one our favorite family shows.

Faith. Family. Fun.
It's what I love about Sundays.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Day 23: Joy Tank

What a beautifully blessed day!

I'm bone tired and nearly slept through posting but am still over-joyed from how I spent my time today. It may have been a Saturday but I experienced CHURCH.  The day was packed with wisdom, worship and more joy than I could contain.

Why is it though when your soul is filled beyond capacity, your body becomes so spent?  Once home, I crashed in my comfy chair and, other than sharing the highlights with Tim over dinner, I've not moved.

But I'll take this kind of tired any day to share such an experience with the Lord.

A few months back a friend offered me a ticket to a nearby town to hear Lisa Harper speak. Having recently learned at her feet at Women of Joy and instantly falling in love with her down-to-earth, front porch teaching of Jesus, I was eager to hear more.

Yet as the day drew near, life tried to get in the way and Satan began attempts to sway and distract me from going.  There were many things I could've accomplished today but I'm so very glad God sent me to First Baptist Church in Greenville.

From the moment worship began, the notes and words began to wash over me, filling all the empty spaces we mommas let this world take.  And no matter how close you think you are with Jesus, every woman needs a refill on her joy tank now and then.  Today did just that for me.

This is only a small snippet of the music we were gifted in sharing.  I wish my cell phone battery would've let me record it all, including Lisa's teaching.
 P.S. (Don't miss the rest of my post, I promise it is below but the template is shooting it way down!)

My momma went with me and I was grateful to spend the day with her.  Not growing up going to church with her, I realize what a blessing it is to watch her faith growing now.

The theme of today's event was "Enough," reminding us that His grace covers it all.  To know that we are worthy in His eyes, not how we let the world label us.  Instead of r
emembering our value comes from being a child of the King, we as women so often listen to the messages others give us.

As Lisa shared, I prayed that simple message would soak into my momma's soul.  And to mine.  And every other women there.  Such an easy concept but we jumble it up and make it difficult.  If we faced each day with the attitude of knowing nothing we have done or will do will ever change His love for us, what an difference that might make.

Happy tears spilled out as I pulled into my driveway this afternoon.  The joy was so present it almost seemed tangible.  And I wondered what change it could bring to others if they saw that kind of joy always pouring out of us.

Thankful he replenished my tank today and praying yours gets a fill up soon too!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Day 22: Do you Copy?

Maybe it is being in a house of men that I've come accustomed to expecting they are usually only half listening to me.  Today has been a doozy though.  

But, as I often say in life, it is more fun to laugh than cry.  My favorite is laughter until you cry...and at my age, almost pee my pants!

I've learned to filter my conversations with hubby based on his exhaustion level.  Now that he works third shift, I have a small window for serious talks, or at least ones I want him to remember.  If I don't hit him as soon as he arrives home, or right before he goes to work, our talks are often incoherent jibberish.

On Fridays, he is normally off after 7 am; so he uses the day for his side jobs, errands and honey-do lists he needs to accomplish.  Today he didn't get in bed until almost 3 pm, which might not be a big deal, except for the fact that he's pulling an extra shift tonight.  

Around lunch time, I called to ask him to do a few things while he was out and my passengers in the car were rolling in tears by the time I hung up.  If I repeated myself once, I said it six times.  At one point I felt like an AT&T commercial.

"Can you hear me now?"

The issue wasn't my connection or signal strength; however, it was either his attention span or aging ears.  Or a mixture of both!

People comment all the time how much my son favors me but today he was taking very much after his dad.  At least in the sense of paying attention and understanding the conversation.

In our short lunch excursion, he managed to miss a turn, pass up his cousin's house, wrangle a loose cow in the road, and learn that there is a big difference between a hemorrhage and a hemorrhoid.

He takes after momma for being dramatic and tends to over exaggerate things.  I don't remember what our topic even was but we were both laughing because he was being silly in his description.  We were running late to get him to work and he was distracted trying to scratch his back.  

Noah often forgets how tall he is and hits his hat or hand or some other item on our ceiling fan often.  Today it was a metal back scratcher.  I'm not sure how the fan survived but that scratcher shot across the room and nearly took my eye out.  Once I recovered from the shock we were both doubled over in quiet laughter, so as not to wake his dad.

It wasn't until several minutes later he realized it had also taken a huge chunk out of his finger.  To the oil box we went where I doctored and bandaged him, rushing us both out the door.  He commented that it was throbbing and was worried it would gush through.

"You're not hemorrhaging, Noah," I said with a chuckle.

With a look of horror he gasped, "What's my butt got to do with it!?"  

I'm sure his employees thought I am one mean momma, laughing hysterically as I dropped him off.

Life with boys.  Oh, the joys!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Day 21: American Pride

The guys are up and off early this morning destined for a fishing hole.  I personally think they've chosen about the hottest week of the year to do so but they have good reason to sit and sweat.  Our nephew, back from basic training, is only here for a few short days before shipping out 3000 miles away.  And fishing with them was one of his requests while home.

He arrived this weekend and so far he and Noah have already gotten together for sushi, bowling, and a few games of pool.  If time allows they also want to hit a nearby theme park for a day of roller coasters and water slides.  And of course, they've reconnected over Xbox games.

That's how I remember the sweet little boy who grew up playing with mine.

Andrew has forever been quiet and kind and a wonderful cousin to my sons.  It was always a joy when he came over to spend the night, as he was so well-behaved and the boys had such fun playing together.  I'm sure he's made his share of mistakes, as anyone, but he's really just a great kid.

I can recall his excitement in coloring eggs or gratitude in pouring him a glass of sweet tea.  Whatever it was, he regularly had a smile on his face and was eager for the experience.

To see that little boy all grown up into a young man serving our country seems surreal and fills us with pride.  I kept finding myself somewhat staring at him this week, in disbelief of how much he has grown.

What a gift he will be to the Air Force.  We have no doubt he will see and do great things and will enjoy hearing about his travels and service.
Noah is already planning his visits to fly out and see him.

This momma wishes time would slow down just a bit.  How I'd love to sneak back to the innocent days of their childhood, if only one more time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Day 20: Quality Time

Sitting in an empty church parking lot today, a favorite stop for me when on the road to chart, make a call, or eat a quick meal, I heard a shocking statement on the radio.

The DJ was listing things that are no longer considered acceptable today.  Included in that list was calling someone without texting first, to ensure they weren't busy, and dropping by unannounced.  I posted about it on social media and nearly everyone agreed that pop-up visits were no fun.  I understand why, as I've had my share of the "flight of the bumblebee" zoom through the house to straighten up and put on a bra for unexpected company.  Yet it made me a little sad for the culture in which we now live.

Many years ago, when Tim and I first started dating, I fondly remember riding around just to visit friends.  Cell phones weren't around so we rarely called beforehand.  It was just a random drop-by, as someone would come to mind or we hadn't seen them in awhile.  Often I'd bring chocolate chip cookies and wherever we ended up would share snacks and drinks.  Or we'd play cards, watch tv, and even stranger simply sit and talk.  (The cookies may seem random but they were my first favorite recipe of Tim's and I loved both making and sharing them with others.)

When we were first married, we lived in an apartment complex, so it was common for neighbors to drop by, knock to borrow a cup of sugar, or to swap out mail.  And the first house we lived in was our hometown in the "circle," where it was normal to expect guests for no reason at all.

Again, there was limited technology, so perhaps that is why people spent so much time together.  I just find it ironic that in an age where we are instantly connected to others, we've never been more disconnected.  It has me longing for front porch sitting, recipe swapping, and sharing stories.

The walk down memory lane wasn't enough to entice me to venture out however as habitually once home I quickly changed into comfy pjs and settled into cooking dinner for Tim and me.  But we did spend a quiet evening of quality time together, which is my love language.  And it was nice reminiscing about a slower, simpler way of life.  What a joy it was to grow up back then.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Day 19: Pokestops and Pizza

I'm currently at a random location typing tonight's post from a back alley, awaiting my son returning from a Pokestop. In case you're not aware, it is an app involving a virtual reality game about Pokemon.

I like to think of myself as current and "in the know," not just because I have a teenage son; but truly, I wouldn't care at all were it not for him. 

With a teen boy, you have to make an effort to stay abreast of mainstream news, even if it makes no sense. Create a virtual Pac-man game though, where I can run around as a big yellow pie chart to eat ghosts and I'm there!

Even though I really, really need to get home and relieve my 40-year-old bladder, our evening stops searching for cartoon creatures have been joyful because it's quality time with my son. 

My other joy, and the reason I need to deposit a big gulp of tea currently flooding my kidneys, is the pizza-popcorn-movie Lifegroup we left right before. 

I've written about our Lifegroup many times and what a blessing they've been to our family. Tonight's was unique, in that we opted to attend our church's movie night (God's Not Dead 2) but bring pizza and prayer to make it a full meeting. And that we didn't have everyone in attendance, which surprisingly we usually do. 

As always, gathering in fellowship with friends we now consider family is a monthly source of joy. 

It could be because of the many laughs we share -and boy do we chuckle every single time. But instead it is the friendship and knowing others are holding you in prayer. Even those who couldn't be there sent texts of concern and need. 

As we huddled together, hands linked, I lifted up thanks to God for bringing this hodgepodge of people together. 

And maybe I should send a group text asking for prayers of traveling mercies...because if this Pikachu doesn't appear soon were gonna need another ark!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Day 18: Just Joy

Eight years ago today, we were wrapping up an amazing vacation in Florida.

Sunshine and the sea.  Family photos on the beach.  The perfect ending to a week we'd always remember.  When I look back on those smiling faces, I think about how much has changed since then.

While posing for those photos, none of us had any idea that would be our last vacation with Austin.  Never would I have imagined that his first trip to Pensacola would be the only one he'd ever take.

None of us really ever knows when our last moment with someone we love will be.  And in this broken world we live in, it seems the unimaginable becomes reality day after day.

Time is precious.  Life is short and can change in an instant.  This we know.

And that can be heavy to carry around.

So can seeing past photos of someone you no longer have in the present. When those memories hit your phone first thing in the morning, one never really knows where it will take them.  There was a time that seeing Austin's face would've flooded me with more emotions than I could handle.  Perhaps it would have sent me to the floor in tears, cancelled the plans I had for the day, or set a mood across the house I could not shake.

Even now, there's a piece of my heart that twinges.  More of it is filled with love of the moment and of seeing his smile, but I think no matter how much time passes a part of you will always hurt and grieve for what was lost.

But I'm grateful that most days joy fills more of me than sorrow.

Happiness depends on circumstances, joy depends on God.

I'm a little over the halfway point in this 31 day challenge.  This afternoon I paused, wondering what exactly to write about.  It was just a very ordinary day.  There were glimmers of good news, smiles shared, a spontaneous family moment, but for the most part it was just a day.  And while it was good, and joy was present, it doesn't give much to write about it.  Even for a girl where words come easy.

Yet, as I ponder about that, I realize how very precious it is that I'm in this place.  Where joy can just be.  The more you chase after joy, the more it settles within you.  God puts it there, I have no doubt.  And I'm content that nothing extraordinary can happen but joy can still be present.  Especially when I was once at a place where I felt joy would never exist again.

There have been a few people on my heart today that I can see joy isn't present.  For a girl who is all about sharing joy, it tugs at me and makes me wish I could just grab up some of mine and give it to them.  While happiness is contagious, joy is something internal.  It has to be wanted to grow.  Maybe for some the clouds are so dark they can't see the light that comes with seeking joy.  But that is my prayer.

If that is where you are, please know that I have walked on that same scary, dark path.  In the place where joy is void.  Where even breathing takes effort.  Where the pain of grief is physical.  Where the weight of no joy feels crushing.

Where even reading about someone finding joy made me angry.  Impossible...

Or so it seemed.  However, here I am, the one writing about it.  On a path where joy is ever-present. Where breathing is a privilege.  Where pain is temporary.  Where worries are lifted.  Where anger is replaced with laughter.

And if I made it through to the other side, you can too.  Just seek it.  Will it.  Pray it back into your life.  Joy will return.

When it does a simple, nothins special, regular Monday will feel pretty glorious just because joy was there.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Day 17: Sunday of Sabbath

We live in a busy world and most days I'm right there in the mix of it.  Except for Sunday.

Given the hustle and bustle of life, my soul longs for rest.  As much as I possibly can, Sunday is protected in my schedule.

Growing up, my grandparents were wonderful examples of how to spend a Sunday.  Church, lunch, family, devotion/study time, and rest.  That sums up a perfect Sunday for me.

With a Baptist preacher for a Grandpa, it was no surprise that God and church took priority on this day, as it should.  The day was book-ended with services on weekends we spent with them.

After church, Grandma would either have a big lunch simmering on the stove awaiting our return.  Or, we would be treated to a restaurant meal.  Eating out was such a treat when I was a child.  Now it is a way of life.  Regardless of where we ate, we'd be gathered together, no technology interrupting the conversation.  Oh the laughs we shared!

Afternoons would be spent napping, playing games, and reading from Grandma's devotion plan.  She let us take turns looking up scripture and reading them aloud, sitting beside her on the couch.  I think back now to what seeds she helped plant in my life and am eternally grateful for her role in my salvation.

Back then I'm sure I didn't realize the importance of those Sundays.  I probably even complained about being bored, if only in my head.  Yet I see myself following that same pattern now as an adult.

Today was a bit out of the norm for us, as Noah had to work.  His restaurant has decided to open on Sunday afternoons.  Thankfully, we have multiple services to choose from so we set our alarms to get there for the earliest.  Instead of a family lunch, we shared a breakfast together before dropping him off.

Tim is always a fan for Sunday naps but they're now a necessity, since he also has to work evenings.  The quiet afternoon gave me a wonderful opportunity to just rest and spend time with God.  While there many things I could've done, it was important to focus on the one who gives me the time I have.

And though it might seem simple to some, this basic, restful Sunday has brought me tremendous joy.
Prayers that your week is filled with the kind of happiness and contentment that can only come from Him!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Day 16: Balloons & Tunes

Perhaps this post should've been titled "Jam-packed Joy" instead of yesterday!  Short of a glorious one hour nap, we've been steady since heading out for breakfast this morning.

We finally caught the $2.99 special at our downtown diner.  Of course by the time my growing boy added, enhanced and topped it off with peanut butter pie, I'm not sure we saw much savings!

A chunk of the day was spent at my Grandma's getting things in order for her transition home from the hospital.  It was somewhat hectic and stressful, as the clock is ticking for her arrival and my Aunt is just a wee stressed.  I came armed with comfort bread, aromatherapy and checklists.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, Grandma's living room is rearranged.  Truly I was surprised there wasn't faded outlines of furniture on the walls and permanent indents in the carpet when we moved things around.  But hopefully it won't shock her too badly and most of all keep her safe and comfortable.

Once home I crashed in our dark, cold bedroom.  An hour later, after coma-deep sleep, I woke up to an empty house.  Tim's five minute trip to take Noah to work lasted a bit longer.  Men and their distractions.  And they say women talk a lot!

Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, my cousin began to text encouraging us to come to a free local concert at our new amphitheater.  It was on my list of hope-tos for the weekend but she may going a little sweeter.  All it took was enticing my hubby, who skipped his nap, to get out of the house and go.

He commented it was awfully hot.  To which I nicely reminded him of all the times he fishes in the heat.  For hours and hours.  And sometimes his loving wife even tags along.

I'm sure he would've rather kicked back in his easy chair for the evening but we were both glad once there and settled in for the show.  Three local bands played, complete with hot air balloon rides. They were all great but I was partial to the last group, as they covered a lot of my favorites, like Prince and Bon Jovi.  You just can't go wrong with 80s music!  Lots of great memories jamming out to the songs, sitting on the steps with my cousin as a kid.

Luckily Noah was able to walk there from work to catch the last band and a ride with his dad.  I joked it was preparation for the skydiving they want to do this fall for Tim's 50th birthday.

But the highlight might've been the selfie Tim took.  It's dark and not easy to see but check out the expression of Noah's face.  Too funny!  Maybe they'll have to reconsider the jump...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Day 15: Jam-packed JOY

I shoved about as much joy into about four hours as humanly possible today!  This entire day has been go...go...go...but much good has come out of it.

Fridays are my short day.  Squeezing in everything before 4 pm, when Noah goes to work, isn't always easy.  Just as summer has come to a close, we've almost mastered it.

Today's game plan was to head out the moment I got off work.  Noah set no less than 10 alarms to ensure he would up and ready.  (Lord, help us come August!)  There were a couple of stops we needed to make, of course lunch, and a surprise visit to my Grandma at the hospital.

My joy started with Bible study at my sweet friend's house.  God has spoken to me to so many times since I've began going weekly.  We're on our third or fourth study and, of all the ones I've done in my life, this is by far one of the most profound.  I promise I'm not getting a percentage of the profits, as much as I recommend it.  But if you're looking for one - "Not a Fan" is an amazing choice!

As much as it blesses me, the relationships and friendships with the women are an added and sometimes unexpected joy for this introvert.  After the study this morning, I stood in the driveway, with the scorching sun baring down on us, sharing prayer needs and concerns with one of the ladies.  Jumping into into the cooling comfort of my car, God instantly began to ease our worries with a song.

So often He sends us messages of encouragement, if we'll just slow down to listen.

Picking up Noah a few hours later, I switched seats and settled into the passenger/navigator role.  This momma is having a hard time knowing I have less than two weeks to be his ride-along buddy.  Please pray for me (but mostly my boy) as he'll be licensed by month's end.  Every moment we're together in the car is a blessing and I don't take any of the time with him for granted.

Part of our drive was spent sharing lessons I hope he'll retain when mom is no longer in the car with him.  As his eyes began to glaze over and attention shifted, the radio became a friendly distraction.  We share a love for an eclectic mix of music.  Today he surprised me by asking me to look up and play a song on YouTube.

Never would I have guessed he would know who Carly Simon was to request "You're so Vain."  He even had a funny story to share about the song.  And that sent me down memory lane, so DJ Heather began busting out old tunes to see if he recognized any.  It was proud moment to hear him singing along with many of my choices.

With only a few Fridays left, I decided to splurge and take him to Red Lobster today.  It was Crabfest, which is one of his favorite seafoods.  His meal was more than double mine and I have no clue where he put all that food but it was a joy watching him eat.

Our last stop was a visit to my Grandma, who is recovering at the hospital from a recent fall.  She was asleep when we walked in so we gently tiptoed over to the window.  It wasn't long before she began to rustle and Noah met her at the bed.

"Well you're a tall drink of water." she smiled.

Though our stay was brief I'm glad they got to see each other.  She told him several times how proud she was of him, especially after he apologized for having to get to work.

"You've grown into a fine young man," she whispered.

Watching his giant frame bend to hug her small and frail one was precious.  I wish my heart could share a photo of what was seen and felt.

(Prayers are appreciated for her and my aunt as well.  They are rushing her home, way earlier than any of us are prepared for and I worry about her recovery.  She has a long road ahead, as does her daughter who will be primary caregiver.)

Dropping him to work, I ran my last set of errands and picked up our newly personalized mugs.  If you're looking for a knockoff version of Yeti, Walmart is the place to go.  My drink stays just as cold without the fancy name on the side.  Besides, I like my logo better anyway.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 14: Joyful View

There's a lot of windshield time in my job.

Actually most of my life, I've had a commute, so driving is something I'm quite used to for work.  The difference is that now my drive time is in short bursts throughout the day and, for the most part, confined to my home county.

From years upon years of driving on a boring parkway or interstate, this is a joyous change!  Kentucky is a beautiful state but I'm kinda partial to this neck of the woods.  Rolling hills, fields and farmlands, river banks and quaint towns just adds to the beauty here.

Most days I consider myself quite lucky to be out and about.

Of course the downfall of being outdoors every day is that you must drive, no matter the weather.  This position has certainly taught me to be more comfortable on snowy roads.  And particularly this summer, it has given me more skill in driving in the rain.  I've learned which paths are prone to flooding and how to avoid certain potholes.

However, unless it is a tsunami or dangerous weather, I find enjoyment in experiencing the various seasons from my car.  Along with taking in amazing scenery, I can spend time in reflection, prayer, and worship.  And I treasure that alone time with God.  This is what I remind myself in especially trying atmospheres.

In every day you have a choice to see the storm or the beauty.

Today I was caught in a downpour.  My reaction had the power to control the mood for the rest of my day.  I could focus on the rain.  Or, I could find the silver lining in the clouds.

The minor discomfort I was exposed to was nothing in comparison to the breathtaking view on the next curve.

Which is a lot like life.  
Every day we face difficulties.  
Storms we didn't see coming.  Fronts that move in without warning.  Disasters that attack and threaten.  How we choose to view them determines so much about the outcome.

Hold on.  A beautiful display beyond your imagination is around the bend.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Day 13: Summer Mornings

Noah and I realized we're just about a month away from the beginning of school.  And while he is counting down the days, excited to be a Junior, see his friends and teachers, and get back into routine; I'm digging in my heels just a bit.

My summer mornings are a joy, when I take the effort to get up and savor the me time.  But also a joy on the rare occasion I can sleep in a bit, due to my flexing schedule.

On a morning I can linger, I love to nestle into my chair with a steaming cup of coffee and wake up slowly with the world.  The only slow of school days is the time it takes to get my son stirring.  He is such a heavy sleeper and not a morning person.

A few years ago when we replaced our windows, the installers were in disbelief that he slept through the noise.  They were even in his room!  It was a running joke with the workers that if his bed had been small enough, they would've set it outside so he could wake up under the trees.

In the summer, I have nobody but myself to get ready so I can take my time and there is no need to yell out the clock status every 10 minutes.  Although admittedly, sometimes I do need an internal push to move on to the next station.

Most mornings I'll also toss together a smoothie, something new for me as for years I never felt there was time for breakfast.  This is a quick, easy and healthy way for me to start my day with a belly full of nutrition.  If there's time, I'll catch some Good Morning America, about the only news show I enjoy because they seem to focus more on the positive than negative.

And I'll end with a devotion in my car.

Might seem a weird place to do so but there's a few reasons I have this habit.  Currently I'm doing a devotion workbook that asks for a pause at morning, noon and night to read, reflect and write.  I find it easier to stay consistent if it is in my car.  After almost 20 years of commuting and now in a position with lots of windshield time, some of my best talks and worship moments with God come in the car.

So if you see a woman passionately singing, crying, or deep in thought and not waving back, that would be why!

Are you a morning person?  What's your favorite way to start the day?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Day 12: Popcorn for Dinner

One of my very first posts was about our hometown movie theater.  Specifically, the RC matinee and childhood memories of going there with my mom.

Tonight wasn't an RC matinee but it was a steal, as the 5:00 show is only $3.  And thanks to new owners, they have current, new release movies the actual weekend they premiere, complete with a booming surround sound.  There's still work to be done to fully upgrade but it truly is the best of both worlds.

The only semi-sad part is we can really no longer call it "Sticky Floors" as your feet don't magnetically connect due to decades of spilled pop and sugar babies glued to your shoes.  At least publicly anyway.  In our house, it'll always be Sticky Floors.

It is a rarity that our working teen has a night off, so our matinees normally have to wait for Sunday afternoons.  Being that they've had sold out shows of "The Secret Life of Pets" all weekend, we were fortunate to get there early on Tuesday night to scope out good seats.

It's a running joke in our family that we almost always get seated near someone funny.  Either they'll have an odd laugh, or they'll comment through the show, or they snort a lot.  Many of our movie stories include more of the person near us than the actual movie.  

Tonight we definitely had funny but in the truest sense.

Knowing they would be packed, we got there 30 minutes early.  Claustrophobia, a bum knee, and old rickety seats mean I need choices.  And being there almost as they unlocked the doors allowed for full reign.  We nestled into a sweet spot near the back with plenty of leg room, near what seemed a quiet family.

Within moments the little boy turned and started chatting it up with Noah, then Tim and me.  His sister kept leaning over their Grandma loudly whispering, "Do you know them?"  He ignored her and Grandma didn't seem to care.

But I could tell he was a lot like my guy, never one to meet a stranger.  He held his own in the converstation and had wise cracks overflowing more than my popcorn bucket.

Seriously this kid cracked us up.  He knew he was funny but not in an egotistical way.  Instead he just matter of fact stated, "I'm going to be a comedian someday."

And also, there's two reasons girls like him.  One he's cute.  Two he's funny.  One day I'll be able to say I knew him when.

He was a delightful pres-show to a cute, funny movie.  It was nice to nestle in with my guys and laugh with all that is going on in the world.

Movie night with the family is always a joy for me.  As was getting caught in a cool summer rain.  Driving through beautiful countryside.  Smiling babies with sweet hugs.  And two happy dogs who were glad to see us come home.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Day 11: Flowering Joy

Every spring one of the first things I itch to do is plunge my hands into a pile of dirt.  It is one of my favorite yearly activities.  And although the work probably lasts less than a hour, it brings me happiness all summer long.

I call it my dirt therapy.

Now, I am certainly no gardener and haven't a green appendage on my body, but I do like planting flowers in my window boxes.  Lazy gardening, I guess.

I can stand to plant them and other than dead-heading them every few days and ensuring they have water (which hubby helps with) they really are maintenance free.

The rewards pay off about this time of year when everything is in full bloom and my beds are bursting with color.

This is what greets me each day as I enter or leave my house.

They just scream happy hellos to me.

As you can see from the plants below the boxes, my theme of low-maintenance continues.  I literally do nothing to those poor plants, other than maybe remove last year's shells before the new plants bud forth.  

My love of flowers comes from my Grandma McGuffin.  She had beautiful displays that lined her driveway and sidewalk.  So many fond memories I have of us sitting at her kitchen table looking over her daylilies and watching the birds feed.  Like my sweet hubby, Grandpa helped her care for them.  She's been gone several years but her flowers still continue to bloom and every season I go and cut a bunch to enjoy.

If I had the time and ability, I would have a yard full of flowers, each one strategically planted so that when one season ended, a new batch would pop from the earth.  And every few days I'd replace fresh cuts of flowers in vases throughout the house.

Instead, I'll settle for my pretty window boxes and a beautiful fake arrangement that adorns my table, scattered in with the occasional flowers that might find their way home for a vase.

And in case you're thinking of nudging hubby he ought to send me some, don't bother.  He knows I'd rather he stop on the roadside and pluck up something wild than pay for flowers that'll fade in a few days anyway.

My favorites are daffodils and dandelions because that is what the boys picked me when they were little.  What's your favorite flower and why?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Day 10: Joy comes in the Morning

It's a somber day in our community, as we're collectively grieving the loss of another life cut short too soon.  A young mother, my age, taken by cancer.  And yesterday, multiple lives taken in a crash on a road we drive each and every day.

Death on the heels of a nation still reeling from unnecessary violence and innocent lives taken in the line of duty.

A weeping world in which we live.

In loss that doesn't make sense, it can seem difficult to know what to say or do.  Sometimes there aren't words to express or convey to cover the pain.

I've been on the stinging side of pain and know that sometimes words are the worst things someone can share.  When you've been forced to say goodbye too soon, some phrases bring the opposite of comfort.

"Everything happens for a reason"
"They're in a better place"
"God needed another angel"
"God doesn't give us more than we can handle.

Because in great loss, you don't care what the reasons were.  And sometimes, often, life gives us more than we can handle.

I remember shortly after Austin passed I came across the scripture from Psalm 30:5 and how it angered me.  At the time, joy seemed impossible.  Forbidden even.  In the depths of my pain I couldn't imagine how joy would ever be in my world again.  Joy in the morning, when all I felt was darkness...

The first time I laughed after, almost by accident, as it escaped out of my mouth before I could stop it.  I paused, quickly drew a breath back in, unsure what would happen next.  But I don't recall the second time laughter came.  Or the next.  Slowly, joy just began to seep back into our lives.

This morning we went to the place where Joy is always flowing, our church.

Six years ago, God stirred within me the desire to seek joy.  He sent me on a journey to not just find it, but share that joy with others.  And in doing so, he's given me purpose through the pain.  He's taught me that weeping does endure but eventually joy returns.

Joy comes in the morning, even if it is on the other side of eternity.

After church we returned home to huddle close, hibernate and hug those we love most.  Though we'd had tentative plans and even invitations to leave, staying home just felt necessary today.  We shared a big family meal and lingered a few hours at the table playing cards.  By games end, we were laughing so hard we're not even sure who won.  But it didn't matter.

For a moment, all was right in this world.  We were happy, healthy and together.  For this momma, that always brings me joy.

Prayers of peace that passes understanding for all those hurting tonight.  And in the days to come.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Day 9: Joy of Cooking

I would argue with Mr. Gary Chapman that food is the sixth love language.

Or at least the act of cooking for someone.  One could debate that it falls under "Acts of Service" but I think a made from scratch meal says a bigger love you than folding socks or taking out the trash.

I've always enjoyed being in the kitchen preparing a special meal for those I love.  It brings me joy to see people eating a favorite treat or dinner.  And I love nothing more than to make a huge meal for the family to share together.  The dishes afterward...not so much.

Big meals are something I've missed the past year or so.  With changes in our family and a teen who works nights, Sunday suppers are sometimes the only chance during the week I get the opportunity to cook for us.  And I've had to relearn how to plan weeknight meals, since it is just usually Tim and me.

It's taken me back to our early married days, although I'm a little more seasoned in the kitchen this time around.

I remember those early days of pulling out cookbooks and learning to create meals I'd hoped would become Tim's favorite.  What I quickly discovered is that a good ole' country boy didn't want quiche or rack of lamb.  Simple suppers were what made my man happy.  Frequent calls to momma and Tim's dad, during the brief time he lived with us, taught me more about country cooking than any cookbook did.

It didn't take the love of cookbooks (or learning new meals) away though.  My counter top is lined with dusty, grease-spattered, bunny-eared books.  Over the years I've taught Tim that macaroni and cheese isn't a vegetable and broccoli won't kill him.

But I do know when to open the country cupboard.

Since Tim has been traveling the past couple weeks and living off hotel food, I thought a nice home-cooked meal might bring a smile to his face.  In writing out the grocery list this morning, I asked him what he'd like for dinner.  To my surprise, he quickly belted out a request.

And even though it was 100 degrees in the shade, I was happy to heat up the kitchen for him.

Wondering what was for dinner?

Well, it was kraut and sausage stewed together.  And buttery mashed potatoes light as a feather.
Rich and creamy macaroni and cheese.  With a steamin' cup of brown beans, if you please.
Yum. Yum.

Noah, knowing the plans but tossing pies, sent me a text request for all leftovers to be brought down and shared.  I pulled out my finest Tupperware of butter bowls and yogurt containers for Tim to deliver.  He later sent a thank you that every bowl was licked clean and the crew wanted an invite to our next meal.

As much as I enjoy cooking for others, I'm also touched when someone repays the favor.  This morning I awoke to breakfast being cooked by hubby.  He was even disappointed that I made it out of the bedroom before he had time to bring it to me.  It was an unexpected and sweet way to start my day, belly full of joy.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Day 8: Austin's Birthday

On some level, I'm sure that this joyful challenge for July came because my heart knew of this upcoming date.

Time heals but it also makes the heart ache more for missing someone gone so long.  Our oldest left this earth at the too-young age of 14, so it is unfathomable that at this point he would be grown.  

Today Austin would be 22.  

My mind can't even stretch fully around that knowledge.  I see him in the grown-up schoolmates we cross paths with and those we're still connected to.  

Even Noah has come to realization how old his big brother would really now be.  He sees it in their neighbor-pal, who is now a married adult with a baby and another on the way.

In my mind, they should still all be piled up in Austin's playing video games.  Or camping out in the backyard.  Or scaring each other with spooky stories and wild imaginations in the shed, known as their clubhouse.  

Our world stopped at that sweet in between age of boy and man.  So it is difficult to imagine him at the stage of college graduate, working adult, potentially husband or father.

That's a world we will never get to know.

And so today especially, joy can be hard to find.  This is a day where we ponder on missed joys.  Of what could have been, the what if's and if only's.  On his birthday those thoughts are impossible to push away.

Joy after loss is so very difficult and I've found it can truly only come from God.  It's the only answer for why I'm still standing, even on days I feel like crumbling into the floor.

Though I still miss him with every fiber of my soul and went to bed sobbing last night, I am at a place where I can find joy in the memory of him.  Hearing someone speak his name no longer makes my eyes twinge with tears.  I can laugh about funny stories of Austin and share remember whens.  And I can be in a moment thinking either how much Austin would enjoy it or knowing he'd be proud looking down.

So on his birthday, my joys come from the memories we have of Austin.

Of recalling birthdays past and how much he loved a party, because he relished any time he could spend with family.  Every year his request was the same - cookout in the backyard, surrounded by those he loved.  How I miss that smile, his booming laugh and those giant bear hugs.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, sweet boy.  You brought more joy to our lives than you'll ever know.

In my job I see babies and toddlers at their homes.  The past two days, I can't describe the joys they've brought me.  I've always said, and I tell the mommas I visit, that babies have a sixth sense.  They pick up on emotions even when we think we're doing a good job of hiding them.  Every single baby I've visited in the past 24 hours has reacted to me in a way of which I can only describe as God-sent hugs.

Some that are normally shy have run right up to me, arms open wide, wanting me to pick them up.  Others have bounced right over.  All have wrapped their arms around my neck, laid their sweet heads on my shoulder and patted my back.

Thank you, Lord, for sending a little piece of Heaven my way on days I need it most.

If you're new, you can visit Austin's blog for birthday stories from the 14 years we were blessed to have him here.  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Day 7: Grandma Giggles

It is a pure blessing to still have Grandma in my life.  She turned 87 this past May.

this was her 85th surprise party

I've always looked up to her, although I surpassed her in height while still in grade school.  Of all the things she taught me, the most important has been her example of faith.  She is among my biggest Christian role models.  And there is no doubt the prayers she has said for me helped shape who I am today.

One of the strongest ladies I know, though to look at her she often seems frail or fragile.  I guess in some ways she is, as she's currently in the hospital for a fracture on her back.  Stubbornly she sat on the injury for a full day before letting my aunt take her to be checked.

Today she was moved to transitional care and fitted for a back brace.  I was able to go see her and while her spirits were high, it pained me to see her in that condition.

Of course our family is one of many jokesters, so the room was full of laughter, despite the situation.  And like the trooper she is, Grandma kept up with the banter.  She even had the nurses tickled with her wise cracks.  Each one that came in had nothing but nice things to say about her, no surprise to us.  Although Grandma joked she was paying them to say those compliments.

I don't see her as often as I would like due to our busy schedules and that saddens me.  There was a time when I had lunch with her almost daily, as I worked in the same town.  She fed me through college and was a home base while I commuted back and forth for nearly 20 years.

While I would have preferred a better reason for our get together, any time spent with Grandma (and my crazy Aunt Becky) is always a joy.

I'll close today with some of my favorite posts about her...

Please continue to pray for quick healing for her.  
She's looking at "several weeks" in TCU and potentially a few months in her brace.  
We've promised to bedazzle it for her though.  ;)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Day 6: Blind Date

My schedule changes daily.  Being the planning, organized gal that I am, one might think this career would drive me crazy.  But I like the surprise and flexibility of every day.  Most of the time.

Sure, sometimes a cancellation, especially last minute, can throw things off a bit but usually everything works out.  I try to face each day with the "when one door closes, a window opens" philosophy.

I do normally have a general idea of my day's agenda each morning and when my estimated end time will be.  Today, an opening saw me traveling to Henderson, not a normal area for me.  When I realized how close I'd be to where hubby is working, I decided to surprise him with a quick visit.

I found myself filled with joy all day at the thought of sneaking off to see him.

Arriving at close to the time he should be waking, I hoped to make it up to his room while he was still was groggy.  Surprising him in a sleepy stupor was part of the fun!

I knocked and waited.  No response.

I knocked again and contemplated saying, "Housekeeping" but being that he kept a privacy tag on his door, I feared that might make him cover his head with a pillow and continue sleeping.

Just as I was about to text him, the door cracked open.

Though still half asleep, his face lit up and in a mumbled, broken but excited voice, he said,

"What are you doing here?  Did you drive all this way to see me?"

My stay was short but sweet, getting there just in time to join him for dinner.  The longer drive home for me meant I had to watch my clock to ensure I made it home to pick up our boy from work.  This rainy night was not one I wanted him to walking home alone!

But it was well worth the extra miles just to spend a couple hours together.

Third shift transition the past six months has been difficult in and of itself, having slept together more than half my life.  Adding distance and several nights away is also something this couple isn't used to.  We've been blessed to not have to be apart too often in our 23 years of marriage.

Small surprises help keep the spark alive.  This was one date that brought us both joy and one we'll remember for some time.  I can still picture him smiling and shaking his head in happy disbelief as I drove away.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Day 5: Joy on a Weekday

Joy on a holiday weekend is a somewhat easy challenge.  Joy on an ordinary weekday though?
That can be a bit harder to find...and share.

Today was a "Monday" even though it was really a Tuesday.  Just an average day of work and life.  A bit busier than most since I crunched two days worth of work into one.

My joy came in small doses scattered throughout the day.

Joy from a wake-up call by hubby.  Hearing about his workday and a special treat he found for me.

Joy from a morning devotion in a workbook that continues to speak and move me.  (Not a Fan)

Joy from having essential oils to start my day, help my health and ease my pains naturally.

Joy from walking through misty rain on a foggy July morning.

Joy from hearing success stories from parents I work with weekly and seeing their babies thriving and growing.

Joy from a mini lunch break with Noah eating tacos and watching Bob's Burgers.

Joy from picking up our doggies from the sitter and seeing their excitement in being home.

Joy from "me time" to unwind, relax and write as I shake off the day in this empty house.

Thankful for every day joys.

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