I Choose Joy!

With the beginning of each new year comes new goal setting for me.  Over the years, however, these goal have changed.  It seems that I have moved from the superficial goals to the more intrinsic ones.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I will most likely still want to lose "just 5 more pounds" for the rest of my life.  But this year, I really pondered what was important to me and decided to do what is now considered to be the "trendy" thing and choose one word that I wanted to be my ultimate goal this year.  And that word is JOY.

I chose JOY because it is not happiness.  Happiness comes from external situations.  Happiness can not only fluctuate from day to day but from moment to moment.  Things that happen or actions that people do or words they speak can affect one's happiness.  JOY, however, is internal.  It comes from deep within one's soul.  It is unshakable in the face of circumstances.  It is what I want this year; PURE JOY.

Depending on which version of the Bible one reads, the word JOY is mentioned 88 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament.  That's a lot!  So, from this alone, we can see that having JOY in one's life is important to God also.  But there are JOY thieves all around us.  It seems that whenever we are attempting to be JOYFUL, they lurk just around the corner plotting their assault.  Who are some of those thieves?  Jealousy.  Pride.  Greed.  Impatience.  Anger.  Just to name a few.  But you get the picture, don't you?

How do you get rid of those JOY thieves?  Simply put, it is in where you spend your time and who you spend it with.  I find that the more time I spend with God, the less time I want to spend on things that steal my JOY.  This generation (and some of mine, as well...) spend lots of time comparing themselves and their situations to others.  It's commonly called, "Keeping up with the Joneses".  I want a big new house, new car, designer clothes and shoes because EVERYONE else has it and it is an outward sign of success and happiness.  Oops...there you go;  that word again,  "Happiness".  And what was it describing?  External "things".  And "things" can and will only make you "happy" for a while.  While true JOY comes bubbling up from inside you.

When I try to come up with a list of things that bring me JOY, here are just a few:

I am JOYFUL whenever I have my morning quiet time with God.
I am JOYFUL whenever I think of or am with my husband.
I am JOYFUL whenever I get to spend time with my children and grandchildren.
I am JOYFUL whenever I get to sit down and read a good book or start a new knitting project.
I am JOYFUL whenever I can visit with friends and laugh.
I am JOYFUL whenever I am walking outside.

Do you see where I'm going with this?  There's no time or place in my life for those JOY thieves.  Instead I concentrate on peace, love and gratitude.  Those are the things that are helping me achieve my New Year's goal of JOY.  Will there be times that I won't experience JOY?  Possibly.  Probably.  Simply because I am only human.  But I will try to remember JOY and try to find something in every situation that will bring me back to that JOY.

                                                                  I CHOOSE JOY.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.  Psalm 30:5



When You Feel Like You're Standing in Sinking Sand...

I remember when I was a young girl watching those television shows where someone would be walking along and suddenly they would fall into what they called, "quicksand".  And the person would realize that they couldn't move and were slowly sinking into the ground without hope of getting out unless someone came along to pull them out.  This both intrigued and frightened me.  What would I do if I fell into quicksand?  Would it be certain death as the earth sucked me in?  Or would someone come along to save me?  But alas, it was only a television show.  I could turn the tube off and those scary thoughts would go away.  Everything would be OK.

This past month, however, has seemed like that quicksand scenario has come to life.  Tomorrow my mother will have been in the hospital for one month.  We have gone back and forth from the regular hospital to the long care facility for a total of six times.  Just last week we were back in the emergency room and admitted for more tests.  But she is back in the long term facility now and we are hoping that she will agree to rehab and regain her strength.

In addition to my mother being sick, several of my Grands have been sick too.  Oh how I hate to see these little ones not feeling well.
Before Christmas our sweet little Pearson was admitted to the hospital for a respiratory infection.  She was put on breathing treatments but has recovered well and look how chubby she is now at almost 2 months old!
A couple of weeks ago Livie came down with strep and RSV.  She was a pretty sick little girl for a while and due to my asthma I cannot be around anyone with a respiratory infections so I missed getting to see her for about a week.  As soon as she could get around people again she was at my house!
Our precious little Grayson started feeling bad over the weekend and Monday we found out he has RSV.  Poor baby has been coughing and not sleeping well and once again I can't help out...
And way up in Ohio Andrew has been sick with a stomach virus.  Actually, Caitlin and both of the kids had it.  And here I am in Louisiana (sigh...).
Holli loved on her little buddy while he was feeling so bad.  You can tell how worried she was about him.
And then yesterday Holli got admitted to the hospital in Ohio with a kidney infection.  Yep, this is killing me because I am not there to be with her.
She is currently on IV antibiotics and pain medication.  I'm so glad to see her resting since she has been in so much pain for the last couple of days.
       I called the gift shop and sent some balloons to hopefully make her feel a little better.

So back to the the "quicksand".  I feel like I'm in it.  And it's creeping slowly up my body.  Sucking me under. I'm tired, both mentally and physically and I just long for my boring routine that I once thought was so mundane.  I want mundane again.  But I realize that it is not a season for mundane right now.  And so I have created my own routine of sorts that has helped me immensely.  I put two apps on my I-pad that I turn  to every day.  One is called Girlfriends in God.  This app has daily devotionals that are just wonderful and uplifting.  These ladies also have other resources available that you can get to help with any problems you might be facing.  The other app I installed is She Reads Truth.  This app has several different themed Bible reading programs.   I just finished reading Psalms of Gratitude and am starting Mourning and Dancing.  These two apps have given me a new and wonderful way to start my day.  In complete silence with God.  No television.  I grab my cup of coffee and sit down for my devotional time.  Priceless, precious time alone with God.  It helps me realize that I am not alone and I am not sinking in that sand.  Instead I stand on the solid rock.  Which reminds me of an old hymn:

                        "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand..."


Teaching A Kid To Fish

We live in Louisiana which is known as "The Sportsman's Paradise".  The weather here is always either so mild during the winter or hot the rest of the year that people can enjoy the outdoors pretty much all year long.  I, along with most folks here, grew up in a family that hunted and fished.  And trust me, it wasn't just for sport.  My grandfather provided food for his family during The Great Depression by fishing and hunting.  And even after that period of time was over, he worked as a commercial fisherman, providing for his family.  But, traditions run deep here in the south and like I said, most people hunt and fish and eat it!  So for us, teaching our children and grandchildren how to do these things in a safe manner is so important.  Not only to have a fun outdoor activity for life but also to acquire  some good, fresh food.

Hubby took Parker Ann fishing when she was just a wee little thing and she immediately loved it, continuing to fish with her daddy whenever she could.  Beckett was also taken fishing by Poppi at a very young age but Holli, however, had never been fishing.  She saw videos of Beckett and Poppi fishing and kept saying that she wanted him to take her when she came to visit.  Well, that day came this past summer and all 3 of the older Grands made the trip!

A friend of ours has a dock at his house, just down the road so we loaded up the fishing poles, bait and the kiddos.  OK, and their parent too; everyone wants to go when you mention fishing!  Excitement was in the air as the little ones ran down to the dock to impatiently wait for their poles to be baited.  My friend has some pieces of wood in the dock that can be lifted up and a fishing line just dropped in.  The kids were marking their place and anxiously awaiting their pole.

                                                   Everyone wanted their line baited first!
Parker Ann is an old pro by now.  This beautiful little freckled-face girl has ended up liking not
only fishing but also catching frogs!
                                     Holli got her wish...She got to fish for the very first time!
                                                And everybody wants Poppi to help them.
                                          It's also really important to show off your catch!

The excitement, chaos but most of all the smiles.  In the end that's what makes it worthwhile.  That and making memories with our family.  Just think about how much time is wasted on electronics and  sitting around watching television.  Why get so busy and caught up in life that you don't have the time or energy to get outdoors and make fabulous memories with your children and grandchildren while teaching them a skill they will use for life.  Just passing it on to the next generation...
“You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” (Chinese proverb.)


Lila Kate Turns 2!

It's tough having a birthday in December.  MY BIG FAT SOUTHERN FAMILY has 3.  It's especially tough if your birthday falls on Christmas Eve which one of ours does.  Lila Kate is our "Christmas Eve Baby".  And because of that, so far she has celebrated her birthday in mid-December each year.  And without a Christmas theme I might add.  This year was no different as we celebrated her second birthday (a little early) with a Peppa Pig party.

Lila Kate is our sassy little curly haired girl who marches to the beat of her own drum.  And that's what I love so much about her!  Only family was invited to this party and some were out of town.  But the thing about such a large family is that there will still always be plenty of people in attendance.
This year it was the boy cousins who were in attendance and when I got ready to snap a picture Beckett asked, "Can I be in the picture too?"  Of course you can, sweet boy!
And Lila Kate loves playing with Grayson.  He's not quite a year old yet but he's already won all the girls' hearts over.  Oh, and notice what a cute little Peppa Pig tutu dress Lila Kate is wearing.  Notice later that she makes a wardrobe change halfway through the party.
I love this photo.  You see, it has a very sweet story behind it.  That box is filled with items that are Parker Ann's.  She found some of her favorite things and put them in a box to give Lila Kate for her birthday.  If you know children then you know that sharing is difficult.  You really have to love somebody to give them your stuff.  And also notice that Beckett is holding something.  It is a page of stickers that came out of the box.  When he asked if he could have them, they said yes.  Precious moments...
Here it is...The wardrobe change!  All of the girls are really into wearing costumes these days and whenever Lila Kate opened this one, she immediately took her Peppa dress off and donned it.  I loved watching her open her presents too.  She's one of those kids who takes her time and looks at everything she opens and wants to spend a little time with each present before moving on to the next one.  Hey, you only get a birthday once a year...why not make it last?
                                            And then it was time to sing "Happy Birthday".

                                           What a sweet, sweet big 2 year old we have now.

Someone asked me once how in the world did I split my time to give each grandchild enough attention.  Well, coming from a YaYa who had four children of her own I answered there's always room on YaYa's lap.  Each child knows that they have a special part of my heart.  And I love the fact that God made each of us so individually unique.  They all have different personalities and I bask in the joy of that.  I love spunky and lively and cuddly and loud and quite.  I love it all!


When Christmas Seemed to Have Slipped Away...

As I sit here listening to a rainstorm this morning I realize that Christmas has already slipped away and another year has welcomed us in.  This year Christmas just didn't seem the same for me.  Oh, the entire family was here, the Christmas tree was lit up and the little ones ran around anxiously awaiting the arrival of the big man in the red suit.  But for me, this year was different.

I suppose I can blame part of my woes on being sick for almost the entire holiday season.  Beginning in November I was struck with an awful respiratory infection that hung around for about a month.  I took so many medications that eventually I had some pretty serious side effects from them but I managed to push through.  I also had a bone graft done in preparation for a dental implant and on top of that I got the stomach flu.  Yep...I think that alone was plenty to keep me from feeling very festive.  And is a somewhat lame excuse to ignoring the blog for quite a while.  I did, however, find time while stuck inside to knit quite a bit and do some watercoloring.  Enough that some folks got handmade gifts from me this year, which hasn't happened in quite a while.

Even with all of the sickness that I experienced this year, I still managed to get the decorations up, attended the church Christmas musical and finish my shopping early (Thank you, Internet shopping!).  I was feeling like things were going to be OK until my mother, who is 88 years old, began having some health issues.  The week before Christmas found us in the doctor's office having some tests on her foot which appeared to have a bone infection.  She was in terrible pain and on the 23rd (the same day that Caitlin and her crew arrived), we were referred to a surgeon about the condition, which at this point looked pretty bleak.

Knowing that we would not be able to get in to see the surgeon until after Christmas, we made our plans for the holiday.  My sister would take my mother to celebrate with her kids and grandkids on the 23rd and I would celebrate with her on Christmas Day with my children and grandchildren.  It was all set; that was the plan.  Well, you know how plans go sometimes.  Often times they do not go as we plan.  And that is exactly what happened this year.

My entire family was able to attend Christmas Eve church service with me and I felt ahead of the game for the moment.  I had made my dressing and several other items for Christmas lunch at my house.  All that was left to do was leave cookies and milk by the fireplace for Santa and fill the stockings.

Christmas morning was exciting as Caitlin's kids woke up and began to see what Santa had left under the tree.  We got text messages and face time from the others across town, drove around the corner to see what David's boy had gotten.  The day actually started out pretty good.  I told my mother to expect a call from me around 10:30 to awake her and someone would come pick her up around noon;  She was excited to see all of the little kids.

I rang her only to find that she was in terrible pain with her foot and could not get out of the bed.  She would not be able to come out for Christmas Day and hospice would have to be called to start her on a stronger pain medication.

My mother's condition did not improve and the Monday following Christmas she was hospitalized.  On Tuesday she was transported to the emergency room of another hospital and admitted into ICU.  For five days she stayed there with not only problems with her foot and circulation but now A-Fib and gastric bleeding issues.

Definitely not the holiday I had planned for.  But sometimes that's the way life is.  We think we have it all planned and figured out and BAM!  It hits us full force in the face.  Which eventually causes us to reflect.  And reflection can be a good thing but also a painful one.  It's when we reflect that we can see more clearly what is happening and what we can or cannot do about it.  I was so exhausted, both mentally and physically, trying to just put the puzzle pieces together.  Trying to "fix" things (if only in my mind...).  Not knowing where this journey was leading me but pretty sure I didn't want to go there.  And that's when I stopped.  And believe me, it's sorta difficult to stop my mind once it gets going.  But I stopped and meditated.  I went to church on Sunday, the first day of the new year.  And the pastor emphasized having some quite time every day.  I had previously done this but once things got all caught up in a whirlwind of craziness it seemed I had no time for quiet time.  I know, sad, right?  Instead of giving my problems and worries over the God, I was trying to solve them myself.  Laughable, huh?  I mean, I could continue to spin my wheels getting nowhere or I could just surrender everything.  And once I decided to do that my whole mindset changed.  Things didn't seem so desolate any more because I wasn't going to worry about things I couldn't change.

Giving my worries over to God was a really big thing for me.  Because I am a "fixer".  I like to examine the situation and figure out what's best for the person in question and then bend their will to mine.  Yes...I really did say that.  Because deep down inside I suppose I think I always know best.  But I don't.  I know what I think is best but often times we just have to let people make their own decisions even if we don't think they're the best ones.  It's called letting go.

My mother is still in the hospital and it has taken me all week long to just get this one post out.  She has had vascular surgery on one leg and we are waiting to see how effective that will be.  Tomorrow she will be having a cardioversion to shock her heart back into rhythm and I truly expect that she will go home into hospice once more in a couple of days.

If you're not there yet, I'm just going to give you forewarning; watching your parents grow old and begin to have failing health is hard.  No really...it's something you never expected whenever you were a child and they were taking care of you or a teenager fighting for your independence.  You want to help them and do what's best for them all the while they are now fighting you to keep their own independence.  It's not a place you are going to want to be but it's coming.  And so I encourage you to hold on tight because it's going to test your strength more than you will ever expect.

And so now you know why I think Christmas seemed to slip away from me this year.  The festiveness of the season may have slipped away but the reason for the holiday did not.  It's a gift that I rediscovered a few days afterwards.  It's the gift of letting go and allowing God to take control for me...