Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
“Apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
As I make my way through the first month with my word for the year, there have been plenty of lessons. The biggest red flag I’ve been getting is STOP trying to do it all, fix it all, be a part of it all. In other words, keep your nose in your own business! There have been a couple of times I’ve turned things over or bowed out and then thought…who said that? The blessing of those actions is peace and it’s wonderful. I’m not “cured” but I sure enjoy the feeling and just this week there have been three really big confirmations that this “stop and feel peace” thing is where he’s leading me. He’s letting me know that if I shut up and step away a bit more the world won’t fall apart! I think I had the ridiculous notion that being peaceful meant I was being lazy…he’s working on me for sure! Here’s what he plunked before my eyes this week.
Peace lesson #1: Peace, it does not mean to be in a place where there is no trouble, noise or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. Lady Gaga
Peace lesson #2: A Snow day! It was a surprise, it was familiar (not much is this year) and it was so quiet and beautiful. I wasn’t on the farm worrying about animals or living in a house with 30 years of projects and things to dust, polish or sort. It was just peaceful…I didn’t feel the need to race to school and re-do bulletin boards or organize the pile on the corner of my desk or work ahead on lesson plans. It was simply the gift of a found day and a rest for my brain and I saw it and appreciated it for just that!
Peace lesson #3 Shannon is reading a book by Fr. Jacques Philippe about…you guessed it, peace. She had just started reading it and without even knowing about my “personal peace journey” she shared this passage. “Consider the surface of a lake, above which the sun is shining. If the surface of the lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in this lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly will it be reflected. If, on the contrary, the surface of the lake is agitated, rough and unsettled, then the image of the sun can not be reflected.”
Realizing that I can do NOTHING without him, it seems the more I let him do and the less I try to do myself then the greater my peace. I thought that was a gift for me but as I pray on the words from Fr. Jacques I realize it’s not about me at all. Our job as disciples is to be Christ to others so if I’m like that unsettled lake, I’m not living in such a way that others can see his reflection. I think I’m going to have to borrow Shannon’s book so we can learn all about exactly how we achieve this peace of heart.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things that wrinkle up your peace and ask the Lord to smooth them out so we can reflect his love.
Blessings on your day!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble; but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I’m sure we’ve all had those moments when we really wanted to “tell it like it is” or truly give someone a “piece of our mind” but we didn’t . In all truthfulness, that’s probably a good thing and I firmly believe the Holy Spirit clamps down my tongue often before I spit out something I’d regret later. I’ve discovered the older I get the easier it is to keep my negative thoughts to myself and I have the Holy Spirit and a sweet little nun to thank for that. I had several lovely visits with Sister Margaret a few years ago and sometimes her powerful and loving words pop into my head at the most random times. Perhaps her greatest advice was to “let nothing pass your lips unless it leaves a heart better, happier or more in love with the Lord….and that includes your own.”
There is plenty to spout off about and it seems to be in style these days but it doesn’t seem to be making anything or anyone better. So in trying to figure out what to do instead of being sucked down into the mud; I remembered Sisters advice about picking something better. Our days are full of beautiful things but they aren’t always the things I pick to look at, think about or focus on first. Sisters words rang in my ears all last week and here’s how they worked…
*I can think about how challenging it is to teach during a pandemic; all the extras, the changes, the masks, the protocols or I can pick something else. I can pick the kindergartners who were in the middle of a giggle fest as the tried to help each other put on their snow boots.
*I can think about the days that start 40 minutes earlier than any other year or I can wake up and smile because some fabulous mystery person had a brand new fancy Keurig Coffee Maker shipped to me. It was a complete surprise that still makes me smile every time I think about the day that big box was delivered! I can think a bout how rude people on TV are or I can pick the absolute generous thoughtfulness from a stranger who knows that coffee is something I love!
*I can think about the unrest in our country or I can pick the middle lovelies who make me laugh every day and surprise me and frustrate me and remind me everyday that I have the hardest and best job ever because I have a chance to watch them grow as leaders and disciples and I have hope that someday they’ll take all the the life lessons they’re learning and make great leaders…better leaders…faithful leaders.
*I can think of all the ways I fall short or I’m not enough or I can pick the beautiful life God’s given me. The family, friends, community, students, parents; all of them who God has plunked me right in the middle of and be so grateful.
*I can think about the cold and snow and Michigan gray or I can pick the promise of spring that lies under that snow.
*I can think about all the ministry and travel and people I’m missing our on during this pandemic or I can pick the peace and time I have to read, study and be with my family.
*I can think about getting old; gray hairs, joints that don’t move as fluidly as they once did or I can pick the fact that those things have brought me to the stage in life where I get to meet my first grand baby any day now.
*I can think about my baby girl getting married and moving to Missouri or I can pick the joy in knowing she is about to begin a wonderful life together with a mad who adores her and I get to watch their happily ever after unfold.
I think Sister Margaret would want us to focus on inviting Jesus and his Holy Spirit into our own thought and words and actions so we could pick the things that would make the world better, happier and pleasing to the Lord. We won’t be judged in groups or towns or countries…it’s a solo event. I can’t change anything except myself, so this week…I pick positive and grateful and peaceful!
A Seed To Plant: What will you pick this week?
Blessings on your day!
Yet, oh Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of Your hands. Isaiah 64:7
I can close my eyes and see it sitting there on the top shelf of the cupboard above the plates and cereal bowls. I couldn’t reach it, so it was always someone else’s job to put it away after I had carefully dried it. It was a turquoise blue, glass casserole dish, the only one my mom had, and it was something she treasured. My dad gave it to her for Christmas, and if she pulled it out to use for supper, I knew she was going to be making something special. One day when I was about ten, I came home from school and Mom was on her way to a meeting. She asked me to put the casserole dish in the oven at 5 o’clock. I felt so important! I quickly raced to the kitchen and peeked under the glass lid to see what she had assembled inside the dish…it was beautiful; it looked like something you’d see in a cookbook picture. Well, the appointed time had come, I opened the oven door, and as I lifted the casserole dish up to slide it into the oven, it slipped right out of my hands, crashed to the floor, and shattered into pieces. I didn’t even consider the fact that I had just ruined supper. I just felt awful about breaking her casserole dish.
I managed to clean up the mess before Mom got home, and I even began to prepare a “plan B” supper. However, the hardest task of all was to hand Mom that collection of broken glass. She stared at it in silence for a moment, asked me if I was OK and then said, “Well, now it’s time to get creative. Your dad and brothers will be hungry, and it’s almost time to eat.” That was it…no scolding, no lecture, no disappointed glance, it was just time to get creative and move on. It was one of those events that just stuck with me.
I recently heard a pastor say, “God loves broken vessels!” My mind immediately rushed back to our kitchen in Hoyt, Kansas, when I was ten staring down at that mangled mess of turquoise-colored glass and casserole. My mom’s words echoed in my mind, “It’s time to get creative.”
We are each lovingly and perfectly crafted vessels made precisely by the hands of a compassionate potter. When we sin, it’s as if our vessels become chipped or cracked or leaky. I don’t know about you, but I’ve managed to put some real “dings” in my vessel over the years. If you get a crack or a leak in your favorite mug or dish, it no longer functions the way it was intended to. When we sin, we drift a bit from the Father’s love and, just like that broken vessel, we don’t function quite the way we were intended to either. Luckily, we are more valuable than mugs without a handle or casserole dishes broken into dozens of pieces. The Father is never going to throw us out! Instead, he uses our weakness to demonstrate His strength. If we have a chip or a leak, He invites us to come to Him and give Him a chance to restore us; to make us strong and purposeful again. He is the potter that created us. We are the work of His hands. So, if we need to be restored and have our purpose renewed, all we have to do is ask Him, and He will create us anew…as many times as we need it! God loves broken vessels because they require His strength, and any time we give Him the opportunity to show His strength by admitting our weakness, we are blessed.
A seed to plant: Identify a chip or a leak in your vessel, and ask God to strengthen and restore that imperfection in your life. Pick a different one tomorrow and a new one after that but don’t forget to make a list of the blessings you receive as the potter lovingly restores your vessel.
Blessings on your day!
And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Last week our word of the week was courage. When I asked the middle lovelies to tell me what courageous things they’d done, I got some; I rode a roller coaster; I rode with my sister when she was just learning to drive and I ate the brown meat at my aunt’s house. They were great but I was trying to get them to something bigger and then…the Holy Spirit saved the lesson when one boy said, “I think it was courageous when I went upstairs on my own and told my Dad I had lied to him and blamed my brother for something I’d done wrong.” BINGO! That’ exactly the kind of holy courage the week was intended to help us think about. It takes a lot of courage to seek and speak the truth.
It’s report card week so in order to complete that task so that I don’t loose my job…I thought I’d just spit out some truths we might need to chew on this week.
**The world fills us so full, we're not hungry for God.
**Temptation is an invitation to leave the truth and enter deception.
**We're trusting Him for eternity but not for earth.
**If we’re jealous; we’re not grateful.
**Complaining is the greatest form of selfishness.
Now, lets pray for the courage to do something great with these truths.
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week, carefully ponder those five sentences and ask God to show you how they fit in your life.
Blessings on your day!
…and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23
I don’t know about you, but I love those little “life hack” videos that pop up on my newsfeed. Things like putting hot glue dots on your hangers to keep slippery closes from falling off or 20 ways to organize junk, using random items around the house. Granted, some of them are pretty ridiculous but most of them come from folks who are way smarter and more creative than I am so I find myself watching and saying, “Seriously, that is awesome, why didn’t I think of that!” My mind likes simple, efficient and logical so if someone wants to pass along a little of that I’m gonna soak it up!
What I really love though, is when someone can give me some “life hacks” for my discipleship! Sometimes I can try to do 40 things at once to try to be holier and wind up in a tail spin. That’s usually when I get discouraged and feel like I’ll never be “good” enough to get to heaven. I’m getting better at promptly stopping that kind of thinking and calling it out for what it is…discouragement and we all know who throws that up in our face! That’s when we need to stop and say “Oh No…not today satan! You messed with the wrong disciple!” I know that no matter how crooked my path gets or how twisted around I become, as long as my heart is headed in HIS direction he’s gonna grab my hand and put me on his path if I call out for guidance. It’s like DIVINE GPS. (I’m pretty sure GPS stand for Gods Perfect Strategy) My discipleship and my path to holiness often looks like a fish floppin around on the bank, so anytime I can find a quick “something” to snap me back and return me to water, I’m happy. I found a little something that does just that so I thought I’d share. Like all those great tips and tricks we find on the “inter-webs” this isn’t mine but if it’s helpful, it’s worth sharing so…thanks to no work of my own…here ya go!
It begins with reminding ourselves of a simple fact. Since we were created in the image and likeness of God, then he’s always in us and with us. In short, we don’t need to do a lot of hard fancy stuff to get his attention because we never leave his gaze. I can’t hide from him so I can never really be lost. It’s simple but I can’t count the number of times I forget that. Remembering that is step one, step two is remembering the word WIT. This teeny word can lead us to holiness and save us from bad decisions, stupid actions and regrettable words. Here’s how it works. Jesus, live this day (or this moment; or this event; or this situation) WITH me; Live it IN me; Live itTHROUGH me. If you want the quicker version, at that split second when we’re about to gossip or lie or judge or lip off impatiently, or be afraid, what if we stopped long enough to say “Jesus, with me, in me and through me!” I’m pretty darn sure what would happen next would be a much better outcome. I spend a lot of prayer time telling him how sorry I am for all the stupid stuff I do and say and think. If I put the WIT prayer in action I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have a lot more time for saying prayers of gratitude!
A Seed To Plant: Write down the words to the WIT prayer and put it a few places you’ll notice and ask God to help you make it a frequent prayer in your day.
Blessings on your day!
I have called you by your name and you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
There was a little first grade boy who decided one day that he no longer liked the name his parents gave him, so he picked a new name. It began the day he started writing his name on all his papers with the capital letters ‘ZB’. As his teacher sat down that afternoon to correct the day’s work, she was a bit puzzled but it didn’t take long to figure out who the mystery student was. First thing the next morning she called ‘ZB’ up to her desk and asked if he might be willing to explain. He very politely told her that his parents had made a mistake and given him the wrong name so he decided to fix it himself and just start writing the name he had chosen. She said sweetly to this completely serious little guy, “Sweetheart, you can’t just change your name. That has to be done by an official person.” He shook his head and said, “Oh, I get it. So, can I go talk to the principal right now to change my name or should I wait till recess?” Holding back her laughter, she sent him down to visit the principal right away. The principal welcomed the visit and began by asking the little guy, “So, how did you come up with this new name?” The little boy said, “Well that’s easy! I just picked a cool name that would tell everybody what I’m good at.” The principal looked at the letters ‘ZB’ and said, “I’m not sure I understand.” With all the pride one smile could hold, the little boy stood up and said, “I’m a fast runner so my new name is Zooming Bullet! I just write ‘ZB’ because all those other letters take too long to write and I like to be fast.” The principal sent him on his way promising to make a phone call to his mother to discuss it. ‘ ZB’ raced back to class very content and the principal just sat at his desk and laughed harder than he had in weeks as he pondered what he might call himself if he could choose a new name.
From the moment we are knit in our mother’s womb, we are named by the God who created us. I am a firm believer that there is divine influence as Christian parents name their children. There is usually a strong story to our names whether we are knowingly named after a Saint or given a treasured family name, there is usually a reason. Do you know who you are named after and why? When Dave and I were picking names for our children we picked the middle names first. Each of them bears the name of a powerful Saint and a family member who we hoped would provide a strong example of faithfulness and goodness and in all three cases were heavenly saints themselves. Kevin, our oldest has the middle name James. James is the name of my father’s cousin who was killed in WWII. I shiver every time I read the telegram from the US Navy informing the family of the bomb attack on his ship. James is also the name of my mother’s brother who died of Leukemia at the age of 16 and finally, it was the name given to my older brother who has attributes too many to type! His name has a history of strong, brave, faith-filled men. Jason, our second son has the middle name Richard. Richard was the name of Dave’s brother who left this earth far too early but who lived each day with a huge spirit! Shannon, our daughter is named after my mother, Barbara. Her legacy could take up a whole blog itself!
I truly believe God knew them by name before they were born! It is absolutely amazing how our children resemble the characteristics of the people they were named after. Kevin looks like and shares so many of the same interests and mannerisms of my older brother sometimes it gives me the chills. When Jason was little he was the proud owner of a huge stubborn temper…the same temper and stubborn streak that used to cause his Uncle Richard to hold his breath and pass out. In both cases that temper mellowed into a strong confidence. As for Miss Shannon I have begun to discover that she is all of her grandmother’s greatest attributes bundled into one lovely person! Is it a coincidence, I don’t think so! If God loved us enough to create us so wonderfully and perfectly he wouldn’t leave our name to chance…He had a hand in that too.
We are His and He knows our name! He knows who we are and we will never be lost! I often wonder what my name says about me and I wonder what God thinks about the life I’m living under the name He gave me
A Seed to Plant: Find out the story of your name if you don’t know it. Take some time to think about your name and the memories and impressions you and your name will leave with others when you are absent.
Blessings on your day!
When the Lord saw her, he felt compassion for her. He told her, "You can stop crying.” Luke 7:13
Happy 2021! I hope your new year of off to a lovely start. Mine sure is! Here at the Wohlfert house we have our first grand baby coming and a wedding coming and all of us are healthy and happy and content. We have jobs we love, and kids that are happy, healthy and settled. We have everything we want and everything we need. We are thankful and that seems like the best way I could imagine to begin a new year. It wasn’t a New Years Eve of wishes and resolutions but rather one of gratitude and prayers for those who aren’t in the same comfortable boat as we are. I suppose when life is good, its the best time to reach out, pray for and offer help to those who are struggling. It’s a great time to remember that life is a long series of peaks and valleys…it isn’t always easy and it isn’t always hard. One sustains you through the other and helps you keep your balance and is a constant reminder to lend a hand to those in the valley and be assured of the help and prayers of those on the peaks.
Every New Year I write a post about my “word of the year”. This year I just couldn’t come up with one. I prayed all of December and didn’t really get a sense about anything so I began to wonder if it was a “thing” that had run it’s season then late last week I kept getting the word STOP. I thought, there…that’s it, I’m supposed to stop all of this and move on. But after I had resigned myself to that idea I kept reading, hearing and seeing that word STOP. I was a little befuddled and actually got sassy enough to say, “OK God, I got it…I’ll hang up the word of the year thing.” But the word kept coming…then I got it…my word is STOP. Got it…but what kind of word is that? It seemed so opposite…isn’t this whole thing supposed to be about a word that inspires action? Isn’t it supposed to be about doing something to grow in holiness? Isn’t it supposed to be a verb that draws you closer to heaven? I thought that’s what I’d been doing with my word each year! So STOP was just weird to me!
After a little thinking and praying, I discovered that the word STOP appears in Scripture more than 300 times. Sometimes the references are about us stopping something and sometimes it all about God stopping something. We are encouraged to stop being fearful, stop being lazy, stop ignoring commands and stop worrying. God stops storms and trials and enemies and destruction again and again when his children look to him with love and trust. After a little more thought I came up with a whole list of STOPS that would help me grow closer to the Father. I need to stop comparing and stop looking ahead and stop thinking of ways to “fix everything”. I need to stop thinking about how things look and stop fussing about how many places I fall short. I really need to stop chasing the myth of perfection because the measuring stick for that was not created or endorsed by the Father and I absolutely need to stop thinking there will ever be a day when my good deeds will earn me bonus points in the eyes of God. If I do only one thing with this word, it would be to stop listing to the world! That would be a great year. So here’s to a wonderful new year of stopping!
A Seed To Plant: Do you have a word or a Scripture or a thought for the year?
Happy New Year and Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com