Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
We have to do the work of the one who sent me while it is day.
Think of a task you really dread. Maybe you even have more than
one! Have you ever noticed how productive we can be doing many of the other things on our to-do list instead of the one we are trying to avoid? For me, one of the tasks I dread most is washing the blinds. Living on a gravel road, they gather a lot of dust and they have to be taken down, scrubbed, dried and re-hung…it takes forever and it’s a pain! When it’s done however, that is a terrific feeling. There are dozens of things I don’t really like to do, scrub the crisper drawer, sort the basket next to the phone where all the “stuff” seems to land and vacuum the stairs to name a few. It seems the same thing happens again and again…they appear on my to-do list and I do ten other things first. It’s like I just dance around them pretending they might just go away.
Someone e-mailed me a link to a little video clip called; Eat That Frog. This little you-tube video contained some great wisdom. The whole premise of the video was to look at all the tasks that had to be done and put the absolute worst or most dreaded task on your list first…and then do it first. It employed the idea that if you had to eat a live frog every day it would surely be the most awful thing you would have to do so if you do it first and get it over with the rest of your day would certainly be better. Procrastinating can rob us of our positive attitude and wear us out. It takes a lot of work and planning to re-arrange our whole day around the one thing we really don’t want to do…but if we did it first and moved on we’d have a much better day!
That sounds like a great idea but I’m still left with little motivation to do something I dread. Here is where an attitude shift can help. This is the stage where it might be a good idea to play a mental game of “follow the leader”. There was a fabulous man named Brother Lawrence who lived a simple and holy life working in a monetary kitchen. He was known for his ability to rejoice in everyday tasks embracing them as the perfect way to practice the presence of Christ. He believed that Christ met him wherever he was, doing whatever he was doing. It was as if Brother Lawrence knew with every task, Christ was there waiting, all he had to was ask Christ if he could join him. Now if I remembered Jesus was my blind scrubbing partner I might not dread the job so much! Another great example is Blessed Mother
Teresa. She was cleaning the wounds of a dying man one day and the reporter following her for a story put down his equipment in disgust and said, “I wouldn’t do what you’re doing for a million dollars!” Mother smiled at him and said, “I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars either, but I’d do it for
There is grace in our obedience and submission. If we were to take our most dreaded tasks and “eat that frog” first with a spirit of love for Christ I think we would be changed. I think we need to remember that every task is our opportunity to practice the presence of Christ like Brother Lawrence. Labor Day weekend is the “finish up” weekend at our house. I need to finish all those “frogs” that didn’t get eaten yet this summer! I think I might try to snag a copy of Brother Lawrence’s book called Practicing the Presence of God and see if I can’t adjust my attitude toward the crisper drawer and the living room blinds!
A Seed To Plant: Make you to-do list and try eating the frog first while you ask Christ to meet you in your task!
Blessings on your day!
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Ecclesiastes: 4:9-10
I realize this blog is a place to get a lift in your spirit and focus on the work of the Father, but I came across this verse and the first thing that popped in my head was the old “Life Alert” commercials that said “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” I know that has nothing to do with the meaning of the verse but it made me giggle. After way too many hours at school trying to get my classroom ready for Open House tomorrow night I guess I’m just a little punchy! You’ll be glad to know I paused and prayed for more focus!
Today is a big day in Westphalia! Its Open House day and the children who will start school at St. Mary’s next week are either feeling great excitement or complete dread that Open House is the un-official beginning of the new school year. The students will all file into the building tonight anxious to see who their teacher and classmates will be. For some, the highlights of the evening will be the free bowl of ice cream and the fact that they get to dump off their gym shoes, tissue boxes and school supplies so they don’t have to lug them to school on the first day. As for me…it’s one of my favorite days of the year! I love Open House because I get to meet my new batch of “Little Lovelies” and say hello to all the others who hold the title of “Former Little Lovelies” I LOVE my job so beginning again with fresh faces, an uncluttered desk and all the excitement of new beginnings is something I really look forward to. There is also another element to the day that I get excited about and that is seeing all the staff after an entire summer apart. The staff members at St. Mary’s are fabulous professionals and even
greater friends! We work together, we pray together and we laugh together (a lot).
Our new school year together will begin in the most perfect way; at Mass, praying for His blessing on us and on the work we will do in His name. This year we welcome some new faces to our staff family, that hasn’t happened in a long time and it’s exciting! I honestly believe myself to be one of the luckiest women breathing because I work with such amazing, fun, faithful people. We have shared weddings, new babies, grand-babies graduations and personal struggles. We have helped each other raise our children and strengthen our relationship with Christ. I get to go to work every day with a group of people who care deeply about each other, who are passionate about their vocation and who laugh and pray easily together! How lucky am I!
This verse from Ecclesiastes reminds us that we are not meant to go through life solo! God created us to need Him and need each other. We are meant to share our joys, sufferings, celebrations and struggles. We weren’t each given every gift and talent, we were meant to share them
with others and receive graciously when others share theirs with us.
Sometimes we think we’re too busy to “play with our friends” but the
truth is we need them. We need to laugh and talk and share. We need
to support and help and laugh with each other. We need to work and play and pray together. It’s a great thing to feel supported, enjoyed and appreciated…that’s what friends are for.
A Seed To Plant: Plan a get-together with a friend this week. It can be lunch, dinner, a walk or even a chat on the phone…just connect! One more thing…jot down the names of all your friends and make sure you lift them up in prayer by name this week.
Blessings on your day!
Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Consider trials JOY? What was St. James thinking when he wrote this? Upon first glance at this verse we might be tempted to wonder if the beloved Saint put in a few too many prayerful “all-nighters” because surely he wasn’t serious about feeling joyful when the washer breaks, someone you love
gets sick, the fuel pump on the car goes out or the sweet teenager in your home eats the last piece of peach pie you were hiding…I mean saving, in the back of the fridge! Joy…I don’t think so! And what about the really big
stuff like losing your job or serious illness, surely he couldn’t have meant
those things could bring joy. I suppose we could sit down and make a list of all the trials that have happened upon us in the past month and we would be overcome with many emotions, none of which would be joy!
The real meat of this verse is the part that explains what we can get in exchange for our trials…stronger faith and perseverance. Do you remember when you were young and you went home from school and complained about that boy who pulled your pigtails or the girl who annoyingly pointed out your every move to the teacher? The standard reply from home went something like this, “Well honey, if they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.” This verse has a little bit of that flavor to it don’t ya think! God promised that we would have trouble…it is a guarantee, not a possibility. Even though we’ve read those words more than once, trials still seem to catch us by surprise. We sometimes even cop an attitude and think, “What, me…why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this difficulty?” We might even get really sassy and say, “Oh, pardon me Father, but you’ve made a mistake, I’ve already had 8 serious trials this month, I believe this current dilemma belongs to the neighbor or even better, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning!”
The simple truth is, if He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t give us trials at all. Each difficulty or disappointment that knocks on our front door or barges right into our day is an opportunity to grow in trust or compassion or patience. When we throw up our hands in despair and say, “Ok God, I don’t know how to do this…I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, please guide me and guard me and love me through it!” we will grow in faith and perseverance plus we will be blessed with grace and mercy. I think what St. James was teaching us is that any time we surrender to the holy power of God, that’s joyful, and the blessing is more strength, more grace and more faith for the next thing! It seems strange to thank God for the lousy stuff but that is what we are called to do. We need to act like we are completely aware that He is about to do a might work through that trial if we would just
stand back and let Him take us through it.
A Seed To Plant: The next time a trial comes your way, stop and thank God
for it and ask Him to show you the joy in the situation. We’d love to hear your stories!
Blessings on your day!
…He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had been doing. Genesis 2:2
If I had a dollar for every conversation that contained a report of “busyness” I think I could buy something really big! It seems like most conversations contain a least a partial list of things that we have done or need to do or are planning to do! We have taken being busy to an all-time crazy level.
Somewhere along the way “multi-tasking” became a badge of honor and the
art of “jam-packing” the family schedule has become a trend. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing at all. We weren’t designed to run full tilt day after day…God intended something different for His
Sunday used to be observed as a day of rest, these days more often than not; it’s just a day to finish everything on our to-do list that didn’t get finished during the other six days of the week. God made the day to rest and enjoy what He has created for us. It’s supposed to be the day we spiritually and physically re-charge for a new week…so how are you doing with Sunday rest?
Sitting still and relaxing isn’t something I do well…there is always something that needs to be done it seems, but yesterday was different…it was a Sunday as Sunday’s were intended to be. We spent a gorgeous Sunday on a pontoon cruising around a lovely nearby lake with wonderful friends. I had to sit still because I didn’t have anywhere to go; I had to relax because I couldn’t bring any work along and it was terrific! It was peaceful, calming, fun, beautiful…all the things a Sunday was created to be. There was great
food, excellent company, lots of laughter and beautiful scenery everywhere you looked. After several hours on the lake, we docked the boat and there was contentment and a peace that made everything seem better. As we drove home, I realized what a simple day it had been and I discovered I often underestimate the power of simple!
I heard a speaker explain once that the devil’s favorite tool to separate us from the loving will of the Father is busyness. He explained how easy it is for us to get distracted and cranky and tired and negative when we get too busy and overwhelmed…things just aren’t as clear when we’re so busy we
can’t see straight. I realized how true that was as I took the day to simply rest and enjoy some of life’s greatest simple pleasures. If we looked at our task list, I’m guessing there are some things that could be crossed off. There might be things there that we think nobody but us can do. There might be some things that we will do simply to impress others. There might be some things there we’re just too stubborn to ask for help with, and there might even be some things there just to make us look busier than somebody else. Humm... it’s worth taking a look! I’ve decided to take a serious look at my list for the week and make sure I add some simple peaceful time. After all, I don’t remember reading anywhere in Scripture “Blessed be the busiest for he shall enter heaven first.” However Scripture does say, "He rested
A Seed To Plant: Take a look at your task list for the week and see if you
can’t dial down the busy a notch or two…Satan will hate it!
Blessings on your day!
Bless the Lord, my soul; do not forget all the gifts of God. Psalm
We have the craziest tree in our backyard. Dave planted the crazy dwarf peach tree more than 25 years ago. As you would imagine with the word
dwarf in the description it’s a small tree and it happens to be peppered with random dead branches. It really is a sad looking little thing but in the spring it’s so pretty we don’t have the heart to cut it down. The tree typically bears five or six peaches every few years so we don’t really pay much attention to it because quite frankly…it’s all about the spring blossoms. A few days ago Dave was mowing lawn and saw a few peaches on the ground under the tree and when he looked up he noticed the tree was loaded with peaches. We picked two full buckets of peaches from this tiny little tree. The whole time we were picking we just kept shaking our heads in surprise! How is it we completely missed it…we looked out the window at that tree and walked past it every day?
When we picked the peaches and brought them in the house, the fruit was about half the size of the big Georgia peaches I brought home from the
grocery store but they have five times the juice and flavor…surprise again! I know it’s just a couple buckets of little peaches but it makes me realize how much I take for granted. It makes me wonder how many times cool blessings come as a complete surprise when we aren’t busy searching and planning. Again and again God waits to surprise us and shower us with little bits of His love. I suppose it happens most often when we just let God be God without trying to tell him every little thing we need and want.
Every time I look at those peaches, I think of something simple I take for granted. My life is full of great things but like that peach tree, how often do blessings in my life go completely unnoticed? I have a fabulous husband but I need to make sure I don’t just get used to him being there like that tree. I need to appreciate him and thank him and tell God how grateful I am for our marriage. I have all I need, a beautiful home, a job I love, kids I adore and excellent health but I don’t always act like I remember it. When someone dear to me gets sick I remember to thank God for my health
but all too often it’s like walking past that loaded peach tree without even
noticing. As I get busy canning those peaches, I will be standing at the kitchen sink reciting a long list of “thank yous” for all the little(and big) gifts and blessings I walk past without notice every day.
A Seed To Plant: Sit down with a paper and pencil and make a list of ten gifts and blessings you want to make sure you don’t take for granted…then say a thank you prayer!
Blessings on your day!
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother…Genesis 2:24
This is a post that comes straight from the center of the heart! Saturday I watched Kevin, our oldest son, drive out of the driveway in his Grand Prix headed for Iowa. He’s off on the most exciting adventure of his 20 year old life! He headed to Iowa with an overload of enthusiasm and that made it even harder to swallow my tears as I hugged him goodbye. Even though he has finished two years of college already, Michigan State is less than 50 miles from home so it really wasn’t much of a separation. This time it’s different. Iowa is too far away to come home for supper or to do laundry. I stood on my front porch Saturday with tears runnin like a faucet and wondered; why is it we work and pray so hard as parents to raise independent kids and then hate it so much when they put their independence into practice. I stood there long after he’d driven off down the gravel road and thought of the hundreds of times it had been my mission to make my children happy. I thought of all the backyard baseball, Lego building, “watch me Mom’s” at the pool and readings of Good Night Moon, all done in the name of making Kevin happy. I realized encouraging him to go off on this adventure was the same thing…and this opportunity made him happier than anything he has ever done!
Kevin will be working for a big name cattle breeder. If I know him, he will be in the barn ten plus hours a day working with some of the most beautiful, high power show cattle in the state of Iowa…and he will absolutely love every second of it. He will travel, learn, experience and meet “the big boys” in the business. To him, it just doesn’t get any better than that…at least until it’s his name on the barn door! I’m proud of him and I’ll miss him but it's a terrific opportunity and we couldn’t hold him back. He’ll be home again at Thanksgiving but he warned me that it may only be temporary because he really wanted to check out Iowa State…that’s a thought for another day!
This whole trip to Iowa is just another example of the way God can
completely overwhelm us with blessings when we trust him. Kevin had planned to be a firefighter and paramedic since he was in the second grade but just months before he graduated from High School, he told us he had changed his mind because he couldn’t imagine waking up every morning and not doing the one thing he loved most. I told him to pray on it and if a degree in Agriculture was the path for him, God would bless it…and He has again and again and again! Even though it’s going to be tough to get used to knowing he’s so far away, I know God’s got it all under His loving care.
As my thoughts have been absorbed with our absent son the past couple of days, I can’t help but think about how our Heavenly Father feels when we
stray from Him. When I was thinking about all the time I spent trying to keep Kevin safe and happy I realize it was just a tiny sliver compared to the compassion and concern God slathers me with every day. I remember the occasional resistance and rebellion of our oldest son and the frustration that came with it…hum…pondering that thought makes me recognize my own rebellion and resistance to the will of the Father practically every day. God gives us so many gifts…Kevin is one of the best ones I ever got but I am reminded of my Grandma’s words, “Our job is to love them hard, pray for them harder and do all we can to help them get to heaven because they are really just borrowed gifts that need to be returned.” As August rolls along, I have a hunch I’m not the only parent out there jumpin this hurdle. I suppose it’s a big test of our trust. I’ve never seen the town or the farm where Kevin will work. I’ve never met the family he will be working for and I couldn’t tell him exactly where the church was or what time Sunday Mass would be…but I can trust God to show him and protect him and reveal each and every blessing and challenge this experience has in store for him…and that is enough…that is enough!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the kids you know who are off to college or who are in the Armed Forces and make it a point to pray for them (and their parents) each day.
Blessings on your day!
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to
the bones. Proverbs 16:24
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make things better. Sometimes loving Christians carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and run around with pure hearts trying to save the world. I was speaking with someone not long ago and they were completely
exasperated because of all the nasty stuff and unkind people in the world that didn’t act like they knew a thing about Jesus. The whole conversation made my heart heavy and I realized I'm surprised at the things some folks think they have the right to say to others. All too often someone will spout off a rude remark and when called on it, they snip back with a comment about free speech and being entitled to their own opinion I’ve been noticing a growing number of “ugly words” lately so as I sat with that on my heart, God pointed me to this verse from Proverbs.
If you are someone who likes to make things better, this is the verse for you! I realized after reading it a few times, I had the process all wrong!
It really isn’t about “fixing” the words and actions of others! I can be upset by it, I can pray about it, I can even take a stand about it…but the truth of the matter is this…I can’t do a darn thing to change it! Change has to come from within…change has to be desired. If I’m busy trying to change someone else, I’m guaranteed only one thing…disappointment! Besides, my Mom would remind me I should keep my nose in my own business anyway. When I read this verse again this morning the solution to the problem became crystal clear…I have to change MY behavior. I can’t change someone else’s snappy rude tongue…but I can be in charge
of my own. I can make sure my words are pleasant and sweet like honeycomb. God didn’t put me in charge of the world, the state, the county or even the town…He put me in charge of just this one person and after some prayerful time with this verse, I know exactly where I need to begin. What if we actually realized that every word we speak could be healing?
What if each sentence we uttered were crafted with that intent? That would be pretty remarkable don’t you think?
The simple power of this Proverb was illustrated through a story
I read not long ago. I had actually forgotten about the story until I was writing this post. The story involved a mom of six kids under 9. She and her husband have a deep commitment to the Lord and promised to
accept lovingly all the children He chose to bless them with. They love their life but the rude remarks from others can sometimes be heartbreaking to this mom. She was telling the story about a disastrous grocery store adventure with her babies that had 5 of the six kids crying by the check-out lane. She was completely frazzled and on the edge of tears herself. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, a woman stopped next to her and she braced herself for an ugly comment or rude remark about her large family but instead the two sentences spoken at that perfect moment changed her day completely. The woman looked directly at the frazzled mom and said, “Bless you for saying yes! These are lucky children because they will have the courage of their mother and lady; you’ve got a lot of that because I’m not even brave enough to bring one of mine shopping with me!” They shared a laugh and the frazzled mom was lifted…two little sentences is all it took! One sweet word, one kind gesture completely absent of judgment or criticism or opinion worked magic. I may not be able to change the world but I can work harder at speaking kindly to everyone I meet and that just might change a thing or two all on its own.
A Seed To Plant: Randomly speak three kind sentences this week..please share the results!
Blessings on your day!
Hello Joyful Words readers! I am going to be "unplugged" until Tuesday night...I have a little trip to take and if you can believe it...there will be no internet connection...so...I'll be back with more joyful words on Thursday! Blessings on your day!
For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
I have been surrounded this week by a lot of good work! For the 13th summer in a row, our home for one week in July was at the Clinton County 4-H fair. Some of our families’ favorite memories have happened there.
As I look back over the past 13 county fairs, I can’t help but recognize all the places God has gently touched or abruptly thumped the hearts and lives of all the kids and families who are a part of the fair. Sometimes, He touches with the sweet happiness of victory and sometimes, He touches with the sting of disappointment. The one thing that is certain though, He uses those kids and animals and projects to send a very precise message…if we look for it!
In order to get a livestock project ready for the fair, the work begins many months before they tie it up or put it in a pen on the fairgrounds. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of hours a 4-H member spends feeding, training, washing and walking their animals! I’ve watched year after year as kids have walked into the show ring leading an immaculately groomed steer that weighed 5 to 10 times what they did. I’ve watched kids walk animals
they were too short to see over to the wash rack and the show ring with a
confidence and pride that is impressive and inspiring. I have seen kids who were too shy to talk to their own shoe-strings, learn to become confident and articulate because a judge was going to gently bombard them with questions that would greatly influence their standing in showmanship competition. I’ve watched kids carefully (and usually without much enthusiasm) prepare their livestock project financial statements and records, designed to develop an awareness of real world basic economics. On many occasions
I have stood at the end of a barn to look down the center aisle and watch dozens and dozens of hot, sweaty, tired kids laughing as they work. Countless times, I have seen kids walk up to a judge and present a project. That project is a representation of time, talent, ability and pride and
in the end; it all comes down to the judgment of one set of eyes.
The “good works God has prepared” are evident at the county fair. Not many of the 4-H members at the fair will go on to have a career in production agriculture, but they will take the messages and lessons with them no matter what path God puts them on. God was at the fair teaching patience, trust, confidence and compassion. He was there teaching the value and blessing of caring for another living being. He was there flooding kids with the Holy Spirit when they needed the right words. He was there when they needed the grace of strength and patience. He was there to teach that people don’t always see “justice and judgment” the same way. He was there molding and forming the character of his children, showing them that the value of hard work, dedication and responsibility doesn’t always come with a purple ribbon and a champion title but if it is done in His honor, the prize is so much greater! God was at the county fair, I hope people saw Him and felt His presence!
A seed to plant: For the next week, wherever you go, make it a special
assignment to look for God. What is He showing you, teaching you and reminding you?
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com