Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
“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!
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Chronicles 16:8
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” If I had a dollar for every time I have heard or spoken that phrase I could probably buy that new baby Kuereg I’d love to put in my classroom! But honestly…during nutty times like these, some days it takes some thinking to come up with something good to say when my world feels as messy as a teenagers bedroom!
As I was thinking about that the other day the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I can always say thank you because God is constantly doing things I can be thankful for.
I sat for a few minutes to make a thank you list and things that have happened recently started popping into my head. The Father knows so well what we need that the first few made me laugh. I guess those are the ones I’m supposed to share.
*I was thankful for new shoes…I opened dozens of boxes in the clearance section and found a shoe that was like walking on a cloud! Perfect fit, on sale for $17.99, great style and color but there was only 1 in the box. I searched through twenty more boxes and came up empty. I was so disappointed. As I was leaving the shoe section, clear over in the mens shoe department I found the shoe on display. I knew it couldn’t be a mans shoe but I still searched all the shelves looking for more and there were zero! I picked it up and it was the same size so I knew it was the match! Nothing like a treasure hunt! Thank you God for helping me find things that just go together.
*I’m thankful for little surprises, like the parent who had flowers delivered to school and the only “common” area we can share this year is the front desk where we stop each morning to record our temperature and fill out the health form. God often adds beauty where we don’t see much so we have to be looking.
*I’m thankful when someone I love gets a surprise gift. The 3 day old dead bird that came from a coat pocket wasn’t the best gift for the Kindergarten teacher but I was thankful for the giant laughs that we all shared when we heard about her gift.
*I’m thankful for simple things and a FABULOUS principal to work for during this craziness. His simple gift of “you may were jeans until Christmas” was priceless and I’m so happy! (see why I needed new shoes)
*I’m thankful for good feedback. According to a lovely little student we’re teaching a lot of good things at St. Mary School but she reported that she’s a little disappointed she hasn’t learned about massage yet and she’s very curious about when we might be teaching that.
Even as the crazy roars on…we have so much to be thankful for and pondering those things leaves you feeling much better!
A Seed To Plant: Keep a running list this week of things to be thankful for…it’s good for the soul and the attitude.
Blessings on your day!
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal. 1 Chronicles 16:34
Every now and again I run across a thought or a quote that just seems to stop me in my tracks. That happened this week when I was came across a video clip about Dan Meers the man who wears the KC Wolf mascot costume for the Kansas City Chiefs. He is a man of great humor, great faith and great mission.
Dan suffered some terrible injuries while practicing a stunt to entertain the fans at Arrowhead Stadium. As he suffered through months of recovery and rehabilitation he questioned God’s plan but was inspired to trust his faithfulness when someone helped him realize that every morning we wake up, we have something to complain about and something to be grateful for. Whichever one we choose to focus on will shape our attitude for the day. His physical pain was enormous but he realized that the pain meant he was’t paralyzed and he wasn’t dead so the pain was something he should be thankful for because it was the best choice of the three.
His story is powerful and inspiring but the line that really hit my heart was this, “Every morning you wake up, you have the choice to rise and shine or rise and whine.” If we choose to whine, we have no ability to have a positive impact for Jesus. How about that for a line to think about. Dan pointed out that it’s easy to be grateful when we are being blessed but thanking him during the trials builds surrender, trust and helps us see God’s faithfulness. As I watch my beloved Chiefs play in the Super Bowl next weekend, I’ll be watching for the mascot and I’ll be seeing him through different eyes. I’ve included the link to his story in case you have 6 minutes to be inspired and grateful.
A Seed To Plant: Find some time to watch Dan’s story and then make a list of the things your grateful for…not just the blessings but the trials too.
Blessings on your day! (And go Chiefs!)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
There are two really important words in this short verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians that lead us to the third BE; peace and thankful. The third thing we need to focus on to calm down the worry is to BE THANKFUL. Gratitude is powerful and not only does it do wonders for our own troubled heart, it’s a beautiful gift to everyone else. Here is an interesting thing I learned about being thankful. Recent MRI studies have mapped the gratitude circuitry in the brain, which activates a sense of reward, fairness, and decision-making—all aspects that help facilitate survival. In case you might be looking for ways to amp up the gratitude here are a few tips to help you sprinkle a little more thankfulness in your day.
*Make it a habit at least once a day to say out-loud three things you are grateful for.
*End your day by jotting down a few things from the day that you are thankful for. I often tell the story of how my mom had a practice of doing exactly this very thing. It was her belief that if the last thing on your mind before sleep was something you were thankful for instead of something you were worried about, you’d sleep better and wake up more positive.
*Tell at least two people a day thank you! Make it specific if you really want to brighten someones day and spread a little joy.
*Make sure your thank-you’s outnumber your complaints.*Check your perspective, if you’re having trouble thinking of something to be grateful for, check out the situation of those around you and that might help you see your situation through a different lens.
*Volunteer…Jesus wasn’t kidding with the whole “serve others” thing. Turns out, it’s a great boost for our gratitude and our happiness.
*Notice and appreciate the little things. I was in the middle of a train-wreck of a day not long ago and a little boy with Downs Syndrome walked up to me in the store and gave me a carnation. He said, “You look like you need something pretty and a hug.” In that one split second the my attitude completely changed.
*Be with the people you love. Make sure you surround yourself with people who lift you up, make you laugh and bring you joy.
*Find some gratitude scriptures you can call on when you’re feeling a little worried and wilted. God’s word is always true and always meant to bring good.
We worship freely, we have all we need to eat, we have shelter, we have transportation and people who care about us. Those things alone make us some of the richest people in the world. I don’t know about you but I think I should sit down and make a list of those and the hundred other things I probably take for granted and add them to my gratitude list. Sounds like a great way to chase the blues away.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time working on your gratitude list and then find a few great scripture verses about gratitude you can use when the worry gets heavy on your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, his love is everlasting. 1Thessalonians 5:18
Todays post is more of a homework assignment than a message. I keep running across a quote which I'm sure is familiar to many of you. It's funny how it just keeps popping up so I'm guessing that's a pretty clear message for me and perhaps for you too. It's actually perfect timing too because I'm on the road and this was just the perfect quick little nugget for an already late Thursday post. My prayer is that the Lord does something beautiful in your heart with this homework assignment.
Here's the quote: "What if you woke up and the only things you had left were the things your thanked God for the day before?"
The assignment: Pray on those words for a while and then make a list of what you would have today. The second part of your assignment is to make a list of the things you want to make sure you wake up with tomorrow. And just so you know..."THANK YOU GOD FOR EVERYTHING" is cheating. Let's really take some time to go through a detailed accounting of all the things we need to say thank you for.
Blessings on your day!
Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
Have you ever gone out to eat with a person who has to look at every plate that comes out of the kitchen before they can decide what to order? That same person usually stares down each plate at the table, asking five questions about each order, and more often than not, that same person can be heard saying something like, “I wish I would have ordered that instead, I want what they have!” Let’s face it, if we’re being totally honest, we probably make a dozen comparisons each day. We compare tiny things like parking spots and lunch choices and we compare big things like cars, paychecks and homes. Did you ever stop and think about why we do this?
If we took a survey of 100 people and asked the question, “What word best describes you right now?” What percentage of people do you think might reply with the word “Content”? I would be willing to bet very few, if any, would spit out that answer! We are a restless people by nature. We spend a lot of time and energy comparing, evaluating and calculating everything. Is it greed, lust, materialism or is it possible that the restlessness is simply a yearning for God to fill a spot in our lives we may not even realize is vacant?
I love my life! I love everything about it, my husband, my children, my job, my family, my co-workers, my parish, my home…my life is absolutely more blessed than I ever imagined it could be! That being said, you would think I would be perfectly content. That would be correct most of the time, but every now and again that restless ache creeps in and makes me compare what I have with something God blessed someone else with. God has given me WAY more than enough and He certainly has given me WAY more than I deserve but sometimes I want Him to give ME that vacation to a beautiful beach resort or spiffy new fancy thing my neighbor has. He has generously given me gifts and blessings and I try to use them to further His kingdom but sometimes I really wish those gifts could land me a book deal or a speaker booking at a big-name conference where I could rub elbows with the “Big Names” and be a part of all the exciting “hoop-la” that goes with it.
99 days out of 100 I’m grateful and content but I was having that day when I was restless and feeling a little jealous. I needed to get out from under the burden of those feelings so I slipped in the side door of church during lunch and asked Him to take them away. As I sat in the silence, the word “why” just kept popping in my head. I thought and thought about it and kept wondering things like, “why…why did he get that and why did she get to go there and why…” I went through the whole list and then it hit me! The “why” meant something completely different…God was leading me to ask myself “WHY” do you want those things. If you really want to use the gifts I gave you to serve me, why do you care about those things? I sat a bit longer and thought about why I wanted all those things I thought He had forgotten to give me. I told Him I felt like I was being “skipped over”. Then the train hit me...I was wandering away from His truth. He doesn’t allow me to write this blog each week to be recognized, He gave me this gift to spread His love and help others recognize His presence. He didn’t give me my speaking gift to become recognized in a faraway fancy place, He gave it to me to speak to whoever He put in the chairs wherever He sends me. He didn't send me to a beach, he sent me to spread His love to a bunch of "tweenagers" every day. He didn’t forget to give me a fancy car or the income for a beautiful cottage; he gave me exactly what I needed to provide me with the perfect balance of humility and peace. Mostly, He made me realize He has blessed me with the perfect life for ME! I realized that what I need and what everyone else needs are as different as can be, but in the difference lies the perfection that only He can determine.
I left the church that afternoon knowing that the why really meant; why are you restless for things that aren’t yours. I left understanding the why, was the way He uncovered the restlessness in my soul that needed to rest in Him! I think I’ll swap “C” words…I’ll swap compare for celebrate. Each time I’m tempted to say, “I want what they have”, I’ll say instead, “God, thank you for taking such perfect care of them because You know perfectly what we need!” He works in ways both huge and tiny based on things we will never see or know…thank you Father for being in charge…You always get it right!
A Seed To Plant: Practice gratefulness this week and swap “C” words. Ask God each time you are tempted to make a comparison to settle your restless soul!
Blessings on your day!
"Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
I’m still trying to adjust to seeing just two toothbrushes in the bathroom toothbrush cup. I remember when there were five and three of them were short and chunky with cartoon characters on the handle. The other morning as I looked a little sadly at the two lonely toothbrushes standing in the cup, it served as a reminder that everything changes and that’s as it should be. As I stood there brushing my teeth, staring at a the toothbrush cup I contemplated getting a smaller container, one that wouldn’t show so much empty space, but then, as he often does, in a completely random place, God began to teach.
I know with absolutely certainty, the three little Wohlferts I love so much were never intended to stay here on Pratt road forever. I know with absolute certainty Dave and I enjoy the young adults they have become and we find great joy watching them discover their own path. Sometimes it’s hard to keep quiet about thing. We’d like to offer advice we hope is steeped in wisdom and experience, but like all parents, we realize that some lessons are best learned by living. Our kids know we are always here if they need advice or help but we try to let them ask first before we just spit it all out. I’m sure the Father is sitting there anxious for us to ask for help too! Like earthly parents, he’s waiting in the wings with wisdom, experience, love and a way to navigate a situation with much less difficulty if we’d only ask.
Those two little toothbrushes screamed a powerful message about my relationship with the Father. Although three toothbrushes are absent from the cup, my kids aren’t absent from my life. I don’t see them, I don’t hear them everyday but I know they are there. I suppose the Father needed to remind me of that, I may not see him or hear him but he reminded me he’s always there. As I thought about each of the kids who now have their own toothbrush holder, I realize I’m not responsible for providing the vessel, thats their job. We were each given a free will and we have the opportunity to make dozens of choices a day. We’ve been given a body or a vessel to get us through this earthly life but the choice to listen to and follow him are our responsibility; he won’t barge into our lives uninvited and take control of the vessel. How we fill it is up to our own choosing. It’s our job to remember he will always fill our vessel with the best stuff imaginable but it needs to be empty enough to make room for him.
I always bought the toothbrushes. As far as the kids were concerned, they were just always there and were probably taken for granted. Let’s face it, unless you are the mom, not much thought goes into toothbrush supply. I stood there brushing, wondering how much money I had spent on toothbrushes over the decades and I couldn’t think of one single time anyone thanked me for providing a toothbrush. Just as I was about to feel a teeny bit unappreciated, I realized how many dozens and dozens of gifts, graces and blessings God provides without my notice or proper acknowledgement.
The last thing that popped into my head before I spit and swished was the fact that I reminded, even hounded my kids to use those toothbrushes at LEAST twice a day and more often when they ate something sticky or gooey. Since those toothbrushes aren’t in my bathroom anymore, I have to trust that they remember what I told them. If they don’t, obviously there will be dental consequences. My mind quickly shifted to prayer. I hope we remember to pray more times than we brush…did I teach them that…will they remember that…will they realize that when things in life get sticky or gooey they need to add a little extra? Will they realize the consequences of a life without him? And of course, will I remember that myself? I’m sure God was reminding me that prayer should be as automatic as tooth brushing and hopefully a lot more frequently. He also made me realize that the time I spend brushing my own teeth would be a perfect opportunity to pray for the kids who have toothbrush holders of their own now. As I wiped my mouth and put my toothbrush in the cup with Dave’s, I thanked him for the lesson and for the gift of all those years with five toothbrushes in the cup.
A Seed To Plant: Think of five people to pray for this week each time you brush your teeth.
Blessings on your day!
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
I’ve said it a hundred times; “Comparison is the thief of joy!” But that doesn’t stop me from getting a little carried away sometimes. As a parent, I find myself exceptionally quick to compare. One of the really great parts of being a teacher is that I get to see families in action. I am impressed constantly at the parenting I see happening in this community. I’ve seen tough love, gigantic humor, incredible logic, deep faithfulness and inspiring mercy. When I see a parent do something awesome I often say to myself, “Geeze, why didn’t I ever do that!” I see parents who are more creative than I was, more patient than I was, more prayerful than I was and I often feel like I should send my kids a note of apology…especially the first one! Knowing what I know now, there are lots of days I’d like to go back a couple of decades and start over because my kids deserved a mom that was more fun, more carefree, and much less…well…nuts about things like picking up socks and brushing teeth and all the other stuff I thought was a big deal at the time.
When the comparisons get me all flustered, I stop myself and realize I did the best I could and that the kids have a super great dad who balanced me out. It’s about then that I also realize that the one thing I REALLY got right then (and now) is to pray for my kids dozens of times a day. That makes me sigh in relief because despite my shortcomings as a mom, God’s really the one in charge! Sometimes I still look back and hope I got more things right than screwy! I hope I taught them enough lessons about truth, compassion, faith and kindness. I think as parents we sometimes get lost in the fear of “did I do/ or am I doing enough.” We second guess ourselves and we compare. I think sometimes we hold ourselves to the most ridiculous, impossible standards. We let Pinterest be our compass. We think if we’re sitting still we’re wasting time and we forget that they are his, not ours. He made them perfect and no amount of glow in the dark slime, elite ball teams or private lessons in anything will ever top the perfection with which they were created, nor will I ever be able to top the love and protection the creator has for them. Comparisons are not the work of the Father.
As we prepare for the first of the three little Wohlferts to get married, I was feeling sentimental, old and inadequate. I was making this list in my mind of all the things we didn’t do like go to Disney, let the kids play every sport they wanted or take trips that exposed them to culture, art and travel. We went to Grandpas in Kansas, went camping and spent most of every summer raising livestock getting ready for the 4-H fair. I got a little carried away thinking I hadn’t done enough when I came across this letter written by a foster child from Oklahoma. It sort of put everything in perspective. The child was asked to write about the things they wanted in a family. Here is the response…
In my family I want food and water. Don’t hit on me. A house with running water and lights. I want love. Mom and Dad don’t fight. I want no drugs. Don’t kill my pets. Help me with school. Nice clean clothes. No lice or bugs in the house. Clean house and a clean bed with covers. Don’t sell my toys. To be treated fair. Don’t get drunk. TV in the house. Let me keep my games and school stuff. Nice shoes. My own comb. Soap. Nice safe house with a heater. A coat and a toothbrush.
After I finished my big ole ugly cry, I thanked God for my parents, then I prayed for the astonishing number of kids who could have easily written that letter and then I realized that things like trips, fancy stuff and being the Pinterest Mother of the Year meant nothing. Turns out I gave my kids more than I realized…they were prayed for, read to, loved, challenged and held responsible. They had to work and sometimes entertain themselves and figure things out. As I often do, I had let things spin sideways in my mind and left God’s work out of the picture, taking on the weight of it all myself. I suppose once again I got a lesson in trading comparison for gratitude!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the places you compare yourself to others. Pray with that list for a couple of days and then tear it up and ask God to help you replace those comparisons with gratitude. If you’re a parent, stop and say a prayer for each of your children right this minute and then go play; dinner can be late, laundry can pile up and dishes can be washed later…just go play for a few minutes! If you’re not a parent, what can you do to help one and all of us need to stop and pray for families everywhere!
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com