Giggle Giggle Toot Roar

Striving to answer the call to motherhood and wifeyhood with joy, Jesus, and crazy dancing.


30 Comments

Whips, Chains, and Water Features

I had a really interesting encounter today. I swear, I am a magnet for these things.

The boys and I decided to walk around downtown and enjoy the sunshine-y morning after the gym. We made a quick stop at a coffee shop where mommy fueled up with some java and we shared a lemon-blueberry “cookie” scone (really just a scone, but I called it a cookie hoping they’d be satisfied with it instead of the real cookie they were begging for…50% of them were). Anyway, we continued on our walk to the center of the downtown, which houses a large grassy area where we could run around a bit.

Once we arrived, the first things that got the boys’ attention were the large water fountains spraying water into the air. I never really got these specific water features. Sure, they are “cute” and add something to the downtown, but are they for ascetics only or are kids supposed to play in them or are you just supposed sit down on one of the benches fixed directly around them and take in their understated glory? It’s no Bellagio show! Seriously, where are the “rules”?

Whips, Chains, Water FeaturesAnyway, the first thing that caught my attention was the twenty-something couple that entered the park and proceeded to lay down together in the center on the cement. The woman had what appeared to be a short chain-linked dog leash around her neck and the man was leading her around on it.

Enter my internal conversation: Huh, I must have just seen that wrong. right? I bet that was just a long necklace. Huh, nope, nope, he really is walking her around like a dog. That’s normal, right? Nope, nope, not normal.

The conversation in my head continued with my plan to keep the boys’ backs to the couple, because I really wasn’t in the mood to A.) explain to my toddlers why we shouldn’t walk another human being around like a dog or B.) see my toddlers inevitably walking each other around like dogs later that day.

Well, my plan worked. It worked until the couple came right over by us and the water features. One of my little boys was in the process of working up the courage to touch the top of one of the smaller water features. The other of my little boys was 10 feet away screaming at the lunacy of getting wet in the water feature.

Dog leash lady came over to us, shaved head and neck full of chrome, and asked my son, “Do you want to see something fun?”

My response while taking a few steps back was, “Like fun-fun or fun-terrifying?”

Her response: To rip off her coat (don’t worry she had a tank top on) and run back and forth through the fountains until she was completely drenched. I’m talking water-logged drenched.

One child looked on with utter delight and one watched in confused terror.

When she stopped running through the fountains, she came back over to us and while I pretended to act like this was all cool and normal, I said something to my appalled child like, “See honey, she had no fear!”

What I was saying inside was: “What the beep is going on and how do I get the beep outta here. And how does this weird stuff always happen to me?!”

Me looking at her completely drenched clothes: “Wow, I hope you don’t have to be anywhere anytime soon; your clothes are soaked!”

Her: “I just wanted to do something to cheer him up!” she said while pointing at my little guy who had been screaming. “I like to do anything to make children happy!”

Her Boyfriend: “Well, we do have that meeting with my boss in 45 minutes.”

We talked for a few more minutes and I learned that they were currently staying at the Salvation Army and that they have a four month old son in foster care that they are trying to get back. And that he works for a friend, who was “pretty cool” and probably wouldn’t mind if his girlfriend shows up to the meeting completely soaked.

I couldn’t help but ask about that dog leash though….

Me: “So, what’s with the dog leash?”

Her: “It’s an inside joke between friends, because I get lost easily. So, he has to lead me around.”

Me: “Oh, well, can I tell you what my honest first impression of it was?”

Her: “Sure!”

Me: “Well, honestly all I could think of was how it was so objectifying to women; I mean you are letting him lead you around on a leash!”

Her: With sincere surprise in her eyes like she had really never thought of that, “No, no.”

Him: “I didn’t like the idea of it at first either.”

Me: “Anyway, just thought I’d tell you my honest opinion. So…good luck with your little one and at the meeting with your boss. Thanks for trying to make my kids smile. My parking meter is almost up, so…..bye!”

And at that very moment my water loving child ran face first into the water feature and came running back to me shivering and smiling with delight.

I’m not going to lie, I judged the pants off these people and I tried to avoid them. Given everything scary that continues to happen in our world, in normal public places, in large cities and in small communities, I suppose my initial response wasn’t really that crazy.

It wasn’t until she told me that they were living at the Salvation Army that I felt something soften slightly in me and I felt my demeanor towards them change. It was that instance that I realized I was talking to Jesus’ people.

Maybe the woman who allows someone to walk her around on a leash and the man that “leads” her around are the tax collectors and prostitutes of today. Those were Jesus’ people then and these are Jesus’ people now.

I was pretty emotional actually on my drive home thinking about my interaction with these people. I felt like I not only interacted with Jesus’ people, but also with Jesus himself.

Was I kind to Jesus?

Did I care enough about Jesus?

Did I judge Jesus unfairly?

Did I cloth Him or feed Him?

Did I listen to Him?

Did I love Him?

You just never know when you’ll meet Him. Well, actually, you know exactly when you’ll meet Him…the next time you meet or interact with ANYONE. It’s just so hard to remember that sometimes.

Keep running through waterfalls,

Natasha

Please vote:

125-tmb (2)

Advertisements


32 Comments

10 Ways to Share Holy Week & Easter with Toddlers

It’s never too early to start teaching our children that Easter is about more than candy, eggs, baskets, and bunnies. Holy Week carries with it heavy themes enough to make us as adults cry, so I obviously don’t want to scare my two and half year olds by sharing the week with them. However, kids always amaze me with what they understand and soak in, so I knew my boys would benefit from hearing about the events of Holy Week and Easter at least in a little lighter, kid friendly way. Below are some great activities we tried together and a few more favorites from the web.

I hope you enjoy and I’d love to hear how you share the real meaning of Holy Week and Easter with your family!

Here are 10 ways to share Holy Week and Easter with your Toddlers:rainbow feet 2

1.) Rainbow Feet: This activity helps you talk with your children about how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. For set-up, I taped a large sheet of white paper to the floor and poured out onto the paper a bunch of finger paint. I asked the boys to sit down, take off their socks, and roll up their pants. Then I did my best to describe how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in toddler terms of course:

  • Did you know that Jesus washed His disciples’ feet?
  • Where are your feet? How many feet do you have?
  • Jesus got down on His hands and knees and washed His disciples’ feet. Why do you think He did that?
  • He washed their feet, because he loved His friends so much and He was setting an example for them. If Jesus can wash His friends’ feet that means that we can wash each other’s feet too.
  • Now, let’s get our feet dirty in the paint, so we can wash them like Jesus did.

Rainbow feet 1Then they proceeded to have so much fun running and jumping on the sheet of paper making little footprints all over. Be careful, it can get a tad slippery. You will be left with a beautiful piece of foot painting art! I couldn’t help but be reminded too of the Footprints prayer.

2.) Check out this classic Jelly Bean prayer from Catholicmom.com.

3.) Foot Washing Sink Style: This activity is to demonstrate how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. After the foot painting, I filled up our bathroom sink with warm soapy water and got a towel ready. Then, with the help of my hubby, we carried the kiddos into the bathroom and let them put their feet in the sink. They of course got a kick out of this. Again, I tried to talk with them about what we were doing:

washing feet

  • Remember how we talked about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet? Well, Mommy and Daddy are going to wash your feet now.
  • As we scrubbed the paint off of those sweet little toes, we sang a verse of The Servant Song.

“Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to, let you be my servant too.”

4.) Check out these Resurrection Sets from Catholic Icing using toilet paper rolls and printable characters.

Bread5.) Baking Bread Together: This is a great family activity to do while discussing The Last Supper. Find your favorite bread recipe or try a new one. I picked one with simple, straight-forward ingredients and one where we didn’t have to wait for the dough to rise, because let’s face it, the boys’ attention span wouldn’t last that long (I used Deborah Madison’s, Irish Soda Bread with Bran and Oats). Have the kids help you get all of the ingredients together and measure everything out per the recipe. While you are making or kneading the bread, take the opportunity to talk about The Last Supper.

  • Who do you think was at The Last Supper? Jesus and His friends, we call some of His friends disciples.
  • What do you think they ate at The Last Supper? Good guess, but not chicken nuggets, they ate bread at The Last Supper. That is why we are making bread together.
  • What do you think they drank at The Last Supper? They might have had milk, but they for sure drank wine at The Last Supper.
  • What do you think Jesus said in His prayer before they ate? He told the disciples the bread and wine were His body and blood and He was sharing Himself with all of them. He blessed the bread and wine and gave it to His disciples to eat.
  • When Mommy and Daddy go up to get communion at church, we are receiving Jesus just like the disciples did. Some day you will get to receive Jesus this way too.

Then we marked a cross on the bread and I let them touch the loaf before I put it in the oven. They got a kick out of playing with the leftover flour on the counter. Once the bread was done, I fully expected to break the bread and share it with the boys in “a moment,” but by that time of the night, I was so exhausted I stood in the kitchen by myself slathering slices with butter and honey. Yum. They eventually saw me and helped themselves to several bites too.

6.) Check out this paper plate Cross Craft from Glitter Magic.

praying hands7.) Praying hands: For this activity, I traced the boys’ hands on paper and then cut the outline out and folded it in half. We marked, “My Praying Hands” on them and now keep them at the kitchen table as a reminder to pray extra hard this week.

  • We talked about how Holy Week is a special week for us to remember and pray about Jesus. The praying hands help us remember to pray, just like Jesus prayed in the garden before His death.
  • I reminded the boys that they can always pray to Jesus when they need help, if they are scared, or if they just want to say thank you.
  • Then we folded our hands and said a little prayer together.

8.) Stay Awake Flowers: This activity recalls when Jesus was praying in the garden and His disciples could not stay awake to pray with Him. To make the flowers, we used clothes pins that we colored with markers, paper to make the flower’s face and stem, and a plastic cover recycled from one of those little margarine containers, to give more support to the clothes pins. As the boys colored the clothes pins and pinned the clothes pin petals onto the flower, we talked about:

  • stay awake flowersJesus was praying in the garden and He asked His disciples to stay awake and pray with Him, but His disciples kept falling asleep.
  • This is going to be our “stay awake” flower. Our flower helps remind us to pray and to stay awake for Jesus.
  • We do not know when Jesus will come back to earth, but we need to make sure we are ready for Him. That’s why we need to try to be really good boys every day.

9.) This one is a classic. Check out these Empty Tomb Rolls from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

Res Reminders10.) Resurrection Reminders: This activity is a chance to talk with your kids about Jesus’ resurrection. Supplies include colored popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners. Twist the pipe cleaners around the popsicle sticks until the crosses are secure. Super easy! Make several and have your little ones hand them out during your family Easter celebration to remind people of the real meaning of the day. While making the crosses I told the boys: Jesus died for us on the cross, but He is risen, Alleluia!

What is your favorite Easter tradition?

How do share Holy Week and Easter to your children?

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter!

Natasha

I’d appreciate your vote! One click below = one vote:

125-tmb (2)


12 Comments

Holy Week Reflection: “The Literal Heart of Jesus”

In John Green’s book, The Fault in Our Stars (I haven’t seen the movie version yet), the main characters attend a cancer support group in the basement of a church. The meeting physically takes place in the center of a cross painted on the floor.

“We all sat in a circle right in the middle of the cross, where the two boards would have met, where the heart of Jesus would have been.”

The book’s characters mockingly call their support group meeting spot, “The Literal Heart of Jesus.”

Since Holy Week is upon us, there seems like no better time to contemplate the “literal body of Jesus.”

All year long we read and hear about Jesus’ ministry, the miracles He performed, and the message He shared. I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting rather swept up in His awesomeness and honestly forget sometimes that He was a man. A man that walked and talked and breathed and hurt and laughed and loved…just like us (or really us just like Him, since we’re made in His image).

As we walk with Jesus during Holy Week, it isn’t difficult to visualize Him as man.

Literal Heart of JesusCan you imagine His hands as He held up the bread and wine at The Last Supper, sharing Himself with His disciples?

Can you imagine what might have been going through His mind as He contemplated the fate He knew was close? Did He feel sadness when He was betrayed by one of His own followers? Was He afraid?

Can you imagine His head throbbing from the thorns pushed deep into His skin?

Can you imagine His face smeared with blood and sweat and spit?

Can you imagine how His arms and shoulders must have been on fire with the weight of the cross?

Can you imagine His bloody knees as they hit the ground for the third time?

Can you imagine how His legs must have been shaking, exhausted from the long journey to His death?

Can you imagine His feet breaking and bleeding as the nails were driven through them?

Can you imagine the excruciating pain in His lungs as He drew His final breath?

No, it isn’t difficult to imagine Jesus, the man, during Holy Week. His suffering (for us) was brutal and sadly easy to visualize.

As I read about “The Literal Heart of Jesus” in John Green’s book, I couldn’t help but think about how Jesus’ heart is the part of Him that might be the most difficult to visualize and understand.

Through all of the betrayal, the thorns, the spit, the beating, the cross, the crucifixion…through all of that…there was no hatred in Jesus’ heart. How is that possible?

We threaten to “kill” people when they cut us off in traffic. We “unfriend” someone when they say something that annoys us on social media. We give our spouses the silent treatment when they forget to do the chore we asked them to do five times. We yell at our children too easily. We won’t even lift our heads to acknowledge a passing stranger.

But Jesus, no. While every inch of Jesus was in human misery, He was not hating. While He hung dying on the cross, He was forgiving. That kind of unconditional love – in the midst of so much hate being shot at Him – is unfathomable. We can barely understand it as humans.

Cleary, His was the Most Sacred, most incredible heart that has even existed on earth.

As we enter into Holy Week, while we are heart broken by the pain our Lord experienced to save us, let us more so be in awe of and strive to embody His unconditional, incomprehensible love.

Wishing you a meaningful and blessed Holy Week.

Natasha


5 Comments

Book Worm Wednesday: 52 Simple Ways to Talk with Your Kids about Faith by Jim Campbell

52 Simple Ways to talk with your kids about faithThis is a great little book that is organized in a way that invites you to read it from cover to cover or to skip around by chapter based on your interest or where you want to strike up a conversation with your child. Each chapter is about three quick pages and is broken into helpful sections such as, “Natural Teachable Moments,” “Starting the Conversation,” and “To Help You Connect/Pray/Listen.” The author provides useful tips on how to talk with your child about different faith topics and backs them up with suggested Bible readings and prayers. Campbell does a great job of reminding parents to really listen to our children without judging or correcting them.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book. I’ll be keeping these close as my little ones grow up. Not only will these reflections help us drum up meaningful conversation, but they will also help me, as momma, reflect on the kind of parent and example I want to be to my little ones.

TOP TEN TIDBITS:

1.) As parents, you are “Serving as Your Child’s Image of God” (from Chapter 1)

2.) “Blessing Your Child” (from Chapter 2) We can bless our child wherever and whenever we feel it is needed; we don’t have to wait for Sunday for a blessing!

3.) “How can you nurture your child as the sacred person he is in God’s eyes?” (from Chapter 4)

4.) “If your child made a list today of what your family’s priorities are, where would God rank?” (from Chapter 6)

5.) Let you child know, “that prayer happens whenever she becomes aware of God’s presence and shares her own presence with God. God is everywhere, so she can pray everywhere. Prayer can involve words, but it does not have to. Prayer can also be silent listening, meditative reflection that uses the imagination, or simply the feeling of being embraced by God’s presence.” (from Chapter 17)

6.) Chapter 24 is an important reminder to take back Sundays (keep them about God and family). It is entitled “Beginning the Week With a ‘Family Sunday’.”

7.) Chapter 26 is about “Praying for Someone’s Needs.” Great reminder when teaching children about prayer, “Explain that in our prayers we don’t just pray for those in need, we pray about them. When praying for people, it’s possible to form an aloof separateness between those persons and yourself, but in order to pray about people, you must acknowledge your inherent connection with them and their meaning to you personally. We remember that, like us, those in need are children of God and deserve dignity, love, and respect.”

8.) I love this reminder from Chapter 42 about what it means to be holy, “A holy person is not always perfect; a holy person responds to God’s call to love him and serve others. Holiness means saying yes to God’s constant invitation to a deeper relationship with God in prayer, in church and the sacraments, and in our daily lives and relationships with others.”

9.) Practicing the Beatitudes as parents: “We are poor in spirit when we recognize that we are dependent on God for help. We mourn when we are saddened at the way people suffer in the world. We act with meekness when we are slow to anger and gentle with our children in difficult times. We practice mercy when we truly forgive them. We are pure of heart when we share with our children our commitment to promote justice in the world. We have many opportunities to be peacemakers in the way we love and restore harmony in our families and in our protection of the dignity of each person.” (from Chapter 43)

10.) Powerful reminders from chapter 50 for us to remember as we speak to our children: “Does criticism of our children come more easily than praise? Do we find ourselves quicker to critique a child’s accomplishments than to build his self-esteem?”

Blessings on your parenting journey!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Natasha


16 Comments

5 Reasons Adults Need to Climb Trees

You have probably heard this story from the Bible found in Luke 19:3-5. Jesus was passing through the city of Jericho and a large crowd had gathered.

Zacchaeus, a tax collector could not see Jesus through the crowd, so he climbed a nearby tree for a better view. Zacchaeus “was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house. And he came down quickly and received him with joy.” -Luke 19:3-5

PicsArt_1417215605808When I was a little girl, I used to disappear for hours up in a tree on the side of our house. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the safest climbing or lounging around tree. It was an old pine tree planted snuggly between two houses with scraggly branches that were of questionable width to hold a child of my size. Most days I’d only climb up a few branches, just high enough to hide from my parents and more importantly my little sister. I guess I needed my alone time even back then!

Some days I’d just sit there and revel in my “me time,” sometimes I’d bring a book, sometimes I’d pray or people watch, and sometimes I’d use my fingernails to carve my initials, a heart and the initials of my latest crush into the tree trunk. Other days I’d climb that tree much higher than I should have (high enough to see into my bedroom windows on our second floor). I’d have a heart attack if I found my kids up in a tree that high (sorry mom and dad)!

While I’m not necessarily recommending everyone runs into their backyard to literally climb your trees, I do believe we can learn something from the story of Zacchaeus and childhood tree climbing.

1.) Climbing trees gives us a better view.
Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, so he climbed a tree for a better view! This seems like an obvious solution to the problem, but he was the ONLY one that figured it out. He had a problem: the crowd was thick and he wouldn’t be able to see Jesus when he passed by. He could have just stayed in the crowd contently, but he found a solution!

Do you ever find yourself bogged down in your problems (large or small) and that’s where it ends (you are frustrated and sulky)?

Climb a tree and find a solution to your problem!

Recently one of my little guys had been waking up every morning in a puddle of pee. As I entered his room every morning, I was greeted by “all wet mommy.” This led to me not only washing his bed sheets and mattress protector daily, but also the two blankets and slew of stuffed animal buddies he insists on sleeping with. One day, I was telling a friend about our potty issues and she said, “have you tried those overnight diapers.” I was like, “huh, nope.” Well, we ran out and got those magic overnight diapers and sure enough, no more “all wet” issues.

This is a small example of “stuff” in our lives; I was so bogged down in the problem and what I thought was the solution (loads of laundry) that I never really took time to consider a better solution. I needed to climb a tree on that one!

2.) Climbing trees gives us a fresh perspective.
I was standing in line a few weeks ago waiting for a voting booth to open up. There were dozens of people in front of me in line patiently waiting and from my angle I could clearly see there were at least five voting booths open at the very end. Everyone was just standing there, waiting for a safe booth to open up near them. I ended up motioning to people the entire time I was standing in line, letting them know when the booths at the end opened up.

How many times do we unintentionally and blindly follow the crowd?

You always hear that “when God closes a door, He opens a window.” Well, I’ll add that sometimes you might need to climb a tree to be able to see that open window.

Climb a Tree

3.) Climbing trees gives us time to reflect.
A few nights ago, I was sitting at our table eating dinner with my lovely little family. The radio was on in the background, the boys were jabbering (probably whining) and my husband was talking with me about our days. I had a moment of sensory overload! Suddenly everything just seems so loud, even the lights seemed to be yelling at me. Does that ever happen to you? Let’s just say I had to excuse myself and regroup in my tree (dark bedroom) for a few minutes.

We live fast-paced, loud, constant ON, ON, ON lives!

Sometimes we need to climb our tree for a little regroup, alone time.

It helps to get some quiet (even if it is a few seconds). Sometimes I’ll sneak sock-footed into our freezing cold garage just for 10 seconds of quiet. I can still hear the boys screaming behind the door, but it does seem like quiet comparatively. I’ll send up a quick prayer, eat a piece of chocolate and re-enter the house as super mom.

4.) Climbing trees allows you to be uniquely you!
We wait in an agonizingly long bathroom line at a sporting event or theater show only to find out there have been 5 stalls open the entire time. Look for feet people! Or everyone snails through one open door in a long line instead of opening a few more doors and starting new paths into the building. All of the doors work people!

It isn’t always that we want to blend in (although sometimes we do); we are just going about our lives doing what people do. It’s easy to slip into the habit of thinking the right thing to do is the thing that everyone else is doing.

Can we really be the best versions of ourselves if we ALWAYS play it safe by keeping our feet firmly on the ground and by neatly following the person ahead of us in line?

I don’t think so. I think we are being called to do more. Zacchaeus wasn’t afraid of what other people were going to say or think about him when he climbed that tree, he just did it.

What is holding you back in life from being YOU?!

I had a pedicure recently with a dear friend. She had a wedding to go to and she was agonizing over what shade of nail polish to pick. She didn’t want people to judge her or comment on her toe nails if the shade of pink didn’t perfectly match her dress. I didn’t know what to say, because I’m pretty sure I was getting mine painted dark blue or purple! Anyway, this is just a small example of how much power we let other people have over our decisions and lives.

Back on toes, if you love the color mauve on your toes (Mom), then rock out mauve every time. BUT don’t choose the safe choice because of fear. Don’t let others keep you from being uniquely you. Climb that tree and paint your nails up there!

5.) Climbing trees helps us be goofy.
We are way too serious! I heard recently that adults laugh fewer than 15-20 times a day (compared to a child who laughs about 400 times a day). How sad is that! I’ve been talking about climbing figurative trees in our lives, well, if you have a good climbing tree…climb it literally too. Or do something else child-like and do it until you…giggle, giggle, toot.

Side Note: I feel like I should put something lawyer-y in here about tree climbing. So, if you climb a tree and hurt yourself, Natasha and Giggle Giggle Toot Roar will not be held responsible for any injury or consequences resulting in your tree climbing/falling.

Love,

Natasha        


16 Comments

This Year I’m Doing Advent

I’ve always loved the season of Advent. It feels so joyful and it leads up to many people’s favorite holiday of all, Christmas! Every year I have the best intentions to “do” Advent. Every year I plan in my head how I’m going to spend a little time reflecting on the readings of the day or say a little prayer as I light the candles on an Advent wreath. And every year, I realize that it is already December 23rd and I’ve let another Advent slip away from me without doing anything special to prepare for Christmas. Then by December 25th I feel a little more exhausted and stressed than I should be and wouldn’t be had I taken the time to really do Advent right.

This year I'm doing Advent

“If you’re sick of Christmas by December 25, you haven’t done Advent correctly.” -The Editors at Busted Halo

Advent is all about waiting, but not the kind of eye-rolling, foot tapping waiting we do when the grocery store has only one lane open on its busiest day. It’s more of the butterflies in our stomach, I can’t sit still, I’m so excited I need a hug kind of waiting.

What are we waiting for? What are we preparing for?

Advent is a two-fold waiting and preparing for Jesus’ birth and for Jesus’ return in the future. Advent is also a good time to recall that while we are waiting for our Savior’s birth and preparing for his return to earth someday, we don’t have to wait to have him in our daily lives. He is here with us always.

Check out this great video by Busted Halo: Advent in Two Minutes.

Try an Advent wreath, Advent calendar, or Advent chain.

This year I’m doing Advent and I invite you to join me!

Let’s pray that we do Advent right this year!

Busy People Advent Prayer:

Lord, the trees are bare, the ground is cold, it gets dark so early, and oh the snow! I’m not feeling very joyful, Lord. Please help me find warmth, light, and joy in the season of Advent.

Lord, we are so busy; there is so much to do and so much to check off our list. In this season of Advent, please help us prioritize you at the top of that list.

Lord, there was no room for Jesus at the Inn in Bethlehem. Please calm our minds and help us clear a prominent spot for you in our hearts.

Lord, in this season of Advent, help us wait with expectant joy for your birth and peacefully prepare for your second coming.

Lord, in the midst of all the waiting for you, help us remember that you are with us now too.

Please warm us with your light, renew us with your joy, and give us the strength to make this season of Advent a meaningful one, so that we will be prepared for the wonder of Christmas.

Amen.

Love,

Natasha


12 Comments

Joy in the Junk of Life

Joy is pretty awesome right? I mean, I’ve always loved the idea of joy. I know there are times I definitely feel joyful. I enjoy pinning joyful reminders to my inspiration board with thousands of other joyful Pinterest users. I always covet those shabby chic signs made out of barn wood and hand-painted with joyful messages.

“Choose Joy!”

“Joy is a choice you make every day.”

“Got Joy?”

To me, joy has always kind of been in the same category with grace. Both, super awesome. Both, have a God connection. Both, would leave me stuttering for a few seconds if someone put me on the spot asking me to define them.

How do you define joy? What is the first thing that pops into your head?

Many people define joy by quoting instances in which they feel joyful. Joy is being with my family. Joy is a great conversation with a friend. Joy is giving back to my community. I feel joyful when I do X. But, that isn’t really defining joy, it is just stating when you feel joy.

A quick dictionary search of the word joy returns defining words such as delight, elation, glee, bliss, and jubilation. Certainly those words describe joy to some extent, but all of those words are feelings. So, they aren’t really defining joy either, but rather they describe the feeling you get from joy.

Is joy a feeling? Maybe, but I’ve always felt joy is more of a state of mind or even better, a state of heart.

I recently heard Kay Warren speak at a Women of Faith conference. She shared that on the absolute worst day of her life, the day she found out her son had committed suicide, she still managed to choose joy. I thought, if she could choose joy while in the midst of a mother’s worst nightmare, what does that mean for the rest of us?PicsArt_1414758402715 We all experience challenges, stresses, and sadness in our lives. Choosing joy in those tough situations, doesn’t mean we are celebrating them. It doesn’t mean we’ll proclaim from the roof tops if we hate our job, “I love my crappy boss!” We won’t sing and dance with joy if our car gets totaled or our water heater quits working. We won’t high five strangers if we get robbed. We won’t knuckle bump our waiter if our order comes out wrong or if our food is cold.

Joy is not a feeling you feel in a happy moment that just goes away; true joy is a state of being.

Joy is rooted in your belief that God is in control.

To have joy, is to have confidence that God’s got your back.

Joy is a lack of anxiety, because you are at peace, fully trusting in the Lord.

PicsArt_1414758945807

When I asked my husband if he bought into the idea that joy is rooted in our relationship with God rather than merely a feeling, his response nailed exactly what I had been trying to describe. Leave it to my wise hubby!

He said,

“When you are right with the Lord, it’s like armor, you will still get hit, but you will be more resilient.”

The morning after I wrote the majority of this post, I opened my bible to the reading for the day and God delivered the perfect verses.

“Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11 

“In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:16-17

Things happen in life. We will have bad days. We will have sad moments. But, I truly believe if we have a spirit of joy in the Lord, it is like armor protecting us, helping us to not be totally consumed by darkness. If you have joy, finding joy in the “junk” of life is easier.

Sometimes your spirit of joy gets widddled away from years of junk or from one terrible junk filled year. I’ve heard that many people  gain two to three pounds over the holiday season and then don’t lose that weight. In one year, two pounds doesn’t seem like a big deal. But if you multiple two pounds times 30 years that means in 30 Christmases I’ll be 60 pounds heavier. Pass.

I’ve definitely had my joy widdled away in the past. A year in an awful job, years of infertility, the death of my sweet father-in-law, and an awful, traumatic experience a few months ago…while I’ve been able to have happy moments and see my many blessings through it all; these things have left my joy lack-luster and me worn out.

These things test us, they pile up, and widdle away our joy. We can’t let them. We need to remain close to our Lord especially in our darkest, most lonely moments. If you feel joyless, try working on your relationship with God. I’ve really been focusing on my relationship with God and I can honestly say I feel like I’ve finally gotten my sparkle back. Sure, I still have moments when I want to scream or cry, because my boys won’t stop screaming or crying. But, I feel that sweet armor around me, I feel rooted in His joy.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 “The Lord is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusted and found help. So my heart rejoices; with my song I praise my God.” Psalm 28:7

Love, Natasha