GIFTS – An acronym for the joy you carry

Taken from my e-book “Finding Joy During the Holidays When You’re in Your Thirties & Feel Broke” the following excerpt is still relevant all times of the year. We all experience brokenness in this life. It can look like feeling broken over painful world events, financial brokenness, relational brokenness, brokenness within our goals and dreams that don’t seem to be panning out and we’re already at an age where it seems like “will it ever change”, loss of loved ones, and feeling physically broken with illness pain.

When I wrote the short e-book, it was with a specific season, “The Holiday” season, in mind. With the holidays, it seems like everything should be pleasant and joyful! It’s the holidays! So there is an added level of buzz around our feelings when they really don’t align with the season. But the truth is that brokenness and the pain of the here and now seem to follow us when we don’t have the strength and power of joy.

And with that, I hope the following excerpt brings a sense of joy to you. (To get the full context- download your copy now.)

I’ve come up with an acronym to help you remember all that you truly have at your disposal this Holiday season that can help you tap into true joy (historical definition: calm delight and inner gladness). GIFTS stands for Giving, Inspiration, Forgiveness, Thankfulness, and Spark. The GIFTS acronym will help to reassure you that joy is attainable, it doesn’t have to live far away from who you are and what you carry, and you have more gifts in you this Holiday season than you may realize.

Giving

Though it may not seem like you have extra to spare, you can still still choose to give. Giving is one way to choose joy. Some examples of giving during times of (financial) struggle are to give of your time (volunteer, babysit for free); give of your talent (if you’re a photographer, you can take photos of a friend or co-worker as a gift); give of your home (like inviting a neighbor over for dinner one night).

Inspiration

Joy is inspirational, and so are YOU. You can choose joy by inspiring others with kind words and actions. These don’t have to cost anything. Sending your supervisor an appreciative email or helping someone with their groceries next time you see someone with a loaded cart at the store are examples of how you can inspire others.

Forgiveness

Joy can’t thrive if you have bitterness in your heart against others; it’s time to forgive. Are you holding onto anything that you need to let go of that’s hurting you? Joy will immediately start to flow in and through you when you let go of that which no longer serves you or is yours to carry. It’s time to forgive and let the past be in the past. Joy lives right on the heels of forgiveness.

Thankfulness

It’s almost impossible to not feel joy when you are truly thankful! Keeping a list of people, events, and things you are thankful for nearby, especially in the midst of troubles can bring that inner calm that we talked about before. Thankfulness is a value that joy is partnered with. Despite problems around you, recognizing what do have and are thankful for will initiate joy.

Spark

Lastly, joy sometimes starts as a little spark that can turn into a sustainable fire. We all have a spark in us. We all can tap into that place that no one else can and see joy. Think about the spark that you alone have and can spread. By choosing to seize the unique, beautiful gifts and personality traits that you have intrinsically, joy can arise out of what you see as ashes and fan into something big, warm, and sustainable. Joy is the spark that sustains us through the bad, even when [we feel broken down when we see devastating world events.] Once again, joy lets us face our circumstances with strength.

I will add that though joy is strength and does bring a sense of calm when things in the world and our personal lives go wrong, it’s okay to NOT be strong. It’s okay when joy seems illusive to the circumstances of our lives and things we are going through. It’s okay to feel devastated when we hear devastating news. It’s okay to allow others to help you carry the burdens of life that you can’t carry alone. Joy is one of many dynamic lenses we put on (with or without trying) to view the world around us.

GIFTS speak to the joy that we can choose. The joy we can tap into. The joy that gives us strength and can help us keep going. And GIFTS is a way to get there WHEN WE ARE READY. In the meantime, allow yourself to feel grief, sadness, anger and the whole spectrum of emotions during trying, upsetting, broken times.

Time is Short: Let’s Live in the Moment This Holiday Season

We are RIGHT in the middle of the biggest holiday season of the year, and I wanted to share something new that is on my heart and mind this year more than others.

TIME IS SHORT.

It seems to fly by these days. But one major way I see it, is that my parents are getting older. I still rely on my parents for advice and wisdom. I trust them more than anyone else on planet earth (aside from my spouse).

But. They are still getting older and time is short.

It wasn’t that long ago that as a little girl I was SO excited to make cookies for Santa and would dress up in my best dress for our church’s candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

And here I am at thirty years old recognizing the brevity of the life we have.

The holidays, from Halloween to New Years, is magical. But it’s also painful for so many people.

Pain from loss, pain from finances, pain from health problems, pain from change, pain from not being where you imagined you would be at this stage of life.

But in that pain, time is short. We can hold onto the hope of seasons passing and changing and still press into the good things that offset the painful ones in the season we find ourselves.

My “exhortation” (a very old school word in some ways) is to:

  • Live in the moment.
  • Don’t take anything good in your life now for granted.
  • Be good to your family and friends and sensitive to those who are struggling now.
  • Write down good memories in your journal and take lots of photos of your family and friends.

Time is short, but we can seize the good things and good parts of our day and lives, letting go of the bad. And time is short, so if we are in a painful season, we know it won’t last and we will be able to breathe again soon.

Party Tips Your Mama May or May Not Have Taught You

As I walk out adulthood on a new level… married, making “couple friends” with my husband, hosting parties and attempting to be a good guest at other events… there are a couple of “tips” I wanted to get out in writing to remember for myself and also share with others. Some lessons I’m learning on my own through experience and some I’ve gleaned from my mom through the years.

In particular, this summer I’ve had flashbacks of memories of advice my mom gave me about going to and hosting parties and picnics. And a couple of these tips I realized on my own that are important to have an easy, fun time at social gatherings like picnics and barbecues.

  1. Bring a dish you know YOU will like to potlucks and parties

So many times through the years, I’ve arrived to a picnic or potluck and looking at the spread of food my eyes (bigger than my stomach of course) have grown big with disappointment as I looked at all there was to eat, yet nothing appealed to me. Allergies, food sensitivities, and general preferences can keep a lot of people from eating “just anything.” When it comes to parties, you will have a more enjoyable time knowing you can put something on your plate that you prepared and know you like, especially if you have a longer day out planned.

I made the mistake of counting on food at a party once and brought a dessert that I knew would be enjoyed by most people (No Bake Cookies anyone?). Well, when it came to the main course, I was stuck with a plate of fruit and salad that I had to pick through to avoid the cheese tossed through it (lactose intolerant over here). I could have had a more pleasurable meal had I not just considered dessert, but also a more filling main dish or side dish of my own to bring that I knew I would and could eat.

2. When hosting a party, share what you’ll be providing in advance

This relates to point number 1. It’s just polite to share what you’ll be serving or providing in advance so others can make plans if they have allergies or food preferences that are different. They can bring a side or main meal that appeals to them. Don’t assume that what you like everyone will like. Let others get in on the fun and share… I know people enjoy sharing recipes and food, it’s part of what makes humanity so great, sharing a meal together. Let others get in on the process and give proper notice so they can plan on their end.

3. If you can leave a topping on the side, do it

Things like cheese, croutons, nuts, etc. can make the difference of someone eating or not eating a food at a party. If you can, leave the easy toppings on the side that people can choose to put on their portion.

My Jamaican husband makes some of the spiciest food for other people. I’ve always loved spicy foods, and love his cooking, but not everyone can handle it. We have learned that his cooking is too spicy for some group events and decided we can add some spice for flavor/ effect, but if we want it “extra spicy” (aka traditional Jamaican flavor), then we need to keep the hot sauce and peppers on the side. Once it’s in the dish it can’t be taken out. Similarly, I have an aunt who always says at events, “Now there’s no salt in this, so you’ll want to add your own amount that you like.” She knows people may have sodium problems or just don’t like foods as salty, and that’s totally fine. A salt shaker is always there to add more.

These are a few tips that I’ve applied to my own life this summer. Events centered on good food are important and fun, and when the food goes well, the party goes well! What other tips do you have for potlucks, picnics, and barbecues? Summer may be closing out soon, but fall socials and the holiday season are just as important to remembering food tips for yourself and others.

When Change Becomes Overwhelming

I’m in a season of life where I’m reclaiming peace and stability after months of non-stop crazy!

Getting married, moving to my husband’s country (during the pandemic); new schedules and routines; saying goodbye to old jobs and working through processes of new ones; new beds- yes sleep is huge and even the bed you’re in makes a difference in your day and feeling overwhelmed or not; new grocery stores- where do you find basic things that should be simple but aren’t in a new place?!; new places to sit down and do work- this matters for connecting with people and being able to work well; new relationships- who are my friends anyway? Who will really understand when they aren’t even in my physical world, just digital??… and THEN moving back to my original country only to do it all over again.

I’m three months into another huge change and I know I’m not the only one who has felt like a pin ball, bouncing from side to side and up and down with the craziness of life.

Change can be overwhelming. It can be emotional. It can take a toll on our thoughts and mindsets. I’ve learned that besides leaning on the Lord, who helps get me through overwhelming times, I can do a few active things that help me stay on track and regain focus on what’s important just for today.

Today what can you do?

Today what changes do you need to make to feel better about where you are at?

Forget about tomorrow or the next day or next week. What can you do today?

Here are three things I’ve learned that I can do, and perhaps they will help you too!

1. Make Lists

I am a HUGE fan of lists. I like seeing things laid out so that I can focus on priorities and CROSS THINGS OFF as I do them. This makes me feel like I’m being productive and getting things out of the way that I no longer have to think about. Lists are simple, but once you have the details of your day down on paper, you can breathe a little easier knowing you aren’t forgetting things and you can choose what’s most to least important.

Groceries, cleaning, phone calls that need to be made… what is in your head that needs out? Save energy by writing it down and crossing things off one-by-one.

2. Open Up

Overwhelm isn’t limited to schedules and to-do lists. For me overwhelm has included everything from learning to work in a new space to relating with new people again. It’s included processing decisions of moving to new and old countries. It’s included big and small changes that has impacted every facet of life imaginable.

I’ve learned to pick a few trusted friends and open up to them when needed. Sometimes, you just need a listening ear or someone to vent to as you move through each day. That’s okay. It’s good to know who you trust most and to keep those friends close.

3. Let Go And Say “No”

Lastly, but makes a big impact in periods of busy change and overwhelming days, is to get back to the basics and let go of the rest. I cannot show up for some of my friends in this period of life the way I could in other times, and that’s OK. I’ve had to let go of volunteer work that I loved and groups of women I connected with. Again, getting to the basics of let’s just do what we need to TODAY will allow you to choose what to say “yes” to, and what to say “no” to. Let Go, say “No” and focus on the basics in order to simplify life.

All in all, life can be managed well. It doesn’t have to feel like Pin Ball. It can go smoothly and make sense. And in the meantime, there are things we can actively do to get to that place we want to live and be, with Peace and Joy, instead of overwhelm.

Creating Our Own Clouds

Photos by Chris Lawton and frank mckenna on Unsplash

I’ve learned recently something all too true, and somewhat scary… we often in life create our own clouds, our own pain, our own drama.

There was a situation recently where I had a choose to do or not do something regretful, and unfortunately, I didn’t choose wisely. I chose a chaotic storm of events that has filled me with sadness and grief ever since.

What was I THINKING?! I’ve asked myself for weeks. Not that I condone living in regret and shame—there is no reason to replay a series of bad events over and over. But I did and do need to process alone and with those closest to me—what is going on and what led to me making one bad decision over a different good decision?

I created my own clouds, my own STORM really, and didn’t have to.

But then, I realized the hope. I didn’t have to.

I actually had the power to not walk into that decision. I had the power to choose differently. Which means I have the power to choose differently the next time.

Sometimes when there are clouds over our lives, clouds that keep us bogged down, we need to recognize that those painful things that “happen to us” aren’t really happening to us at all, but are a series of choices that we could have made differently. And when we can realize that difference, we become empowered.

We become empowered to see joy in pain, to learn, to walk through the steps of making the wrong right again.

Creating clouds and storms can honestly grow us, if we let them. It’s time to recognize we have a choice and to let those painful things change us into more wise and mature people. Kinder. More loving.

Storms, clouds, and chaos. It’s time to stop worrying about what we did wrong. Or for some it’s time to stop playing the victim. Instead, we need to see where we have control, and need to take control back into our own hands, learn from the pain, and let sun shine on us again.