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.

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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.

The Death and Life of a Single Seed

Planting, weeding, digging in your garden or flower bed… Typical summer activities that I’ve been doing more of recently and they reminded me of a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago. She was talking about planting seeds in her garden, and how a seed, being covered with soil, is almost like a burial. Then, in time it transforms completely, and becomes something new. The seed, now a seedling, breaks out of the earth into new life.

This is a beautiful picture.

A burial. A death. Transformation. Life.

We ourselves go through many life-changing, transformational events. And often these events begin with a “death” …an end of what was before we see the light of positive change and growth. New seed coming through the earth.

Examples of this could be relationships, bad habits, or a big move from one city or country to the next… before we see fruit of change and new life, there is often a death.

Death doesn’t always mean the end. It doesn’t always have a final say. Like the burial of a seed in the ground, life takes root and hold in that dark place and THEN we see it, popping from the earth slowly through the growing stages and taking full force of color, life, and fruit.

But what I didn’t realize in conversation with my friend, that occurred to me recently is: the new life only takes root and produces beautiful fruit under the proper conditions. That little seed needs water and soil for nutrition and growth, and energy that only comes from the warmth of the sun in order to grow and change. The seed will just stay buried, dead in the ground with no hope if not for the beauty of perfect conditions that help move it from one stage to the next.

I think it’s the same for us as humans moving through the world. In order to take root for the new life waiting for us after each burial, we need the proper conditions to thrive. We need kindness and love from and for others. We need self-care and forgiveness of self and others. We need warmth from family and friends. Without these things, we may just remain stuck, buried, or live with anxiety.

Assess where you are at now in life. Where are you in the death to life to fruit producing process? Maybe it was the change of having a house full of kids to being an “empty nester”. Is this new stage in life something you can thrive in? Or will you remain buried with memories in the past wishing to have things as they were?

Maybe it’s the end of a job. As you move on to the next thing will you transition well with excitement and joy, or will you carry resentment if the old job didn’t end well, or fear of the future as you move on?

Seeds of life that carry fruit for the next season will need to go through that burial process. And maybe you won’t see light right away. But the key is to build the proper conditions around yourself to make that transition possible.

Maybe you’re in a season of thriving. The seed you buried cracked and grew. It’s producing fruit and you know you are just where you need to be in life. That’s a beautiful thing. Sow into the people around you and be sure if they need fruit, shade, and someone to lean on… your life can be a safe haven for others. You never know when you might hit a winter cold and need those same friends around you to walk you through the change if it happens.

Seeds, death, life… change, transformation, fruit… beauty, healthy conditions, pouring into others. There are seasons of burial and change and the process can seem daunting, depending on where you are at. But there are also seasons of fruit and life. Joy to be had. Life to be lived.

I’ve had many hours to process when working in the yard/garden through the warm months of spring and summer so far this 2021 year, and I’ve been able to reflect on not just what is happening in the stage of life I’m in, but also the conditions to be able to walk through it well.

I need to pour into healthy relationships and practice forgiveness of self and others if I’m to break out of the tomb into the new life I’m looking forward to next. It’s only with the proper soil conditions and water to help me grow that I know I can move up and truly transform. And I know I’ll be able to. Life is coming… I’m breaking out of the soil I’ve been “buried” in. Planted in. And as long as I keep that soil well-watered with the forgiveness to let go of what was, my next stage and phase will get here, just like spring planting always yields summer fruit. This is my picture of the beauty of the death and life of a single seed and the transformation that’s coming.

Permission to BE in BEING

Anyone else feel tied up and tight with pressure from self and others? Well this is your sign to take steps of freedom to just BE… Sometimes I feel caught in the past, or worried about the future, or like I’m chasing something that I don’t desire or want anymore, and I forget that I am allowed to BE in process as I do life. And I know others may feel the same. This is my note to you to embrace the freedom to BE.


Today, my friend, I release you.

I release you to relax and take a deep breath.

I release you to enjoy the short, good moments that you have on this earth.

I release you to do what you LOVE.

I release you to not just work for the sake of work, money, prestige, or something else that is an unstable foundation, but to work toward something you love because of passion and JOY. You were created with a personality and preferences on how to spend time and what hobbies and work you would pursue.

You, dear reader, have been put on this earth for a purpose… multiple purposes I’m sure, as seasons come and go and you move down your path and walk of life.

I release you to not stay caught up in what you DIDN’T do and HAVEN’T yet done, but in where you are in this moment of life; enjoy it.

I release you to have faith that you are where you are in life because you are supposed to be here right now.

I release you to not need to force yourself to hold onto past ideas that you claimed over yourself, or that others may have spoken over your life.

I release you to allow yourself to change.

You, dear reader, are a “being” a human being in BEING and you must allow yourself to BE. You must allow yourself to change. You are in process from what was to what is to what will be and change through the process is inevitable.

I release you to stop striving to be perfect.

I release you to go for a walk and take a break.

I release you to cry, even.

I release you to give yourself permission to be and breathe and relax into today, your purpose, what you love, and the inevitable change that’s coming as you just BE….

Today, dear reader, my friend, I release.

A Close Encounter and 3 Little Reminders

“Watch your step, watch your step,” the voice said to me as I walked through the woods on an evening hike. And then I heard it. The rattling caught my attention first before seeing the rattlesnake’s head, inches from my ankle, posed to strike.

Though many would think this just happens in nature and would write off the experience, I can’t help but dig a little deeper with why almost stepping on a rattlesnake applies to my life in a bigger way.

This is a short post with three lessons learned in the one day of processing. Here goes!

1. The Voice

Some might call the voice I heard… something only a crazy person would hear; Some might call it an inner guide; some might call it a conscience (though typically that term is used for moral choices rather than something that occurs outside of your control); I call it the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides me daily—beyond my knowing how or why. Sometimes I hear Him clearly, other times not at all.

We are all guided by different voices.

Maybe we hear the lingering voices of our parents when they taught us right from wrong when we were children. The voices of our peers and friends with influence in our lives when we seek advice, stand out strong sometimes. Then there are the voices on ads with a constant drip of “buy this now.”

Voices are all around us, communicating, telling, sharing, influencing. And we need to be careful which voices we pay attention to and why.

I’m grateful for the quiet voice saying to me, “Watch your step,” as I hiked quickly through the woods. I would surely have stepped on the rattler’s tail. That and had I not heard the rattling tail itself. What are you listening for? Who are you listening to? Warnings of protection are there for us to learn and glean from if we’re willing to stop and listen.

2. Independence doesn’t mean I shouldn’t communicate plans

The second lesson of my encounter with the rattle snake is that I was 100% alone in the woods and had not communicated with anyone that I was hiking, nor where I was going. I’m used to the paths and trails around my community in the hills and mountains. The area is small and most people I bump into are healthy, kind hikers and bikers. I typically have SOME cell phone service; I never venture too far on my own, and genuinely feel comfortable and safe when I’m alone in the woods.

But no one knew I was there. And what if something HAD happened?

I take for granted my independent nature and safe surroundings. Until it’s not safe anymore.

I wonder if I had communicated other things through the years, would I have strayed so far down paths I didn’t belong? Would I have been more aware of danger with people and situations?

Maybe I’m the only one who just trusts that things will “turn out alright” as I act independently and go through my days… even if I am, I’m reminded once more to communicate with those around me better than I do. I can be independent with my time and plans, and still be safe with communicating said plans with those around me.

3. Don’t give into fear but, be wise and knowledgeable

This is HUGE. It applies to the rattlesnake and to me. The rattle was the snake’s warning. Thank GOD I heard and listened. But even after freaking out, (I’ll never forget seeing his head poised to strike just as I realized he was under my feet), I went back to the snake for a video and then continued on with my hike. I was jittery the rest of the hike, but didn’t just turn around and give up.

Yes, there are dangers in the world, unexpected ones that catch us by surprise even if we have the BEST communication and plans in place, but we are not to give up.

I’ve seen SO many people give into fear this last year and a half with covid. I’ve seen SO many people dismiss the dangers of covid like it’s nothing. Neither living in fear, nor acting unwise will get anyone very far in life.

We must continue on the path and journey set before us, as best as possible, despite the obstacles. And we must do so with wisdom and knowledge.

The rattlesnake reminded me I don’t know the best protocol with snakebites in the woods at all, let alone poisonous, perhaps deadly ones. So, I need to read up and be more prepared next time. I need to gain knowledge and insight into the woods that I think I know so well. BUT, I didn’t give up on my hike then, and I’m not going to just stop living my life because of potential dangers. I love hiking too much!

Wisdom, while moving forward with courage is where I choose live. And is the best reminder and takeaway with… that darned rattlesnake.

And honestly? I’m glad I bumped into it. I was able to warn others on the path to use caution. I was nervous for one woman with her dog because I wasn’t sure how the dog would react IF it encountered a snake beyond the point where I did.

Through my somewhat scary experience, I could alert and help others. Just like others have done for me in the past with other things in life.

I’m sure there are MANY other takeaways with the rattlesnake… but for now: Listening to the loving, guiding voices in our lives; Communicating with those around you/ not being so independent; and Not giving into fear while using wisdom and knowledge. These are my biggest takeaways to that VERY close encounter.

Have you ever had a close encounter with danger that taught you a lesson? What was it? What did you learn?