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.

Red Cardinal Life: Why We Are Made to Stand Out

He didn’t know how beautiful he was. The red cardinal bounced from branch to branch, twittering, and looking around himself as I stared at him. His bright red took over the green leaves of the trees. He looked both regal and vulnerable; his color screamed, “Look at me!” while he seemed tiny in comparison to the tree he was perched.

I refused to look away. Birds never stay still for long. I didn’t want to lose him. His color was riveting, and he had my full attention, for just those few moments.

And he didn’t even know it.

He didn’t even know I stood there gazing, caught by his beauty. That I ignored my morning coffee in my hand, steam rising as I hoped he would bounce closer.

I realized then, isn’t he like me? Aren’t we all like him? Beautiful in our own way. One of a kind, stand out from the crowd type of people, yet we don’t even know it. We don’t realize how amazing we are. We don’t realize how special and unique our vision, our gifts/talents, our personalities, our passions make us in comparison to everyone around us.

Not a single person on earth is made to blend in. We were all made to stand out. In our humanity, we don’t have defense mechanisms like some birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, and sea creatures that make us blend in to our surroundings. We were born with thoughts and feelings that make us unique compared to everyone… even our siblings who may have had all the same inputs as us.

Our bodies, minds, and emotions are uniquely ours- uniquely created. We have influence over our families, friends, and coworkers around us that nobody else does. I look up to some women in my life who look down on themselves and the same may be true for me as it’s easy to get caught up comparing.

“I’m not like her.”

“What do I have to give?”

“I’m plain compared to that person.”

Going back to the birds all around me on the porch that morning, besides just not realizing all the time that we are each uniquely crafted with inherent beauty, it’s the differences that make the world so much better. I thought of how a woodpecker is different than a cardinal. They don’t compare. They just live. And both are beautiful and unique.

If we were to drop our defenses, stop trying to blend in, and just live beautiful in our own right, how would the world look different? Maybe we’d spend more time talking to people around us rather than scrolling on our phones. Maybe we’d go for that promotion at work, rather than talk ourselves out of it with negativity. Maybe we’d apply for a business license, taking our side gigs to a new level of work.

Unlike the cardinal who might never realize his beauty, let’s step into the fullness of all we are meant to be and able to do. Let’s let confidence over fear carry us to the next “thing” in life. Let’s stop trying to blend in and recognize how intrinsically valuable we really are, owning our gifts and capabilities in the process.

Let’s be okay with standing out. We were made to!

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.

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.