The Search for Joy

It’s almost too ironic: after a week when I’ve been very worried and stressed, Pastor Joel Tetreau preaches on anxiety and worry. After a difficult week when I’ve been particularly frustrated, disgruntled and sorry for myself, he teaches on Joy. Funny how that works!

But it’s definitely to my benefit. Like me, you may have heard before that JOY stands for “Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.” Simple, but true, and very hard to live. You may not have heard this (I’m quoting from the handout):

  • Joy is a by-product of “Living in Christ.” Sometimes Joy is “felt” as a gift from the Holy Spirit (Phil. 1:3, 5,10, Gal. 5:22, Ps. 4:7)
  • Joy is a tool for “Living in Christ.” (Sometimes Joy is not “felt” but determined based on the facts of our faith, not the feelings of our faith.)
I thought the second point was aimed right at me. I tend to focus  A LOT on my feelings, not on what I know to be true by faith. I tend to forget the John 13:17 principle I talked about some before, where right thinking leads to right doing, and then it’s followed by right feeling. 

“The crossroads for many believers is this. Satan has stolen their joy using the same technique he did on Adam and Eve. First, he built up “unfair expectations” toward God and others. Second, he tempted (and succeeded) Eve and then Adam in not being content. Notice the result when this happens: You loose Joy, You find Sin (or it finds you!)” 

The above quote really caught my attention. I’d definitely built up some unfair expectations of God and Brian, and felt let down and discontent as a result. And as I wrote on the side of my paper, according to Psalm 16:11, we don’t have any excuse for not being joyful. We like to tell ourselves that we can’t be joyful because of _______. Maybe our marital status, job, finances, health issues, etc. But Psalm 16:11 says: “You make known to me the path of life:  in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” If we are God’s children, we have God’s presence with us always! We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and God promises never to leave or forsake us. 

I made a lot of excuses for why I wasn’t joyful last weekend. In fact, even Sunday afternoon, I was back at it.  I’d written Brian an email the night before with all the things I’d wanted to express all week when I didn’t think he was listening, so we went to our complex’s pool after Sunday lunch for some couple’s time. Brian finally told me that he had a hard time wanting to listen to me because I’m “always negative about everything.” Despite the superlatives, there was some truth to the statement. I shot back: “Well, I had a really hard week! It’s easy for you to be positive! You get to leave and go to work every day, where you have friends and everyone likes you. I’m stuck here all day by myself with lots of dirty dishes and laundry!”

We had a good talk I think, and it clarified for me that I was just not being content with where God has me right now. Sometimes I feel stuck…not stuck as in I wish I were single, but stuck at home doing school until Brian gets home, fixing dinner, cleaning up, and going to bed, day after day after day. After all the frenzy of school where I actually had to go to campus, involvement with our college group, teaching a Bible study, wedding planning, the wedding, honeymoon, and move, this seems really boring! I’m ready for another adventure! 

But I think I’m beginning to see God’s plan for this time of inactivity. I got way too busy for a while there, and I was neglecting the most important thing: spending one on one time with God, really listening and learning and  worshiping. I think I’m “stuck” so that I can learn to be still and appreciate who God is

And so, this week I’m going to be looking for joy. I’m going to pay closer attention to the everyday things that God has blessed me with. Every day (hopefully) this week I’ll post something that brings me joy. I’m going to focus on the positives and delight in the simple things of life. 

Do you have joy? Often, seldom, or never? What’s keeping you from experiencing joy? What brings you joy?

Thrifty Thursday’s Fun Finds

You know, there was once a time when I didn’t enjoy shopping. I found it tedious, frustrating, and time consuming. And then I discovered the adrenaline rush that accompanies getting a good deal. The thrill of thriftiness, the excitement of the hunt, the serotonin burst from a steal of a deal…it’s addicting, and I’m a total junkie.

Thursday night after Brian got off work we did a little “toy” shopping. We went to Harbor Freight Tools for Brian’s, and Michael’s for mine. We each had some spending money and coupons. Harbor Freight sells all kinds of tools and other manly things at discounted prices, and when you bring in the coupon insert from the paper, it’s almost ridiculous how much you save. We may have Michael’s in Iowa, but all I remember is Hobby Lobby and Joanne’s Fabrics, so for those of you who don’t know, Michael’s is right along those lines. This week all my favorite things were on sale: scrapbooking paper, albums, picture frames, canvas, and acrylic paints.

We went to Harbor Freight first, and Brian picked out a cordless drill and flashlight set for $18.99, a multimeter for $2.50, an angle grinder for $14.99, a drill bit set for $7.99, and a screw driver set for $7.99.

Then we went to Michaels. My goal was to get some wedding themed scrapbooking supplies, so we looked through the on sale paper and picked out whatever seemed to be kind of romantic, mostly Valentine’s Day themed stuff, and a lot of other paper I can use in my other scrapbooks. In the clearance bins, I found a scrapbook paper box for $5. I’ve been needing one for a long long time! 

Here’s the screwdriver set, Brian got it for me 🙂 And we also bought sandpaper for my future painting projects. 
Then we looked through the stickers- my favorite thing about scrapbooking! Unfortunately, scrapbooking stickers are really expensive! We picked out the best priced ones we could find, when Brian saw a wedding scrapbook kit, album and all! We used the 40% off coupon and got it for $30! And we put back all the Valentine’s Day paper and wedding stickers. 

I can’t wait to get started! If I make any really good layouts, I’ll be sure to share them with you. 
What projects are you looking forward to tackling? Did you have any thrifty finds this week? 


Yesterday, it started raining while the sun was still shining. 
The phenomenon brought out our neighbors. We stood on the porch and enjoyed the cool breeze.
Then it really started pouring.
I tried to capture the rain as it landed, but it didn’t turn out, as you can see. 
This picture did! 
I don’t think I’ve seen any houses with gutters here in AZ.
 As a result, it puddled up on the ground right away. AZ has clay ground, so water doesn’t absorb well.
There’s the sunshine again!

What Not to Write

To those who voiced your concerns about my blog, thank you! I’m sure it wasn’t easy, and I know you had the very best intentions. Your concerns have been duly noted, and you will see that the offending posts have been removed. Your comments were very correct, and in the future I will be sure that all my posts are previewed and not written at times when my critical thinking skills are compromised, such as late at night or early morning, and I’ll remember that not just my followers are reading, obviously, since those of you who voiced concerns are not followers. And I will strive to make all my posts edifying and encouraging.
While I really appreciate your input, in the future I’d appreciate it if you’d give it to me, instead of to my mother-in-law. While I agree that she is a great mediator, it’s unfair to her, and I think it’s Biblical and logical to contact me. My email is not hard to find, and you can actually leave comments directly on the blog where I’ll be sure to see them.

Got it at Goodwill!

I’ve been hoping for a mirror just like this! $5.99
So cute! I don’t know if it works or not, but I love the face and the rugged wood. $2.99
This lantern has room for candles inside! I’m still working on cleaning it up. I cleaned the gunk off of all the glass panes, and polished the  outside until it glows, but inside along the bottom it’s caked with a black grime that is really hard to get off. $2.99

This fabric had a purple tab, so it was 50% off. I think it used to be a curtain valance. It has a lovely sheen! I’m not sure what I’ll use it for yet. $1.50
Off to the side there you can see the mystery object from yesterday. It’s a really cute little planter! It has butterflies on it, so I had to get it 🙂 $4.99
My favorite find 🙂 I can’t wait to find a plant to put in the basket! I’m going to put this by the fireplace. I just love it! It looks great with the clock and lantern too! $5.99 
Speaking of the fireplace…we stumbled across this slightly used set of cast iron fireplace tools! $9.99
I’ve already begun finding homes for my finds, but I’m running into a dilemma- the brown and gold versa the black and silver. I’m hoping to buy some spray paint, but I’m not sure I can bear to paint over the pretty wood and metal things. 
Have you found anything unexpected at your local thrift store? What’s your favorite thrifty find? 

More Fun Finds

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a couple hours exploring our neighborhood Goodwill. It was massive! They have a neat system there where all the tags are color coded and marked with a week number. When I was there, it was week 30, and so anything marked with week 30 and/or a purple tag was 50% off.

I was immediately drawn to the items displayed on top of the clothing racks. Then I noticed a whole section of the store designated for housewares. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of most of the items, the number of employees and restrooms, the cleanliness of the store, and the lack of weird odors that I’ve always associated with Goodwill.

Not everything was a crazy good deal. I thought $1.99 each was too much to ask for those classic coke bottles. But if you’re into the coke decor, it might be worth it to you. They also had six packs of coke with the coke still inside for $12.99.

I did like this jar. I thought it was pretty unique and in great condition. They’re asking $23 for it, so it might be worth getting when it’s 50% off. I think it would look great in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. I’m going for a French Country look myself.

I found this beautiful pillow case and was very tempted to get it, but it really doesn’t match anything I have. It’s edged with satin ruffles and pink velvet ribbon, and the flower is embellished with sequins. It fits a small decorative pillow.  

There was so much fabric! I wanted to buy it all up and make dozens of pillows, or place mats, or curtains, or seat cushions, or table runners…I have all kinds of ideas! I found this cute shabby chic rose fabric and striped red, cream and sage fabric to match. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture but there’s a cute ruffle edge on the rose fabric. My pictures didn’t turn out very well because I felt really self-conscious about taking pictures in a store with people around!

Then I found these pillows that matched the shabby chic rose theme! I later found a matching bed-skirt.

I like this pillow- the design is modern and elegant. The fabric was in pretty good shape too. I figured I could wait until it’s on sale though. 

They had a wonderful selection of pictures. Original paintings, prints, photographs, all kinds. Some I wanted to buy just for the frames. I put this in my cart, and took it out, and put it back, and struggled to make up my mind. I LOVE coffee, and this watercolor is so cute! But, I decided to stick to my French Country theme. I might get it later though if it’s still there. 

This is my find of the day. it’s a print of French restaurants (I think, my French is very limited!). I love it! It’s so cute, and in perfect condition. I kind of wish I’d bought it, but I decided to wait for the sale week. I really, really hope it’s still there. It’s perfect for my dining room! If anyone is decorating a nursery or a child’s room, they probably have what you’re looking for. They had several sets of matching pictures with butterflies and lady bugs or elephants and giraffes and the like.

 I saw this little bulletin board and thought of two little princesses I know. It needs a minor repair, but I could easily fix it with stuff I have already, and it only costs $5 or so. I think it’s on sale next week or the week after that. 

Oh the shoes!!! Cute, cute, cute. This was about the only pair that fit me, and I had a hard time putting them back. I’m not sure what I’d wear with them, but they are so classic. They were probably donated by someone’s grandma.They had some nice pairs of really classic black pumps in perfect condition, and lots of stylish sandals. I saw a couple other pairs I wish I’d taken pictures of, some really retro shoes in perfect condition, and several by STEVE MADDEN! Sadly, they were all to big for me, or I would have snapped those up quick! They had some nice pairs of really classic black pumps in perfect condition, and lots of stylish sandals. 
Well, I don’t want to write a book here, so I’ll leave you with one picture of something I actually bought…
…And I’ll tell you next time what it is! 🙂 
I start school tomorrow, so I’m going to try my best to make and stick to a good schedule that allows me to get my school work, house work, and Brian time in along with my blogging. Shouldn’t be too hard if I keep getting up at 4:30 a.m! 

I Won!!!

I won! I won! The first thing I read when I checked my blog yesterday was a comment from Melanie of Elegant Custom Blogs on my Blog Makeover post. I won a FREE custom blog design, valued at $50! I get a custom header, background, color coordination of links, template, and installation! I was so excited, I was almost jumping up and down!

And my day kept getting better. I braved the heat to walk over to our neighborhood Barnes and Noble and found the perfect birthday present for my favorite six year olds, a book called “A Treasury for Six Year Olds.” While they just turned six, they’re already VERY good readers.  I wasn’t sure if they were ready for chapter books, and I knew they were past the beginning reader books, but this one had a variety of stories, poems, and the like. BTW, you know you’re home schooled when you LIKE getting books for your birthday 🙂 

When I returned, I stopped to check the mail and found my birthday present from Brian waiting: my first Better Homes and Gardens Magazine! AND it came with a little recipe book. I’ve already perused the whole thing, but I’m excited to go back and read it more in depth. 

After lunch, I decided to venture out again. When Brian and I were grocery shopping last weekend, we passed an enormous Goodwill. Come to find out, it was only about a block or two from our apartment. So once again I braved the heat to discover the treasures of Goodwill. I have NEVER seen such a Goodwill. It was INCREDIBLE. I found so many cool things, and I took pictures of other things for my wish list. But, I will save that for another post! Stay tuned! 🙂

Decor Dilemmas and Fortuitous Finds

I’ve really been getting into all the decor and crafty blogs lately, ever since I found out that Brian did get me a  birthday present after all: a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens (he totally forgot about it!). While I’m impatiently waiting for it to arrive, I’ve been soaking up ideas from the blog world. I have found some great stuff! I love My Domestic Bliss, because she finds the most amazing stuff on Craig’s list, at garage sales, and in the trash! (Stay tuned for my Craig’s list find) She shares everything from recipes to . Another favorite of mine is My Desert Cottage, A. because she lives in Arizona too, and B. because she has fabulous shabby chic style and ingenious creations, including tutorials!
This is decor dilemma #1: my fireplace. Now, the corner shelves aren’t the issue, nor is the metal butterfly, is the lack of anything interesting below that point. 
So, I added my fortuitous find from Anthropologie that I mentioned buying earlier. This is how it looked for a few days. 
While it looks better, maybe, than it did before, it’s just not enough to balance all the stuff on the shelves and the butterfly. So I added a hat box that I got as a wedding gift, and a few books, and got this:  
The big picture looks like this: 
I’m much happier with it this way. Maybe sometime I can get a hat box that matches better too. What do you think of this arrangement? Any suggestions? I love getting help.  
Ok, design dilemma #2. This lamp is sitting on the sofa table in our dining room. 
Confession: I really don’t like this lamp. At all. It’s HUGE, and heavy, and really old. But, it belonged to Brian’s great-grandmother, so he says it’s not going anywhere. So I’d like to know, what would you do to make it look better? Any pictures or links you’d like to share for ideas? I’m open to any suggestions! 
Now it’s story time! So I decided I wanted to get a coffee table and a couch with my birthday money. Where can you find a coffee table or a couch for $75? Craig’s list! It’s the BEST. I have never been on it before, but after reading through Domestic Bliss’s tips, I had to check it out, and Ooh la la! I’m in love. I searched through pages of listings for coffee tables under $50, and get this: they weren’t all crappy college apartment tables! The moving sales were the best, but sometimes people were just getting new furniture and didn’t have room. I found tons of potential coffee tables, and created a Word document with the pictures and emailed it to Brian. He wasn’t as thrilled as I was with the $10 ones or the really unique ones, and he didn’t seem to share my love of shabby chic/French country style. It took us awhile, but we finally decided on a $30 old English style table. Gorgeous red-gold color, fancy carvings, and…two glass panels. I don’t like glass panels, because they’re a pain to clean, not to mention a safety hazard for our future children. But I compromised because of the price and it was pretty. 
In the description, it mentioned a “small chip” in the glass. It wasn’t no small chip; there was a chunk of glass missing! There was no setting something on top to hide it; it would have to be replaced. I calculated it mentally: 18″x18, thick, 1″ beveled edge, lightly tinted, and scalloped corners = expensive. We said no thanks and drove away, but the owner called us a few minutes later, offering to give it to us for $10. Brian told me he guessed the price of glass was $150, so I said no, but thanks again. The owner said she had no idea glass cost that much, but if we priced it out and found out it was less, we could still have it for $10. I called a glass company the next day, and the quote? $185, not including tax. So I went back to the computer and started over. But, it was good practice in saying no! I think I needed that. 
I finally narrowed it down to my top 6, and got an ok from Brian to call on the first one. I left a message and sent an email, and went to call the second one. It was gone! The beautiful black rustic French cottage table was sold. So I called my third choice, a white table with a shelf and two drawers. She was busy at the moment, so we set up a time for an hour later. Right after I got off the phone, my first choice called back. I was almost too excited to sit down and eat supper, but we ate fast and were out the door. The pictures didn’t do it justice! Actually, there were two pieces, the coffee table and a matching end table, with a pull out compartment and cup-holders. I called the white table lady back and canceled, and we took these home. 
Guess how much? Asking price: $50. Paid price: $40. I can’t believe he took $10 less. I actually offered that by accident, because I’d read the posting wrong online and thought it said they were $30, and so when Brian offered him $50 I interjected with $40. And we got them! Aren’t they perfect
Have you shopped on Craig’s list before? What’s the best thing you’ve found? If you decided to start today, there’s a few cedar chests out there that I’ve got my name on! Not officially, but I’ll be really disappointed if you buy them all up before I get one! 

Letters from the Past

Reading Old Letters,1999 by Maria Jose Aguilar Gutierrez

I’ve been working on the spare room, going through all the boxes of stuff that weren’t critical or that we weren’t sure what to do with. I found a few interesting things that made me feel like writing.

I found letters from my first “crush.” We were both outsiders, on the fringe, so we banded together for company. Soon, I found that I depended on the time of talking to him after church every Sunday. This was when I was 12. He’d been leaving messages in our car, in my coat pockets, or in the church foyer for awhile. I didn’t know I actually kept all of those little notes, and all the letters! We secretly wrote to each other when it became clear that my parents didn’t approve of our “friendship.” It was giddily exciting and romantic, and a really bad idea! He was thoughtful, always knew what to say to cheer me up, was always there for me….and wanted to marry me once I finished high school. That’s where the problem lay: I knew God had other plans for me. Looking him in the eyes and telling him we couldn’t be friends anymore was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point. I felt like he was my only friend in the world. After a long while we became friends again, but didn’t go over so well when I started dating a different guy. He said things about my boyfriend that I didn’t like, I got mad, he got mad, I stopped talking to him, he tried harder to talk to me- it came to a rocky, painful end. He definitely wasn’t without blame, but I wish it hadn’t ended like it did.

I put those letters in stack in the middle of the floor.


I found a little envelope, and laughed out loud at the contents. Inside was one heart shaped, foil wrapped German chocolate, a graduation invitation, a thank you card for attending the said graduation open house, two church bulletins-one from a midnight Christmas Eve service and one from a Sunday in the spring, and a letter I wrote to the giver of those items after we broke up, and obviously never delivered. It was a very nice letter, actually. I have NO idea why I kept this stuff! It wasn’t even very related to our relationship, except maybe the Christmas Eve bulletin. I didn’t feel any regrets reading them; I have lots of good memories, and I’ve forgiven and forgotten the rest.

I added the envelope to the pile. 

I found papers I’d written for classes in high school, notes from my favorite teachers, notes from my least favorite teacher, conversations scribbled between me and my friend who sat next to me in choir.

I found memories, sad, fond, encouraging, disheartening, revealing, and humorous. But I don’t need these letters anymore. The memories will stay with me for a long time. The memories of people I looked to for validation and love, instead of resting in Christ’s alone. The memories of people I tried to please and failed.   The memories of relationships broken, and some restored. It’s my prayer that they will all be restored one day. 

Isn’t the love of God something wonderful? He knows us, better than we know ourselves, and He still chose us. I’ve been reading Ephesians, and this passage stood out to me: 

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2: 1-10)

I paraphrased and personalized it this way in my journal: 

Oh God, I praise you for your mercy that loved when I was lost in sin. You see Christ’s payment on the cross when you look at me. You saved me to showcase the riches of your grace. I am your workmanship, created new for your purpose – doing good. Thank you for preparing a plan for my life.

God’s love is free! And it’s unconditional! Let’s reflect on that today. And, let’s show that kind of love to someone else today!