When I saw the date of this event, December 9th, I knew I had to participate. If you’ve read my blog for over a year, you might remember that my aunt passed away from brain cancer a year ago, last week.
|Sentimental Soul Photography|
“Joy Brace earned her name early in life, having inherited her mother’s sparkling eyes and easy laugh, and having somehow channeled a good deal of her father’s personality, especially his serenity during the difficult times of life. Her birth certificate reads, “Florilla Joyce Crawford,” but she was Joy from the beginning… More than a thousand people attended her funeral service, held at Faith Baptist Bible College, Ankeny, Iowa. Many testified how she spent the last months of her life spreading joy.
“Heaven is coming–and it is sooooooo much better!!” she had written in a recent blog post, quoting Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Joy called this her “eternal perspective,” explaining to friends how her brief illness had changed the way she viewed her life. “What a fantastic thing to know that what I do today can have an eternal impact!” she wrote on Nov. 18. “People are the only ‘things’ you can take with you! Thank you to all who are praying for us, your prayers make such a difference! Please continue to pray for spiritual victory and grace for my family. I would not be honest if I didn’t say it is difficult for all of us some days. Of course, we continue to pray for healing, and above all, that God would be glorified!”
‘Joy didn’t just endure suffering; she embraced it,’ her brother Duke said at the memorial service. ‘And in embracing it she remained joyful to the end.'”
Some of you may also be missing relatives or friends this season. This season is supposed to be a season of joy, but it can be a season of deep sorrow.
One of the many things I learned from my aunt is that life is short. So embrace joy.
Yes, feel the sadness. But choose to remember the good things. Don’t let yourself get too busy or too stressed or too caught up in the Christmas “stuff” that doesn’t really matter. Make time for people. Make memories this season that will last a lifetime.
One of my fondest memories of Aunt Joy is sitting around the table at Nana and Papa’s house with the French book she’d given me for Christmas, going over the pronunciation. I’m pretty sure I owe my obsession with France and French culture to her. When visiting Nana and Papa, I’d get to sleep in Aunt Joy’s old bedroom. She had hung a giant eiffel tower poster on the wall over the bed, along with a few other souvenirs from her missions trip to Corsica. I think that poster inspired me to want to visit Paris someday.
Aunt Joy also loved singing and acting, so in my head, I dedicated my performance yesterday in our church Christmas program to her.
I didn’t know Aunt Joy and I also shared a love of scrapbooking until the funeral, when many of her scrapbooks were displayed. Book after book was filled with everyday moments, like children losing teeth, or new puppies, or having friends over for dinner. One book in particular stood out to me; it was filled with Christmas cards, the cards received throughout the years. That’s a big part of why we are sending cards this year. I want a visual reminder of this year, and I want people to know we love them.
At the end of my life, I hope Aunt Joy and I share more than just a middle name. I hope we share a passion for life, people, and living with joy.
Life is short. Embrace joy!
Today I’m combining the challenge from Newlywed’s Bliss with counting gifts.
1. Thank you for listening so sympathetically all week as I struggled with a research paper for school.
2. And thank you for telling me “I believe in you,” when I was ready to give up on it entirely on Friday night.
3. And that same night, I love that you brought me Starbucks, it definitely helped!
4. I love your willingness to fix dinner on nights when I’m busy. It lifts a huge load of stress off of my shoulders.
5. I love that you’re a very creative and adventurous cook, and you’re good at making something with whatever we have.
6. I love that you took the time Saturday afternoon to clean out the inside of the Ford. You knew it’s messy state had been bothering me, so I really appreciate that you took care of it! Thank you for taking good care of both of our vehicles.
7. I love that although you resist doing something outside of your comfort zone, afterwards you’re glad that you did.
8. I love the fact that you are so talented at grocery shopping. It’s such a blessing to me, because I really don’t enjoy doing it at all, and you can do it faster and better than I can any day.
9. I love that you’re seeking what God wants you to do with your life, and you want to serve Him more than just make money.
10. I love that you want to make a difference in the world by loving people.
593. A breakthrough idea for the gift guide. Keeping it on pintrest saved me hours of time!
594. Every one of my blog readers. You are a gift!
595. Brian’s work load has gotten lighter.
601. We had a great turn out for our first week of linking up at Newlywed’s Bliss. Reading your posts was a gift, and I hope writing them was a blessing to you.
604. Brian taking the dog to the park. So nice to have total quiet, and some of the dog’s energy used up.
607. An encouraging facebook message from my best friend.
608. A letter from our sponsor child in Honduras, Bessi, with a picture of herself. Tears on my part.
609. I smashed my fingers in a window, but after keeping ice on them for awhile, I was able to finish typing the aforementioned research paper. They’re only a tiny bit sore now, and I’m grateful that I didn’t have to type the paper with one hand.
610. Brian’s sister is coming to spend Thanksgiving weekend with us!
Will you join me in giving thanks for your spouse this month? What gifts have you been blessed with TODAY?
In addition to cleaning and organizing the youth room, we cleaned and did yard work at the home of an elderly couple in our church.
It was a blessing to work alongside the teens. They had such good attitudes and servant’s hearts, and were downright hilarious! Afterwards, I finally felt like they liked us. In the whole time we’ve been leading the group, I’ve always felt a little resented, and finally after working and playing together Saturday, I really feel like they do like us and are glad we’re there.
559. A wonderful Sunday. Brian did a great job teaching Sunday school in the morning and youth group that evening. I really enjoyed both lessons, and I think the teens did too.
560. I have an amazing husband. I really do. Sometimes his insight and thoughtfulness just blow me away. Sunday night one of the guys was really getting on my nerves. He tends to be disruptive and more than a little annoying most of the time, and it was really bad during youth group. Brian got onto him about something and the kid walked off and went outside. Brian took time to follow him out there and talk one on one to find out what was really going on in his life. He then and offered to help the situations that were most on his mind by giving him some math tutoring and taking him to the church men and boy’s campout this weekend.
And even though he strained his back this week and is in quite a bit of pain, he’s trying hard to keep a positive attitude, which I really appreciate.
561. Next weekend is the Women of Faith Conference in Phoenix! I can’t wait!
562. The weekend after that is the Ladies’ Retreat! Brian had to force me to go last year, and I had such a great time. I’m really looking forward to this year. September is going to fly by with all these weekend events.
563. October 3rd is the tentative launch for my new blog endeavor! I’m very excited, even though there is a lot to be done in the meantime.
564. Friday is the first day of fall. It’s been a little cooler here in the valley, at least in the mornings, and it definitely feels like it. I’m hoping to do some fall clothes shopping here in the next couple weeks so that I have some new things to wear to the conferences, and just because!
So now I want to know, what are you grateful for this week? Did any special gifts come your way?
Hi friends, I can’t thank you enough for your prayers! Brian and I had a wonderful trip home over the weekend. It was such a blessing to us, and to our families.
We got to visit my Aunt Joy at home, because she was released from the hospital several days early! She encouraged us so much. She told us that the tumor is cancerous, called a glioma. Some of it is inoperable, so they will start chemo and radiation once her skull heals from her biopsy/brain surgery. They are considering Mayo clinic and the cancer center in Chicago, in addition to the cancer center in Des Moines.
It had only been a week since they discovered the tumor, and in that time, she’d found out she had cancer, the prognosis was one to five years, and had undergone brain surgery to remove some of the tumor. That’s a lot to take in just a week. But she kept telling us, “God is so good!” and recounting all the ways He had already provided for their needs. “He knows what He’s doing, He knows.” She said. That has a lot of weight when it’s coming from someone in their mid 40’s, facing an aggressive disease, with four children at home.
|The white baby blanket symbolizes my cousin Andrew, who passed away as a baby.|
I felt so reassured after seeing my aunt’s positive attitude, and peace. I’m sure she has lots of fears, but at the same time, she has great confidence in her God. She accepts that this is part of His plan for her, and trusts His heart.
She also realizes that it is an opportunity. When we were visiting, she shared that a friend was stopping by in the evening, and she hoped that she could lead her to Christ. Aunt Joy and Uncle Rod are also reaching out to the Drs. and nurses and sharing their hope in Christ with them. I’m confident that wherever they go for treatment, God will use them to impact the medical staff.
We also spent time with Brian’s mom and dad in the hospital. My MIL still cannot move her legs, but since they discovered she has a staph infection and put her on antibiotics, the pain has decreased. After several days, they saw the infectious diseases doctor. She was the first to agree that there had to be a connection with the staph infection and her pain and immobility of her legs. She ordered a MRI of the area with contrast, and found inflammation in the area. It’s unclear why the staph would camp out there. It’s also unclear if she will regain the use of her legs when the infection goes away.
As of yesterday, the pain is centered in her left leg, and she lost the ability to use her inner thigh muscles. They plan to move to the rehab center at the hospital.
A few days ago, the neurologist told them that her leg muscles were “dead” and she’d never walk again. They got a second opinion from a doctor, and he said with lots of therapy, she might regain some use of them. The doctor of infectious diseases said she’d be totally fine. Obviously, there’s just a little difference of opinion there.
It’s very frustrating for my in-laws. They don’t have much confidence in the staff, especially after a Dr. claimed she had pneumonia, and later, a heart murmur, which required a test to make sure her heart valves were fine. And it turned out, she had neither pneumonia nor a heart murmur.
It seemed to me that my MIL was very anxious about their insurance and how they were going to pay for everything, and my FIL’s business. He’s been staying at the hospital 24/7, so he hasn’t gone to work this whole time, and probably won’t until she’s better. When you own your own business as a consultant, that’s not good. Please pray that they will both focus on getting her better, and leave the rest in God’s hands.
None of what’s happened to them is an accident. Not even the unnecessary heart valves test. Pray that they will see this as part of God’s plan, and be open to whatever it is that God is trying to teach them through this.
We got to see a lot of family members and some friends while we were there, and it was encouraging to know that they were praying for Aunt Joy and for Brian’s mom. God gave us a few unexpected blessings, like being able to go to the ISU football game for free, and being able to attend the 75th anniversary of the church we went to in college. The whole trip was filled with blessings, everything from being able to get on planes when flying standby, having dinner with my sister and her family, and spending the night with our good friends in Ames.
It was filled with food for thought for me. I thought about how I would respond to sudden illness…would I have peace, trust, and joy? Would I see it as an opportunity to grow in my faith, or become bitter? I realized that I have a lot of spiritual growing to do, but I’m glad that God gives us grace to face anything, right when we need it.
|Hats worn to the royal wedding|
|This is my accessorized outfit. I wore it to church yesterday 🙂|
|Same shirt, but this is the casual version.|
Today I just want to sit here and chat with you. How’s your week been? I want to hear about it. Can I tell you about mine? It was one of those weeks.
One of those weeks when I have more good ideas than I have time, and I’m in an almost constant state of distraction. I have notebooks and sticky notes everywhere to write them down before I forget them!
Yep, school’s been tough. I’ve been up ’til midnight several times this week. Tuesday night I was up until then, and then got up at 6 a.m., worked on ONE CLASS all day. All. Day. This particular class is killing me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great class, but two units a week – Mon. Tues. Wed. for unit 1 and Thurs. Friday and Sat. for unit 2 – is just too much!
I’ve been working hard on this fashion series, and that’s been fun! I’ve been up late at night and early in the morning just planning and working out details, like what the weekly challenges will be, how to organize the posts, and when to have the giveaways. I’ve got one giveaway and one guest post in the line up so far, and I’m working on finding more giveaways. I think you’re really going to love the prizes! I’ve come up with a name for the series: Fashion 101. Fashion for Dummies was taken already, haha!
I’m learning about designing logos and color theory in school. It’s really fascinating! I’m also creating a website for a final project, which is kinda not going well, because I honestly don’t think I learned much in the class. Not a good feeling, when you have to teach yourself how to do things on the final.
I’m figuring out how to bid on ebay. I could write a whole post about it, and I might! I finally won an auction. I scored 12 shirts for $30, and with a $15 off gift code I had, I got it all for $24-with shipping! I can’t WAIT until they get here!
Also, Wednesday when I was having a really rough day, my crossbody bag from PB and J Boutique arrived! LOVE! Definitely cheered me up!
So yes, this week has been a fight for joy. I’ve been faced with the choice between joy and frustration, stress, and anger more than once, and I definitely didn’t always choose well. When I did make time to take a deep breath, I noticed all the little ways God was showing me He loves me. A few examples from my journal:
- A hummingbird in flight
- My plants are growing and still alive
- A letter from a friend
- Making new friends
- A breathtaking sunrise
- Brian’s work is going well
- Brian buying me black cherry sherbet
“I feel like a failure.” I sobbed.
“You’re not a failure.” Brian said.
Easy for him to say, I thought.
I’ve been working on a new blog design for weeks. I wanted a lighter, fresher look for spring, and after hours of hard work, watching the same Photoshop tutorials ten times, and much frustration, the design was almost done. But I just realized that my design didn’t display correctly in Firefox browsers. The blog’s footer, the thingy I tried to make on this blog with the three sections on the bottom of the blog, it wasn’t staying at the bottom of the blog. It actually covered the entire area for posts and the sidebar- just about everything except the header. Here’s the design, try looking at it in Firefox to see what I mean. You’ll see a dark gray box over everything, but if you use Internet Explorer or Google Chrome, which is what I use, it displays correctly.
Brian tried to offer an explanation which just made me more frustrated. I slammed my laptop shut and went to turn off the lamp and go to bed.
Click,click,click. It’s a three way bulb, and in my anger I turned it too fast and clicked right past turning it off.
Brian started laughing. I started crying. I finally turned it off and pulled the comforter over my head.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” He was still chuckling.
“I’ve worked SO HARD on that design and now it won’t work!” I wailed.
“Well, just tell all your readers to use Google Chrome or IE.”
“But if I ever have new readers come to my blog, they won’t know to use chrome or IE,” I spat. “If they see a big gray box over everything they’ll never stay and read it! No one will want to read a blog with an ugly gray box on it! It’s ugly!” I don’t remember all I said, but I know I was more than a little hysterical.
I probably scared Brian, because he didn’t say anything for a long time. I continued sobbing into my pillow.
Finally, he asked, “What’s wrong babe?”
This wasn’t just about the blog design. I told him what I was really crying about, “I feel like a failure.”
“You’re not a failure.”
“But I’m not good at anything anymore!”
He just shook his head. It probably was an overstatement. I do that a lot. But the feeling that I’ve failed is something I can’t shake. It goes deeper than a failed blog design. It’s rooted in feelings of being overwhelmed and inadequate.
I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to write papers and do other class work all afternoon Saturday and Sunday. Even when we went to Disneyland over President’s Day weekend, I had to write two papers before Sunday night. I’m getting them turned in on time, but I know I’m not doing them well most of the time. I hate turning in poor work. It doesn’t really matter to me if I get a good grade on it, I know it wasn’t my best and it’s not good enough for me. I feel like a failure as a student.
Because I’ve been so busy with school, I haven’t kept up with housework. The dirty floors and grey layer of dust are constantly nagging at me, keeping me from really relaxing. And it makes me feel like a failure as a homemaker.
When I said I wasn’t good at anything anymore, I was thinking about high school. Back in those “good old days,” I was at the height of my singing and artistic ability. Then ministry and school took over in college. To be honest with you, sometimes I miss high school for that reason. I wish I still had the time and means to devote to practicing and developing those talents. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a disappointment.
And I feel inadequate. I have a list of projects I want to do. There’s 17. Many of them are projects other people have asked me to do, like designing business cards, the youth group blog, and an instruction manual for the church secretaries, to name some of the bigger ones. I’ve agreed to do them, but I doubt my abilities. Can I really do it “good enough”? I have so little experience, am I really the right person for the job? And there’s the question of time; when will I have time to get it all done?
One of my new year’s resolutions was to make time for creating. It hasn’t really happened. And I feel the dryness inside that comes from the lack of expression. Not just arts and craft projects I’d like to create, but things I want to write. I’ve had ideas percolating, but no time to put them to paper, and when I try, I’m rusty and clumsy, and they disintegrate. I pick up a pencil and try to sketch an image or a thought, and I feel like I’ve lost my touch, lost my skill.
I didn’t say all of that to Brian. I was ashamed that I felt this way, when I know others are going through cancer, loss of loved ones, sick children, fear of losing a job, and much, much weightier things than my feelings of being overwhelmed and lacking in ability. I’m only telling you, because I don’t want to ever appear to be someone I’m not. I am selfish and foolish and petty.
I sat down to read my Bible the next morning, knowing I’d acted foolishly with my outburst the night before. I’d thrown myself a pity-party, when I didn’t deserve one.
I didn’t deserve what happened next either: a gift. Reading in Exodus 31, God speaking to Moses about building the tabernacle says:
“I have called Bezalel…I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs…I myself have appointed him…in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded them.”
He put skill in his heart, so that by creating what God commanded him, he would bring glory to God.
|Building the tabernacle|
How could I forget? My life is not about me. It doesn’t matter whether or not I feel like I have skill. God puts skill in the hearts of those whom he appoints. It doesn’t even matter whether or not I feel overwhelmed. God chooses the weak vessels to show His strength. Because it’s all about Him, about His name being glorified.
So I count gifts, to remember that everything is a gift, and it’s not about me, but about the Gift-giver.
101. Learning the same lessons over again.
102. It’s not about me.
103. God gives skill.
104. Time enough to do the important every day.
105. Brian laughing at my jokes.
107. Brian’s new haircut.
108. The new recipe I tried turned out well.
110. A new song on the radio.
111. The smell of my shampoo.
112. A cloudy day.
113. Learning patience.
114. Learning through loneliness, even without knowing what the lesson is yet.
115. Too many good ideas.
116. Pistachio ice cream.
118. Toilets, even if they do need cleaning.
119. A new semester about to start.
83. The sound of a baby laughing nearby.
The last few weeks have been difficult, very stressful, busy, and confusing. I found that to keep sane, I had to keep a record of joys. Because even when situations seem bleak, God is still giving us gifts!
61. Even though there are hundreds of students in my online Geology lab, my teacher answered my email about the issue with the PowerPoint right away.
62. Brian is probably not going to lose his job at the moment.
63. Although online classes are difficult and frustrating at times, they are saving us a lot of money.
64. Although I didn’t meet my goal of get up at 5:30 a.m. every day last week, I did a couple times!
65. We bought a color cartridge for my printer!!!
66. I bought a beautiful file holder thing for my coupons. Yes, I’m a coupon lady. But this file holder makes me feel good about it!
|This pretty thing is replacing that pink crate.|
67. I’ve got lots of blog design ideas floating around in my head. Not a total re-haul, but just a little face lift to freshen and lighten it up.
68. Brian bought me extra memory for my computer, so it runs much better now.
69. No one was hurt in the car accident that Brian was in on the interstate.
70. Brian’s meeting with the CEO was very positive.
71. There has been lots of good blog reading lately! You all are keeping me glued to my computer.
72. Brian forgave me for being stupid the other day. That’s one of my favorite things about him, he has a short memory when it comes to wrongs!
73. My blog was featured on Gina’s blog, have a heart!
74. I ordered Ann’s book, One Thousand Gifts. I CANNOT wait ’til it comes!
75. I have coffee to drink every morning. And creamer, because I can’t drink coffee without it.
76. When working at the church Thursday, I was able to get speedy assistance with printing the bulletins, and folding them too!
77. We hung out with friends Saturday night, and I really enjoyed talking a lot. I probably talked Honormommy‘s ears off. But I had fun!
78. Brian and I celebrated our Seventh Month Wedding Anniversary! We went to Garcia’s, a Mexican restaurant with really good food and portions large enough for two meals, literally, and we sat on the patio. It really was this dark, and red, because of the bright neon sign. Eventually, a waiter lit the out door fire place, and if it wasn’t for the very drunk couple sitting in front of us, it would have been very romantic. As it was, it was definitely very entertaining!
|Brian is SO photogenic|
79. I baked peanut butter cookies last night.
78. Even though they all burned, I think they still taste good!
It’s all a gift, from stressful weeks to burnt cookies. It’s life, and thats a precious gift.
Have you received any gifts lately that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!