Friday, October 31, 2014

End of 31 Days

     I'm really proud of myself for finishing out the 31 days series and posting every day. I have learned a few things:
1) I always have things to be joyful for, even when I'm not happy.
2) I have a difficult time writing about 1 topic for a long time- especially if it's not something I'm really passionate about.
3) I really enjoy connecting with other bloggers and learning their stories.
4) I'm not interested in becoming a well known blogger, but I wish that my blog reached more people or that more people commented.
5) I will try to write a bit more in depth on some topics and I would like to work on saying what I need to say in a more concise way.
     Thanks to The Nester for the challenge. I really enjoyed stretching myself!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

5 senses

     Earlier in this series I wrote about noticing the little things. Today on my way home from work, I was thinking about the senses.  I love that God created us with the capacity to experience beauty. Here are some highlights of my day:

Taste: I tried Dunkin' Donuts Snickerdoodle Iced Coffee (with Almond Milk). It was a sweet, cinnamon-y start to my day. Matt made empanadas. Matt added something sweet to the meat- raisins? I usually don't like meat combined with sweet but tonight it was good. Yummy chicken for lunch.

Touch: Had a cleaning at the dentist- fresh, clean teeth. David's little hand in mine. Timmy's snuggle on the couch. The cool air on my face while walking to my car this morning.  Warm sunshine on a cool day. A hug from a friend.

Smell: Matt's cooking! Clean laundry. Fresh air. Bath & Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint Body Wash or Winter Candy Apple Lotion. Yankee Candles.

Sight: Children engaged while they are learning. Autumn colors. A full mailbox. (not today) Smiles. The sky- clouds, sunrise/sunset, stars.

Sound: Birds. My students singing. Laughter. Music. Peaceful quiet.

    There are many more I could add but these are the first things I thought of. What are some of the simple things you experienced today?

PS. Missy Terry. You won the giveaway. I responded to your comment. I need your address to send you the book!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Matt

   My husband, Matt, is another source of joy for me and my family. Honestly, we have not always had the easiest time, but I know that I am a really lucky woman to be married to such a great guy. One of the things that first attracted me to Matt was his willingness to share his faith with me. Over time, the biggest thing I'm most attracted to now is what a fantastic father he is. Being "the mean parent," I appreciate watching him goof around or have fun with the boys. (most times..lol) I love seeing them on the tire swing in the back yard, going off for a little bike ride, chasing each other around the yard- I even chuckled the other day when they were shooting each other with NERF guns around the house when I had a friend over for dinner. (Not a usual thing for me) In addition to this, Matt and I work opposite schedules so when I am at work, he is dealing with getting the kids to and from school, homework, dinner, etc. We have committed to eating dinner together every night so he makes dinner most times so he can get to work in time. He's a great cook. I also love that he is willing to grow with me. When I first met him, he was antisocial rather shy. Now, he seems much more comfortable with other people and dealing with my extroverted personality. I love how he makes people feel welcome in our home and that our boys have a great role model.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Take a risk

     According to a few personality tests, I am a fairly extroverted person- but I'm an extrovert who likes routine. I do not panic when I have to improvise something instead of follow through with my plan but sometimes I find it hard to do something new. Here's a really lame example that will demonstrate my point. I am a music teacher. I currently teach 308 students in my classes right now. Some of these students I see for 22 days each year, my chorus kids see me a lot more. (There are 700 kids in our whole school. I will have all of them eventually during the year but 210 sing for me all year.) This year I attended a game that one of my singers was playing in. I have known this student for 4 years- seriously, one of the nicest kids I know. It struck me at their game that I had never met their parents. I've seen them play before and as I was watching, I recognized who I thought would be their parents. I wondered why I have never met them after 4 years of concerts and thought "I should say hello after the game." When the game ended, they walked by, looked at me and gave a bit of a nod and then continued. I almost said hello and introduced myself but then I got nervous. If they wanted to meet me, why didn't they stop? Did I have the right parents? Maybe they don't know who I am. Maybe they do know who I am and aren't interested in talking to me.  The next day I was thinking about why I didn't make a move to say hello. I think I just got self-conscious.
   Let me contrast this with another story. There is a new woman working at our school. She is considerably younger than me but seems to have a similar personality. I think she is really funny and really nice. I have wanted to get to know her better but 1) her classroom is not really close to mine and 2) we don't have any of the same time off. She took the position of a good friend of mine who has just retired this year so I really wanted to be a friendly face in the building. One day about 2 weeks ago, I was walking by her classroom and saw her working really hard after school. I decided to step in, say hello and ask how things were going. (Not difficult.) As I left, I thought of how much I enjoyed talking to her and how it was too bad that I didn't know her better. So, I did something out of the ordinary for me- I invited her to come have dinner with my family. We live in a small, cluttered apartment and I tend to be paranoid that people are judging me so sometimes I avoid inviting new people over unless there is a big event. She came over tonight and I had such a great time. She is really interesting, my kids loved her and I think she had fun too. This made me think:
     How much do we rob ourselves of unexpected joy? Routine is nice and predictability is convenient; but what would happen if we opened ourselves up to different experiences, people and choices? Sometimes the most exciting type of joy is the joy that happens when we're not expecting it to come. How can you stretch yourself today that might open up an opportunity to grow, develop a new friendship or turn your life in a completely different direction?

Monday, October 27, 2014

One Thousand Gifts

   I can't believe we're coming to an end of the 31 days challenge. I'm quite content that I have actually posted every day- though there are definitely some changes I'd make if I was to do this again. My topic over the past month has been joy. One of the things that keep me joyful is being able to appreciate what I have and be content with what I don't have. So, I thought I'd celebrate, joy, gratefulness, reaching 150 posts and Thanksgiving by giving away the One Thousand Gifts devotional.

    If you are interested, leave a message below and I will choose a winner (using a randomizer) tomorrow night at about 8.  Good luck!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Worship

     Have you ever just gotten into the routine of church?  I wish I could say that I'm always 100% present in our worship service but, realistically, many times I am coming into the service with a head full of cluttered thoughts or emotions. There have been a few worship experiences I have in the past few months that have really reminded me of the joy of worship.
     Today my niece got baptized. I attended her church with Matt and the kids. The grandparents on both sides of my niece were there as well as a few of my brother-in-laws' families. In all, there were at least 20 people here to see my niece dedicated to God. The church is a different denomination than my church but it was still similar enough to other churches that I have been to to enable me to know what was going on.
     The service began with a prelude played on a guitar and violin. It was a really different setting of a hymn and I felt really drawn into the music. (Maybe as a precursor, I should say that music in a worship service is something that I really notice. Being a musician myself, I love taking part in singing and being involved with the worship but recently I have felt distracted by the music at my own church, almost like it is a concert rather than worship. This has really upset me.) Next came the call to worship followed by more worship songs. Their worship band was made up of a pianist, a guitarist, a bass guitarist, a violinist and 3 vocalists. They sang Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, but in a contemporary setting; same text, same melody and harmony, just different in a really cool way.   The second song they sang was Jesus, Lover of My Soul, played a  little faster. It almost had a bluegrassy feel to it.  (I loved it!) At this point, Timmy (who is used to being at church) started to turn around and look at all the people in the congregation. He said it "sounded like a choir of angels." (I think the acoustics of the church also added to that but I didn't tell him that.)   I loved the lyrics of this song.
     Next came a call to confession. I grew up Catholic- sort of (Christmas and Easter Catholic would be more accurate). I got my first communion in the Catholic Church and my parents didn't really think church was very important. I started going to church on my own in 8th grade. I ended up at a Congregational Church, which I liked a lot while I was there up until college. So, I was used to responsorial reading and switching  a lot between sitting, kneeling and standing. This church does confession on their knees. I don't know if I have been to any church which only goes to its knees during confession. It was profoundly moving to me. I also noticed that this church has many, many people in their 20s-40s while I was getting down to kneel. Usually the traditional churches around my town either have a mix from 30-80s or are usually the older crowd. It was cool to see so many people in my generation committed to the church.
     After that we sang Arise, My Soul, Arise. We took the offering and sang the Doxology. Next came the baptism. Sometimes when someone I know is dedicating their child to God, it makes me really emotional. I am proud that they choose to raise their child in a Christian household. I am honored to be there celebrating with them. I often am sad that many of my own family members still have not been saved. I also think a lot about the responsibility of being a fellow Christ follower and having a responsibility to that child to help show them Jesus. Today was no different.
     To be brutally honest, I was thinking about all of these things during the sermon and was distracted by a few things so I didn't really hear all the pastor was trying to tell us. After the sermon came another piece, Behold The Lamb before communion. Beautiful piece. As I watched strangers, friends and family walk up to take communion, I got a real feeling of joy. What an honor it is to worship corporately. I am reading Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand and I haven't even gotten to the meat of the story, but I know it deals a lot with the Underground Church. I was thinking about that today as I freely worshiped in a new place, felt welcomed and professed my faith publicly with all of them. I also noticed that this church was also much more multicultural than the church I attend. It made me think of Psalm 86:9- All the nations you have made will come before you in worship, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
     I have been taking part in the 31 Days series and writing for 31 days about joy. In this time, I have also read the blogs of many other participants. Part of the joy I have in my faith is knowing that there are other believers that I can worship with, learn from, be encouraged by and develop genuine friendships with. I have been thrilled (and slightly surprised) to read the blogs of so many other Christians. Your struggles, joys, and daily life have been both challenging and inspiring to me.
 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friendship

    Tonight I would like to write a bit about my oldest son. He is a sweet boy who attempts to get along with everybody. Because he does drastic things for a 9 year old boy- namely talking to girls, being polite to adults, etc- he doesn't feel that he fits in. Since he doesn't fit in, he tries too hard and acts like a goober, which is super uncool. A few years ago, he had a really bad year in school. He was acting up and really started having some problems. This year has also shown hints of that beginning to happen so I took the first step and decided to talk to the guidance counselor. He gave me a few suggestions, one which included seeing if I can get him together with friends more outside of school.
     Today we invited 2 boys over for pizza and a movie. The boys were super nice kids and they had a blast watching the movie and playing together. The best part of the day was watching Tim know that he had the freedom to be himself completely around these 2 boys. Isn't it great to have friends who love us unconditionally?