Collecting Joy

Joy Journal

A gift from my youngest daughter

March 4, 1998 – My youngest daughter surprised my husband and me by bringing home gifts for us both.  It was not our birthday, anniversary, not any holiday.  It was one of those “just because” gifts that are so special.

One of the gifts that day was “The Joy Journal” by Barbara Johnson.  Known by many as the “Christian Erma Bombeck”, she wrote many hilarious books such as:

Stick a ger

and

Humor Me

Barbara wrote in the introduction to this journal

This Journal is a new way for you to add joy to your life.  When good things happen to lighten your load and brighten your day, write them down.  When someone pays you a compliment, write it down.  When you remember nice things from the past, write them down.  Let the journal become a personal treasure chest – your collected thoughts of hope, gladness, and love.  When you start to collect joy, you will find it’s a magnet.  Joy is everywhere.  All you have to do is look for it and use it instead of saving it for Sunday-Best.

Less you think Barbara Johnson lived in denial and was just a “Pollyanna” telling people to “be happy” without really knowing what problems and sorrow were, she had plenty of sadness in her own life.

Barbara lost two sons, one in Vietnam and one at the hands of a drunk driver. Another was estranged for several years. A few years after her husband’s death she was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lymphoma (CNS), a brain tumor and also diabetes.  Refusing to give in to despair, Barbara chose humor and looking for joy as a way to beat the odds of adversity.  In 2005 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association awarded her the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award.  Her book “Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy” has sold over one million copies. While facing death, she was working on a proposed final book, Joyfully, Barb!

So – I took her at her advice and began looking for joy – and recording it.  Now 20 years later, I look back at all the entries in my journal and Barbara was right.  She had said this journal would be “a treasury of gladness to inspire you for years to come.”  And it has.

Most of my grandchildren are all grown up now – but I pull this journal out and relive those moments of joy I shared with them.  Here are just a few that make me smile and I  hope they will also bring a smile to your face.

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Matthew and Robert – my ‘little grandsons now all grown up

March 7, 1998 – Rob and Rebekah took Matthew to kindergarten roundup this week, a chance to show him the classroom, meet the teachers, etc.  After coming home he informed us that he was going to love kindergarten because there were lots of girls and they were going to love him!

January 16, 1999 – Robert spent the night with us and I took him to the Putnam Museum.  On the way there he just kept talking and talking.  I always want to give my grandchildren my attention when they are with me, but I had a headache and did not really feel like listening to his chatter.  So I told him, “Robert, Grandma has a headache and I don’t really feel like paying attention to what you are saying right now.”  His response was so funny, I had to try hard not to laugh.  He said, “It’s okay Grandma.  You don’t have to listen.  I just want to talk.”

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My beautiful granddaughter who is also my namesake, Barbara

April 4, 1998 – Took Barbara shopping at the mall.  Brought her a necklace and a headband.  We had tacos and sundaes.  She has been trying hard to “be good” so her parents would let her have this date with me.  As we were enjoying our sundaes she told me, “Momma is wondering if I am going to still be good tomorrow.  I’m not going to tell her but I’m going to surprise her and be good.  I’m going to try hard to be good but if I mess up, I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

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Granddaughter, Abby, has a lot of musical talent

I don’t have a date written down for the laughter this granddaughter gave us but when she was quite young she came with her siblings to spent a week with us.  Helping her Aunt make some cookies, she sat on the counter and began chattering away.  Seeing a frown on her grandpa’s face she asked, “Am I annoying you Grandpa?”  When he said yes she quickly responded “Good!”  Which brought laughter to us all – including Grandpa.

There are many, many more memories I could share but I’m sure at some point you would stop reading.  But I want to encourage you to look for joy that is all around you and record those special times.  Not only will you enjoy the moment, but like me, years later you can remember and experience the joy all over again.

As Barbara Johnson said in her journal, “Laughter is like a shock absorber that eases the blows of life.”

Get busy looking for joy!  I wish you good hunting!

 

 

Five Years and Counting!

November  4, 2002 – Call from doctor – biopsy shows I have cancer.

November 14, 2002 – Surgeon tells me after surgery that the cancer was very advanced and I will definitely need chemo and radiation.

November 27, 2002 – Doctor tells me the odds are not in my favor.  He says chances are slim I will still be alive in ten years.

No, I’m only 54 years old.  It’s eight more years until I can retire.  That means if I even live to reach early retirement, I will only have two years to enjoy with my husband.  For most of my marriage my husband has been an evangelist, missionary or pastor.  I have worked right alongside him, providing music for services, training Sunday School and youth leaders, teaching Bible classes and overseeing ministries for women.  Being a pastor is a 24/7 job (at least for those like my husband who have a shepherd’s heart).  I cannot count the times our own plans have been put on hold because someone in the church had a need.  My own job required us to be at home Monday through Friday – and weekends were filled with church obligations so vacation times were few and far between.  I was so looking forward to the day we could retire and have some time for just the two of us.

Lord, please let me live to retire and give me two years – just two years of retirement with Paul.

April 8, 2010 – I turn 62 today.  I had thought I would take early retirement now.  If I did, that would give me those two years with Paul in retirement.  However, looking at our finances I realize it would be better both now and in the future if I work until I’m 65.  My doctor has now told me it appears I have beat old man cancer and may very well live much longer than first expected.  Still, that clock is ticking.  If I wait to retire at 65 I will be past the ten years.  How many years of retirement will I have?

Lord, let me make it until 2013 and then give me two years in retirement with my husband.

January 4, 2013 – retirement is here!  I have retired about three months before 65 but it’s close enough and I’m ready to begin a new life.  I have reached that ten-year survival mark.

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Lord, please give me two years of retirement to enjoy with my husband.

January 4, 2018 – God has not only allowed me to reach retirement age, not only given me those two years of retirement I prayed for – but today I begin my sixth year of retirement.

Thank you Lord for every day, every week, every month, every year you give me to enjoy time with my husband.  

 

 

My Addiction Cost Me 27 Days in 2017

Grandma's Ramblings

I am addicted.  I have made my confession before.  Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

I have tried hard to overcome it but I have not been able to do so as I reported in  My Addiction has Returned.

And now this year it has taken 27 days of my life.

We played 216 games in 2017.  It takes us about 3 hours to play a game.  So that amounts to 27 days playing scrabble.

We play on a super scrabble board which has twice the letters of regular scrabble and an expanded board.

We also take forever to take a turn because we are so competitive and try to either play a seven letter word which gives us 50 extra points or find a place on the board to give us triple or quadruple points.

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Winning with us is like a seesaw.  I get a couple of games ahead…

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My Addiction Cost Me 27 Days in 2017

I am addicted.  I have made my confession before.  Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

I have tried hard to overcome it but I have not been able to do so as I reported in  My Addiction has Returned.

And now this year it has taken 27 days of my life.

We played 216 games in 2017.  It takes us about 3 hours to play a game.  So that amounts to 27 days playing scrabble.

We play on a super scrabble board which has twice the letters of regular scrabble and an expanded board.

We also take forever to take a turn because we are so competitive and try to either play a seven letter word which gives us 50 extra points or find a place on the board to give us triple or quadruple points.

scrabble 3

Winning with us is like a seesaw.  I get a couple of games ahead, then he comes backs, ties me and pulls ahead two or three games.  The most anyone of us has been ahead is five games.  When I get that many games behind, the adrenalin kicks in and I HAVE to catch up.

 

Keeping scores since 2008 we ended this year with a tie.  We each won 107 games with two tied games.  In the ten years of keeping score, I have won one more game than he has.  One more game in ten years.  What a tight contest!

So into the New Year we go!  Suspect mounts!

Will he be able to win more games than me in 2018?

Will I pull ahead even more?

For those who follow my blog and are tired of hearing about scrabble (which proves my addiction) I promise no more posts on this subject for a while (at least I promise I will try).

So just a few scrabble jokes to end this blog and start another attempt to overcome my addiction.

  • In Russia when a baby is born, the parents play a game of scrabble and the letters they pick up is the name of their child.
  • Scrabble is all fun and games until someone loses an “i”
  • the dreaded Old MacDonald rack – eieiooo
  • I accidentally swallowed some scrabble tiles.  My next movement could spell disaster.

Greetings – Chairein – Joy to You

Jesus laughing

I love this picture of Jesus laughing!  I think too often we vision Him as somber, even stern.  But He talked about giving us joy.  At His birth, the angels proclaimed “Joy to the world.”

Studying the book of James this week I again realized how much we miss when the Bible is translated from the languages of Hebrew and Greek into English.  James begins his letter by saying what is translated in most of our English version as “Greetings.”

To me I have just thought James was basically saying hello.  Just the kind of start to a letter we often would use (in the days when we really wrote letters instead of texting or posting on Facebook).

Hi!  How are you?  I am fine.

As I began to take a more serious look at this word, I find it has much more meaning than just “hi”.

The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.”  Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.”

“Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends.  Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well.  We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas.

joy

 

joy baby

 

 

 

On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy.  After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Hold on there a minute James!

You just wished joy and well-being to your readers and then you talk about troubles.  What gives?

James was writing to the Jewish people who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah but who were now experiencing difficulties because of their belief.  He indicated difficult times can be opportunities not just for joy – but great joy.

Hold on there a minute James!

Difficult times bring joy?  Trials, tests bring joy?  What are you – some kind of Pollyanna?

James is not suggesting to his readers that they thank God when a loved one dies, when they get cancer or lose a job.  (These are the things we think of as trials.  The people James was writing to were probably experiencing more severe trials such as real persecution because of their stand for the Messiah, not just experiencing the normal cares of life that we characterize as trials.)  Rather he was telling them they should recognize that these difficult times, while not in themselves something to take joy in, would bring about a real change in them – and that would be something to rejoice about.

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

Hey James, I think you are right.  As I look back at times of real trials (like becoming a widow with two young girls at 33 or getting aggressive and advanced cancer at 53) I realize that those times brought me much closer to God and gave me a strength I would never have had without those difficult times.  While I will never thank God for the death of my precious husband, for seeing my body deformed after surgical removal of a breast or for the effects I still suffer in my body because of chemo and radiation, I am thankful for the growth I gained because of those trials.  I am thankful that I have truly discovered what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the joy and peace He was giving us.  

Finally, James not only tells his friends to find joy in difficult times, he lets them know how they can do that.

And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him

You make it sound simple James!  But life is not simple!

Oh I get it!  That’s the beauty of the gospel.  It is simple.  Trust and obey.  I sometimes make it so hard.  My mind doesn’t want to just trust.  I want detailed answers to my questions.  I want to know the end before I take that step of faith God is asking me to take.

Peter sums it up pretty good in his letter to the church.

And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls.

Yes that it is.  It is a joy that words cannot express.  Joy unspeakable and full of glory!  To all my friends who follow me on my blog, chairein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Game of 2017 – Who Will Win?

 

scrabble

For those of you who follow my blog you know my husband and I are scrabble addicts.  In the summer we play several times a month, but when Old Man Winter comes we play almost every day.  We are very competitive keeping a record of our games now for 10 years.

In the ten years of playing super scrabble, I have won one more game than my husband.

This year I am currently ahead of him one game.

After church this morning we will play our final game of 2017.  If he wins, that will make us tied for the year and I will remain ahead overall one game.  If I win, I will not only be ahead for this year but will extend my overall lead to two games.

If he wins the game, that will conclude our 2017 games.  I have an idea if I win, we may be playing more than one game today because he does not want to end up a loser for 2017.

We could be up all night until he ties me.  Could be a long New Year’s Eve for these old folks.

Party on young people – but there’s no better party than two old folks playing scrabble.

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Now That It’s Over

Christmas 2017 is now history.

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The beautiful tree we spent hours decorating is now ready to be taken down and put away for another year if it was an artificial tree, or it soon will join the landfill if we chose a live tree.

christmas tree dead

All the presents that we spent days and weeks searching for in the store or online and then wrapped so carefully are now opened.  The beautiful packaging is probably in the trash cans ready to also go to the landfill.  Some are enjoying their gifts while others are perhaps a little disappointed that Santa did not bring them exactly what they wanted.  Maybe it was the wrong size so a trip to the store to make an exchange is on the agenda this week.

presents unwrapped

All the delicious food that Moms spent hours preparing has long been consumed or is sitting in the refrigerator waiting for leftovers tonight.  The beautiful china has been washed and put away for another year – or the Christmas paper plates are also headed to that landfill.

dirty dishes

Some are savoring precious memories made this year with family and friends.  For them it was a time of great happiness and an almost Christmas-card perfect day.  There were newlyweds spending their first Christmas together.  Grandmas and grandpas were enjoying spending time with grandchildren they do not see the rest of the year.  Brothers and sisters, cousins laughed over board games or their favorite Christmas movie.

Still others are glad it’s over because it was a sad time.  There were family members who were absent at the table this year.  Some were gone because death tragically struck this year.  Others grieve over the divorce that split the family in two.  Some families spent the holiday in the hospital or sitting quietly by the bedside of a loved one who is quickly spending their last days.

But regardless of how this year’s Christmas season turned out – happy or sad, perfect or so imperfect, it is history.

So now what?  Do we just put away the decorations, replace our Christmas CD’s with our favorite music style, close our Bibles to Matthew and Luke and go on with “normal” life.  Did we just “enjoy” the Christmas play at church, the children singing “Away in a Manger”, the classic Christmas carols or the contemporary songs like “Mary, Did You Know”  Is that all there is?

While we hear the Christmas story every year and it is old and well-known, I think we would be wise to follow Mary’s example as found in Luke’s story of the nativity.  When the shepherds found the baby in the manager and told Mary and Joseph of the message of the angels, Luke tells us that

Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

So what do we do now?  Put aside all we have heard this season of the Christmas story and go back to our busy world.  Or, would it not be a good idea to stop now and then as winter turns into spring, then summer, then fall and think about what the Christmas story really means.  God come in the flesh to redeem mankind.  God’s demonstration of His love for us.

My prayer is that you will take time to think about Christmas – the real meaning of Christmas – in the days, weeks, months ahead and let it change how you live in the coming year.