100 Days of Sprinkling Joy

One week later, it occurs to me that I have not given voice to my full plan for this crazy joy sprinkling and spreading adventure.  Honestly it's because at first I thought I was nuts, and that being a woman of many ideas but lots of responsibilities, it might just be impossible.  So fearing failure (what, me, perfectionist a little?) I wrote "I want to be held accountable."  Yeah, but to what?

Well I'm taking the plunge and making the full commitment to my original (unspoken) idea.

I am committing to 100 days of intentional looking-outside-myself, finding-ways-to-love, making-people-smile silliness.  I have no idea how all this will turn out - will I burn out, can I find that many ideas, have I lost my mind?  But I am loving it so far!  I do have a lot of ideas, but there have definitely been days when things have not gone the way I expected.

I've always enjoyed doing nice things for people, or coming up with little surprises, but trying to find one extra thing each day does require a shift in my thinking.  I am enjoying the variety.  Some days it requires planning... like the day I made a meal.  That ended up spanning two days, between the making of the food and the actual delivery.  Then there are days like today, when my original plan didn't work out, so at 8:00 tonight, refusing to accept defeat, I scrunched my eyes up and thought hard and poof!  I knew!

I don't know why I picked 100 days, it's just what came to mind.  A few days ago I counted forward 100 days from last Friday, and I landed on New Year's Day!  Isn't that cool?  What a wonderful way to ring in a new year!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 7 ~ An Extra Chapter

We read a lot in this house.  I am, you might say, a bit obsessed with books.  When it comes to material possessions, books are my stumbling block.  I have a hard time letting them go.  And resisting buying them in the first place.  Books test my mettle mightily with that "Do not covet" commandment.

I have tried to be firm with myself.  I even started our local annual Homeschool Used Book Sale.  It's no use.  We live in a library.  We share our seats with books.  Everywhere, stacks of books.  It's lovely.


Today didn't go quite the way I had planned, and my idea for today's Joy Sprinkle didn't pan out.  There I stood in the laundry room, perplexed and thinking, "Am I going to have to skip today?  I reallllly don't want to."  And bingo, there it was, a shiny happy joy-sprinkle idea that I knew would make two people smile.

Every night before bed, the kids and I meet on the couch and I read to them.  The only child in the house who actually needs to be read to is Little Warrior (assuming his literary diet is going to consist of more than Bob books and Hop on Pop).  He was asleep.

But Farmer Boy and The Princess, both avid readers, were waiting on the couch for their mom to come snuggle, book in hand, and read the next chapter of The Last BattleThe Last Battle!  The last in the seven book series by C.S.Lewis, "The Chronicles of Narnia." 
I've been falling asleep reading for years!
This long awaited book is such a hard one to read (especially when you give each character a unique voice and you got up at 6:00am and the couch... is... so... soft....... and.... zzzzz...).  But the ending is glorious.
So I knew what would do it, the perfect unexpected little extra sprinkle of joy over my older children... TWO chapters tonight!

And oh yes, they were happy!  Because, of course, two chapters means not only more time reading a beloved story with favorite people, but it also delays bedtimeOh frabjous day!  Callooh Callay!

top photo by clara natoli
bottom photo by my dad :-)

What brings me joy

Not unexpectedly, this spreading joy challenge has been a tremendous blessing, and brought ME so much joy. 

It has gotten me thinking about the things that bring me joy each day.  Most of them are very small.  I decided to catalog some of this week’s joys

  • waking to long legs and arms wrapped around me... a sweet 8 year old girl come in for a morning snuggle
  • drinking tea out of a beautiful mug given to me by my cousin, even more beautiful because it was one of her favorite mugs
  • Little Warrior’s song “Breakfast, breakfast, here I come to eat you...”
  • praying with my children with hands on The Bard before he headed out to a challenging day
  • listening to Farmer Boy playing Fur Elise on the piano
  • praying with Little Warrior for someone in need - his entire prayer was “thank you for...” - such faith and confidence in the work that God will do!
  • practicing lines and songs for theater class with The Princess... so many characters, such fun for Mama!
  • gleaning finger snapping tips from Farmer Boy
  • having my hair brushed by Little Warrior
  • the look on my friend’s face when I carried a cooler to her van and said “I made dinner for you”
  • a conversation with a stranger where we realized that God had put the same ministry idea, the very same words, in our hearts, and that perhaps He was calling us to work together
  • precious hours of earnest discussion with a dear friend across a restaurant table
  • watching a gecko gobble up moths on the other side of a dark window
  • crystal clear starry sky covering our heads as I kissed The Bard goodbye in the early morning
  • timid new kittens running toward me for the first time, knowing I am a safe place
  • an hour of prayer with my favorite prayer warrior
  • the morning greeting from our rooster when I turn the lights on before sunrise
  • a gleaming kitchen counter
  • the smell of my house with the windows open for the first time since spring

It may be cliche, but it’s true... it’s the little things that make a life.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 6 ~ Time for Tea

I have a friend who is one of the hardest workers I know.  She gives all she has to everything she does.

She is also a tender and deep soul, and when I realized that she is in a season of much going on, not only in her external world but also in her internal world, I felt compelled to do something for her that would encourage her to set aside some time to relaxing and be peaceful.

I bought her some Tension Tamer tea, but thought it wanted something to come alongside.  So I made her some pumpkin bread.  With a few gold bows to liven them up, they were ready to be sprinkled!

photo by michael connors

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 5 ~ A Surprise Dinner

A fellow homechooling mom is in a season of her life that is overflowing with responsibilities.  At the moment, her husband is also away.  She is cheerful about it, but overwhelmed, and it came to my mind that it might be a tiny relief of her burden to be freed from making dinner one night.  She is not the sort to ask for help, so I surprised her by bringing a meal in a cooler to one of the extracurricular classes our children share.  I made something that could be frozen in case it didn’t fit with her meal plan for the week.  She was definitely surprised!  And I think it made her happy.  It sure blessed me to be able to do it.

Ancient Ways

I am drawn to old things....

... my preacher grandfather's bible with his sermon notes...

... a sweater knitted for me now worn by my daughter...

... my great grandmother’s floral china...

... my grandmother's silver tea service...

There seems more embodied in something antique than just its function.  The passage of time, the “life” it has led, somehow rest upon it in an ineffable way. 
This is what the Lord says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls."
~ Jeremiah 6:16
Old paths.  The ways gone before.  The road laid out for us in scripture.  And these ancient and good ways are a source of rest.  When you walk in them you will find rest.

Read that again... when you walk you will find rest.

The ancient paths, laid down for us in God’s Word.  The narrow path.  The good way... the way, the truth and the life.

Seek them.  Ask for them.  Walk in them.  Walk.  Walk.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 4 ~ A Massage for My Boy

My firstborn is 13.  This morning his father gave him his first razor.

My pudgy baby has turned into a lean young man.  The rolls and creases have flattened out, forming strength, sinew, muscle.

This boy who tends to all our farm animals, once wouldn't leave my side.  His strong arms now lift feed bags, hay, little brother, my burdens.

He is serious and unwavering.  Yet still he plays and runs.  He is simple and true in his prayers, certain of his convictions, quiet, constant, loyal.

Tonight when little brother and sister were tucked in, I sprinkled him with time, with an ear bent just to him, with a deep massage of his tired back and arms.

Just as when he was an infant, he found it difficult to relax at first.  But mother love rubbed her way into him, and he told me "I could stay here forever."

Sweet child, first child of my womb... so could I.

So could I.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 3 ~ Just a Little Thing

Sunday was a lovely day, filled from dawn to dusk with people from our dear church family.  I love growing in fellowship, growing in community.

I made no grand decisions on what my act-of-blessing would be yesterday; while I want to be intentional, I live a real life with real people.  Kind of unpredictable.  And I knew that our day would be full.  So I prayed that I would just know and act into it.

Would you believe that my intentional joy spreading was putting someone else's grocery cart away in the parking lot of our grocery store?  The cart was jammed up against the bumper of a car, just sitting there stuck out in the road like a big ugly wart.  I almost walked past it in my hurry to my own car and hungry family. But something stopped me.  I turned around and put that cart away.

It was an ever-so-small act.  In fact, it was not so much bringing joy as preventing its loss.  The person for whom that small joy-drain was averted will never know, and I am glad.

And I have to share this sweet moment from early in my Sunday...

Just five minutes before our church service began, I was asked to sing.  I love to sing, love it so much.  But I don't sing in front of people.  Like in front of a microphone.

But yesterday I did.  My sweet husband and his trusty guitar were leading, and it felt like home.  We sing together every day.  It was a blessing.  Such a blessing.  Far more than a sprinkle of joy for me, more like a flood, standing up there worshiping God with my love at my side.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  ~ Luke 6:38

photo by Suat Eman

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 2 ~ Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

A few days ago as I was fishing through the freezer, I found a ball of extra dough that I had frozen way back at Christmas.  It was dough from our traditional Christmas breakfast - a cinnamon bread braid.

Figuring it was either edible by us our one of the farm critters, I popped it in the fridge.  This morning I was inspired to surprise the family with homemade cinnamon rolls using that unexpected find (which turned out perfectly fit for human consumption!).

When The Princess emerged this morning and asked what was cooking, she said, wide-eyed, "We haven't had cinnamon rolls since I was four!"  She's almost nine - this was a major event.

We normally eat very healthful breakfasts.  Little Warrior, who has entered the classic (and parentally-longed-for) four year old developmental stage of Rule Policeman, said with alarm, "Is it a sugary treat? But what about protein? I have to have protein before sugar!" With three moderately sugar-challenged people in the house, I had prepared for this and assured him that, as usual, protein would be available as well.

That little anxiety attack notwithstanding, all in all the cinnamon rolls were met with much enthusiasm.   They were certainly gobbled up enthusiastically!

What have you done to sprinkle joy today?

Lessons From the Garden ~ Morning Glory

Oh Morning Glory, how beautiful you are.

You cover my garden with your delicate purple petals, your lush greenery rich and plentiful.  Innocently your flowers nod in the breeze.

Yet underneath is a mass of choking vines.  You are also called Bindweed.

Your tendrils reach out and grasp anything near.  You choke the life out of every plant you climb.  You slow my weed cutter with the mass of your vines... it sputters to a stop.

Oh sin which so easily entangles, how alluring you look.  

How lovely it seems to think about myself.  How lush and rich other women's lives appears.  Gently nodding, yes, yes, think about you.  What about you...

Wretched sin... when your shallow beauty is ripped away, nothing remains but lifelessness.  Nothing but death. 

Oh Lord, wrench the morning glories from my soul.  Help me run with endurance the race set before me.  Show me your face Lord, that I may fix my eyes on you and bask in your light, that the flower of my heart may open wide to receive you.

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus"  Hebrews 12:1-2

Bible Journal

Two years ago I decided to try something new in our little homeschool. 

As part of each school day, we would sit down around the table and feast on God's word, using dedicated journals.  I had a journal too, and this year, at his request, I gave Little Warrior (age 4) his own journal.

The first passage we studied was the Ten Commandments.   Our journaling had four parts:

1) dictation - I dictated each verse to the children and they copied it in their journals.  If they wanted spelling help, they asked and I helped, but this was not a test.

2) memorization - we would memorize the verse together

3) journaling - as we sat quietly around the table we would each write our thoughts on the scripture

4) discussion - we shared our thoughts and writing, and discussed it

Sometimes we would do all four on the same day.  Other times we have spread it over several days.  And occasionally one verse spanned a whole week.  A friend who started bible journaling this semester uses one verse a week and has her boys write on it each day, allowing new insights and depth of understanding to grow over the week.

Over the years we have focused on different topics.  At first we memorized the Ten Commandments, then the Beatitudes.  Then there was a period of time when I was randomly choosing verses that I felt were important, or verses that applied to a particular character issue with which one of us struggled.

This year we are trying to memorize the entire book of Philippians.  This has some interesting new twists for us as we progress further into the year and have to remember so many verses all at once.  Our Bible Journal time is also lengthening!

After a few months of using a familiar modern version, I switched things up on the kids and started using the King James.   Since I expect them to read challenging literature as they get older, I figured this would be a simple way to get their ears used to a more antiquated way of writing.  It also expanded their vocabulary.  Imagine my surprise when my six year old told me she liked the King James better!

For Philippians we are back to a new, but different, modern version.  I think it is valuable for the children to hear different translations.

This has become my favorite time in our homeschool day.  I love hearing my children's thoughts on God's word.  I love that He reveals Himself differently to each of us and uses each of His children to bless the others.

I am also amazed by the memorization capacity of my 8 year old daughter and a little shocked by the deterioration of my own 40-something rememberer!  Staving off Alzheimers with the Word of God.  Oh yeah!

photo by xandert

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 1 ~ Fancy Hairdo

Today The Spreader of Joy decided to do her thang close to home.

My daughter normally does her own hair, but when she asked for help brushing out some tenacious tangles, I was inspired to go beyond that and whip up something a little special.

As you can tell, I am not a hairstylist.  I just remembered a way I used to braid my hair when I was a girl, then found some little fabric flowers and pearls lying around and voila!  With some Mama love thrown in and a little time, hair joy was woven together for my precious Princess.

Her verdict?  Twinkly smile and "It's wonderful!"

Defender of Fun, meet Spreader of Joy!

Little Warrior swaggered up to me this afternoon, fists clenched, and announced boldly, "I... am... The Defender of Fun!"

He handed me a green play silk and asked me to tie it around his neck, then he pulled two more long scarves out of the dress-up collection, tied them together to form a rope, and efficiently lassoed my chair.

 After tipping my chair (with a little leg power from Mom) he busied himself with other important super hero-y projects.  I was settling back into my work when the door flew open and The Defender of Fun leaned in.  "Do you need to get saved again?"

What else was there to say but "Oh yes!"

He grinned and scowled simultaneously (no easy feat) and raced off.  He returned with his homemade rope and tied it to my damsel-in-distress wrist.

Oh this little boy with his dreams of saving the day.  I nurture that desire in him because the world needs heroes.  I don't know why he decided to call himself "The Defender of Fun."  Apparently he doesn't either.  He told me he did not pick the name, it is just his job "to save the fun."  I can accept that.

I want to be a defender of fun too.  Some days I feel more like a defender of the to-do list.  And let me tell you, that is one loooong list.  I check my list, I check everyone else's lists, I look at the clock, I remind, I suggest, I warn.  Bleh.

I am adding something new to my list.  I am challenging myself to spread joy every day.  I want to be intentional about this.  The bud of my heart has joyfully bloomed with the living water that Jesus has poured upon me, and I want so much to share that.

I know that sharing Jesus is at the heart of spreading abiding joy, and it is my desire to be brave and bold and true in doing this.  But what I am talking about is doing something, however small, each and every day, to bring a little extra joy into someone's life.  A way to say thank you to the dear Lord who has given hope to this scared little girl.

I want to go about this intentionally, and I want to be held accountable.  I will be the maker of phone calls, the writer of encouraging notes, the baker of unexpected cookies.  I will choose to play with my children instead of checking one more thing off my to-do list.  I will commit random acts of kindness upon loved ones and strangers alike.  I will just do it.

Pass the purple cape!  I... am... a Spreader of Joy!

Masking Tape

{Mumble mutter} {Mumble mutter}

Busily focused on the task at hand, it took a moment before my brain caught up with my ears enough to discern the slow whisper of "Mas...king...tape.  Mas...king...tape."

I looked up to see Little Warrior, walking toward me, his face fixed in earnest concentration, repeating those words over and over.  When he caught my eye he said, "Papa said to ask you if we have any masking tape."

"We do," I smiled.  "Was it hard to remember those words?"

"Yes!" he said wide-eyed.

As I walked to retrieve the tape I thought how very like myself he is.  The words I often find hard to remember are not so much difficult sounding words, but words I have a hard time believing.  Words like "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6).

Why should I have such a hard time believing this?  God's compassion to me all my life shouts this out.  Yet I still wait for judgment, for anger.

And those are words God himself actually spoke to Moses!

To my amazement, I discovered recently that this statement occurs not once, not twice, but nine times in the Old Testament.  Nine times!  And not just in one book; it is spoken in Exodus, Numbers, Nehemiah, Psalms, Joel, Jonah and Nahum.

Oh how I must whisper these words over and over to remember them... The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Oh yes... whisper them... masking tape them to my heart.

photo credit

Just Do It

Ever have a day when you get out of bed and wonder how you're going to muddle through to the end?

The kind of day when you step on a lego, then stub your toe on a pile of books, and all you can think is "Why doesn't anyone ever clean this place?"  You stumble to the kitchen for your tea and have to clear a path on the counter to the teapot. Your curly headed toddler meanders out and as you snuggle him good morning, you realize he smells like last night's hamburger and the back of his head appears to be sprouting dreadlocks.

You probably don't have days like this, because you are probably much more organized than I am.  You probably also have very well trained children who always pick up after themselves without being told.  Or perhaps they need a reminder, but you are so consistent with your routines that you remembered to sing out sweetly at 5:00pm last night, "Time to tidy the house, children!"  And your little cherubs cheerfully rushed to do your bidding.


I find it frustrating that this issue seem to be cyclical for me.  I do very well at keeping to routines and on top of things for a while, then either there is a slow erosion of order (both in time and space), or something dramatic interrupts our lives and we just can't seem to get back on track.

Being away derailed us this time.  Not only were we away for two and half weeks, but it was a very physically and emotionally exhausting trip.  When we got home, I managed to hold myself together just long enough to get The Princess to her theater class, then I came home and hit the proverbial wall.  I literally felt like I had been in a sustained wrestling match.  My muscles ached.  My bones ached.  I spent two days taking Advil and sleeping a lot.

Today I felt mostly back to normal, but when I looked around my house this morning I just wanted to crawl back in bed.  The center of the house, the public rooms, were fairly tidy, although they needed a good dusting.  But all those satellite rooms... the bedrooms, the school room, the bathrooms, the office... each one was its own explosion.  While I rested these past few days, the children continued on with school work, but they also continued on with playing, especially Little Warrior.  Little Warrior specializes in battlefields, and he did a fine job of recreating them throughout the house.

I sometimes have bouts with nighttime anxiety, and when I am worried, I often find myself awake at 2:00 or 3:00, lying in bed trying to get back to sleep, while endless loops of that-which-is-undone-but-shouldn't-be and what-if-this-terrible-thing-happens cycle through my brain.  It is in this dark hour that my worst fears ooze around my prostrate body, and I feel that I am slowly sinking into a suffocating swamp of my failures.

I have learned that the only way to take this wretchedness in hand is to stand up.  Feet on floor, I take my favorite pillow, and walk to my spot on the couch.  With a glass of water or soothing herbal tea, and my bible or an inspirational book, I open my mind to receive God's advice.

This morning at 3:06, when I snuggled down into the couch, the reminder I got was Just Do It.

Someone has to do it, and that someone is me.

I can fuss about a messy house, but nothing will change until I DO something about it.  I can worry about what "should" be but isn't, but until I DO something, it all remains in the shadowy realm of hypothesis.

I wish I could tell you that I'm a Super Hero and woke up chipper and energetic later that morning.  That I Just Did It all day.  I've already mentioned the legos.

But I did surface from the sea of my own exhaustion enough times to take a deep breath and DO something.  We won't wake up to a perfect house tomorrow, but it also won't be the same disaster. 

Just Do It.

Best laid plans, and all that

As I've shared, this joy thing does not always come naturally.  And one of my biggest joy stealers snuck up and bit my tooshie these past few weeks.

If you've ever taken a Meyers-Briggs test (fun to do and surprisingly accurate) you'll know about the "P" and "J" designations.  People who test out as a "P" are loosey-goosey types, they go with the flow, they're all "Whatever, man" and "Chill, dude."

J's?  Not so much.

J's like to know what is going to happen.  J's plan.  They research.  They are the ultimate duck trainers... all of them in a row... nice, straight, even, yes.  Ahhh.

Take a stab at what I am.

If life took a Meyers-Briggs test it would definitely not come out a J.

We recently embarked on an odyssey from Texas to Rhode Island for a family reunion.  I had taken up writing again after an 18 month break, and was committed to writing daily.  So I packed up my laptop and my notebook and my bible.  Ducks?  Row!

Part of the fun of this odyssey was that I was older than the next oldest passenger by 27 years.  This made me the only legal driver in the bunch.  So I drove.  And drove.  And drove.  1900 miles each way.  31 hours of driving.  Each way.  We did it in 3 days, each direction, breaking our previous time of 4 days in one direction.  Yay us!

If you do the math, you might realize that this leaves approximately no time to write.  At least during the traveling part.

I did write.  There was one fabulous night in which there was a great convergence of writing time and internet connection.  That was the first night.  After that, I had one or the other, or more often, neither.  And to be honest, that first night, I stole time to write from sleeping time.  It didn't feel wise to continue that strategy.

Once we made it to our destination, all our time was filled with family.

So home I came to two and a half weeks of no posts.

Being born a glass-half-empty gal, it was mighty tempting to just say "Forget it.  You might as well stop writing now, you're never going to have the consistency it takes."

But God has been working on me for long enough that I recognize that kind of thinking as futile.  I may be a J but life isn't and it never will be.

It has been a struggle for me to accept the unexpected. One of the things that has helped me (given my personality) is to expect the unexpected.  To plan that things over which I have no control are going to come up, and scatter my pretty ducks.  This may sound strange (how can you plan for something unexpected?) but thinking in this way has freed me up to enjoy the ride more.

It also helps that I have grown to totally trust God, and to understand that my vision is miniscule compared to His.  I have had enough happy-ending-adventures involving chaotic ducks, that I find myself more quickly shaking myself out of a near-panic, even when the ducks start alarmingly morphing into geese and chickens.

And of course, when the ducks get settled down, and the random poultry sorted out, I've learned to just keep doing the thing. 

But I do wonder if it is easier to steal joy from a J than from a P?  What do you think?

Day 1, Full of Fun!

We had a great first day of our road trip, and I am not being sarcastic when I say we had fun!

I really enjoy my children.  We have our moments, and I must confess I had a little problem with my tone yesterday when a certain four year old started whining.  But over all, we enjoy one another.  Such a blessing!

We got off later than I had hoped, but made excellent time.  Our total driving time was 10 1/2 hours yesterday, and we did that in 11 3/4 hours.  Not bad with a car load of kids.  We only stopped twice.

I kept thinking, all through the day, about the wonderful Seussian phrase, "It is fun to have fun but you have to know how."  For some reason that line has come to me often throughout my life as a mother.  It is not just the catchiness of The Cat in the Hat.  I think it speaks to something deeper in me.

I have shared before that I am not by nature a cheerful person.  God has changed me to make me less melancholy, but I still struggle with depression and worry.  Unlike some, who are born smiling, I have had to learn how to have fun.  I'm still learning.

While joy is manifest in the spiritual realm in Jesus, it naturally manifests itself in the earthly, physical realm by how we choose to speak and behave.  Our lives as mothers are filled with opportunities to have fun, and our children just love it when we do!

I don't need to go on a massive road trip with my kids just to enjoy them, or to play with them.  There are opportunities every moment of every day.

Honestly, the first and most powerful way to bring fun into the family is to have a sense of humor.  God made children to play, so what better way to interact with them than playfully?  We capture their hearts in a deeper way when we convey truth through laughter.

Must run... a day of laughter with my children and 716 miles of highway await!

Warrior Health Update

Just a quick happy note... On Monday Little Warrior was tested for all the icky diseases we don't want to bring on our trip, and was cleared for take off.  Our wonderful doctor thinks he is probably at the tail end of a minor virus.  I am praying that no one will be coughing in a week when we arrive at my in-laws.  Would be grateful for your prayers too!
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