Tag Archive for joy

Transformation in 2014

Wow, 2014, you really took me for a ride! On the last day of this year, I reflect on a time of love, loss, and new beginnings. I mean, really, who could have ever known this year would be so transformative?

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Every year ebbs and flows with new life and love lost, but this year, the grief and loss I felt was shocking and shook me to the core. Was it because those lives seem so irreplaceable? Was it because they did so much good in the world and the loss was so great for humanity? Was it because they were so close to my own age? Does that make me mortal? Yes…and mortality hurts. It’s amazing how much bigger a hole in your life someone’s presence makes than you could have ever imagined it would. We take people for granted, and we need to stop and cherish every relationship and every love we have.

Our Pastor of over 18 years retired and moved away. We knew it would happen someday, but change is hard. During his retirement process, we merged our church with another, so we not only got a new Pastor, we got a new church family, a new schedule, a new style, a new way of doing things, a new order, a new mission, and a new everything.

Sometime before this year, God began to whisper to me that my time in children’s ministry was shortening. He spoke to me over and over that it was not a forever gig. I LOVE working with children and my time spent with them at church is no exception. I trust God, I want to do His will, but I didn’t know how I could leave something I love doing so much. We followed God’s leading and stepped aside from the position of Children’s Pastors and stepped away from our work there, but here we are months later just waiting. It has given me the chance to focus on my writing which I totally feel called to by God as a ministry for Him, but I still have that awkward, “why are we not with the kids?” feeling. It hurts. I know God has a plan and it’s for my good. More than anything, I want to be in God’s will. I know His plans for my future are good. Check out Jerimiah 29:11.

Our only child graduated from college this year. That’s a huge milestone for our little nest. She also moved out on her own for the first time. And she brought Jacob into our lives. She went from our baby to a grown woman in a matter of minutes. She will always be our baby of course, but our roles have changed. She’s a full time worker. She’s on her own paying her own rent. She no longer relies on us for everything. It’s exciting, and we are proud…but it hurts. Our only nephew graduated with her and moved across the country. Change is so hard.

graduation

To celebrate graduation, we went to see Niagara Falls, a life-long dream for us. It was amazing. It was fun. It was great family time for us.

niagara falls bucket list dream vacationniagara falls

I lost some kids I have kept for a very long time. They were simply too old to keep coming. Its part of this job, but it never hurts any less. One of the kids who left this year was my longest ever student. For over 10 years I’ve seen his face daily. Change is not easy. I enrolled new kids as well and am getting to know them. The journey of loss and new love cycles over and over again in this job.

We expanded and gardened a much bigger area this year which gave us the freedom to grow and learn about many more things. We worked hard and put a lot of effort into it, and we are proud of it! We planted, tended, weeded, and harvested so much goodness this year.

gardening with kids tomatoesgardening with kidsharvesting with kids

I started the blog this year. As I worked on trying to find a publisher for my book, I was told I needed to have a market for the book. It’s a story about how I learned to grow food with my kids. Start a blog….hmmm…I don’t even know where to begin. So I have written and worked and learned A LOT this year as I try to get this brand new blog off the ground. I also started a Facebook page to link to it. Another big adventure.

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This year I have grown tremendously, I have loved, I have lost, and I have started many new beginnings. I’m in awe of it when I look at it as a whole. Let’s talk about a few of my favorite things. One of them is the smiles of my babies when they exude true joy. The kind when their eyes light up and their face beams. Another favorite thing is the look of pride on their faces when they conquer a new skill on their own. The feeling and body language of “I did it all by myself”. It’s amazing. The look of concentration on children’s faces as they make a connection for the first time is another thing I adore. It’s the aha moment, you can see it click in their brains by the expressions on their faces. I am truly blessed to have a job where I experience these things.

What are some of my favorite things to grow with the kids? Okra-it’s so tall and prickly, there are some amazing sensory experiences involved in okra, right down to the slimy liquid that seeps out of them when you cut them. Tomatoes are a favorite for their bright red color and delicious texture. The kids learn so much as they learn to only pick the red, red ones. Extra tall sunflowers are a pure joy. They are amazing, they are food, and they are stately as they sway quietly in the breeze. Zinnias are a favorite because they have such vibrant color and are so resilient they can stand up to the brutal summer temperatures in Oklahoma. In the dead heat of summer, they are usually the only thing pretty still standing. And of course peas, my very favorite thing to eat fresh from the garden. I love those delightful little pods full of sweet tantalizing flavors. And the kids LOVE to pick them and “pop” them. Peas make us smile.

zinnias

sunflower

Some of my favorite products come from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Non GMO certified seed is all they sell so I don’t have to worry about getting the wrong thing. I love Annie Haven’s Moo Poo Tea to fertilize my plants with. I love Tom Copeland’s Tax Workbook and will be ordering my 2014 copy right away to help me do my taxes for the year. In addition, I love the Oklahoma Food Co-op. They are loaded with products I am looking for from wheat berries to grind for my flour, to meat that I am confident is from animals that lived a quality, happy, torture-free life. The Co-op sells chemical free home products, homemade dinners, breads, pastas, and cheeses, fresh produce, and so much more. I love getting my order each month and can’t wait to enjoy it.

I have many favorite blogs as well. I will mention a few. One of my favorite is Little Big Harvest where my friend Andrea is doing what I’m doing with her kids in the garden. I love learning along with her and her little charges. I love being encouraged that I’m not alone in my desire to teach these skills to very young children. I also love Square Foot Gardening 4 U, Gardening Jones, Vegetable Gardening, and Red Dirt Ramblings that I go to for answers to many garden questions. They are a treasure trove of great tips and information. Vegetable Gardening is really a Facebook page I follow, but there is a blog for the Average Person Gardening that has a super cool seeds of the month club that is linked to that Facebook page.  I follow them both. I especially enjoy reading advice from Red Dirt Ramblings because she lives in my state and has a similar climate to what our garden has, so I know when she’s seeding, I should be seeding. I love that! Another favorite blog I love is Juggling Real Food and Real Life. This blog encourages me on my real food journey. What I mean by real food is whole, unprocessed, healthful foods like those I strive to serve and eat. She gives many great tips about how to fit that lifestyle of eating into a real, busy, hectic life. We all need help with that. And my all-time favorite blog to read is The (not always) Lazy W. Her writing is a lovely adventure of heart that transforms me with feelings of love and joy. She writes about running, gardening, food and just life. She is a blessing of goodness in a world that needs more of it. There are many more blogs I love, but these are my favorites today.

Finally, the favorites of my readers. My most popular blog posts for 2014 were: What Childcare Providers wish Parents Knew, What Parents wish Childcare Providers Knew, How to Throw a Gingerbread Party, 7 Inexpensive and Adorable Gift Wrapping Ideas, and How to Make Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix. Those were your top picks with comments and clicks. I am more than grateful for each look someone gave anything I wrote. I love that anyone is interested at all in what I have to say. My hope with this blog is to encourage kindness, love, and understanding in people. To make the world a better place, more full of good food, and good times than it was before. I want to open hearts and minds to doing good, lending a hand up, helping others, and loving more. Be the best you you can be in 2015! Blessings to all of you, and thank you for a wonderful beginning and a wonderful year. I wish you a peaceful home, much love, a heart closer to God, and every need met.

I can definitely say on the last day of 2014, I am much stronger than I was on the first day. I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned. It was God’s plan for me and I trust Him. 2015, here we come!

I would love to hear your comments and thank you again for reading! See you in 2015…

What Christmas Really Means…

 

Christmas is this week and my mind is on how my heart is feeling. So often we get so wrapped up in gifts and making everything perfect, we lose sight of why we are really celebrating. It’s Jesus’ birthday. It’s time for loving and giving. It doesn’t matter if it’s the exact day Jesus was born, but it is the day we celebrate it. 

As I reflect on the past year and all the heartache and joy that has come with it, I am reminded of the great blessings I have in my life. I am reminded of the great sorrow I have felt. I am reminded of the joy and peace that I have gained.

What Christmas really means.

Family Vacations are a must for continuing to love your job year after year. Family time is important, especially when you live at your job!

Christmas is about love.

Within the past two months I have lost two people who were very dear to my heart. Both were very young, within just 4 years younger or older than my age of 43. Both were not ill or expected to be lost so soon. There was shock. There was disappointment. There was great sorrow for those they left behind and how their lives would change. There was anger at the unfairness of it all. There was joy at the amazing and special ways they touched the lives of others. They were loved….deeply.

This year my only child graduated from college and moved away. I think about the great excitement I felt as I was moving out on my own for the first time. I think about the satisfaction of being on your own and taking care of yourself. I wonder what she is eating…or how she deals with washing her own clothes and stuff. I know she is determined and can do anything, but she’s my baby, I want to do it for her. I am more proud of her than I could ever put into words. She amazes me endlessly…

Christmas is about joy.

This year we fulfilled a lifelong dream of seeing Niagara Falls. We took our daughter there for a graduation celebration. It was amazing, and the time spent together was irreplaceable.

This year was full of blessings in our garden. The kids and I learned so many valuable lessons and were blessed to be able to eat some healthy and delicious food. I learned to like a lot more healthy foods and taught some children and some adults to do the same. We gained so much health, physically and mentally from the experience of building and tending that little piece of heaven. I cannot even tell you what the garden does for my mental health!

This year we felt great sorrow as our Pastor of the past 18 years left our church. Change is so hard. But God has great things in store for their family as well as ours. He is moving on with his life and he and his wife are working toward their new goals. Our church merged with another church and we are learning and changing as we get to know a lot of new ways and new people. We have a different place in the church body, which is strange and interesting. It’s been difficult to adjust but I do trust that God has a plan for me and when He reveals it to me, I will walk through the doors He opens.

This year I lost some children at the age of moving on and I gained some new ones. Getting to know new people and missing the old ones is part of what I do here, but it never gets any easier for me. I am very blessed to have a wonderful group of families to provide care for. This job can be very difficult when you have difficult families to deal with every day. Many times it’s difficult to find people to work with who are the right fit. I am blessed beyond measure. I love that I love what I do every day.

This year I have continued to grow closer to my husband and best friend. He has supported me, helped me and loved me whether I was lovable or not. He has helped me become the person I am today and he has stood beside me through all these changes.

This year I have felt the love of my family. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have a family like mine, but I am grateful. I have learned how to be a better daughter, sister, sister in law, niece, cousin, and aunt than I was before. I am loved and I am blessed.

This year I have felt the love of my Savior even more than ever. He loves me immeasurably. He holds me in the palm of His hand. He is my God, my friend, my confidant, and I couldn’t live one day without His love.

I have felt more peace this Christmas than ever before. I have felt more loved. I have felt more love for others. I have been calmer. I have struggled less to be perfect and accepted that things are ok. I have been working hard to focus on what matters. My God, my family, and helping others. Other concerns seem to melt away.

What Christmas Means to Me

So what Christmas means to me today is the love I feel. It’s not about presents or making the tree perfect. It’s not about planning everything to the t. It’s not about being perfect or outdoing someone else. It’s about the love of a Savior who died for us, it’s about being close to the ones we love and showing them we care. It’s about kindness to a stranger, or helping someone who needs a hand up.

What can we do to help others during this time?

How about instead of spoiling our own kids with a ton of toys they don’t need, we take a little time and give to someone who has nothing. How about we take a few minutes out of our day to reach out to someone who is hurting or lonely? How about we show kindness to someone who isn’t kind?

What are some things you can think of to do to make someone’s life better? Can you volunteer to serve Christmas dinner at the homeless shelter? Can you fill up someone’s car with gas? Can you help a single mom give Christmas to her kids? Can you adopt an angel off the angel tree? Can you knit a stocking cap or quilt a blanket for someone who is cold? What about giving someone who is lonely a smile or a hug? We have plans to do some of these things and we are so excited! Tell me something you have done or are planning to do to share some holiday spirit this week? I would LOVE to hear about it!

Don’t forget to pin for later!

 

Finding Joy…

There are times in my life when I find joy elusive. My life is incredibly fulfilling. I have everything I need. But some days its just hard to feel joyful. When I have days like that I pray and I think about things that make me feel joy. I wanted to share just a few of the things that bring me unspeakable joy in my life.

The beauty of this momma duck and her babies.  She made her next just feet away from some of the swiftest rapids I have ever witnessed.  I was in awe of her.

The beauty of this momma duck and her babies. She made her nest just feet away from some of the swiftest rapids I have ever witnessed. I was in awe of her.

The pure joy of children.  It's contagious!

The pure joy of children. It’s contagious!

This pancake cactus.  I LOVE it!

This pancake cactus. I LOVE it!

Children being silly.

Children being silly.

Baby toes.

Baby toes.

Hummingbird bootys.  Is that not the cutest?

Hummingbird bootys. Is that not the cutest?

Mr. T, MY guitar hero.  :)

Mr. T, MY guitar hero. 🙂

Thing in nature that amaze me like these trap door spider tunnels.

Thing in nature that amaze me like these trap door spider tunnels.

Children discovering and learning.  The pride they feel in their accomplishments.

Children discovering and learning. The pride they feel in their accomplishments.

Gorgeous Oklahoma skies.

Gorgeous Oklahoma skies.

Hugs...

Hugs…

And one of my favorites, dancing in the rain.  Growing up my sister and I would get our umbrellas and sing and dance in the rain.  I used to do it with my cousin too.  And I still enjoy dancing in the rain today.

And one of my favorites, dancing in the rain. Growing up my sister and I would get our umbrellas and sing and dance in the rain. I used to do it with my cousin too. And I still enjoy dancing in the rain today.

This morning I was feeling unusually down for a number of reasons, none of which were a very big deal. I just had a sadness that I couldn’t shake. Any time I see kids that I keep or used to keep, it makes my heart leap and brings me unexplainable joy. There is a teenage boy that I kept until he went to preschool, so he’s been gone for maybe 12 years. Anyway, today when I was feeling sad, I saw him, and when his eyes met mine, my heart lept its usual leap and then he got a smile on his face that made me feel a foot taller. He quickly realized and, as a typical teenage boy, tried to stop smiling because he was embarrassed by his show of emotion. But that look on his face when he saw me is why I do the job I do today. If nothing else goes right in this world, I KNOW I am making an impact on these kids. When the day seems too hard, I think of kids like that and I remember that it’s all worth it and I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. So remember that joy can be found in tiny moments and small pleasures. I know God intended for that to happen today. I drove home through downtown where there are about six stop lights in a row really close together, and as I approached each one, it turned green right before I got there. I knew that it was a wink from God telling me He was there and He loves me.

What small things bring joy to you?

Not Interested…

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What happens when you have a great activity planned for the kids and no one is interested? What about all your hard work and preparation? What about the great benefits of the activity you want the kids to receive? I believe children should not be made to participate in activities they are not interested in. I invite everyone to join us in what I have prepared, but if a child does not want to participate, that’s okay. If several children are not interested, maybe I need to take a look at what I am planning for them. I might be missing the mark about what is appropriate or interesting. Usually once I start an activity with the kids, those who were not interested at first see that we are having fun and join us anyway, but if they don’t, it’s no big deal. And sometimes the kids who want to do something else draw all of us into their game. We are flexible.
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What do I do with the kids who are not interested in gardening? I built this giant garden for them to learn in, so they need to learn in it right? There are so many things the garden teaches it really doesn’t matter what they do in it, they are learning. I have some children who are still interested in picking weeds and harvesting and planting every day. But we have a massive garden and there is A LOT of work to be done in it. I let the kids plant until they don’t want to and then I finish it for them. I invite them to pick weeds but my husband and I spend many hours a week picking weeds so the garden can be successful. If they don’t want to pick vegetables, I have toys in the garden and a resting place for them to hang out. Everyone is happy in the garden, but they are happy doing different things. Some kids love to hunt for and watch bugs and creatures, some love to play in the gravel rocks and hunt for treasures there, and some like to pick produce every day the entire time we are in the garden. All of those are great ways to learn and they are all okay with me.
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If none of the kids ever wanted to plant or pick would the garden still be a success? Yes, because they are getting sensory stimulation of all kinds in the garden, a very important part of their development. Even if I never brought them in the garden, it’s still important for their nutrition. We have totally chemical free food picked at the peak of ripeness (most of the time) and full of great nutrients. For me, that is worth all the effort I put into the garden. And I feel GREAT when I’m eating out of the garden with them. I have more energy and I feel good about what I’m putting in my body. I know it’s worth doing for them.
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Since the garden is pretty big, there is a lot to do in it. Some children are losing interest because we’ve been picking and planting for months. That’s okay. Especially since they have already learned so much from the picking and planting they have done. Honestly sometimes I tire of picking and planting myself, but I know the amazing benefits we receive from it so I press on. And that’s my choice because I love the garden and I’m the one who wanted to do it. I’m don’t force the kids to participate. Doing that would make them dread the garden. People tell me all the time they won’t grow a garden as adults because they always had to work the garden as kids and hated it. I want the kids to come away from their garden experiences here with knowledge of how to make things grow, understanding the garden is ever changing and imperfect, and joy from the time they have spent in it. Letting them come in and out of the garden work is the best way to achieve that goal.
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An Attitude of Gratitude

One of the things many people are missing in life is joy. For years I wasn’t capable of feeling a lot of joy, so I prayed earnestly for it. I have found the key to finding joy. It’s gratefulness. This is something I strive each day to teach my kids. I want them to be able to experience true joy in their lives. You have choices in everything. And if you want to be happy, you have to choose to be happy. If you are not happy, then change it, or quit. If you can’t change it, quit. If you can’t quit, then be happy! I heard that years ago. Where? Of all places, a two hour tax seminar for daycare providers. It was taught by Tom Copeland and it changed my life.
Every day when I get up, I tell God thank you for that day. I am grateful for God’s love and my relationship with Him, my amazing family, and my job. I get to do something I totally think matters and I love. How lucky am I? How blessed am I that I KNOW I am doing what God created me to do with my life?
So many people think that having things makes you happy, but it simply can’t. Love can make people happy. Jesus can make people happy. Satisfaction can make people happy. But things simply cannot. No matter how much you have or what great next thing you are excited to get, it’s fleeting. The happiness lasts for only a little while. But joy is lasting. Joy is a deep emotion felt to the bottom of our soul. Joy is GOOD.
I used to want my Mom to make me happy. And my sister. And my husband. But no one can do that for you. You have to decide that you are going to be happy to find joy. When I began to choose to look at things from a positive light, my situation BECAME more positive. When I learned how to be happy with myself, I was happy to be with my husband and appreciated him more.
Being positive is something I try to model for my kids. I talk to them a lot about how I feel and how I’m going to choose to think about our situations in a positive way. Many times I have heard one of the older kids talk about how they decided to do the same, and they are helping me model positive perception to the younger kids.
This weekend we moved our only daughter across the state to her first apartment. More than one thing went wrong. And more than one surprise arose. I could have chosen to be upset. But instead, I just looked at the situation and tried to find a way to fix it. I could be sitting around feeling sorry for myself because I will miss her so much, but instead I’m TRYING to focus on how exciting a time this is for her. I remember when I got out on my own for the first time and it was FUN! It was hard to learn how to take care of myself, but when I learned to do it, I was so proud of myself. And she is an AMAZING woman. I couldn’t be prouder of her. She is working out plans to make her hopes and dreams come true. It’s pretty cool to watch. It’s what we raised her to do. We’ve known she was leaving someday for 22 years now and although it’s scary to let go, and hard to watch her struggle, and I will always worry about her, I am super excited to see her become something in the world. To make her way. And to live her life.
Family child care is not a lucrative business. I bring in income, but most of it goes for expenses to run the business, like $7,000 a year for food for the kids. Once you deduct that plus toys, art supplies, games, equipment, paper products and all the other things it takes to run the business, there is not a lot left. Sometimes I get tired of being poor, but then I realize I have everything I need and can pay my bills, and I remember how blessed I really am. So many people hate going to work every day but I get to wake up and be excited about what I am going to do that day. Lots of days are super hard, and sometimes I even want to quit, but I still LOVE what I do most of the time.
After we built our first 5 garden beds and got them ready to plant in, a 60 foot willow tree fell on it all and smashed a lot of it into the ground. I was sad to lose my favorite tree, and I was sad to lose my garden dreams, and I was sad that there was a big mess to clean up, but the first thing I thought of was that I was glad it didn’t hit our house, or hurt anyone. It’s all in what you choose to focus on. I know that my prayers were answered when God revealed this truth to me.
I am not always perfect, and I’m not always happy 100% of the time. I worry a lot, I’m insecure, and I fail at a lot of things, but my life is 1000 times better when I choose happiness. So what can you do to change your situation? What can you do to change your perspective of your situation? If you have trouble getting started, make a list of things that you have to be thankful for and THINK about them for a while.
Philippians 4:8
The Message (MSG)
8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Philippians 4:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

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