Power in patience

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I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s power in patience.

Consider anyone you know who seems especially patient, and you’ll see a person who is in control. I don’t mean in control of their circumstances or in control of their life but in control of themselves.

Patient people tend to be relatively measured and calm. They have perspective. They don’t miss the forest for the trees. They’re fully present in the moment, and they don’t let frustrations derail them. They have self-control.

In fact, they can sometimes make patience seem easy… even effortless. But, make no mistake, it’s just as hard for them as it for the next person. The difference is in the practicing.

Practice makes permanent. Practice makes patience.

Patience recognizes that, while we often can’t control an outcome or timing or circumstances or people, we can always choose to control our response.

In fact, patience is like a diet. Most diets operate under the premise that you need to eat a certain way for a certain amount of time so you can achieve the results you want, and then life can continue as it did before. Only, all too often people end up gaining back all the weight – and then some – because the diet wasn’t sustainable.

The truly sustainable diet isn’t a diet at all… it’s making a change in eating habits that’s practical for the long haul. It’s only once we accept that there’s no magic formula… just a new way of life and a new way of eating – one bite at a time – that real change happens.

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The same is true with patience. We will become more patient once we come to the realization that patience isn’t a quick fix, but a change of mind. It’s changing how we react to disappointments, waiting, anger, frustration, things not happening that we wanted, or things happening that we didn’t want. Or things happening in a different way or a different timing than we’d hoped for. Step by step, patience is developing a determination to change the things we can change – ourselves… our actions and our reactions – and turning the things we can’t change over to God.

But, what if you’re like me, doing reasonably well with patience in many ways but feeling like you’re fighting a losing battle in certain situations?

Well, the Bible has the answer for that.

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When I come to the end of myself (which is often…), Jesus is always there to fill up my weakness with his strength. And, what He’ll do for me, He can do for you.

Can’t do it on your own?

Power up…

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Patiently waiting…

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I’m convinced our ability to navigate ‘waiting’ is pivotal to patience.

Just consider all the things we could be waiting for at any given minute…

Waiting for something to start, waiting for something to end, waiting for something to happen, waiting for answers, waiting for healing, waiting for results, waiting for justice. Or small things like waiting in traffic, waiting in line, and waiting in waiting rooms. (I find it humorous that they’re actually called waiting rooms, pretty much giving you the heads up that waiting will happen).

I’m famous for standing in a line and then switching to a different line, that seems like it’s progressing faster… only to discover that the line I’d abandoned was the quickest. The same goes for waiting in traffic. And yet I still persist in changing lines and lanes. Although, while it used to regularly drive me crazy, I’ve come to pretty much expect it. My ability to patiently wait has improved over time. And, when I find impatience creeping in, it’s often a measured response.

But, trust me, patience doesn’t come easily. Or perfectly. I’ve worked on patience probably more than any other attribute in my life. And I know better than to ever think I’ve mastered it because that’s precisely when circumstances show me how far I still have to go.

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Our 21 month purebreed British bulldog, Charlie, is a dog who’s always waiting.

Waiting for water.

His need is insatiable to the point of fixation. According to the vet, it’s psychological. But, to Charlie, the need is very real.

He will drink to the bottom of his dish, no matter how much water is in it. He’ll drink until he gets sick (which history has shown us repeatedly). To him, water is the equivalent of a t-bone steak. So we have to be keepers of the water dish.

And so, Charlie is a dog who waits.

Some days, his entire day is spent waiting for water. He’ll lay by his food dish for hours. If water should appear, he doesn’t want to miss it. But, regardless of how often he gets water, as soon as he’s finished drinking, he starts the waiting process all over again. Sometimes, he’ll break it up with naps but, trust me, a whole of waiting goes on.

Charlie has become a very patient dog. But, even then, occasionally the waiting gets to be too much, and he’ll bark once as if to say, ‘Hurry up, people!’. But, we just say no, and he goes back to waiting… because he’s learned that he’s most apt to get what he’s waiting for when he’s being patient.

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That’s a valuable lesson for people. Our patience might not always achieve the results we’re hoping for but it will always do far more than our impatience will. At the very least, being patient changes us.  We become kinder, more tolerant, more tolerable, and self-controlled people. Happier people… because impatience never made anyone happier. Or more popular.

So… need patience?

Just wait for it…

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Have patience…

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Patience is foundational to navigating life. But, patience doesn’t come easily to most of us, perhaps because it gets tested so many times in any given day.
Last week, I was driving in the middle of three lanes of northbound traffic during rush hour traffic through an intersection where they’re constructing the first diverging diamond interchange in Canada. As I started to pass under the recently laid spans of the bridge deck, a heavy piece of bolted metal dropped onto the hood of my car, leaving distinct indentations and damage to the paint.
Have patience…
Two days later, we took our 21 month old British bulldog on a rare drive only to have him pee on the seat between us shortly after we had stopped to give him an outdoor pee break.
Have patience…
The day after that, I wrote an entire blog post that disappeared forever just as I was about to publish it (even though I had saved it numerous times throughout the process).
Have patience…
A couple of days after that, life threw me an unexpected – and unpleasant – curveball that I didn’t see coming, and that I’m continuing to have to deal with.
Have patience…
Several months ago, I had received a recall notice in the mail for my car, which I took to the dealership only to discover that the notice was for my last Nissan vehicle. The one I had traded in 3 1/2 years earlier. I phoned Nissan Canada to have the error corrected, and then promptly forgot about it until today, when I received a second recall notice in the mail for the same vehicle.
Have patience…
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I did reasonably well with 4 of the 5 instances I’ve described above but I assure you that’s not always the case. Patience is something I grapple with circumstance by circumstance, and I’m reasonably certain I’m not the only one.
Just this past week in the news… Justin Bieber got decked after punching a guy in the face in Cleveland. Twin sisters got in a physical altercation while driving in Maui, and one lost her life when the car subsequently plunged off a cliff. A disagreement in a Costco parking lot in Toronto turned into a brawl between two middle aged couples, prompting one news source to say that we’re living in an age of rage.
This is what the Bible has to say about patience…
“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” Proverbs 14:29
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” Proverbs 16:32
It’s easy to be impatient and hard to be patient. But patience is worth it. Impatient people are rarely happy people and usually not that fun to be around, not to mention that others tend to notice when you do things that go against the tide of human nature.
Sometimes you even get featured on Oprah.
But, God always notices even if no one else does.
My goal, my prayer, and my hope is that I will get patience right far more often than I don’t. That the times I demonstrate patience will point others to the One who is able to do in me exceedingly abundantly above all I could ever ask or think.
The patience of Job?
I’m aiming for the patience of Joy
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Perfect peace…

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Peace is an interesting topic because many people want it, few have it, and most don’t know how to get it or keep it.

Peace has been around since the beginning of time, starting in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve never had a single argument, no one was at war, and even the animals all got along. Peace never crossed their minds because they didn’t know a time where they didn’t have it. For one brief time in history, there was peace.

Perfect peace.

But, then sin entered the world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and mankind has struggled to keep a grasp on peace ever since, starting when Cain murdered his brother Abel, and quite possibly when Adam and Eve had an argument or two over whose fault it was that God had banished them from the Garden of Eden.

One of the earliest words signifying peace was the Hebrew word ‘shalom’. To this day, it’s spoken by many Jewish people around the world, and even by many non-Jewish people. It’s often used interchangeably with ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’, which reminds me of John 14:27 when Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”

Shalom.

At the church we regularly attend, after the praise and worship part of each service, it’s customary to shake hands with those around you and speak the blessing, “May the peace of Christ be with you.” To which the reply is, “And also with you.”

I confess it felt weird to do that the first one hundred times or so but I’ve come to appreciate that it’s one of the nicest things we can say to each other. There’s power in speaking peace into someone else’s life, as well as having peace spoken into your own life.

Words aren’t the only way peace is conveyed. For centuries, the dove has been a universal symbol of peace, as has been the olive branch. And, in 1958, a British designer and artist, by the name of Gerald Holtom, designed an actual peace symbol.

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Peace must be important to our well being for there to be so many different ways to communicate it. After all, consider that wars rage, terrorists terrorize, people feud, families divide, and it can be easier to hate than to love. Some people are even at war with themselves, as evidenced by self-harming behaviours and self-hatred.

You don’t have to look very far to find people needing peace.

Peace is elusive but the peace from Christ is perfect. Isaiah 26:3 puts it this way:

“You will keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.”

Sounds straightforward, eh? Well, in practice, we’re imperfect people trying to perfectly trust God, and that affects our peace. Oh, we can have moments of peace… and maybe even stretches of peace… but then something happens to cause inner turmoil or external turmoil in our lives, and our peace goes out the window, just like that.

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It’s like riding a bike. It’s easiest to ride on level plain, with no obstacles in sight. But, add some rough terrain, a few obstacles, and a couple of steep hills, and it’s another story entirely. You find yourself having to stand up to pedal or maybe you have to get off your bike and start pushing. Sometimes you need someone to come alongside you… either to help push or simply to encourage you.

Someone to help you bear your load.

“Two people are better than one,
    because they get more done by working together.
If one falls down,
    the other can help him up.
But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls,
    because no one is there to help.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

But, then there are the sweet moments when you find yourself at the top of a hill. The bigger the hill, the better. And you can just soar to the bottom without having to hardly touch the pedals.

It’s in those moments when you can just enjoy the ride, and revel in the joy of the journey.

Ahhhh… perfect peace…

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Anti-peace

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True confessions…

I’m stressed out. Tired and stressed out, to be precise.

Earlier today, I looked up the definition of stress, and this is what I found:

“A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So, I looked up the definition of peace (seeing as it’s the topic for May), and it gave two definitions, both of which started with the words:

“Freedom from…”

Freedom from…

Those two words stopped me in my tracks and highlighted the fact that I’ve been feeling the opposite of peace.

The truth is I haven’t been feeling freedom from anything.

But, I’ve started taking steps to figure out how I can keep stress from dominating my life. Especially since the “adverse and demanding circumstances” that contributed to me becoming so stressed are probably not going to go away anytime soon.

What’s a girl to do?

Well, my hubby and I are going on vacation just 4 short days from now, and I’m pretty sure that 8 days in Puerto Vallarta will go a long way to helping my stress. But, that will only be a brief respite, after which life will resume and, no doubt, my stressful circumstances.

It was recently suggested that I need to regularly spend time with a trusted friend or two who I can confide in, and who appreciates me for the person I am. I do have those people in my life but they mostly live somewhere else, which is the downside of having moved around a lot. But, there are a couple of friends where I live who have the potential to become close relationships. So, one of my goals is to become more intentional about deepening those friendships.

The closer your support system, the better.

It was also suggested that I be kinder to myself, and regularly indulge in some of the things I most enjoy. Things like going for a massage, taking a brisk walk, baking, reading, blogging, having date nights with my hubby, getting together with a friend for coffee, watching a movie, etc. These ideas seem somewhat simplistic on the surface but I do enjoy them, and they’ve been falling through the cracks in direct proportion to how stressed I’ve been feeling. Basically, I need to work smarter, not harder.

The goal is to manage my stress rather than have my stress manage me.

I’ve done a few of the things I enjoy this week but, to be honest, I still don’t feel much better. I do think our vacation will help jumpstart the process, and I’m very thankful for the timing. From the moment we leave the driveway until we return 8 days later, nothing but rest and relaxation will be on the agenda. I plan on taking full advantage of being out of the country… spending lots of quality time with my hubby, sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling, eating, reading, sightseeing, and sleeping.

I just need to remember that I didn’t get this stressed overnight so I won’t get unstressed overnight either. But, simply having a plan makes me think that peace is at least possible.

I especially need to remember that God is bigger than anyone or anything that’s been causing me stress. It’s easier said that done but committing my circumstances to Him, and trusting that He will intervene in the right way and at the right time will go a long way to being able to feel peace in the midst of the storm. I’ve been praying a lot but maybe I need to be still and listen more too.

It’s hard to hear that still small voice when I’m doing all the talking.

I decided to combine the definitions of peace and stress to come up with a new definition for peace that goes like this…

Freedom from a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

I like it.

I’m actively in pursuit of peace… my own version of “freedom from”, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it increases my joy.

But, it’s a journey, not a destination. So it’s to be continued…

Peace out.

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For the love of…

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The past couple of weeks have been really good in some respects but really tough in others. Tough enough that my last post for April is only happening on the first day of May.

The details are unimportant but, for more than a year, I’ve had an ongoing challenge with certain people who don’t love me. I’m pretty sure they don’t even like me. My recent discouragement has come from thinking that the tide had finally turned only to discover than I’m somehow farther from shore than ever before.

If I could avoid them, I would but, in this case, it’s neither practical nor possible. So, I have to deal with being actively disliked pretty much every day, and to say it’s not easy is an understatement. I pray a lot that the situation will change but only God knows if it will.

So far, He isn’t saying.

There’s a cost to love… even when it’s reciprocated. It costs us time, energy, commitment, and sacrifice. It costs the same things when it isn’t reciprocated.

It just feels worse.

But, if I consider the alternative, history shows that hate comes at the highest cost of all… our souls. Hate breeds nothing but more hate. If you don’t believe me, just check the news everyday. You’ll find far more reports about hate than about love because love is hard and it doesn’t come naturally. It’s no coincidence that when people choose to love instead of hate, they often end up on Oprah because that reaction is not our human nature.

My own situation alternately upsets, frustrates, discourages, and angers me. It depends on the day, and sometimes the moment. But, I continually remind myself that I can’t live there. I need to choose to rise above my emotions, and be loving.

No matter what.

Period.

That means extending kindness, showing an interest in them, praying for them, and treating them like I treat everyone else. Treating them the same as I would if they were being lovable.

But, let me be clear about one thing… loving others doesn’t mean being a pushover or a doormat. It doesn’t mean putting ourselves in harm’s way or living with abuse. It’s important to set boundaries for another’s behaviour towards us. When those boundaries aren’t respected, sometimes we have to put distance between us and them… both physically and emotionally. Sometimes for awhile and sometimes for forever.

I wish I had this ‘love’ thing down pat but the past couple of weeks have shown me that I have a lot of room to grow. Truth be told, I will always have a lot of room to grow but I sincerely hope the learning curve won’t always be quite so steep.

I know I’ve only been on The Joy Journey since the beginning of April but focusing on love these past few weeks – both the successes and the challenges – has helped me feel more joyful in general.

So, gotta love that…

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Loving-kindness…

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A number of years ago, I attended a motivational business seminar where I had the opportunity to participate in the following exercise. The room divided into groups of three, one of whom was chosen to be ‘the tree’… standing with their arms extended out to the side, like branches. When the seminar leader gave the cue, the remaining two members of each group took an arm and tried to push it down to the person’s side as they made positive statements about them.

You’re a great person. You’re really nice. You’re a hard worker. You make people happy. You have a great sense of humor. You’re kind.

When the seminar leader instructed everyone to stop, we discovered that not one group had been able to push down the arms of the people with their arms extended.

The second part of the exercise was identical, with the exception of the statements verbalized. As group members tried to push down the arms of the other member in their group, they instead made negative statements about them.

You did a terrible job. You never do anything right. No one likes you. You’ll never be able to do that. We don’t want you in our group.

The result was surprising. Everyone’s arms folded like a deck of cards. Not one person was able to keep their arms extended in the face of negative input.

The people and the methods were the same in both exercises. The only thing that varied was the words that were spoken. The lesson was unmistakeable. Our words have the power to either build others up or to tear them down.

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I thought of that exercise again recently with the challenge I’ve been having trying to incorporate one 35 minute daily walk into Charlie’s life (our 19 month old purebred British bulldog). The main challenge has been that Charlie doesn’t want to walk. He doesn’t even want to leave the property. If he could talk, I’m sure he would point out that British bulldogs are physically built to excel at naps, not walks. And I don’t think he appreciates my rationale that one short walk a day still leaves him with 23 1/2 hours a day for napping.

So, each walk has started like this. I put Charlie on the leash… we go out the door and down the steps. Charlie thinks he’s going for a pee but then, at some point, realizes that was only ‘Phase 1’ of the outing. I start walking toward the end of the driveway but then Charlie puts the brakes on… basically plants his feet and becomes a 49 pound stone. So, I brace the leash across the front of my legs while continuing to slowly walk forward until he eventually has no choice but to follow. This pattern continues for many blocks until Charlie suddenly shakes off his protestations, and inexplicably walks beautifully beside me for the rest of the walk.

I can attest to the fact that I’ve tried everything to get Charlie to be less resistant for the first part of his walk. My theory that he would remember his walk from the previous day, and that it would motivate him to eventually walk willingly right from the beginning never took flight. Instead, each day was like Groundhog Day, with practice becoming permanent.

But I recently came up with the idea to praise Charlie the minute he walked – particularly near the beginning of our outing when the walking didn’t tend to go so well. Now, even if Charlie drags his feet, as long as he’s walking, it counts as walking… and I instantly praise him. Good boy, Charlie. If he plants his feet the next moment, I say nothing except ‘Come’ and just keep moving ahead until he has no choice but to follow. I’ve wanted Charlie to associate praise with the action of walking, and have hoped it would prove to be motivating.

Guess what? It’s working!

Until I tried this little experiment, I never said anything positive OR negative to Charlie on our walks… just mostly things like ‘Come’ or ‘Yes, you’re going to walk’ (the latter quite possibly through gritted teeth). But, something as simple as giving words of praise for something that genuinely merits praise has made all the difference.

I can’t say that Charlie is 100% onboard with his walks just yet. He still plants his feet in the driveway when he realizes that we plan to actually leave the property but his resistance doesn’t continue too far beyond that anymore when, not so long ago, it was a battle of wills for literally many blocks.

It made me think of the word ‘loving-kindness’… meaning tenderness and consideration toward others. I think there are many ways we can show loving-kindness to those around us – including the Charlie’s in our lives – but one of the most powerful ways is through our words. Of course, extending loving-kindness through our words means nothing unless our actions back them up but I truly believe there’s nothing quite like our words to build others up in a way that few other things can.

Don’t let on to Charlie but I think our daily walk has become the highlight of his day. I know it’s become the highlight of mine…

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Love list…

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It can be easy to take the things we love – and the people we love – for granted so I decided to pay special attention to both this past week. That exercise made me wonder why I ever let life overshadow love…

Here is a glimpse of my love list…

  • My husband and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary a couple of days ago. We had dinner at the historical ranche house where our wedding had taken place, and where Mike had proposed six months before that. We loved reminiscing and just celebrating us in the place that holds so many great memories of our love story…
  • Emily turned 17 the day before our anniversary, and her wish was to celebrate by having both sides of the family over for dinner. It was somewhat daunting to consider feeding 22 people – especially just days after having had surgery – but it was worth it to see how happy both Emily and my hubby were with how the evening had gone…
  • Lately, I’ve tried to be more intentional about being connected to friends and family. It means a lot when people take the time to send an e-mail, message, text, or phone call my way – or do something equally thoughtful – and I want to be that kind of person too. As much as I think I do reasonably well in this respect, my goal is to do better, because nothing communicates love quite like our actions…
  • The more I strive to know God and to love God, the more I find I’m able to love others. Hopefully, somewhere in that process, I also become more lovable to others…
  • Great food always rates some love. This past week… stellar sturgeon for our anniversary dinner, fall-off-the bone ribs for Emily’s party, delish salads made by my husband’s mom and sister, and to-die-for giant cupcakes from a bakery aptly called ‘Crave’. Yum…
  • I’ve been loving the great weather that Calgary has had since the end of January. I’m originally from the east coast where winters are epic – both in cold and in snowfall. But, even by west coast standards, the weather has been quite ‘un’Canadian, with above seasonal temperatures and virtually no snow. I’ve even been almost warm enough most days (with an emphasis on ‘almost’), which is saying something, given I tend to get a chill on a breezy day in the summer…
  • Our quirky British bulldog puppy, Charlie, inspires love just by being Charlie…
  • I’ve been loving an app for my Kindle from our local library that allows me to download and read countless books for free (and who doesn’t love free…). My favorite guilt-free part of that pleasure are the books I start and decide to return (because they really aren’t my cup of tea) – and I can do it for FREE. I still love to physically read a good book every now and then but, for the most part, bye bye paperbacks…
  • I used to tell people that I have a black thumb, as evidenced by the historical failure of plants to thrive under my care. But, since assuming the care for my husband’s many plants after getting married, I’ve surprisingly had more successes than failures. So, I recently extended my efforts from indoor to outdoor, cleaning up our numerous flower beds (all home to perennials) and trimming back umpteen bushes and trees. It was a much bigger job than I had anticipated – and one that involved a lot of ‘bs’ (blood and sweat…) – but the outcome more than made up for the effort. It was a  vivid reminder that the people we love – and the things we love – generally need considerable effort on our part in order to get the best result.

One final thing that impressed itself on me this past week was how much more joy I felt simply by focusing on what I loved about people, places, and things. It’s amazing how easy it can be to lose sight of the fact that, even when it’s tough to focus on what’s good, making a conscious effort to do just that always inspires far more positive feelings than when we focus on what’s not so good.

Just one more thing to love…

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For the love of Charlie…

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I don’t know about you but I find it’s hardest to love people who are hard to love. People who are hard to like. People who are unkind to me. It’s something I’ve struggled with over the past couple of years in particular, in no small part because there are people in close proximity to me who have fallen into that category.

It makes me think about our 19 month old purebred British bulldog, Charlie… who loves everyone and everything… people, dogs, cats, birds, insects, you name it. If it’s alive, he loves it.

Since Charlie has always been such a loving dog, we didn’t think twice about volunteering to look after another dog… an older Portuguese Water dog named Lottie. Charlie was enthralled to have ‘company’ and immediately decided they were ‘best buds’. Anything Lottie did, Charlie did. If she walked down the hall, Charlie was walking right behind her, matching her pace. If she laid down, he laid down. If she got up and moved to a new place, Charlie got up and moved too. So cute… but not for long. It quickly became evident that Lottie didn’t have the same ‘lovin’ feeling towards Charlie as he had towards her.

Maybe she thought his ‘love’ seemed suspiciously like ‘stalking’. Maybe she was getting crotchety in her advancing age. Or maybe she just didn’t care for a certain British bulldog. Regardless, she let her displeasure be known. She barked at Charlie… lunged at Charlie… and even bit Charlie on a couple of occasions. The more he didn’t ‘get’ it… the more pronounced her actions became. It got to the point where she would lose it if she entered a room and even set eyes on him (who we were keeping in a different space as much as possible at that point). Lottie went out of her way to communicate that she wanted nothing to do with Charlie… a fact that truly seemed to perplex him.

No matter how extreme Lottie’s actions or reactions were, Charlie never once retaliated. Never once barked, bit, growled, or lunged. He loved Lottie even though she was being less than lovable and certainly less than kind toward him.

Right from the time he was born, it has been Charlie’s practice to exhibit loving behavior toward others. In fact, when we were considering which puppy to adopt, Charlie stood out from the rest because he just took whatever abuse the other dogs heaped on him… including lunging, snarling, and biting.

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Charlie’s example reminds me of some truths that I need to apply more consistently in my life, starting today:

  1. If someone doesn’t love you, love them anyway.
  2. Be yourself even if someone doesn’t appreciate who you are.
  3. Know who you are and be that person. Not everyone will like you but that’s ok. You can still love them.
  4. It’s possible to love people you don’t particularly like. Consider your immediate and extended family, and I suspect you’ll come up with at least one person who falls into that category.
  5. Your attitude doesn’t depend on someone else. No one can take away your joy unless you let them.
  6. Love should be unconditional. That’s what we hope for from others so why should we give anything less.
  7. Love is a feeling but it’s also a choice. Choosing to love inspires us to feel more loving which, in turn, increases our joy.
  8. Not everyone can handle ‘full-on’ Charlie (which is why our dogsitting days are a thing of the past…).

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The Joy Journey

I recently took an 18 month hiatus from writing to consider the direction I wanted to take with my blog, after finding myself with a serious case of writer’s block. I was at a perpetual loss to think of a subject that inspired me, which inevitably led to the conclusion that perhaps my blogging days were behind me.

The answer presented itself out of the blue (as answers are prone to do). For a full year, the book “The Happiness Project” had languished in my nightstand. While it had captured my interest from the very first page, I had never made it past the first two chapters. Reading took a backseat to life… which included getting married, becoming a stepmother to two teens, becoming ‘Mom’ to a purebred English bulldog puppy, becoming out of work, going into business for myself, having two dental surgeries, and being diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (a fancy term for skin cancer).

It was my recent diagnosis of skin cancer that prompted me to dust off “The Happiness Project”. I wanted to make a commitment to happiness, and thought it would be beneficial to consider someone else’s experience with the same commitment.

(I highly recommend this book, by the way. Gretchen Rubin approaches her experiment with candor, aplomb, and humor, and it’s a compelling and captivating read.)

Inspired by Gretchen, I decided to undertake my own experiment but to personalize it to fit me. I confess that having the name “Joy” influenced my decision to choose “joy” as a goal over “happiness”. But, the tipping point was when I considered the fundamental differences between the two.  Happiness tends to be fleeting, and depends upon temporal factors like circumstances or other people, while joy is true contentment that comes from internal factors like faith in God. In fact, the Bible uses “happy” or “happiness” approximately 30 times while “joy” or “rejoice” are referred to more than 300 times!

Hence… “The Joy Journey”.

How then to map out my journey? I narrowed it down to thirteen internal qualities that I want to focus on… one each month for the next twelve months. Using the Bible as my reference, I chose the fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5:22-23a) – love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and added to those… wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and discernment. I’ll dedicate the thirteen month to examining “joy” (the remaining fruit of the Spirit), both as a distinct virtue but also from the standpoint that the preceding twelve virtues lead directly to its door.

All these qualities are ones I’ve wanted to more consistently reflect for a long time but this will be the first time I’ll have made them a concerted focus. My theory is that by making them an intentional and ongoing practice, they’ll become a solid foundation for a life that radiates joy. After all, practice makes permanent.

Beginning in April, my blog will chronicle my journey, complete with successes, challenges, and failures. I hope you’ll join me on “The Joy Journey”!

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