Take a selfie…

joyblog1

It seems like people are spending a great deal of time and energy weighing in on what others should or shouldn’t be doing or saying. Often, in so doing, their words and actions demonstrate a lack of self-control.

How often do we stop to consider whether our thoughts, words, actions, and reactions are constructive, healthy, and appropriate? Sometimes we can become so focused on what others are saying and doing that we lose sight of what we’re saying and doing.

There’s infinite merit in evaluating ourselves far more than we evaluate others.

joyblog4

Frequently, people justify their lack of self-control by casting the blame on someone else, highlighting the truth that it’s easier to point the finger at someone else than it is to point it back at ourselves.

The world would be a much better place if we all started taking responsibility for our own actions and reactions.

I’m not saying we can control our feelings. I’m saying we can learn to control when and how we express them.

joyblog2

I don’t know about you but I want to be someone who’s self-controlled… and to be the first to say I’m wrong whenever I’m not.

The key to self-control?

Self…

joyblog5

Gentle to the max…

max-june-2011

A few years ago, I had a rescue dog named Max. He did not have the best life for his first 5 years, having been owned by an alcoholic and kept tethered outside. He was sometimes beaten, and his body bore the scars.

He would invariably figure out a way to slip through his collar and make a run for it but also invariably be picked up and taken back to his owner.

Except for the last time.

In the fall of 2009, he found himself at a rescue shelter, where he was adopted out and brought back… three times in short order. The note on the door to his enclosure simply said ‘too much to handle’.

Out of chances, he was scheduled to be put down the first week of January 2010. I came to the shelter the last week of December 2009.

I hadn’t planned to adopt a dog that Christmas. But, when I set eyes on Max, he was sitting quietly against the back wall of his enclosure with his ears back and a green stuffed toy in his mouth. I could sense his anxiety. I could also sense a kind and gentle soul. I could feel my heart tugging in his direction.

I decided to think about it for a couple of days. But, as I walked back to the car, a dog appeared and ran to the end of the fenced-in area to quietly but expectantly wait for me. Realizing it was Max, I bent down and put a couple of fingers through the fence. He immediately dropped to the ground and started gently licking my fingers.

Within the hour, I left the shelter with my new dog.

I can’t claim that it was an easy transition. He not only had to adjust to being an indoor dog, he had never been walked on a leash before, and he was a husky lab shepherd mix who needed a ton of exercise. He also had anxiety issues. Complicating matters was the fact that his previous owner was French, and so Max didn’t even understand English (something I didn’t find out for over a year… and it explained a lot!!). He was also seriously underweight, at only 45 pounds.

But, slowly but surely, we both adjusted. His anxiety lessened, his weight increased (to 78 pounds), and we fell into a routine of 3 one hour walks each day. His kind, funny and quirky nature overshadowed his occasional displays of stubbornness.

The one thing that consistently impressed me was his gentleness. In the beginning, he was so hungry that he would go crazy at the mere thought of food. But, even then, he would always take any treat ever so gently between his teeth, always being careful never to bite down on my fingers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The best illustration of his gentleness had to do with boiled eggs, his absolute favorite treat. He would gently take the egg into his mouth and then run down to the mat in front of the patio doors. Sometimes he would come and sit beside me, and we would both consider the egg as it lay there on the mat. Other times, he would just lay beside it, as if standing guard.

When he was finally ready, he would take the egg into his mouth and roll it gently around until, seconds later, he would deposit the yolk – fully intact – back onto the mat. He always made sure that I noticed and then, and only then, would he eat it.

Personally, I think he liked to prolong the experience. Savor the moment. Save the best for last.

I called it his party trick. He never got tired of doing it, and I never got tired of watching.

bloggentle4

Just over 2 years after adopting him, Max suddenly took very ill on Good Friday. By Easter Monday, he was gone. A massive intestinal tumor. Ironically, he’d been given a clean bill of health not even three months before. Just before he was put down, they brought him into a private room where he climbed into my lap and started gently licking my fingers as I wept.

He was gentle in life, gentle in illness, and gentle in death.

I marvel that a dog who had experienced so much hardship could be so gentle. It’s a lesson to us all that, no matter what we’ve experienced in life, it’s up to us what kind of person we will become. We can choose to rise above our circumstances and write a different ending.

Be better instead of bitter. Be gentle instead of harsh.

The moral of the story?

Gently, please…

bloggentle1

Have patience…

blog3
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…
blogjoy
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
blog3

For the love of…

bloglove

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…

jl2

Not a problem to be found…

problems 9

I’ve been bogged down by problems lately.

Problems.

Sound familiar?

I’d like to know who even invented that word.  Just saying it weighs me down.  In fact, I think I’ve had it with problems.  I”ve decided I’m replacing the word ‘problems’ with ‘challenges’.

Instead of problems to be solved, I have challenges to overcome.

problems 5

I’m feeling better already.

I don’t have problems weighing me down anymore.  I have opportunities disguised as challenges.

That may sound like denial, but it’s not.  I’m just adjusting my perspective.

I’m also reminding myself that challenges take time to overcome.  Few challenges are conquered in a day.  Whether I like it or not, some things just take time.  And sometimes the things that take the most time are the things that will be most worth the wait.

problems 10

I think what really defines us is how we deal with the challenges that come our way.  And, make no mistake, challenges will come.  We can either struggle against them kicking and screaming or we can tackle them one step at a time as patiently as possible.

Personally, I want to be an example of grace under fire.  Of strength through strain.  Of determination over obstacles.

How am I doing so far?  Well, it’s a process.  Sometimes I’ve veered from the path but I’ve never lost sight of the goal.  I don’t know that I’m even necessarily close to the goal but the one thing I can control is how I handle the journey.

problems 3

Thankfully, God is beside me every step of the way.  He knows the plans He has for me, for good and not for evil, to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

A future and a hope?

I like the sound of that.

So, yes, I may have a few challenges but really…

It’s no problem.

problems 12