Another First has Passed

Good Sunday morning, my friends!

Here in the Hill Country of Texas it is a gorgeous morning!  The sky is a lovely shade of blue with wispy white clouds just hanging in the sky.  I think it is setting up to be another hot one…not in triple digits but warm nonetheless.  It is relatively quiet this morning with sounds only of insects, the humming of a lone hummingbird and the breeze blowing through the oaks.  That’s entirely okay with me.  Quiet can be a great blessing!

When I wrote my post last week I had begun to really feel the pressure and sadness of Steve’s upcoming birthday.  I wish I could say that my mood improved over the course of the week but I would be lying and I don’t wish to lie!

The rest of the week just continued to spiral.  I cried every single day.  More than once.  I hate to admit it but I am not one of those women that look sweet and more beautiful when they cry. (Oh, is that only in the movies?!). I am one ugly crier let me tell you.  Red nose, puffy eyes that get smaller as I bawl.  I will leave the rest of the description to your imagination.

Steve’s birthday was on Thursday.  I went by his gravesite in the morning before going over to my daughter’s house. It was a lovely day and the cemetery was dotted with color from flowers brought by people whose loved ones currently reside under the ground at  Holy Cross.  I bawled and wrote yet another letter to him.  Leaving after about a half hour, I called my son, Matthew, picked up tacos for Lauren and Leah and spent the morning over there.  At 2:30, I hauled butt back to my house where I had just enough time to shower, change and get to SA to meet my mom and Lauren’s family at the restaurant.

I made it!

Steve had to be laughing his head off at what happened next.  Lauren and family arrived right as I was walking in so I turned around to help get the kids out of the car.
I had taken great care to wear something bright and with no collar as that was required dress for my evening adventure.  I took Leah out of the car and she cries, “My tummy hurts!” and proceeds to vomit all over me!  As I struggled to comprehend what was going on another volley of stomach contents spewed out and down the front of our shirts.  Finally, my brain kicked in and I put her down where she threw up a third time.  Poor Lauren is standing there, wringing her hands saying, “What do I do?”  “Do we leave?”   I asked for water and cleaned us up as well as I could and we went in to dinner.

A trip to the restroom made me, at the very least, presentable but, oh my gosh, I cannot imagine how badly we must have smelled.  Leah was fine, just car sick and hungry.  We decided to hold our noses and we just laughed and laughed!  Why did I say that Steve was probably laughing at what went on?  Because when the kids were little he was the one onto whom they ALWAYS threw up.  Never me…just Steve.  At the house, in the insurance office, at the doctor’s office, in the truck.  You name the place, he had most likely experienced being thrown up there!  I guess it was finally my turn.

After dinner, Lauren gave me her blouse (yup, she gave me the shirt off of her back) and Mom and I moved on to the next part of Steve’s birthday celebration.  Every time Steve and I drove past the iFly Indoor Skydiving sign he said, “One day we should look into that!”  So I did!  It was such a blast!  The instructor, Dave, was phenomenal.  I felt safe, did a great job of controlling my body and even did some 360s which they said most newbies don’t/can’t do!  I am going back.  I’ve even put “sky diving” on my bucket list.  Steve is probably cringing at that one!

Funny thing is…after Steve’s birthday everything started to fall back into place.  Spirit has improved a bit each day.  Productivity has increased as I have finished binding two baby blankets,  began two more and  designed a wall hanging for a Wounded Warriors event.   I attended a small theatre production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown last night which got the juices flowing for a new painting.

Remember…

“weeping may endure or a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5

Enjoy the photos and have a glorious week!

 

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A Love Note

This has been another difficult week for us. Steve’s final “hard” chemo treatment was last Friday and the subsequent days have been filled with nausea, chills, fatigue, no desire for food and very little communication. He’s always been a quiet guy at home but these days he sits in front of the television in unbearable (for me) silence.

I assume it is a lonely place to be in for him (he doesn’t want or can’t talk about much of anything) and I know it is for me. So how do I cope when the ocean waters threaten to breach the walls and overflow?

I walk and I talk (or cry) with God.

On Saturday, the day after Steve’s treatment, l went on one of those walks. As I finished a crying jag and a rather one-sided conversation with God wherein I fussed that He didn’t care about me (us) and that I felt completely alone (which I’m not) and whined about Him not listening to my prayers, I stopped walking to blow my drippy nose. I looked down. There, off to the side of the trail was a beautiful pink stone made of crystals. It rested all by itself surrounded by a sea of white and gray rock. The light rose-colored stone isn’t one usually found in our area and was, most likely, brought in months ago when contractors laid the makeshift road.

You may not think anything of that, but I believe that the stone was a love note from God. I picked it up, gently put it in my pocket and took it home with me. I don’t usually collect stones but this one was special!

The rest of the week was no easier but that love note helped to get me through the next several days. When Steve had a really tough time or when he took a nap during the day and I was left alone with my thoughts, I remembered finding that stone and, just like that, I wasn’t alone anymore. God was right there with me!

You would think that I would have been satisfied but, no. That’s not really human nature, is it?

Yesterday, as I walked a different road/trail with Ella, I was in the middle of another conversation with God. This time, I made certain that I spent some time in praise. I thanked Him for the blessings in my life. I thanked Him for Steve and that he appeared to be feeling a bit better. I thanked Him for the beautiful, cool day. However, in spite of all of HIs blessings, I again began to feel as if I were alone. So, I did what humans typically do, I asked God to show me (prove to me, I suppose), again in a tangible way, that He was there. It didn’t have to be much, I told Him. It didn’t have to be another pretty piece of earth with crystals in it. An object of any kind with an interesting shape or color would suffice! Nothing out of the ordinary…just something that would shout, “I’m here”.

As we walked the last quarter mile of trail, I noticed a flat, clear plat of land just to the left of the trail on which we were walking. I didn’t recall seeing that piece of land before and we stepped off of the trail and walked over to see what might be there. I scanned the ground and noticed a ‘rock’ with an interesting shape resting near the center. Bending down to retrieve it, I was amazed.

A fossil!

There was no mistaking His intention. There was no doubt in my mind. That fossil was God’s shout of, “I’m here”!!

Our God DOES answer prayers. All we have to do is ask. His answer won’t always be “Yes”. Many times His answer is “No” and sometimes it is “Wait”.

Twice this week, He answered my simplest request with a “Yes” and provided a tangible object for me to look at and remember that He listens and responds. Our difficult days as a family are not over. My prayers for Steve’s healing may not be answered in the affirmative but, when things get tough, I am going to look at those two stones, both created under heat and pressure, and remember that Steve and I are not alone! We will come through this time stronger than ever!

It certainly helps knowing that our God stands with us…Always.

The Joy of Creating

When I look about at the world I think, “God must love the artistic endeavor!”  I mean, at the very start of the Bible, God is busy creating something out of nothing.  He separated day from night, created animals of every size, shape and color, plants in various shades of green, rose, yellow and blues and, he created us!  I can’t help but envision our heavenly Father having a blast  when, with every flicker of his eyelash or crook of his finger, something different, new, interesting and fun appeared before His and the angels eyes!

Ever since I was itty bitty I loved art. Although I enjoyed looking at the art made by others, making my own creations was the most fun. Whenever I had the opportunity, I painted and drew.  I drew in class, at the dinner table and under the sheets when I was supposed to be in bed.  I even pretended to be sick one day so that I could stay home from school to complete a painting!  Suffice it to say that when I wasn’t reading I was creating!  That all came to a screeching halt when I moved out of my mom’s house at age 19.  Life became extremely busy…I went to work, got married, returned to school, had my own kiddos and then I went back to work! There just wasn’t enough time left over to devote to a hobby.

Steve knew how much I missed that part of my life and, once we retired, he encouraged me to pick up the paintbrush again!  He is such a smart man!!  While far from being a professional artist, I am learning more all of the time and I LOVE it. Creating art brings me great joy.

As I finish new pieces, I will share them with you. If you are interested in these or in having something painted just for you, I invite to email me at onjoyroad@gmail.com.

Back with a Few Thoughts on Joy

Joy is not always easy to find but is, most often, right beneath our noses.

Our lives and focus here On Joy Road have changed dramatically since September and especially since Steve’s diagnosis of lung cancer in early November.  Joy has been hard to pin down, much less write about, so I beg your forgiveness for my lack of attention to the page.

Over the past few months, I have come to understand that joy isn’t always so clearly seen, felt or even identified. Joy isn’t found in continuous happiness or sustained fun or activity. I now know that when we focus/really hone in on the concept, we only find true joy in a single experience, a sound, a picture, a touch, a person…a moment.

Here are a few of my “joys”:

JOY is watching dozens of butterflies gather around the tall blue flowers Steve and I planted last spring.

JOY is a good meal, a great cup of coffee, BBQ and craft beer.

JOY is the doe that gracefully stepped out from behind the tall, umber grass to greet me.

JOY is found in that doe’s eyes as she stared at me as if to say, “It’s going to be okay”.

JOY is the sound of Steve’s excited exclamation when he spots three pairs of Cardinals playing around in the garden flying from tree to tree.

JOY is Steve calling me over to share the moment!

JOY is in the giggle of our grand babies enthralled with all things new.

JOY is our son’s phone call in the middle of the day and our daughter’s laughter at the end.

JOY is waking to Steve’s soft breaths of sleep. No hiccups. No pain. Just rest.

JOY is a new book, time to paint, and laughter between old friends.

JOY is a smile, a hug, a hand resting on your shoulder.

JOY is Steve making fun of my thick Texas accent when it slips out!

JOY is finding a pretty, out-of-place, stone on my morning walk along an old trail.

JOY is in a hard day’s work, the act of creating something out of nothing and cooking.

JOY is in kindness, trustworthiness and love.

JOY is seeing my mom’s laughing face on my phone or receiving a “How are you?” text from her.

JOY is a vanilla ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day, hard peppermint candy and a powdered sugar doughnut.

JOY is in the smile from a stranger.

JOY is sitting with Steve on the back porch, sipping a bold red wine while watching the sun slip below the horizon, sharing memories.

JOY is getting to spend one more day together.

JOY is knowing that the Creator of all things knows the number of hairs on our
heads and that He has declared that He thinks thoughts about us,

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD,
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV
.

JOY is faith.

JOY is hope.

JOY is time.

JOY is love.

JOY is…life.

Moss

Last week, while out watering the flower beds, I looked up and out at our yard. We are so very blessed to have more than a dozen lovely oak trees in our front yard and, as I admired their thick branches bobbing gently in the wind, my eyes focused on the moss growing on its branches.

An arborist once told us that the moss does not damage the trees but I have come to disagree. From my observations, the moss grows and slowly surrounds each branch, covering the bright green-gray leaves and strong, brown bark until the beauty is covered and the tree is sapped of its strength and beauty. The bark under the layers of moss become soft and weak while the core of the branch becomes brittle, stripped of life.

As I gazed at these gorgeous trees, I became angry that something so small could cause so much damage. Dropping the water hose, I walked over to the nearest tree and started to yank and pull the moss off of the limbs. With the removal of each moss ball, a portion of the branch was revealed. Sometimes limbs would break off in my hands but at other times I would uncover a tiny clump of green leaves. It was exciting to see that life continued to seek the sun even while surrounded by darkness. Finding those small green leaves gave me encouragement and I smiled and plowed ahead. I grabbed a ball of moss, pulled it away from the branch and tossed it to the ground. I repeated the action over and over!

It took several minutes, but when I finished stripping away the moss that covered that one branch I was amazed. Where once stood a tree with branches covered in gray darkness now stood a clean, gorgeous tree branch, new growth shining brightly and reaching for the sun!

I think people are much like that moss-covered oak tree. We start out shiny and full of hope and dreams. But then…life happens. Before we know it we find ourselves covered with ‘moss’. With each disappointment, betrayal, hurtful word, illness and lost dream we add another moss ball to our life covering our accomplishments, our dreams and our joy!

What is keeping you from experiencing joy today?

Is it fear of rejection? Is it a mistake from yesterday? Is it fear of change? Is it a person(s)? Is it a “what if”?

STRIP IT OFF!! Get rid of it!!

God created you and me for a specific reason. You are wonderfully made!  You were made to experience success! You were made to know love and happiness. You were made for joy!

Today, I challenge you to begin to strip away the moss in your life!  Uncover the beauty that  is you!

Step out from under the darkness!

Shine brightly!

Find your JOY!

 

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On Joy Road is back with a new website http://onjoyroad.com. In addition to my random thoughts and numerous opinions, I will share with you my paintings in oil and water color, baby items I make for Bundles of Joy by Laura and various DIY projects, as well as, our experiences with gardening and beekeeping. If you are ever interested in any of my creations, you can contact me at onjoyroad@gmail.com.
I’d love to hear from you!