Smiling Today


I ran up the stairs today, two at a time.

I realize this means nothing to you, so I’m going to tell you why I’m feeling fairly giddy about it, and then I’m going to encourage you to go find something you’re giddy about, too. That’s the plan, anyway…

When I was growing up, I had a bedroom in the basement of my parents’ house. I ran up and down the stairs many times a day, and I always, always took two stairs at a time. It was just how I did it.

But then life happened, and I had a couple of pregnancies that ripped my hips apart, and suddenly, I was doing well if I hobbled to the top of the stairs.

And then….December happened, and I started exercising like crazy, and God did some awesome things in my life and my body, and suddenly, it’s just REALLY fun to walk! I’ll be walking around the house, thinking, “It feels so good to move!” And I’ll walk around just for fun!

So this morning at church, when I realized that I needed to grab something from upstairs before my Sunday school class started, I ran up the stairs, two at a time. I did it without thinking, and it suddenly hit me about half way up that it felt awesome just to run up the stairs! I got to the top, and I felt good.

Then I ran back down. And I still felt good. And God is good.

Every single day, there are tiny little blessings that bring joy, or make us feel good, or remind us that God is still at work, and still doing amazing things.

Today I praise Him for the ability to run up the stairs!

Three years ago, I read the book One Thousand Gifts, and I started making a list. I’ve written about it many times before, but I just have to say again, this habit is completely wonderful. I love it. I’m almost at 3,000 blessings, and that makes my heart feel full!

So I want to encourage you to stop and think, right now, about something you are thankful for. What’s blessing you today? What is warming your heart and giving you joy?

I know, I know – March has no business being so cold, and it’s hard to think of blessings when we’re grumpy about the weather. But as we talked about last Wednesday, we don’t need to join the throngs of people complaining about it.

Instead, I’m going to think about the fact that I can run up the stairs two at a time, and I’m going to feel joyful, and I’m going to smile. Let’s make it contagious.:)

Learning to Find Joy in the Journey

Well, here we are in Florida. 

orange trees

You know that feeling when you get up at 3 am, drive to the airport, sit around waiting, sit around in a plane, sit around eating lots and lots of snacks which may or may not be the best thing for you to be eating, and then you sit around and wait for a rental car, and then you drive around for a little while until you figure out where you’re going, and then you add a round of sushi to the large amount of questionable snacks already consumed that day, and sit around in a car until you finally reach your destination, which makes you feel super happy, and you wonder if MAYBE, possibly…the discomfort of the day was worth reaching the destination?


That’s how we’re feeling right now.

The day went fairly well, all things considered. “All things considered” being that I never actually fell asleep last night before the alarm rang, so I’m super excited about bedtime.


As we went about our day, I’ve been thinking about the joy of the journey.

In all honesty, sometimes the joy was a bit elusive, with the lack of sleep and all, but our family has always tried to enjoy traveling. Not just getting to where we’re going, but traveling.

When I was younger, my family traveled a lot. My dad always made it seem as though packing up the van or the camper and heading off across Canada or the States was an amazing adventure. And my mom provided so many snacks that I still associate “travel” with eating.

So we’d set off, with our plans for adventure, and a lot of snacks, and we’d make memories. My dad always took a ton of pictures, which we would relive once the adventure was over by watching slides. Some of my favorite family times involved all of us gathered together, staring up at the wall as our memories were projected into vibrant color, life-sized and brilliant.

I don’t know which was more fun – the trips or the slideshows! We loved them all.

Until I was in Grade Three, my family traveled with a truck and camper, but that year, my dad decided to buy a large van. There was a bench in the back that folded down into a bed for my parents to sleep on, but for the rest of us, my dad got creative….

He figured out that if my younger sister and I slept on the two front seats, reclined as far as possible, there was room enough for placing a piece of plywood onto the dashboard, supported on the window sills. There was a cutout for the steering wheel to fit into, and all of this worked out to form an interesting type of “bunk bed” for my sister to sleep on, with us two younger girls tucked underneath.

I really wish I had a picture of that, partly because it would be awesome, and partly because I could eliminate that last awkward paragraph, attempting to explain the whole set-up.

I remember waking up to the sound of our van horn, blasting through the quiet campground air as my sister kicked it in her sleep – one of the drawbacks to a bed on the dashboard.

But it worked, and we traveled, and we made memories. We listened to my parents’ music, and they listened to some of ours. We found ways to entertain ourselves for hours as we drove across the country. We fought, and made up, ate sunflower seeds, and survived sketchy bathroom break experiences.

Besides all the memories, we gained another treasure: We learned to enjoy the journey.

We weren’t impatient to get where we were going, because we were always going.

We’d drive, and then we’d stop to go exploring.

We’d drive a bit more, and then we’d get out to go canoeing.

Driving was part of the experience. Travelling was the adventure, not some necessary evil to endure so that we could finally reach our destination.

My friend once said, “I wish there were some way to be unconscious until I reach my destination. I can’t stand traveling – I just want to get there as fast as possible.”

When I heard him say that, it suddenly struck me what a gift my parents had given me which I’d never even noticed: I had learned to find joy in the journey.

They taught me to have fun along the way. We learned to make memories during all parts of the trip – the journey and the getting there.


I want my girls to learn that. I hope that someday they’ll look back, and think getting up at three in the morning was part of the adventure. I hope they’ll remember snacks and sushi, and even waiting in line.

I dream of them being patient as they wait to get where we’re going – able to recognize the anticipation that grows as we wait, and the memories we form when we try to pass the time with goofiness or chatting about life, or whatever.

We bond as we go, not just when we get there.

Ben and I have reached a decision – the next time we come to Florida to visit my parents, we are making it a road trip. Yes, it takes WAY longer than a plane ride, but it will teach our girls some things I want them to remember forever:

Family, memories, and adventures are worth the effort.

Waiting for something makes it better in the end.

Learn to enjoy the journey, not just the destination.



Okay, travel tips, everybody! What do you do to enjoy the journey? 

Reclaim the Day

Every once in a while, I think about quitting my blog, because I would feel like less of a hypocrite.

It might be better if I wasn’t publicly sharing my ideas and opinions that sometimes turn out really badly when I try to practice them for myself on a daily basis.

Take Wednesday, for example. I wrote this post on Tuesday, and believed it with all my heart.

And then I woke up on Wednesday, and it was a horrible day.

Ben was working from early morning till late at night for most of the week, and we barely saw him. We all took turns having the stomach flu. Nasty hormones also insisted on making a flamboyant appearance. I got an email regarding a speaking engagement in February, and really felt as though I was the last person on earth who should be considering even opening my mouth in a public setting.

Everything reached a breaking point on Wednesday.

As I was writing this description, Anika started reading over my shoulder.

She asked, “What was so bad about Wednesday….Oh, yeah. I remember Wednesday.”

When Ben came home late that night, I sat on the couch and bawled. I felt like the worst mother in the entire world. And that stupid blog post I wrote! Soaking in family moments, making happy days, blah, blah, blah. What an earth was I talking about?

And then wisdom and salvation came from two excellent pieces of advice.

As I sat crying on the couch, Ben quoted my dad’s wise words: Don’t look at the crops when it’s raining.

In other words, evaluating my life when I’m sick, exhausted, discouraged and frustrated is not the right time. Wait until everything calms down a bit. Things always get better. Until then, just hang in there and don’t think too much!

The other bit of advice came from that fantastic new book I’m reading, which you should all have added to your Christmas lists by now: Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Paine.

Just three little words: Reclaim the day.

Those words offer such hope, don’t they?

Some days just go really badly. Sometimes we make mistakes, and we need to give ourselves a lot of grace.

On days like that, I can be pretty quick to write off the entire day.

“We’re just having a bad day today.”

“I’m feeling sick today.”

“I’m in such a bad mood today.”

What’s with “today”?

Why not give  the day a chance? Leave some space for things to turn around?

I remember using this concept when I was in high school. Except I called it “Starting the Day Over”.

There were some days when I just felt yucky about stuff in general. I was having a bad hair day, my outfit that seemed like a cool thing to wear when I put it on in the morning somehow lost its coolness by the time I got to school, bad things happened during the day that left me feeling discouraged about my little teenage life.

So I’d come home, have another shower, redo my hair, put on a different outfit, eat some chocolate, and call my best friend.

Starting the day over. At 5 pm.

I cannot imagine myself going to such lengths to “start the day over” now. (There is no way I’m doing my hair twice in one day.)

But is it ever too late to start things fresh?

I’ve been trying to think of how we might do that around here.

Some time alone, or some fresh air.

going for a walk

Happy music, books and blankets on the couch.

A little pep talk and a different approach.

I have no idea how well it would work, so I won’t make myself into a hypocrite by sounding like I’ve got this whole thing figured out.

I’ll just say that “Reclaiming the Day” is on my mind, and I’m going to try it the next time I’m tempted to sit on my couch crying about the day.

So I will choose to get up and start over. I will be intentional about turning this thing around. And I will keep blogging, even if it means publicly exposing how much I still need to learn!

And now I really need your suggestions!! What might “Reclaim the Day” mean for you?

“We” Instead of “Me”

Once a week, I get to spend time with a wonderful therapist named Giselle.

I love going to see her, partly because she makes the pain in my body go away, and partly because she is such an amazing person. She has this wonderful combination of positive, enthusiastic energy, while still being incredibly relaxed and laid back.

Each time I go to see her, she is slowly changing my view of health and wellness.

The other day, I was sharing with her how my personal definition of “wellness” leads me to see myself as an unhealthy person, even though I know I have so much to enjoy and be thankful for. The physical limitations I have are not very great, compared to what many people have to live with.

But Giselle told me something that changes everything.

She asked me to imagine a person with some physical challenges, but chooses to faces those difficulties with acceptance and a positive attitude, and surrounding themselves with great relationships and a rich, wonderful life in spite of the pain.

Then she asked me to think of a person without any physical limitations, seeming to be in excellent health, but miserable in every other way, suffering through a horrible job, loss of relationships,  so unhappy that one day, this person commits suicide.

Then she asked me, “Who is the ‘healthier’ person?”

Maybe physical health isn’t quite as important as I’ve thought.

This idea of health simmered in my mind for a few days. Could I consider myself “healthy”, even if I was never able to overcome my physical limitations? Could I let go of the labels I’ve claimed for my life?

In the meantime, we traveled to BC for Ben’s grad, and the speaker at the graduation ceremony was just incredible.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about five years ago, and he had the most amazing attitude I’ve ever seen in someone dealing with physical difficulties.

He talked about the choices he had to make, and decisions regarding how he wanted to live his life despite his diagnosis. And he shared that the most important thing he had learned was this:

“Illness starts with ‘i’, but wellness starts with ‘we’.”

He asked us all to close our eyes, and think about “I”.

Then he asked us to think about “you”.

Finally, he asked us to visualize “we”.

I started out with a picture of myself in my mind, but I ended up thinking about the people beside me, all of us together on that bench. The emotions that come up when I visualized “we” instead of “I” are dramatically different.

I was reminded of Giselle and her definition of health.

And then I remembered how someone once said to me, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”

I do not agree with that.

I once read Corrie Ten Boom’s story, and she shared how her mother, unable to get out of bed, would spend her days writing encouraging letters to people. She wasn’t wasting away, useless and depressed. She was doing what she could, which was actually quite a bit.

photo   © 2010   William Arthur Fine Stationery , Flickr

If you haven’t got your health, you’ve still got a whole lot of something. You just need to be willing to give it to others, rather than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself, and thinking about “I, I, I.”

That idea goes far beyond health issues. I think every person out there could gain from “we” instead of “me”.

No matter what my personal challenges might be, there are still countless reasons to be thankful and joyful. There are countless ways to reach out to the people around me.

During our struggle with infertility, I spent years feeling depressed and frustrated because my situation wasn’t changing. I could spend hours praying for myself, begging God to do something new in my life.

All that time, and it turns out that “something new” could have been getting up and doing something useful for another person.

I’ve spent far too much time thinking about “me” instead of “we”!

What is your definition of health or wellness?

I Choose Happiness

A few months ago, I was going for a walk and having a good think, when I realized that I was stuck in a grumpy rut.

I think it’s possible to go through hard times, and get so in the habit of things being hard, that we keep thinking everything is hard, even when it isn’t anymore.

I think it’s possible for us to get so used to looking for the bad in a situation, that we keep on looking for it in every situation. And as Pollyanna’s father said, “If you look for the bad in people, you will surely find it.” I think that goes for situations, too, not just people….

So I walked along, thinking about how attitude is a choice, and I was in the rut of always choosing a grumpy attitude. There were times when I felt quite legitimate about being grumpy.

And there were lots of times when I wasn’t grumpy – it’s not like I was an awful person to be around. I was just very consistently able to find the negative in any situation.

And as I walked along, I realized that I was very tired of that. Maybe there were times when I was legitimately grumpy, but it’s still my life, and I would like to enjoy it a lot more than what I was.

I realize that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. I knew all the verses about being content in every situation, and rejoicing in the Lord, but I felt like I needed something more.

Is it wrong to feel like I needed more than God’s Word?? Oh dear. But I did. I needed some practical tips. It is very practical to rejoice in the Lord always. But I needed more detail, some step-by-step instructions on how to be happy.

So I ordered Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project”. And it exactly hit the spot.


I loved this book. It fit my need for charts and lists and oodles of practical suggestions. Gretchen Rubin wanted more happiness in her life, so she figured out very specific ways of breaking bad habits, and growing positive new ones. She identified the problems, and then figured out how to fix them.

And she wrote over and over again about how happiness is a choice.

I definitely needed the kick in the pants to start making better choices. I needed to realize that the amount of joy in my life is controlled by….me. It doesn’t matter what problems I face, I still get to choose how I will respond to life.

Example: A couple of weeks ago, I was stuck at Superstore at 5:30pm on a Friday. If you ever want the truest, deepest weaknesses of your character to be exposed, go to Superstore at 5:30pm on a Friday.

It was pure madness. I was indescribably frustrated. The lines were longer than I would ever have guessed possible at Superstore, everyone there was grumpy, and the rotisserie chicken I was buying was dripping juice all over my pants.

I was trying to find my way through the crowd to the end of the line, when suddenly, who should appear at my side but my former youth pastor. For a second or two, I was actually tempted to sneak away before he saw me, because I was so grumpy that I did not feel like being social.

In that moment, I had a choice. And I realized that no Superstore line was worth being so grumpy that I couldn’t squeak out a friendly greeting. So I took a deep breath, cleared the impatient expression off my face, and greeted him with the most cheerful voice I could muster up. We battled our way to the back of the line together, and then proceeded to catch up on life for the next 20 minutes.

Those minutes went by in a flash. I’ve never enjoyed myself in a Superstore line as much as I did that day.

Moral of the Story: Sometimes we end up in crumby situations. That’s life. But I believe there is always some goodness to be found. I’m going to start looking for it a whole lot more diligently.

Smelly Rotten Meat Attitude

Oh my word, my house stinks. Words cannot describe the stench. If only the computer screen were “scratch and sniff” – then you, too, could experience the terrible wonder that is my home.

And it’s all my own fault.

I made a beautiful roast. Cooked it in the slow cooker all day. My house smelled FANTASTIC, then. Really, it was so great that I just craved beef all day long. I even ate roast beef for my night snack. Oh, yum.

But the problem was that I threw the meat wrapper into the garbage, along with some meat that had gone bad, and then…. I forgot it there.

Usually I am extremely conscientious about getting the garbage out of the house, but yesterday morning we were in a big rush to leave for the city, and I never thought about that smelly garbage again….

Until we got home late that evening. It was 10:30pm, and the girls were desperate for their beds. It had been a long, busy day, and I was eager to get home. I opened our door…and was greeted with that foul stench. And I knew exactly what had happened. It was the kind of overpowering smell that makes you NOT want to breathe through your mouth, because it feels like you’ll taste the nastiness of it, and you don’t want to breathe through your nose, because then you’ll have to smell it again.

The only option is to stop breathing. And since that’s not really an option, the next best thing is to eliminate the odor as quickly as possible.

I got the garbage out of the house, pronto. I lit candles. I brought in my Easter lily that smells so intensely beautiful that I couldn’t handle having it in the house. Into the house it went.

This morning, things were no better. So I scrubbed my garbage can and threw out everything that had even touched it. And now I’m cooking soup and baking bread (in the bread maker – not quite that hardcore homemaker as to bake it truly from scratch!)

And now we’re starting to get somewhere. My house will smell delicious once more.

Here’s the thing – the whole time I was breathing in stench and frantically battling to save my home, all I could think about was how the sin in my life is like a smelly meat wrapper.

And how annoying – I don’t like it when people have to make a spiritual illustration out of EVERYTHING, and half the time it’s a huge stretch. I like spiritual illustrations that are not far-reaching.

But there you have it. Rotten meat wrappers are like sin.

The reason I thought this is because lately I’ve been struggling with a bad attitude about something. God is not giving me my own way, and once again, I think that I have a difficult situation completely figured out, and I’m slightly annoyed that apparently I don’t get to control the situation, even though I’m obviously very qualified to do so. Whatever.

And then yesterday, once again, I was having trouble writing a blog post. This seems to be happening somewhat frequently. But this time, I knew exactly why I was having trouble. It was because my rotten, stinky attitude was permeating everything, and I was having trouble with praying, reading my Bible, anything that needed to be done with a soft, open heart. I was all clogged up – no inspiration could flow in, no inspiration could flow out. I had forgotten to clean out the bad attitude, and left it sitting there for a bit too long. Before I knew it, everything was a rotten, stinking mess.

Cleaning it out must be thorough. It is not a quick, easy fix. I’ve been dealing with it, but I can detect that a bit of odor still lingers on. And there seems to be two steps necessary:

1) Clean out the nasty stuff.

2) Fill up with good stuff.

I need to get the garbage out, scrub everything clean, and get rid of anything that may be contributing, until I have a squeaky-clean heart.

And then I bring in the candles and flowers, cook the soup, bake the bread – all those things that make a house smell like a home.

Or fill yourself with the things that make the heart a home for Jesus to live in, fill, and overflow.

Stinky meat wrappers happen – I just need to make sure to get rid of them quick!