Sing a Little Song, Dance a Little Crazy

Hello, All!

Since sharing about the little “December Adventure” I’m embarking on, I’ve had many wonderful, caring people ask me, “Sooo…how are you feeling?”

No miraculous healing yet. But let me tell  you, the moments of freedom, joy and surrender that I’ve experienced have been SO awesome. (I’ve also had a few moments of weeping in my bed, but who wants to hear about those?!)

The best thing keeping me going: worship music.

When I woke up early last Monday morning, my first day of trying to surrender this whole thing to Jesus, it was abundantly clear to me that I needed backup. So I turned on the music to help me start the day.

But before I could start my usual stretching and exercise routine, I felt the urge to….dance. This was very weird for me, because I NEVER dance. I move slightly to music, as much as is appropriate in a conservative Mennonite church, but never dance. And when I hang out with my awesome, free-spirited friends at the charismatic church in town, I still don’t dance, because my body hurts too much. I only move when absolutely necessary.

But that morning, I felt the urge to dance. So I let loose in my kitchen, and danced as though all pain was gone from my body. And the thought came to me, “I’m going to dance myself healthy!” If not physically, then spiritually!:) Who can have a bad day when it starts off with praising Jesus and twirling around the kitchen?

The next morning, I did it again.

The third morning, Anika caught me. She got up much earlier than normal, and quietly came into the kitchen. I was lost in my own little world, and didn’t hear her, so she freaked me out by suddenly standing there. She had just woken up, and the poor girl looked completely confused. She asked, “What are you doing, Mommy??!”

So I sat her down on the couch, and explained the whole thing, but she still didn’t look as though she really got it…

When I met with my free-spirited friends on Thursday, they got it! And they promised to send me all their favorite songs so I could keep twirling.

I have a whole bunch of favorites by now, but the best one for getting us jumping would have to be this one:

Ben loves the stomping guy on the left. And someday, I’m totally going to play piano in the forest, with somebody throwing fire around in the background…

Much joy to you this Wednesday! And if the joy is slow in coming, maybe you need some good music, and a little dance party in the kitchen.;)

Three Ways to Remain in God’s Will

There’s a verse stuck in my mind these days.

It keeps popping up at the most uncomfortable times – when I’m grumpy and think I have a good excuse, when I’m scared or worried, when I’m frustrated about dreams and goals that seem as though they will never become a reality, and I start wondering what exactly God wants me to be doing with these days of mine:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

How can I think I have a good reason for being grumpy with those words going through my head?

How can I justify any negative thoughts?

How can I wonder what God’s will is for me, if I truly take that verse to heart? It seems pretty clear to me.

But what about all of the big questions? How do I truly know what God is wanting me to do with my life? It seems as though it should be more than this little list, three items long. Sometimes we have really important decisions to make, and I need to know right now what to do.

God's Will

Joy, prayer, and thanks.

That’s it.

It may sound so little sometimes, but I’m realizing that it pretty much covers everything. Because the big issues are made up of the little things, and a long journey is made up of the little steps we take. And maybe moments of great wisdom and clarity are the result of many, many little moments of insight and preparation leading up to the great moment.

This makes me wonder….Does anything significant and important truly take place in only a moment?

Maybe everything is slowly building up over time, even if it’s unnoticed. And maybe, as I try to find joy and thankfulness, and I keep sending up those little prayers…maybe all of it is leading to my big moment of clarity.

Maybe each of these days filled with little acts of faithfulness are all adding up. In the end, I’ll still look back and see that it was God’s will, even without any great moment of enlightenment.

Some things in life seem really complicated, but I think I can manage to seek joy, prayer and thanks. They don’t always come easy, but I know how to try.

So today, I will look for joy and thankfulness to add to my list. I will stick up post-it notes, reminding me to keep praying.

And my guess is that there will always be peace found in these three little acts, because I will be right where God wants me to be, as long as I continually give this life and this day back to Him.

Write a Good Story

If I have a hope, it’s that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you. (p.59, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

It’s interesting that in the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, the only practical advice given about living a meaningful life is to find a job you like, enjoy your marriage, and obey God. It’s as though God is saying, Write a good story, take somebody with you, and let Me help. (p. 246-247, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

Isn’t that great? That last line is my favorite.

Writing a good story has been on my mind a lot in the recent weeks, for two reasons:

  1. I just finished Donald Miller‘s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which is so good that you should really head on over to Amazon immediately to buy it. It is changing everything about the way I look at life.
  2. Everything in our lives has been changing anyway, because of moving. We are in this huge state of transitioning and starting over, so Ben and I have had many, many talks about how to start well. What do we want our story to be? How do we want this to look? What choices do we want to make which might not make sense to everyone else right now, but lead to the story we want to write, as a whole? Big questions, lots of ideas, a work in progress.

What I’m finding most often right now, is that “good” doesn’t have to be “big”. I think our culture teaches us that in order for something to be worthwhile, meaningful, and valuable, it needs to be big – big dreams, big ambition, big success.

But how often is it not the little things which really end up being the big things? The good things are the small, simple things.

If God chose to make every single sunset different and unique, just for the beauty of it, you’d think it means He’s into details. He seems to create for the pleasure of it. He made us to create, for the pleasure of it.

He also gave us the ability to experience flashes of joy from such simple things, we almost don’t notice it – flash, and then it’s gone.

But in a world with so much pain and suffering, I think the small flash is noteworthy – it gives us more joy to hang on and let it linger, and it tells us something about God’s view of size. Small flashes of joy, again and again and again, add up after awhile. He made it pretty easy for us to feel joy, but He often does so in the small things.

So basically, I’m learning about living a good life, writing a good story, and realizing that it’s found in the little things, in holding onto the quick flashes.

It’s the everyday stuff, like loving my family, going off on an adventure, and finding Jesus in all of it.

Now you should go buy Donald Miller’s book. 🙂

Tips For Purging

I am in pursuit of a simple, joyful life.

Lately, I’ve been achieving this through purging. Who knew there could be so much magic in the act of purging?!

I wrote a post on Friday about how purging is changing the way I feel about my life, but since then, I’ve been thinking there’s a lot more to be said about the topic.

Getting rid of stuff can be hard to do. It can be even harder to get your family on board, so today, I’m going to share with you a few of the practical tips I’ve been using to help my family purge along with me!

1. Provide physical evidence of what items do not get used.

Toys – I used to think our girls played with all the toys they owned. Maybe not all the time, but we don’t have tons of toys, and surely they would miss some of those fantastic toys if I just got rid of them.

Just to be sure, I put the toys to the test. I arranged a number of toys in a corner of our living room where they would be easily accessible, and over the next few days, I watched to see which ones my girls grabbed first. After a week, there were some that had never been touched. Out they went! The girls never even noticed.

Clothes A few years ago, Ben needed a little enlightenment. He was CONVINCED that he truly did wear all of his clothes in our closet. I was pretty positive he didn’t.

I had read in some organizing book that a simple way of testing this is to turn around all of your hangers so they’re hanging “backwards”. On laundry day, when you’re hanging up all the clean clothes, turn the hanger back so it’s hanging the way it normally does, and after a few weeks, you’ll have a pretty good idea, from the direction of your hangers, which items are not being worn.

I did this without telling Ben. He noticed the hangers looking a little funny, but never thought any further about it, and I never said anything. After a few months, I finally told him my little secret, and convinced him to get rid of almost all of his unused clothing. (Some really dressy stuff just isn’t used regularly, but we still needed to keep it.)

And apparently, we absolutely need to keep the sports jersey collection from around the world. Even if they aren’t worn, like…ever.

2. Get rid of things in stages.

A Box of Extras – Some things are just hard to get rid of. I get that. But it doesn’t mean they should be kept. For myself, I’m finding that if I don’t purge until it hurts a bit, I’m probably not getting rid of enough.

But sometimes, you just can’t let go. Ben has a navy fleece hoodie he really doesn’t wear, but he is unwilling to part with it. He believes a day will come when that hoodie will be the only article of clothing which will perfectly suit his needs.

And that’s fine. It’s his clothing, and I’m not going to bully him into getting rid of it. But he is okay with me putting a box on a shelf in our closet marked “Ben’s Extra Clothing”, where he can pull it out if he needs to. He’s agreed that if he hasn’t used the clothing in that box one year from now, we can get rid of it at that point.

I use the same method for our bathroom. I have a bin in our linen closet for items I’m not sure if we need, so we’ll wait for awhile, and if, in a few months, we haven’t taken anything out, I’ll feel okay about getting rid of everything.

The Second Sweep – I had already gone through our closet within the last six months, and there were some items I knew deep down I didn’t really use, but I just wasn’t ready to part with them. I left them in the farthest corning of the closet, rather than getting rid of them.

This time, I’m ruthless. It all goes. And somehow, something’s changed in the last six months. I almost got rid of stuff last time, and this time I’m actually able to let go. (Good grief, you’d think we were talking about something important here, but it’s just clothes! Still, it can be really hard!)

I thought it was just me, but then I read this blog post about going over things a second time, to get rid of even more. And that’s okay! Whether it’s a box to save for later, or going through things a second time, it’s okay to take some time to sort things out. Do what you need to do.

3. Get rid of the guilt.

Gifts – The most common reason I keep things is because of guilt. What if the person who gave me this item asks about it? (Do they ever?) What if they happen to see it at the thrift store I bring it to? (Seriously, what are the chances of that actually happening? Bring it to a thrift store far away from them!)

What I’ve come to realize is that whether the item was a gift or not, it’s still just STUFF. That person gave me stuff. Why? Because they love me, and wanted to express it in physical form. They wanted to bring pleasure to my life with an act of thoughtfulness and kindness.

And that is wonderful. I will bask in the kindness of receiving a gift from someone who loves me. I will focus on the intent behind the gift given. If I need  it and can use it, I will certainly do so.

If I  can’t make use of it, I will still be grateful for their thoughtfulness…and then I will send the gift to the thrift store. That may sound a little harsh, but for the sake of letting go of guilt and objects I do not need or want, I am choosing to think about the feelings behind the act of giving, rather than the object given.

Mistakes I Purchased –  I should not have bought that shirt. It fits funny. We did not need that popcorn popper, seeing as we never eat popcorn. I thought we might start eating it, but we didn’t.

I keep stuff because I think I should be using it.

No, I shouldn’t. We use what we use. I should not have to force myself to use our stuff. IT IS STUFF. If we haven’t used it yet, there’s an extremely good chance we never will. Get rid of it.

For some good reading on the emotions we attach to the things we own, read this post.


And what if I suddenly realize we need an item we no longer have because I got rid of it?

Well, in all my years of moving and purging and simplifying, I don’t even remember it happening, until this last week! Anika came home from Awana and announced that she needed to wear green for St. Patrick’s Day this week.

Her only green shirt was in one of the eight boxes I had packed up to send to the thrift shop.

I had two choices – go through all those boxes (Please don’t make me!!), or buy a new green shirt for Anika.

But then I thought a little longer, and realized I had a few more options – she could borrow one from a friend, or I could look through a boxful of clothes that are a size too big for her, and waiting to be used next year. For one night, she could wear a shirt a size too big.

And guess what – there was a green shirt!! I was saved from the first two options, thank goodness!!

Moral of the Story: If you get rid of something you later end up needing, you might be able to find a way around it. It will just take some effort and creativity, but is that so bad?


Your turn! I am eagerly awaiting any purging tips you care to share!

The True Color of Christmas

My grandma always, always made pink sugar popcorn at Christmas.

My mom always made it, and now we make it, too.

Pretty much, in order for it to truly be Christmas for me, there must be pink sugar popcorn.

What’s that you say? Pink is not a Christmas color? Pshaw.

Who has the authority to say that Christmas is red and green?

I say it’s pink. And it’s Grandma’s fudge, and her animal cookies.

Every time I make treats at Christmas, I think of my grandma. And I always, always remember a certain story my mom used to tell me.

My grandpa died shortly before Christmas many years ago, before I was born. My mom wished so much that we could have known him, so she told us stories and little tidbits to make him seem more real to us.

And she told us about that first hard Christmas without him, about how Grandma rolled out her Christmas cookie dough while her tears rolled down her cheeks.

To me, that mental picture of Grandma crying while she baked, that sums up Christmas.

Our culture bombards us with the “meaning” of Christmas. Even in spiritual ways, I feel this pressure to feel a certain way, to do certain things and act a certain way, because this will make Christmas come alive. I will apparently feel joyful and peaceful, and there will be wonder and love at Christmas.

Those are very wonderful things, but the truth of it is that Christmas does not make real life disappear. And for a lot of people, Christmas still means there will be pain and suffering, and disappointment and loneliness.

I completely believe that the message of Jesus enables us to rise above all of that.

But I also know what it’s like to feel so beaten down that it’s just plain hard to rise anywhere, and to feel connected with that message. Or even to connect with Jesus.

And there are people who don’t feel joy or peace or wonder or love. Sometimes Jesus feels far away.

But there’s this: Emmanuel means “God with us”. And I believe that He’s with us whether we feel Him there or not. He is there even when we don’t feel connected, and when we don’t “feel” Christmas-y.

He was there in the pain and the sorrow of that sad Christmas for my Grandma as she went through the motions of making things special for everyone else, even when she probably didn’t feel like it.

We’re told that the colors of Christmas are red and green. But I say the color of Christmas can be pink. It’s the memories of my strong, brave Grandma, and it’s real life.

Sometimes we go through the motions today because we have hope that things will be better tomorrow. And sometimes we have to do that even at Christmas.

Ben always says, “It is what it is.” He is always reminding me to accept things the way they are, rather than trying to force emotions, or force things to happen the way I want them to. We take what life hands us, and we do the very best that we can, and then we offer all of that to God.

And then He comes along, and He heals, comforts, forgives, restores, and He is with us.

Peace, love, joy and wonder are definitely possible at Christmas. But crying some tears, and feeling tired under a heavy burden is a reality, too. And that’s okay. Because we’re working on it. We’re learning how to find the peace that passes all understanding. I was working on that in November, I’m working on it in December, and I’ll be working on it in January. Christmas does not always feel miraculous and magical.

It is what it is.

So if this Christmas, you’re not “feeling” the way you’re “supposed” to feel, I want to offer you some encouragement. God is with you, even if you don’t feel Him.

He will give you the strength to keep going, and it’s okay if you haven’t gotten everything figured out by Christmas.

There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, or feeling this, because it is what it is.

Your Christmas might be pink, or purple, or orange. And it will be good, as long as you remember that He is in it.

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.