The Joy Project

A Year in Polaroids: Week 8 // The Joy Project

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February 19th: My husband. My number one. My constant. On Mondays we lead our married small group, and it had been almost a month since we were both there together. Work and sickness prevented Justin from being there and it was so nice to finally have my partner with me. It is a game changer to have someone by your side who is a source of strength and encouragement.

February 20th: This was such a good day! The weather was perfect, I worked out and Justin cooked, we went on a long walk, and finished our time together playing banana grams. Why can’t all weekdays be like this?

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February 21st: I started the Lent 2018 She Reads Truth study this week. I was a few days behind and had to double up but I’m finally on track. I have never really embraced Lent, and this will be my first time exploring what it means, the purpose behind it, and how it can improve my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I’m excited to see how my faith is strengthened through this study.

February 22nd: Justin is working forced overtime this week and by the time I’m writing this, he will have worked 4 48-hour shifts in 5 days…and the crowd said, “Whoa.” Yeah, it’s a lot. We both hate it, and I knew that by Sunday I would be feeling pretty low and missing him a lot. I’m glad I took this picture with that in mind. Justin put part of our wedding vows on our letter board, and it is a sweet reminder of the man he is and the marriage we have. It’s a spirit lifter for sure.

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February 23rd: New haircut! I was trying to be artsy and just get the bottom half of my face, but it is incredibly challenging to be that calculating with a polaroid camera. So, here’s a selfie that makes it look like my hair isn’t even on both sides. Atleast the picture has a 70s vibe, right?

February 24th: I wish this picture did tree justice. The unseasonably warm weather this February has produced beautiful blooms on trees around Athens. This tree by our place started showing off this week with gorgeous pink blooms all over.  I wish spring lasted longer around here! It’s truly breathtaking.

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February 25th: Well, I finished the final two books of The Chronicles of Narnia this week. I don’t know what to do with myself! I feel as though I need to have a book club with fellow Narnia lovers to express all of my thoughts. It was an incredible journey through my childhood and a reengagement with my faith in the unexplainable way that only C.S. Lewis can initiate.

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The Joy Project

A Year of Polaroids: Week 7 // The Joy Project

I want to preface this blog post by saying that I am short on words this week. Not only am I late to post this, I’m feeling just a little uninspired. For this reason, I’m going to keep it short and sweet and challenge myself to use ten words to describe each picture.

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February 12th: My sweet cat who enjoys every part of her day.

February 13th: Words of love for my students to share on Valentine’s.

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February 14th: Beautiful roses from my husband on the day of love.

February 15th: Reading book 4 of The Chronicles of Narnia in bed.

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February 16th: My finished watercolor of Aslan, appropriately named “Lion on Fire”.

February 17th: Our front door where friends came through and spent time.

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February 18th: The beautiful Sunday sky after church that hints of spring.

The Joy Project

A Year of Polaroids: Week 6 // The Joy Project

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February 5th: This week proved a little challenging at times to find “things” that brought me joy. This picture is a representation of something that brought me joy. Justin loves cars. He loves everything about them. I do not share this passion, but I have tried to find ways to share his interests. When we were dating, he would watch a popular car show called Top Gear. Over time, I started to watch the show with him and accidentally started to really enjoy it! It is so funny, so different, and actually very interesting. When Top Gear lost its hosts because of offscreen issues, Amazon created a new show called The Grand Tour that is basically the same show with the same hosts. Anyway, we now watch this new show together every week. The day I took this picture, joy was the last thing on my mind. It was a long day at work, Justin was really sick and I thought I was too, and we missed small group. In the last moments of our day, we watched this show together and laughed and laughed for forty-five minutes. Anything that can do that is worthy of a picture for The Joy Project.

February 6th: It is hard to tell, but this is a picture of a Jolly Rancher sucker. Every Valentine’s Day season, this candy comes out and I love them. I think the fact that I can’t get them all the time adds to their allure. 🙂

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February 7th: This is kind of embarrassing but this picture is also a representation of another show we watch. I promise TV isn’t our life!! There is a show called Victoria that we started watching this week and I. am. obsessed. It is based on the life of Victoria when she became the Queen of England. One of the main storylines is her getting married because a) this is the 1800s b) she was a teenager when she became queen and c) her marriage is an outlier when you look at royal marriages. When she is finally introduced to her future husband, their polarizing personalities immediately reminded me of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Watching their romance play out on screen was so reminiscent of the back and forth dance the two played out in Pride and Prejudice. Seeing something on television in 2018 that reminds me of an Austen novel was so refreshing. I haven’t seen that electrifying of a connection on TV in a long time. It was full of witty banter, starry-eyed gazes, and soft touches – the kind of romance you don’t really see represented anymore.

February 8th: Letting out my creativity can be challenging sometimes, but when I do, it provides a feeling that cannot be matched. My desire to paint waxes and wanes. I’ll go periods of time where I paint consistently and then I’ll go weeks or months without picking up a brush. It is a flighty hobby of mine but something I really cherish. Since I started rereading The Chronicles of Narnia books, lions have been on my brain. I felt this need to paint one in order to transfer my thoughts somewhere else (much like I do when I write). I also desired a physical reminder of what the lion, Aslan, in the series represents. It is still a work in progress, but the act of painting something so present in my conscious was gratifying.

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February 9th: What you see here is the result of a shopping adventure. I’ve mentioned throughout The Joy Project that doing barre3 is really important to me. Since I do it 4-5 times a week, I wear workout clothes a lot. I hadn’t bought new ones in a long time, so I randomly decided to go shopping for some at 8:00pm Friday night. As you can see, I was successful! There’s nothing like new workout clothes or spontaneous solo trips.

February 10th: If you aren’t familiar with Bananagrams, you should be. It’s like Scrabble but better! After playing it with friends a month or so ago, I immediately bought it because we loved it so much. We play all the time now. I took a picture of the game because our day was filled with playing games with friends. This seems to be a season of playing board games. I don’t know if that means we are old and boring, but we love it!

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February 11th: I know, I know. Nobody likes kissing pictures. BUT, this was a completely “in the moment” (except for the whole picking up the camera thing) moment and captures one of the highlights of my day – acting in love because I amJoy for days.

spiritual

The Words We Accept

The words people tell us: why do we believe the negative words more than the positive words?

This question has been swimming in my head for some time now. The instigator of this question is a section of the book of James. Take a look:

Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. [James 3:5-10]

Oh man. Is that not one of the most convicting and sadly, relatable things you’ve read? James refers to the tongue as “a fire”, a “world of evil”, “a restless evil”, and indirectly calls it a huge hypocrite. The great thing about James is, even though he calls you out, he’s doing it to everyone. These words address mankind as a whole. He’s exposing an issue that plagues us all – our tongue and its propensity for sin.

This criticism of the tongue got me thinking hard about the words we say. As I talked out this section of James with my small group, I expressed how the tongue’s power to hurt is immensely more powerful than its power to heal. Think about it. We often associate good things with actions but we are often scarred by the words people throw at us. For instance, if you say “I love you” but don’t express it with action, the words lose their power. People often ask others to “prove it” when they are expressing positive things. On the other hand, if someone calls you a bad name you certainly don’t need them to prove it to you in order to feel those words impact you. Why is that? Why are we so quick to let the barbs of the spoken language damage us but doubt the words that encourage, lift, and compliment?

Before I continue, I want to talk about why I feel as though I need to write about this. The reason is because this is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I am so quick to believe the bad things I hear from others, as well as the bad things I tell myself, but it takes time, convincing, and a miracle to help me accept the good things said by myself and others. My poor husband. He knows that words mean a lot to me. He does his very best to speak into my need for affirmation but the weird thing is, I have a really hard time accepting it! Even though I need positive talk from my loved ones, I am not able to let it affirm me without a struggle. It’s this weird dance I lead because for some reason, I have to be deeply and irrevocably convinced of the good things being said to me. How messed up is that? So, this blog post is a little selfish because I’m using it to sort through something I really struggle with personally. I hope it can help someone out there too.

Back to the question at hand – the words people tell us (and the words we tell ourselves)…why is it so easy to accept the bad and not the good?

My perspective on this issue is tough

but ultimately encouraging.

Here is what I think.

Our acceptance of negativity about ourselves and opposition of positivity about ourselves is a symptom of our resistance against God’s grace. 

Let me break that down:
We accept and internalize negativity about ourselves.
  • You aren’t smart enough.  —->  I’m not smart enough.
  • Why can’t you do this?  —->   I can’t do this.
  • It’s too hard. —-> I will never get this right.
  • I’ll never look like her. —-> I’m ugly.
  • What is wrong with me?  —->  I will never be lovable.
  • You’ll never get better.  —-> I’ll never get better.
We oppose and deflect positivity about ourselves.
  • What a great idea!  —->  Oh, I’m sure someone else thought of it too.
  • You look so pretty tonight. —->  No way! Look at x, y, and z.
  • You worked so hard on this. —->  It’s not a big deal.
  • I deserve to be here. —->  Actually…I don’t.
  • My friends love me.  —->   What if they actually don’t like me?
  • You are so brave!  —->  I am not. Trust me.
These two inclinations we have are symptoms of our inability to freely accept God’s grace for us. 

First off, there is a big difference between humility and the rejection of positivity. Humbling yourself before God requires you to say, “I am nothing without you, Lord”. Rejecting positivity requires you to say, “I am worthy of nothing good”. There is a big difference between these two ideas, and this is something I have really confused in the past. I thought that if I said thank you to a compliment then I was being arrogant. That isn’t the case! We should be grateful that others see good things in us. The problem arises when those words serve to feed our ego versus fill our spirit. Be careful to not confuse an inability to accept positive words with being humble.

Now that the conversation of humility is sidelined, I want to go back to what I said about our inability to accept God’s grace freely. God’s promise to us of salvation without strings attached is extremely hard for our human minds to comprehend. How can we be offered something so precious without having to give anything in return? This is His promise to us:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are ju

That is all God requires of us to have eternal life. It seems impossible…but this is God we are talking about. He chooses us over and over again, and the only thing He asks is for us to choose Him.

I think that it can be hard to accept things we don’t deserve. In Romans 3:23, it says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. None of us truly measure up to the gift He has given us. Deep down, we struggle with this inadequacy. We know the thoughts we think. We know the actions we carry out. We know the way we can treat others and the decisions we make. We see our sin all the time. So we resist the grace God gives us and try to earn our way into heaven or we find ourselves accepting our flaws and believing the lie that God could never love us. We tell ourselves that God’s grace is too big for us, and that is why I am here, wondering why I can accept the bad and not the good.

When we allow ourselves to think that we aren’t good enough for God’s grace, we crush the ability for anyone to make us feel good. Here’s why: I try to earn God’s love by doing “good things” or I rationalize my behaviors because “who cares, I’m a sinner”. When I do this, I also put a wedge between myself and others. I try to earn their positive words by needing proof of what they say, or I dismiss those words because I have internalized all the bad things I have heard or said about myself. There’s a direct correlation. I recently read that “all our relationships are about Christ. They mirror different facets of our connection to Him” (She Reads Truth). So, when we resist His overwhelming goodness, we also resist goodness from our relationships.

I think the key to this is to build our relationship with God first. I think when we know Him fully, when we invest in our relationship with Him, we can accept who He is instead of resisting it. Whether we like it or not, He loves us so much. Whether we like it or not, when people say positive things about us, it is truth. We don’t have to resist God’s grace or the good things about us. We don’t have to believe the lie that we aren’t good enough. When we are able to do this, our hearts will soften to the goodness around us.

So, instead of Our acceptance of negativity about ourselves and opposition of positivity about ourselves is a symptom of our resistance against God’s grace. 

Let’s turn it into Our acceptance of positivity about ourselves and opposition of negativity about ourselves is a symptom of understanding the fullness of God’s grace. 
The Joy Project

A Year of Polaroids: Week 5 // The Joy Project

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January 29th: Just a great day to be married. That’s really all I have to say about that. 🙂

January 30th: Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, when you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

I did my best to make this picture not look terrible, but 9:30pm + white paper + mirror + polaroid camera = what you get. Our small group has been doing a bible study on the book of James, and this is the verse we were encouraged to memorize. I saved the verse as my wallpaper on my phone, pasted it on our bathroom mirror (seen here), and actively practiced this verse. I chose this as my picture of joy for the day because there were various times throughout the day where the words popped up into my head. I would hear “consider it a joy”, and it caused me to stop and do that. I realized that the “various trials” James talks of can really just be considered life. Various trials are your life. Being able to consider it a joy in spite of that truth is a real gift. Not only does it make life sweeter, it matures your faith and causes you to trust in God fully.

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January 31st: This is The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia. I read this series multiple times as a child. I loved it dearly. As an adult, I appreciate C.S. Lewis and his writing in a deeper way. However, I’ve been longing to return to my first experience with his storytelling and finally bought the series for my personal collection (how I wish I had my childhood copies). I remember The Magician’s Nephew being one of my very favorites in the series and it did not disappoint. It was incredible to read it from an adult perspective. I really enjoyed the biblical parallels and found myself getting overly excited about the unique ways Lewis integrated his faith. I’m currently on the third book, and it is a fun trip down memory lane.

February 1st: This day was a big day for Justin. It was his first venture out into the financial planning world, and I was overflowing with pride. Plus, he looks real good in a suit. Doesn’t it look like a first day of school picture? I should have made a sign…

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February 2nd: This was the first day I took my camera out into the wild! I’m not sure why I haven’t yet, but I made sure it was a memorable one. On Friday afternoon, we went to Avid Bookshop, a local bookstore that has two locations in Athens, to look for a birthday gift. I love this place, especially since they opened the spot at Five Points. They have a decent book selection and quirky, bibliophile knick-knacks that really make me happy.

February 3rd: This picture makes me laugh, because I could not get her to be still. She was chasing me and meowing indignantly because she wanted me to do something. For a few days prior, she hadn’t really been herself. This day was the first time she was back to normal, and my awareness of that made me realized how easy it is to take things for granted. I forget how much joy I get simply from my cat being weird and clingy. Never change, Izzy.

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February 4th: This has been our bedroom decor since we got married two and a half years ago. We bought this bedding on the way back from our honeymoon, because I couldn’t bear the thought of starting our life without something proper to sleep on. It was a rash decision. Most days, I just wanted to throw it out the window and get something neutral. Today though…as I was putting on new sheets and making the bed, I felt a sweet connection to this bedding set that has been with us our whole marriage – the two apartments it has been to with us, the laughter and tears it has seen, the hours and hours we have collectively spent there. It seems silly to be attached to something so trivial, but I let the gratitude for our shared experience wash over me. It might be hard to let go of those colorful linens after all.

The Joy Project

A Year in Polaroids: Week 4 // The Joy Project

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January 22nd: Every Monday, Justin and I lead a married small group. This Monday marked the first meeting where we delved into our “spiritual growth study”. As a group, we decided to study the book of James using the She Reads Truth // He Reads Truth plan. I took this picture right before I left to meet my group (Justin was working). James isn’t really a joy-filled book in the Bible, but the truths it provides to believers is incomparable. Having divine wisdom (from Jesus’s brother!) to help guide our lives here on earth is a gift.

January 23rd: Besides the fact that this was a weird picture to take, it is one of my favorites from this week. On this day one year ago, I started Barre3. It has been an incredible year of enjoying exercise, making small steps toward body peace, and finding a way to practice balance in my life. I love Barre3 and believe it has played a huge part in my overall well-being in the past year and will be something I continue to prioritize in my life.

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January 24th: When Justin and I were dating, we started watching Doctor Who together (yay nerds!). It was our “thing” for a long time, and our gifts to each other were often Doctor Who-themed. This week, we picked back up where we left off after a couple of years not watching it. Honestly, watching this show with my husband was one of the high points of my week. It’s hard to find shows that both of us love (Doctor Who, The Office…hmm that might be it!), so it’s so fun to watch them together. I took a picture of this gift I gave to Justin a few years ago. It’s one of the best quotes from the series that says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”

January 25th: 2 1/2 years of marriage. A picture of his second anniversary present to me (cotton anniversary) and my rings. Two symbols of that special day and the enduring promise we made to each other. As we find our way out of the newlywed years, we can feel them falling away. Our marriage isn’t getting easier, but it is getting deeper and better. The more we experience together, the more I respect and love my husband. The more valleys we overcome together, the more gratitude I feel for the constant love in my life. The more we learn and uncover and discover, the more I fall for the man I married.

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January 26th: I finally used some of my birthday money to buy shoes I’ve been eyeing for awhile. They’re called Bangs Shoes and are awesome. The company invests 20% of their net profits into entrepreneurs and their businesses. I think it is so cool that they are impacting small business and actively believing in people’s ideas. On top of that, the shoes are really cool and very comfortable. I wore them for the first time this day and let me tell you, new shoes just make you feel good.

January 27th: I almost didn’t use this picture. It wasn’t what I wanted, I don’t look the way I wanted to, you can barely see Izzy (my cat). But…that’s what this moment looked like. I can’t make that not true. I decided to use it because the opposite of finding joy through images is not accepting the image that was taken. The imperfections make it real. I was full of joy when this was taken. Reading a good book on a Saturday night with my sweet cat curled up beside me…who cares if the picture isn’t perfect? The moment was worthy of joy.

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January 28th: This picture was mainly taken to highlight the object in front you can’t really see. It’s a recipe box that I’m slowly filling with recipes we use often and that we love. I cooked one of my favorites today and wrote down the recipe to put in the box. For some reason, I love this act. I only transfer them to the box after I’ve cooked a recipe I feel is worthy or when I feel inspired to fill it with one I come back to again and again. It feels like a rebellion against the technology that I have grown dependent on for storing my important information. I like having my favorite recipes in a special place where handwritten words guide me instead of computer text.

The Joy Project

A Year in Polaroids: Week 3 // The Joy Project

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January 15th: This is a (blurry) picture of the book I finished reading, Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker. Justin bought a signed copy for my birthday (so fun!). I thought it was a really refreshing, honest read, and it was like I was talking to a friend. I’m a big fan of books that leave me with thoughts or wisdom that I can apply to my life easily. This is one of those!

January 16th: We have a letter board near our door where we post quotes, bible verses, or love notes to one another. It’s a fun way to communicate with each other and any guests who come by our home. I changed it to this quote on Monday, because it just fell on my heart.  I think it really captures something a lot of us struggle with as humans…knowing how to do this. Even when we are surrounded by darkness, we have the agency to change how we see things. We can choose. Encouraging but convicting. Why did it bring me joy? I love when thoughts “fall on my heart” and I have no choice but to share them in some way. I know there was purpose in putting it on the letter board, and it was revealed why throughout the week.

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January 17th: Two words – SNOW DAY! For further explanation of why this is a source of great joy, go here.

January 18th: Snow day pt. 2! The icy roads kept teachers like yours truly at home, so that means cozy clothes all day, right? This was actually a pretty bad day personally (see January 16th) so finding joy was pretty challenging. I figured getting to stay in my slippers and favorite cozy pants while having a guilt-free day off of work was something to be happy about. Finding joy in the little things is the whole point of this project, and this day was a reminder of how easy it is to not have joy if you aren’t actively seeking it.

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January 19th: These flowers…they are important. Pink roses are a flower Justin has never given me before. Although he doesn’t know this, dark pink roses represent gratitude and appreciation. After a tough week of being a human deeply connected to another human (yay marriage!), this was the perfect, unexpected gift. I’ll never forget these roses and the love I am lucky enough to share with the person who bought them.

January 20th: Is there anything better than Saturday brunch? The answer is no, in case you were wondering. Although this picture isn’t the most appealing depiction of our sweet tradition (as of January 20th :)), it was delicious and made with my best friend. Not pictured: coffee, orange juice, and binge watching of Doctor Who.

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January 21st: My husband. My constant source of joy. To once again mention the Dumbledore quote, he is truly my “light”. I think that was something I needed to realize this week. Oddly enough, one of my favorite songs, the one I believe captures how I feel about Justin, is called Guiding Light by Foy Vance ft. Ed Sheeran. I was reminded of why this week.

Honestly, it is a real struggle to not take a picture of him every day as my source of joy. He’s the best.