Shell Shocked!

Many years ago I went through a life situation that pulled the carpet right out from under me. I was sad and depressed for a long time, a couple of years in fact. During that time I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror staring back at me.

My 21 year marriage had ended in divorce and it tore my life into shreds. I thought I would never smile again, never experience joy, and never be at peace. During the worst of it all I fled to Myrtle Beach for two months just to settle my thoughts and perhaps figure out a new direction for my life. While there, I did a lot of talking to God and I wrote an account of something major that happened as an answer to my prayers. Here it is:

2006,  February

Since my arrival here at Myrtle Beach, I have gone for walks on the beach just about every day, about three miles. I have gone at high tide, low tide, and everything in between. I have gone early in the morning before most other people are out and I have gone later in the day. I have walked in wind, calm, rain, mist, fog and cold.

Most days as I walked, I searched for seashells….nice ones, big, not broken. There just never seemed to be much down there on the beach. I saw some little ones, many old ones full of holes and many broken pieces. There were always people looking, with their plastic bags at the ready, but they weren’t finding anything either. In fact, I heard lots of complaining about the dearth of treasures to be found.

Most days as I walked and searched, I also prayed. I prayed for God to fix me and make me whole again after my divorce. I prayed for him to manifest himself to me and give me direction for my life.

And as I walked and searched and prayed, I grieved. I grieved my failed marriage; my lost dreams, and my broken family.

One day mid January as I walked and searched and prayed and cried, I did something I had never done before. I did something that I always thought people were hokey for doing. I asked God for a sign that he really heard my prayers and that he loved me. I asked him for a shell, whole and complete; unbroken and bigger than the others. I knew that if I ever found it, that it would be His doing, because what I was asking for I had only seen in shell shops and craft stores, never on the beach.

Well, I didn’t find one that day, or the next day, and not the day after that either. That made me rail all the more. Never mind that I had seen whales by twos and once by threes on three separate occasions, right outside my window; never mind all the other ways He had shown me grace, including the upgrade in my accommodation. I wanted my shell.

Sometime after that, I stopped looking, stopped striving, planning,

stopped asking God for my shell. I relaxed and just enjoyed the beach. I didn’t care that I looked like a crazy woman in a cowboy hat and running shoes. I could see the beauty all around me, and it made me happy. I kind of forgot about my request.

Then, just days before leaving to go back home to the reality of my life in Quebec, and more than a month since asking for it, I found my shell. I wasn’t searching, striving, plotting or planning. I was just walking, being happy and at peace. I was thankful for my first two nights’ sleep without medication in eighteen months. My shell was big, whole, no holes or cracks, and unbroken, just like I asked God to make me. (not that I asked God to make me big!) People had walked right past my shell, not noticing it, but it stood out like a beacon for me. I couldn’t understand how they all missed it. Funny, like sometimes when it is only by standing still that an elusive butterfly will light on your shoulder, you have to be still in your heart to see what God wants to show you.

I experienced joy on that day. True joy.

Sometimes by just letting things take their time and natural course, joy can be found when you least expect it.

The shell sits on a shelf in my office as a reminder that joy is not so terribly elusive and that God answers prayer.

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Well, What is Joy Anyway?

I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Where?

Down in my heart

Where?

Down in my heart…to stay.

And I’m so happy, so very happy

I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart…

Remember that song from Sunday school when you were younger? I’m not sure if children still sing it, but when I think of being joyful I do remember it. I remember singing it as an adult and thinking, “What on earth does it mean to have ‘that’ joy down in my heart?” It’s difficult to sing that song and frown at the same time.

Maybe we’re on to something here.

Well, what is joy anyway?

The dictionary defines it as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.

That would mean that joy is an emotion and subject to external circumstances. It would also imply that you could only be joyful if you are successful and you get what you want. Strange thing though, I know lots of successful people who have everything they could ever want and they are not even happy, let alone joyful. Some of them are depressed and have a black cloud over them wherever they go. And when they manage to step out from under the black cloud, they turn back and pull it over themselves again. Do you know people like that?

On the other hand, have you ever met people who have very little and they’re not doing so well health-wise, but they have a twinkle in their eye, they smile a lot and are generous with what they do have? I know people like that and they are usually busy giving little gifts, baking for people even less fortunate than they are, and in general they are content with their lives. They spread happiness and smiles everywhere and when they leave, you feel better about yourself and everything around you. These are the people who spread sunshine, love and hope.

I think they might be joyful!

Perhaps joy is much bigger than happiness. While happiness appears to be dependent on external circumstances like good fortune, health or the weather, joy is not dependent on such things. Joy is a state of mind and heart that gives our lives meaning and makes us come alive. At first it is a state of mind and then it becomes a trait we have and is woven into our way of being.

So once again, what is joy?

Joy is a trait we have that is more than happiness,

just as happiness is more than pleasure.

Pleasure is in the body.

Happiness is in the  mind and feelings, but

Joy is deep in the heart, the center of our very self.d3770_joy_heart

When The Magic Happens

I have read that you can’t have joy in your life without gratefulness. When I think about it, I guess its true. When you’re not grateful for what you have then you will always be wishing for more and be fretting about that. When you’re fretting you are not joyful.

I’ve caught myself several times in the past year with a scowl on my face; while driving in the car, while reading at home, a lot of times when I am alone. Sometimes I’ve dared to look in the mirror and it is not pretty. I have forced myself to smile. It hurt.

I wondered why I was scowling. Was my life so hard that I couldn’t put on some music and belt it out rather than having that pursed lips furrowed brow look? It’s hard to scowl when you’re singing “UP” with Shania Twain or “Is You ‘Appy” with Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellows.

I’m thinking that joy should bubble up from the center of our being like water in a fountain.

So what’s the problem?

Some people just have a resting bitch face I guess.

Well I can’t be joyful with a resting bitch face so probably the first place to start is to turn that frown upside down. Mind you, I don’t intend to have a fake smile. There were many years when I was unhappy but told to smile anyway. That’s not what this is about. If there are problems, I will be transparent about them and try to find the joy in little things.

Like this morning, for example; we are in Hilton Head for a couple of months enjoying the escape from a harsh Nova Scotia winter. We got up this morning to temps in the minus and I wanted to have a walk on the beach. It was cold and with the wind chill it was even colder, but we went anyway, all bundled up in gloves, scarves and winter jackets.

It was the most glorious walk! The sun was shining, the sky was blue and we literally had the beach to ourselves. I mentioned to Dave that there was a lot of joy in that walk- we got our exercise and spent a special hour together alone on the beach. I was grateful for the quality time together.

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Meanwhile, back in Nova Scotia everything was closed today because of a winter storm with high winds and drifting snow: churches, shops, clinics, you name it, they were all closed. If you are in a storm area today, try to find the joy in hunkering down with Netflix, some hot chocolate, and time with the family. Be grateful for the warmth inside your home and heart.

Joy. It’s all in how you look at things. We could have convinced ourselves that it was too cold and windy to go for a walk on the beach but we didn’t.

And that’s when the magic happened!

Did you have a joyful moment today?

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Joyfulness for 2017

Hello and welcome back to A Nourished Life!

It’s the beginning of another New Year, time when most people are making New Year’s resolutions, most of which will fall by the wayside by January’s end. Resolutions to quit smoking, lose weight, work out more, call Mom more often, smile more, and stop drinking top the list.

I don’t do resolutions any more. Instead I do themes.

One year my theme was Peace because I found that life had gotten too hectic with demands on my time and emotions. It was the year my ex harassed me relentlessly after our divorce. I prayed for peace, craved peace and finally had to carve out some peace in my heart.

Another year my theme was Friends, because due to our cultish lifestyle at the time, I had cut off contact with most of my old friends who weren’t part of the cult. All that year I made huge efforts to establish a connection with friends that had not been a part of my life for a long time. It was a great year!

2014 was a year of Coping. Coping with some personal problems, coping with my mother’s illness and death, and coping with some troubling events in my children’s lives. It was a very tough and stressful year.

2015 saw me Resting. The stresses of the previous year had caught up with me and I was constantly sick. Shingles, viral infections, depression and finally bells palsy topped the list. I desperately needed to rest and take care of me.

Last year my theme was Health. I aggressively focused on getting my health back. I followed a program for Leaky Gut with some results. I started eating fermented foods, which helped me to get my digestion working again. And finally I followed Bill Phillips’ Live coaching program for four months to shed some extra weight, to feel fit and to regain the vitality I had lost during the previous few years.

It worked!

I found that in my efforts to regain health and vitality, along with good digestion, something vital was missing. Something that I believe is essential to health…

Joyfulness. Laughter. Fun. Gratefulness.

I realized that I was so focused on regaining health that I forgot to have fun, laugh and be grateful. So my theme for 2017 will be Joyfulness! I will post here at least once a week about how I’m doing with my theme for the year. Why don’t you come along with me and either choose Joyfulness or another positive theme that will enhance your life this year?

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Customer Service? Sushi? Anyone?

Did you ever notice the Customer Service counter in many large stores, but most especially in grocery stores? I always thought they were for returns, complaints and other negative things, like people sounding off because the price of sugar changed, or they want last week’s price on ground beef because they missed it last week. Who would want to work in the Customer Service department, right? Fielding complaints all day must be so stressful!

Well that’s what I always thought until recently. I was in Antigonish, NS on the weekend to visit my son Aaron. He is the master sushi maker! We were planning a little Labor Day Sushi supper at his apartment with his roommates and their parents, making us a party of eight. The idea was to get all the ingredients at Sobeys early in the afternoon, and then the boys would spend a few hours preparing our gourmet meal.

Making sushi is quite involved. The sticky rice has to be prepared, omelet made, vegetables julienned, raw fish sliced, and then it is all rolled up in square seaweed sheets called nori. Afterwards the rolls are sliced into 1” pieces. Then it is eaten with soy sauce mixed with a little wasabi (if you’re really brave) and a couple of other sauces.

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sushi2A sushi party is a most delicious and fun meal!

Antigonish is a small university town in the heart of Nova Scotia, and you can’t buy just anything there like you could in a city. So off we went to Sobeys, Aaron and I, hoping to get the ingredients for the sushi party on Saturday afternoon. We filled the cart with avocado, cucumber, carrots, eggs, shrimp, salmon, crab, tuna, sticky rice, soy sauce, rice vinegar and wasabi. All that was missing were nori sheets to roll it all up in.

We searched in the Asian section and the International section but there were none. I asked a cashier where the nori sheets might be and she told me to check out the deli section where they make their own sushi to sell. The girl behind the deli counter told me they were all out.

We were getting a little panicked because there was nowhere else in Antigonish to buy this specialty item; we couldn’t even beg from a sushi restaurant because there is none. If we didn’t find some nori we would have been forced to change the menu completely and maybe have chicken or spaghetti or something mundane. Everyone would have been very disappointed.

In desperation I flagged down a man in a white shirt with a name tag identifying him as Kevin.

“Are you a store manager?” I asked him.

“Yes I am. What can I help you with?”

“Well, as you can see, we have all the makings here in the cart for a sushi party, but we’re missing the nori.”

He asked us how much we would need and we told him, about 20 sheets.

“I’ll go check at the deli”, he said.

But we knew there was no nori for sale at the deli. So I just told him we would follow him there. Once he got to the deli section, I saw him rooting around. No one behind the counter would argue with a manager!

A minute or two later he came out from behind the counter with a plastic bag chock filled with the coveted nori sheets!

“This is on us”, he said with a smile as he handed Aaron the bag. “I wouldn’t want your sushi party to be spoiled.”

We shook Kevin’s hand and thanked him profusely. The sushi party was saved and a lovely party it was! (Thanks to Kevin)

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That was probably the best customer service I had ever received in a grocery store! This man could have just told us he was sorry but there was no nori for sale in the store and we would have thanked him for looking, but Kevin went the extra mile and made our day!

So today I am here to tell you that customer service is important, so important that you can rest assured I will return to Sobeys in Antigonish anytime with a smile because one man went beyond the call of duty to help out this mom and her son last Saturday. We were very grateful.

How about you? Have you experienced good customer service lately?

 

Photos and More Photos

IPhoto tells me that I have 3,323 photos, and I know that is very conservative compared to many people I know. I love looking at my photos; they transport me back in time to special occasions, outings, great meals and good times. They remind me of loved ones who are no longer with us, and friends and family who live far away.

Isn’t it great to have it all there on the computer? Sometimes when I want to look at photos of my precious Mom, I sift through all the other ones in order to get to the good ones. Other ones like 83 photos of a cousin’s wedding, 47 of the last baby shower we went to, complete with all the ‘mistake’ ones, and another 24 of the baby.

How many do we need? Would 10 good photos of the wedding have sufficed? Two of the pregnant belly? How about 10 of the baby? Naw, I think we need all the ones of the baby.

I have been going through my photos recently and eliminating all the repeats, the ones that make people not look good, and the ones that just don’t matter anymore, like 15 of a turtle I saw on my walk two years ago.

On another thought, when we take multitudinous photos of every event we go to, every restaurant meal we eat and every trip we take, do we not experience the event through the lens of the camera rather than just enjoy the day? We go to the restaurant and take photos of the food, the decor, and then the inevitable group selfie.

Writers write in their head instead of living in the moment; this is such a beautiful scene – how can I describe it – lush colors, blood stained sky, panoramic masterpiece, rather than just drinking in the scene with all their senses. I do that all the time.

The rest of the world takes photos so that they will never forget. The problem is that they miss out on the music, the laughter and the scents that go with that beautiful scene or delectable meal.

My current project is to simplify life by not only living in the moment, but also loving the moment, every moment, and keeping them to memory and sentiment rather than on my computer.

This poem by Wendell Berry captures in a great and humorous fashion, the dilemma of our times.

 

The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.

He went flying down the river in his boat

with his video camera to his eye, making

a moving picture of the moving river

upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly

toward the end of his vacation. He showed

his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,

preserving it forever: the river, the trees,

the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat

behind which he stood with his camera

preserving his vacation even as he was having it

so that after he had had it he would still

have it. It would be there. With a flick

of a switch, there it would be. But he

would not be in it. He would never be in it.

                                                                                                Wendell Berry

 

The Art of Saying No

 

A large part of simplifying a life is accomplished not just in reducing your possessions, but also in giving yourself time to enjoy the spaces you’ve created. It is also experiencing joy and contentment, spending time with family and friends while doing the things that make you happy. For the longest time I wondered why I didn’t feel peace in my heart and life. I had pretty much decluttered the house, donated things that needed to be donated, and sold things that needed to be sold.

But there was something that really bothered me about my life. It was my calendar. Yes, my calendar. It was filled with all sorts of good things up to three months in advance. One April day a few years ago, a friend called wanting to set up a time to get our two families together. I looked at my calendar and had to say, “Wow, it looks like we are booked solid until the third Saturday in June! Should I pencil you in?”

That was quite pathetic, that we would have to wait two and a half months to get together. My calendar was filled to the brim with appointments, engagements, family things, professional things, weekends away, visitors, and all the things that make a life. Truth be told, I had put all those things on the schedule because saying ‘no’ would have been harder.

Why would a person say yes to something they don’t particularly want to do? Guilt? Shame? Unease? Difficulty in saying no? Fear of hurting the other person? For the longest time I have been making plans only to cancel them at the last minute when I feel overwhelmed with too much to do, not enough time, or just a discomfort with the request. It would have been easier to just say no in the first place.

I had to realize that my time is valuable; that I am valuable, and that I cannot do justice to an outing or an engagement if I would rather be doing something else.

But what do you do when someone calls with an invitation or a request to speak, volunteer, sit on a committee or some other such thing that will take some of your time? Many of these things are worthy and good, but are they worthy and good for me? Rather than saying an outright yes or no, I have come up with a method that works for me. Now whenever I am asked anything, I respond with,

                                        “Let me get back to you on that.”

And then I have time to go home and decide whether or not this thing will be something I can do or attend, whether it works for my family, and whether or not it is a good fit for me. That’s a lot easier than saying yes now, fretting for a time, and then back pedaling later. However, having said “Let me get back to you on that”, now I have to make sure that I actually do get back to them.

Let’s be purposeful with the things we say yes to, and make sure that they add value to our lives. Choose wisely! And don’t apologize.

How about you? Do you find your schedule too full? Do you wish you had some time to do the things you love rather than doing what other people think you should be doing? The next time you’re asked to do something you’re not sure of, just try saying, “Let me get back to you on that.” and see what happens.

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Oh, by the way, yesterday I brought a third carload of ‘stuff’ to donate to VeeVee’s Boutique. They will be opening in one week and it will be interesting to see what shows up in the shop.