Weekend Joy and the Clinton Row Colorwalk

A smile relieves a heart that grieves. Remember what I said. –The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

So far this long weekend has been exactly what I needed. When I left work Thursday, I’d planned to take the four-day weekend seriously re: self-care and joy breaks. I had some “unfinished business,” so I worked till noon Friday and I haven’t thought about work since then.

I have been just as serious about my 10 days of joy.

Yesterday, I held my first full “brain dump” session in a long time and ended up with a three-page list of all the things that have been nipping at my soul. Now, I know that doesn’t sound very “joyful.” And it isn’t. In fact, without context, the list is sad, stressful, anxious, but the JOY is in how I felt after writing the list! I have been carrying too much stuff internally, and when I don’t deal with it or even take a moment to acknowledge it, all that soul-gunk spills out in not-so-nice ways. So…taking an hour or so Sunday morning to detoxify my soul was beneficial in many ways.

I’m not sure I would have been able to even approach that list if the guys and I hadn’t taken time out for creativity Saturday afternoon. We grabbed our cameras, headed downtown, donned our masks, and took a two-hour photo walk. The weather was perfect—cloudy, cool, and breezy.

I noted the typical street scenes—musicians playing, private conversations, storefronts, architecture, diners—but, because I am nearly obsessed with street art, the Clinton Row Colorwalk was my favorite joy moment of the walk!

The Clinton Row Colorwalk is an alley filled with murals painted by Huntsville (Alabama) artists.

Mick Jagger with Frame

Needless to say, every single piece of work thrilled me, but the quote written along the frame of the Mick Jagger portrait transformed the art into a powerful statement:

I pray that looking beyond this day we can all work together to overcome the hatred and division and start to heal the pain and suffering that everybody is feeling in this country.

Here’s a collage of “sneak peaks” of some the other pieces:

To see the full pieces, see my Flickr album here > Clinton Row Colorwalk Album and for more information about the art and some of the artists’ processes, check out the Facebook page here > Clinton Row Colorwalk Community.

What is today’s joy break? I’ll be spending time with family safely celebrating my baby cousin’s kindergarten graduation!

Joy all around!

A Moment with Eric Carle

2021-05-28_145935

The Very Hungry Caterpillar story is about hope. You, like the little caterpillar, will grow up, unfold your wings and fly off into the future. –Eric Carle

Beloved children’s book author and illustrator, Eric Carle, passed away May 23 at 91 years of age, but I learned of his passing just this morning. I spent today’s joy break revisiting Carle’s books and illustrations and thinking about moments I spent with my little one reading and rereading his books. I even listened to the recording of my son “reading” Brown, Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967) that I mentioned in a 2018 post (linked below).

It’s sad that we lost Carle, but it heartens me to know that he will live on and on through his works and in the memories of generations who were mesmerized by his colorful books.

If you’d like just a little more of Eric Carle, here are two more posts which feature Carle’s work:

Take a moment to (re)visit Carle’s work this weekend and have joy!

#ThursdayTreeLove | Golden Flame Tree

Golden Flame Tree-2

Since today is Thursday, I bring you a bit of tree love for today’s joy break. I’m not usually on campus this time of the year, so I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the transformations of trees I usually only see late summer through early spring.

While taking a short walk to escape the computer screen and the general madness of the day, I couldn’t help but notice the tiny bright yellow blossoms of the Koelreuteria paniculata. The tree, appropriately called the golden flame tree, is certainly a beauty, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next. 

For now, the flaming yellow flowers against the dark green offer enough joy for the day. 

Golden Flame Tree-1

If you’d like to learn more about the tree, here’s an article from Dave’s Garden: Golden Rain Tree: Friend or Foe.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post

100 Things That Bring Me Joy

Joy

Hello, my bloggy friends! I hope you didn’t miss me too much during my break.

While I was on “blog vacation,” I realized I didn’t need a break from my blog at all. I needed a break from some other things in life. In fact, work has been all-consuming. A few days ago, I was speaking with my colleague Ramona about our desperate need for seven consecutive days of not thinking about work. She replied that we need 10 days of doing the things that give us joy.

Wow! That’s a beautiful thought.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the whole world slowed down and took 10 days for joy? I know…I know…not realistic at all.

There was a time not so long ago when I made a point to do something “joyful” every day. These days…that’s a struggle, so the occasional afternoon nap is the best I can do. Lately, however, I’ve been wondering why it’s so difficult to muster the energy for things that bring joy. There’s still a month standing between me and an actual vacation, so I figured to save my sanity I must make a conscientious effort to take a joy break each day.

To jumpstart my return to joy, I pulled out the very long list, “100 ‘Things’ That Bring Me Joy,” I wrote seven years ago. I made some minor updates, and I’m sharing it with you as the first post of “10 Days of Joy.”

The list is pretty long, so you might want to grab a cup of your favorite warm beverage before you get started. 😉

First on my list are the basics, the foundation, so to speak.  Nothing else would matter without these entities and individuals who bring not only joy but meaning and purpose to my life:

  • God the Father in whose will I try to walk, who knows me intimately but still loves me, who pursues me relentlessly
  • God the Son who sacrificed His life for me and who loves me like no other
  • God the Holy Spirit who chides me when I’m heading in the wrong direction, who comforts me, and makes sense of my woe and pain
  • My hubby to whom I’ve been married for almost 27 years, who shares this world and this lifetime with me
  • My now 15-year-old son who from the time he was born has been teaching me what true joy looks like and how to focus on what really matters
  • My parents who have been supporting me all my life, for the love and loyalty evident in their 63-year marriage, for their integrity, and perseverance
  • My sisters who are my forever and dearest friends. Each is a reminder of different aspects of my personality and character; looking at all of them at once is like holding up a mirror. We miss Karlette and Lori like crazy, but their hearts still beat in us
  • My brothers, who stand strong and firm and exhibit the positive values of manhood taught to them by my father
  • My close friends—my angels on earth. They each add something unique to my life and they have held me up and sat in dark corners with me more times than I can count

Then, there are the little whispers…the things that leave impressions and carry a touch of joy that sustains me and keeps me pushing through the day(s)—

  • God’s love enveloping me
  • Random daily hugs from my not-so-little one
  • The dawning of new knowledge on my students’ faces
  • An unexpected compliment on a day when I don’t look or feel my best
  • Good times with colleagues. We actually like each other 🙂
  • Hearing one of my favorite hymns beautifully sung: “It is Well With My Soul” or “Come Thou Fount” or “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (I’ll stop before this becomes its own list)
  • Doing something for others without recognition or reward
  • Meeting someone with a beautiful spirit
  • Rainy days with a good book
  • Beautiful words/quotes
  • Baby smiles and giggles
  • Stumbling upon breath-taking beauty in nature

Of course, the natural world offers so many moments of joy.

  • Cloud formations
  • The ocean because of its vastness, beauty, and the salty air surrounding it
  • Bodies of water in general…something so peaceful about them and they seem to make me a little giddy
  • A mountainous landscape—mountains add such majesty to a place
  • The view from my office @ work because of all the gorgeous trees
  • Beautiful, colorful flowers! If you check out my Instagram page, you’ll see that I can’t resist snapping photos of them!
  • The view from my home office because of the beautiful clouds and the visits from my feathered friends.
  • A cool and breezy summer day—rare here in the South, but it happens
  • Autumn for all that autumn means: cooler temperatures, changing colors, pumpkin everything, beautiful clothes and sweaters (Not sure this should be under nature)
  • The moon!
  • Falling leaves
  • Red leaves
  • Spotting a deer, rabbit or other animal in its natural habitat
  • SUNFLOWERS!
  • Morning dew
  • The pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof
  • Frolicking squirrels
  • Spring revival, especially the short but sweet awakening of cherry blossoms and dogwoods
  • Birdsongs in the early morning
  • Butterflies fluttering from flower to flower
  • Long walks/hikes in nature
  • Sunrises and sunsets
  • Found hearts!
  • My favorite colors in nature—purple, red, and pink

Then, there are those things that help my spirit recall joy

  • Quiet mornings of prayer and meditation
  • Meaningful conversation
  • A good church service (good music, connection, and cerebral sermons)
  • A good day’s work
  • Singing my heart out
  • Listening to good music with meaningful lyrics
  • Writing in my journal
  • Poetry—reading it and writing it
  • Reading my favorite scriptures
  • Getting so absorbed in well-written fiction that I can’t put the book down till I finish
  • My son’s reading list–an opportunity to revisit great literature, read something I missed, or catch the newer writers
  • Looking through old photos and photo albums
  • A finished blog post  🙂
  • Museums
  • Children’s art
  • Illustrations in children’s books
  • Making lists
  • A finished “to do” list—a very rare thing indeed!
  • A spotless and well-organized house
  • A piping hot cup of herbal tea
  • A guilt-free afternoon nap
  • A boxful of Bath and Body Works products
  • Tree walks
  • Good falafels
  • Publix brand Chocolate Almond ice cream

The things others do (or did) for me…

  • My son’s poems, stories, and essays. He’s been telling stories and writing all his life and doesn’t yet realize he is indeed a writer
  • My hubby taking care of things around the house that I normally take care of
  • Little surprises from my hubby
  • My son’s artwork
  • Gifts from my sisters, especially those with a “sister” theme
  • Teddy Bear bookends my mom gave me years ago. There’s a story behind the bookends and that makes them extra special.
  • Teddy Bear gifts—including Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington
  • Bookstore gift cards
  • Gift boxes from my bestie
  • Sunflower mail!
  • The “sister spirit” sun-catchers my sister Karlette made

Sometimes, just looking at pretty, artsy things brings me joy, especially when I can use those things to do something for others:

  • Colorful stickers
  • Nice pens–ink or gel and Sharpies of all kinds!
  • Craft scissors
  • Craft punches, including corner rounders (they make everything elegant)
  • ATC blanks, sketchpads, and art journals
  • Rubber or acrylic stamps
  • Postcards
  • Photo apps
  • Pretty stationery, journals, and notebooks
  • Fine art, including photography
  • Handmade envelopes and cards
  • Washi tape!
  • Scrapbook materials, including Project Life and digital/printables
  • A good mail day, especially unexpected letters from friends
  • Apple products (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop—all things Apple)
  • Martha Stewart Scorer and Envelope Maker
  • Cricut—cutting is so relaxing!
  • My camera, of course!

My social media indulgences:

  • Pics and Posts!
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Flickr

Revisiting this list (of slightly more than 100) certainly offered today’s joy moment. I’m going to make a concerted effort to take time for joy each day–beyond morning prayer and meditation. Would you like to join me in taking (at least) a 5- or 10-minute joy break every day for the next 10 days?

Let’s see the difference joy makes!

Student Post 6: Joie de Vivre

Joie de Vivre

#blackboyjoy

We can learn so much from children. They are unbothered by the expectations and scrutiny of others, so they freely demonstrate the joy of life. In today’s student post our quiet, mild-mannered A’na of The Banana Hut reflects on a childhood moment of joy and muses over what happened to that overtly expressive child: Joie de Vivre.


About the Image: The photo above captures my son (a decade or so ago) in a moment of pure joy as he played in a pile of freshly raked leaves.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Precious Joy

Even though there are signs of spring, many of the trees around me are still skinny, naked, and exposed–shadows of their spring, summer, and early autumn selves.

I thought about those trees this morning as I watched the sun fill the sky, a backdrop for the leafless trees. I contemplated one of the passages of scripture I studied yesterday–

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of His faithful servants. —Psalm 116:15

I turned toward the computer to begin the workday, and my eyes met the pink sticky note on which I had written Psalm 96:12b a couple of weeks ago, anticipating the arrival of spring.

Let all the trees sing for joy.

Somehow, these two Bible verses are connected for me.

Today marks eight years since my little sister was taken from us. It’s strange how my body knows when the date is nearing. The grief and sorrow over the losses of both my sisters [and so many more since] are palpable, but it firms me up to know that God feels each individual loss intimately. We are precious to Him.

Maybe, the verses are connected in my mind because they point to hope.

Hope is in the “spring” of that soon-to-come Great Reunion when the trumpet sounds and those who have fallen asleep in Christ will rise first and meet our Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:12-18). Oh, how we’ll sing and rejoice!

In fact, all the earth will worship, and the trees will sing for joy!


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

There Is Joy…

But
isn’t it funny?
[…]
all they are interested in is our pain,
as if the joy-parts were accidental.

I write love poems, too,
but
you only want to see my mouth torn open in protest,
as if my mouth were a wound
with pus and gangrene
for joy. –Koleka Putuma, “Black Joy,” Collective Amnesia

People misunderstand Blacks in America. When we rise up against police brutality and other racial and social injustices in this country, when we speak the truth of our pain, we are not saying our lives are utterly miserable. There is joy, and–at the risk of sounding essentialist–that is part of our beauty and strength as a people.

I’ve run across many people who are interested in our pain, as the poet Koleka Putuma notes, but few who are invested in our joy. This strips us of our humanness and reduces us to “objects.”

I assure you. There is joy.

In spite of the pain that often comes with living in this world with Black skin, in spite of the economic barriers, in spite of the educational and health disparities, in spite of systemic oppression, we are able to thrive and embrace joy. We are able to live and worship and laugh and love and support our communities. We are able to forgive, to comfort, to heal. In spite of the struggle, there is much that is joyful and beautiful in our lives.


About the image: The photo was shot at my Dad’s 80th birthday party five+ years ago. I was searching my Flickr album for a completely different photo, but there was so much joy in this photo that it oozed off the screen and into my spirit on this gloomy not-so-wordless Wednesday.

The Gift of the Resurrection | “The Blessing of the Morning Light”

As usual, around this time of year, I have been thinking about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ—about what it means for humanity but also what it means in other ways. Scripture says that Christ came that we might have life abundantly—not a life of material riches, but a life richly transformed by the power of Christ, one which, despite the vagaries of human life, rest in the joy and strength of His presence.

This is also a gift of the resurrection of Christ.

We have been learning over these few weeks of sheltering-in-place that, generally, we have been living shadow lives, chasing the entrapments of what others consider a good life. We’ve also been learning that we can actually live without much of the clutter and noise, that—no matter how much we want to be out and doing with the throngs—we are content with our simpler, streamlined lives.

We have time for thought. For listening. For embracing joy and sorrow outside the rush of our normal everyday existence.

We are experiencing a mass removal of “masks” that unfortunately cannot be handed over to health professionals. This presents us with an amazing opportunity to grapple with the messiness of our experiences in ways that lead to authentic connection with ourselves and others.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of listening to David Whyte read one of his poems, “The Blessing of Morning Light,” during session 1 of his workshop, The Courage in Poetry. The words coincided so intensely with my thoughts over the last couple of weeks that I almost exited the live workshop just to sit and process those few moments.

We have a genuine opportunity through this global travesty to allow Light to illuminate the dark places so that we may rise to morning light.

[The poem was written one Easter morning (2015) in memory of his friend John O’Donohue].

THE BLESSING OF THE MORNING LIGHT (Or, “Easter Blessing”)
David Whyte

The blessing of the morning light to you,
may it find you even in your invisible
appearances, may you be seen to have risen
from some other place you know and have known
in the darkness and that that carries all you need.
May you see what is hidden in you
as a place of hospitality and shadowed shelter,
may that hidden darkness be your gift to give,
may you hold that shadow to the light
and the silence of that shelter to the word of the light,
may you join all of your previous disappearances
with this new appearance, this new morning,
this being seen again, new and newly alive.

From the David Whyte, The Bell and the Blackbird (2018).

All Wrapped Up in Joy

I woke up this morning with all the “things to do” on my mind and all the uninvited annoyances that entered my sphere days earlier nagging my heart. Before jumping out of bed in a frenzied rush–15 minutes later than I’d intended and an hour later than I should have–I paused and convinced myself to spend my usual first moments of the day in meditation.

I thought about my blogging friend Rev Russ’s query in his post “It’s All Hard”: Is life hard or have we become wimps [not exactly his words]?

I mused for a moment about just how difficult it can be to navigate all the “stuff” that comes our way from day to day, just how hard it is to push past the everyday slights and disappointments, how hard it is to [always?] act and speak with prudence, how hard it is to accept [not tolerate] difficult people, how hard it is to forgive repeat offenders, how hard it is to love ourselves, flaws and all.

The thought of it all made rising from bed a bit challenging, so I asked God, “How can I face the day when I wake up bone-tired? Weary?”

He immediately answered with three doses of His Word, so I wrote them in my journal and determined to let them direct my day.

When things were said or done that had the potential to unsettle me–A person whose desires rest on You, You preserve in perfect peace because [she] trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3).

When a sense of my very present vulnerabilities threatened to overthrow me–My grace is enough for you, for My power is brought to perfection in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

When I felt like the tasks were unmanageable, too much, impossible–I can do all things through Him who gives me power (Philippians 4:13). 

Despite the disappointments, the distractions, the conflicting personalities, the tedious work, the “must get done” list, my step was a little lighter today; my mind at ease; my spirit unencumbered.

As I wrote the last scripture in my journal this morning and click-closed the pen, God whispered one more word into my heart–The joy of the Adonai is [my] strength (Nehemiah 8:10). The peace, the grace, the power–all wrapped up in His joy.


Forgive me for the wordy #WordlessWednesday. The image above is an edit of a fallen hyacinth flower. I visited my family in New Orleans last weekend, and the gorgeous and über aromatic hyacinth plant stole the show in my mother’s garden.

All scripture from the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB).

Ordinary Moments of Joy

I had zero holiday spirit. None. I did everything I could to conjure the warm feelings the Christmas season usually brings. I went to Christmas parties. I decorated the house. I participated in gift exchanges. I read and meditated on scriptures about the birth of Christ. I even bought an ugly sweater (really, a hoodie). Nothing worked.

I was deep in a hole of exhaustion, confusion, stress, grief, and it was far too taxing to exact from myself anything other than that strange mix of feelings.

Until last night. As I was scrolling through Instagram posts, I ran across a one by Brene’ Brown in which she talks about spending Christmas in her mom’s hospital room. She begins that post:

The purest form of joy comes to us in ordinary moments, and those moments can happen any place where gratitude is alive. —Brené Brown

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments.”

It’s amazing how a single statement can prompt a shift.

I paused and asked God to help me to recognize and seize moments of joy, despite those contrary but legitimate emotions.

So today I opened my heart and with gratitude welcomed joy in all the ordinary moments and in all the ways in which it presented itself–watching my guys open gifts; chatting with my mom; preparing a dish for the family dinner while watching funny YouTube videos with the guys; texting Christmas greetings to friends and loved ones; enjoying Christmas dinner with my aunts, cousin, and her kids; listening to my aunt’s hearty laughter, knowing this first Christmas without my uncle is so difficult for her; eating way too many sweets; spending this moment with my blog before grabbing my fuzzy blanket and cuddling up with the guys to watch more Christmas movies.

Ordinary moments imbued with gratitude. Pure joy.

May you walk with gratitude and joy during the holiday season and through the coming year.

Merry Christmas!