Can You Still Be Joyful When Everything is Going Wrong?

I’ve sat down to write this post numerous times over the last month. But, I wasn’t feeling very joyful—quite the opposite actually—so I had nothing to say. Now, I think I’m feeling a little more normal and have a better perspective. So here it goes.
This year has been incredibly difficult for our family. A sudden loss, a devastating diagnosis, a pregnancy spent on bedrest, financial concerns, and to top it off, our baby, whom we were expecting to be perfectly healthy, was born with a defect that will affect him for the rest of his life. The last few months I have had no joy in my heart. Not one ounce. As someone who has difficulty coping with the post-partum period anyway, these issues have brought me to the end of myself and have had me wondering if it’s possible to have joy in spite of everything going wrong.
Joy is not based on circumstances. It’s based on the One who gives joy.
Happy, sad, mad, tired, frustrated…think of all the emotions we experience on a typical day as our circumstances change. The joy that God gives…knowing that He’s in charge and loves us no matter what…cannot be taken away by change because He never changes.
There is always something to be grateful for even when life is at its most desperate.
Even though we have difficult life-changing things going on, I still want to be grateful for the little things. The kisses from my daughter, the food on our table, the roof over our heads. The sunsets, the smell of jasmine, new boxes of crayons…they’re the simple pleasures that add up.
Joy is not an absence of pain. It’s choosing to carry on in spite of pain.
I’m not saying that choosing joy makes you happy all the time. It doesn’t. Because happiness is based on circumstances. The joy comes in knowing that no matter what, everything will be okay in the end. Good will come of whatever trial you’re enduring, and that God has plans to prosper and not to harm you.
This last year has undoubtedly been the most difficult time of my entire life. It seems like we’ve struggled with one thing after another after another. If the situations hadn’t been so devastating it would have been somewhat comical. But, I trust that the One who gives joy will help me see it no matter what even when I fail.

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip-Coconut Milk Waffles

Saturday Mornings mean one thing in our house…homemade breakfast! My husband is the breakfast chef around here, and Saturday breakfast is a tradition we enjoy sharing with our children. I love using coconut milk in baked goods…the coconut milk gives it a wonderful fluffy texture. If you don’t have or don’t care for coconut milk, you can substitute buttermilk. (See how to make homemade buttermilk here.) This recipe yields about 5 or 6 waffles. You can also freeze these for a quick weekday breakfast. Because of the oats, these are heartier and more filling than regular waffles.

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip-Coconut Milk Waffles

  • 1.5 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C quick cooking oats
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5 C coconut milk
  • 6 TBS butter melted (or butter substitute if dairy-free)
  • 2 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 C chocolate chips (vegan if dairy free)

*In large mixing bowl mix flour, oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, mix eggs, coconut milk, melted butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until combined. Sir into flour mixture until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
*Spread batter onto preheated waffle iron and cook until brown and crispy. Serve immediately.
*To keep in the freezer, place parchment paper between each waffle and freeze tightly in a zip bag. Remove waffle, break in half, and put in toaster to reheat.

Easy Indoor Activities to Keep Kids Happy and Parents Sane

I know, it’s only January and you’ve already seen enough Play-Doh, blocks, and toy cars to last you the next six months. You’ve turned on more DVDs than you’d care to admit, and you’ve been known to lock yourself in the bathroom just for five minutes of quiet. What is a parent to do? Try these fun activities that will break up the days the little, and hopefully give you a little more sanity to make it through the winter!

1. Balloon Toss
Note: Always supervise children when playing with balloons. This is a better activity for children over age three, as balloons can pose a choking hazard for small children if accidentally popped.
My little one LOVES this game. It will keep her occupied for an hour. Which, in kid time is roughly the equivalent of two years. All you do is blow up a balloon, and hit it back and forth like a volleyball. This game teaches hand-eye coordination and is also just plain fun!

2. Scavenger Hunt
This breaks up the day a little, and provides a little treat for your child at the end. First, send your child into the other room while you write out clues on small strips of paper. For a smaller child, the clues should be simple such as “Check the place you sit while eating dinner” (dining room chair). For an older child, you can do more complex clues like “Go to the cabinet where we store the NaCl” (in the kitchen cabinet that houses the salt).
Do several clues (I do four or five), with a different strip of paper in each clue location. At the end of the scavenger hunt, hide a small treat or snack as the “treasure”.

3. Indoor Picnic
Play fun summertime music (think ukulele) and lay out a blanket on the carpet for lunch. Serve a picnic lunch such as tuna, egg salad, or BBQ chicken sandwiches, pasta salad, potato salad, fresh fruit (if you can find it), and popsicles or ice cream for dessert.

4. Board Game Bonanza
Okay, okay, I’m not going to say Candy Land. (Though we do play it daily here.) But, there are lots of board games that keep little ones amused and have an educational bonus as well. Some of our favorites here are:
Sequence for Kids. Teaches pattern recognition and logic.
Let’s Go Fishin’. Teaches hand-eye coordination.
Chutes and Ladders, Memory, and obviously Candy Land are old stand-bys as well. Hasbro offers printable coupons every few months for these games. I was able to score Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land for $2 each after pairing coupons with a sale!
A deck of cards can help your child learn numbers and shapes, and you can play Go Fish with a regular deck of cards.

5. Make Your Own Band
Don’t try this if you already have a headache, but you can make lots of musical instruments at home!
To make a guitar, wrap rubber bands around a shoebox.
To make a tambourine, staple together two paper plates and hole-punch the edges. Hang jingle bells using string or ribbon.
Make a xylophone by filling glasses with differing amounts of water. Gently tap a spoon on the glasses to create different pitches.
Create cymbals out of pot lids.
Make a drum by using an old oatmeal tub or a tupperware set, and use a wooden spoon for the drumstick.
Create your own maracas by filling old plastic water bottles with rice or dried beans.

Don’t forget to look through our collection of art projects as well!

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Living Joyfully When You’re Weary

We all get tired and weary. We all need a break. Unfortunately, life goes on–seemingly more out of control–in the midst of trials and personal struggles. This is also the time in our lives when it is most difficult to live joyfully. So, how can we have joy when we’re tired and weary with life?

  • Take a Step Back
    • When feeling overwhelmed, step back from the situation and take a few deep breaths. Don’t think about your issues, just think about taking a little break. Sometimes a few minutes of being alone and taking cleansing breaths will help put things in perspective. On difficult days with my little one, I can sometimes get two minutes to myself while she’s playing, and that little respite helps me refocus for the rest of the chaos afternoon.
  • Find Your Motivation
    • Everyone has a driving force that keeps them going. When we’re weary, we need to remember what that motivation is. We’re expecting our second child in the spring. I sometimes get weary and tired of being sick and not being able to do all the things I’m used to doing. When I step back and think about my motivation: serving my family and growing a healthy baby, things become a little less overwhelming, and I have a goal before me.
  • Count Your Blessings
    • This is the most important, yet most difficult, part of being joyful when you’re “just done.” It can be hard to see past current circumstances, but there is always something to be grateful for. Thinking of all your little blessings can help put everything else in perspective.

Life can be exhausting, and times of calm seem too few and far between. But, by taking a step back to regroup, finding your motivation to put things in perspective, and counting your blessings, you can be joyful in the midst of weariness.

Tip of the Day…Menu Planning

Grilled Pineapple Glazed Pork Chops, Cilantro Lime Rice, Broccoli

In a cooking rut? Tired of looking through recipes and scouring the internet for meal ideas? Try this instead…think of 10 of your favorite restaurants. Go to their websites and check out their full menus. This should give you some fresh new ideas for your menu this week!