Posted in joy, Life

Make sure you find the Easter joy you’re looking for

The yellows, greens, and pinks reached out to me, saying, “This way!” I had little choice but to follow my autonomous shopping cart into the maze of cellophane-wrapped Easter baskets. Fuzzy chicks and bunnies watched from the shelves, hoping to be chosen for a forever home. Yellow boxes filled with peanut butter eggs whispered to my subconscious, “These the the ones you’re looking for.” Rather than the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the shore, God could have directed Abraham’s eyes to the myriad of jellybeans, promising, “Your family will number more than these!”

A couple of days from now, we’ll be filled with the joy of resurrection. Easter Sunday will celebrate the truth that Christ, not death, has the final word. Yes, we’ve adorned Easter with all these trappings and plenty of food. But none of that can drown out our voices proclaiming, “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

And yet, most of the people I saw in the Easter aisles at the various stores looked miserable. I did not see any smiles at all. Shoppers looked annoyed, frustrated, and tired as they scanned the shelves, shrugged their shoulders, and tossed a bag of whatever into their cart. If they had brought kids along it was worse. Angry voices scolded, “Put that back. Stop asking. One more time and you get nothing.”

Oh, come on! All of these things bring a smile to my face. In the retail world, every popular cartoon character has part in Easter, from Super Mario to the Avengers! I’m impressed by the creativity that goes into each year’s products. I don’t know about you, but the thought of Starburst jellybeans, Reese’s peanut butter eggs, marshmallow chocolate bunnies, and malted milk robin eggs makes me smile every year! I can’t wait for the fun we’ll have hiding and finding plastic eggs.

So here’s what I think. First, if it makes you miserable, you should just skip the holiday. It’s OK. The candy companies won’t go broke without you. Second, find someone (like me) who enjoys the holiday and find out why. Anyone with Easter joy is more than ready to give a reason for the hope they have. Finally, go back to the source of joy. It’s not stuff. It’s not candy. It’s not a bunny. Or eggs. It’s an empty tomb. Death has been defeated, sin has been forgiven, and God’s love endures forever.

Posted in joy

The joy of an air guy

Originally called a Tall Boy, it’s also called a sky dancer, tube man, inflatable man, and air dancer. If I see one, even if I am alone in the car, I will smile and exclaim, “There’s an air guy!”

While they usually draw attention to a special sale or event, I most often see the small green one outside the Cricket phone store I pass when going to pick up grandsons. The new Goodwill store in our community had a huge blue one to announce the grand opening. I used to see a tall pink one in front of a used tire store near us, but he hasn’t been out for a while.

About ten years ago, I was very excited when our church bought a sky dancer to display at our annual Easter egg hunt. We didn’t get the one that looked like Jesus, but it was fun to watch him flail around nonetheless.

Church air guy

The Tall Boy was invented for the 1996 summer olympics by Peter Minshall who hails from Trinidad and Tobago. Now you can see tube men made to look like a cactus, Uncle Sam, an eagle, skeleton, ghost, leprechaun, Santa, elves, pirate, bride and groom, chef, and pilgrim.

What do I find so appealing about an air guy? I’m not really sure. He’s an image of unrestrained joy in a world too often filled with unhappy people. Regardless of what else is going on, he’s filled with life. I keep a sharp eye out for air guys, and delight in each one I see!

Posted in joy, kindness, positivity

The first domino

Driving home from Jacksonville this afternoon around 4:30 pm, the traffic was beginning to build as I merged onto I-95 from 9B. An SUV just ahead of me signaled to merge in front of me, then hesitated for just a moment. I flashed my high beams, encouraging her to cut in front of me. A little wave out the window and she was on her way.

As I drove on, I thought to myself, “Why did I do that?” I’m not always that generous on the highway. More often than not I’m more like, “You’re not cutting front of me. You can merge when I pass. And good luck with that!” And I never think twice about it.

But today was different. I was feeling good, kind, friendly and compassionate. And you know why? I had just had a great experience in Jacksonville. I had to return to the Apple store to get a battery replaced in my MacBook, a necessary chore I hadn’t been looking forward to. When I got to town center, behold, I nabbed a parking spot right in front of the store. As I walked in, I was immediately greeted and my computer was taken in back for the replacement. I knew it would take two to three hours, so I had brought work to do. But no sooner did I sit down with my grande Sbux, when my phone rang. My computer was ready to pick up. I didn’t believe it. In less than thirty minutes? I listened to the message twice. Still dubious. I headed back to the store, found another very close parking spot, and picked up my computer. Yes, it took less than half an hour!

So, on the way home, having had a very positive experience, I was feeling very friendly on the road. You want to cut in? No problem! Have a great day! Whereas I often feel impatient and annoyed driving on the interstate, I was feeling pretty good today. My great experience translated into a great experience for others.

It’s a domino effect, isn’t it? Some initial act of kindness tips that first domino to begin a series of positive events. I made up my mind in that moment that I would try to be that first domino more often.

Posted in joy

Just like new!

I was making one of my frequent trips to Home Depot and had my grandson Elijah with me. As we approached the entrance he was impressed by the selection of lawnmowers on display. Some were walk behind, some were riders.

I told him that I had a lawn mower at home, and I had a little lawn mower just his size, too. We had stored that toy mower up in the attic about a year ago and being out of sight, it had faded from his three-year old memory. He was so excited to hear that I had one his size, and couldn’t wait to get home!

When we got back home, I let the ladder down from the attic and brought it down for him. It was just like getting a new toy. He pushed it around and around the back yard, as the little balls on top popped around. Then he said, “I need my leaf blower and a gas can.” He had a toy leaf-blower at his house and he remembered that the toy mower had a little gas can that went with it.

I wonder if grown-ups like me can get the same delight from things that we’ve stored out of sight for a while and brought back out? I suppose Christmas decorations would qualify. I get renewed delight from ornaments and nativities I haven’t seen for a year. I’ve got a spiral cutter that I don’t use that often that can make zucchini noodles and curly fries. It’s always fun to get it out. Or the ice cream maker, which we don’t think much about until the fourth of July. I’ve got a couple of boxes at my office filled with props I’ve collected for children’s sermons over the years. There is much in them that I have long forgotten about. Oh, and I’ve got a tweed wool sport coat I only wear when the weather is close to freezing, which is hardly ever here in Florida. I put it on and think, “Hey, this is pretty nice!”

So it does work for me. I don’t have to buy something new. I just need to unpack something that’s been stored away for a while, and my heart feels and my mind thinks that it’s new again!

After we found the gas can.
Posted in children, joy, Life

At the kid’s table, again

kids-1I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but once again I found myself at the kids table.

After the wedding rehearsal, the family invited me to join them for dinner at the Portuguese American Cultural Center for supper. Even though I was the last to leave after locking up the church, I was one of the first to arrive there. Within fifteen minutes or so, more of the family trickled in, and it wasn’t long before I found myself watching a young men, Junior (age 4) and his cousin (age 6), play some games on an iPad. We were joined by two young ladies, Ina (age 4) an Layla (age 9), who were each absorbed in a book. When I asked what they were reading, they eagerly shared with me the highlights of their Captain Underpants books. As I sat to listen, we were invited to the buffet, and just like that, I found myself eating with the kids.

If you know me at all, you’ll know I was in my element, and soon we were comparing notes as to what is actually inside a clam, debating how much salt to sprinkle on a piece of bread (correct answer: none), and clinking out glasses so we could watch the soon-to-be married couple kiss. Dessert was even better as some delicious homemade chocolate mousse was quickly dubbed “moose poo.”

They couldn’t quite get the knack of rubbing a finger along the rim of a glass to fill the room with a high-pitched note. They did find and consume most of the chocolate covered strawberries. And the imitation rose petals decorating the tables were great for practicing for the big day tomorrow.

I got to meet a lot of nice family and friends of both the bride and groom, but I enjoyed the kids the best. Bonus moment: when ten-month old Clifford gave me a big, mostly toothless smile!

Posted in joy, Life, listening

A spontaneous smile

Yeah, these guys make me smile, too. Photo by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

It was right in the middle of a song on Sunday morning. The praise team was smaller than usual, just a couple of voices, but they produced a moment that still echoes in my mind. I don’t remember what the song was, but at one moment, when the two voices –one male, one female — harmonized, it lifted my heart, brought a spontaneous smile to my face, and made me stop and marvel at the beauty of that moment.

Eight days later, I am still thinking about that moment. There was another such moment this morning when, as turned the corner on my way to work and the pre-sunrise colors in the sky took my breath away and made me smile. In the dim morning light, my phone’s camera just wouldn’t capture the colors to preserve that moment, so I can’t even share it with you. Or when I got back home tonight and my two-year-old grandson saw me and shouted, “You came back!” How could I not smile at that?

I am grateful that God sprinkles these little moments into my day from time to time. Sometimes you smile because you have to. Or because you don’t want to cry. But sometimes you just can’t help it.

Posted in fountain pens, joy, lessons

A moment of joy: from loose to snug

Jinhao-X750-Shimmering-Sand-Medium-Nib-Fountain-PenOne of my favorite fountain pens is a Jinhao x750 that I guess you could say I actually got for free when I took advantage of a BOGO deal at the Goulet Pen Company. It’s got a medium nib with a really cool looking Shimmering Sands body, writes really smooth and has a little bit of heft to it, which I really like.

Unfortunately, after I had only used it for a few days, it wouldn’t cap snuggly. Now that’s not a big deal, but it was annoying. Capped, it would rattle just enough to bug me. But hey, it was free (even if  bought it, it costs less than $10), so whatever. I put it away, then got it out again when some other pens were out of ink. And that’s when it happened.

As paused while journaling, I was fiddling with it while posted, twisting it around, and when I capped it, it fit snuggly. I tend to twist a pen just a little when capping/uncapping, and that is how it worked loose. Again, this is pretty small potatoes, but I felt such joy in that moment. An ever-so-small annoyance solved. Just like that.

I had promised myself I would chronicle those instances in my life that bring me joy, and this is one of them. I find this fascinating. I don’t need something big, spectacular, expensive, or mind-blowing to bring me joy. Just something simple, small and even trivial.

What other simple things bring joy? Finding a dollar in a pair of jeans. Finding marrow bones for Samson in the freezer at Publix (lately, this has been a rare find). Reaching in the bag and finding one more french fry. Feeling a little hand grab my finger to walk with me.

What simple, ordinary moments bring you joy?