Featured Post

This Phoenix Speaks

Seven years in the making, my first published book, This Phoenix Speaks , is now a reality. The tireless and tiring work invested to ma...

joy quest: destinations

I was listening to this talk, Return and Receive, by M. Russell Ballard, and joy began filling my heart.  There are many golden messages to help me right now as I try to find my way to find daily joy. I want to share some of what I learned.

Knowing what matters most is a big factor for finding joy:
Goal setting is essentially beginning with the end in mind. And planning is devising a way to get to that end. A key to happiness lies in understanding what destinations truly matter—and then spending our time, effort, and attention on the things that constitute a sure way to arrive there.

Understanding God's plan for us and setting good goals lead us to joy:
I believe that one important key to happiness is to learn how to set our own goals and establish our own plans within the framework of our Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. 

Introspection is an essential companion to receiving the joy that comes with blessings:
I have found that to stay focused on returning and receiving the promised blessings, I need to regularly take time to ask myself, “How am I doing?” 

As I contemplate how I receive joy—and inadvertently reject joy—I recognize that these words are not just nice words, but they are key tools for helping me get where I want to go. I want to have a joy-filled journey. I want to create my eternity each day. Somehow I will make my way, and I am thankful I decided to study this talk. My heart has been given more hope, more real ways to find my way to receiving blessings I need, and joy—a well deserved measure of joy. My destination is heavenly joy, and I know I can arrive at it one step at a time as I trust in God.

joy quest: new music

A song is just a song unless it strikes a nerve, touches your heart, and/or sucker punches you in the gut. In any of the aforementioned cases, the song turns into a part of you. When you hear it even for the one hundredth time, you remember how it affected you that first time hearing it, and you remember the journey of change that it took you on.

Sometimes a song can mean new things to you as well, so maybe it becomes new after many years. Sort of magical how that can happen, if you ask me.

Some songs are old yet undiscovered by you, making old things new. There's charm in that.

So what does all this have to do with my joy quest? I was introduced to an older song (2000) that is absolutely charming to me. The softness of its melody wraps itself around me like a warm embrace; its words are like a wish I dream of coming true; it is lovely. While it does pinch at me because I don't have anyone to be my person right now, it is a sweet song that whispers of future joy to my heart. It tells a story that I thought I had and still want.

And it's just so charming that I can't help but smile.

joy quest: taking a rest

One thing that I've embraced is listening to my body and laying down to rest when needed. It can't always happen, but if I can squeeze in a little rest when I'm feeling raggedy, I do it. Most of the time.

I'm not feeling rested today or yesterday, raggedy is the watchword, and I haven't been able to take any time. Therefore, I'm not feeling very joyful right now. I allowed myself to think about the negative aspects of my life right now too, so I'm all over the place. There's just too much going on at once with little to no support. I don't see how to keep going let alone find the joy that's awaiting me.

So in order to find joy in this day, I will force myself to take a break to stop worrying and working, and try to rest a bit.

Joy will be found!

joy quest: mermaid island

I was hiking (more like walking out in nature) along the river in Zion National Park with my daughter with autism and my youngest son, and we came to this spot.

The picture hardly captures the vibrant color of greenish blue water mixing with the browns and greens even with a nice filter on the photo, but it does show you the gist of what we saw with our eyes. It was so beautiful. But that photo is here to give you the background to what gave me joy and will continue to give me joy as long as I can remember.

We came up to this section of the river from along the sandy beach pathway, and we stood there appreciating the gorgeous scene that you look at now plus more, and my little son said that it looked like mermaids lived there. Then he said a little more to that effect, and we stood there a little longer wishing we could jump in and swim over to the rock island where mermaids live.

It was a simple moment, yet I can hardly describe my joy. I thought about many things, but the thing that came to mind foremost was in having one last child to share in the wonder that our world is. I didn't count on having any more than two or three children, but he came along and has made my life so different and so good in ways only his personality could bring about. Next, I thought about how my older children were out hiking the real deal stuff on Angel's Landing and how happy it makes me that they get along now—mostly.

As I let myself enjoy that mermaid moment, I tasted simple and abiding joy. I'm thankful for this quest that has been helping me keep my heart open to finding it to taste.

joy quest: joy is . . .

Joy is found in family togetherness and friendship. Joy is in feeling safe. Joy comes when you stop wondering why when no one wants to explain. Joy steps in when all of your tears are gone and you don't know what to feel. Joy is what you hold onto when you want to do better than just keep breathing. And sometimes—joy can be found in each sliver of a breath as you realize you will make it through yet another difficult day. Joy and gratitude go together. Joy and grief are companions. Joy surrounds us. We merely need the courage to touch it, and its infectious nature takes care of the rest. Joy is beautiful. 

joy quest: volleyball

As you can tell, this meme is not mine, and I cannot read the tag to tell you who created it. But it is so perfect, so it had to be here. It begged for its day in the sun on my joy quest.

Volleyball has been something that helps me now. I've been going for well over a year now to a singles volleyball night, and it's been life-changing. First of all, it's because I'm not as crappy of a volleyball player anymore. My improvement level is debatable but definitely measurable. I was pretty terrible when I first began. I hadn't played in almost two decades. I'm competitive, so that's how this can bring joy. Improving my sporty skills makes me feel great. You should see my joy level when I get a hit right. I crack my own self up sometimes. I really should be embarrassed, but whatever.

Secondly, I've made friends that have changed me for good. They understand some of the unique circumstances I have been in simply because they are single too. Many of my volleyball friends live parallel lives with mine. And knowing that people just understand you a little can bring joy to a bad day. Some of them have helped to heal my heart actually; there's no better joy than that.

So, here's to volleyball and the joy it brings! 

joy quest: poetry

Loud Joy

The voices from the future
Calling to me
Beckoning and begging
Me to not give up—to not forget who I am

Pressing onward into the bleak unknown
Fervently finding flowers along the way
To keep me going as
Stones dig into the bottoms of my feet

Children watching my every action
As I feel around, tripping, falling
Getting up again and again and again
Tears washing away the screams trapped within

Always, in the distance, a soft weeping for
What was lost
Always, at the forefront, a fight for
What might be won

Dancing in the shadows and the sunlight
On fire with wishing
Squelched by reality
And though the heart knows

It can as swiftly become
Shattered to bits as was healed over time,
It keeps making a joyful noise

Drowning out sorrow regardless

joy quest: support

I was going to put a picture and write a little something, but then I decided to let my words speak for themselves.

There is absolutely nothing like being in the company of good people who have your back and want you to have theirs in return. The lovingkindness and respect emanating from their presence alone is heartening. When you feel supported and cared about, the problems of life are made smaller—even if it's only fractional. Sadness is swept away for a little while or a long while preferably. And joy is given a prominent place in our thoughts more easily.

Today, I had the blessing of spending time with someone who gave all of that to me. And my fervent hope is that they were able to get the respite I had hoped to offer but received instead!

So much to be joyful about today. Feeling respected and appreciated and loved. I have felt understood. It has filled some of the holes that have been left gaping for too long. Joy is at the helm!

joy quest: soap

It's pretty easy to please me. Stuff like purple dish soap gets me excited. So as I was searching out a joy treasure for today, I decided to keep it simple and go with the whole idea of even taking a picture of purple dish soap.

Rushing around is nothing new to me. Being a single mother now has kicked life into high gear where it never seems to stop; however, I never used to be able to stop rushing around in other ways—important for well-being ways. One of those ways for me is stopping to take pictures when I see something special in a mental capture.

I am so free now to stop and smell the roses (soap) and think about plans. I realize how much joy there is in such a small freedom. Photography of any level is fascinating to me, and it's wonderful to be able to take a minute here and there, to pull over to the side of the road or stand on stuff to get a better angle, etc. without argument. Well, my kids do get a tiny bit bugged sometimes, but for the most part, they just count this as a way of life now and wait. It's really great of them too. Sometimes they even point stuff out to me to capture with my camera.

So my joy is not entirely found in soap, but it's more about becoming clean from the shackles I had on me and being free to choose taking a picture or two of purple dish soap.

(And, no, I was not paid to advertise those dish soaps—they're just gorgeous!)

joy quest: lava

In the two years since seeing this short film at the drive-in for the first time, many things have changed. Life is so different from what I thought it could be like, so most of all its meaning to me has had to change. Hence a tinge of loss sneaks in as I watch this video; nevertheless, it still ignites hope and joy as I recognize that this could be my story.

There is joy in believing that there is someone being prepared for me. There is joy in the belief that I am becoming ready for him. I am always working to become my best self, so I pray that someone will turn and look one of these days and see I have been right there growing and becoming, filling the sea with my tears.

This song is just so beautiful. It tells such a real story of watching, waiting, hope, loneliness, but best of all, the joy that comes in the morning. Joyful is the thought that I am building a joyful life as I keep hope in what's in store. 

joy quest: farmers

Okay. I don't mean to sound completely city, but there's nothing like buying corn from a farmer. It all comes from farmers, I know, but to purchase it directly from them to help a small farm just feels extra American to me.

I've had a real long day with lots of work and garbage and joy, but I just want to give thanks right now that I live somewhere that I can find a farmer to give my money to for their hard work and sacrifice in having a life that provides such delicious food for my family and me.

My joy was so full handing over the cash. My joy was even fuller as we pulled the husks off and cooked the corn. And my joy was truly at overflowing as we had this nice corn to eat for dinner, seeing how much my children enjoyed and appreciated it.

I just want to say thank you to anyone who is a farmer or knows a farmer who is reading these words.  It's such a blessing to have farmers make life so good.

More thoughts about farmers:
Farmers and Paul Harvey

joy quest: father's gifts

Mesquite trees and St. Augustine lawn. Burnt peanuts, circus peanuts, Dr Pepper. Storytelling—both true and embellished. His love for his country: the old country, Texas, and this United States of America. He loved Johnny Cash's music, along with Neil Diamond, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, and many more of the very best musicians. The Dallas Cowboys.

A genuine love for providing for his family, making his West Texas hot sauce every summer, and talking about how to manage finances.

Taking his family on road trips all over the country, sharing in my mother's obsession for good movies, setting a guiding example of how to treat extended family.

These things are a fraction of the things I have loved about my dad. Many of his lessons have continued to help me grow as I teach my own children. My taste in music, sports, and nature's beauty were greatly shaped by his.

Today, I have joy reflecting on the several gifts he imparted while he worked at becoming the best father he could despite never having a father figure in his life.

My joy is full this day.

joy quest: more joy

I typically use only my very own photography and other graphic arts creations, but I saw this the other day, and it touched me deeply.

After reading it over a couple of times, I allowed myself to acknowledge how my actions keep me from joy. How I keep making excuses for allowing others to marginalize, disregard, and hurt me. Anyone who knows me knows that life has been almost constant struggle for more years than we should count. And if they actually care about me, they wouldn't make my life more difficult—at least not knowingly. This brings me to believe that if I know something is making life harder, responsibility lies with me to make sure others understand what is happening. And still—I have paid for this.

I have been through enough getting backstabbed and being unloved and under appreciated. I don't have anymore room for waiting on people to value me. I shouldn't need to be on the defensive all the time just for being alive.

Today's joy quest treasure brings with it a pure knowledge that I am worth more than how I've been treated, and I am making room for more joy to come my way. No more feeling like I don't belong. No more anything except watching for how I can improve myself and for the people who love me for who I am—imperfections and all—just like I do with everyone I love.

joy quest: worthy goals

Nearly ten years ago a joy seed was planted.

My son has loved being a cub scout and a boy scout. When he was in the thick of cub scouting things, there was nothing like getting another belt loop or having to create a third row of arrow points. The reward system helped him want to try things. It helped us bond with all the learning adventures we'd try. And he continued going strong on his goals for a couple of years into Boy Scouts, but life got to us, him, me. I couldn't give as much support as before with the divorce changing our lives so rapidly and permanently. And negatively.

So anyway. Long story short, my son overcame the odds against him because he has had some strong and motivated leaders who have challenged him, supported him, and helped me to help him, and yesterday he became an Eagle Scout. He reached his goal he set for himself when that scouting fire first got lit in his heart as a little boy.

To add another facet of this experience, the time leading up to this beautiful moment had been like being in a pressure cooker. Ask me just a year ago if this would be possible, and I would be doubtful. Ask me how I felt the past couple of months as deadlines for this doubled up with other deadlines for my other children, work, and other things. It has been a rough road.

The reason I tell you this is because I got to experience the healing power of raw joy. It just leaves zero room for anything but itself. The troubling issues as well as the entire day's problems fell completely away as I witnessed what joy filled my son's heart. He hasn't smiled that much since he was little—not even at graduation when he had first astonished me with his renewed countenance.

Witnessing his heart overflowing with joy filled my heart by it. The troubles and setbacks and roadblocks have become nothing but experiences to learn from now. They are transformed.

Setting worthy goals, goals that build you up and help you become your best self, are joy seeds when they are planted and taken care of.

joy quest: when joy finds you

Confession: I had a productive day, a good day, a weird day, a bad day, and a sad day all in one day, and I decided that I would not go to bed until I let myself choose a joyful part to focus on—because there were many good parts.

And so I couldn't sleep . . .

Until one of my hundreds of cousins messaged me and asked all the tough questions, drawing out my tears that had been overshadowing the joy.

She just listened and was supportive and everything I needed right now. Well, everything except a boyfriend. But according to her, "[she's] heard China has an abundance of men," so I guess she's shipping me off to China if they don't do mail order husbands.

And that's how I discovered that joy had found me. My looking was doing nothing, or at least not much. I needed her to come and get me, make me laugh, and show me that I am cared about.

You do need to be at least looking, but I promise you that joy finds you so long as you leave a light on.

joy quest: a rough day

I could write sheets and sheets about my bad day; however, this is a joy quest, so I need to find the joy.

So anyway, knowing I had a hard time getting through life today, I decided to take advantage of the discount seats at the local movie theater. I have learned that when things get messy and I just need a break—I need to take a break. And that usually entails me getting out of my house. There's just something about breathing different air even for a half an hour or so.

It was so relaxing to take my movie blanket and get a treat without anyone pushing on me to do this or do that. I got to just watch and breathe. The drive to and from the theater wasn't too hectic either. I got home mega fast actually. It was astonishing. And that is joy enough, right? But then I have so much more to be joyful about: Going to the movies, it was an entertaining show (that King Arthur one), I was safe, and so much more. So many good and joyful things happening for my benefit to help me.

I want to give thanks for my friend who was so kind to put up with my rough mood today too. Patience is something to rejoice in especially when meted out to yourself. It's humbling to know that only a few select people will accept you and help you even on one of your worst days. I'm humbled and grateful—and have joy in my heart.

joy quest: affection

There are many ways to find affection. Some are better than others. Some are more appropriate than others. Some are perfect. We won't even discuss the perfect ones like hugs from your children, family, and friends. Those are perfect. What I will address is the type of affection that can only come from someone choosing you to be vulnerable with even if it's just for a one-time moment.

The past several years have been devoid of affection for me. I'd venture to say that genuine, generous affection—affection without high cost—has been absent from my life for nearly fifteen years.

And what do such depressing statistics have to do with a joy quest, you might ask. It has a whole lot to do with it! Like how I've realized how valuable affection is that I know I won't take it for granted ever again. I've been rejected so much by so many in so many ways. Not all bad ways, just matter-of-fact ways mostly. So when I get small tastes of this rare delight, a day here and a day there, I cherish it. I do want to add how affection as a single adult is playing in the big leagues though. Holy crap. I can hardly even open my mouth to say anything for fear of saying something that might mean something I don't mean thus causing trouble. It's sort of funny when you're not in the moment. Maybe.

The best thing about even a day's worth of affection is when your children recognize you deserve this special type of happiness and affection and are glad for you.

There's my bit of joy. Morsels of affection and approval. You know, that's actually a whole lot of joy. And I'm so thankful for it right now.

More about my joy quest: Joy Academy: My Quest for Joy

joy quest: music

I love music. That's a broad statement, but it's true. People will ask me what's my favorite type of music, and I answer them: "Good." And I truly mean it. 

When I was thinking about what brings me joy, I knew that music needed to have a spot early on in this quest because I'll need the chance to bring it up again later if I want. Discovering new music and music I'd forgotten became a hobby as I worked through my grief during my divorce. Music helped me through many times when I couldn't see an end. It still helps me now. 

With all of my excitement about trying to find joy in my daily life, I decided to poll people on Twitter for their favorite song that makes them smile/feel happy no matter what. It was inspiring. And I made a playlist for you to enjoy. 

The thing about this playlist is how nerdy and eclectic it is. So many show tunes. Well, soundtrack songs are on there too. I dig movie musicals like so much though! The best memories are wrapped up in many of the songs on my joy playlist. I love it so much, having something to listen to that speaks for joyful memories, that helps me hold onto joy right now. 

I've been wanting for joy this weekend, and building this playlist helped me so much. I hope it gives you a smile at least and maybe even increases your joy as you listen to it. 

Let me know if you like any of the songs! 

joy quest: no dead ends

It might sound weird, but when I saw these DEAD END signs, I thought of joy. I thought about how joy seems to have so many road blocks, but it overcomes every single one—every single time—when we open our hearts to it.

Just a few short years ago, I believed that I'd never love again. I believed that there would be no way I'd ever recover from the terrible destructive forces of divorce. And since then, I have loved more than I ever thought I could. I have had more joyful experiences than I can count. The hard times have been counteracted and overcome because of the tender mercies God has sent my way—because of the joy I have allowed myself to see, touch, and taste.

There is no such thing as a dead end to joy. Joy is everywhere.

joy academy: my quest for joy

I have been given the honor of being the very first participant in the Joy Academy's challenge to do a 30-day joy quest. There will be more explanation at a later date and the opportunity to sign up for it as well, so just keep reading each day, and I'll let you know when, where, and what in better detail. Until I have links to share, I'll quickly explain what my friend, Julie/Julie Clawson/Julianne Clawson, the fabulous author of Edenbrooke and Blackmoore presently known as Julianne Donaldson, has offered me—this Joy Quest gift.

In beginning my Joy Quest, I have agreed to post something every day for thirty days that brings me joy or thoughts and resources on joy, which inherent in their sharing will emanate joy to all within my reach. And this has been my quest for several years now, so I very much look forward to giving joy a very focused approach at a time when I know I need to cultivate more joy. Some days, my words will be long—like today—but other days might just be a short thought and a photograph prompt. We shall see how it all turns out. What a gift this is to reach for something that surrounds me every day.

The fact of the matter is I need to let go of some grief I have picked up like pebbles in my pocket as of late. Grief is not something to cherish and hold onto as if it's some romantic pleasure. It eats you alive if you let it. It is necessary, but it should be used as a vehicle to find our way back to happiness and joy—a lesson learned on why we seek joy.

And now to get to the heart of my joy quest for today. Do you see that origami crane? It tells so many stories: one of love and marriage, one of healing, one of peace, one of war, one of family, history, illness, and even more.

For now, today, it tells my story of understanding. I do not know all the answers, and I certainly know I am not the solution to everyone's woes, yet I know that all my trials and suffered abuses and struggles in this life seem to transform into a means for me to be a guide and comfort to others. To realize over the years how I have been an instrument in other's finding their way a little easier, a little quicker because I have shared my experiences and knowledge has been humbling and a source of joy to me.

I've felt like I don't make a difference too many times in my life. Coming to understand that my ability to open up about my pain actually helps others has improved my ability to see that I do make a difference. I now look around me to comprehend why I am suffering, what can be learned, and begin watching for who I might help with what I've learned. Oftentimes, the ones I end up helping are strangers, passersby in this joy quest called life. Yet every once in awhile, people I hold dear surprise me with their struggles I could never have guessed but for the pull I feel toward them to reach out and help if I can and if they'll let me.

To be clear, I do not wish my trials on anyone, but life is such that people have trials. It is partly how we learn and grow into who we are to become—our best and eternal self realized.

Joy right now looks like becoming the helping hand I've always wished to be. Joy in this moment is a purple Japanese origami crane that teaches me how joy can be found in the intricate folds of the everyday experience. The painstaking effort it takes to create something so simple yet exquisite is part of the joy process. Each fold represents a change that gets us closer to becoming who we are meant to be. Let us see our folds and edges as a means to the joy waiting for us if we will reach for it.


I've been looking around me and seeing so much excess. It's not like we really have extravagant things, but we have too much not serving any real purpose other than keeping us feeling like we have stuff.

Some neighbors are getting together for a block yard sale, so we will participate. I've begun ear marking all sorts of stuff for the event. I've had toys that I've saved of my children's for guests' little ones to play with and enjoy, but that's all going away. I've had a whole lot of books packed away because I don't have the shelf space anymore for all of my classroom library, and those are getting sold off.

I'm even selling a couple of our bed frames. We have had the same ones forever, and to be honest, I think they are holding a negative energy in our home since the divorce. That might sound weird, but I have this feeling about it all and need to get rid of anything that feels too heavy to stay.

One thing I'm concerned about is that I might regret this extraordinarily deep cleaning of the house six months from now. I doubt it, but you just never know. I'm trying not to overthink it though. If I have something that hasn't been used in over a year or since the last time I said, I might use that someday, it's gone. No more holding onto loads of stuff that's only keeping me weighed down.

I think I need to apply this to more areas of my life. It might make all the difference.