Monday, July 31, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 31

During the 31-Day Challenge, I found myself questioning the definition of joy. The word is used as a synonym for happiness and contentment, but are they interchangeable? And what about other words that are stirred in--hope, grace, mercy, and gratitude? Are they just words?
All month, I pondered the meanings. I thought while I baked pies, sauteed mushrooms, and made ice cream. Leave it to a food-obsessed person to have her own world view.

Happiness can be a fleeting as the buzz from a Jell-O shot. 
Anything from a new dress to a new kitchen may cause an eruption of warm, fizzy euphoria, but it always fades, prompting us to reach for another shot of happiness.

Hope reminds me of stout beer, an acquired taste. Just when it starts to go down easy, the foam flattens and sours. You can lose hope as easily as beer can lose its head.

Mercy functions in a life the way butter functions in cooking, adding tenderness, working in tandem with other ingredients to add flavor and texture. In a recipe, the exact amount of butter must be used or failure will result; but in our daily lives, any amount of mercy brings compassion and forgiveness.


Contentment is a kind of yeast, allowing our souls to rise.

Joy is like the stabilizer that holds whipped cream together, maintaining shape and preventing weeping. 

Grace is like salt, a quiet powerhouse that acts as a preservative. Just like in cooking, it's the boss, and it just calms everything down. It also strengthens dough, keeps yeast under control, all the while encouraging and brightening flavors.

But gratitude is the whole meal. 

Our gratitude is noticed by the universe, and it thanks us by sending little (and big) miracles our way.
The wise woman is always alert to the minutia--the itty bitty-ness of things. A gift may be so simple, we may overlook it. You see, the universe speaks in a soft voice, and it's up to us to listen.

When we grow a foundation of grace and joy, we begin to notice ordinary miracles.
The spicy aroma of a freshly baked apple pie. Pink crepe myrtle blossoms carried by the wind. Arranging wildflowers and vines into an old vase. Watching cardinals perch on a sunflower feeder. Scratching a puppy's belly. A sudden rain after 100-degree days. If we pay attention, we see the precise moment when summer turns into autumn--a certain shift of light, a crispness in the early morning air, yellow leaves spinning to the ground.
These simple moments add up to the sum of a lifetime.
Little bitty moments deserve our gratitude.

When a day goes wrong, take a moment. Draw in a breath. Reboot your thoughts. Look around. Find at least one blessing, however small, and offer gratitude. Choose to believe that a miracle is on the way.

It's been a pleasure to spend the month with you, ruminating about joy. I will return tomorrow with a behind-the-scenes summary of the challenge. Thank you for reading, for leaving thought provoking, illuminating comments, and for just being here.
You lift my heart.

May your days be filled with grace, joy, and miracles.

23 comments:

  1. May YOUR days be filled with grace, joy, and miracles. We are blessed.

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  2. I'm listening to Bill Withers' "A Lovely Day" and agreeing.

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  3. Thank YOU for this. All of it.

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  4. With a grateful heart I thank you for putting your boat out on the water with this series. You spoke to my core; many things resonated so clearly. You challenged me to think, ruminate, digest, accept. With exquisite simplicity your touched on what has niggled at me - indecisiveness, procrastination, when to let go. Your blog is an oasis. Your photos calm my spirit; your words nurture my soul. Your authenticity and honesty come from a place of love and grace. You have touched me and many more no doubt. In case you thought "you never know" - now you know!

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    1. Regina, your kind, generous words mean so much to me. Thank you!

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  5. This was a powerful analogy. Very timely after a most wonderful farm-to-table experience I shared last evening with my Panoply sisters. The older I get, the more grateful I am. Thanks for letting us ride along on your journey.

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    1. I think age itself is a marvelous journey.

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  6. Amazing wisdom and eye for selecting just the right photo to accompany your words. Your style and grace and words lift and encourage and make me think.
    You have the gift💜 of writing and styling. Thank you for each day's thoughts.

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  7. Bravo to YOU, Michael Lee for your insightful writings for these past 31 days. The pleasure and JOY was surely ours and I thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. Thank you, too, for the wishes for "grace, joy and miracles". May you be blessed with those, also. xo

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  8. I love all your definitions of these "feeling" states! Residing in these expansive thoughts as you so eloquently wrote "Our gratitude is noticed by the universe, and it thanks us by sending little (and big) miracles our way." So true, so true. I'm going to second the lovely comments from Regina Leath and all the other beautiful comments offered on this lovely series. May blessings abound for you and yours, Michael!

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    1. Aw, thank you so much, Susan. I'm glad you went on the journey with me.

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  9. Here we are at the end of the month, and I find feeling sad this is the last day. I know I will go back to read these wise words again and again. I'm grateful that you followed your dream to be a writer, for you are truly gifted. Knowing your love of the art of food, I find this final chapter of analogies to be very clever and right on target. Yes, as Regina commented above, "Your authenticity and honesty come from a place of love and grace." You write with heart and soul, and you have touched my heart with your words. With a grateful heart, I, too, thank you.
    PS - This series really does need to become a book. ;-)

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the food analogies!

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  10. Lovely series.. enjoyed all of your daily writings

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  11. The perfect ending to this month long journey with you Michael Lee, I have copied the last section to read every morning to ground myself and open my heart daily. Thank you for sharing your soul and giving others the courage to do so...

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    1. Thank you for being such a giving, supportive friend, Jenna!

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  12. Such an enjoyable way to return with all your wondrous words :-)

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