The Shame Game

“Y’all, the holidays are rapidly approaching. Are you ready for this…there are 9 more Saturdays until Christmas. We are being plunged into that time of year when patience is low, demands are high and sleep doesn’t fit on our to-do list.

There’s a reason why multiple case studies show that addiction is the highest during the holiday season. It’s the most difficult time to stay sober. I think in part because we’re surrounded by people who trigger all kinds of emotions. It’s also a time when everything around us says we should be feeling a certain way. For those of us who have always bucked up against conformity, we don’t like for people or things to tell us how to feel.

Yesterday, October 19th, by the grace of God, I reached my 12th year of sobriety. I am now a productive member of society (most days). The road was long and filled with twists, turns and dead ends. There were a lot of tears and pleading with my Higher Power. There was uncertainty among the rubble of my indiscretion. There were times when I felt hopeless.

And then something changed. Have you noticed how everything starts with a decision?”

Join me to read the rest of this post at The Shame Game continued…
Love filled Hands

5 Reasons to Spend Time With a Mother and Her Young Children

JCP-8081I had the opportunity to spend part of my morning with my friend Melissa and her two children, Alex (2 years) and Eliana (10 months). I’m so glad I had my camera, because what I captured tells the story better than my words can.

1) Be curious. Wonder. Participate in life from the ground up. Don’t be afraid to mess up. You can always start again.

2) Ask lot’s of questions. (Even if you think they’re silly) Life is about learning and growing, no matter your age.

3) When having a serious conversation, eat chocolate… and laugh… throw your head back and let loose. (Chocolate and laughing make everything better.)

4) Play and Explore (Be resourceful)
Build a drum set from the buckets you just took off your head when you were being a robot. Play hide and seek with the nearest blanket. Sit in the rocking chair backwards.

“Mommy, wanna go look for giants with me?”
This question from Alex diverted me from all other conversation.
“Melissa, did he just ask you to go look for giants?!” I asked.
“Yes. We look for giants at least once a day.” she replied.

 

5) Take naps. Even if you don’t think you’re tired…
Feeling grumpy? Chances are, ya just need a nap.

Children are the best teachers. And most of them don’t even use words. They use action. It’s not always the right action, but it’s action nonetheless. They don’t sit around, talking about it and wait to see what happens.

When did we (adults) stop learning by doing?
When did we choose to walk away from a challenge and instead immerse ourselves in a Google search or social media for the answer?
When did we stop playing?
Why don’t we laugh with abandon?
When was the last time you sat on the floor, observing your surroundings?
Some of us need to revisit childhood. If you don’t like the one you had, ask someone to take you back with them to theirs.
Come back and tell us about your adventures in the comment section.

Other things I learned on my morning excursion…

A single shoestring can transform a toddler into a giant-slayer.
JCP-8049Egg cartons double as very hungry caterpillars.

Robots get hungry too.

What are you learning from your kids…or friends kids…or nieces and nephews, grandchildren or students in your class? Have any great pictures that tell a story? Email them to me at joycannisphotography(at)gmail(dot)com

Gratitude doesn’t sleep

I lie awake, staring at the ceiling fan turn round and round, wondering if sleep will ever come.

The cicadas make their presence known outside the window. Their sound has become a lullaby of sorts throughout the summer. A familiar bedtime routine just before sleep.

Where did the summer go? Why have I not been more present? The regimented moments of the school year will soon ensue.

Bella’s gone…again. Every time she leaves it’s the same hollow ache. Raw pain is the worst kind. There’s no time to heal before the wound is reopened.

In the stillness of night, everyone sleeps. My mind reels, offering no reprieve.

“God, please help me find that peace that passes all understanding.” I whisper. Gratitude is the word that sprints to the forefront of my mind. Thankful. Acknowledge, Receive, Bask in the goodness, share it with others.

Only inches away, my lover sleeps.
His strong sculpted arms now resting and still.
The legs that carry him through a day of work are relaxed.
The beautiful back that sustains and provides for our family, now stretched out in slumber.
The shoulders that carry the weight of responsibility, nestle into the bed that knows and gives way to his form.

Rest is such a gift and a beautiful thing to witness.
His chest rises and falls.
Nothing sounds as sweet as life.

My love. That one. The only one to conquer and reign over my heart.
I adore him. And the breath he breathes is the sweetest air of all.
I move closer to his warmth. Smiling…I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this man.
This life.

A girl like me, living a life like this. Having been thoroughly cleansed, now cloaked in grace.

I close my eyes.
Sleep will be here soon.
Quiet tears of thanks run down my face, into my pillow.
The realization that I would follow this man anywhere, settles in.
Where he is, I am.
He is home.

Backyard Bears

At times, God shows up where I least expect Him and He whispers to my heart, without words, “Joy, watch this.”

I step out onto the third story terrace and look out as a mama bear and her cubs emerge from the thick foliage into the open area of the backyard. JCP-2149She will dig and rummage for food as the two little ones tumble and climb not too far from her reach. JCP-2067I am reminded that they do not worry about what they will eat or drink. She does not store up extra for her babies. She steps out in faith (of sorts) and trusts that she will find the food needed for herself and her little ones. JCP-2139-2It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. In a few moments of a summer afternoon, in the backyard of my sister in law’s mountain home, God shows up and in a tangible expression of love, shows me that He sees me, reminding me that I am His and He is mine.

His grace is bountiful and beauty resides among the rain-soaked, wooded mountainside, in the form of a mama bear and her two bear cubs.JCP-2144

How to have Children without ruining your Marriage

This Man 1.) Speak the truth in love. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Honesty, spoken kindly, leads to intimacy. I am convinced of that. I have lived it.

My beautiful man2.) Create a “What I need from ___________ (insert partners name)” list. Encourage your spouse to do the same.
Keep it short and concise.
Use bullet points.
Print it out.
Place it where your significant other will see it… every day.

3.) Rest when you can. This used to really piss me off when someone who had raised children would say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!
Seriously? You don’t understand how much I have to do while the baby’s sleeping.
Turns out she was right… When I am exhausted I am ineffective. And it is such a short season. Soon you’ll be back to the laundry, house cleaning, cooking and all of those things you thought you needed to rush back to.
Remember… Exhaustion = Ineffectiveness

4.) Ask yourself if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I realize this sounds hokey to many people, but it works. Grab your lipstick, eyeliner, dry erase marker, chalkboard marker… whatever will wash off and write H A L T on your mirror. Why? Because this will be hard to remember when you’re sleep deprived, so have it handy.

DSC08219Before having any discussions, before making any decisions, before making any assumptions, ask yourself if you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. You may be a combination of all 4. Or a bit of 2. And then be honest with your partner about what you’re feeling. There have been many times when I’m hangry (hungry and angry). When I can’t think logically before I’ve had something to eat which then calms me down. Usually chocolate…

This is the most important one. I cannot stress it enough.

5.) Have a friend, who (really) knows you and will speak truth into your heart. It is crucial. I had to learn, that my husband is not my girlfriend. There are some things I am not going to take to him to process through, because he can’t fix them and they are stemming from emotions anyway. Emotions change. That’s why we don’t ever make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.IMG_3685

I have learned this lesson the hard way. However, I have a wonderful friend who has known me my entire life and on the days when I needed to put my boys in their car seats, drive around until they fell asleep, call her and do the ugly cry, she was invaluable.

You may not be a Jesus freak like I am, calling out to God every other minute to guide my thinking. You may not be someone who prays out loud in their car not caring that the person next to them at the stoplight thinks they’re crazy… like I do.
That’s okay.
There has to be someone you can cry out to in times of uncertainty.

I had to make sure that I had (and still have) a support system. Whether it was 1 other woman or 5, I had to build a community of women who were either in my stage of life or had been there. Who wouldn’t judge me. And who would give me sound, applicable guidance on how to journey through this season without losing my mind or suffocating my husband in his sleep.photoI’m not going to lie… Having young children was one of the most difficult things that Chris and I have ever done. We had to decide and still do, that we are on the same team. It is not you fighting your significant other. You’re not going to agree on everything. That’s a given. You must know how to say “I’m sorry” and do it quickly even if you don’t think you were wrong.IMG_4482

I had to remember that Chris is a little boy with long legs. He went from being the center of my universe to having this miniature person consuming all of my quality time, many times leaving him with left overs. He deserves the very best of me. He came first. Without him, I wouldn’t have my children.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to show affection after being pulled on all day by our little ones. Again, this season is just that, a season. Sandra Stanley described it so beautifully when she said, “The days are long, but the years are short.
Your husband will be the one there when your children no longer require your attention for their every need.

There is so much more to talk about here. Let’s make it a two-part post.

Share your thoughts in the comments of what else we should discuss that will encourage moms who are in the trenches and I will use those to build part 2 of our discussion. Men are welcome to share their experience as well.

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Questions from the backseat of my minivan

I don’t know about your house, but at my house, the devil always shows up on Sunday.

Everyone’s attitude stinks! Most Sundays I think, “Why am I trying to get ready for church?! Is it even worth it?!” as my boys poke, pinch, spit, slap, kick, scream and hurl little boy insults at each other. photo 1photo 2 

You know the ones. My oldest will say, “You’re a poo-poo head!” while my youngest replies, “Well you’re a dumb dumb bully butt face!”
What?! Where do they hear these things?!

This morning was no different. As I’m sitting in the garage honking the horn for them to GET IN THE CAR, my oldest pops his head out of the house and yells, “Heeeeeee’s poooooooooopiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin’!”

Awesome.

We finally get on our way and I’m listening to one of my favorite songs from Natalie Grant called “In the End.” It talks about Heaven and how we will understand everything in the end. (Plus it has a banjo and I can’t be in a bad mood listening to a banjo.)

LightMy youngest pipes up and says, “Mommy what is Heaven, like a big bright ball or somethin’?”

I’m thinking to myself, “How do I answer this? I’m in a mood, I’ve been short-tempered all morning… what do I say?”

So I responded the best I could, “Well, Darling, imagine the best place you have ever been and multiply it times infinity. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen. It will be the most incredible place we could ever dream of. In fact, I’m not sure I can imagine the level of absolute contentment we will know and have.”

It was quiet for a few moments when my older son speaks out.

“You mean it’s gonna be better than Florida?!”

“Yes Loves. It will in fact be better than Florida…”

Can you relate to the questions without easy answers? How do you handle it?

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You were made to Shine

As I sat in my car this morning listening to Natalie Grant’s song, “Burn Bright” my eyes started stinging as the tears came. I’m not sad. I love Wednesdays!

I’ve had this song playing in the background many times, but for some reason this time, the words grabbed my attention enough to keep me sitting in my car in the driveway. Images of my beautiful friends who have walked through the darkness and come out on the other side, came flooding to mind.

People like Emily Wierenga who survived a vicious eating disorder that almost took her life. She now spends her life telling others her story through art, words and actions in hopes of shining light in the darkness.

Jennifer Riley who is by far the most creative person I know. She spends everyday creating beauty for other people. She doesn’t even know how incredible she really is.

Mollymorgan who chose life and has been recovering from anorexia for 3 years. Does she have any idea how proud I am of her?

Julie Taylor who has overcome a drug addiction thought only to be defeated in death.

This post is for you.
It’s for those still in the dark.
For the children who don’t have a choice.
It’s for the ones who are at the jumping off place. Numb and afraid that you will never feel anything again.
This is for all of you who want to scream, but don’t have a voice.

I want you to know that whether your monster is addiction, an eating disorder, discrimination because of your sexual preference or the color of your skin, depression, anxiety, abuse…
I love you
. Your Creator, God, loves you. He knows your name.
And you were made to shine.
Baby Burn Brighthurricane_deluxe_edition_Press play to listen to “Burn Bright”

Feel free to download a pdf version of the picture and quote in this post.
Baby Burn Bright pdf

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please, please, get help. It is serious and it wants to take your life. You can start by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

If you are, like I was, broken & without hope, I beg you to reach out to someone at one of the resources listed below. Click on the name and it will take you directly to the website. As long as you are breathing, there is still hope.
People of the Second Chance
Central Christian Church: Las Vegas
To Write Love on Her Arms

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