40 Years In…My Purpose & Pain

There is so much I could say, in the blank space, with cursor blinking, waiting to be filled. I’ve sat here many times before today, staring, with thoughts racing, too much to begin.img_5872I was honestly surprised…and not…to see the tab at the top of this page stating in all caps that I have 87 Drafts. Eighty-Seven works in progress. How silly. Knowing that each time I release my truth from the inside out, it unlocks a new aspect of freedom that I didn’t know was there. And yet, if I think about it too long, I won’t hit “Publish” on this one either.

jcp-2016-croppedSo…For today, let’s dive in before I convince myself to “Draft” it.

In the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, I’ve thought a lot, maybe too much, about the purpose and pain through my first 40 years on this earth. While I genuinely hope this helps someone reading, it is as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s.

My journey has not been one of ease, though it has been better than many, and more privileged than most.

The List…jcp-2016-5869

  1. Trust can take years to build and moments to destroy.
  2. Happiness can be bought (temporarily) and then lost, while true joy is internal and untouchable by outside forces.
  3. Grace is one of the most priceless and underserved gifts. Though freely given, we must receive and embrace it before it can manifest in our lives.
  4. Intuition is absolutely real and divinely instilled.
  5. The ability to forgive is key to authentic beautyNothing will age you faster than resentment.
  6. A steller hairstylist is a must. Once you find said stylist, tip well.
  7. Anger rots your inner being before ever showing up at surface level.
  8. Fear only leads to greater fear.
  9. Prayer works.
  10. When searching for an answer, love almost always fills the gap.
  11. It’s about “who” not “what” you know. (This applies to everything.)
  12. Baby wipes are essential for life. They remove crayon from a painted surface, that unidentified sticky residue just beneath a child’s car seat that’s been there for God only knows how long, mascara, lip stain, mud on wedges…etc., etc.
  13. Smiling more will inevitably lift one’s own spirit while providing warmth to the stranger passing by.
  14. It’s true, you cannot out-exercise your fork.
  15. We never see our true-self clearer, nor exert our need for a Savior more, than during times of trial.
  16. Failure is not optional, it’s necessary.
  17. Lessons will either shape you or break you.
  18. People do not control your destiny.
  19. God is not mad at you.
  20. Sunscreen actually is important.
  21. If you have one true friend you can trust with your weirdness, you are richly blessed.
  22. There is a deep human longing in us all to be fully known and accepted anyway.
  23. Death is not the end. It’s the transition.
  24. Grief is unpredictable.
  25. No matter the color of our skin, just below that thin layer, we all look the same.
  26. Generosity is key to contentment.
  27. Everything (really is) going to be okay (eventually).
  28. We don’t have to share the same DNA to be family.
  29. Miracles still happen.
  30. Everything we say and do begin with a thought.
  31. Being an adult can be really hard.
  32. We can decide, at any given moment, to change direction.
  33. There is no excuse to be unkind (to anyone) (ever).
  34. Gratitude changes things.
  35. We remember moments.
  36. God created each one of us with great intention and purpose.
  37. The most sacred space of witness is during birth and death.
  38. If we could truly grasp our worth, nothing would have the ability to intimidate or have a stronghold in our lives.
  39. Don’t put earthly limits on a heavenly God.
  40. Time goes by so quickly.

1. We don’t have to be afraid.
2. Everyone is important to someone.
3. Labels were never meant for people.
4. Sex doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
5. Right and wrong is relative.

So there ya go. With hundreds more to be added at another time. As I live out this first year in my 4th decade of life, what would you add?



Where is God now?

How could I ever look at anything and ask, “Where’s God?!” All I have to do is look out my window. I can see God everywhere, in everything.
But I have been in that place. More than once. Spiritual desolation where God is nowhere to be found. That corner of hell with gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.

That place where a young mother is diagnosed with cancer and dies less than a year later leaving a husband and two young children that she worked so hard to have.

The place where baby’s who are “incompatible with life” are carried full-term, the mother’s belly sliced open to give baby life and after a few short days out of the womb the mother is left with memories, photos and a wound far greater than the one from the blade of the scalpel.

The place where ends don’t meet.

There’s no happily ever after.

Where regret is a constant companion and depression is the norm.

Where one begins to doubt heaven and the existence of a God at all.

What kind of God would take the life of a 17-year-old girl with all the promise in the world, one beautiful day after a small town football game? Her mother recalls her saying, “It’s the most beautiful day! I don’t remember a day quite like it?” That was one of the last things she heard her daughter say.

Who wants to know a God that watches two small children lay flowers on their mother’s grave and ask their daddy night after night, “Where’s mommy?”

If God is so good wouldn’t he grant the wish of the young wife who has cried herself to sleep for the last 5 years when the pregnancy test is negative…again.

What about the children who are sold into a world of sex and abuse. Being promised to the dirtiest of men who use them up and throw them away when they’re finished. Surely God doesn’t see or hear their whimper for help. How could he and not do anything about it?!

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, without a doubt in my mind, is that God is good…all the time…even when it doesn’t feel like it. I have crouched, head in hands, digging nails into my scalp, hoping the pain would cure my numbness.

I have been in my corner of self-inflicted hell with seemingly no way out while making promise after promise to my Creator of what I would abstain from if only he would get me out of the current circumstances and save me from myself.I have committed heinous acts thought to push me far beyond forgiveness.

Here is what I know. The same God who calmed the sea when he told Peter to walk out on the water to him, calms my heart when I don’t understand his plan. Just like Peter, when I take my eyes off of him, I sink into the very thing I think capable of overtaking me.

I want to have faith. I do. I want to see every situation through the eyes of a just and loving God with a plan far greater than my own…but more times than not, I don’t. Half the time I shake my fist to the heavens while the other half I lay face down on the floor, arms out, palms open, “Thy will be done, Lord. Not my will, but thine.

I don’t understand his ways. Why should I? I was never promised full disclosure. If I were granted understanding, would there be a need for faith? What would it really change?

He is a God who gives and takes away.

His love endures forever and ever.

I believe.

The only other option is the opposite of hope. A life of uncertainty, waiting for the next “thing” to happen. Asking myself when atrocities occur what I could have done to prevent it, when none of it is within the realm of my control, nor would I want it to be.

God is God and I am not.
All knowing.
All seeing.
All wise.
The same yesterday, today and forever.

There is one thing I do have control over.
The choices I make.
In this moment,
I choose faith.
I choose not knowing the whole story, but trusting that it will play out as it should.
I choose joy.
I choose grace and mercy.
I choose to see people as God with skin on.
I choose life.
I choose Christ.
I choose freedom.
I choose trust.
I choose forgiveness.

I choose to go out on my back porch, take in beauty that is far too majestic to capture, inhale cleansing breaths through my nose and into every cell in my body, all that is good, all that is well, all that is pure and healing. While exhaling the “what if?” “Why me?” “Why them?” “Why now?” I choose the something far greater awaiting me, if I choose to believe.

Watching the Orangutan

We were at the zoo this past weekend and I had such a great time watching this orangutan do somersaults (while eating) to get where he wanted to go. He had so much character. It was a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy the slideshow.

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These moments were captured using a Canon 60D, 70-200mm f/2.8 L, in sports mode.


Be and be better, for they existed

“…And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored,
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be.
Be and be
For they existed.”

~ Maya Angelou ~

Weekly Photo Challenge: BiG

The challenge is SO fun this week! Think BIG.

“Few women have ever been able to resist the temptation to try on a hat
and discover in the mirror a person they never suspected was there.
A hat alters the image we have of ourselves,
and the image others see as well.
For the hours we wear it,
it brings out different dimensions in our personality,
much as a costume aids an actress in her role.”
© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.
One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012Shaved ice covered in pink sugary syrup.
Where to begin?
© Joy Cannis 2012“When I grow up, I’m gonna be an astronaut so I can eat ice cream in outer space!”
~ The logic of a 4 yr. old
© Joy Cannis 2012“When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer,
a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me!
Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts.
Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent.
You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home.
But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother.
Home is neither here nor there.
Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.”
~ Hermann Hesse
© Joy Cannis 2012Want to see more interpretations of big? Click here

Tangled hair and gratified senses

Did you smell that?
Someone has filled their chiminea with sweet-smelling spices atop the wood.
Did you feel that?
The first bit of chill in the morning air persuading you to grab a jacket before heading out into the day.
Did you see that?
Leaves shower down and cover the grass like a colorful, crispy blanket.

It’s moving in.
All around.
The trees proudly display their vibrant colors while greeting the new season.
That first sip of apple cider, taken too quickly, singe the taste buds.
A scarf adorns the neck of most passersby.
It’s making a grand entrance.

Orange, gold, red and brown everywhere you look.
It’s time to choose your preferred fall flair.
Why not start with orange?
Let’s begin in a patch of pumpkins and straw filled scarecrows.

Only the most imperfect, perfect pumpkin will do.
So many to choose from.
How can one decide?
Why not pick the one that seems to pick you?


Five Minute Friday: Grasp

When seeing the prompt from Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Friday post, these verses from Ephesians 3 are the first thing that came to mind. Please know that when it comes to memorizing scripture, or anything for that matter, I am just about the worst there is. I have been praying this for my children and Chris as well as close friends for more than a year and there are times when I still have to look it up to get the exact wording right.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

I love these verses. The main word in the midst of the rest is grasp.

What better way to attempt describing the word and it’s meaning than with the beach? You have the water…as far as the eye can see. The sand…too many grains to count. The sky…bigger than life.

So when I tell my boys, “Look left and look right…look up and out as far as your eyes can see. Do you see an end?” They respond quickly with their answer, “No.” I take the opportunity to explain God’s love in the best and most simple way I can, “Right. It’s like the love of the Father for each of us. Never-ending.”

When I realize the validity of this illustration, it is too much, even for me to grasp and I stand, drenched in the grace that is now my reality because of it.