While we are taking precautions against sickness and anger and injustice, looking out for the vulnerable, measuring our group outings and postponing trips, I believe cultivating joy has never been more critical than in this murkiness.
As human beings, we are naturally inclined to focus on bad news; therefore, germs of joy and laughter are the “super germs” we need in order to boost our immune systems.
Yes, it may be time to infect each other with love and fortifying stories.
How do we summon joy?
Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, it may alight upon you.”
Is joy also like the butterfly of happiness? If so, how do we infect one another with good, fortifying, stuff?
They tell me that volunteering in tandem with others is one pathway to the fortifications of joy. Why is this? Is it the teamwork? Is it the joy that comes from change or conversations or bringing results? I’ve experienced this joy when I’ve pushed myself passed my lethargy to schedule myself into something worthwhile.
We all know talented seamstresses with a superhuman tolerance for Zero Sleep who are churning out handmade masks – many of them are donated wherever there’s a need.
Others are delivering food and medicine to their elderly neighbors; gardening; cooking; spending time in nature.
Let’s be real – nurturing joy isn’t the same as ignoring reality. While nurturing joy, some emotions will cloud the process. There will be bumps in the road ahead. Feelings of fear, worry. And anxiety will threaten our well-being.
The future is unknowable, but we are known.
The future is unknowable, but we are known.
The future is unknowable, but we are known
We can start with that if you dare to believe it. I believe my Creator knows me better than I know myself. It helps me to trust the process and the outcome a little more.
We can recognize our own strengths from remembering our past. Bank on those. We can remember those who love and care for us. We are known.
Just in case you wondered … you are seen.
You are known.
You are valued.
Your smile is still felt; your presence still matters.
No mask can conceal a soul.
It’s a privilege to see you whether I find you in the office, on a walk, in a store, or whether I hear your muffled voice on the phone. It is a joy, an honor, to watch you, hear you, and know you even a little during this Season of the Mask.
Perhaps the most radical act of resistance in the face of adversity is to live joyfully.”
We care for ourselves and others by carrying the Virus of Joy into the workplace, the home, the marketplace. Hints of hope, colorful memories, practical teaching, and helpful compliments. These relational inspirations build up returns, like deposits for future interest on human bank accounts.
Let’s spread droplets of high regard to our fellow workers.
Let’s cross that six-foot chasm with an air hug of affirmation, a verbal Atta-girl or Atta-boy. Now – especially now – we don’t want to miss an opportunity to remind someone how much they matter, how what they do, matters.
Let’s light up so brightly that our eyes outdo our half-covered faces, that our radiance surpasses the mask and leaves happy dust on anyone who is sad or struggling.
In a world of extreme caution, and angry avenues, let’s practice radical acts of human connection.
We can outwit any fluish boundary and find a way into the soul.
With a word.
With a note, a phone call.
With a meaningful look, a listening heart, a watchful prayer.
Mask if you must, but laugh openly.
De-germ as you are told, but re-germ with shameless optimism.
Keep your body temperature within range, but heat up the place with fierce encouragement.
Play a game with someone across the table.
Mask if you must, but walk in the park while greeting others.
But above all, remain tethered to other souls. We need each other.
Joy germs gone rogue – they can rebuild our immune systems into powerhouses of Resilience.
Do you ever have a day that feels like a never-ending loop of knots to be untied? You have to solve one problem in order to gain entrance to the real problem – find an outlet, silence your phone, then assist a client all comes before you can see your way clear to untangling your own problems.
I had an hour of work that turned into two weeks of work because I had to back up and do the math, then I had to learn how to complete a new task that was part of the finished product. Then, I had to get permission to buy a software program in order to implement the answer.
It was a lot easier when all I had to do was give the ball of knots to my dad to untangle.
You may hear from a doctor that self-care is the act of providing yourself a sacred space in which to quiet your jangled nerves. It’s important, yes, to schedule peace in an overwhelming world.
To this end, I’ve found some simple things will sustain you – things such as:
Giving yourself time to untangle a problem
Sharing hopes and dreams with somebody safe
pausing during a busy moment for a nudge of encouragement
Take a Step Against the Flow
Take a step against the flow and look at the surroundings for a different perspective.
Life is too short to go with the flow. Have fun and be different.”
Bianca Schlappa, Everyday Matters
Look further afield.
Look over a detail up close.
Sometimes, the masses have it mostly right but the right way just needs tweaking, and that is something that a different perspective can provide.
Use Your Humor, Wry Humor Acceptable
What’s the use of feeling sorry for yourself when you just get tangled into more knots? Even the wise and wonderful Oz got himself tangled up for a time behind a curtain far outside of Kansas and his usual County Fairs. Someone came along and discovered his need.
He was a little ashamed, but he laughed at his way of bumbling things up, and that helped. A lot. Someone came along and helped him find his way back home.
Laugh at yourself as you consider the past.
Open your hand to future options.
Celebrate Even a Partial Loosening of Knot Strands.
It heartens me in a way to know my knots are not all born from my individual situation or my personal inadequacy. It seems to be a community problem: “Humanity is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.” This wit, from a friend of Job’s (Job 5:7). We are all just making our way through the challenging phases of life.
Help will arrive.
Ask for help.
Laugh a little.
Be willing to accept truth.
Choose as wisely as possible.
This article is co-written by good friends: author, Kathy Joy and editor, Laura Bartnick.
Harvests are mostly gathered and stored for winter by now. Unbelievably, Thanksgiving will be here soon.
We will celebrate Abundance and gather in the fruits of our farming community’s labors.
Our tables will stagger under the weight of Plenty; traditions will keep us grounded during the niggling uncertainty that is Covid.
What gets lost in the thrill of costumes, bags of sweets, parties, then the whipping of Thanksgiving spuds and cranberry sauce, is the season of rest to follow.
“If we only see the harvest as a time to be grateful, we miss the opportunity to be grateful for rest, planting, and caring.”
I didn’t really want to mention it, but Winter is coming – this season of sleeping bears and soft flannel; an interval of climbing in and hunkering down.
Dormant crops will slumber beneath the frozen earth.
It’s a time for rest, a well-deserved respite for planters, reapers and gatherers.
Symbolically, we’re all in the business of planting, reaping and gathering.
Seems logical, then, that we should plan for rest, and lean into it like a comfy quilt.
But we don’t.
Rest, in our industrious, git ‘er done culture, is the Last Stop on a Fast Track.
In some ways, the year 2020 has forced many of us to rest from something, open our hands, wear some masks, separate from all the parties and associations of labor, and receive something very new. Some new growth. New perspective. New value. New understanding.
Rest is too often frowned upon, equated with “lazy”.
That’s just sad. I know a woman who never tells her mother that she has been reading for hours, or drawing, or quietly designing something. It would be frowned upon.
What’s worse is, we often feel guilty for getting some downtime when there’s so much yet to cross off the To-Do List.
People who own their own company rarely get to just shut down and go to the beach for a week. Others feel their vacation time must be spent with family when they would rather explore a mountain retreat alone. Is that kind of vacation commitment more productive?
Give yourself permission to relax. Schedule down-time and honor that impulse to shut all the calling needs out. As a colleague is fond of saying, “You’re not lazy – you’re spent!”
She’s right — we’re operating on 2 cylinders and still hoping to put more miles on before bedtime.
Would adults change their behaviors in the jokes they tell or in their scare tactics with children if they knew how little children absorbed horrific events? Would it make any difference to you?
The professionals and parents are divided. Some say horror can permanently scar a child’s conscience. Others say for a child to experience a series of frightening events at a young age can strengthen a child in a variety of ways.
Let’s take a vote.
DO YOU BELIEVE AT AGES FIVE, SIX, AND SEVEN:
children should be protected from all frights because fright might scar them spiritually, emotionally or psychologically;
children should be scared (occasionally) for the fun of a joke with them or for rites of passage such as in Halloween, sitting on Santa’s knee, taught about the police or the courts or jail, or riding a bike or a motorized skateboard;
children should learn that fright exists to teach us important lessons which can be learned about together;
children should learn about the sometimes frightful powers of God and the differences between evil frights and wickedness in human nature as appropriate.
children can learn courage and problem-solving creativity at young ages if they can learn to analyze a frightful situation the best of which was seen in the Home Alone movies.
(Please post your answer in the comment section below)
The cat is out of the bag. I’ve authored a scary story for children. It was recently published by Capture Books. So, I have a dog in the fight, or a hedgehog, rather.
In the first draft, Darling Hedgehog was not able to save all of the other animals due to the time crunch of escaping the danger. Several beta readers, however, suggested that this fact would not go unnoticed by their first graders. Honestly? I wrestled with the question of whether it was important to be realistic in a fantasy picture book. Silly me.
Children develop empathy when they read about another’s problems.
Not too many know this about a girl, Auralee Arkinsly, who’s been called sweet for many years, but when she was in fifth and sixth grade, she’d sit on her neighbor’s porch with a gaggle of children from their house, and the rest of the neighborhood who had all come by to hear the scary stories that she’d happily created for them. The problem was, she frightened herself. She gave herself a fear of going along to bed alone in my room way down in the dark basement.
This is the simple reason my scary story times ended.
For years afterward my laudable storytelling experience, I stayed completely strawberry and vanilla in my taste for stories, jokes, movies, and literature. It was due to an introduction to two classical authors in my 30s that I was inspired to rethink my vanilla beans ideals.
This 1962 dark fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury is about two 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, and their nightmarish experience with a traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern home, Green Town, Illinois, on October 24th. Since it was eventually made into a movie, I sent it to my niece and nephew one October when they were preteens.
Particularly, the clever, atmospheric writing Bradbury used when he painted late summer windstorms and dawdling days with falling leaves and evil intent made me feel like All Hallows Eve inside. All of this desire to fast and pray for protection is happily explained when… well, I won’t give away the fabulously moralistic tale in case you haven’t yet read Bradbury.
The Short Stories of Flannery O’Conner
The other ingenious author, Flannery O’Conner, introduced to me at a writers group, typed her twisted tales from the south. Due to her subject matter, i.e.: fraud, criminal minds, and human ignorance, her stories could almost be transported to any place. Perhaps it was the nature of things she read in her local newspaper. Perhaps she was only highlighting a sinful lack of imagination when she invoked the perfect storm for a family traveling on an isolated road, or a Bible salesman in a barn, or a nuclear bomb at our front door.
Of course, great themes of any adult or children’s book have intrepid and surprising settings that morph with the characters. These are the stories that teach readers and viewers about life and personal values.
It seems that night terrors can be developed at any age given a 3 a.m. pounding on the door and intrusion to a person’s bedroom, or due to war experiences. Night terrors are not limited to the fears of little children.
But is it right to purposely frighten kids?
It’s easy to see that Halloween and Trick-or-treat are right around the bend.
This year, a house in my community has skeletons crawling all over the house, mixing a zombie like activity with the bones of the picturesque dead. Another house on the same street has a half dozen wild-haired witches flying from the low hanging branches of their trees. The wind helps them stir up fright.
Several other houses have graveyards with chained skeletons, and voice boxed startling movement detectors. Apparently, most people think that given the right season, yes, it is just fine to frighten children.
Babies and toddlers in the arms of their fathers
Young children, who visit Santa Claus for the first time in a shopping mall, who are told to sit on his knee and tell him their secrets, well – parents think this is funny. Just fine. A rite of passage, they say.
Given it’s Halloween, babies and toddlers in the arms of their fathers come knocking on our door.
The saying, “That’ll put the fear of God in ya!” is ancient. You’ve heard it. The fear of God can be conjured in trying to stand in a forest of redwoods in the midst of a monstrous wind storm. Suddenly, one feels like Jack and the bean stock, having climbed up to the house of giants and seeing them thunder after you. Where does one hide?
There may be a kind of healthy fear that comes as a sense of awe or as a warning such as a careful look over the edge of a precipice in the Grand Canyon, or in diving out of an airplane with a parachute on for the first time.
“In ancient days, There dwelt a sage called Discipline, His eye was meek, and a smile Played on his lips, and in his speech was heard Paternal sweetness, dignity, and love. The occupation dearest to his heart Was to encourage goodness. If e’er it chanced, as sometimes chance it must, That one, among so many, overleaped The limits of control, his gentle eye Grew stern, and darted a severe rebuke, His frown was full of terror, and his voice Shook the delinquent with such fits of awe As left him not, till penitence had won Lost favor back again, and closed the breach.”
An artist who paints the potential of Venetian floods does so with both goodwill and warning. I realize there are warnings, opportunities, to learn introspection and courage at every age.
Any season is a good season to be goaded towards stronger mental analysis.
So, I went ahead and wrote my picture book about what happens between a fox and a hedgehog family living in geographical proximity. This story does have a sincere model of courage, quick thinking, and Darling-to-the-rescue in it. But, how much mental analysis can a child conjure at ages five, six or seven?
In a climate of it never being okay to confront a child with possibilities of an existing dark side in life, my first review, always to be Darling’s first review, pasted a one-star nasty put down for scaring little children. Yet, it never has been a child who’s been frightened by Darling Hedgehog.
It’s funny that fear of a book’s content is often combated by a snarky deed, a single evil star. So it was that I learned how Book trolls can play overly-concerned, conscientious adults snuffing out a book before it sees the light of day. That’s a little twisted, though. Book trolls playing overly-concerned, censoring adults – why they are considered book trolls? Here’s what I believe about that.
I believe that book trolls are begotten accidentally from genetically normal, avid readers who skip meals. Then, around midnight, when they become voraciously hungry, they hastily eat spider sandwiches in the dark under dim reading lamps.
These are the foxes who run through the fields of Amazon books ready for harvest with firebrands tied to their tails.
Maybe it is just Gremlins passing as sweet, innocent influencers begging for a new deal. But we must remember that Gremlins have rules.
The grandson secretly sells the mogwai to Randall, warning him to remember three important rules that must never be broken: do not expose the mogwai to light, especially sunlight, which will kill it, do not let it come in contact with water, and above all, never feed it after midnight.”
Hey, I don’t mind that the reviewers liking my picture book may include a caveat for an adult to be available to answer some questions. Not at all.
I agree. Picture books are best when a child sits down with an adult who preferably reads to them and talks them through the story with questions. Aren’t they?
The question still makes me queazy.
Is it a good idea to scare little children at all?
When I was very young, I came across the story of Scuffy the Tugboat at a doctor’s office. Scuffy thought he was made for more important things than swimming in a bathtub. When his little boy took him to swim in the river, the current carried him far into a gushing flood zone and then in the sea. I remember feeling so frightened to see the huge tugboats and ships and to hear their horns through the eyes and ears of poor Scuffy.
Thankfully, Scuffy was saved by the little boy who had come to the sea just that day.
The Brothers Grimm believed it was not only okay, but good to frighten children about the wolf in Red Riding Hood. Was he the woodsman? Who was he? But, that’s the point, isn’t it – to beware of strangers?
Chris Roberts, the author of Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, tells Debbie Elliott in an NPR interview, “Childhood is a relatively recent phenomena, certainly over the last couple of hundred years, that children are seen as very separate from adults. So there would be no reason in the past not to have what would now be considered adult themes in rhymes that children could hear and sing.” (All Things Considered, October 2, 2005)
Apparently the publishers of Grimm’s Fairy Tales also believed the books would sell because wise parents and avid readers of well-written entertainment would buy.
“Plants raised with tenderness are seldom strong; Man’s coltish disposition asks the thong; And without discipline, the favorite child, Like a neglected forester, runs wild.”
From first grade on, my teachers joined my mother in warning me not to talk to strangers. Even if they offered candy. Even if they offered to give you a ride home from school. My teacher had us memorize the phone number of the local police station. I hope it was helpful to someone.
Nearing the end of a favorite children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, on the night before an expected trip to the sea, the rabbit is thrown into the trash heap and overhears that he is destined for destruction by fire in the morning, making a tear roll down his face.
I’d forgotten how frightening that story became!
Parents should probably never allow the fear of God to come near their children. Neither should children be told that God’s Son died on a cross for their sins because they would not understand the gruesomeness of the good news – sins being separated from their beings – nor the idea of their own misbehaviors at age five, six, or seven being layered for punishment. Though love and fear do not go along hand in hand easily, I personally, had parents who embodied deep love and also a much feared anger.
As Walt Disney understood, isn’t it the point of a good scare to remind us that evil and opposites exist in the same geography? That there can be good news in the land of the living and in the land of the dead? Yes, a bit of sweet salvation goes a long way when we are frightened.
Enjoy the fall holidays, everybody. Enjoy the election season terrors. Enjoy reading and discussing great children’s literature with your own littles. May you reach for a tassel of wisdom, and may you keep your hand.
My great-nephew, Sawyer, is three. His light brown hair is often ruffled. His wide blue eyes twinkle with mischief. His full lips are quick to smile, and his chubby arms and legs are healthy to do whatever is in his heart.
I recently enjoyed some creative playtime with him. The swing set, which included a slide, climbing ladder, and tiny clubhouse, was set on a sand platform by a small pond. Sawyer was acting as the papa and I was his daughter. Before our pretend bedtime, Sawyer noticed monsters in the pond. He quickly explained that since he was the daddy and I was the daughter that he would take care of the monsters.
He armed himself with a stick and climbed down from the small cubby at the top of the slide. He waved his “weapon” and shouted. Then, returned to our sleeping quarters declaring that the monsters were dead and that daddys always take care of their children. Sawyer was not only my hero during our playtime, he was also a bedtime storyteller, the keeper of the alarm, and breakfast maker.
My sweet great-nephew is confident in his parents’ love. He trusts them to provide security and safety. I found his simple faith that mom and dad would take care of any monsters refreshing.
The monsters of fear and insecurity sometimes appear out of nowhere just as I am falling asleep. They lurk in the recesses of my mind. My weapon is not a stick but the Word of God. There is power in knowing that Papa God can be trusted. I am confident in His love and know that He provides security and safety.
There is so much unrest in our world. Fear is being openly used to manipulate. Anxiety and depression are on the rise. People are holding out for a hero. They are looking for someone to rescue them from the harshness of living in this day and age.
Holding Out for a Hero Bonnie Tyler
Larger than life And he’s gotta be larger than life! And it’s gotta be soon He’s gotta be sure I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light I need a hero And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight And he’s gotta be fast He’s gotta be strong I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night I need a hero And I dream of what I need Late at night I toss and I turn Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed? Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds? And where are all the gods? Where have all the good men gone
There are heroes among us who sacrifice for others, but the greatest hero is Jesus. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. He is strong, fast, sure, and larger than life!
Tonya Jewel Blessing is the esteemed author of the Big Creek series. To book Tonya for a presentation or speaking engagement, even via Zoom, please contact us!
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