Even in the moment of utmost magnificence, the realities of life cast a cloud over it all. Have you noticed?
This is truth, the here–and–now is what we hold in our hand this moment. We savor the taste, the scent, the love, the sight, the feel.
The Japanese term “mono no aware” is often applied to flowers.
It means “they. . .won’t last forever.” For English speakers, it’s tough to translate, but it’s a relatable idea. ‘Mono no aware’ describes beautiful but perishable things. Mono no aware becomes a human anthem, our song of recognition: Every moment counts.
I choose to live in this moment, right here.
The exquisite beauty of the Japanese language describes “an empathy toward things”, evoking both a transient gentle sadness, a wistfulness at their passing, as well as an underlying poignancy about this state being, the reality of life’s ending in decline and death.
We’ve traveled a lot of road together, and this is so real, so true, it’s difficult to find the language to describe it.
Even as gardens, yours and mine, are carefully tended and watched over, the beauty of nature is fleeting. All nature. We, too, come with expiration dates. We are colorful and thriving and being woven into glorious patterns of symmetry and contrast.
We are carefully tended and watched over, many of us blooming far into the future.
Embellishing options, we keep planting new life, new blossoms in new seasons. When we face the ending of one season, we water new seeds, and graft or adopt or improvise in the faith of growing new sprouts for another season.
In drought, we include the defense of closing ranks with friends and allies. We help each other. We punt for each other. We dress each other in the coverings of costumes and smile at the future. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness are the friendship fertilizers. Doing good, being faithful, being gentle, and having self-control in the face of temptation. These are the ribbons of bouquets.
It’s an aspect of being created in the image of the Creator, that we thrive best in community, rubbing shoulders. Out of one garden, another is already blooming. That bloom of friendship. Bridges through passages become the colorful things that matter. Relationships can trump protocol, can trump rules, can trump law. Friendships can trump financial resources and other competition. Grow the garden of love, and you’ve grown the blossoms of a heavenly kingdom.
I choose to travel this road with other transients. It’s a bumpy road, filled with detours – but its ours and we’re on it together. The scenery right now is breathtaking.
Washing my hair this morning, enjoying the soft, hot water rushing over my body, a message came into my thoughts, “Be easy on yourself today.”
Okay, I thought. I’ll go easy on myself and enjoy each moment. I’ll not let the tyranny of lists defeat me. I’ll make the easier decisions today and take all-the-things-I-desperately-need-to-find-out a tad more casually.
Stepping out of the shower, then, I realized that I didn’t know what this “easy on yourself” message meant. What was I to do – not do? Was it an ominous warning to prepare for something unkind seeping through the cracks of my family or work?
Was it a message to not blame myself if someone were to fall ill or die? I felt a rising doubt, anxiety.
I decided to think it over by doing a rote task. Towels from their hooks were lifted and pitched. I took the laundry basket downstairs, though carefully. Doing something that I would regret, like tripping over a trailing shirt sleeve, say, and falling down the stairs this morning, could be the reason for such a message. It could be a warning. I pulled out the shirts and pants. Spraying on stain remover, counting to sixty as it soaked in, I then began to push dirty clothes into the dryer.
This is not the washing machine, dear. The little message was showing its potential to make me neurotic! I tugged out the towels and clothing and tossed them together into the washing cylinder. Then, I switched the program to one notch lower in heat than usual.
Next, I opened and tied back the curtains on either side of our front door. That sweet light coming through those sheer panels, the green grass, longish and wet with last night’s rain, and the boughs of blue spruce edging around the corners of the sky brought a sigh. My shoulders rolled back for the gift of a new day.
Going into the kitchen, I decided to make a banana smoothy. Just a half cup, with one small ripening banana and vanilla and nutmeg. I also started the coffee. The feelings of curiosity and wonder continued to follow me. Then, I began to feel sadness at the thought that I’ve started days like this before, only to end up “doing something real quick that needed some desperate attention” and falling into extreme anxiety for all that I was unable to accomplish at the end of the day.
Looking into my dining room, I spied my Bible and decided to read the next chapter in 2 Chronicles. It was about a very bad king of Judah, who had enjoyed a murderous reign until, as prophesied, his intestines spilled out and he died, unmourned. His wicked son, Ahaziah, molded by his embittered mother, Athaliah, only reigned one year. This was because he was slain by someone named Jehu who was anointed by God to execute judgment on that evil household. No-one mourned this king’s passing either, except his mother who went into a murderous frenzy. I prayed, “What am I supposed to learn from this?”
Bill called. I told him about the message-in-the-shower to give myself a break today, so I’m trying to do that. He laughed, put in a dinner request for crockpot roast, then went back to work.
I turned my eyes to the following chapter, how Athaliah, the enraged widow of King Jehoram, mother of the assassinated Ahaziah, set about killing the entire royal family of Judah upon learning of her son’s demise. But, the lesser daughter of the murderous father, King Jehoram, also being the half-sister of the bad king, Ahaziah, set her stealthy wit to act against her bitter sister-in-law, Athaliah. Raised and surrounded by a conniving, murderous family, Jehosheba had married a temple priest, who became a man of God.
Yes, somehow, she escaped the family character. Yet, she had access to the palace.
When she saw that her sister-in-law was going to kill all of the royal princes, she stole away the youngest prince and hid him in a room with his nurse and then brought him to her husband, the priest.
They raised the boy for six years while the evil sister-in-law reigned her terrors.
Then the text says, “In the seventh year Jehoiada showed his strength.” Wow. I liked that phrase. It goes on to describe how the man of God had been thinking about all of King David’s swords from his mighty men stored for posterity in the temple. He’d been thinking about God’s covenant with David’s household. Wound up, he sprang into action.
He called up all of the Levites and heads of Israelite families from all the towns. The priestly musicians came with their musical instruments used for worship and praise and other fanfare. He led all of these priests and heads of households into making a covenant together to put the rightful young prince onto David’s throne and to swear allegiance to him.
Jehoiada, the priest, warned those who were not consecrated priests and therefore prohibited from entering the temple of the Lord, not to enter because they would be put to death. Their objective was to guard the rightful king and stay close to him or sing and play a fanfare. He told them to hold up the ancient swords, focus on their jobs, and not get too curious about what was going on in the temple. He separated the whole assembly into thirds.
One third of the assembly was to guard the doors of the temple, one-third was to guard the royal palace and one-third was to guard the Foundation Gate. All other family members were to hang out in the courtyards of the temple and shout “Long Live the King!” when the young Joash was crowned.
This is what they did. When the wicked Athaliah heard the trumpets blowing, the people rejoicing, the musicians leading praises from all these areas, she tore her robes and shouted, “Treason! Treason!”
But Johoiada the priest instructed the commanders of the troops to bring out the woman, Athaliah, and kill her and all who followed her to the gate before she could get near the temple. No talking, no reasoning, no arguing. After that, the people went down to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of his altars.
Johoiada appointed the priests to their assignments as King David had outlined and ordered, and all of the people rejoiced because Athaliah had been slain with the sword.
What a classic drama, epic proportions!
What a fun read!
The laundry calls ding-ding-ding-ding-ding, finished! Oh, dear. I’ve been distracted.
So, the basket is filled with cleaned fabrics, and I carry it upstairs.
I see the stack of mailing boxes I’ll be needing to pick through today in order to post a set of books to a retail chain store buyer. I compare them all and pull out the largest one from my stash in the closet. Then, I find a pretty mailing label, but the labels are outdated. I’ll have to edit or recreate them and get more printed. Where did I hide those suckers? If I can find where I’ve hidden the file on my computer or perhaps a thumb drive, I need to do that soon. Sigh.
Dismissing the incident, I go easy on myself.
I open up my laptop, and instead of getting right to work. I jump up. Maybe I should take a walk first? Opening the door, I feel the chill, check the thermostat, and appraise the watery street. It’s too cold and wet to walk. I shut the door and go easy on myself.
Two projects for my books eat through an hour of time, so I hire someone to help me finish each of them. I go easy on myself.
I rip out two pages from a book I wrote that has now been edited to pieces. If I give this book out as a freebie, I don’t want those pages in there. After the pages go into the kindling pile beside the fireplace, I begin to regret the mess that I’ve made of this book. Then, I stop.
I go easy on myself.
Shaky with hunger, I pour half a bag of cheese onto an almond flour fake tortilla shell, cap it with another fake tortilla shell, and shove the plate into the microwave. When it’s melted, I slice up the quesadilla, add salsa and sour cream and down the whole thing in a moment.
What have I done? Is that the kind of eating tradition that will kill me?
Going easy on myself, I turn back to work.
I begin to collect all of the tip sheets for books on a thumb drive. The documents will be printed out today.
When I get into the car, and round the corner, it dawns on me that I have no idea where I put the thumb drive with the cover letter to the retailer and tip sheets inside. I say a few words about myself and round the block winding up in my driveway again. As I get out of the car, I put my hand in my pocket and realize the thumb drive’s there. Oh well, there’s a thermos of water I need from the kitchen anyway. I go easy on myself and bring the water back to the car.
At the printers, waiting for the letter and tip sheets to print, I copy the address onto the mailing label with a Sharpie, then, I tape the whole mailer together, all ten books, tip sheets, note cards, and cover letter with a packing list.
Off to the bank, then to the post office to stand in line with my retail box proposal.
Driving home, a driver of the car behind me becomes irritated. I’m probably driving too slowly. He honks, swerves around me. and when he fires by my car, he slows way down. I laugh.
I go easy on myself and on him.
My husband finds me sitting in the parked car in the garage listening to a human interest story.
He taps on the roof of the vehicle, then he flips the lights off and on and closes the garage door.
“I just wanted a minute, please!” I shout.
Fine. Shrugged off, I finish listening to the story then steal another moment to read a Facebook post.
It tells what it means for the shepherd to anoint the head of His sheep with oil.
Apparently, the oil protects the sheep from being tormented by flies that like to lay their eggs in the sheep’s wool around their nose. The hovering flies can cause sheep to panic and run wildly. This sort of activity can ruin their meat and milk and may result in injury or death.
According to the reporter, Nicky Ellis, if the fly is successful, in a few days, larvae will hatch and burrow into the soft flesh of the sheep’s nasal passages. Wounds cause irritation, inflammation, and infection. The pain will cause the sheep to rub its head on the ground, thrash through the underbrush, and bang its head on tree trunks attempting to get rid of the intruders.
In severe cases, a sheep may kill itself trying to get away from the pain. If the sheep manages to survive, the infection caused by the larvae can cause it to go blind.
A good shepherd will mix cooking oil with four parts of each of these essential oils:
Astounded, and resonating with the baaing sheep, I collect my thermos, the receipts, my phone, and purse, and go inside. “Sorry, hon.” He shrugs and begins telling me about his hours at work. I listen to his stories half-heartedly, and we give each other a break.
With the story of the anointing of sheep running along in the back of my mind, I tell him that my mom called earlier to ask for a ride to her hairstylist, but that I had my afternoon squashed with this package proposal thingy I had to mail out, so I actually told my mom I couldn’t do it today. She accepted this, and I gave myself a break from the guilt trip.
He smiles and calls me beautiful. He can be very kind.
Since I started the roast at three, it should have been ready by six.
He helps clean off the papers and notepads lying on the table in the way of our plates and water glasses. “You’re a mess,” he says. I smile.
We eat instead in front of the T.V. and watch a recorded show together. This kind of dinner and show event is something I’m unused to doing, but it feels good. We chat about the contents of the mailbox and make plans for next month.
A less-than-average meal, my husband is happy to be fed meat with green chili and hominy. “Did you notice this meat was a teriyaki marinade?” He pops a bite of it covered with green chili into his mouth. “I bought this.”
“Ugh! No, I didn’t notice! No wonder the dish turned out somewhat less than intended.” We gag at each other and laugh.
I go easy on myself.
He gets my inhaler when I start coughing, probably from the strange combination of spices. Recovered, we watch the mystery together enjoying a cheap date.
Like anointing oil pouring over my head, I soak up the good fortune of this man, this husband, my great gift in life.
Then, taking a gander at the published blog post I’d prepped for one of my authors, I realize I hadn’t fully edited it and it is in the public eye! I’ve misrepresented her style and quality of work. Anxiety begins to rise as I immediately begin to doctor and update the blog. There is no taking back what is published, even if it is retracted and edited, and updated. Some people have read the original.
The inner critic cries out my shortcomings, flogs my awful failures. I wonder if our relationship will survive. Then, it occurs to me that giving myself a break simply means that I forgive myself. Hopefully, she will, too.
Forgiving myself is simply agreeing with God.
Forgiving myself is simply agreeing that I mess up pretty regularly, that I don’t have enough time in the day, that my hands are too full of responsibilities, that I don’t care enough for those I should care for. And, yet, He forgave me, puts protective oils on my head, and the sovereign Lord forgives me daily!
“Going easy on myself” means allowing myself to experience that moment-by-moment feeling of not being rushed to fix one thing and then another. After all, I can’t save the world, so my urgent efforts to do so robs me of resting in my own forgiveness.
I’m always struggling to improve myself or improve others. It’s a gift and a curse. Two sides of a coin.
“Going easy on myself” means living slowly and enjoyably in certain forgiveness and grace. I allow myself to agree with God that I’m actually forgiven for all of my failures and shortcomings, and I will rest in a grace I’m giving myself because He’s given it to me already. That’s all.
How about it?
Go easy on yourself.
If you are an author looking for solid ideas to promote your new book, I’m going to make it a little easier on you today, too, by giving you this list of help.
Jenny Fulton, author of PRINCESS LILLIAN AND GRANDPA’S GOODBYE
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20, NASB)
Have you ever come across those people who seem to be great at everything?
What about the individual who is working a full-time job, doing ministry after work, and can still find time to work on some DIY project? Of course, the house always smells like freshly baked goods.
How about a married woman with kids who stays at home, homeschools, runs a successful business and keeps her house in immaculate shape?
And then, there is this married man with kids who works all day, does chores and spends time with his family after work, fixes everything in the house himself, and studies late into the night?
Yes, these people appear to do it all; they seem to have it all together.
I am definitely not one of these people.
My floors are littered with toys and goldfish, my walls covered in crayon. I struggle to get through a full day’s schoolwork with my second grader and write in the mornings or whenever I can squeeze it in.
I can’t do everything well, and according to scripture, that’s okay.
According to 1 Corinthians, God actually created members of a community to complete and complement each other’s efforts. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter three, he describes the different roles he and another preacher, Apollos, played.
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s bfield, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9, NASB)
The big picture cannot be completed alone.
While the Christians in Corinth argued over which human leader they show follow, Paul redirected their attention to the bigger picture. Neither he nor Apollos were meant to be or provide everything the church needed. They’d each been given a role, a single task in the big picture of God’s work. Paul had been used to plant the seeds of the faith; Apollos had been brought to water and nourish it to the next step. Both had been used by God for a specific purpose. Neither was meant to do it all.
Later in the book, in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes a group of believers as connected digits and limbs of a physical body. Each part has been given a unique ability to be used in a specific role. These limitations in our individual abilities force us to need each other, inspire us to come together, appreciate one another, depend on one another. Our strengths enable us to help others while our weaknesses encourage us to receive help in return.
I’ve seen these principles of collaboration play out in my writing journey.
While some writers successfully go the self-publishing route and learn how to do every step of the process on their own, I soon realized I wasn’t able, and didn’t desire, to follow that path. I don’t have time to learn how to do everything and to get good at it. This means I must seek out others in the industry to do what I can’t.
After I wrote my picture books, I found other writers to help me develop the ideas and identify any errors my familiarity with the text may have skipped over.
I joined online writing groups to learn and connect with others in the industry.
The bulk of the work, and the most challenging part of the collaboration, came when my first picture book, Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye, was accepted for publication by Capture Books. In some ways, this was the perfect partnership, for it would fill so many of the gaps I had in my knowledge and experience. They would take care of the illustrations, formatting, and uploading, help me with marketing.
However, collaborating also means giving up control. It means recognizing when the piece God gave you has ended and trusting the input and vision God gave others to carry the book forward.
At first, I was hesitant when my development editor, Laura Bartnick, first presented her vision for the illustrations, for I couldn’t envision the final result. Since God hadn’t given me that piece, it was like staring into a void while someone else described a vivid and scenic view on the other side. Saying yes to her ideas and agreeing to work with the illustrator she recommended was like stepping out into complete darkness with no guarantee that my foot would touch solid ground.
Every uncertain step brought light to the words I’d written. As the process went on, as the illustrations came in, my eyes opened to an incredible panorama filled with yellows, blues, reds, and greens. The end product was so much more beautiful than I could have imagined. Trusting is rarely easy, but the eventual destination is worth it.
God didn’t create us to live and do everything on our own.
I am now in the position to celebrate the strengths of collaboration on my book.
He made us to live in community, to need one another.
Part of living and working together means acknowledging that we can’t do it all, and that’s okay. And the truth is, even though some people appear to be the exception to this, they also have weaknesses and struggles. They have props and crutches and a support system that looks different to mine. Even the most put-together looking person needs others to come alongside to help and encourage them in their weaknesses.
Alone, we can’t do it all. Together with God and each other, anything is possible.
Book Blurb for Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye
Can two worlds exist at the same time?
Little Princess Lillian learns the spiritual world can interact with the physical. Imaginary is used to explain a reality, how heaven reaches down to earth as a young girl observes her grandpa awaiting his entrance into his eternal home.
How do you explain death and heaven to a child?
Led through a long hall in a hospital, Princess Lillian holds her mom’s hand as an angel whispers comforting words.
Incorporating bits of Native American and Christian tradition, an intimate celebration of a loved one’s passing occurs as a family says good-bye to a man eager to meet his best friend, the King Above All Nations.
Jenny Fulton is a wife, mother, children’s book author, YA fantasy author, blogger, and freelance writer with a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in elementary education, and an endorsement in K-12 ESL. After graduating from Grace University in 2007, Jenny worked as a teacher in a variety of cultural and educational settings, both abroad and in the United States. She is a storyteller, a follower of Christ, and a seeker of truth.
An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Jenny grew up hearing stories from her dad about the supernatural workings on the Navajo Reservation. Her days are now mostly spent raising her three young daughters (homeschooling two of them) and writing as much as time and opportunity allows.
Jenny is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Faithwriters.com, and is an author with Capture Books.
Today, writing a blog feels inadequate as I shift under the weight of yet another personal loss. In a short week, I found I had lost a dear family member and a co-worker whom I really liked.
“Words are like nets – we hope they’ll cover what we mean, but we know they can’t possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.”
Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart
I feel like any combination of words cannot capture the wistfulness of wanting everything to stay the same; for everyone to remain alive; for grief to pack its bags and visit somewhere not so close-to-home.
What a relief to know we don’t have to cast out our nets and fish for words to express how we feel.
There are other ways to reach out for meaning. Or to stay folded-in.
In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart.
Beautiful Things You Might Carry in Your Heart…
An anticipated event
A person you love
A landmark place where you discovered God
A rare and splendid moment
Let these treasures sustain you, carry you, ground you and tie all your loose ends to something real. Something of substance.
We know we must carry on even during a time of grief. How is that possible? Here is a quote I often turn to.
Just for Today
Just for today, keep it simple.
Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Look at your life
for all you have gained
rather than lost.
Look at your path for everything
you’ve gotten through, rather than
where you think you should be.
Celebrate rather than criticize.
Experience rather than expect.
Stand in the sunlight
Rather than the shadows.
Quietly honor your heart
rather than disown pieces of yourself.
Take a break from all that.
See how that goes.
Just for today.
Author, L.C. Lourie
Maybe today you need this. If not, I’ll not be offended.
The power of empathy is often felt deeply in silence.
Have you ever wondered what’s happened to all the working lighthouses? How could they be defunct? What takes the place of helping a vessel to anchor or to its pier in safe harbor?
Harbor Pilots are, by sheer tenacity, a remarkable crew. The job requires round-the-clock availability, a complete understanding of the local waters, hazards and weather conditions, and the agility to climb a 30-foot rope ladder up the side of a large vessel.
Our harbor has them. Any port of call has them; these sailors are navigational experts regarding local waters.
When a ship comes into unknown waters, the harbor pilot maneuvers a small craft right up to the big rig, climbing up that ladder and getting behind the wheel to steer the vessel into safe mooring.
And so it is with the staff I work with.
There are a few who understand the aim in a specialized way. They can plot the course for shoreline and safe harbor in waters that most of us have never seen prior to this. We don’t want to encounter nasty surprises, do we? What will we do if a rock pierces the hull?
While most of us are sequestered with our laptops and zoom sessions focused in on the target for the day, someone with years in the industry will come alongside and prove their maturity and faithfulness by soldiering our vision through our company’s performance of the necessary tasks.
Tasks, such as security, handling delays, sorting through the troubled complaints and defunct systems, and steering the crew into the final destination with wisdom and other hands-on assignments move us beyond the irritations and angers and abnormal shallows.
These are our harbor pilots – these comrades who are sailing in to assist our somewhat lurching, unsteady building to navigate in unknown waters.
In rough waters, how does a ship or smaller boat find it’s way around sandy banks, jutting rocks, and unusual winds to safe harbor? Guided by the strength and knowledge of someone who has a firm grasp of the way around the banks that would beach us, that’s how.
We all experience waves of gratitude and relief as we are coming to the shoreline.
We are all in this together – but today, let’s take a moment to applaud our unsung heroes, our unseen administrators, first responders, our essential leaders.
A collective “thank you” from all our various ports of call; our kitchen table offices, our cell phones, laptops and heart connections everywhere are warranted. You are worthy deckhands, but it would mean there’s nowhere to land without the harbor pilot.
Can you list one or two harbor pilots in your most choppy, unpredictable waves of life?
Later — when we are all back together — tossed, tested and polished bits of beach glass will emerge gleaming in our midst.
What treasures we will discover.
Kathy Joy, writes the Breath of Joy coffee table series. Simply Summer, Ah, Autumn, Winter Whispers, and Singing Spring. These books make for exceptional “thank-you” gifts and acknowledgments of special someones in your life.