Cultivating A Joyful Life | Content Where We Are

Cultivating A Joyful Life | Content Where We Are

First and foremost, before I really delve into the topic of this post, I’d like to clarify that I’m well aware that most people don’t live in cozy little outdoor patios like the one featured above. 😂💚 It merely serves to materialize the ‘home’ theme of Part One of my Cultivating A Joyful Life series, as well as keeping to the constant theme of these posts, which are gardens.

In the introduction that I wrote last week, I shared a beautiful way to think of our minds and our hearts, and that is by comparing them to a garden. The gardens that are well-cultivated, loved, and overall taken care are home to many beautiful plants and accents throughout! However, much against the gardener’s will, weeds still sprout up, good plants still die, etc, so it is essential that they are continuously cared for.

They cannot be cultivated to a certain point, then left to their own devices; just like with gardens, our hearts need daily (in some cases constant) care, or else everything gets bad quite suddenly. In abandoned gardens, flowers start to wilt, stems fade and begin turning brown, leaves slowly fall off the trees … in short, beautiful things cannot live if not taken care of.

I may be speaking of gardens, but in many ways, one can put his- or herself in this situation, as well. What happens when we stop actively putting aside bad behaviors? How does our life change when good habits that we were constantly nurturing are thrown to the side? Our positivity starts to wilt, happiness fades and turns to sorrow, and the joyful way we usually feel begins to crumble away. It’s a sad image, yet absolutely accurate; I’ve seen it happen – and felt it happen! – time and time again.

One of the utmost things that has been on my mind as of late have been earthly dwellings – or, put plainly, as you’d probably prefer 😂, our homes! 🏠 Many of us (myself included) become discontent with where we currently reside for all sorts of reasons. That’s what I’ll be attempting to tackle today – discontentment with where we live, and how we may come to be okay, happy, and just overall …

Content Where We Are

This is a fact of life that many of you probably already know: we easily (and often) become bored. Growing tired of anything in our lives that stays constant for too long is a frequent occurrence, and it is completely different for each and every person. We crave change, we desire new things, and, sometimes, we simply long for life to be a bit more interesting. I know that I personally love for things to be familiar, yet interesting; normal, yet different.

You see, I love for things to have a basic schedule and predictability, while still leaving room for creativity, for switching things around here and there when necessary. For example, I really enjoy going places, and I love that most when they’re different places. I like to get my schoolwork done on weekday mornings, but in a different order each day, depending on how much work I’m assigned. I thoroughly enjoy reading books, browsing blogs, and listening to music, and I enjoy those activities most when they are different books, blogs, and music. Do you see the growing pattern here?

I love predictable variation.

That may sound odd to you. In fact, it sounds odd to me. But I have realized while writing this post that it is an absolute truth in my life.

When it comes to where my family and I live, I strive to be happy with where we’re living. I decorate the bedroom I occupy to my utmost liking, and I learn to accept the little things that are wrong with the house itself (for there are always cons to the homes we find ourselves in). I’m usually quite fine with wherever we’re living. However, the moment I begin to feel unhappy with the location, I feel very trapped, sometimes afraid, and most certainly like I want to break free and move elsewhere – far away – to be anywhere but here.

When I look to the Lord for the healing balm that will soothe my aching soul, I always find three things that comfort me. Here they are:

  1. He cares for us so much. It may look like we’re stuck somewhere, whether it’s because we haven’t found a new place to move, or there are financial struggles, etc, but all things serve a good purpose (Romans 8:28). Find joy in the waiting! It definitely seems fruitless at times, but we are always being prepared for what is to come. That leads me to my second point:
  2. The dreams and plans that the Lord has for His children are far greater than we can ever imagine. It says so in His Word! (1 Corinthians 2:9) We often find this hard to believe, especially when we’re hurting, but please, if you will, take a moment to look back at the beautiful life you have. Can you see His hand at work? I always can in my own life. ❤ That leads me (again!) to my third point:
  3. This is not our eternal home! I tend to think that bad/upsetting living situations are a permanent thing, but guys. Everything is SO temporary! Not only are there beautiful opportunities and experiences waiting for us in our future, but we are also “looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.” – 2 Peter 3:13 NLT, emphasis mine. That’s the first time I’ve read that particular translation of the verse, and it has me so excited right now for all that He has in store for us!

In conclusion, it’s hard to feel settled in the houses/apartments we live in sometimes – and that’s okay. At times, it’s important that we move, and in other situations, it is crucial that we wait. Look at your unique situation from every angle. For me personally, I know that my family and I will soon move out of the house we’ve lived in for two years, which I didn’t even know about when I started writing this post. ❤ The Lord’s blessings are everywhere!! (: xx (by the way, we don’t have a date or anything yet. This plan is tentative. ‘Soon’ will have to do for now. 💚)

How about you?

Are you finding the joy in where you live? What are YOUR favorite things about your current home? 🏠💜

Happy Wednesday, guys! I hope that you’re all having a beautiful, blessed week!

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Cultivating A Joyful Life | An Introduction

Cultivating A Joyful Life | An Introduction

Cultivate is one of my favorite words. It is a beautiful way to describe keeping and nurturing plant life, but the way I love to use it most is in an analogy.

Have you ever heard those inspirational quotes that refer to our hearts as a garden?

We each have a garden within us.

It’s the place where we keep all of our best memories – and our worst nightmares; a place where we grow positive attitude attributes – as well as traits we wish we didn’t have. In our gardens, we cultivate beautiful things that add joy, love, and peace to our lives … and in that same garden is an assortment of weeds, plants we wish weren’t there anymore, dusty stones in that cobblestone path that has been the main walkway in our hearts for years. It’s different for each and every person; not one garden looks the same, and that’s okay! For just like we differ as people, what we cultivate in our hearts, minds, and souls is different, too.

I often ponder what is in the garden of my own heart. Seldom have I mentioned it, but I absolutely love analogies, parables, metaphors, and everything else that’s nice (haha) – really, I love comparing things with one another by using verbal illustrations to show how, even though two things are completely different, they are, in essence, the same. Even though I have come up with few unique analogies myself, I take to heart each and every one I come across that touches me. I enjoy reading, seeing and hearing what others have come up with, and I also love the wisdom found through parables in the Bible.

Jesus’ favorite way to teach was through parables. There are many to be found in the four epistles (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and I love them all. Each one beautifully illustrates whatever point the Son of Man is making – which makes sense, for He has infinite knowledge, so He would be the One to come up with the perfect parable for each lesson, every single time, haha!

When I was pondering posts I’d enjoy writing last week, this was one of the title ideas that came to mind. That is, ‘Cultivating A Joyful Life.’ What exactly does that mean, you might wonder? I’m not even completely sure myself yet. But the aspects that I’ve thought over in the days since then have made extremely excited to write out this series, as it will be a great learning experience for me, and anyone else interested, as well.

Since April, I have been keeping up with my Making the Change series. At first, it was a weekly thing that I did, but now I do one at the end of most months. The day before I was going to make the first post public, I was really second-guessing myself on how well the series would be received. It was good for me to write that post, and I knew that it was quite possible that I could help others overcome whatever obstacles they’re facing … but I worried that people wouldn’t like me anymore because I would be revealing the fact that I was dealing with anger. Being so vulnerable and open frightened me, but I went ahead and posted it, and the response the series has gotten as a whole has blessed me so much!

Every one of you who has commented on the posts in my Making the Change series has truly added to my life and helped me to stay focused on fixing the behaviors that have bound me for too long. It hasn’t been easy at times, and I greatly appreciated everyone’s feedback, and hearing you guys’ stories blessed me, as well. ❤

This series, Cultivating A Joyful Life, will be in some ways similar to Making the Change, but instead of looking to fixing specific behaviors, it will focus more on better understanding ourselves, on how we can be joyful and at peace with who we are, where we are, and also who we are with.

It’s a work in progress, but this is only the beginning. I can’t wait to continue with this series!

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Blog Comparison: The Thief of Our Joy

Blog Comparison: The Thief of Our Joy

I have fewer followers than she does. They get more comments than I do. That blogger’s content looks better than mine.

Have you ever had any of those thoughts? If so, you are one of the masses that struggle with blogger comparison.

Here in the wonderful world of blogging, just like in any other community or group of people, there is comparison. We recognize that there are others who are more accomplished, and less accomplished, than we are. We look to see, often without even meaning to, if we’re better than those around us, and when we come up with a negative, it really rains on our parade.

When looking directly at our own blogs, not taking into consideration what others’ blogs are like, we usually see wonderful content, a great theme and setup, a nice amount of followers, and good comment counts. Our behind-the-scene stats are satisfying, too – there’s always so many cool statistics to be found there! When we turn our attention to others, however, whether it’s their numbers or content that gets to us, it’s hard to accept that there will always be bloggers who have it more “together” than we do.

Because, in truth, we struggle to accept that we’re not always on top. It’s hard to go from being content with what we have, to wanting and needing more because it isn’t exactly what others have. We see all the comments they get, the multiple-digit follower count, whatever it might be, knowing that they have more than we do.

Sometimes, I’ve been envious of blogger statuses I’ve seen that I wouldn’t even personally want for myself! It’s really the fact that they have more than I do that makes me jealous, which I know is wrong. I don’t desire to harbor this irritation in my heart, and starting here recently, I’m taking the steps to be content with my blog as it is, and to slowly work toward being exactly where I want to be.

Below, I have compiled some different things I think will help you combat these negative feelings. It would bless me so much to know that I could help just one person!

First, I’d like to establish that there are two main groups of bloggers: the ones who would love to grow in the community, and the ones who are blogging for themselves and are happy wherever their stats are.

Over the years, I’ve fit into both of these groups. I have run blogs that I was writing on solely for myself – those were really online journals, to tell you the truth. Then, with other blogs, I wanted to get to know people, receive comments and get feedback – you know. Dreaming of Guatemala is the main one I’ve wanted to cultivate and write for myself, as well as others.

I find it quite easy to blog when it’s just for you. There isn’t the pressure of keeping up to date with your audience, blogging consistently, etc – it feels much more relaxed, because it is. When anything we do online involves others, we like to keep up with our friends and talk to them on a regular basis. I understand that, and I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with either way of online interacting.

When we’re blogging to grow, however, the weight we put on ourselves can be excruciating sometimes.

Weekly posts. Blog reading. Comment responding. Social media promoting. Blog maintenance. The list is usually endless! When we’re not careful, blogging can become a full-time side job.

+ To the full-time bloggers, especially the ones who get paid: I realize that all of that is quite necessary to keep up with, and I admire all the time you wonderful bloggers put into your blogs!! I can’t see myself ever doing that, as I love blogging as a hobby, but man. Y’all are pretty awesome people.

+ To the small-audience bloggers who are happy where they are: I applaud you!! I have always seen the appeal in writing for yourself, as well as having a few friends who keep up with your blog, too – I’ve been there before, and I have quite enjoyed it. Keep doing what you love, and do it for as long as it makes you happy. When you feel it’s time to move on, whether that’s to switch blogs, stop blogging for a while, or begin growing your audience, chase after what’s on your heart to accomplish! 💗

+ To the small-audience bloggers who desire to grow: I was right where you are this past winter. In the whole month of January, I had gotten just over 500 total views and 105 comments. This month, at about my six-month blogging mark, I hit 5,000 comments and got my 800th follower. It’s hard to figure out how to grow if you’ve never done it before, or if you’ve tried and your tactics didn’t work. We all meet stumbling blocks in our blogging lives, no matter how popular our blogs might be.

If you are looking for ways to grow your blog, I’ll share my tactics with you. They’re actually very simple.

First, be a consistent part of the community. If that means blogging every day for you, or once or twice a week, follow your heart. That aside, read your friends blogs and, as you’re in the mood, browse tags in the Reader and reach out to others with similar interests. Make connections in my personal favorite way to build your audience: through friendships. Respond to the comments you receive on your blog, hold conversations with others; be open to getting to know people.

Second, write the kind of posts that YOU would want to read. If at any point in your time of blogging you feel like you’re writing too many obligatory posts, or if you’ve become discontent with that series you’ve been keeping up with, switch things up. Make an inspiration board on Pinterest. Brainstorm new post topic ideas. Take a week off, if you need it.

Third, include others on your blog. I wouldn’t say that this is crucial to your standing in the community, but I do believe that it’s a great way to connect with others and bring some sunshine into other bloggers’ day! Invite them to participate in conversation by ending posts with a prompt question that relates to the post itself. Interview other bloggers and share them on your blog,  visually interesting. Host reader-submitted stories and make it a series, invite others to leave you questions for a Q&A post or video, or nominate your favorite bloggers in your next award/tag post! It blesses bloggers to be included; I know how happy I always feel to be part of something – anything! – on others’ blogs.

+ To the bloggers who struggle with envy, regardless of what their blogs are like: chase after what makes you happy. Focus on the joy your blog brings you and leave jealous feelings behind. They’re only bringing you down; they accomplish nothing. Although, if nothing else, they’re an encouragement to grow your blog, and/or make positive changes to it. Learn to accept that their are bloggers who run bigger and smaller blogs than yours. That doesn’t in any way alter the fact that your blog is a masterpiece just the way it is!! 💚

Did this post help you? I’d love to know! It surely encouraged me. xx