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

Making the Change ~ Monthly Wrap-Up (July-August 2017)

Making the Change ~ Monthly Wrap-Up (July-August 2017)

Hi guys! I hope that you are all having a beautiful Wednesday so far. xx I woke up feeling not so great today, as I have a cold right now, and I broke my fever upon waking. I’m planning to take it easy today and catch up on the posts I’ve missed reading.

On that note, I’m now back to blogging! Click here to read yesterday’s post on why I’m back a week early, if you’d like.

When planning ahead for what I’d blog about upon my return to blogging, I went back and forth between wanting to do a Making the Change wrap-up post, and deciding against it. As I’d planned to originally come back in the first week of August, it didn’t seem right to do this post on the first Wednesday of the month, as I’ve been posting them on the final Wednesdays of the month. As fate would have it (although I personally believe this is by the Lord’s guidance), I’m back a week earlier than planned. It’s still July. 😂 It’s the last Wednesday of the month. So, let’s get into this!

I have had lots of time recently to bond with my family. We’ve been playing games and having heartfelt conversations. I’ve also had more time spent in prayer, as my evenings as of late have been quite a bit quieter than they usually are, what with staying off of WordPress. Both of these paired together has caused me to notice that the Lord is calling me into a deeper relationship both with Him, as well as with each member of my family.

In June of 2016, I very much struggled to get used to having a new baby in the family, and this past April, my mom’s miscarriage really took a toll on my faith. I had drawn away from the Lord, sunken into myself, and crawled into a shell of what I thought was protection. When I realized that my self-inflicted hiding place was what was injuring the relationships and friendships I valued so much, the Lord was then able to lead me out.

He has taught me so much through what I continually thought was worthless pain. He continually uses each and every trouble I’ve ever found myself in for a good purpose – most especially for His glory. I am slowly finding it easier and easier to boast in my affliction, as Paul wrote in the Bible, for then the Lord’s grace may rest upon me.

I’m still a long way from where I want to be, but you know what? Maybe I’ll never get there … and maybe that’s okay. The Lord is directing and guiding my steps; He has my life in His hands. When I am willing, His strength is manifested in me, and I know that the changes I desire to see in my life will be here sooner than I realize. I’m taking it a day, a minute at a time, focusing on the good and forgiving myself for my downfalls.

It’s getting easier and easier to make this change. ❤

The Past Month: July 2017

Improvements: I’ve been finding as many things as I can to do with Samuel. Playing pretend, doing Wii games … I’m pretty sure this was mentioned in the last ‘improvements’ section of the last wrap-up post, but I’ve come even farther from there. He and I have played pretend every day for the last week – a huge improvement from where we were not too long ago.

Next Time: I need to further accept mine and Joshua’s differences. As we’re in such difference places of maturity and in our walks in life and with the Lord, it’s hard, and often weighs heavy on my heart.

The Upcoming Month: August 2017

Focuses:

  • Forgiveness. Letting go of the past, and exhibiting grace to future faults I would have once struggled to forgive.
  • Having a servant’s heart. I want to put my desires consistently behind me and instead look to what my family needs.
  • Thinking before I speak. It is important that I put more thought into what I say before letting things I don’t mean slip past my lips.

Quotes and Bible Verses to Inspire:

“Forgiveness is a process. A choice you have to make over and over, every day, until you’re free of hurt.”

“The highest calling we’ll ever have is to be a servant of the Lord.” – Christine Caine

“When someone does something wrong, don’t forget all the things they did right.”

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.”

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with one another, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” – {derived from} Ephesians 4:2

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Thank you so much for reading, guys. I hope that you all have a blessed rest of the week! How about you?

What do YOU desire to focus on in August?

— Maggie