Influenced by Your Surroundings

My Studio Creative Space

This is a little different post for me, but I feel so strongly that many are living with less and less satisfaction and well-being on a daily basis and need some encouragement. I have found that my surroundings make a HUGE difference in how I feel, and how I handle the challenges and disappointments that come into my life. Do you think that your surroundings play a part in how you feel on a daily basis?

Today, let’s talk a little about how your environment impacts you.  I believe, you may understand that you can influence your mood and well-being. For example, rooms with bright light, natural or artificial, can improve depression and anxiety. It can motivate you to action. A room that is cluttered and messy will probably be someplace you will continue to drop things as you come in the room or entry. However, a space that is cleaned and organized, will motiviate you to keep it that way. It will encourage you to have a new habits of wanting to put things away in their place so it stays that way. Let’s take an entry for example of your home or apartment. Does it invite people to come in?  Does it encourage or discourage interaction among family and friends by the way you set up the chairs or furniture in the room you will walk into? Does it encourage people to sit for a spell? Reducing stress or creating stress is also influenced by your feeling of well-being so how it appears when you come can determine your feelings, as well as, your guests. So… we can see by a couple examples, that this it isn’t just what is going on in the inside of you but also what is going around on the outside of you. How you see your space has a great impact how you feel in your surroundings. All this in turn has impact on your psychological health as well.

Think about this scenario, you have dishes in the sink and on the counter from dinner or maybe even a couple of days, and it bugs you to see it before you go to bed, but you don’t feel like doing it. However, doing it makes you feel like you are accomplishing something, and you will feel better waking up to a clean kitchen the next morning. Or, maybe its city life that makes you anxious and you would rather be in the country, even though friends, and even family members, love the hustle and bustle of the city. Maybe you are like me and the ocean is your happy place. I love the ocean and it does it for me every time. There is the place where I get quiet enough to lean in to hear what God has to say to me. The water and nature do that for me. It may be different experiences for you that cause stress or help you dial down. Looking at your surroundings as you read this, is there good light around your home and work space? Do you like what is around you? Do you like how you feel sitting there in that spot? Your mood is affected by that. What about the dynamics of your surroundings?  Do you thrive in high-pressure, or does it make you shut down? Messy work spaces elevate stress and the feelings of chaos. Do you need to attend to that area?

Here is the bottom line…your surroundings are so impactful to how you feel on a daily, or even an hourly basis. You may be in many different environments during a day. But do something about the ones you can control…your own.  Your surroundings influence your senses such as what you see, smell, touch and hear, and even the colors you have in your surroundings. Color can completely change the whole feel of your room or home or space and paint is inexpensive. All of these areas has influence on how you feel. Just like you love to go to the beach and see a lovely sunset, so it is with the feeling of our homes. It welcomes us in with a feeling of belonging. It is a soft place to fall.

Sometimes, our environment and/or circumstances can dictate what we choose to do rather than what we want to do. Your environment is what is important to YOU. So if you look around and see with new eyes what brings you joy and well-being, and also what makes you anxious, then you can begin to take the first step in making your surroundings special. Gain habits that help you keep that environment. Minimize distractions around you whether it is furniture, too much in the room, or messy areas that need to be tidied up. Items you might need to get rid of or share. You know we hear daily how we can change our lives, but we forget that we have a real need to feel content in the place where we live out that life. First let’s change our surroundings where we can so we are more motivated to make the changes in ourselves, to be used of God.

It is a proven scientic fact that when you have things around you that bring you like, or you see things that bring you a feeling of love, it changes you inside…that feeling of contentment. It increases your endorphins. It changes then how you look at life. It helps us enjoy life more. It motivates you without you having to push yourself. You begin to WANT to have it look a certain way because of how it makes you feel. It may begin with the smallest step like changing furniture around, or adding a piece that helps you organize the space. It may be adding a special item to your space. But the change gives you the sense of accomplishment and that one small step is making some progress toward that feeling of contentment and well-being.

I learned this years ago, and have always set the priorities for our home to be in good order where possible. It feels good to have things in place. When I have too much in a room, I tend to think about it and it is stressful to even have the items. So in the last few years, I have been slowly trying to streamline my home and everything in it, so that, I will have a feeling of calm in my home. I love it when people come in and feel comfortable in my home. That is my goal; to make any guest feel welcome.

So let me share with you how I have done that in my surroundings.

  1. I alway surround myself with items I love. I have surrounded myself with family heirlooms, photos that give me good memories, my Norwegian heritage, music, collections, good books, candle light is often seen in my home, and items given as gifts to me. I love to look at them and remember how they fit in my life story.
  2. I have colors I love that brings me joy. I love reflected light of crystals hanging in strategic places to catch the sunlight. I hope to paint the whole condo at some point, but I’m also open to God opening a door for just the right stand alone home too! He works behind the scenes, so I’m ready. But in the mean time, I am making this environment what we love.
  3. I change the look of each home I have lived in. It is important for me to make it my happy place. I spend a lot of time here. Once again, I also like it to feel that way to others also.
  4. I also include things around me that enhance all my senses. For example: I have a wonderful soft, furry rug that is placed by my bed. I love waking up to put my feet on that rung every morning, and to enjoy it at night as I get into bed. Candle light and the fragrances relaxes me.
  5. I almost always change lights in my home to styles I really like. It isn’t that expensive if you shop around, but it sure boosts the well-being factor to see them up in our home.
  6. I’m a vintage gal, so I love old things and the stories they could tell. Some of the stories I know. Others I do not. But, I am the keeper of that secret story.
  7. I live in a condo that is very dark. In the day time, if I don’t have lights on, especially if no sun is out, it is very dark light almost like evening time. That’s hard for me because I love windows and light. So I do whatever I can to make it lighter and brighter with shades up and the right kind of light bulbs in my lights and lamps. Sounds simple but it can make all the difference. Use of full spectrum lighting can also make a big the difference in the lighting of your home.
  8. I changed my whole bedroom around; moved furniture, changed bedding, new curtains on sale, different furniture that fit better with the new set up, added a few pieces that I love to the walls, rugs in the floor, and I have a room I love to walk into.
  9. I’m a fireplace gal, so I often have it on in the mornings and later at night, with my mocha of course.
  10. I burn candles whenever I can. Something about them…and that light. I grew up in a time where many of my relatives when I was a child, used kerosene lamps for lighting, so it has good memories for me too.
  11. My surroundings start with a quiet time in the morning, with my mocha and fireplace burning and devotions. No better way to start my day. When I am feeling good about where I am, I can so feel the work of God in my life. I’m motivated to be a part of what He is doing around me.
  12. I inspire myself by looking at ways to bring the outside inside. I like to spend time on my patio and that is a place we are working this spring. So I will want to see that space from rooms on that end of the home. I love outside lighting also and hope to do that soon on the patio.
  13. I enjoy the BBQ life and do it often all year long. I really enjoying have that good smell going on a super crisp day, knowing I have a good meal planned. I get to enjoy being outside also. God has made a beautiful world around us. Let’s look to the good things we can see and hear in nature because God has given that gift to us.
  14. I spend time doing what I love. Activities such as music, photography, creating items with photography, drinking mocha from my cup collection, and reading to just name a few. So I have spaces in my home where it invites me into that activity. Nothing better than making music and singing to Jesus at the piano.
  15. I have a couple of essential oils I use every night before getting into bed. They relax me and give me that sense of well-being… and sleep comes. It is something I look forward to. A little step that may seem insignificant, but it can be huge to my well-being. I also have a diffuser so I can bring wonderful fragrances in to my rooms.
  16. My husband and I love to go for drives. It is very enjoyable for me to get out and see what I can see. Getting out to in a different environment, can change up an attitude in no time. I will sometimes just get in the car for a ride with my camera to enjoy the beauty around my area. Or as in our case, go to the cabin and enjoy the outdoors, camera in hand. I also enjoy traveling to Norway and seeing my relatives there and learning Norwegian VERY slowly…well more like turtle pace. But I’m learning.

Are you getting the idea that your surroundings are important for all areas of your life? Can you see how you are affected by the lack of any of these things or can benefit from including them in your life? I have been sharing these types of ideas in photos to encourage others to change their surroundings for many years. Some have been inspired and made the changes and are loving every minute of the changes they made. It doesn’t have to be costly because many things I have done are through thrift stores and selling apps or groups. I have found some great items!

It comes back to the big take away…our surroundings most certainly affect our well-being!! Changing our surroundings changes us. It makes us feel like we can tackle our world. Because we are happier, we feel more motivated to make the changes and live with joy. That in turn gives us just what we need to be Jesus to someone else. It’s an exciting way to live. Life is hard at times, and we need need that soft place to fall called “home”.  We need that place we go to for work every day to be as much of a spot to enjoy as we can make it. Even where we eat lunch, if we are at work, can make a difference how refreshed we are going back to it.

Hit the Reset Button in your surroundings and see what you can change to make your surroundings more like a place that brings a sense of well-being to your soul. I believe you will build an environment where God can really grow you in ways you may not have thought of just by making a place for your soul to be content. I walk into the rooms of my home and feel a sense of peace, calm, and contentment. It always makes me smile. It is exciting when you get started and I would love to see what you do. Please feel free to leave your big and little changes in the comments. Start with one step.

The best way forward in our lives is to start back at the beginning…changes in our surroundings.

Until next time,

~JoAnn

 

Set Aside Complaint

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Set aside complaint?  Are you KIDDING me?  I have a lot to complain about Lord!  I mean, look at what’s happened in the last few months!  I am not supposed to complain about it?  I am about to burst at the seams with complaints!!  It like that time when you had a mouth full of pop or something, and you are just about to burst out laughing?!  It wants to come out!!  But, you are telling me to set aside complaint and put on a smile.  Set aside complaint and change my expression.  That’s a tall order!

I kind of feel like Job in my life over the last two months, in particular.  But you know, he never complained, even though he lost family, home, possessions, friends, cattle…everything!  So when God gave me this picture yesterday and the scripture to go with it, I guess I was supposed to “get” this message!  I pondered these thoughts for a while, giving myself time to understand what God was telling me.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • It doesn’t ever do any good to complain really.
  • It doesn’t make me feel any better.
  • It doesn’t change the situation.
  • It doesn’t make those around us feel any better.
  • It doesn’t honor God either.

Job had to trust God even though all he saw was chaos.  I am choosing to do the same.  I tell Him out loud several times a day just to remind myself.  I think He likes to hear that!

IMG_0321So this morning as my eyes didn’t want to open to the chaos, I thought I would check my messages on my phone.  There was a text that the appraiser had finally submitted his appraisal to our lender!  Today was to be the day we were to close on the new house.  Now I can choose to complain that he made us have to wait another week, or I can be thankful that it is in.  I choose to be thankful it is finally submitted.  I won’t say I haven’t complained.  Hear me out.  I am saying, that God has gently reminded me not to.  I will move forward one more step and believe that we can close on the third of June as planned when we signed the extension.  I pray for the sellers of our new house, that they continue to be patient with us in something that was entirely not of our doing.  AND…I rest in God’s promise to restore what has been taken.

If you are dealing with a difficult situation, I won’t say ignore it, or that you don’t have the right to be angry.  That isn’t practical.  There is a place for anger.  But I will encourage you to set aside complaint.  We can’t change what we don’t have power over.  But we do have power to change what CAN be changed.  In my case, ME and my thoughts.  Do that.  Change what needs to be changed, so that, you can begin living the life God has planned for you.  Live the “tests” in life well.  As we have heard before, you can’t have a testimony without the test.

In school we couldn’t take a test over because of a bad grade.  We had to prepare ahead to enable us to get that good grade.  In this instance, with God we CAN have do-overs.  We can turn our life around!  We can set aside complaint and put on a smile or happy expression.  Not because what is happening to us is ok, but because we know that God will restore what has been taken from us, if we will be faithful!  Stay the course.  Stand!  May God help you to that end.

Walking the journey with you…

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P.S.  If you are going through a tough time and want some prayer, just leave a message in the comments and I will include you in my prayer list.

What Are Your Reminders?

 

IMG_5563Recently, I read a blog about post-it notes and how this blogger, BecktoBasics, used them in her daily life and how it reminded her of other things she had in her home that were reminders also.  It got me to thinking.  I happen to use them in my office quite a bit.  My whole house is full of thoughts, reminders, encouragement, and love and so I thought I would share some of them with you.  Maybe it will spur you on to share some of your own!  The above photo is one of my reminders that I wear daily.  Pray Always.  My husband has a matching ring that I presented to us for our 10th anniversary.  I put his on his finger, and he put mine on my hand.

So here are some of mine from my home…

P1020173  In my office:

  • Find the Wonderful in Today
  • Live with Passion
  • Lights, Camera, Action
  • Light – word for the year one year
  • Journey – my life word
  • Believe –
  • God Speed – something my pastors who were my growing up pastor and his son who was my pastor for early adult years said to me each Sunday.
  • Faith
  • Dream
  • Love
  • Enjoy the Journey
  • Celebrate – word of the year one year
  • The Rest of Your Life Begins Today – hangs up above my door going out of my office
  • Imagine – The larger word sits in my window sill of my office
  • Everything is possible for him who believes
  • All hail love
  • Do one thing everyday that makes you happy – quilted and framed
  • Focus – 2015 word of the year

P1020077  In my kitchen:

  • Joy
  • Christ is the head of this house – by the kitchen window
  • Have you prayed about it? – I see it above my stove.
  • Fresh – above my stove
  • Norwegian Prayer – from my son – hangs on my wall by the coffee/mocha maker
  • God Bless Our Home
  • Livingroom:
  • Every day is a gift
  • Trust, Love, Faith, Hope – decorative balls w/the word and bible verse, that lay in a wooden bowl on the coffee tableIMG_2774

 

Hallway:

  • Home Sweet Home where each lives for the other and they all live for Christ. – From my parent’s home and now in mine.
  • Always Kiss Me Good Night – reminder to my hubby and I

Bathroom:

  • Blest are those who trust in the Lord
  • A Christian Friend is…

Bedroom:

  • Renew
  • Marriage Prayer

I have always been one to encourage myself through visual reminders and these in my home are part of my day.  I DO read them when I go by.  It’s part of my devotions and living in gratitude each day.  I also have colored glass that I enjoy seeing the light pass through.  Reminds me who my Light is and what He has done for me.  Sometimes God will bless us through a sign we read as we are driving somewhere.  There are many, many opportunities to be encouraged.  I hope this has inspired you to read your reminders and maybe share some of them here!  God bless you through your many reminders this week!

Walking the journey with you…

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Open Hands and Pens

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Have you ever had the feeling that things were going so well in your life that you felt like the captain of your soul?  If you even thought about that statement for a moment without saying no, then you are in trouble because we are NEVER the captain of our soul.   Our lives aren’t something that we have a map for.  There is no map.  We may even feel that sometimes there is no compass.  There is no set route for the journey, that much we know.  The only way we can recognize a route in our life, is what is left behind us when we look back.

I just finished a study with a group of ladies who did the One Thousand Gifts study.  It was so interesting to see how God used each one to affirm the other.  Thoughts and ideas different from my own, yet similar in content.  Our hearts became one as we explored what God wanted to teach us individually.  God showed a side of Himself that many had not seen before, and… lives were changed.  Some even had a hard time explaining HOW it changed them, but they felt a shift inside themselves.  It might have been a different way to start each day, or depending on God for the right place to live, or transition after loss, and another who said, she has been in many studies, but none that have changed her like this one.  I’m sure there were many other thoughts too!  Wow!!  THAT is what we want to have happen when we devote ourselves to learning.  We discussed what servanthood looks like and how we can be the blessing.  So we asked ourselves, “Am I a blessing?  Do I bless?”  Our answer was agreement with Ann Voskamp, the writer of the study, we ARE blessed.  We CAN bless.  You see, we need to pass blessing along.  If we receive the blessing and it stops with us, then we have lost the flow of the blessings to others.  That trickle down effect is lost.  We need to pass it along in the flow of life, and let the goodness of God flow on and on and on.  It’s like Andy Andrews talks about in his book, The Butterfly Effect.  We may never know the outcome of something we did or said, nor how it will affect the future.

Another thing we shared with each other is the power of the pen.  Whether you are a journal writer or not, there is power there.  Maybe you just list your gifts or blessings.  Which ever it maybe, “satan hates pens because he doesn’t want you to count
IMG_5020the blessings you have been given.” (Ann Voskamp) Do you get the picture?  THAT should make us want to go find everybody we know and make sure they have a pen handy.  That is our weapon against feeling defeated about our life.  Invite God in and put that pen to paper.  I am a pen freak.  I love pens and I like GOOD pens.  So, I’m always looking for a pen that is a good brand, looks good AND writes well.  Now, I have another reason for a good pen…it’s my weapon and the power to stay in gratitude!  I’m going to wield that weapon!!

This thought was so important in our weekly discussion:  we want to be empty, to be filled.

  • I want my hands to remain open for God to fill them for His purpose.
  • I want Him to find me about His work and doing well.
  • I want to be maintaining an attitude of expectancy.
  • I want to be found continually looking to the future with hope.
  • I will live a full life because I am intentional in how I live each day.

In all the changes we talked about in this group, the best part was being reminded that a changed life is a life full of joy!  We found that to be true in the last five weeks.  He wants our personal character to be guided by the Holy Spirit and not our own flesh.  He wants to find us being diligent, eager, and zealous in our relationship with Him.  We have found that aspect of our relationship with God to be renewed during out time together.  We experienced a lot of laughter, but there were tears also.  We shared hugs of encouragement, pats on the back to say, keep going.  Please share.  We are listening.  THAT my friend means something BIG is about to happen.  When we lean in and listen, God is going to do something BIG when we let Him change us.  I encouraged each person there to write today’s date down in their Bibles or journals, because we all felt we were on the cusp of something great that is about to happen.

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And lastly, I think we made the decision to be like the Sea of Galilee, that flows forth fresh water.  We do not want to be like the Dead Sea that has no movement and is stagnant, as she talks about at the end of the last chapter.  And the kicker?  Those two seas are fed by the same river!!!  Which one do we want to be?  These ladies wanted to flow out fresh water!  His gifts come from above and we want them to flow through us to others.  I think we all agreed, that we want the kind of attitudes and character that mark the life of a person who loves to serve, give and to share what we have with others.  And…let’s give our best.

I am thankful to each heart that shared in this journey of gifts, and I pray that you will be blessed also by this glimpse into what God did in a small group of women who were faithful to the idea of open hands.

Walking the journey with you…

~JoAnn

A Slow Journey Back

IMG_3489Warning:  Some pictures are graphic.

I am back among the living…at least I think I am. I have been gone from my blog and normal life for almost six weeks as I underwent surgery. I had bilateral knee replacement, and for a simpler version of that statement, I had total knee replacement on both knees at the same time. Many people ask me if I would recommend it. In fact, that is the first question they usually ask me. My answer is still out on that. I know for me, I did it because I don’t like hospitals and all that goes with it, so I knew I wouldn’t want to come back again to get the second one done. I will tell you it’s not easy and one of the hardest journeys I have taken in a long while.

When you are in this situation, you really have to learn to live with yourself. You have only yourself, your brain, and what you are thinking all the time. I was most fortunate to have a husband that stood by me the whole time. He took time off of work to be with me in the hospital everyday, then when we got home, he took care of me in the day and through the night; eventually doing that and working too. He was a great house husband too!  God knows what we need.  However, as you know you talk to yourself non-stop all day long and I found that what I was saying certainly didn’t line up with what I was praying.  Oops!!  Not good.  You see, I also had a lot of blood loss, and so I had to have transfusions to even get me to a place that I had enough energy to get myself up out of the bed.  And then I had to have it a second time, and I got a reaction so the last half was not administered.  So my recovery was very slow.  I remember one time thinking that people would say of me, “She came in for knee replacements, but didn’t come home.”  Now WHERE did THAT thought come from?  To give even a second thought to that was to allow the devil free rein in my thinking, and that just wasn’t going to happen.  I may FEEL like I’m going nowhere fast, but I wasn’t going to give in to it.  The night hours were the worst when you can’t sleep and satan tries to fill your mind with defeat.  I would call the nurse and get up! I would walk to the bathroom and walk back to the bed.  I would tell myself, “I was making progress, no matter how slow it may look, I wasn’t destined to be this way forever.  It will change.”  I was blessed to have my sweetie there all day telling me that I could do it.  To say that it was a humbling experience, it to put it mildly.  He became my nurse.  I believe with all my heart, that I am where I am today because of the prayers of faithful friends and family who covered me daily in prayer.  I had circles upon circles prayed around me!  Does that mean that I still don’t have times of discouragement? Nope. I still can have that feeling at times when I want to do something that just doesn’t work too well for me right now.  But, then I have to remember where I came FROM, and then I am thankful I have come this far.

My experience is not your experience so if you are looking to this in YOUR future, I would say, have a GREAT doctor (do your research), and prepare yourself ahead of time for what you need to do.  He is faithful.  I walked from the very beginning with a walker, but only for a couple of weeks.  Then it was a cane, and the last couple of weeks, I have walked on my own without assistance from either.  I would say that is a good track record, and my healing IMG_3482WILL be complete.  Is it over?  No.  I still have pain and discomfort.  But I can now do other things to help with that. I am even down to my last three visits of PT.  Yay!  But I still have to discipline myself to do it on my own.  See?  We are required to do our part.

Lessons?

  • Trust. Trust. Trust.
  • Don’t listen to the wrong voice in your ear.
  • God will use circumstances and people around you to bless you and lift you up.
  • The end of something is always better than the beginning. Always…because we have learned.
  • I learned I have an inner strength given to me by God that keeps me going no matter what.
  • Have a grateful heart for everything; that included my physical therapy. Yuck…
  • I am required to do my part.

IMG_4948This is only one snap shot of my life. I will likely have many more, and maybe some that will be harder than this to make it through.  But I know where my strength comes from, so I can look to the future with hope!  I’m happy to answer any questions if you leave them in the comments.

Walking, yes walking…the journey with you.

Let The Waves And Ripples Begin!

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This weekend when I was out taking pictures, I saw something that reminded me of the word that God gave me for this year. My word for this new year is LIGHT. Light shines in the darkness and it shines for all to see. As is the case when I go out, God uses the things around me to speak to my heart and this picture had a message that went right along with my word for this year. I saw a rock in the water. There wasn’t that much of it that was sticking up out of the water, however as I observed, I saw that even the little part of the rock that was out of the water, caused waves to separate around it. The water didn’t just roll over it, it made its own little waves. As little as the waves were, it still caused a ripple effect in the water that was very large. God seemed to say that I needed to stand firm just like that rock. That if I am seeking Him, I am the rock standing on the Rock.  Even though I may not make a big splash in my life, and may not feel like I can have that much influence over those around me, I will have. I may only make a small waves but the effect of those little waves will ripple out exponentially as He has designed. I need to be just like that rock; stand firm, and let my little light shine! God will do the rest. The “Butterfly Effect” (A Book by Andy Andrews) is in motion.

A couple of minutes later, I took the same shot with a different aperture setting and it change the whole look. God said, just like this shot, you may not always be able to see what is going on or what will happen next. But the rock is still there and hasn’t changed. The water waves are still there, and the ripples are still going out whether I can see them or not. I have to trust. God sees and He knows what I can’t see and what I don’t know. If I trust Him, it doesn’t matter that I can’t see what is going on behind the scenes. He knows.

I am looking for what God has for me this year! I am expecting great things! I can trust Him to show me! The message I got at the beach last week was that I need to shine my light for all to see, however that works out in my life. I make not make a big splash, but I WILL affect people and the ripples will go out! That is what my calling is; encourage people to live their lives pursuing what God has for them, living it out in passionate pursuits, and to honor Him for the gifts He has given us to use for His glory. I hope you find some of that on this blog.

What a great picture story I was given. I was so excited! In what way do you want to be used by God this year? Have you taken the time to ask Him, and then listen to what He has for you? If you are quiet and tuned in, he WILL show you. Let the waves and ripples begin!

Walking the journey with you…