Just a few days after purchasing Sharon's mug, I met her and two other ladies (Darlene and Annette) at her condo in Hot Springs, Arkansas for some R & R before school started back. Darlene and I met for the first time on this trip and had an immediate "soul-sista" connection. Annette and I were able to rekindle our acquaintance and make it into a real friendship. While we intended to sight-see, relax, read, laugh, and play games - which we did - we unintentionally wove throughout these activities the honest sharing of our lives. Our tears mixed with laughter creating the best mortar for holding hearts together.
Monday we rode the famous Duck Boats - the only event on our agenda. We had fun because we were together. As we disembarked, we chose to shop and do some sightseeing. The Bath House Visitor Center was inside the fully restored historical Fordyce Bath House. As we asked our questions about the baths, the park ranger told us there would be a tour right after lunch. We walked out the front doors to see Grandma's Kitchen across the street with pork tenderloins the size of my head. For real!
Tuesday morning as we relaxed on the balcony with our morning beverages before heading out to the baths, I spied Sharon's mug and began pondering the quote on it. "Be open to the joy of each new day." It was obvious that we were all a little nervous about those waiting vapor cabinets but determined to experience the baths. I decided I would do just what the mug suggested and be open to the joy available in this day...no matter what.
According to their website, the Buckstaff, the only bath house still operating under the historically accurate routine, did not require swimsuits. Women and men were completely separated. Sooooo.....now we each had a personal decision to make as to how authentic we were going to be. You can relax because we are all too modest to go down Absolute Authenticity Lane, especially after taking the tour.
We arrived at the Buckstaff with mixed feelings - joy and a little trepidation. But we were not quitters! The elevator attendant grimly opened the ancient doors to the original elevator. I asked her to please smile because we were nervous and she wasn't helping matters. That only got an anxious giggle out of my companions and no facial expression improvements whatsoever from our elevator operator. Completely void of emotion, she just pulled the crank on the antique elevator control. I felt like I was in a Scooby-Doo episode! After we disembarked the elevator, we were led to our lockers. I was so excited that I had to open mine three times to get something or to lock up something.
Then Miss Mattie called my name. I sat in a comfy chair while she took care of Darlene. Then it was my turn to climb into a gigantic clawfoot tub filled with amazing 100º hot spring water, heated by God's creation and cooled to this temperature for me. Miss Mattie took the loofah I had splurged $4 on and scrubbed my back, arms and legs...best $4 I have spent in a long time! After my scrubbing, I was instructed to scoot until my feet rested against the end of the tub and sit forward. Miss Mattie placed a long board at an angle behind me with a rolled up towel for a pillow so that I could recline back in the tub of hot spring water. Next she started the whirlpool, which I do believe has been kept historically accurate, that looked like a trolling motor from a bass boat hooked up to the side of the tub. It oscillated slowly, propelling jets of bubbles back and forth. I relaxed completely thinking about the joy in my day already.
I lay there floating in peaceful bliss until Miss Mattie came to take me to the next leg of our adventure - the dreaded vapor cabinet! With fearful eyes, I expressed my concern to Miss Mattie. The vapor cabinet was a metal box that opened like a storm cellar door in the side of a hill, making it easier to enter. Inside there was a stool for my sitting and sweating pleasure. Once I was seating upon the stool, the cellar doors were closed and the top flaps were brought down around my head so that it stuck out. At first glance, I'm sure I looked like I'd been beheaded with my head sitting upon a metal box. Miss Mattie kindly promised to come back in a few seconds, as she wrapped my neck with a towel that became my pillow. The sweat box/vapor cabinet began to fill with steam. I closed my eyes and told myself I could do anything for five minutes. The next thing I knew, Miss Mattie kept her promise and checked on me. I felt renewed courage and assured her I could do this for the full five minutes. Apparently that was the signal to turn up the steam, or perhaps my sweat glands then chose to kick into overdrive. By the time my five minutes had expired, I was breathing heavily.
After the sitz bath, Miss Mattie led me to the contraption that most resembled a torture device from the Dark Ages - the needle shower. The needle shower was a cage made of pipes with small holes for the water to shoot out with great force to rinse its victims off. Our tour had said it would be cold water. I was a bit disappointed when the water was warm. The water pressure was impressive in spurts from shoulder to toes. Then Miss Mattie returned to help me dry off with a towel. (That was a bit awkward.) She wrapped me in a new clean sheet and led me back to the dressing room where my locker sat full of my clothes.
I began praying for Miss Mattie while I dressed and thanking God for bringing Miss Mattie into my life, just going about her job blessing others. Early that Tuesday I started out nervously choosing to be open to the joy of this day. I had thought the joy would be solely about relaxation. Instead God surprised me with the joy of finding another believer!
"Be open to the joy of each new day."
1) There is joy simply in the fact that God has given me a new day to serve Him.
2) This day had joy somewhere to be found. It may not be in the form that I expect, but it is there.
3) Sometimes I need to keep an open mind, open eyes and an open heart to be able to recognize unexpected joy.
4) There are days when I need to be willing to accept joy that comes my way because I don't feel like living joyfully.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
Psalm 65:8 (NIV)
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11 (NIV)
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:10-12 (NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
James 1:2-3 (NIV)
This girls' trip to Hot Springs was filled with unexpected joy. God blessed our time there and knit our hearts together in a special way. We shared many things that were just ours. Those precious moments are tucked away in my heart. Annette and Sharon carved deeper impressions in my soul, while Darlene began carving her own special spot there too. These women had adventures with me and continued after I left. All along the way, they filled my heart with joy!
What is your heart's response to the quote on Sharon's mug: "Be open to the joy of each new day?"