Joy. A season of joy is soon to be upon us. By why wait for the holidays to be joyful? What keeps us from living a joyful life all the time?
The sermon at church recently was on living a happy life, full of joy. And I was inspired! I aim for gratitude and peace and security... and who doesn't want to be joyful?
Music can often put me into a joyful place. As I type this, I am blasting the Glee rendition of "Don't Stop Believin'" at my desk. Bopping, moving, lip syncing, singing. My heart is filled up when I sing at church- be it with the Praise Team or as a congregation member. I connect with God through music and that is definitely a joyful experience!
First, I want to share some of the points made in the sermon a couple of weeks ago.
There is no such thing as a problem free life. Big question: How can I have happiness in spite of what is going wrong in my life?
Live with Perspective. Live by Priority. Live on real Power. Live for a Purpose.
There is often a purpose behind our problems. Courage and joy are contagious. We can live our lives based on problems or priorities. As long as we have hope, we can handle tremendous stress. Our life is not judged by its duration but by its donation. The best use of my life is to invest it in something that will outlast me. The secret of joy: Jesus first. Other important to me, second. And myself, third.
There's a lot there!
I believe that my joy and gratitude and depth of life and purpose and all that deep stuff come from God. I believe that there has been purpose to the worst and least of my problems. Sometimes it takes longer to find the purpose- but it is eventually there.
Some days... it's hard. I find that I am able to find joy in dark times easier than I can in just everyday stresses sometimes. I turn to God in the hard times. Quickly and automatically. So why not do the same with the everyday stress and aggravation?
My morning did not start well. 4 a.m., Zach is in our bed, climbing up the headboard, grabbing for the TV remote, demanding "TB on! TB on!" Finally got him settled and back to sleep- but it was closer to 5 than 4 by that time. 5:30, Teagan awakes with instant whining, complaining, obstinance. For the next hour, she fought us at every turn.
How do you live joyfully in that everyday stress?
At work, we have that big move going on. The kicking up of dust and construction materials triggered one of those massive allergy attacks yesterday. Today, they are banging and slamming into stuff. Offices aren't ready, people aren't packed. Right this second- they are trying to disable the alarm from our front door and are setting it off more often than not. It's a stressful environment.
But I can let all of this roll off of me with no concerns.
Maybe hope is the difference. Maybe with my kids... because the whining and complaining and arguing is a regular thing... maybe I don't have hope in how the morning will go when I get out of bed? The last 2 days have not been good mornings and both days started with kids who woke up whining and demanding. But with the work stress, I do still have hope for the turnout. We are moving and I choose to let it be something exciting and new and different. I'm eager to get into my new space and make it my own.
Yesterday, I learned about a movement called Brightsiding. The idea is to not let internal issues and negative circumstances dictate your level of joy. You purposefully do things to spread joy and create happy spaces and places and connections. Paint a wall a bright color. Do the Gratitude Dance. Sing. Hug someone. Purposefully choose things that make you happy.
I think it's important to realize the secret of joy from my pastor's sermon. Jesus first. Others important to me, second. Myself, third. "Me time" doesn't come first. My wants don't come first. I recognize that recharging time is important and needed. But not all the time. And not as a top priority. I keep God first. I follow the life path that I believe He wants me to live. I follow the teachings and philosophies of the Bible as best I can. I believe that God is love and love is what my purpose is. Yes, I struggle. I am not perfect. But I try and try and often succeed! Others important to me come second. My husband, my children, my friends, my family. I know I can do better in this area. My husband deserves more attention, more affection, more positive feedback from me. My husband deserves to see my love for him played out every day. Demonstrated, tangible, real. My children deserve my best self as their mother. My kids are a gift that shouldn't be taken for granted. They deserve to be treated with love, respect, and gentle discipline. Again- I struggle.
But don't you see? If I focus my life on being joyful for my family, on demonstrating love for my family, on being grateful for my life and my blessings... there won't be much room for negativity and doubt and anger.
Joseph Campbell said, "Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy."
What if we faced our sorrows, our stress, our problems with joy?
Ralph Waldo Emerson: "There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us. 'Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night's lodging. 'Tis better to be hospitable to his good meaning and thought, and give courage to a companion. We must be as courteous to a man as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light."
That's deep. We take a picture and put it in the right light so it will look its best. But we won't do that with people around us. Interesting... but if we approach all situations with joy and are eager to share our joy... think of the impact!
So there are deep ways to truly live a life of joy. There are small things and big things around me that represent joy. But joy is more than happiness. Joy is bigger and deeper than that. Blasting some happy dance music through my ear buds might help me focus my energy in the right direction but if I don't have joy within myself... if I don't already have gratitude, purpose, hope... it's only a band aid.
Do you live a joyful life?