Choose joy.

joy

Sometimes joy is a matter of perspective. It’s reaching down and being grateful for it all, the mess, the euphoria, the triumphs, and the tragedies. Grateful to be here, to have a voice, to have people to care about, to have a chance to make a difference. Joy in it all is a choice.

In Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen unpacks this further:

Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.  What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.

What is the promise behind the circumstances that threaten to steal your joy? Is there something hopeful there? Seeing that promise may just be the key you are looking for.

Don’t miss the joy.

penguinjoy

We generally find what we look for. We are good at it, and that skill helps us to recognize that one face in a sea of faces, to ferret out clues at a crime scene, to heed the landmarks that lead us home. But when we are trying to process a barrage of information coming at us all at once and trying to make sense of it without being overcome, we need to look for the unexpected things, the startling things, the beautiful things. We need to seek joy.

In his Book of Delights, Ross Gay goes on a mission to write about something delightful, everyday. And, while he initially thought he would have to scrounge for delights, after a bit of practice, he learned to find them everywhere. The delightful things were abundant and overflowing. More important, those delights made him realize how interconnected we are and that we are caretakers, each for the other. In a world that can seem cold and callous, we are generally good to each other:

I suppose I could spend time theorizing how it is that people are not bad to each other. But that’s really not the point. The point is that in almost every instance of our social lives, we are, if we pay attention, in the midst of an almost constant, if subtle, caretaking – holding doors open, offering elbows at crosswalks, letting someone else go first, helping with the heavy bags, reaching what’s too high or what’s been dropped, pulling someone back to their feet, stopping at the car wreck – at the struck dog, the alternating merge, also known as the zipper. This caretaking is our default mode, and it’s always a lie that convinces us to act or believe otherwise – always.

As we scrounge for our delights, we begin to see them all around us–the groceries grown and harvested for us to enjoy, the clothes crafted and sewn, the traffic signs to keep us safe, the laughter of children, birdsong, smiles from neighbors, our dog eager for her morning walk. As we notice those delights, we metaphorically feel the embrace of a larger community and feel the joy from being lucky enough to be right here, right now, plop in the middle of the mystery of it all.

Joy is joy is joy.

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We all are finding our way home. The people we think are the most different from us are really on the same journey. We share this emotional experience that is life–the frustration of setbacks, the joy in birth and creation, the anguish of loss, the delight in discovering a twin soul. If there were some way to view our journeys superimposed on top of each other, so that we could see all the connections we have with each other, that would be a cool eye-opening experience. In the mean time, consider this video of all the different types of creatures using the same foot bridge.

Joy is joy is joy.

The joy of it all.

joy

Oh, to be a kid, before we’ve learned to wear masks and tamp down our emotions to keep from looking silly. We’ve mastered the art of staying calm when really we want to grab someone and spin them around in the air because we are so happy to see them, or to guffaw at a joke or funny thought, or to just break out in dance walking down the street.

We are so civilized.

But sometimes, maybe, it’s nice to be like this dog and just let someone know how you feel:

That’s wearing his heart on his sleeve, isn’t it? But life’s short; what’s the point of hiding our joy?

Embrace the now.

lorde

Life is short. Seize it. Spend it. Enjoy it.

And find time to share little moments together with the people who are on this journey with you. For inspiration, watch this delightful video of a dad beatboxing with his very appreciative baby:

 

 

 

Enjoy the journey.

journey

Sometimes our eyes and hearts are focussed so far in the distance, that we fail to see what is right in front of us. The people we spend our days with, the beauty surrounding us, the opportunities we have to make a difference. When we zoom in to the detail, the richness of the particular moment can be astounding and surprising. What a beautiful, remarkable world we live in. So full of complexity. Each person we see is as full of contradictions and surprises as we are ourselves. Each living or created thing we see is so full of detail.

Long-term goals are great, but what a shame if we don’t appreciate each step along the way. We may work side by side with someone but barely know their name let alone what their hopes and dreams are. We may be so busy moving forward that we are blind to the heartache of even the people we live with. It is easy to speed through life with eyes averted like people descending in an elevator focussed only on the floor numbers.

Today take time today to enjoy the journey, the mysteries unfolding all around you, the people who share your path, and all the beautiful and startling things right here, right now.

Like, for example, who can not stop and be amazed at this little beagle shaking its jowls, its great ears flopping to the beat, its sturdy paws holding on in front but shifting with its wagging tail in back, the gorgeous landscape behind it? What a fascinating little miracle, right here. Just this.

Little miracle of the day.

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Choose joy.

joy

Do we have the ability to notice the beautiful even when we are surrounded by ugly? Can we notice the kindness even in the midst of hate? What if we consciously chose to look for the best in every situation?

Melissa Moore says,

But what if I choose joy? What if I choose to wake up every single day and pursue the good in life rather than wallow in the bad? We have so little time on this earth; to really comprehend the shortness of this process we call life is to receive a gift. I simply decided one day to say yes to receiving the message–the one that is alerting me that I am squandering my short time here and to get with the program.

Our time here is so short. Do we want to waste a second of it being petty or small or cruel? When we have the chance to do good, don’t we want to seize it? Yes, life is tough and full of hardships and obstacles, but within each moment we have a chance to make it better, to shine, to lift each other up.

Let’s choose joy.

Remember whose you are.

cleanheart

The days before Christmas can be frantic. We sometimes find our tempers short, our tongues loose, and our wits frayed. We think of Christmas as something in the future, speeding toward us, that we need to hurry around and prepare for so that we can enjoy His coming. But a birthday, like Christmas, is a celebration of something that has already happened. And, in the case of Christmas, it is a celebration of a whole new world order that is here. We are His now, not just at Christmas. We need to shine with His love now and everyday. Particularly when the world is harried. We need to reflect the joy and peace that comes with knowing that love conquers all.

Pause. Breathe. And remember whose you are.

Spread some joy.

infectiousjoy

Have you seen the video of Chewbacca mom? It is now the most watched video of all time. That laugh! That joy! After this video went viral, Chewbacca masks flew off the shelves. They were virtually unobtainable, with prices going into the tens of thousands of dollars online. Candace Payne became an overnight celebrity, featured on talk shows and invited to Facebook, Kohls, and the Star Wars show. There is even a Chewbacca Mom doll available now.

Why was there a stampede for the masks? Perhaps when watching her unbridled joy, people wanted some of what she was having. And the masks are funny, no doubt. But the joy is in her as you can see by the beautiful video she made in response to the Orlando shooting.

In the second video, singing Michael Jackson’s, Heal the World, Candace Payne invites us to “Make a better place, y’all. Fill it with joy, not hate. Come on.” The lyrics are something we can draw on every day:

If you want to know why
There’s love that cannot lie
Love is strong
It only cares of joyful giving
If we try we shall see
In this bliss we cannot feel
Fear of dread
We stop existing and start living

Today, follow Candace Payne’s lead, not in buying a Chewbacca mask, but in spreading the joy and making the world a better place.