I wanted to continue my thoughts on finding joy in the everyday mundane, and as I said in my first post on this topic, I am following up with a post on how exactly it is that I've come to a place of deep seeded joy...not just day to day happiness, but joy that is present no matter the circumstances.
First I want to clarify something...
While I'm writing about the 'hows' of being and remaining joyful, these steps can only go so far.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. This means that the Holy Spirit is the only one who can give a person joy.
So, first and foremost, more importantly than anything else, is abiding in the Spirit.
The Spirit controls the fruit we as Christians produce...He gives to us as he wills. But if we aren't abiding in him through prayer, worship and the Word, we won't see any fruit.
That said, I've prayed and prayed over the past few years for joy, and while I know it's a work of the Spirit, I also believe that we have to do our part as well. It's like praying for a job...the Lord provides a job, but we still have to do the work of job hunting, filling out applications, interviewing, etc. The same is true of joy...He gives it, but (I believe) there are things we can do on our end to keep from having that joy robbed.
Today I'm focusing on practicing gratitude and being present, which go hand in hand and truly are a 'practice' (and anything we practice enough becomes habit).
Sometime last year, I picked up Ann Voskamp's book1,000 Gifts. I wasn't really that interested, but it was free at a church garage sale and I had heard so many things about it that I figured I'd take it and maybe read it someday. Life changer. Game changer. Totally and completely shifted the way I think. It was a slow read because it was so deep and I wanted to digest every bit. When I finished the book I went out and bought a beautiful leather bound journal which is used solely for the purpose of writing gifts each day. My gratitude journal. Like I said, it takes practice, but after a few months of being intentional about thankfulness, actively looking for the gifts in life, some of them almost imperceptible and easily missed if not looking, something shifted in my mind; in my spirit.
I noticed it on a particularly cold day this past winter. I was sitting in the car letting it warm up for a few minutes before driving somewhere, and the heat hadn't kicked in. I could see my breath and my neck was starting to ache from shivering so violently. The previous winter I would've been complaining out loud or in my mind about how much I hate MT winters, how summer is still so far off, how it's so miserable and lifeless and long and awful. But something was different on this cold morning. And it wasn't conscious. I realized as I started down the hill that my mind had been in a positive place as I waited for the car to warm up. My thoughts were that the air was crisp and clean and refreshing; that the snow was bright and beautiful, perched precariously on the tree limbs; that I was so glad for a car with a working heater to get around on these cold days. That I had a toasty house to go back to and blankets and little babies to cuddle with. It hit me that I don't love winter any more than I used to, but that I had learned to be thankful in all things and see beauty in all things.
It's funny, the more things I write in my journal, the more things I see each day. Simple things, small things, become extravagant gifts from God. And joy is hard to skip over when you're aware of the many gifts He's placing all around, if we would/could just be still and present enough to notice and give thanks.
Being present...what a difficult thing to do in 2015!
I heard on the radio that the average human in developed countries now has an attention span of 8 seconds (we lose to goldfish, who can concentrate for 9 seconds! Yikes!!) I am guilty, and fighting it. In my house, there is a laptop, an ipad (sometimes two if Brad brings his school one home), and iphones. This means we are constantly connected...constantly looking something up, finding a new recipe, a new article to read, a person to text or call, social media to check, pictures to post, music to turn on, videos to watch. In and of itself, none of these are bad, but it's too much. God forbid my kids think my electronic devices take precedence over them. This doesn't mean getting rid of our computers and phones, but rather choosing to use them responsibly and moderately. The Hands Free Mama is such a great resource. She blogs the most inspiring things about being present in the here and now. (I dare call her blog a game changer, just like the book I mentioned...highly recommend it!)
I want to notice what's in front of me and slow down to see the beauty all around me. This includes my kids and whoever else I'm surrounded by, as well as nature and my physical, material surroundings. How often do we miss the sunrise because we are already up and running and tackling our to-do list and checking our e-mail and Facebook, so busy that we can't step out on the porch for a moment to take it in and say "thank you" to the painter. I want to soak in every moment of life...I want to watch my girls and cheer them on as they climb a tree at the park, look my newborn in the eyes and make her smile, give my husband my full attention and ask about his day when he gets home, take the time to ask the cashier how her day is going and actually care about and acknowledge her response. I want to smile at the people I pass on the sidewalk as I go for a walk, and notice the vibrant color of the poppies against the dark hue of the brick house. I want to slow my brain down so that I pray with out ceasing...something that's become hard for me because I'm too distracted. The more present I am, the more things I notice to be thankful for, and my joy unfolds and is unshakable. I want this to be everyday, but I have to fight against my flesh and I'm willing to bet that's most of us.
I encourage you to fight for it too. Life is too beautiful and full of gifts to miss out by having our noses in a screen and our minds on a million unimportant things.
Abide in the Spirit. Be thankful and open your eyes to look for the gifts surrounding you. And joy will start to permeate your days...it's pretty hard to be gloomy when you notice all the gifts He's bestowed...