unwavering joy

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.
-Marianne Williamson

Everyday I talk to people who only see the bad in life – they complain about how hot it is, or how cold it is, or it’s raining, or they’re late for work and it’s all someone else’s fault (sometimes it is, sometimes its’ not) or the cashier didn’t smile or the bills aren’t paid or, or, or, I could go on but I won’t. And, sometimes life does suck. But that doesn’t mean we are bound to a joyless life.

Regardless of the circumstances, whether I am filled with joy or not all depends on my attitude and how I look at my life. I am not equating joy with happiness. Happiness is fleeting, based on emotions and circumstances. I am very happy when its’ my birthday or I get to spend time with my family. I am very happy when I get paid and I have a little money left over to buy some books. I am really happy when I have a bowl of my favorite ice cream! But none of those things brings me joy.

Joy is internal; it is peace in the midst of a storm; it is a calm reassurance that no matter how bad the world looks right now, all will be well; it is gratitude; it is love; it is faith; and unlike fly-away happiness, it is constant. Joy is unwavering, we only need to tap into it and allow it to fill us up even when life sucks.



grumpy or cheerful: your choice

…I have too much of the vanity of human affairs to expect felicity from the splendid scenes of public life. I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be;
for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our disposition, and not upon our circumstances.
We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go.
–Martha Washington, Letter to Mercy Otis Warren, December 26, 1789.
William O. Foss, First Ladies Quotations Book

Each morning upon awakening I have a choice – to be cheerful and happy or to be miserable and grumpy. More often than not I choose to be miserable and grumpy. That is my natural state of being. For some souls, their natural state of being is happiness and cheerfulness. And people like that can drive me crazy! (I used to have a roommate that was like that – my goodness cheerfulness is hard to take in the morning!) Later, after I’ve woken up a bit, then I am able to make the choice to be cheerful despite my circumstances.

I do agree with Martha Washington, that we make up our minds as to how we want our lives go – at least as far as we look at it. Like everyone on this planet I have had days (weeks, months, even years) when the world seems to fall down around me and inside me. Some of that time is spent in justifiable grumpiness and misery; after all, to deny the emotion is to just postpone its expression.

But at some point the misery just becomes a habit and is no longer of value. I have to choose to be happy and cheerful. So even if I don’t feel like it, don’t want to do it yet know I must do it, I put a smile on my face and try to be cheerful. This is my first step toward understanding a lesson in joy.

I don’t just want to be happy or cheerful. That smacks of hiding behind a mask of false emotion. But in order for me to get there – to get to joy – I must be willing to receive it; and for me to be willing is to be cheerful and try to find the bright side of my life. I often look to my furchildren for both joy and happiness. They make me laugh, they comfort me, and express their love to me in their own unique ways.

I guess what I’m really saying is each of us has a choice – a choice to sit in cow dung or to get out, take a shower and get on with life. What will you choose?

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Joy is importantly different from mere pleasure.
Joy has in it the real recognition of the contrasts and depths and problems of life.
Joy is an act of courage because it can carry you through anxieties and sorrow.
– Claudia Lady Bird Johnson,
Remarks at the Congressional Prayer Breakfast, Washington, D.C., February 1, 1967
William O. Foss, First Ladies Quotations Book

Part of letting go of suffering, letting go of old angers and bitterness, and working toward forgiveness is taking joy where you can find it. I agree with Mrs. Johnson, that joy is an act of courage.

Case in point, I love chocolate in almost any form. I can drink it, eat it, slurp it – and it brings me pleasure. But it doesn’t bring me joy.

Even in my darkest hours, when the Abyss looms large on the horizon or my poor decisions have driven me to distraction and anxiety I am still able to find joy in this world if I look for it and am open to it.

For years I didn’t know how to do this and if I experienced joy it only served to remind me that I was otherwise miserable. But now, through God’s Grace, I have learned to take my joy where I can find it, hold on and savor it and let it carry me through to the other side of the pain I am experiencing.

If you’re looking for it, joy can be found in the smallest, overlooked things – like a bird going in and out of a nest busy feeding hungry chicks, the games my furchildren play with me and with each other, the luminescent beauty of the sun shining through a freshly bloomed flower or the smell of rain on hot asphalt in the summer. These small, seemingly insignificant things bring me joy – and joy gives me the courage to keep going each day, sometimes hour by hour, moment by moment.

Take heart – joy is there for you if you want it and look for it. One of the beautiful qualities of joy is that it is different for each of us and if you ask to see the joy around you, you will see it. What others see as annoying or an eyesore, it will be a joy to you because the God of All Joy knows exactly what you need to bring you courage. Savor that moment of joy as a gift and let it carry you for a while. It’s okay to put your burden down for a few moments. It will be there when you return and it might even be a little lighter.

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