I don't know what kind of day you had. I don't know what is on your mind as you read this. You may be cheerful, excited or content... or you may be tired, anxious, lonely or down. Whatever it may be... I want to challenge you to choose joy.
Notice, I didn't challenge you to "be happy." My words were to, "choose joy." John Neafsey writes, "It is possible, for example, to experience a sense of quiet joy in our souls about the overall direction of our love or work life even if things are not particularly easy or pleasant at any given moment" (Neafsey, A Sacred Voice is Calling, 43). Too often we confuse joy for the happiness we may or may not experience in the present moment. Life is hard. People are complicated. Situations are frustrating. Yet... joy can be found. The task of seeking and choosing joy is not always natural. We have a human tendency to focus on our temporary troubles fooling ourselves into thinking there is nothing to celebrate. Nothing worthy of bringing joy. Throw out those lies! Join me in a life-giving, truth-expressing decision for joy.
In my most current journal, there is a designated box on every other page that says, "Highlight of the day." When I first started writing in this particular journal, I remember thinking that this box was unnecessary. I figured that anything worth writing I would have already written within the pages of the journal. It would be redundant to write it again in the box. However, I shortly realized that some days I really hadn't written anything that day that I would consider a "highlight." Some days my journal entries were simply factual, whiny, and just plain uneventful or dismal. On those days, there seemed to be nothing worth highlighting. It was this realization that prompted me to dig deeper for joy. I had to come up with something to write in the box... so I thought a little harder about what was right about the day. What was one thing worth celebrating... worth remembering. During these moments I was able to push aside all that went wrong... all that hurt... and think only of the pleasantries. I can't tell you what a blessing this has become! By consciously choosing to acknowledge at least one good thing from my day, I'm affirming that life is indeed rich with blessings... that joy is all around me... I've just been neglecting to notice.
Ending my journal entries and my days with a "written box of joy" lifts my spirits and lets me truly live. Live as I was meant to. A lot can go wrong in a day. For some reason the wrong is easy to find and remember... but I challenge you to make the effort and seek joy. I've surprised myself by the hints of joy that come to my mind when I take the time to notice. For me, joy can be as grand as getting to see family or friends after way too long... or as simple as the perfect cup of hot chocolate on a cold day. Try it... and once you do, you'll find that joy is all around you. That there is much to celebrate. That the little things are shouting out proving worthy to be called joy.
Highlight of the day: Sitting on the counter top with my roommates talking about life and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter. Sipping a delicious caramel machiato at a bookstore while reading and watching the snow fall quietly on the city. Singing "Just around the riverbend" in public with a friend. A text message that made me smile. Phone call from a faraway friend. Feeling like I belong here. MnMs. The sunset. A pair of new shoes. An old pair of jeans.
But those are just a few of mine... Now it's your turn! Look for joy -- name it -- live it!