This year I have kept a “joyfulness journal”- you know, basically you write down all of the little things in your day that have made you smile. A few years ago I read Ann Voskamp’s Christmas devotional; The Greatest Gift which brought me to her blog and taught me this insightful way of looking at life. I have sporadically kept a list of what I refer to as my blessings-of-the-day ever since. It helps me when I swing toward the sadness end of the pendulum arc. As I look back through it, I’ve noticed a few repetitions and have spent some time thinking about why these things are moments that I count as joy.
First off; naps! My own, my children’s, my husband’s, it doesn’t matter. If someone was sleeping I probably made note of it. This one seemed so obvious to me, though I felt there had to be more to it than just a baby (or older child) giving me a short reprieve from caring for them. My two-year-old still naps, praise God in heaven!!, she went through a rough patch where she fought her nap and bedtime which brought about long, exhausting days! I began allowing her to nap on the sofa in the middle of our daily chaos and she has blissfully rested nearly every day since. The change for her was the power I gave her in allowing her to choose where she napped. I’ve read that around 24 months toddlers discover and begin to assert their autonomy, truly all she wanted was to have some small piece of control in her napping situation. When I see my older children struggling through a hard day my “go-to” cure is suggesting that maybe a nap would help them feel better. They rarely see the wisdom in my advice, they do however, accept my second suggestion with much more ease and even happiness-quiet time.
Quiet time. I can say those words out loud and they cause me to take a deep breath as if I am filling not just my lungs with air but my soul with peace. My husband works hard so that we can school at home and I am very grateful for all that he does to ensure we are well cared for. His job is not the only way he provides for us though, he also strongly suggests that I take time for myself. He will take all three of our younger children to the grocery store, he will spend the afternoon with them while I go for a walk with a dear friend, he suggests time out of the house or ensures the quiet at home if that’s where I’d rather be. He is very good at this because he knows that the days of mothering are spent at an intense volume, and that I need the silence for my very sanity! It was for this reason that over the past winter I intentionally encouraged my six and nine year old to seek out their own quiet, I helped them to be aware of the times of day when they wanted things to stay quiet around them. I encouraged them to read in their beds before sleep or before coming upstairs to start their day. They are rambunctious, loud, high-energy, normal kids, but they both seek out the quiet in their days now and I count this as a great joy.
The third item that repeats itself in many different ways on my list is outside time. There are entries about time spent weeding, flower blooms, climbing rocks, hot sunshine, walking in state parks, sitting on our deck, kids splashing in the pool… It definitely doesn’t take a deep thinker to realize that I keep a piece of myself outdoors. There is only one problem with this; I live in Minnesota. We have about five months of what I would call good weather, six if I can enjoy damp, windy, chilly May moving early perennials. If. The rest of the year I have to pressure myself into going outside, I don’t play in the snow with my littles and I’m not sorry! I invite their friends over often though and provide mugs of cocoa with marshmallows when they come inside like any good (sane) mother would. I try to find beauty in snowfalls and sparkly, frozen front yards, but it is forced. My joy is not found in MN in winter and so I soak up summer. I will sit in the heat of the day allowing the sun to pour down its goodness and concentrate on saving it up for January. You do what you can! Gardening season is good for me because of the ability to create alongside the great Creator. I plant seeds and pray for growth, I divide perennials and pray for beauty. I plan out a garden bed and entrust it’s success to the only One who can provide it. I don’t weep (much) if something doesn’t grow, I know that Gods plan is greater than mine, even if it’s a plan for wild, cold hardy roses instead of candied pink, double-full, zone six, climbing roses. I should know by now that the wild always wins out in my heart over the cultivated anyhow. This gardening/creating is my most common cause to note gifts and also the cause for my sadness when it is lacking.
Using this journal as a reminder, I look at my life a little differently. I don’t always see the good, but this book helps me to look for it. On the days when I am in cold darkness (literally or figuratively) I can look through my book and see that the peace is right here in my house, in my yard. Other people have joked that little things such as pink peony blossoms or the smile of a two-year-old are not enough to live a joyful life, but I’d argue that these are the exact moments God wants us to revel in. If we stop seeing the good in the small, we will need ever increasingly large events to provide happiness. While noticing bees buzzing in the Russian sage will cause us to focus on things outside of ourselves, things beyond our control, things that were put into place as a gift from God if we’re willing to stop and look. Is cream swirling in coffee a gift straight from God? Probably not, but it can be counted good if I choose to thank Him for my awareness, my stillness in this moment. The things themselves are not the only point, it’s the way we use those moments to remind us of God’s goodness. This day I will scroll out blessings, moments, and toddler giggles in my book. And I will live a fuller life because of it.
I’d love to know what you count today as joy.