With the Christmas season fast approaching it’s hard to not feel a sense of joy that only the season brings. For some, joy might be harder to find because a certain loved one isn’t here to share it with you, or there may be circumstances going on in your life that makes finding the joy of the season to be harder to unearth. Whatever your circumstances this time of year, I pray you’ll be able to find peace and joy, no matter how small.
I would hate for this blog post to sound like one of those “cure all” posts on how if you follow these 5 steps you’ll become the most joyful person in the universe because we all know that’s a bit far fetched. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about our ability to choose “joy” instead of stressed, anxious, angry…etc. I can’t say I’ve found an approach that is foolproof, but what I do know is that I’ve been able to do a better job on making joy a more common and natural thing in my life.
Our family spent 2016 through 2017 feeling stressed and maxed out. Dusty’s schooling was taking a toll on us and having a newborn made it doubly hard, mix in the fact that we did not have family living nearby to help us out…we were hot messes, especially myself. There were days that I went to bed at night and felt like I grumbled my way through the day. I gave myself a little grace, knowing the season of life we were in…but I also felt like I was wasting precious time being negative and having a “woe is me” attitude. Being married to someone like Dusty is so wonderful, he’s almost always a glass half full kind of guy. He has this uncanny ability to take even the worst of situations and find the bright spots. This balances us out quite nicely, as I tend to be the glass half empty one in the relationship but I also knew that only I had the power to change my way of thinking.
In coming to the conclusion that I needed a mind shift I also knew that there would still be days that undoubtedly would be hard – because life is hard, I wasn’t going to change that Rowan had more tantrums than should be legal in any one day, that our house would be messy more than I cared for it to be, and that Dusty’s schedule would annoy me to the max…but I started to realize that if I kept living in this world of “dread” or “woe is me” I’d be robbing myself of some of the best days and years of my life. Days and years I would never get back. I knew I couldn’t make things perfect, but I could make them better. And it had to start with me.
Understanding Joy vs Happiness
I read a blog post via the She Works HIS Way app and it changed the way I thought about feelings of joy and happiness. It talked about how happiness results merely from what happens to us while joy results from the pursuit of what happens FOR us. Happiness is cause and effect. Joy is a pursuit. We tend to search this life for false highs of happiness with hope that it will cure what ails us. If we can just “have enough money to buy XX” then I will be happy….or “If my child will just sleep through the night!” then I will be happy…”If my boyfriend/husband will just start being more XX” then I will be happier. Chasing happy leaves us feeling empty. Pursuing joy…will be what keeps us going. I was told that Letters to the Church by Francis Chan is a great book that helps dive into this topic more closely.
Changing Your Mindset & Way You Think
I recently read the Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines, I’m a huge Joanna Gaines fan – and not for her impeccable design style but also for her honesty about life and motherhood in this book. I love the chapter on “Surviving or Thriving” and how she talks about the mental shift she had to take in order to start enjoying herself more. What I loved about this chapter of the book is that it was speaking toward something that was already on my heart and mind lately. This mental shift that I wanted to make a regularity in my life. I am a firm believer that our brain power and thoughts help drive our feelings. I’m still learning a lot about this – but I believe we are the ones responsible for our ability to see the bright side of things – day in and day out. Training our thoughts to pick up the positives in a situation will help us find joy more intentionally. For example, it’s a snowy day in April (yes, April, for those of you living in the mid-west or northern Michigan, this is a reality) and you could look out the window and say “ugh, again? I can’t believe it’s April and we are still getting snow. What am I going to possibly do all day today with my kids?” or “oh it’s snowing! I didn’t expect that in April. Looks like we’ll have to bundle up and go play in the snow today!”
Adjusting the Company You Keep
I’m not saying that you should ditch your friends. What I mean is…who do you follow and listen to? What do you digest and consume? When it comes to social media, are you following the Kardashians (its ok if you are) but then make sure to have a healthy dose of real-world women or people in the mix. People who inspire you, challenge you, speak uplifting words and wisdom. I did a big fleshing out of who I follow on Instagram not too long ago – I started to create an Instagram “collection” of bloggers and friends that post uplifting content – stuff I can relate to. I removed celebrities and accounts that didn’t feel authentic and I made sure I was intentional about who and what I saw. I also started to listen to more worship music. I made playlists on Amazon Music and adjusted them with the season. I’ve seen a huge change in my outlook on things by simply adjusting these things.
Place Inspiration & Reminders Around You
I tend to be one of those “heart on my sleeve” kind of people. When something gets my emotions moving I have a hard time holding back what I’m feeling or thinking. And so while something around me is causing frustration or annoyance, I tend to need a gentle reminder to – breathe, relax, and respond in a way that’s encouraging and uplifting. Again, easier said than done, and I still mess up. I’ve found that placing little uplifting reminders around my house and in places I spend the most time help me battle my current mood and situation. Whether it’s a symbol, phrase, quote, passage, image, etc. visually seeing something that reminds me to take a step back and think before speaking or to help remind me “it’s really not that bad” makes all the difference. You can use a letter board (which I love) or this awesome one similar to one Joanna Gaines has in her home. I frequently have bible verses on mine. You can also write on little note cards that have little sayings on them and place them in special places in your home that you love to frequent – for me, it would be by the kitchen sink, next to our oven, near the bathroom sink, and on my nightstand, or as a place marker in a good book. I even put them as a note on my phone and glance at them quickly or you can create an uplifting message and set it as your phone background.
Give Up Control & Trust
I’ve always been a little bit of a control freak but it’s subsided A LOT in the last 5 or so years. Just ask my husband. When I was younger and probably more immature I’d get upset if plans we had made got thwarted by weather (way out of my control) and I had a hard time “going with the flow”. After many years of rolling through the ups and downs of Dusty’s medical school stresses, experiencing a miscarriage, and then a new baby – I can say with certainty that I’ve done a 180 when it comes to needing to “have control”. Much of it has come with age and living life and going through hard things. I’ve also learned to rely more on God, I saw that my obsession with control meant that I didn’t let God take the wheel, I didn’t trust. By trusting more and learning how to respond to what was in my control and what was not…things started to flow more easily. You can’t just say “Ok, I’m giving up control” that was the hard lesson learned here. I had to actually find contentment and peace within myself and say “its ok, whatever will be will be” and keep this mindset consistent…until it became second nature.
Get Right With the Word
I tend to be a bit of a “coaster” when it c0mes to faith and my relationship with God. My commitment to daily or regular scripture readings and devotionals tends to ebb and flow like the wind. I find it ironic that when life begins to feel the messiest and I’m struggling to feel as if I’m keeping afloat there’s always one thing that I’m truly missing. I can have my inspirational wall hangings up and around the house, I can have a good mindset and determination to have a good day or week, I can cross things off my to-do list, but if I operate on autopilot for too long without checking in daily with the one who has already gone before me…I slip, fall, and crash and burn. And I don’t mean just the stumble a little and brush myself off again type of crash and burn – I mean I get road rash! But if I make time in the morning or evening or during nap time to do a quick devotional and meditate on what God is trying to teach me in that season of life things tend to fall into place more naturally than if I were to assume that my abilities were all my own. One of my favorite morning devotionals right now is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I also love the quick devotional, The Confident Woman by Joyce Meyer.
Thankful & Grateful
A big one that has really helped me when it comes to focusing on optimism and creating intentional joy is intentionally finding and remembering all that I have to be thankful and grateful for. I really love Anne Voskamp’s book, 10,000 Gifts it was one of the first books that opened my eyes to the epiphany of what it meant to be truly “thankful” or “grateful” about everything. The simple things. For example, the way the sun rises right into our kitchen window by the sink while I’m washing up our breakfast dishes in the morning – and the way the sun glistens off of the icicles hanging along the eves. Or the way Rowan’s laugh isn’t just a laugh but this giddy little excited and thrilled ear piercing toddler laugh that only a toddler could do and be cute when they do it…and how my heart explodes when my ears hear it. What about those little itty bitty moments that we tend to overlook? That we have the opportunity to be SO very grateful for. I’ve started to jot down things I am grateful for on and off throughout my week inside a little notebook, I love looking back at it over time and seeing reminding myself of those moments – each one brings a smile to my face and fills me with joy. I am intentional about keeping devotionals and this gratitude journal within a quick arms reach when I need them. They aren’t hidden under my nightstand or on a cluttered bookshelf, they are placed where I can grab them when I have a few moments of uninterrupted silence.
I don’t know that these steps create a cure-all plan for making life “more joyful” but I can say that they help me a lot! I hope you can find a way to adopt one or all into your own day-to-day life and that seeking joy this Christmas season comes as naturally as the season.
Cheering you on,
Outfit Links: Sweater c/0 Mo:vint – Callie Sweater