I’m chasing it in 2017. Not just because I’m writing a book on it, which I am (stay tuned!) but because as I’m nearing closer and closer to 40 (in 2018) I feel a deep longing to surrender that which does not serve me so that I have sufficient time and space for that which does.
To know what I can let go of and what I must tend more to, I’ve had to evaluate what does and doesn’t serve me in this season of my life. Connection. Healthy relationships. Reading. Writing. Volunteering. Worshipping. Being slow, being intentional, being present. These things serve me well because they fill me with joy.
Living at warp speed does not serve me.
I do not want to look back on this season and only remember that I was busy. I want to remember playing with my kids, gathering around the table, reading great books—I want precious memories to hold on to, and I can only make them if I slow down.
The critic in my head does not serve me.
And neither does the one in my life who tears me down or the one behind that keyboard who does the same. Comparisons don’t serve me—comparing my home to the photo on Pinterest or my child to hers doesn’t allow for me to appreciate what I have. You’ve heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy (Theodore Roosevelt, I believe.) It’s true.
Distractions don’t serve me.
They pull me away from joy and overload me with too much input. The ever-moving newsfeed that sucks me in with photos of your beautiful family and interesting articles on brain science can be a joy-enhancer in small increments or a joy stealer if I dwell there too long or allow the wrong things into my mind and heart. An overwhelmed mind is not a peaceful mind. A discontented heart feels no joy.
Pushing myself beyond the limit where I feel safe and comfortable because of the expectations of others does not serve me.
And friends, I’ve wrestled with this one for years. There seems to be a certain glory awarded to those who “live big” and “get outside their comfort zones.” Push yourself,” they say. “Reach for new limits.” “Don’t play small.” “Be bold and brave.” You know what? I’m okay with my limits where they are and pushing myself beyond them doesn’t bring glory or growth, it brings me anxiety.
Some of us are made to live big, but we don’t all have the same path or purpose. There’s nothing wrong with living small so long as your heart is content, so don’t let anyone shame you into believing you must be more.
Some of us do the most good in the small, quiet comfort of the ordinary day to day, right where God put us.
Joy is all around me. And you.
If I slow my mind down, Sherlock style, and really pay attention—if I open my eyes and ears and slow my breathing and notice—it’s all over the place! Take a second and look around you. Really look for joy. What do you see?
I wonder with a troubled heart how much joy I missed out on because all I could see was the mess, the deadline, the to-do list, the pile, the same ole monotonous routine. How many smiles did I forfeit? How much laughter passed me by? Most importantly, how many moments of connection did I miss with my loved ones because I was looking at something else? How much living have I missed out on?
Here are my 10 tips to live a joyful life.
1. Set 3 intentions to start your day. Examples— will call an old friend. I will play with my kids. I will be gentle.
2. Tidy your home early and often. It helps your headspace be tidier too.
3. Burn the best candle. Use fancy glasswear. Make a toast. Dress up even if you have nowhere to be. An ordinary day can (and should be) celebrated.
4. Make time to read, both alone and aloud to your children. Every single day.
5. Kitchens are for more than cooking and eating. They often have the best dance floors in the house. Try them out.
6. It’s really hard to hear your own voice when your head is crowded with lots of voices. Clear them out.
7. There is absolutely nothing going on in the online world that is better than what you can cultivate in your real world with a bit of creativity and connection. Spend more time making it interesting and beautiful.
8. If you start saying positive, encouraging, genuinely kind things to your kids every day, you’ll see the power struggles dissipate and your home will be a happier place. Try it and see.
9. Don’t miss out on making a wonderful memory because you don’t want to get your hair wet or smear your mascara.
10. The years with your kids are going to be short whether you slow down and live intentionally or keep up at high speed. The only difference is the amount of beautiful memories you will collect. They’re only little once. Choose joy.