Category Archives: joy

my early christmas present

Finally Facebook has proved itself useful! Last night, a childhood friend reached out who I haven’t seen in probably 15 years plus. We were inseparable in elementary school. I was so thrilled to hear from her. She looked fantastic, married with a new baby, what an exciting time in her life. My excitement on reconnecting with her made me ponder. After all the gifts are exchanged in a few days, I know nothing I get will give me the same warm, wonderful feeling as hearing from my old friend. The absolute absence of expectation, of getting something I didn’t even know I wanted, is so wonderful. Often, after all the gifts are ripped open on Christmas, the first thing my kids say is “I’m bored!” Of course, the anticipation is so much more exciting than the gift itself. The lack of anticipation makes the getting so much more wonderful. I’m still smiling about my friend, thank you for such a wonderful gift!

the happiness challenge

A friendly challenge to blog about happiness has been opened, because apparently it’s contagious and, as I consider myself a very happy person, I’d like to spread the wealth. Since the topic of this blog is religion I’ve decided to write about something religious or spiritual that makes me very happy. Hmm, it is at this point that I realize I don’t typically associate my writing about religion with happiness – not that it makes me unhappy, as a matter of fact it’s quite fulfilling, it just doesn’t bring that big smile to my face :). So time to change that!

Top 9 things about religion/spirituality that make me happy (10 just seemed too predictable 🙂

1. My children – because the miracle of birth will always be a miracle. It never ceases to amaze me how little doctors actually know about why things happen in pregnancy, why people can’t or can have children. All I can do is thank God for allowing me to raise these two precious souls.

2. The concept of God – I would be nowhere without this, and I certainly wouldn’t have a blog ;). But the belief in a greater being/spirit/whatever does make me very happy.

3. The Christmas season – see previous post, conflicted but VERY happy. We get our tree today as a matter of fact, yea!

4. The cross – I collect crosses and there is something very joyful to me about the symbol, despite all that I can’t decipher about my personal feelings on the subject of Jesus and the crucifixion, the symbol itself does make me happy…and maybe that’s enough.

5. Karen Armstrong – I must say, I get giddy excited when I hear she has a new book out or is speaking somewhere. The religious discussions that she inspires, and her charter for compassion are totally joy inducing.

6. The Quakers – I LOVED attending the Quaker meetings and felt happier than I ever had “going to church” in the traditional sense.

7. Graveyards – this may seem like an odd one, but ask those who know me, I’m gaga over graveyards. The history, the peace, the sense of seeing into the past, and for the spiritual unknowns of death.

8. Churches – much like the crosses, I’m drawn to churches in a way I can’t really explain. Or I should say houses of worship in general, not just Christian churches.

9. The journey – my journey with faith, the seeking itself, is so rewarding to me. It can present extreme moments of happiness and the opposite – which we won’t mention in a post about happiness. I’m very thankful and happy for my personal quest, and for anyone else seeking.

loving what you do

So I miss blogging terribly and I hope to get back to it soon, but I just have to say: I LOVE MY JOB! It’s been so long since I’ve totally enjoyed what I do and who I’m doing it with that I have to compare it to nothing less than a spiritual experience. It has certainly halted the inner reflection which has been a good break for me and I feel connected to others in a way I have not in some time. It’s even allowed me to reassess my existing relationships and find the truly positive in those…all from a job, who would have guessed it.

And Ken keep those book recommendations coming. My mom bought me 4 of them for my birthday. I can’t wait to start reading.

joy on ash wednesday

Ok, I know it’s not Ash Wednesday anymore, but I felt had to digest my feelings from yesterday. It was a plethora of parental joy moments for me. Not something I get everyday.

I used to say that I didn’t feel like a “real” parent until my kids hit age 4 or 5. This is when parenting moved beyond the care & feeding stage (feed them, make sure they walk, talk, sleep, etc.) to the real emotional work. Helping them learn to care for others, share; understand why someone was mean to them and the like. It is much more exhausting than midnight feedings!

Yesterday, we were discussing Lent. My son said that instead of giving something up he was going to give back. He had decided to read a bedtime book to his sister every night. My heart swelled, how wonderful! How thoughtful! (Plus, it meant I would get a break from reading – horrible I know.) Now you never know how my daughter will react to things, but considering the spirit of Lent she too was thrilled and sang her brother’s praises in the car ride home.

I was so pleased with what was obviously superior parenting skills (!) that I decided to take them out for dinner. It was here that my son confided in me that he was really having trouble at school and wasn’t sure how to handle the bullies in his class. Now the fear set in, that familiar – “oh dear, I’m supposed to be able to guide him through this and I have no idea how to do it” feeling.

No knowing what else to do I just asked questions about the who’s, the what’s, the how it makes him feel, etc. I gave him an analogy of being Luke Skywalker and bringing his friends over from the “dark side”. Well, this definitely struck a cord with him. [Star Wars, by the way, is a constant theme in my life] Eventually through all the talking he got to a point that he felt comfortable with and I got one of the biggest compliments: “mom, you’re a little better than the teacher at this stuff”. 😉 Wow! And I was just fumbling through!

So, as I begin my attempt at seeing more beauty in the world (see “impatience“) it should come as no surprise that once again it the lesson is from my kids. They are a constant source of joy and inspiration when I least expect it. My daughter has an amazing ability to move on – she can be devastated one moment and laughing the next, forgiving whoever had so disturbed her. I am in awe of her. My son’s big heart and practical approach remind me of myself – without the cynical taint of adulthood.

I was thinking about this last night when I saw and NPR story titled “On Ash Wednesday, Religion and Joy

On this Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and a period of fasting, Father James Martin reminds us that joy is one of the upsides of being religious, although it’s not mentioned nearly enough among the faithful.

Lately, I’ve been more focused than usual on the non-joy of religion. My journey is at a point where I have more questions than answers and because of that I find I’m frowning more than smiling; which is probably affecting my ability to see the things I’m blessed by. So I’m taking this chain of events as a wake up call. I will take hint from Father Martin’s piece and focus on the joy. I suppose this means I’m giving up pessimism for Lent!

joy moments

I started a tradition with my kids at the dinner table called Joy Moments. Each night we go around the table and each of us list our “joy moments” for the day. These are, as I tell my kids, whatever made you smile. It’s [usually] a fun exercise and a great way for me to hear about my kids days. There is the occasional squabble about who gets to go first and then it’s all downhill from there!

My kids never have any trouble listed 5-10 joy moments for the day. One of them is always “eating dinner with my family”, which of course I LOVE! On the flip side, I do occasionally have a hard time coming up with some bit of joy from my day. If it’s a particularly bad day the joy moment is picking up my kids and coming home. Not a rousing endorsement for my life. So of late, I’ve really tried to learn from my kids and focus more on the little joy moments and try and over look the general feeling of blah at the end of my work day.

One way I do that is to save the last 1/2 hour or so of the day for catching up on my blog reading, especially the Quaker blogs that I regularly visit. I find the most inspiring, wonderful thoughts there that really help me focus on the Positive. This routine has made a huge difference in my dinnertime joy moments. As a matter of fact, the online Quaker community was a wonderful surprise to me. I’ve just recently started attending meetings and the wealth of support and information online is amazing. I don’t think I’ve seen this much virtual positiveness anywhere else online. Keep it up!

My second trick is a slight variation on joy moments. I call this “the good things”. As I lie in bed at night, right before I fall asleep I list all the good things that happened to me that day. These are not necessarily joy moments. They may have even been stressful at the time, but with the day behind me I can look back and see what events really had an overall positive impact on me. This practice helps me focus on the unexpected good that can happen during the day. And understand that even what we don’t appreciate at the time can be a source of strength for us.

My last tactic right after the “good things” is to visualize what good things or joy moments I want to have the next day. It’s about mentally preparing me to have a good day. The things I envision don’t always happen of course but that’s not really the point. My brain is already thinking positively about tomorrow.

Try these out; share them with your kids. It’s a wonderful experience.