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evaluating my joy


From John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted...



John Ortberg's description of his daughter's dance after her bath as an expression of joy is poignant. When he talks about so much of life being about waiting, I can follow right along--and my life often feels like the supreme dish of waiting. Wait for taxi, wait for this person to transport me, wait for the doctor to see me, wait for someone to pull the book I need from the library shelf, wait while someone copies a journal article for me since I can't do it myself, wait while the person who's transporting me runs an errand because it's convenient for them... I recently discussed with someone the fact that I scanned the Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature. "That's a huge book! Why didn't you just have someone help you get what you needed?" Because by the time I met up with someone, went through and figured out what I needed, made the copies, and came home and scanned them, I would have spent more time than it took me to scan the book--and I can also do additional things while scanning the book that I cannot do while working with someone to make copies. Waiting is my nemesis!



Am I a joyful person? I get very mixed signals about this, and it's very hard for me to evaluate my joyfulness. There are some people in my life who think that I am "negative." My perception is that this evaluation comes about when they don't like my responses to painful events and they would prefer me to be "happy" all the time. I think that there is a difference...Jesus was joyful. However, he was not happy on the cross or in the Garden of Gethsemane. I don't have an equivalent experience in my life; but I do have some rather painful ones. What does it mean, exactly, to "rejoice always" when I am in pain? Does it mean putting the pain away? Or does it mean enduring and remembering that the pain does pass?



I like the idea of "feasting days." My problem is that I have "feasting days" all the time. I'm very good at not taking care of my body nutritionally. It's not an easy thing to do. So, jumping ahead, I need to exercise a combination of disciplines to address a balance of needs. And instead of using food as a reward, I need to use it as a discipline. This is a real challenge for me because I tend to do a lot of things mindlessly.



What I don't do mindlessly:



Pet the cats: This is a very intentional act that brings me joy and peace. While I'm petting the cats, I take intentional time to pray and "fix my attitude" for the day or night. I think that all of the cats have sensed this, and they insist on their pets often throughout the day.



Pick out my clothes: This used to be an area where I really struggled with apathy, particularly on days when I did not feel well. Why take the time to "dress up" when I felt "gross?" I don't know when the change occurred in me. Perhaps it coincided with going to seminary itself. I had a reason to care; I wasn't just bumming around the house. On days when I feel especially cranky or tired, I find that I want to be extra attentive to what I wear. I went downstairs one day, and Mom asked where I was going because of the way I was dressed. "Just school, but I only slept for three hours." I do find that it helps me to stay awake... It reminds me to "act the way I feel." I would still find that shopping for new outfits is a trial because what makes me "feel pretty" and what makes me "look pretty" sometimes clash. Finding a happy medium matters when the result I'm aiming for is my own feeling of joy and I can't allow that to be dependent on other people's opinions of what I wear.



I think there are some additional things I could do in the future to nurture additional joy--things that I do sporadically now depending on time. Making time for music in my life, running some essential oils in the diffuser, keeping up with housework so that I'm happy with the state of the place where I'm spending my evenings...

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Sarah Blake LaRose
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