10 Ways to Return to Joy

Things are back in full swing, trailing the giddy expectations of New Year resolutions, goals, plans…needed one, inspiring ones, shoot-for-the-moon ones. All of which now bear the faint discoloration that comes from being doused in twenty-four-hour increments of alarm clocks, computer-glossed eyes, and sticky-fingerprints left on your pant legs.

No one said goal-keeping is easy. Except maybe that little voice in our heads. You know, the one that conjures grand expectations of the way we think things are supposed to be? I know that voice well. We’re practically BFFs. But there’s another voice on its coattails. The one that whispers, “It’s not going to be easy, but I promise there will be joy in the pursuit if you don’t try to do it on your own.”

Return to joy. It’s an invitation. A heartfelt nudge. Will you join me this year?

First stop? Last week’s blog: Return to Joy: 10 Musts for 2015 (Part 1). Let’s keep going. Together.

Individual Plaque

6.  Give Yourself Permission to Dream Again
I can hear the kickbacks now. “It’s too painful.” “Why bother?” I hear ya. Believe me, I do. The pursuit of any dream will bring this confrontation to your doorstep: Is it worth the cost to dream? I can’t answer this for you. You won’t make it more than a block down the road without first answering that question for yourself. But can I offer this encouragement?

I think it’s time we get militant. Because here’s the deal. As John Eldredge so aptly puts it, “The story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you can become and fears it.” Let’s not give our enemy the satisfaction of settling for less than our promises. Test the dream, yes. But don’t shrink back from the pursuit just because it comes at a cost.

7.  Bust Out those Hairbrush Microphones
Music has a way of expressing things we’d never find adequate enough words to do. It reaches depths of our souls that nothing else can. Songs can evoke a world of memories in a single chord. It stirs emotions and fans life back into our weary spirits. Don’t miss out on the way music can revitalize your heart this new year.

I don’t care if you can’t carry a tune, as long as you own it. So, bust out those hairbrush microphones, sing at the top of your lungs in the car, and let joy take over from the inside out. It’s good for the soul; trust me.

8.  Practice the Art of Giving
We’re all caught up in our own stuff, right? Schedule demands. Pursuits. Dreams of our own. We tend to wade through most days with blinders that prevent us from noticing the folks trudging alongside us. But even our best of dreams are devoid of meaning apart from sowing into others. Selfless giving will cultivate joy far deeper than selfish receiving. Always. I LOVE finding creative ways to give. Again, don’t overcomplicate it.

  • You know all those outdated eyeglasses you have taking up space in a drawer somewhere? Donate them.
  • How about bars of soap from hotel trips? Help Clean the World provide practical hygiene for children who are suffering from avoidable diseases.
  • What about that tower of shoes you trip over when you walk in the door? Some of those you’re never going to wear again. Admit it. Donate used shoes and clothes to Soles4Souls.
  • Most of us are from the dinosaur age of paperback books. If you’re like me, you could fill boxes with them. Why not donate some to local libraries. 

9.  Do Something Out of the Ordinary
This, coming from the queen of routine herself! Seriously, though, we’re all busy. I get it. Schedules are a must. But don’t underestimate the power of adding a little change of pace to life. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or ingenious. It just has to be out of the ordinary for you. Keep it simple.

I dragged my husband on a walk with me to our local library the other day. On the way, he said, “I feel like I’m on vacation.” A walk feels like vacation? Okay, sorta sad. But what he meant was, the simple action took him outside his normal Sunday afternoon routine. It got him out of the house and engaging life from a fresh angle.

10.  Don’t Forget to Slow Dance
Yep, you read that correctly. S l o w  d a n c e. Now, married couples, let’s be honest. We stink at this. When was the last time you danced with your spouse? (cricket) Does anybody else have dozens of candles in their house that they never light?

When I was in college, my RA used to put up these motivational blurbs in the bathroom stalls. One was an email forward that went around about a favorite perfume a girl kept putting off wearing because she was saving it for a special occasion. The moment was never good enough. She continued to wait, sure the perfect night would come along. But it never came. The bottle remained unopened, along with a heart that missed all the extraordinary moments of everyday life passing her by.

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