In her book, “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough” by Kay Warren, she describes joy like this: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
I like that.
I shared in the last edition of Salt that I am in pursuit of a deeper sense of joy in 2016. I want that calm assurance and settled-down peace even when all hell is breaking loose around me.
In my quest, I have identified some specific influencers of joy. I am recognizing things that bring joy and those things that do not. I call them “Joy Makers and Joy Breakers.”
• Agonizing over the past. “Yesterday’s gone; I let it die. Today is new and so am I.” Regrets often come and try to steal away my joy. Thoughts of all the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas.”
• Fretting over the future. Worry creeps in and gives way to fear. It’s so unproductive and yields to discouragement.
• Feeding the wrong things into my spirit. It seems to be a constant temptation to overload with information, or spend time around negative, depressed or angry people. There’s a time to reach out to others in need, but too much time with the wrong kind of folks can be so draining.
• Trying to fix others. I have to remind myself that that is not my job. I have to turn it over and trust.
• Holding others hostage, making them accountable for my joy. My friends, my husband, my children are not responsible for my joy. I have to own that.
• Lack of rest. The acronym HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. The combination can be a “joy breaker.” Time to halt, pause and address my own needs.
• Learning to be content. Not complacent, but content. That includes accepting the present the way it is, accepting others the way they are, being mindful of changing what I can, and content not to change what I can’t.
• Serving others. Doing something for someone else is probably one of the most selfish things I can do for myself. It fuels my joy when I can serve someone, whether it’s just a word of encouragement or taking care of a debt they can’t pay.
• Ask for help. Enlist the aid of friends, leaders or counselors. Let go of control (particularly challenging to me).
• Prioritize my responsibilities, whether it’s work, family or taking care of me. There is something about order that calms me and fuels my joy.
• Quit procrastinating. Tackle the task that is most dreaded first. Get it out of the way and get on with the day.
• Physical reminders of quotes, verses or sayings. Whether it’s a sticky note, an inspiring article, or a framed piece of art that addresses joy, these are good ways to keep the focus on joy.
• Take time to take care of my own physical, spiritual and mental needs. Take time to inject some fun, entertainment, rest and recreation into the routine of my life. Find a hobby. Spend some time doing what brings you joy.
• Spend time with other joy makers.
Something else that brings me joy is spending time in the kitchen. Here’s my recipe for meatloaf, one of those comfort foods that seems to be a welcome entrée, especially in cooler weather. It’s also good leftover to make into a sandwich the next day. I usually make two loaves, one to eat and one to freeze.
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup oatmeal (old-fashioned)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce or ketchup
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine all the ingredients, except barbecue sauce, in a large bowl, shape into two loaves, and place in loaf pans. I like to put barbecue sauce on top or sometimes ketchup. Bake for about 45 minutes.
If you freeze one loaf, you do not have to bake it. Just pop it in the freezer after you have sealed the pan with freezer wrap.
Lastly, joy doesn’t mean the absence of pain. Joy exists in the midst of pain, in the throes of sorrow, even in the midst of chaos. It is that settled-down assurance that everything is going to be OK. It’s the expectation of the best possible outcome. It’s a choice … and I choose joy.
I hope you do, too, and don’t forget to please pass the salt!