I used to imagine that I was my own person; that, somehow, I didn’t care what people thought of me.
Then I graduated from junior high.
And then my idealism was trumped by reality. The reality is that the most influential component of our lives – for better and worse – is the people around us. I’d like to think my skin is thick enough to absorb let down, disappointment and rudeness. But, if I’m honest, they often have a way of shaping my attitude. I’d also like to think I’m responsive enough to be improved by another’s optimism, joy or encouragement. Sometimes, I’m able to rise above and not give in to ugly. Other times, I let myself be lifted by the infectious joy or optimism that feels temporarily foreign to me.
I want to introduce you to an experiment just in time for Christmas. It’s an experiment with ‘How to Have Joy in 30 Days’. The goal is to be intentional about recording the most uplifting, encouraging, satisfying, or life-giving encounters of each day through the Holidays. Let’s just be honest, the Holidays can bring out the best & worst. With the added cost, travel, hospitality, and seasonal extra-curriculars, we can be so easily robbed of Joy, a spirit of giving, and the celebration of what it sacred during this time of year. They don’t have to be laugh-out-loud funny moments. It could be something as simple as delayed gratification like putting off a purchase to avoid debt, having a hard conversation that deepens a relationship, anonymous gifts or favors, acts of kindness, or volunteering. They might include savored moments with children or a cherished moment with a spouse.
What I find is that my mind doesn’t naturally readily store joyful encounters for very long, so a little note-taking goes a long way. Keep a record on your phone, in a journal, or by your nightstand. Each day, take a few seconds to keep a ‘joy journal.’ As you do, watch how your awareness of joy can grow.
You can even make this a part of your dinner conversations each night with your family (I’ve even started asking my kids), asking “what was the best part of your day today?”
Gratitude can feel like a discipline, but it also keeps joy within reach. Tis’ the Season.
— — — — —
Dave Sunde is the Pastor of Adult Ministries at Riverbend Church in Austin, Texas and will be a featured speaker at iGnite’s Intentional Renewal Wellness Retreat in February 2014. A native Californian, Dave has been involved in professional non-profit and spiritual leadership for over 17 years and has been a pastor at Riverbend Church since 2006. Dave’s passion for loving people and eloquent ability to share his love for others and life is refreshing, uplifting and inspiring. Join us at the Intentional Renewal retreat and hear Dave speak on Intentional Renewal: What It Is, Why We Were Designed for It & Why We Need It.