Cultivate Joy

Cultivate Joy

Earlier this summer, my world began to spin out of control so I created a life-ordering list. I had two purposes in mind.  One had to do with re-centering.  The other was to make certain I was spending my energy on things that really mattered.

I’m determined to focus on what matters.  Life is too short to do otherwise.

The last item on my centering list is why I’m posting today.  I wish to cultivate joy.  And I ask myself again today what I’ve been asking myself all summer, “What does that two-word phrase really mean?”  Here’s what I’m discovering it means to me:

  1.  Take time to stop and smell the roses.  Or the peonies.  Or the stew cooking in the brand new Insta-pot I purchased for just $69 on Amazon Prime day.  I can’t cultivate what I don’t take time to enjoy.    Sometimes enjoying takes place at the end.  Sometimes it’s a part of the process.  Whatever it is, it takes time.
  2. Make space for joy.  Don’t pack life so tight that I resemble a spinning top.  Joy requires room to breathe.  I need to give it the space it needs
  3. Look for life in the simple things.  This morning I got rid of some dead pansy vines in one of the pots on my back porch, but in the process I separated a strand that was still very much alive.  So I placed my tiny flower-tipped vine in an itsy-bitsy container filled with water and took pictures of it.  Simple?  Yes.  Did it give me joy?  Absolutely.  And it’s still providing joy, every time I look to the right of my computer.  This simple, solitary, separated vine is a beautiful reminder of the beauty of God’s marvelous design in creation.
  4. Savor.  Savor is a word I chose back in January to be my word for 2016.  Each day, I look for one thing I can savor and I record it in my journal.  Savoring is teaching me to live each day as if it were my last.
  5. Live sacramentally.  Our world is a world of shadows.  Shadow implies reality.  What do the shadows in my world reveal of the life to come?  I’m learning to pay attention to the shadows.
  6. On a recent blog post at Humane Pursuits, a new friend of mine, Ashlee Cowles discusses the difference between living as a pilgrim vs. living like a tourist. Touristing satisfies surface desires; pilgriming feeds the soul.  I purpose to live like a pilgrim.  A well-fed soul is a joy-filled one.
  7. Let loose of clutter, whether that clutter is what’s jamming up your kitchen, your mind and your emotions, or your sense of well-being.  That’s what I did when I created my life-ordering list.  I let loose of the clutter that was keeping me from moving forward physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Regular interaction with Facebook was one of those things I designated as clutter.  You may choose other things.  The reality is that we all have clutter and getting rid of it frees our minds to work “clean.”  I like functioning with a clean mind.  It frees my soul as well.

Cultivating joy, like cultivating anything, takes time, takes effort and it takes discipline.  Reverting to old patterns or habits that keep our bodies, minds and souls in turmoil is far too easy and our flesh likes easy.  The problem with easy though, is that it never produces much of a harvest and then we wonder what went wrong or why our lives lack what makes them truly full.  Simple changes produce radical results and if we’ll persevere, the joy we once found so elusive will flourish.  And so shall we!

And NOW!  AND NOW!!!!  Because cultivating joy is at the top of my list, I have decided to do something that will bring me joy.  I’m hoping it will bless you too.

Who remembers the Meryl Streep/Julie Powell Julie and Julia story?  Julie Powell, a young married woman who is trying to figure out what to do with her life decides she will cook through all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook in 365 days.  At the beginning of the movie trailer, Meryl Streep (as Julia) is asked what she really likes to do.  She giggles and responds, “Eat!” and goes on to say she’s rather good at it.  Well, while cooking intrigues me, it is not what I like to do best.  I like learning about beauty and I like to think I’m getting rather good at it.  My “beauty intellect” is growing as we speak…just as Julia Child’s waistline did in the movie.  So in the tradition of Julie in “Julie and Julia” I am going to attempt to work my way through all 75 of Terry Glaspey’s 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know.  I’ll not set a deadline on it yet, because art appreciation, unlike cooking, requires many days to brew.

And I might even throw in to the mix some of the other things I’m learning about beauty.

If you’d like to travel along with me on this journey, purchase your own copy of Glaspey’s book here (if you wish to support the big bookseller).  Or here (these folks post excellent reviews of all the books they carry).  Or here (a new friend who operates a bookstore out of her home – I’m a big fan of supporting the independent bookseller).

I promise.  It’s going to be a beauty-full adventure.