Joy is a funny thing.  The definition of it is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.”  That doesn’t seem right to me, so I’d like to redefine that as the following:

Joy is gratitude.

Joy is refusing to worry.

Joy is dealing with today for what it is.

Joy is accepting yourself and being kind to yourself, rather than waiting for others to do it.

Joy is looking up and around, rather than looking down – beauty is everywhere, sometimes where you least expect it.

Joy is seeing the beauty in yourself and others.

Joy is trusting in God’s path for you.

Joy is relishing the small things.

Joy is selflessness.

Joy is nature.

Joy is GOD.

I feel more joy than I ever thought that I did.  I always thought that I was a sad person.  But what I didn’t realize is that it isn’t a toggle.  It isn’t a single answer.  It is rather a multiple choice.  So, in short, I was a sad person.  I have experienced a lot of sadness.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t also experience joy.

I know what has caused my sadness – in a nutshell, it’s been loneliness, lack of connection.  What I stumbled upon somewhere along the way is that I really love being with myself.  I have had quite a bit of dis-connection and interpersonal loss.  But I am consistently there through all of it.

I just returned from a somewhat painful family reunion.  My relationships with my family have never really been great.  From the outside, we looked fairly normal, but on the inside was a mess of chaotic, jarring loneliness and fear.  Have you ever noticed how fear makes people act?  It usually isn’t very pretty.  For whatever reason, my family was filled with fear – I’m not even sure if any of us would have recognized it as fear, but there was fear.  And the reaction to fear is typically self-protection.  Self-protection often turns toward other-attacking.  And that perfectly describes my family.  God does love them all and God will ease their fear, but in the meantime, it is best to keep my distance from them.   Protect myself from the (in-?)advertent line of fire resulting from their reactions to fear.

So, now that I am not in constant defensive model, I am choosing to re-train myself to live with that feeling of fear, knowing that I am still safe.  And knowing that I can simultaneously feel joy.  And even simultaneously feel sad!  And even simultaneously feel whatever else I am feeling!  Feelings aren’t clean – they are nuanced and complex, just like we are.  And acceptance of them all is the key.

So, of course I feel fear – fear that I am making bad decisions, or not loving well enough or making critical errors that will affect others.  I can also know that I am protected.  God is protecting me.  The people that love me are protecting me.  I am protecting myself.  And part of protecting myself is actually in allowing myself to experience my God-given joy.

So, let me add a few more:

Joy + Sadness + Anger + Fear + … = LIFE!

Joy is freedom to feel.

Circling back around, maybe joy IS a feeling of great pleasure and happiness – it’s just that that feeling does not need to exist in a vacuum for it to be called joy.

Joy surrounds us.

Joy is integrated into our being.

Look for it and you will find it.  It is ours to accept.

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