His Joy…My Strength

Joy is the atmosphere of heaven. It is the air God the Father Himself breathes in every day of eternity. And because joy is heaven’s delivered gift to me while I walk on planet earth, it is my delight and strength to experience the blessedness that God on His throne enjoys.   –Carol Burton McLeod, Joy for All Seasons

List Journaling: What Makes 4th Graders Happy?

I really, really don’t have time to write a blog post, but I must interrupt my unplanned blogging hiatus to share with you how I thoroughly enjoyed the brief time I had with a group of fourth graders earlier today (my little one’s class). We talked about and played with some of the things that bring me joy–writing, list journaling, stickers, and washi tape!

The kids must have been as excited as I was: One of the parents sent me a text message thanking me for taking time out to do something special with and for the kids.  I joked that the kids are really my captive audience–since very few of my adult friends want to play with stickers and make lists just for the fun of it.

I spoke with the kids about list journaling, showed them a “100 Things That Give Me Joy” list I wrote a little over a year ago, and challenged them as a class to write 100 things that make them happy.  I figured, if everyone worked toward writing 10 each, maybe, we’d get to 100 collectively.IMG_5593

They had a blast selecting stickers and washi tape and decorating their new journals. In fact, some of them spent a lot more time on decorating than they did on writing!

If you’ve ever wondered what makes kids happy, here’s a list–in their own words:

  1. God/Jesus
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Animals
  5. Robots
  6. Writing
  7. Playing
  8. Singing
  9. Dancing
  10. L.A.R.P.ing (If you guessed that my child wrote this one, you are absolutely right! Just in case you don’t know, LARP is an acronym for “Live Action Role Play”)
  11. Owls
  12. Reading
  13. School
  14. Bunnies
  15. Lions
  16. Tigers (and bears, oh my!–I added that part for dramatic effect.  Did it work?)
  17. The Philippine eagle (very specific!)
  18. Owls
  19. Panthers
  20. Falcons
  21. Basketball
  22. Soccer
  23. A great view
  24. Drawing smiling faces
  25. Singing happy songs
  26. Rollerskating
  27. Watching television
  28. Physical Education (PE)
  29. Resting
  30. Swimming
  31. Dressing up
  32. Doing hair
  33. Sleep (Yes!)
  34. Going to restaurants
  35. Movies
  36. Reading the Bible
  37. Eating
  38. Love (Hugs for this one)
  39. Brother
  40. Mom (Of course!)
  41. Flowers
  42. Ice cream (Surprisingly, I saw this only on one list)
  43. My pet
  44. This journal (Aww…)
  45. My toys
  46. When people play with me
  47. When my parents buy things for me
  48. Acting
  49. Taking care of animals
  50. Drawing
  51. Watching the flags outside the school
  52. Swimming during the hot summer
  53. Working out at the gym near home (This child is inspiring! How many nine-year-olds work out?)
  54. Watching stars in the sky
  55. Superman movies
  56. Football
  57. Iceskating
  58. Sleepovers
  59. Zoos
  60. Candy
  61. Flowers
  62. Stars
  63. Cake
  64. America
  65. Sewing
  66. Quilting
  67. The color pink
  68. Emojis
  69. Space

IMG_5595We fell a bit short of the 100-mark, but most of the kids wrote at least 10 things. It just so happens that many of the same things make them happy.  As a whole, they seem to value and find joy in things that really matter–God, family, and friends were on almost every list. I like that they take pleasure in participating instead of passively watching.

Their lists did not reflect the materialism that is so much a part of our cultures.They proved the point that no matter how much they whine, beg, and “barter,” electronics, clothes, and the latest “things” don’t really make kids happy.

We ended our short time together with their making a commitment to continue working on the lists and writing in their journals.  That was the goal–to get them writing for pleasure on a regular basis.

Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for sharing your class time with me!

Just in case you have no idea what I mean by “list journaling,” it is simply journaling via list, usually based on a prompt. Although it is an easier way to approach journaling, it is amazing how much we can learn about ourselves through listing.

If you’re interested, there are many wonderful list journal “communities.”  My favorites are:IMG_5597

  • The Reset Girl’s #ListersGottaList–provides monthly list journaling prompts for adults and children
  • Kam and Amy’s 30 Days of List–provides journal prompts for three months out the year.  A small fee is required.

You can go all the way out and embellish your journal with stickers, stamps, washi tape, art, etc. or you can keep it simple and just make lists. It’s all up to you!

That’s it for now.  Be sure to “tune in” again soon. I plan to share with you artwork by the same group of fourth graders! Children’s art–one of the things that give me joy!

Everyday Gifts: Good-bye December. Hello 2015.

"Winter Rose Poinsettia"--I'd never seen one before this year.  It's beautiful (and I hear they last longer than "regular" poinsettias)!

“Winter Rose Poinsettia”–I’d never seen one before this year. It’s beautiful (and I hear they last longer than “regular” poinsettias)!

In typical fashion, I spent the last few days reflecting on 2014, particularly the last weeks of the year.  December was unkind in many ways–filled with lots of grays and pale blues and challenges and setbacks and inconsistencies and not-so-pleasant surprises.

But every day there was something that tickled my spirit or brought a smile to my face–silly and proud moments with my little one; a couple of hours with one of my dearest friends at a conference we both happened to attend; the giddy reaction of the adult audience members as my hubby told a story to children; the frog-hop of excitement my son performed when he opened his Christmas gift and found the robot he wanted.

December gave winter rose poinsettias, festive shop windows, the music, lights, and neon glitz of downtown Nashville, teddy bears, and beautiful photographs from friends. [Click an image for a larger view]

It gave a colleagues’ pink frog with green eyes that is now featured on notecards I made for her.

"Living the Pink Life," Cy's Frog

“Living the Pink Life,” Cy’s Frog

December allowed me to see beautiful dolls (on display in an Asian restaurant my hubby and I visited for the first time in December):

December brightened my mailbox with photos from Patty, known as Cakers to you–the colorful silk fibers postcard made for a “Hobbies Deserve Photos Too” swap:

Untitled 6 3

“A Rainbow of Fibers,” Photo by Patty aka Cakers

And a calming view of the Atlantic Ocean sent in an email while that same someone was spending Christmas vacation in Mexico with her hubby.  I envied her vacation away from the madness, but appreciated her timely gift.

"Cancun for Christmas," Photo by Cakers, December 2014

“Cancun for Christmas,” Photo by Cakers, December 2014

December cheered me with a cuddly teddy bear found in an unexpected place–at an academic conference.

“Bringing You Love,” 2014.  The bear belongs to one of the vendors at a conference I attended. Her boyfriend sent it to keep her company while she was traveling.

December warmed me early one Monday morning when a shuttle driver sang his testimony to a busload of conference attendees as he shuttled us from our hotels to the conference site.   It warmed me again later that day when a country singer serenaded me and even made up a song just for me in an attempt to lure me and a colleague into the saloon where he was performing.

December offered laughter through hilarious ugly sweater modeling and the “Nat King Cole” crooning of a colleague that had the women going wild at the University’s Christmas party.

For these and so much more I am grateful.

I begin the new year looking forward to the gifts hidden in the daily toils, the little things we so often overlook when other matters sap our strength and spirit.  I pray that you, too, will search for and appreciate the tiny, everyday joys that make life bearable and pleasurable.

Happy 2015 to you and yours.