Ordinary Moments of Joy

I had zero holiday spirit. None. I did everything I could to conjure the warm feelings the Christmas season usually brings. I went to Christmas parties. I decorated the house. I participated in gift exchanges. I read and meditated on scriptures about the birth of Christ. I even bought an ugly sweater (really, a hoodie). Nothing worked.

I was deep in a hole of exhaustion, confusion, stress, grief, and it was far too taxing to exact from myself anything other than that strange mix of feelings.

Until last night. As I was scrolling through Instagram posts, I ran across a one by Brene’ Brown in which she talks about spending Christmas in her mom’s hospital room. She begins that post:

The purest form of joy comes to us in ordinary moments, and those moments can happen any place where gratitude is alive. —Brené Brown

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments.”

It’s amazing how a single statement can prompt a shift.

I paused and asked God to help me to recognize and seize moments of joy, despite those contrary but legitimate emotions.

So today I opened my heart and with gratitude welcomed joy in all the ordinary moments and in all the ways in which it presented itself–watching my guys open gifts; chatting with my mom; preparing a dish for the family dinner while watching funny YouTube videos with the guys; texting Christmas greetings to friends and loved ones; enjoying Christmas dinner with my aunts, cousin, and her kids; listening to my aunt’s hearty laughter, knowing this first Christmas without my uncle is so difficult for her; eating way too many sweets; spending this moment with my blog before grabbing my fuzzy blanket and cuddling up with the guys to watch more Christmas movies.

Ordinary moments imbued with gratitude. Pure joy.

May you walk with gratitude and joy during the holiday season and through the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

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:

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“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.