Recently, I read One Thousand Gifts, which was recommended by someone whose blog I read, but I can't remember who anymore.  It was a beautiful book and has inspired me to be thankful for the little things once again.  (Briefly, the hesitations I have in recommending it: she writes pretty stream-of-consciousness, and though I think she does it well, those who are sticklers for grammar might have a hard time.  Also, it is written for those who are already Christians.)

The premise is that being thankful opens the door to being joyful.  She writes her journey along the road of thankfulness, her progress through the ups and downs of real life.  It is a good reminder.

It takes me back to my first year at college, when everything was new, from living on my own, to snow, to daffodils.  It takes me back to childhood when everything was new.   This must be why Jesus said to become like a child.

People laughed at me in college, because I was no longer a child.  I kept telling them my "snow age" was five, since I had moved away from snow when I was four.  The cynics laughed at me for taking delight in daffodils ("That's what they're called, right?" I asked.)  Taking pictures of the very first light dusting of snow. Freezing my un-mittened hands at the first larger snow but I couldn't keep from playing in it.

I really was more joyful then, though my email signature still holds on.  Gradually, though, I got tired of being laughed at or watched strangely.  I supressed my outer delight and then the inner faded, too.  I want it back!  I will take delight in the little things.  I will slow down to look at bugs with my kids.  I will let myself be thankful and joyful in all these things, and I will not let anyone's laughing penetrate.  Neighbors may think I'm crazy, taking pictures of the first snow (that was today!) again, but I do not care.  Joy is worth it.

We took a snow day from school today.  I jumped around with my kids and took pictures and we dug out the new sizes of snowsuits and Jonathan made a snowman and Noah made slushies (from the railing snow).  It was great!  It was beautiful.

And I'm glad we seized the moment because in the afternoon the snow turned to rain and most of it is melted now.  Children know how to do this and adults are too busy with "matters of consequence".  May I always remember this!

Posted by Heather Daley on October 29, 2011, 1:58 pm | Read 9889 times
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Welcome back, Heather Joy! May you never retreat.

Posted by SursumCorda on October 29, 2011, 7:20 pm

Janet, too, can exhibit exuberant joy, and I've had to learn that this childlike joy is a tender plant. It grows best in a soil of unselfconsciousness, and those of us who want to see it blossom need to protect it and cultivate it with gentle care. May yours blossom again and again and bring abundant joy to those around you!

Posted by Stephan on October 30, 2011, 2:39 pm

You're right, Stephan. Joy is a fragile thing. Maybe it ought not to be, but in this world it is. Or perhaps it's the unselfconsciousness that's so fragile. That, and the joy, can be shattered by a look askance, a sneer, a sigh, a jest, an under-breath comment.

Even a compliment can do harm to unselfconscious joy by conveying, "I notice you" -- though I hesitate to add that, because compliments, as a whole, are a good thing, and not nearly common enough. :)

Posted by SursumCorda on November 1, 2011, 8:52 am

This discussion on joy connects very intimately with a blog post I’ve been thinking of writing for a while. While talking with one of my newlywed girlfriends we discussed how our husbands love to watch our spontaneous expressions of joy. Our giddiness, our freedom to show our emotion, and our delight at the simple is something that our men admire, appreciate and even delight in. This is something far more universal than most women would imagine. Guys like that part of our personalities and it’s one reason why they want to marry us in the first place. The problem is, they don’t know how to express their appreciation so their reactions often make women think they disapprove. A comment, a laugh, or look of surprise and women think it means the men believe they are silly for doing what they did or being who they are. Much of this is connected to the unselfconsciousness of joy, as SursumCorda pointed out. Joy is not a display for the observer. It is a spontaneous expression of a deep emotion felt intensely at that moment. This is connected with the premise of “One Thousand Gifts” (as Heather states it) that thankfulness leads to joy. You cannot make joy. You can choose to be thankful and that will often lead to joy, but joy is a gift. The various expressions of joy are therefore spontaneous and fragile. Drawing attention to it is like touching a butterfly’s wing. No matter how well-intentioned, it most likely will do damage. But don’t despair! A women’s joy doesn’t have to fade if those who are near and dear to her know how to protect it. It is a hard thing indeed for man to realize he is the main killer of something he loves, but unfortunately, husbands who don’t take the care to truly know and listen to their women will be guilty of just that. As Stephan implies in his comment, we had our time of struggle before he learned how to “cultivate the tender plant.” One beautiful consequence of his willingness to listen was that as he learned to be gentle with me I learned to be tougher. Experiencing his tender care gave me strong roots that let me weather the storms of disapproval (or perceived disapproval) from others and more importantly, from misinterpreting his reactions to my expressions of joy. This all may seem too theoretical, so I’ll give an example. Sometime in our dating/engagement period we took a trip to the Ticino. It was gorgeous weather and at one point I was inspired by the view, the wind, and the love in my heart and lifted my arms and threw back my leg and head in a spontaneous expression of joy while flashing a big smile at my lover. Then he asked me to do it again so he could take a picture. It was a harmless request, but it made me feel silly. I didn’t want to, nor could I reproduce the moment while feeling like a fool. After some discussion he was able to assure me that he liked it when I did things like that and that it would bring him pleasure to be able to capture it on film. With great effort I did my best to overcome my self-consciousness and try to reproduce the moment for him. It’s clear that this kind of listening and responding to the other takes a lot of work. Some of Stephan’s comments weren’t nearly as innocent as this request that I perform for the camera, and it took quite a bit of give and take for us to see the other’s view. It’s hard to make yourself vulnerable a second time by telling someone how a comment or look makes them feel. You risk the chance of being doubly rejected! It’s hard to admit you’ve hurt someone you love even though you had the best of intentions. But the work is so well worth it. Now I trust Stephan’s tenderness and appreciation enough to be free in my expressions of joy. That is a treasure indeed! Heather, I applaud your effort to muscle through the disapproving looks, but a butterfly with iron wing-protectors cannot fly for long! I hope those near and dear to you listen well enough for you to be able to tell them when they dampen your joy so that they may learn to cultivate it, because I know they appreciate it! Thanks for letting me hijack your post!

Posted by IrishOboe on November 2, 2011, 11:22 am

Thank you for the hijack - it's a good addition!

Posted by joyful on November 2, 2011, 12:13 pm

Absolutely stunningly great comment by IrishOboe on how men need to be careful of squishing the very things they admire and love. I know that after 36 years of marriage I still can ramble into the china shop and smash a lot of things unintentionally.
Butterfly with iron wing protectors -- what a great analogy!

Posted by Dad-o on November 2, 2011, 3:50 pm
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