Recently I've been learning to take a good look at my life and notice what brings me joy. I can't remember when I started thinking about this. This practice is woven into the mages of many of the books I read over the summer (Simply Tuesday, The Nesting Place, etc.). Many favorite authors of mine quote Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I've never read it (it's on my to-be-read list), but from all I've heard, her philosophy is this: you tidy up your house by ridding yourself of anything that doesn't bring you joy. This practice can easily be applied to the life of both the schedule and the soul, because the first can overwhelm the second if we aren't careful. This is also a habitual practice by the authors of some of my favorite blogs. So it's gradually seeped into me, and now it's starting to come out: I'm starting to tout the same practice to those around me. Why is it important to pay attention to the things that bring me joy? For one thing, it clues me in to how God has made me. I can look at the things that I love, the things that make my heart come alive, and I can see the heart of God woven right into me. We have been made in the image of God, and He has knit many of His good things into our hearts for us to love them and see Him in them. Paying attention in this way brings me closer to God, because I'm learning to see Him in the things that He's made me to love and the ways He's made me.
Paying attention to my soul also helps me to remember that I am a person. I am not a machine. I am not a robot. I am a living, breathing human being made of flesh. Remembering my humanity and the vulnerability that comes with it reminds me that I cannot do it all -- nor should I expect myself to do it all (a really hard realization for a recovering perfectionist). The practice of paying attention forces me to slow down and get in touch with my heart. It also helps me to evaluate the things that are taking over my life and prune accordingly: Do I love this? Do I need this? Does this bring me life and joy? If not, why am I allowing it this place in my planner and my heart?
I will say that school doesn't always bring me joy: that is to say, the core classes that I am required by the state of Texas to complete before I can graduate -- these do not bring me joy. But I am required to take them, and they are part of the degree focusing on what does bring me joy: music and singing. It's for this reason that I can tolerate it, and maybe even look for joy in it.
So, what does bring me joy? What lights me up? There are a few things that I hold incredibly near and dear to my heart, and that I try to make time for. Here is my list:
- Being outside
- Mornings and sunrises
- The sky
- Time with Jesus
- Intentional time with my people
The list isn't super long, as you can see, and I think that's as it should be. If EVERYTHING gave us joy, we'd need to make time for all of it, and what a hassle that would be! And we aren't designed to love everything. Imagine how uninteresting that would make us.
I'm not always good at making time for the things that bring me joy. Obviously, I sing almost every day (with one day off a week for vocal health), and the Write 31 Days Challenge is forcing me to write every day -- a forced discipline I'm loving, because it keeps me in touch with my soul and who I really am. But I will tell you that I'm terrible at reading every day. I get really caught up in the hustle and bustle and the homework, and if I'm not intentional about sitting myself down, pulling out the book, and shutting out the world for a while, then I won't do it. It's a discipline I still have to learn.
But even though I don't do this perfectly, I'm incredibly grateful that I know what brings me joy. This helps me to look for it, to notice when it doesn't happen, and to find the joy in the mundane (and isn't that what we're all about here)? I love to look at and enjoy the sky, which lends joy to my drives to school and walks to and from class.
I think that's my favorite reason to practice paying attention: it brings the extraordinary into the ordinary, and it fills my days with Jesus in a new way. It's a way to adventure. It's a way to recognize the abundant life I have been given.
May we pay attention today to the things that bring us joy, no matter what they are. May we learn to create margin for them in our lives. May these things remind us not only of who we are, but of Who God is and how utterly, blissfully good He is to all of us. May the things that bring us joy bring us greater joy in Him.
What about you? What brings you joy? I'd love to hear about it -- comment below!