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Choose Joy

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there lived a royal family.  This family had everything a person could dream of: glorious palaces, majestic horses to pull awe-inspiring carriages, glittering jewels, gowns spun from silver and gold threads, servants happily fulfilling every need, gardens overflowing with scrumptious fruits and vegetables, and lives filled with joy - so much joy that, even when it was raining, this family's kingdom was filled with light.

What may be hard to believe is that this family could be living anywhere.  They may not truly be royal.  They might live in a two-bedroom walk-up and the only majestic horses and carriages they have are the sneakers and loafers they use to walk back and forth to school and work.  Their clothing isn't anything fancy - it isn't even name brand.  The only time they have a servant fulfilling their needs is when they order fast food or pay the mailman to deliver a letter or package.  They don't have a yard for a garden, but get what's available and inexpensive when they go to the grocery store.  But, their lives are filled with because they choose to live this way and not think that their life is worse off because of their situation.

Attitude, it's something that we all take for granted.  When good things happen, we're happy.  When bad things happen, we're generally not.  But, what would happen if we decided to choose an attitude of joy all the time?  How could our lives be different?  How could our family's lives be different?  Could we infect those around us with this same attitude?

As I've looked over the past year of my life, I realize that I've often let circumstances determine my attitude instead of choosing joy in all situations.  I've compared my circumstances to other people's and found myself lacking.  I've had thoughts run through my head like,

If my children only behaved better in public...
If I just had a few more hours to get my house clean before guests arrive...
If only I had more energy to make something besides chicken nuggets...
I should really work harder to get that garden growing better...
I could probably find the time to do more parent volunteering like the other moms...
Why didn't I take that job the last time it was offered?
If we'd sold our house then...or waited to buy until...

There will always be the should've, could've and would've phrases in our lives.  We'll always wonder what if.  But, if we choose true joy through these questions, then perhaps we can infect our children, our spouses, our extended family, our neighbors, our community and beyond.

Yes, this is a grandiose idea that could be described as overly simplistic.  But, it's a place to start.  If we choose to wait and only have joy when we've found the right solution, then we're again letting ourselves be influenced by our situation.  Start today choosing joy - don't let the new year start holding onto the grudges from the past year.  Let go of hurts, angers, and jealousy that is holding you down and keeping you from finding your own joy in your own situation.

Here are some ideas to get you started on your path of joy:
  1. Visit someone you haven't seen in a while just to say hello.  Give them a hug and spend time with them.
  2. Take time to realize just how good your life is.  Spend some time with someone who is in a worse situation than you. Don't know where to find this?  Visit a local hospital, shelter or charity and ask.  
  3. Start afresh.  Forgive the person(s) who hurt you.  This may mean visiting them and letting them know that you want to start again.  It may also mean finally closing the door on a situation you cannot control - taking yourself out of a situation that isn't really yours. Maybe this means joining a support group or seeking professional help. 
  4. Take a trip.  It doesn't have to be big and fancy.  Maybe it's an hour at a local park with you and your kids or just around the corner to the library.  Whatever it is, find a way to escape your normal routine and do something for you.
  5. Plant a garden and watch it grow.  Maybe it's just a potted garden, but cultivate it.  Nurture it.  Then, enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor.
  6. Had a bad day? Give yourself a set amount of time (by yourself) to drown in sorrow. Then, move forward, not allowing this day to set the framework for the rest of your week, month, year or life. 
  7.  Is someone near you in a situation where they cannot choose joy? Choose joy for them.  Bring them a meal, be a listening ear, pray for them. Be the joy in their life so that, when they're ready, they too can choose joy. 
  8. Do something you haven't done in a long time.  Go ice skating, dance when no one is watching, sing in your shower, play a game with your family...remember the joy you had when you were younger or when you weren't so busy.  Make time to find this joy again.
  9. Give yourself a treat.  Splurge!  This may be buying yourself something, but it could also be taking a bubble bath, going on a walk, eating a bowl of ice cream, take a class to learn something new, or just have a night to yourself.  The treat is yours to enjoy!
  10. Walk and talk with a smile.  It's amazing the impact such a simple act can have on you and those around you. 
Forget about the once upon a time story you wish your life could be and find the once upon a time your life is right now.

Choose joy!


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