3 Simple Ways to Find Joy

According to the American author Mark Twain, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” His words definitely rang true this morning. As I rushed to get my kids’ backpacks and lunches ready, my 5 year-old daughter tugged on my jacket and asked, “Daddy! Can I take this [to school] for sharing day?!” Looking down I noticed a leather-bound book adorned with gold leafed pages—it was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit! Normally, I would be hesitant to allow my precious books to leave the bookshelf without under my protection, especially a classic. Something, a feeling, an inkling, beyond my own power provoked me to let her keep the book for the day.

Letting go of control is not easy for me. This is particularly true when it comes to items dear to me. Releasing control led to a sudden deluge of joy. Excitement brimmed up inside me. Seeing the twinkle in my daughter eyes as she hugged The Hobbit tight simply was amazing. It was also quite unexpected—much like the Unexpected Journey of Bilbo in Middle Earth!

The first requirement for discovering joy is to be among others. After dropping the kids off at school, I wondered, “How else can I find joy? I love this experience and want to share it others.” Joy became my focus for the remainder of the day. While not an exhaustive list, I found three incredibly SIMPLE ways to find joy in your life!

Thanksgiving

Thankful Liam

A natural fruit of thankfulness is joy. Harboring a thankful mindset provides stability amid life’s storms, but also gives blossom to delight. I recently came across a post on social media that lamented the “forced gratitude” of Teacher Appreciation Week. As a Catholic my sentiment towards gratitude is that it is our central mission, the thing we value more than anything else. In fact, the source and summit of the Christian life—the Eucharist literally translates to mean “thanksgiving.” Just because you are not “compelled” or have to thank a teacher this week does not mean that you shouldn’t. More thanksgiving, freely done, only brings joy!

St. Paul recognizes this truth in Galatians 5:22-23. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the ordering of the gifts of the Holy Spirit have joy preceded by love. Where do we most show God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) love? By participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—the prime event of thanksgiving!

Be on the Lookout

G.K. Chesterton captured the essence of joy best as he wrote, “Surprise is the secret of joy”. Joy is not something we can produce from our own willpower. The example I mentioned earlier occurred unexpectedly. Normally, sudden events do not sit well with me. I like to be in control! Being prepared for things helps lead to peace—it decreases angst. While peace is a good goal, joy is an even greater good! Actively looking for joy does not work. I have tried and failed. Every. Single. Time.

Joy and Holy Spirit

As a gift of the Holy Spirit, joy cannot be produced by our active works. I often struggle with a restlessness—a strong urge to keep moving, never sitting still or slowing my mind. Since Good Friday, my family and I have sung the Chaplet of Divine Mercy nightly. The first fruit of this prayer I noticed was peace. Only recently did I also begin to notice moments of joy breaking into my life. According to St. John Paul II,

Christ remains primary in your life only when he enjoys the first place in your mind and heart. Thus you must continuously unite yourself to him in prayer…. Without prayer there can be no joy, no hope, and no peace. For prayer is what keeps us in touch with Christ.

Prayer helped stabilize me. On my own I cannot run fast even to capture joy. Slowly down allows joyous moments to catch me. You too can wait for joy—be on the lookout, instead of rushing to and fro frantically! 

Recognizing Your Place in Creation

Along with thanksgiving and waiting patiently for joy, recognizing my place in the universe, not only humbles me, but helps foster joyful moments.  Every week Catholics profess our core beliefs at Mass with the Nicene Creed. The first tenet we remind ourselves is: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.We are creatures, NOT THE CREATOR.

This takes humility to recognize what you are not. I am not the composer of my story. The Divine Author formed me uniquely—and you uniquely too! Reminding myself of my place in creation helps foster a proper attitude to receive joy.

Be open to the unexpected. Let the Holy Spirit into your life. Ask for the gift of joy, give thanks always, and remember God is your Creator. If you practice these three simple things don’t be surprised to discover joy—it might be sooner than you realize!

 

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Mathematics of Living a Joyful Life

Disclaimer: All my readers who hated math in elementary and high school please bear with me as I promise the mathematics I am proposing today is less confusing than long division and solving a geometric proof! For math aficionados hopefully you enjoy this post as much as you enjoy the following math jokes:

  1. How do you stay warm in an empty room? Go into the corner where it is always 90 degrees.
  2. There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t.

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“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves,” John Paul II declared in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor. I reflect on this quote more than any other from the Polish pope’s papal writings. Throughout my life I felt a pendulum swing between the scientific and spiritual sides of my being. Instead of embracing unity between this two sides, I fall into the error of viewing faith and reason  in an unnatural mule-like state.

faith and reason

Seek Balance

Imbalance leads to lack of joy, despair, and doubt. Today, I allowed a one-sidedness to creep up on my and grasp my being. Being a perfectionist, my rational pursuit for excellence at work sowed the seeds to restlessness and anxiety. Any little mistake I made remained with me for some time. I struggled with healthy self-esteem during my periods of pure rationalism.

The danger of reducing all knowledge to reason is that a loss of wonder occurs. During the periods where I exhibit control over all areas of my life [work, home, leisure time, etc] ironically instead of acquiring long-term control and freedom, I only gain a fleeting control that seems to escape my grasp as soon as it arrived.

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It’s Not Rocket Science!

I stumbled upon the apropos wisdom of G.K. Chesterton on my dilemma. Instead of reflecting inward the great Englishmen declared, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought.” When I am grateful I am happier. I find this to be true in my life experiences. Oftentimes, after a difficult day at work, home, or both I try to take a short inventory at the end of the day of where I typically failed and how I could succeed. Only through the addition of gratitude to my attitude am I able to subtract the worries of the world from the next day. Strangely enough, I discovered that the mathematics of thanksgiving does not necessarily follow the standard rules of elementary arithmetic.

The rest of the Chesterton quote from above goes as such, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” My conscience [and rational] effort to focus on being more thankful is not sufficient to a happy and joyful life. Thanksgiving needs to be multiplied with wonder. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 1299, “The bishop invokes the outpouring of the Spirit in these words:

‘All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by water and the Holy Spirit
you freed your sons and daughters from sin
and gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to be their helper and guide.
Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of right judgment and courage,
the spirit of knowledge and reverence.
Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.113′”

Power of Amazement

Notice that the final gift of the Holy Spirit conferred is wonder and awe. Amazement at the splendor of God’s being and even his created works is a grace. As a child seeing the world through the lens of wonder was easy. I had the dependence on my parents [and God] that things would work out. Jesus spoke of the importance of child-like faith in Matthew 18:1-5:

At that time the disciples* approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”2He called a child over, placed it in their midst,3b and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,* you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.4c Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.5* And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

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The Son of God is not meaning that we should don a gullible faith in God–that is an immature understanding of his words. What Jesus means is that our relationship with God should be that of a father-son/daughter bond.As an adopted son of God I am called to ask for and freely choose to rely on God for dependence during trying times in my life. As previously stated, there is a balance that needs to be struck between human reason and faith in Our Heavenly Father.

Orderly Wonder of Joy

Aristotle wrote, “The mathematical sciences particularly exhibit order, symmetry, and limitation; and these are the greatest forms of the beautiful.” There is a true beauty in the overall structure of the created universe. I also believe that God allowed human freedom and intellect to possess the ability to develop and discover math and science to uncover the mysteries of the world. More authentic usage of our rational capabilities along with recognizing our limitations allows for a person to be both grateful for the created order and marvel at God’s majestic masterpiece. I will leave you with a homework problem below: [DON’T WORRY IT WILL BE AN OPEN NOTE QUIZ I ONLY ASK YOU SEEK TO TRY TO IMPLEMENT THIS EQUATION IN YOUR LIFE!!]

Your Daily Challenge

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***Gratitude +Wonder= Subtraction of Worry and Multiplication of Joy*** 

 

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5 Reasons to Jump for Joy—with Jump-roping!

The great American founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Well, I re-discovered a life-altering opportunity that I want to share with others—the joy of jump-roping!

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Yes, you heard me right—my rediscovery of jump-roping infused joy into my weekend unexpectedly. Along with the clear health benefits and incredible low-cost to purchase this classic children’s toy, I found five reasons how jump-roping benefitted me [and can benefit you!]. In case you are interested in the various cardiovascular and other fitness provided by regular jump-roping please check out the following link: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/benefits-jumping-rope-you-probably-dont-know.html

Jump to Save Time

After only 7 minutes of jump-roping, I felt as if I ran a few miles. Frequent exercise through jump-roping for 3-4 twelve minutes sessions a week will be the equivalent to running several miles. Plus, you may enjoy the workout from the comfort of your living room, basement, or outside on the patio/lawn.

nostalgia

Jump for Nostalgia

The second reason why I found jump-roping profoundly jubilant and uplifting is due to the sentimental memories it stirred up. In elementary school, our third-fifth grade classes annually completed Jump Rope for Heart. Not only was this a good charity to raise donations and awareness for cardiovascular health, but I made amazing memories. Jumping rope in the gym with friends and playing games became an event I looked forward to and cherish those memories.

Jump for Versatility

Besides swimming, I cannot think of a more flexible exercise than jump-roping. Using the standard speed jump-rope promotes cardio-vascular health and increases one’s endurance for running. Along with excellent aerobic benefits, utilizing a weighted jump-rope helps to strength multiple muscle groups—legs, arms, and core. Finally, the portability of the jump-rope makes it an easy exercise tool to use at home or on the go!

remember to have fun

Jump Because its Fun

Jump-roping allows for fast-paced and fun exercise. Enjoyable both by yourself or within a group—see following link for fun activities: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/activities/6-fun-ways-to-jump-rope/

Jump to Build Memory

The last point I wish to share with my re-discovery of the joy of jump-roping is that this can be an easy and simple summer activity to enjoy with your family and friends. I cannot wait until my children get to the age where I am able to share in this joy, count our jumps, try various jumping styles, and create joyful memories to last a lifetime!

jump for joy

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3 Joys You Can Experience Through Play

Yesterday I got to experience something for the first time in 2019playing catch with my oldest son! The type A personality that I have, I normally would schedule playtime or have certain parameters on the activity. This time felt different. Natural. Organic. Unplanned. Time ceased to exist.

Have you had such a serendipitous experience? Pregnant with possibilities, that playful experience with my son gave birth to so something I could not have created on my ownjoy! C.S. Lewis wrote, “Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Because joy does not originate from within us, we often hear joy referred to as an experience, a visit, or encounter. Along with the initial joy experienced playing catch with my kid I want to share three additional joys originating from the first: togetherness, collaboration, and simplicity.

Togetherness

The old adage “the apple does not fall few from the tree” applies 100% to my son and I. Every single person who has seen childhood pictures of me and see my son always say “Wow, Noah looks exactly like you!” Our similarities don’t end with the physically. My son acquired my strengths and weaknesses. Parenting him cause me to realize my own failings. I seek control of most situations. I like to be prepared. Such control stymies the possibility for the unexpected.

Playing catch provided an opportunity to simply spend time together. Togetherness without control. Togetherness not forced. Togetherness that also extended to myself and my other kids as wellwatching they go up and down the sidewalk on their bikes!

Collaboration

A second joy flowing from the simple activity of catch was collaboration. Collaboration has been a buzzword in the professional sphere, but it should be every part of domestic life too. According to St. John Paul II, “To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.

The joy found in playing catch reminded me of the joy in teamwork. Working together my son and I sought to catch the ball. Little words were exchanged, yet collaboration came forth organically. I experienced the joy of my son helping his siblings in need as well.

Simplicity

Chinese philosopher Confucius reasoned, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Through my pride I think I need to make the simplest things in life better with ‘complex innovations’.

The third joy I encountered through the joy of playtime with my son was simplicity. Simplicity is a joy because I realized life does not have to be perfect to be special. Simplifying play with only a ball and mitts led to an incredible spring morning. A morning that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Seek out the simple things in life. Be open to interruptions in your pre-planned day. If you allow the unexpected to occur God with grace you with immeasurable joys. Thank you Lord for the joy of togetherness, collaboration, and the simplicity of playing catch with my boy!

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