3 Simple Ways to Find Joy


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 11, 2019.


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

Thank you taken meme

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 fosters me foster joyful moments. Every week Catholics profess our core beliefs at Mass with the Nicene Creed. In the first tenet, we remind ourselves: I believe in one God, the Father almightymaker 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 do not be surprised to discover joy—it might be sooner than you realize!

Related Links

How to Develop a Thankful and Joyful Mentality— Be Grateful for Everything!

Finding Little Joys Amid Autism’s Challenges

The Difference Between Joy and Happiness

Catholic Joy?


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The Joy of Recovery and the Fist pump

I have randomly been fist pumping the air as a sign of thanks and triumph for each passing moment where I don’t have a fever.

This is not a victory for me. I just happened to get better. This is a victory for my family and friends. You surrounded me to give me support during my weakness.

I will not stop fighting because I am better. This was a short hiccup in my journey.

1️⃣ I will continue spreading awareness of the benefits of social distancing.

2️⃣ I will continue spreading the Good News of the Gospel.

3️⃣ I will continue to be an autism advocate.

I maybe look silly pumping my fist in the air to myself. I am sure God is finding it humorous too.

But I am also sure He wants me back on the fight.

This world is not about me. It never was and never will be. The only mission that matters is love.

Love God first. Others second. And myself last.

Thank you for sharing!

St. Francis de Sales on Gratitude

This Lent I am revisiting the great spiritual treatise of St. Francis de Sales’— Introduction to the Devout Life. Reading a couple meditations each day provides me ample time to reflect on the wisdom of the timeless truths of the Gospels as given to the world by God through St. Francis.

During the height of a stressful work day, I gazed at this book on my desk and resolved to take 5 minutes of my break to read the third meditation.

Everyday is a gift form God

 

 

 

 

 

 

The theme for that meditation was titled: On Gifts of God. Below is an excerpted section from this third meditation:

Considerations:

  1. Consider the material gifts God has given you—your body, and the means for its preservation;
    your health, and all that maintains it; your friends and many helps. Consider too how many persons
    more deserving than you are without these gifts; some suffering in health or limb, others exposed
    to injury, contempt and trouble, or sunk in poverty, while God has willed you to be better off.
    2. Consider the mental gifts He has given you. Why are you not stupid, idiotic, insane like many
    you wot of? Again, God has favoured you with a decent and suitable education, while many have
    grown up in utter ignorance.
    3. Further, consider His spiritual gifts. You are a child of His Church, God has taught you to
    know Himself from your youth. How often has He given you His Sacraments? what inspirations
    and interior light, what reproofs, He has given to lead you aright; how often He has forgiven you,
    how often delivered you from occasions of falling; what opportunities He has granted for your
    soul’s progress! Dwell somewhat on the detail, see how Loving and Gracious God has been to you

Affections and Resolutions:

1. Marvel at God’s Goodness. How good He has been to me, how abundant in mercy and
plenteous in loving-kindness! O my soul, be thou ever telling of the great things the Lord has done
for thee!

2. Marvel at your own ingratitude. What am I, Lord, that Thou rememberest me? How unworthy am I! I have trodden Thy Mercies under root, I have abused Thy Grace, turning it against Thy very
Self; I have set the depth of my ingratitude against the deep of Thy Grace and Favour.
3. Kindle your gratitude. O my soul, be no more so faithless and disloyal to thy mighty
Benefactor! How should not my whole soul serve the Lord, Who has done such great things in me
and for me?

Reflection

What probably gave me most pause from the above except was St. Francis’ second resolution he charges: Marvel at your own ingratitude. Wait, what? Marvel at my epic fail of thanksgiving this week?! Yes, you read St. Francis’ words correctly. Pondering your own failure to be thankful for the gifts God bestowed upon you is a necessary step towards improvement of an attitude of gratitude.

It did not take me long reflecting about my own spiritual ineptitude. Most of my suffering and negativity this week stemmed from failure to simply thank God. Thank Him for the gifts— however big or small— He already provided me.

Gratitude helps to stave off greed and pride. I am thankful that I decided to spend a small amount of break-time in prayer. I am grateful for the example of holiness St. Francis de Sales. Finally, I am thankful for the gifts of my faith, family, and friends that God grants me daily!

Related Links

Gratitude is Our Oxygen

St. Francis de Sales: Franciscan Media

Introduction to the Devout Life


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Hope you have a blessed Lent!

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3 Reasons Busyness is Never an Excuse to Stop Praying


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 22, 2018. Updates have been made to reflect the canonization of Paul VI.


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At 7:47 A.M. I pulled into the school parking lot. Frenzied. I threw off my seat belt, leaped out of the car, and continued to hurry my children out of the vehicle towards the school entrance.

“Come on, come on! Hurry now!” I exclaimed to my dawdling four year-old daughter. After getting her and my oldest son to their classroom with backpacks and winter clothing hung-up, I quickly walked down the corridor towards my car. It was now 7:53 A.M. when I restarted my car to drive to work.  Speeding down the highway I weaved around the bustle of traffic. I arrived at my employer’s parking lot at 8:20 A.M., but my journey is not quite complete—I still needed to trek across the long employee lot and cross the street before entering the building. Time seemed to be running out on me…

dog tired.jpg

Tired Yet?

If the above paragraph caused slight exhaustion, you are not alone. I want to point out that the busyness of life—especially in the morning seems to haunt me on a daily basis.

This hurried existence appears to be inescapable, at least in my foreseeable future. On top of the daily morning grind, we took my youngest son into urgent care again. The doctor gave me news that brought tears to my wife and elicited a stoic response in myself, “He tested positive for influenza type A.”

Life is beating us down—not just figuratively, but literally!

Sleep deprivation is overtaking both my wife and I, my oldest son is running a fever, and my daughter refuses to go to bed on time–as usual! Taking a snapshot of my life now does not promote much hope on the horizon.

Suddenly I came across an appropriate quote from St. Alphonsus Liguori that provided a bit of easement to my situation. According to the great doctor of the Church,

Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears – of everything that concerns you. Converse with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.

Prayer should be a constant for the Christian, especially during the  upcoming Lenten season. Sadly, I allowed the busyness of life to be an excuse to develop my relationship with God. After reflecting on St. Alphonsus’ words I discovered three reasons why the rat race of life is a terrible excuse to delay communication with the Author of Creation.

prayer2

Little Opportunities

Saint Paul VI states in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelica Testificatio, “If you have lost the taste for prayer, you will regain the desire for it by returning humbly to its practice.” This seems like a paradoxically statement. How can you gain something you lost by returning to it? Herein lies the secret power of prayer. It’s not a limited resource. Prayer is communication. A two-way communication with the Divine—God who is eternal and everlasting.

What helped me gain back reliance on prayer is taking advantage of little opportunities throughout the day to insert a petition for God’s assistance or a prayer of thanksgiving for a simple joy in my life. Talking with God while waiting at a stoplight or praying a decade of the Rosary as I rocked my son to sleep allowed for me to slowly (real slowly, as I am still improving!) to develop my prayer life.

Prayer Sustains Hope

Oftentimes in the great shuffle and strife of daily living hopelessness and despair become implanted in my heart. Watered by the false notion that activity of the world sustains hope the fruit of fear and doubt arise. Filling my day with a billion activities–checking of social media sites for notifications, following new bloggers, or constant publication on my WordPress account does not bring lasting hope.

Slowing down allows for God to enter into my heart through prayer. Saint Charles Borromeo said, “God wishes us not to rest upon anything but His infinite goodness; do not let us expect anything, hope anything, or desire anything but from Him, and let us put our trust and confidence in Him alone.”

True hope is grown and supported through prayer.

parable-of-the-talents-hiding-the_md

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parable of the Talents

The third example of why busyness should never be an excuse to cease praying may seem like it is coming out of left field. Please hear out my thought process. The idea of this post actually came to me during my hurried car drive to work this morning. Immediately, I thought of Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30.

I associate most with the worker with the single talent.  Instead of investing his God-given talent to grow it, that worker miserly held onto it out of fear. Sometimes I fear failure amid the bustle of the work day so I fail to step out in faith to rely on my God-given abilities to grow my confidence and to share my gifts to bring others to Christ.

However, this morning I stalled that mindset. I asked God to help me stay calm in storm of the rushed work day and busyness at home. Through the power of prayer, God provided me the gifts of patience and gratitude to finish out this busy day on a positive note!

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“Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears – of everything that concerns you.”

Listening to the wisdom of St. Alphonsus reinvigorated my spirit. Instead of being worn down by the busyness of the day, I looked forward to the opportunity to rely on God for comfort when life challenged me. I  pray for strength to withstand the storm of busyness.  May you too find strength and perseverance in the Lord during the craziness of life.

Related Links

The Necessity of an Ordered Prayer Life for Every Catholic Soul

A Prayer to the Lord in Difficult Times

7 Ways to Shield Yourself against Anxiety!

3 Ways Mary Undoes Knots of Desolation


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Thank you for sharing!

What is the secret to joy and daily peace?

Secret to life

The secret to joy & the closest thing to finding peace daily is something people talk about but aren’t consistently doing…

Gratitude is our oxygen

Be grateful. In all things. Literally everything.

Common objection to this claim:

“But you don’t know what I’ve been through. The horrors I faced & currently face.”

Your 100% right. I may not know your situation. Nor even be capable of fathoming it.

However, I have faced hell. 2014 was that year for me.

We wife and I lost our unborn baby Jeremiah due to miscarriage—four hours before his death I heard his heartbeat 💓 . Saw it on an ultrasound.

The horror is loss took my wife by storm immediately.

Me? It poisoned me and slowly I lost my hope. I was on the brink of giving up—at everything.

My faith helped me through it, but I am not completely healed—nor ever will be healed fully.

Be thankful in everything. Matt, are you thankful for losing your son?

It took me several years to get to this point and I would have to say—yes I am grateful.

Loss transforms you

Without that loss I would never be the man I am today. We would never have our son Josiah—whose name actually translates as healer (I didn’t intend for that connection).

I want to let you know that you will survive your firestorm. Ask the Holy Spirit for deliverance daily. It won’t be easy, but God will sustain you.

Thank you for sharing!

How to Develop a Thankful and Joyful Mentality— Be Grateful for Everything!

thank you meme.jpg

 

 

 

 

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” Ingratitude is a cancer that destroys the best of relationships, all previous successes, and precedes despair. In preparation for the season of Lent, I am focusing on developing a better daily habit– that of more graciousness for life both good and bad.

Find Joy— Make a Great (Grateful) List

Let’s do an experiment. Get a timer for look at your watch or clock and time yourself for a minute.

During this 60 seconds list out all of the various things in your life that you’re grateful for. You can type this out or jot it down on a piece of paper. At the end of the minute look at the various things that you’re grateful for below are a  list of my items.

Note: For the sake of transparency I listed the things in the order that they popped into my head. The ordering is not a reflection of the priority of gratitude!

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  • Coffee
  • Kids
  • Blankets
  • Car
  • Food
  • Books
  • Writing
  • Computer
  • Phone
  • Bed
  • Internet
  • Comic books
  • Babies
  • Wife
  • Faith
  • Desks
  • Keyboard
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Pens
  • Heater
  • Garage
  • Learning/failing
  • Lists

Whether your list is larger or smaller than mine does not matter. What I am certain of is that you could certainly think of at least ONE person or thing you are thankful for.

This exercise took only 1 MINUTE!

Imagine performing this simple test of thankfulness every hour of the day. Aristotle once wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Start your life anew with developing a sense of gratitude.

Develop a sense of thankfulness no matter what happens in life. Happiness and peace will soon follow!


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3 Tips to Acquire Mentality Agility and the Joy of a Calm Mind


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 3rd, 2018.


Are you feeling sluggish? Groggy? Quick-tempered? Do you struggle to move on from a trying situation despite your best efforts?

If you answered yes to at least one of the questions, or even all of them, please know that you are not alone! I often struggle with keeping up in an ever-changing work-place and quickening of life in general. I struggle to handle difficult and frustrating situations with grace and patience.  What is the solution?

Experts, educators, doctors, psychologists, and scientist provide a panoply of tips and methods to improve people who suffer from anxiety and feelings of constant lack of energy. My goal today is not to replace or compete with any of those already tried and true methods. Instead, I want to share my personal experience living with and dealing with ADHD and anxiety.

Although ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, it sort of is a misnomer—people with this diagnosis do not always fail to pay attention. Rather, I go through periods where I actually hyper-focus. What this means is that I tend to fixate or zoom-in on a particular subject/hobby that I am passionate about. When this happens I tend to lost sight of things happening around me—my wife or children asking me a question or other perspectives at work.

Shifting my focus to and from various things in the day is tough for me, but I discovered a few strategies that help me form a habit to more agilely more from task to task throughout the day.  The advice below comes from things that worked for me personally to limit my anxiety and increase my ability to move from trying situations easier and more positively.

Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry

Saint Padre Pio, a 20th century mystic and stigmatist, was a man whose powerful presence captivated a multitude of people. “Pray, hope, and don’t worry,” he exclaimed. When I first heard this statement in high school, I always thought it was a pious saying that overly religious people told you when things got tough. Certainly, I did not believe praying, hoping, and simply not worrying actually had a basis in reality.

After nearly a decade of being a parent, I learned about the power of prayer. Hoping even amid a seemingly hopeless situation is effective. The last part of DO NOT WORRY is a part that I struggle with mightily, but at least I am aware of my deficiency. Padre Pio continues to provide comfort to me. He reminded me the importance of the presence of God even when you cannot feel it,

Jesus is with you even when you don’t feel His presence. He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles. He is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight your battle courageously. He is there to ward off the enemy’s blows so that you may not be hurt.

Remind Yourself to be Thankful

Equally important as praying is reminding yourself to be thankful. In fact, among the most common prayer is that of gratitude for the blessings in one’s life.

Forming a habit of shifting my mindset to reflecting on the blessings in my life took time and work. Ultimately, this habit has paid off! I found a direct correlation with the frequency of thankful thoughts with my ability to more quickly navigate between stressful situation.

Former NFL quarterback and devout Christian Tim Tebow spoke of thanksgiving in this way, “I pray to start my day and finish it in prayer. I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.”

As someone with diagnosed ADHD, I struggle with honing in on the trees of the forest instead of stepping away to notice the beauty of the forest [or life] as a whole. Jotting down a few of my blessings everyday on a Post-It note is an easy way for me to daily remind myself to continue an attitude of gratitude.

Exercise with Exorcise Your Personal Demons

My favorite philosopher Aristotle [sorry Plato!] wrote about the importance of developing a regular routine, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” Along with filling myself spiritually and emotionally with prayer and a thankful mindset, frequent exercise combats my inner demons of impatience and anger that get pent up after a stress-filled day at work and home.

Running calms my mind and provides me energy. St. Paul uses the analogy of running frequently in his letters, but among my favorite quotes comes from 1 Corinthians 9:26 when he writes, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.”

Jogging intermittently or aimlessly does me no good in the long run. Frequent jogs at least three times a week for 2-3 miles provide me the best defense against my personal vices of anger, bitterness, impatience, and judgmental thoughts.

After a fulfilling 5k, I almost immediately experience a sense of joy and relief. Any lingering anxiety from earlier in the day disappeared. Focusing on a landmark or sign throughout my jog helps motivate me to push past any exhaustion or temptation to take a break.

Forming a healthy habit of prayer, thanksgiving, and exercise [mental and physical] will not happen overnight. The key is to acknowledge your progress and pick yourself up when you fall—believe me falling and failing is guaranteed. Good habits take time. Practice makes progress. Soon you will be able to encounter a difficult situation and more easily able to overcome.

Related Links

3 Reasons the Worst Monday Ever Failed to Stop My Joy

3 Simple Ways to Find Joy

Catholic Joy?

Thank you for sharing!