For the last few months, the word joy has been on my mind and heart constantly. I’m not saying that I’ve been full of joy in every moment, but I find myself hearing and seeing the word joy more than usual. I even tried to convince my husband that we need to purchase one of those GIANT outdoor Christmas decorations that say joy. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for an after Christmas sale, because they are not cheap!

Now for those of you who know me, you’re probably thinking, well “duh”,  Joy is your middle name…..why is this anything new? I get that! Not only is Joy MY middle name, it’s also my sister’s middle name, and my daughter Amelia’s middle name as well. I guess we were destined to be a happy bunch of people. But it’s not always that easy, is it?

Having this word on my mind has reminded me time and time again that the best way to experience joy is through thankfulness. My ability to give thanks and to express gratitude is a direct reflection of my relationship with God. If I can become a more thankful person, I’ll always remember to show gratitude toward Him.

I’ve been participating in a gratitude challenge since October 1st, and here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. Being joyful isn’t the opposite of experiencing trials. Being joyful is a choice you make in the midst of experiencing trials.

  2. The more you celebrate and acknowledge the things in your life that bring you joy, the more there is in life to be joyful about.

  3. Worry less, smile more.

  4. Be thankful for the big things, the small things, and everything in between.

Here’s my list for today of what I’m thankful for:

The small things:

  • I ran into a friend at the gym and had unplanned quality time with her while we worked out.

  • I don’t have to set an alarm for the next 4 days.

  • We put our outdoor Christmas lights up.

The in-between things:

  • Ryland (almost 2) is currently obsessed with giving hugs and kisses. To everyone. At all times.

  • My children are amazing sleepers. Asleep by 7:30 and will wake at 7:00am. I can count on one hand the number of times Amelia hasn’t done that since she turned two.

  • My husband cleaned our bathroom today. (small in the grand scheme of things, but actually pretty HUGE today).

Big things:

  • I serve a God who wants me to feel complete in Him.

  • I have an amazing husband, two beautiful children, and we have incredible family.

  • We are healthy.

  • We live in a wonderful home in a great neighborhood.

Just from taking the time to make those lists, I’m now smiling. I feel joyful. I’m reminded of how much good is in my life, and not for one second while writing those did I think about the negative.

I know so many people who have experienced a difficult 2018. Some are celebrating their first holiday without loved ones, some are lonely and afraid of what’s next, some are just trying to keep all the balls rolling and long for a life that doesn’t feel rushed and hurried all the time. Not only will an attitude of thankfulness help during this time, but it is essential to getting through the yuck. It is when you’re in those dark places that you have the most to gain by having a thankful heart. That is when you will feel the power to heal and the power to find hope again. Instead of being consumed with our temporary feelings of despair, expressing thankfulness helps us look at the entire picture and remember what’s ahead.

There’s this myth out there that tells us all the things we have to accomplish in order to “have it all”. But I love this reminder: “At the end of the day, the secret is to having it all is simply realizing that we already do.”

I hope this exercise can help you realize this. So, what’s on your list today? What are the big things, small things, and in-between things that you are thankful for?

Invest in Rest

Focus on who you are, not who you are not