With Christmas behind us, it is so easy to feel stuck in the doldrums of January. We spend weeks preparing our hearts and homes for Christmas; we enjoy time away from work; we celebrate with friends and family. But then, inevitably, the joy-filled celebrating comes to an end. The beautiful decorations come down. We go back to work.
Despite having a job I love, I found myself complaining at the prospect of returning to work after New Year’s. Even so, I turned on my smile as I prepared to welcome my students back to school, and as I looked around at them that first morning back, I couldn’t help but notice they were filled with contagious joy. They were filled with joy at seeing me, at seeing each other, at learning the next letter of the alphabet. That’s one of the things I love most about kindergarten – the kids are just filled with joy over everything and anything. From finally writing their first word to building a perfectly balanced tower of blocks, the simplest things bring them joy.
I watch my students as they learn and as they play, and I can’t help but think how much I would love to recapture that childlike joy in myself, how I’d like to keep the joy of Christmas in my heart year-round. And I can’t help but think of the Gospel of Matthew, where Christ reminds us, “if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4
Last Lent, I read a wonderful little book called Living Joy: Nine Rules to Help You Rediscover and Live Joy Every Day. Two of my biggest takeaways for living a more joy-filled life were to focus on gratitude and love. In terms of gratitude, simply remembering to count and thank God for our blessings each and every day. Some days we will find ourselves overjoyed and thanking God for things that feel like big blessings – getting a new job or finishing a big project. Other days, it will feel harder. On those days, I like to thank God for the little things – the sun in the sky, my morning cup of coffee, a safe drive to work, a silly thing one of my students said. The hard truth of it is that some days are hard. Just remember that “you can’t control what’s around you, but you can control what you focus on and let into your heart” (Steffanick 30).
In terms of love, remembering we were all created from love and for love. Chris Steffanick, the author of Living Joy, writes, “Joy isn’t what happens when life goes perfectly. It’s what happens when you know you’re loved,” (2). So, on the days when life feels especially hard, when nothing seems to be going your way, just remember, you are loved. You are loved by your family, you are loved by your friends, and most importantly, you are loved by our heavenly Father.
So, even though every day is not Christmas Day, we can still carry the spirit of Christmas joy in our hearts. We can look for and find joy in the little things. We can remember that we are loved and every single day is a gift. A gift from God. A gift worth celebrating.
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24