Finding Our Joy (Hint: It's Right Under Our Noses)

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It’s 6:15, kids are still at the the dinner table, and we have a 20 minute drive to get to the baseball game by 6:30. I’m no math whiz, but I am pretty sure this is going to be impossible. Cue the yelling.

“Get your stuff! For the 100th time! Get in the car!”

Cue the lecture.

“You spent so much time chatting at the table. Now look. WE ARE LATE!”

Cue the mad scramble for shoes, a batting helmet, blankets and chairs. None of which are where they are supposed to be.

“Go! Go! Go!”

I am spilling over with anger and frustration as my kids run wildly about. We always seemed to be running late. They’re never ready. Why did they have to talk so much? Couldn’t they just LISTEN. I fume and stomp and yell demanding that they move. Come on kid get in the car... no shoes needed... just move! I heard myself, really heard myself, and it was not a pretty moment. I sounded suspiciously like my 4-year-old when he has a big old temper tantrum. I became quite sure I looked nuts.

I looked, really looked, at my sweet kiddos and saw the 8-year-old almost in tears and my 10-year-old pleaser looked terrified of me. All my people looked at me with eyes full of fear and defeat. We were late, no one could find anything, they were failures. I, too, felt completely defeated and like the worst mom in the world. All over 5 minutes on the clock.

Does this sound familiar? The chaos and the schedule and the busyness can have the power to drown out everything else. I get stuck waiting for life to slow down so I can take the time to appreciate and “be happy”. In that moment of clarity, I realized this way of living was stealing my joy. Waiting for life to slow down just isn’t going to happen for us. All we have is right now, just the way it is. I decided to ask, what can I do today to bring back my joy?

The answer was startlingly simple. I could choose to simply find the joy, right here and right now. My people were here so the joy had to be too. It was up to me to dig through the chaos and find the joy that was hiding there. This was, admittedly, easier in some moments than others. But it was up to me to choose what I noticed, those things that rob my joy or those that ARE the joy.

I started to find joy in the littlest things. Like in the fact my sweet 5-year-old can still curl up into a ball in my lap that he calls a nest. Looking down at this soon to be fleeting sight means I choose to ignore the backpacks that seem to have exploded around me in the family room. Instead, I look at his still little hands and feet and worn out blankie stuffed under his sleepy head like a pillow and how can I not feel joy?

I choose to notice the beauty with which my 12-year-old walks through the room, full of creativity and bursting with ideas. We are so blessed by this child. Looking at her means that I ignore the room that she is walking out of. The room filled with sticks and collections and books and all sorts of little things strewn all over. The stuff of her dreams may be the stuff of my cleaning nightmares, but if I am choosing joy I am choosing her. The mess can wait and will reappear oh so soon after it is cleaned up, choosing joy sets us both free..

Joy is found in noticing the boy sitting at my kitchen table that is suddenly looking so long in his chair, I swear his feet swung just above the floor a few short days ago. I listen as he tells me his dream last night or his plan for his lego creation and holdback my urge to remind him about his homework that is still undone. If I really listen, the joy that he wants to share all of this with me, his mom, will wash over me. The homework will wait... there will always be homework, forever and ever amen. But there will not always be this moment. The choice is mine and I choose joy.

Joy is even hiding in the constant driving around town with the 15-year-old. She is right next to me and I have her attention, no distractions. She cannot escape and starts to tell me about her day. If I’m lucky I will get a little glimpse into her heart. Instead of being frustrated by the fact that I am stuck driving all night long, I am spending time with my girl. This girl who is suddenly wise and funny and so much fun to talk to. I can catch a glimpse of our future friendship and I am filled with joy at the mere thought of being her mom.

Joy is taking the time to notice the light in my 8-year-old daughter’s eyes when she comes to find me in my bathroom in the morning. And then making the choice to curl her hair and have a morning chat instead of waving her on so that I can check email before work. The thought that this precious child is somehow disrupting my morning routine is the ultimate joy stealer. Instead, focusing on her beautiful hair and sweet smile and happiness about getting beautified by her mom before the day begins will bring joy not only to me but to her. I dare say enough of these choices will actually fill our entire home with joy.

I know there will be those times when this seems impossible to do. The messes are just too great, the fighting is just too much and the frustration is just too real. But when this happens, and the joy goes missing, I can take a deep breath and dig around until I find it again. No regrets, just a do-over. Beating myself up over lost moments is a joy killer and I have decided I just don’t have time for that. I’m hunting down joy people, this alone should get dibs on my time.

My friends, the choice is ours. We can let the chaos consume us, the messes infuriate us, and the arguing send us down with the ship. Or we can choose to find our joy. Now. Today. Right in the middle of the crazy. It’s right there buried underneath messes and chaos. It’s in your people, even the boundary pushing, eye rolling teenager and the full of attitude 2-year-old. Don’t forget to check the small things and fleeting moments, joy hides there often. Find it, ignore the rest, and choose joy for the win.

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