Joy. That was my #oneword365 for 2018. I sat in the bathtub on New Year’s Eve trying to remember what it was.
I’ve been choosing one word to guide my year since 2014, and not once had I reached year’s end without being able to recall which word I had chosen that year.
Gosh. Where had I gotten off track?
I remember choosing the word and not really telling more than a couple of friends. I chose a one year devotional about how to find joy everyday. Maybe somewhere deep down I felt like it was doomed from the start. Unhappy with my current season, things seemed to get worse instead of better. Where would I find joy?
One prompt of the journal was to interview others on what joy meant to them. I asked my person, and she said joy, to her, meant “deep seated happiness.” I didn’t understand what she meant, and I didn’t ask.
I never made it past the three or four month mark in the devotional.
Fast forward several months later, less than two hours before the New Year, I struggled to process whether or not “deep seated happiness” had shown up in my year. At that moment I remembered something from one of my favorite devotionals, Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray. She mentioned that looking at pictures from the past has been shown to lift one’s mood. I thought if I reviewed my pictures from the past year I could get a sense of where the joy may have shown up in 2018.
So I picked up my phone, and as I (carefully) reclined in the hot water, I scrolled as far back as I could go in 2018 in pictures.
As I looked at all my pictures – at all of the life I lived these past 12 months – I saw it.
Not always a loud and in your face joy. But I found joy in the little (and sometimes big) moments of my life that I shared with those around me. Many of them were not even public or publicized events, but I felt the joy just reflecting on the moments that I captured.
I remembered the bittersweet and painful moments too. Those were not absent by far in 2018. By mid year my stress and anxiety had reached an all time high, and I cried out to God wondering where the answers were to all my questions.
Even still, I found the joy of the Lord, present and active in my life. Waiting for me to acknowledge it.
I found it while celebrating with and being celebrated by my beloved community over coffees, dinners, and bonfires. In framily reunions that spanned airports, states, and continents.
I also saw evidence of joy in the random moments on the stoop talking with my neighbors, and playing with their dogs, and later in sharing my neighboring story with others in my church.
I welcomed joy with open arms when my niece (who we thought was a nephew – SURPRISE!) was born, and when I finally got to meet her in Ghana!
Even in saying goodbye to a home I’ve loved for 18 years, there was joy to be found – the joy of a season well lived and well loved.
And finally, I found that joy has also been part of my journey as I rediscover my hometown, my family, and myself.
When I found the joy this New Year’s Eve, I cried. I thanked God for joy. Even when it isn’t apparent and we have to search it out. Everyday life moments are filled to the brim with joy – if we open ourselves to it.
2018 taught me to take the leap and build wings on the way down. 2019, I look forward to catching the wind and flying high.
Cheers to a new year, with new opportunities to search out the joy. I hope you find it too, friend. Just keep looking.