The Joy Experiment- Week 6
I'm gonna just go ahead and say that I've made a scientific breakthrough. Do I have the qualifications to make that announcement? Sure. According to me, I have every bit of authority necessary to give my own personal discovery the title of "scientific breakthrough."
The Joy Experiment- Challenge!
This is not the usual post for our Joy Experiment, so I'll keep it pretty brief. For the month of March, I have created a calendar with 31 days of small, quick activities that will hopefully bring joy to your life. I encourage you to join in and do as many of these as you like/are able to do! Most of my activity for this challenge will be on Instagram, so if you'd like to share what you are doing for the challenge, just tag me there (@sgbaconwriter). I hope you will use this calendar and challenge as an opportunity to incorporate more things that bring you joy!
The Joy Experiment- Week 3
So... things haven't exactly gone according to plan. You may have picked up on that, given the fact that we skipped a week in these posts. I had planned on posting for week two, even had my whole discussion on how that week had put this whole theory to the test planned... but then week two went straight into week three, which turned out to also be a challenge. So here we are. End of week three, heading into week four. Things are a little different than anticipated, but honestly, are you surprised? I'm not.
The Joy Experiment- Week 1
I'm not going to lie to you here and tell you that after just seven days of these new habits, my life is changed, I'm 100 times happier, and everything is perfect. That's just not how these kind of things work. And besides, I'm not trying to sell you on doing things exactly like me. That's not the point of this. The point of this "experiment" is to see what happens (and according the the research study I'm in the middle of conducting for grad school, it's best to remain as objective as possible). That being said, there are a couple of key pieces I have noticed so far.
The Joy Experiment- Day 1
I always like to start things on the first of the month, so I've waited not-so-patiently to dive into this new project for a few days now. This past weekend, I was able to attend an amazing conference all about establishing healthy rhythms of rest and work, how to engage in Christian meditation, and ways to truly keep the Sabbath holy. I was honestly pumped for this conference because I have gotten to the point of being so tired of living my life just waiting for my next break. I knew that I needed to learn to romanticize and find joy in every day. So here we are.
I have my grandfather's hazel eyes. I know this might seem like a fairly obvious statement to anyone who knows how genetics work. But it’s an interesting thing to me because, up until a couple of years ago, we didn’t know that my grandfather had hazel eyes. So it was always a bit of a mystery where my hazel eyes came from growing up, since we didn't know anyone else in our family with hazel eyes. And it’s also something that happens to be on my mind recently because both of my grandparents have passed away over the course of three months.
I’ve been lucky enough to not really experience much of this kind of loss in my family up until this point, and now I find that one of the main ways that I have been coping is thinking about the pieces of them that live on in me. It’s a truly beautiful thing that when you love someone, they’re never completely gone because you can’t truly love someone and be uninfluenced by them. So because my way of working through things is always to write about them, here is my celebration of all the pieces of my grandparents that are very much alive in me.
My grandmother was the most optimistic and cheerful person that most people have ever met, and one of the ways that cheerfulness manifested was through an eclectic assortment of earrings. Grandma had earrings for every holiday and occasion and outfit and color that you could imagine. I have now inherited many of those earrings, and let me tell you, they are a hit with fourth graders. I’ve also taken up crocheting, which was something that Grandma always did. She taught me how to when I was younger, but I never really got into it until now. I see why she did it so much. It’s very calming, almost meditative. Before she passed away, Grandma managed to crochet baby blankets for all of her grandchildren so that we at least have one blanket made for our children that will be from their great grandma. That giving nature and great love for her family was such a big part of her. Grandma also loved to cook. Loved to care for people and make sure everyone was fed and content and happy. That trait is definitely alive and well in me. In fact, I’m not sure if feeding people is an official love language, but it would for sure be top of my list if it was. And Grandma loved the holidays, which is also something that I carry with me today. She thought that the holidays should be a special time of year. A time to share with family and other people who you love. A time to give and to smother your house in decorations that make you happy. These didn’t have to be the decorations that everyone else appreciated. Like her coloring books, which were filled with any assortment and combination of colors that happened to speak to her at the moment, she believed decorations should be what bring joy into your house. And in my delight in my Christmas lights, that trait continues.
Grandpa was not very much like Grandma, and in some ways, I am a little more similar to him. Unlike Grandma, he was not the biggest people person. I get it. I get it a lot. After a full day of people I need to not see anyone for a good long while to recharge. Grandpa was also a super creative person. When I was little, we would sit at the kitchen table in their apartment, and grandpa and I would paint together. We always painted on paper plates. Were there canvases? Yes. Did we use them? Never. I don’t know why we always used the paper plates, but it worked for us. Today, I use actual canvases, but much of my love of art began on those cheap paper plates. I also remember him making these little buildings and structures for mini figurines. They didn’t really serve any purpose, except as a way to busy his hands. The stuffed dragon on my bookshelf speaks to a similar sort of creative personality. And grandpa was the greatest storyteller. At dinner, he would tell stories about playing baseball in the streets of Brooklyn. He would use the salt and pepper shakers to map out where everything was and manage to keep my attention, despite my complete lack of interest in baseball. I guess the storytelling trait could be genetic. I just happen to put mine in writing.
Both grandma and grandpa appreciated their music too, albeit in different ways. Grandma liked her worship CDs, while grandpa often listened to old Italian opera. One thing was the same, though. Both of them had a tendency to sing along in a way that didn’t match most of the words or the tune or anything else about the song. But they enjoyed it. And I enjoy music too, even if the music I make doesn’t always sound so perfect.
So I guess the point of this, other than being a bit of a therapeutic exercise for me, is to encourage anyone else who is grieving that whoever you’re missing has not lost all connection to you. I will say again that if you love someone, it is impossible to go untouched by their influence. So look for the ways to recognize the people you’re missing when you look in the mirror. Recognize their work in the things that you create. Find peace, knowing that they did not leave you completely without them. And know that there is so much beauty in a legacy of love.
I've never really had an issue with the whole "be yourself" thing. Part of the reason for that could be that I've always been blessed to have a family and support system who love and respect who I am. Part of it could be because I have issues with stubbornness. It happens. But while continuing to be myself even when others are not understanding or accepting has always just been what I've done, the accompanying mental state of actually liking myself has proven to be more complicated.
I feel like I need to clarify some things here because this sounds terrible and sad. I generally feel pretty good about myself. I think I'm at least a slightly cool person. But there are some things that other people comment on more frequently that have made it more difficult to be myself without worrying about what other people think. There's those little comments that get in your head and spoil the activities you enjoy doing. After all, it's hard to enjoy things when you're thinking about how many times it's been suggested that you should enjoy other things more.
I'm a very introverted person. I value my alone time. I like to stay home and relax because my apartment is adorable and cozy and comfortable. I'm creative, so being able to make things makes me happy. I find silence to be comforting and calming. As my mother says, I do a lot of "deep thinking." And if I'm being completely honest, I'm getting tired of those things being viewed as qualities I should fix or change or minimize to "come out of my shell."
Because it's not a shell. It's just my personality. And for quite a while, I've been letting those perceptions get to me and make me feel like there's something wrong with me every time I choose alone time over socializing. But I've come to realize that if I can teach my fourth graders that people are different and expect them to accept those differences, I can do the same for everyone else.
I've started doing the things I enjoy unapologetically, and I've loved every minute. For someone who has, at times, been hyper-fixated on others' opinions and expectations, it's freeing to push those thoughts out of my head. I am who God made me. And I'm not saying that there's no room for improvement, but there's certainly no need for a complete personality shift. I know what I enjoy and what helps me function best and it's way past time I stop letting people's opinions make me feel bad about it.
So I guess this is my open letter, if you will, to the promise of being myself and liking it. And hopefully along the way, other people learn to like me being myself too. In the meantime, I'll be home, creating new things, basking in the silence, and enjoying every moment.
Well, I'm back with some more thoughts after... who knows how long. But you know how it goes- something gets in my head, and then eventually it makes its way out in writing. Today's inspiration was partially the sermon in church this morning, partially God doing that fun thing He does sometimes when He just sort of reaches down and pokes me. Like a, "Hey, I have something to say to you and you're not listening" sort of thing.
Anyways. My church is currently in the middle of a sermon series on prayer, and this morning's focus was on allowing Jesus in because He wants to spend time with us. He wants to be close to us. Which, as someone who grew up in church and in a Christian family and has always had a walk with God, I knew. But there was a point somewhere in the middle of the sermon where I had a sudden thought. I miss Him. And you know what? That's on me. I've been reading my Bible and praying and going to church and checking all my good Christian duties off the list, but I realized that there hasn't been any time recently where I've just been with Jesus.
When I was little, I never had the chance to miss Him because he was everything. I loved Jesus, but I was also head over heels in love with Him, too. He was my Savior, yes, but also my friend, my confidant, my safe place. You know how in the Narnia movies every time Lucy sees Aslan, you get that beautiful scene of her running to him and just burying her face in his mane? That's how it was every time. Jesus was always on my mind.
I've had the privilege of having a beautiful walk with Christ. From the innocence of childhood through the hot garbage fire that was high school, He was there every step. Even when I had no friends and didn't fit in anywhere and cried way more often than I'd like to admit, He was there every step. And when I went to college and things were new and scary, He was there every step. Now, in a new place with a new job when things are going really well, He is still with me every step. And it's because of that relationship and His faithfulness that I still know He is the most important part of my life. It's why I start each morning in my Bible and make sure to carve out time in my day for Him.
And that's great. Don't get me wrong, it took me a while to get to that point, and I know that routine is essential for my life. But somewhere in all the busyness and piled up to-do lists, I forgot that it's not all about a routine. I forgot how I used to just talk to God about my day. I forgot the resting piece of things, the part where maybe I shut up for once during my time with God and let Him speak. And when I realized this morning that I missed Him, deeply and viscerally, that was all I wanted. Just to be with Him. Just to let Him hold me. Just to run to Him like I used to, not with my problems, but with my excitement and my joy to simply know and love Him.
I don't want to be too busy to be in love with Jesus. I don't want there to be any piece of my life that isn't completely saturated with that love. I want to go back to casual conversations and resting in His presence. Because honestly, little me didn't have a whole lot figured out, but she really nailed that piece.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." -Revelation 3:20
Before I get into this blog post, I want to preface it by laying out the things that I don't want to do, and what I would hope that writing this does do. First of all, I do not want to, in any way, suggest that anything has happened to me because I am just so wonderful and holy that I deserve all of what I have and more. No. Instead, my goal here is for the focus to be on how good God is, how He pours out His grace and blessings on those He loves, regardless of whether or not we have earned that love. That's the beauty of God's provision... I haven't earned any of it, and yet here we are anyway! Secondly, I want to make sure that this is not taken as me suggesting that because I am a Christian, because it is my ongoing goal to devote myself fully to God, everything is going to be perfect and work out just the way I want. Yes, He works in all things for "the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28), but He also told us that we will experience troubles and trials of various kinds (John 16:33, James 1:2). Besides, it's an ongoing goal because I constantly fail at it, so let's just bring that back to my earlier point about how this isn't because I'm fantastic and have earned God's blessings and grace. And finally, I know that many of you are here because I write books, not spiritual blog posts... but this is important. God has worked in such beautiful ways in my life, and it is my responsibility, as well as my privilege, to point everything back to Him and bring Him the glory that He is due. So. With no further ado (or disclaimers), it's time to get into what this is actually about.
I got a job! As in, my ideal job. The job that I didn't even think was an option. And I am beyond thrilled and so excited and so incredibly ready to embark on this new adventure! As you may know if you follow my Instagram, I have been teaching fourth grade at a school near my college in an internship/teacher's aid position this past year. It's a wonderful school that very much aligns with my passion and philosophy of teaching, as well as a stable and supportive place to start my official teaching career. As it got closer to the end of the school year, positions started opening up, although none of the available positions were for fourth grade, which is what I would have really loved to teach. I, being the sometimes-too-ambitious-for-my-own-good person that I am, applied to all of them. I figured that as long as I got into the school, I would be happy.
Then the fourth grade position opened (in an interesting turn of events). Of course, this was very exciting, but still, my main prayer was just that I would get any position at the school, and even if that didn't happen, that I could have peace in trusting God's will for my life. I went into an interview with a small committee the next week with the prayer that God would help me to speak with wisdom and grace, and that He would help me to stand apart as a good candidate. Apparently it worked because I was called in for an interview with the superintendent two days later. Again, I prayed for peace, for the ability to trust God fully, and that He would make me far better at the whole interview thing than I am on my own. And again, it worked. At the end of that interview, the superintendent offered me a job... not just any job, but that fourth grade position that originally wasn't even an option.
I'll spare you any descriptions of exactly how I felt and still feel (no one really needs to hear how ridiculous I must have looked walking back to my classroom with a grin plastered across my face) because, again, anything about me is not really the point. Ephesians 3:20-21 says, "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." That is the point. I'm not the one who opened that fourth grade position, or the one who led the administration to like me enough to hire me, or the one who placed me in this school in the first place! I am just beyond grateful and blessed to be the one who gets to experience a relationship with the God who can do all of those things and more. Again, life isn't always going to work out this well. I'm not always going to get everything I want. But the God who is in control for this is the One who is always in control.
So I guess what I want to do at the end of this whole thing is to encourage you. Whatever you're waiting on, whatever you're hoping for, whatever you're stressing about... give it over. Give it up. He's more than capable. And if it doesn't work out exactly as you wanted it, trust that His plan is good and perfect. Know that He loves you no matter what, and He is orchestrating things that we can't even begin to imagine. But if it does work out, I want to extend the invitation of Psalm 34:3: "Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together."
Of all the books I will ever read or write, He is the greatest Author. His is the greatest Story. And He is the One who invites me on the greatest Adventure. God is good!
I'm graduating college. Like, alarmingly soon. On one hand, I have no idea where the past four years have gone and I certainly don't feel like I could possibly be at this point yet. On the other hand, I've grown so much and I'm not entirely the person I was in high school (thank goodness- there were definitely some things that needed to change). From the writing perspective, I've published three books in the past four years (that's nice to see in writing) and have embarked on a new series with messages and stories that I am so excited about. As a teacher, well, I'm about to actually be certified. And I've spent the school year working with the most incredible kids, having an amazing time, and completely solidifying that this is absolutely what I want to be doing. And just in general as a person... I'm not even going to get into that. Just know that it's a lot about confidence and knowing who I am in Christ and all that good stuff.
But now I'm at this interesting sort of juncture. Up until this year, I kind of figured I'd go back home after graduating, get my master's, and then figure out what comes next... in that area. That nice, safe area where pretty much everyone knows me and my family, and where I know pretty much everyone and everything, right down to the spots you have to be most alert for deer jumping into the road.
But now there's this wonderful school that has welcomed me this year and has job openings for next year. There's this community that seems nice to be a part of and these new places to explore. And, of course, there's the allure of being on my own and sort of carving out my own place in the world.
At this point, the issue is not so much making the decision of which direction to take as it is about just working through the implications. The unknown of establishing myself is more exciting than frightening for me. But being unknown is an entirely different matter. I'm extremely introverted, so it's not even that I want to know a whole bunch of people. But here in this new place, a couple of hours away from what has always been my home, nobody really knows who I am, what really matters to me, what makes me tick. And there's just something about the process of people discovering those things about me that seems simultaneously exhausting and terrifying.
I'm not sure if any of that really made much sense. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out what exactly it is that I'm saying. I'm still processing. But to my fellow soon-to-be-graduates, and anyone else out there on the cusp of the unknown and being known... congratulations! I'm rooting for you.
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