“In the greatest confusion, there is still an open channel to the soul. It may be difficult to find because by mid-life it is overgrown…But the channel is always there, and it is our business to keep it open, to have access to the deepest parts of ourselves.” Saul Bellow
Running is my way of getting the vinegar out of me that is corroding my insides. Some people have slow-burning emotions that blend quite nicely, easing into each other without sharp, pointy edges. Not so for me. I told a friend the other day that most peoples’ bodies are made up of mostly water, but mine is 99.9% emotion. I feel tremendous amounts of joy and alongside that I feel intense days of sorrow. Nature mirrors back our humanness in powerful ways. Last week I took a picture of a tree bursting with vibrant yellow and orange colours, and today that same tree stood leafless and bare, hardly noticeable and certainly not worthy of a picture. How many days do we experience the garden of our own heart changing seasons like these trees? One day we’re bursting with passion and colour and the next day unworthiness or not enoughness seeps in, and we stand in all our weakness and frailty, barren and colourless. Hard days feel like walking through deep snow in big, clunky boots. Each step requires grit and tenacity. I have had enough winter days to last me a lifetime, and because of that, I have learned to intentionally plan for joy. We have to prepare for the winter of our souls because the winter always comes.
How To Survive the Hard Days: Preparation For Winter
I have a daytimer and each day I write down what I am going to do to be emotionally healthy. One practice I learned recently from Kelly Rae Roberts course, Dressing For Joy was the importance of creating a joy manifesto. I would encourage you to do this. Each morning you can light a candle and read the manifesto, which sets the tone for the day. Here is mine:
I believe in wearing my joy every day—bright colours make me happy.
I believe we can only love others deeply when we love ourselves deeply.
I give myself permission to practice self-love daily.
I believe that God is an extraordinary father.
I give myself permission to soak in his love daily through worship, silence, and gratitude.
I believe love is capable of transforming the world.
I give myself permission to intentionally love others daily.
I believe we are meant to live colourful, vibrant, meaningful lives.
I give myself permission to enjoy daily adventures that make my heart happy.
I believe in embracing our messy selves with kindness.
I give myself permission to be messy and will respond to my messiness with loving- kindness.
I believe in loving my enemy.
I give myself permission to bless those who bug me, hurt me or treat me unjustly.
I believe in the power of forgiveness.
I give myself permission to forgive and send love to those who have hurt my heart.
I believe within every person there is a diamond waiting to be discovered.
I give myself permission to search for beauty in others, including myself. I will be less critical of myself and others.
I believe in the power of a vulnerable heart.
I give myself permission to be vulnerable with others so I can have deep, intimate, heartfelt relationships.
I believe heaven is glorious and beyond what we can imagine.
I give myself permission to remember this on hard days—the reward is great.
So, for fun, create a joy manifesto for yourself. I believe______________I give myself permission to____________________.
Make A Joy Alter
In a little area of my closet, I have a joy alter. On it are my affirmation cards (God’s promises), a picture of me when I was little and happy (to remind me to be childlike), a lock of Zach’s hair (to remind me of him and to keep an eternal perspective), a sea anemone shell (to remind me God cares about the details), a picture of my boys and I on mother’s day (because being a mother has been my greatest joy), a little girl jumping in the air (to remind me to be playful and spontaneous).
Joy Alters are fun to make and are visual reminders of what’s closest to your heart.
There are so many things you can do to make joy a part of your every day. Find those things that work for you (Pinterest is a great resource) and begin to choose two or three things daily that make your heart happy. Small changes can make a big difference in our emotional states.