All is quiet. You are sitting there, minding your own business. Suddenly, with very little or no warning, you feel it. It rises up inside you like with a tidal wave of force, no holding it back. Your eyes close unbiddenly. You are sneezing, and there is no way around it.
Why am I writing about sneezes, you ask, and rightly so? The two giant sneezes I had at 11:30 PM last night, after I had been sleeping for an hour. They came on for no apparent reason and sat me straight up in bed. The two giant sneezes my husband had this morning as he made his breakfast, also no apparent reason. This got us talking about sneezes, their power, their slight terror, the weirdness and yet great efficiency they have.
As He designed us, God must have been thinking of how to get rid of foreign objects that happened to come our way. And He came up with a sneeze. Brilliant. I love it. There are so many bizarre and wonderful things God has created. Long giraffe necks, chameleons that change color, prickly squash to keep pests away.
If you are brave, take the survey below. There are all kinds of sneezers out there…..my husband and I are definitely the loud and scary kind.
The little girl sometimes liked being upside down, but only for a little while. She swung so high on the rope tree swing that her daddy made. Her feet would go way above her head for a moment. Feeling upside down even though she wasn’t, almost touching the oak leaves with her bare feet. But the relief of being feet planted on the solid earth, right side up, was grounding and safe.
She learned to do a head stand up against the basement wall, her head firmly set in a soft pillow. The blood rushed furiously into her pounding ears. The room looked bizarre and unsettling. She could only take a few seconds of this, and then would plummet back into right side up reality.
One day, she got up and everything was upside down in the world. Everything. The grownups talked about a virus. She didn’t really understand. She tried and tried, but she couldn’t get things right side up. People looked and sounded weird, upside down. She felt unsettled all the time, as she tried to make sense of this new world.
But then, suddenly, the thing that had caused the upside-downness, the bad virus, went away. The world tipped back the right way. She was more than happy. She was peaceful, grounded, safe, normal. She smiled, and the whole world saw that smile.
Joie de vivre….French for the “joy of living.” A cheerful enjoyment of life, an exultation of the spirit. Cheerfulness, joyfulness, exuberance, liveliness, enthusiasm.
After writing yesterday’s post on Carpe diem, seize the day, the phrase joie de vivre instantly popped into my mind. I have been thinking on it ever since….how do I find that joy of living again? That exuberance, energy, enthusiasm that I haven’t seen in myself for a few months? That “Yay! It’s a new day….let’s go!” feeling I had as a kid when all was new and bright and wonderful. I don’t know about you, but I miss that feeling.
It is much easier to have joie de vivre when things are going well. When there is no stress, no day to day troubles that creep up, no chronic pain or disease, no family troubles. But everyone I talk to and know of is going through some pretty major trouble these days. And that should be no surprise, because Jesus said in Matthew, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.” But it’s hard to walk through these troubles all the time and keep my face from staying in the permafrown.
I have by no means figured this out, but here are some of my thoughts and my pep talk to myself on attaining joy amidst trouble:
–Take heart.….He has overcome the world. Jesus gives us the key right here. He has conquered this world. There is something more, something beyond these troubles. Eternal life with Him with no sickness, no sadness, no death. Praise and beauty and goodness forever. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” – Habakkuk 3:17-18
–Focus on the love and others. The more I think about my problems, the bigger they loom. If I try my best to be there and listen and empathize with others, I instantly feel better. My church is big on cooking for others in need….I am a horrible cook, so I save everyone the stomachache and send encouraging cards when I can. Or call. I don’t do this as much as I should, but it really helps take your mind off your own problems.
-Sometimes though, the helping and listening to others can weigh me down. I tend to take on everyone else’s problems too much, and my mind whirls around trying to figure out how to fix everything. That’s when I need to go outside, and focus on nature, God’s creation. A tree, a bird, a flower, the wind…..anything that reminds me that God alone is in charge of all these problems.
-Find someone you love and hug them. A good, long hug that lets them know you are there and that you need them. Your spouse, your child, your pet, a friend. I feel my stress just melt away, and the joy of life return.
–Laugh. As much as you can. I especially enjoy laughing at myself, not in a mean way, but in a “wow, that was awesome” kind of way. It really helps me not take things too seriously, which I tend to do.
–Eat healthy delicious foods you love and make your body feel good. Enjoy each bite and look forward to the meal. I am absolutely crazy about breakfast. And a delicious two egg omelet with swiss cheese, topped with a bit of salsa. I look forward to that breakfast every morning.
–Find the exercise that you are able to physically do. I have a disability that now prevents me taking the long walks I used to, but I have a lovely NuStep machine that I can pedal on to get those natural endorphins flowing. Dancing, hiking, running, stretching…whatever you can do and enjoy. Joy of life.
–Music, music, music. Listen, sing, move, play an instrument. Best medicine ever and instantly fills me with joy.
–Be creative. God has designed us in His image, which means He has designed us to be creative. Art, music, dance, inventions, film, photography, healing, cooking, gardening, design…..the list goes on and on. Even if you can’t be creative for a living, find a few moments in your day to do something that feeds your soul.
–Rest when you need it. I am a big fan of sleep….I get rather giddy every night at bedtime and the thought of resting my tired body on that lovely memory foam. 😉 Sometimes the pressures and troubles of this life are too much for me to have energy to do anything on the above list, and I just need to rest for a while. And that’s ok. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
–Pray and know the Savior of the world. This is the most important thing I have ever found that brings joy, so it has to be first and last on this list. Deep, lasting joy that does not go away based on circumstance. Jesus came to earth for me, died on the cross to pay for all my sins, and came to life again after three days in the tomb. He wants a relationship with me, and is always there to listen and to care and to give me hope. Joy, hope, future, redemption……joie de vivre.
Writing all this down has encouraged my heart this morning, and I pray it helps someone else as well. I would love to hear your thoughts on joyful living in days of stress.