Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Choosing Joy

"This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalms 118: 24

In some ways, sophomore year has been a whole lot easier than freshman year, but in other ways, things have been harder, too. For one, I have an established group of close friends whom I love -- something I didn't have until the end of last year. Second, I have clubs and activities I am involved in, and I'm not the awkward freshman trying to figure out where I fit in. Second, I have a schedule, I'm use to college life, and it doesn't feel like I'm away at camp. Manhattan is my second home.

However, classes for one, are much harder. I have to spend a lot more time studying, although I have begun to understand time management and how to study more efficiently. Living in Pi Phi with 80 girls is a lot more difficult than living with one in the dorms. Having more responsibility, more time demands, and leadership positions has been an adjustment. It has gotten even harder to balance free time, meetings, classes, and of course, homework.

With all that being said, the first month and a half of sophomore year was a little rocky. I was missing my family a lot, and just struggling to readjust. I spent a lot of that month and a half being negative, feeling down, and really just having a Kenzie pity party. I'm usually not a negative person, but for whatever reason, life was just really getting me down.

A few weekends ago, my dad was in town for Pi Phi Dad's Weekend. It was honestly one of my favorite weekends because my dad is one of my best friends! We get along so well, mainly because we have pretty much the exact same personality. I was feeling better at this point, and seeing my dad was a highlight of my semester, because I hadn't been back home since Labor Day. I had a good weekend, and we did a lot of fun things. (Most of which consisted of eating at all my favorite places because that's just what you do when your parents come to town and are willing to pay!) One of the last things we did together was go to my dad's favorite bookstore in town. We parted ways at the door, since our reading interests were practically opposites (fashion for me, hunting, fishing, etc. for him).

I ended up sitting on the floor reading a few back covers of some Christian books, and then some blogging books, some business books, and lastly, I found myself reading a fashion magazine devoted to female-empowerment. The range of topics I covered really don't go together, but I was feeling inspired. There was an overall theme of joy and peace and happiness and self-appreciation in the topics I covered. How to be happy, how to succeed, how to be the best version of yourself.

I had this somewhat related epiphany sitting in that bookstore. I had been thinking a lot about my source of negativity, and what was causing that. I thought about where I wanted to be, and where my happiness was drawn from. I read a list in a fashion magazine that was listing off things that brought the author joy. So I decided there that for the next few weeks, I would devote my life to finding joy in the little things. Here's the list I ended up compiling.

Things That Brought Me Joy
1. A's on accounting exams (2 in two weeks!)
2. walking around the bookstore with my dad
3. PR'ing in a 5K race
4. drinking coffee with old friends
5. eating pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes
6. taking a three hour nap
7. ordering a new dress online
8. waking up before the sun
9. class getting out early
10. cranberry Sierra Mist
11. going to Target with Carolina
12. Going to Target with Shelby
13. Going to Target in general (I really love Target)
14. smelling candles
15. finding my favorite jeans I thought were missing
16. finding the perfect pair of pointed-toe flats
17. Knowing I am going home to see my family!
18. trees changing colors
19. coffee dates with Nate
20. Taylor Swift's Red album
21. redesigning my blog
22. gloomy and cold days
23. Waking up early to drink coffee in bed
24. Drew Holcomb's music
25. home-work free nights
26. Dark nail polish
27. New lipstick
28. sparkly jewelry
29. taking a long hot shower
30. pretty flowers

As you can tell, I ended up finding a lot of little things that brought me joy. As I was making this list, it started as a "just for fun" thing. I didn't really have a point in doing it, just that I wanted to focus on being positive and happy. However, as I continued to work on my list, I had some realizations -- and doing this helped me learn a lot about where I put my happiness and the true meaning behind it.

God gives us every day and each one is a gift. I quickly realized that my mindset was all wrong. I was negative and let myself get down about the little things. I saw each day as something that had to get done, and not a gift in of itself. When you view life as a checklist, it will become mundane, overwhelming, and un-enjoyable. Really though, being able to wake up and pursue God and live the life He has created for you is something to be joyful about in of itself.

There is joy to be found everywhere. As you can tell by my list perhaps, there are tons of different things to be joyful about. And chances are, your list might look a lot different than mine. But the idea is the same -- many things can bring you joy if you have the right mindset. Further, different people can have different enjoyment, which is cool, too! Each of these sources of joy is straight from God -- he gives us little blessings each day. Sometimes it takes a new perspective to really see them and appreciate them. We should be thankful for every little thing -- not just the big things!

Happiness is oftentimes a choice. One of my favorite quotes basically sums up my view on this topic. Mindy Kaling said, "sometimes you just have to put on some lipstick and pretend to be psyched". This is kind of my motto, in all honestly. There will definitely be days that you just aren't feeling life at the moment, but you have to pull yourself together and rely on God to get yourself through the day. That's when finding joy in the little things is especially crucial. It can really change your outlook on life when you decide that happiness is what you want, no matter what.

We need to focus on God. The other day in church, my pastor made a really great point. It wasn't even the topic of his sermon, but what he said as a side point just hit home. He said that we need to take our eyes off our own smallness, and instead focus on God's bigness. In most cases, the struggles we face, although they seem like mountains, they will end up being small bumps in the grand scheme of things.

God has already won the battle. It's easy to forget the fact that God has every moment of our entire life already mapped out. Kind of crazy when you think about it. But guess what, it will bring you great peace when you know that facing hard or difficult times is only temporary. God has already taken care of everything. At the end of the day, He will provide you with everything you need.

God is the real source of unending joy. True happiness comes from knowing God, knowing His unfailing love. A relationship with Him equals true happiness, forever, regardless of the circumstances. How great is that?!

So for now, I am trying to wake up each day and choose joy. So far, so good! Thanks for reading, y'all. Talk to you soon!

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