Living with joy when you haven't found "the one".

Dear friend,

I won't put it to you lightly. I spent a long time dissatisfied with my life. Longer than I'd care to admit. 

I wasted a lot of time searching the horizon for a "successful relationship" and waiting for my ship to come in. I was waiting for joy. And in the waiting, I tried hard to cultivate patience. I wanted to be "good" at the waiting. I wanted to do it perfectly.

So I waited at the edge of life's dock, watching the horizon. But the waiting grew into despair as I watched many ships sail off into the sunset with other people's dreams. And I wondered if I had missed my chance. My heart ached. I was waiting on a ship that wasn't coming into harbor: the ship responsible for bringing me joy.

Joy is the bi-product of living a life you love. It isn't something you can will into existence. There's a little bit of magic to it. Joy appears on its own, the moment you choose to engage with your life.

But there is some responsibility for choosing it. My friend Morgan was right when she said: "A life full of romance and adventure, love and beauty, grace and peace, is not a given. We have to choose it."

I wasted a lot of time in passive frustration with my life, choosing discontentment because my dream relationship hadn't arrived. That was until I learned the secret—Joy doesn't happen when stay on the dock. You have to get in the water. 

Deep in my gut, I just knew that the life I wanted required getting my hair wet. 

For most of my upbringing in the church, I was told to wait patiently for the things I wanted, and that God would bring them to me in time. The problem with being told something like that, is you discount your own effort in the matter: your very important effort to bring about the change you want to see in your life.

Part of me resists being content with the present.  Living in the past or the future is much more natural to me, but I know how dangerous it is. This assigns my fate to something beyond my control, which causes despair. And as a single woman, despair is my greatest enemy.

Bob Goff likes to say "Figure out what fuels your joy, then do lots of that."

Because I'm into practical tips more than I am self-help mantras, here are are three ways you can start living with joy, even if you haven't found "the one" yet:

Find joy in the practice of "presence"

Sometimes joy is sitting on a sheepskin rug in your pajamas with a candle going and a fresh cup of coffee. It's being brave enough to stay home, to abstain from wearing makeup and the world's demands for one afternoon, to be content with baking in your kitchen.

Joy is bringing the practice of " presence" to bear on whatever you are doing. It's believing that the life you're living right now, is a life you can love, because it's the only one you've got.  So work with it baby.

Presence is not being "zen" or at peace, but an active engagement in the work that's in front of you, whether it's reading a book, watching a sunrise, or just some rolls that need baking.

God's gift to us through his Spirit is that he will abide with us, and similarly, that is our gift to others. Striving and constant busyness stifles our presence, because we miss the boat of what's right in front of us. But remember: we have to choose this.

Find joy in the reward of hard work

There's nothing that spells joy quite like going for your passions. Doing the hard work of bringing beauty from disappointment wins big points for your joy. Make no mistake. Some days are just hard, when even getting out of bed feels like too much. But work can be a welcome distraction from disappointment, and there's no shame in that. 

Through work, you are edging out a little corner of the world for yourself. You are conquering fear, dispelling frustration and inactivity by bringing about the things you want, and there's so much beauty in that.

Joy is a lot of hard work, and a little bit of mystery. You engage with it, get your your hair messy, and without warning, it appears. Isn't that awesome?

Scatter joy around, not pain

 Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke these words I'd love for you to reflect on today. Write them down on a little notecard and stick it to your mirror, or put it in your planner for the work week.

“There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.”

The truth you need to hear today is that you haven't missed the boat.  But instead of waiting around, it's time to bring the party to your life. It's time to jump in the water. I don't know what that means for you, but I know that there's nothing more attractive or winsome, than a woman in love with her life. Choose to be that woman.