but I’m still a thrift shop girl at heart. My long hair means I don’t have a “salon” so much as some friends with haircutting abilities that I occasionally pay to keep me within the realm of acceptable split-ends. I don’t require expensive jewelry; I admire fancy nails, but I can’t seem to maintain them myself; it doesn’t cripple me to have an imperfect house.
So I’m not high maintenance. Nope. Not a smidge. Um. Except for when I am.
This holiday season I’ve been mulling over the idea of “joy”, mostly because I’m supposed to teach on joy this month. Drat. It’s more fun teaching something than learning it myself.
My joy seems to be wrapped up in my expectations. I can sit here and look at all the other people with their “high-maintenance” whatevers who seem to require more of this or more of that than I need to be happy. Or their personality is wired so that they really can’t function without a fully cleaned house…or they find an honest-to-goodness happiness in a really great manicure and monthly hair-styling. And it’s easy for me to think that those things are a wee bit unnecessary- definitely not something to set your joy on.
Yet I set my joy on some high-maintenance expectations of my own.
Let’s start with coffee. A friend recently told me she only buys coffee out a couple times a year. Excuse me? In a YEAR? That might cover your birthday and anniversary, but what about Valentine’s Day and Groundhog Day? What about the Starbucks monthly double-stars day? What about days when the kids are going crazy or you feel hormonal? What about the “I-happen-to-be-driving-within-10-miles-of-my-favorite-coffee-place” days? What about RAINY days for heaven’s sake??!!
And then let’s get down to the actual coffee. I, thrift shopper that I am, have somehow convinced myself that it’s OK to drop 5 dollars a pop on coffee. I’m quite a smooth talker to myself.
” Why, yes self, you DO have diabetes…you DO have a two year old who punched you in the face today…you DO feel a bit tired and YES if you miss this two minute window to buy coffee you’ll probably go into a catatonic state of lethargy from which there’s no return. What kind of mother would you be if you DIDN’T buy coffee?”
And my joy is suddenly based on the latte-ness of the day, or whether the store has my favorite sugar free syrups, or how often I’m able to escape in java bliss.
Then Christmas tree shopping revealed more high maintenance areas. We got a wonderful tree but we didn’t get our usual wagon ride and hot chocolate amenities. A bit of joy deflated. And even though I “let” my kids pick out a tree, I’m a master of getting them to ultimately pick one I approve of. Because Christmas just might fall apart (for me) if I let the kids pick out the tree.
So my gracious husband dragged in our fresh-over-priced tree, patiently stood it up and screwed it into the stand only for me to look at it with an overwhelming sense of discontent. (loss of joy). The trunk was too tall…the lowest branches were dismally far away from the floor. Dismally. Yes I said it. I awkwardly asked if he could re-do it. If he could possibly take the whole thing down, cut a bit of trunk here, a branch or two there. Only because my joy hinged on it.
And then I almost started crying, because once he had trimmed the darn thing, the tree was closer to the ground but the branches he was forced to cut off left gaps all around the base of the tree. Not one sad little gap that you can turn towards the wall so no one sees it. Gaps everywhere! And I panicked because we had already bought this tree and there was no going back and now Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless I could JAM some extra tree branches into the tree stand to fill out the bottom. Seriously, I sat there like a mad-woman trying to wedge tree branches until my husband gently asked if I’d like him to tie the branch onto the tree instead. Yes…we twist tied branches onto my tree this year like the equivalent of tree hair transplant.
So our tree is complete now and it fills me with joy and it should. That’s OK. But it’s also symbolic this year of my expectations for joy. Maybe I do have some areas of high maintenance that can threaten to steal my joy if I’m not careful, if I don’t own them and tame them through a little letting go. Maybe we all have those places in our lives…maybe the things or people that give us the greatest joy, when lost or broken, are also the places where we have the potential to lose the greatest joy.
Is there a deeper anchor for my joy than my own high-maintenance places? Is there a well of joy that runs deeper than my broken expectations? Is there a source of joy that outlasts my temporary fixes?
I’m finding that a joy bigger than my circumstances must come from outside of myself. For me, Jesus is more and more becoming that source of joy for me. He’s becoming more than just a plastic figure or a pat answer and is soaking into the very fiber of who I am. I’m not fully there yet…but my soul reminds me whenever I’m disappointed in this life that there’s a far deeper joy in the One I can’t see than in the things that I can.
Where are you tempted to lose joy this year? How do you refocus yourself when joy seems far away?