Joy — Looking Back On 2020

Each year, I choose #OneWord to focus on. With much prayer and meditation and intention, I choose my word. Then I watch how God unfolds the year within that theme and focus.

For 2020, my word was JOY. 

I know. Right? Clearly I didn’t know at the end of 2019 that 2020 would not exactly be the epitome of joy. 

On January 1 of 2020, I wrote:

“So in 2020, I will focus on JOY.  . . . Knowing that we often find what we look for, I will find small joys each day. 

I will try to choose joy . . . – joy over perfection, joy over insecurity . . . joy over comparison, joy over small irritabilities, joy over fear. 

Joy will be my prayer, my strength, my response.” 

Bless my heart. Isn’t that naive optimism adorable? Let me just say, in case it isn’t obvious — 2020 challenged that resolve. 

There were moments when joy seemed completely out of reach. Cancelled bridal showers for my daughter, cancelled graduations, a wedding planned and re-planned and re-planned again. And again. Cancelled sports seasons and activities. The end of a relationship. Reckoning with my own insecurities and fears and emotions, with the weakest parts of myself. Reimagining schedules. Isolation. Disappointments. Frightening sickness. More isolation. More disappointment. Ad nauseam. 

But in the midst of all that mess – believe it or not – joy showed up. Sometimes dancing around the edges like a delicate, nearly imperceptible, thin, shimmery silver outline. Sometimes bubbling up and overflowing, popping the cork across the yard to squeals of delight. Sometimes quietly, like a cozy blanket on a breezy morning while the birds chirp, “I’m still here. I made it to another morning.” 

Just as January-Me supposed, we often find what we’re looking for. When we seek out joy, we can usually find it. 

I reinstituted the habit of writing down the things I’m grateful for. When it feels like the entire world is going up in flames, it helps to remember a handful of things each day that I’m thankful for:  sweatpants, blue fingernail polish, donuts, a good night’s sleep, phone calls with friends, laughter, goodnight hugs from my children, the peacefulness of my back porch. 

Though I feel a little bit guilty saying it – because I know so many people have suffered so much this year – there have been elements of all the cancellations and isolation that I’ve loved.

When my six kids were little stair-step babies, we spent a lot of time at home in our little cocoon. Their dad would be traveling or at work, so it was often just the seven of us – playing dress-up, having dance parties in the living room, baking cookies, reading stacks of books, doing homeschool around a sticky table that desperately needed stripped and stained. Those were the days when the tightest bonds were forged, when they became each other’s best friends, when our little home was the center of their universe. 

For a little bit this year, when the world’s doors closed up, our home became the center of our universe again. Everyone was home. For a few months, just before Lauren got married, we returned to our little cocoon. We played board games and baked cookies and read books and dressed up for themed parties and dinners. We did projects together and made memories. 

Joy. When it felt like so many things were falling apart, so many plans wadded up and tossed in the garbage, we created moments of joy with all my children nestled in our cocoon. 

And when nearly everything was cancelled and the calendar cleared, there was time for reading and journaling and weekly tele-therapy sessions. Time for reflecting and learning. An intense summer session of healing and growth, making space and creating the possibility for future joy. 

Though the JOY of 2020 wasn’t anything like I imagined it would be, it was there. Dancing around the edges, bubbling up at the most unexpected times, wrapping around me like a comforting blanket. Stubborn, soothing, persistent, prevailing JOY. 

Thank you, #OneWordJoy2020, you’ve surprised me and served me well. I needed you more this year than I could have imagined, and you were a faithful companion word. 

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