Practicing Joy: Week 4 – Joy in All Times

What do you think joy looks like?
 I think joy looks like bubbles or balloons among other things. We’ve talked that before – joy looks airborne… like you’re jumping up as high as you can go because you can’t help it. You want to know something funny? Joy wasn’t always like that, un-uh. Joy used to be much less floaty and more down to earth.
Think about when Noah and his family finally got off the ark – I think they were pretty joyful! And what was the first thing they did? They took a bunch of rocks and made an altar and told God thank you for seeing them safely through the flood.
We, tend to think about joy as a specific thing – maybe an actual thing, maybe a joyful event – but the people in the Bible thought about joy differently. Joy for them was a part of being one of the people of God – it was KNOWING that God was with them, had always been and would always be; that God made the world and everything in it for good, even when things don’t seem all that good; and that joy was and is about relationships – particularly our relationship with God, but also with the people God puts in our lives. That kind of joy lasts a whole lifetime, it is deeper and wider than the kind of joy we usually think about today, the jumping in the air kind of joy. 

That joy is kind of like a rainbow. The stuff that goes into making a rainbow is there all the time, sun and water. For us to see a rainbow, the sun just has to shine at the right angle at the right time to see it, but the ingredients are always there.


Practicing Joy: Week 3 – Sharing Joy

GPC parent, Natalie Jorges-Castellanos did an awesome job of illustrating sharing joy by talking about a birthday party. She asked the kids what each one liked the best about a birthday party. They said things like balloons, cake, games, party hats and finally presents. 
Natalie then told a story about a girl she had known when she was little whose parents would always send a gift for her to open when the birthday girl or boy was opening theirs. She reminded us that when we are invited to a birthday party part of our job as party goers is to be excited for the person whose birthday it is. They get to open all those great presents, and we share in their happiness. For that time at the party, our attention is focused on our friend and how happy we are for them. We are sharing their joy, not thinking about our own.  

Sharing joy isn’t always easy to do. In fact, sometimes it’s very hard, especially when someone gets something that you really, really want. But that is one of the jobs God gives us, that is part of loving people. God puts us here and puts us in families, in neighborhoods, in schools to love and care for each other. Part of that loving and caring is sharing joy (when it’s easy and when it’s hard) and sorrow or grief.    


Practicing Joy: Week 2 – Joy in Sadness

This is a hard concept for adults let alone for children. There is a Japanese practice called Kintsugi,  it involves repairing something broken with gold. The idea is that when something that has been treasured is broken, ignoring the break is almost disrespectful.  So rather than try to repair the break so that it doesn’t show, the repair is made with gold. The history of the piece is included and treasured. 
We are all a bit broken in one way or another. If we are brave, and don’t merely acknowledge the break but embrace it and lift it up as a treasured part of who we have become, we too become pieces of Kintsugi. 

Children will, I think innately understand the idea of Kintsugi – it is very concrete, and they are concrete thinkers. As you speak with your children about practicing joy in sadness, you might consider watching: I Walk with Vanessa (


It’s a lovely story about kindness and about sadness. I think your children will be able to see how Vanessa felt a lot like the bowl pictures above and understand the idea of joy in sadness. They may not be able to use words to explain it, so you might ask them to draw a picture and tell you about it or see if they have words to describe how the story makes them feel.  I suspect you will be amazed at your child’s depth of emotional understanding. Another book that you might consider, though it is much longer, is The Velveteen Rabbit.                                              



Practicing Joy: Week 1 – Seeing Joy in God’s Creation

Many parents have had the incredible experience of taking a 2 or 3-year-old for a walk and rediscovering the riches of the natural world in your very own neighborhood – whether it be watching a trail of ants as they diligently go about their business, or the wonder of watching a Praying Mantis hunt, the pure delight in a garden filled with flowers of different sizes, shapes, textures and colors, or the unmitigated joy of hugging a puppy or kitten. 

We really don’t need to do much of anything to encourage a children’s reverence for and joy in nature other than to let their joy rub off on us, and to remind them that God created everything, including them, and created everything for good.  You won’t really be telling them, they know it on some deep instinctive level, and that gives them joy too.


Practicing Joy for Families

Practicing Joy doesn’t mean necessarily feeling really happy all the time, in fact you can practice joy and feel pretty sad. Feeling joy is like an outside thing, you FEEL JOY when something that happens.
Practicing joy is a deeper, inside thing and is there whether you are happy or sad. You practice joy when even on a terrible, horrible, awful day you still KNOW that God created everything for good, including you and that God loves you and wants only what’s best for you and that this terrible, horrible awful day will pass.
Practicing joy is what happens on a day in the autumn, early in the morning, and the sun catches the dew covering a perfect spider web and you take a minute to just be amazed.
Practicing joy is what happens when  your very good friend  gets  a kitten that they have really, really wanted and you are so happy for them that your heart is so full it hurts.

Practicing Joy isn’t hard, but you do have to think about it, you have to practice.