Last week I stumbled on a link to a website where Richard and Linda Eyre are self-publishing all their books (30+) online to make them free to anyone who wants to read them.
On their webpage (link here), they talk about why they are doing this, after having published for many years with all the major US publishing companies. The nuts and bolts of it is that they were able to make a good living off their books, raising their large family, and now they just want to get the helpful parenting/relationship/marriage/life books into the hands of all those who might benefit from them.
They are just starting, and have about 18 books available already. I loved their "Teaching your Children Values" book, and we use it monthly for our Family Home Evening lessons. I scanned down the list and couldn't decide where next to start, so I started at the beginning, with "The Discovery of Joy." Boy, am I glad I did.
Richard Eyre has a really neat philosophy about joy. But what I really love about the book is that it's a philosophy book written in the form of poetry. In the forward he wrote that he left lots of blank space on each page so that the reader could "co-author" with him, writing their own notes and ideas in between the lines. (Doesn't work so well reading online, but just that notion is enough to get your mind rolling and interacting as you read.)
It's not the kind of book you sit and devour in an afternoon, or even a week. Instead, you take it a few pages at a time, to taste, to ponder, to savour, to reflect. So this past week I've been reflecting on joy.
When you think of joy (not happiness, but God-gifted joy) as a goal in life, it changes how you look at nearly everything in your day.
Suddenly, nothing in your life retains its original purpose. Choosing a career isn't about picking something you "love" (thank you "me generation" I was raised in, the "you can be anything you want to be" and the "you can do anything you want to do" mentality. I think we all fully expected to be actors and pop stars and famous.) Choosing a career is about how your days are going to be spent, how it will provide for your family, if you will leave the job at an office or bring it home with you, what boundaries it will require you to make, what time commitment it will demand, what sort of people you will pass the days with. Each of these areas is so important and can bring joy or deplete it.
Parenting isn't about raising your children, it's about joyful moments. Getting them dressed in the morning isn't a frustrating waste of 10 minutes, it's discovering how your body parts work and how they develop coordination and the feel of material covering your skin and the delight of colours of fabrics to the eye and the smell of soap (or dirt) on your child's skin.
Chores aren't about getting the house clean, it's about hard work, sweat beading on your forehead, muscles tightening from use, working together with a family member to tackle something that takes two, the mental workout of solving a problem, and the pleasant feeling of physical exhaustion at the end of the day.
Scripture study and prayer aren't just daily habits to be established, but a moment to experience the sweet peace and joy bestowed from God. It's the spirit reaching for something familiar beyond this earth, a time when the physical cares of life are suspended and the longing and hunger we have for something greater than us is fulfilled.
I have thought lately about someone I know who seems to have lived much of their life without joy. this is not a moment for me to sit in judgement, but just to ponder on what a life lived with joy can be, as opposed to using my agency to make choices that don't bring joy, or times when I don't accept the free gift of joy just waiting for me to take it. It brings me a sense of urgency to make sure that I'm not making decisions that will rob me of those feelings of peace and joy in which I want my life to be saturated.
I can feel my mind moving toward joy, that natural and unforced movement that means true change within.