What brings you joy? I mean real joy. Is it an island vacation? What about the look in someone’s eyes? Having stability in your job? Your family? Your friends? A pet? What brings you joy?

I have a friend who loves the beach. She and her family go year round. And when she talks about going, her face softens and her eyes light up. Every single time. It brings her joy.

For some people, the holidays are a time of joy. But, for many, many others, it’s a time of stress and struggle. There are demands on our time, our finances, our patience. We fight the crowds. We deal with complicated family relationships. We feel pressured to find the right gifts and the right memories.

Who’s ready? Gifts purchased and wrapped? Holiday baking done? House decorated? Are you ready? I’m not completely there, but I’m close. I started early this year – based on what I’ve experienced the last couple of years with my daily job.

My other job is as a proposal manager. What I get to do is boss people around and make them keep to a schedule so that my company can get the appropriate documents prepared to submit to the the government to try to get work. I am responsible for making sure the documents follow all of the rules – and those can change from client to client. Basically, it’s my job to make sure all the little details are covered and that the proposal we submit tells why we should get the work and is interesting to read – at least as interesting as a piece of government paperwork can be.

One of the hardest parts of my work is keeping morale up. Proposal writing is hard work. And, for most people, it’s work that they have to do outside of their regular jobs. This is new work – or an attempt to keep work. So even while we’re trying to get this work, their day-to-day jobs don’t stop and wait. One of the most interesting quirks I’ve found is that many in the government like to clear their desks right before federal holidays. So, while November was a slow month, I now have three proposals due January 3rd, one due December 28th, and another due this week. No pressure. And what’s worse, some of those are being written by some of the same people. So, I have to encourage and explain and beg and hope that everything comes together in the end.

It’s difficult. It’s frustrating. And, despite it all, there’s nothing worse to me than someone who complains about it. From my perspective, we all get it. We’re all working overtime. We’re all a little panicked. And, we’re all going to see the end of the journey in a few weeks and laugh about it later. But, most of my colleagues don’t see it that way.

These negative Nellies aren’t only at my work. They’re everywhere. My kids do it all the time. I remember a few months ago when we were getting ready for a daughter’s wedding, my kids made it sound like we allowed 20 minutes of sleep a night and the rest of the time they were breaking rocks on a chain gang. There’s always too much schoolwork and not enough weekend and not the right clothes and the wrong kid controlling the TV remote. And, at the risk of being negative, I really get annoyed by all that negativity. It’s too much!

Now, I can see some of you running that little hamster wheel in your brain. You’re thinking of all the bad things that are going on – maybe it’s in your immediate life. Maybe it’s the state of affairs in our country. Maybe it’s something completely different, but you know there’s some bad stuff going on and you’re thinking how can I possibly be joyful with all this nonsense out there in the world? Good question.

To me, it’s all about your attitude. If you think the world is falling apart, then it is. If you think you are all alone, then you are. But, If you think you can make the world a better place, then you can.

The noted English architect Sir Christopher Wren was supervising the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. And during this time, a journalist thought it would be interesting to interview some of the workers, so he chose three and asked them this simple question, What are you doing?

• The first person replied, “I’m cutting stone for ten shillings a day.”

• The next guy answered, and said, “I’m putting in ten hours a day on this job.”

• But the third man said, “I’m helping Sir Christopher Wren construct one of London’s greatest cathedrals.”

They were all right. None of them lied. But, one was focused on the bigger picture. You see, it’s what we keep our minds focused on that makes a world of difference. Our world is a trying place sometimes. We can all get grumpy and irritable. But, we adults can see past the irritations and know that our holiday celebrations are about the joy. And, if we can see the joy, then we can share it with our kids. And, if our kids can see the joy, then the world will be a better place. So, spread the joy this holiday season and know that, one smile at a time, we can make our homes, our communities, and our world so much brighter.

Author Profile

Rev. Kelly Crenshaw
Rev. Kelly Crenshaw
Rev. Kelly Crenshaw is the mom of 16 adopted kids, 2 biological kids, Guardian of one adorable toddler, and has been the foster mom of dozens. Some are lesbian, some gay, some straight, and some bisexual. Kelly founded a K-12 day school where kids could have a safe, bully-free environment for learning. She has worked with kids in the foster care system for over two decades, actively advocating for all kids, but especially those in the LGBT community. And, in her spare time, she can be found preaching in some of our area’s most LGBT-friendly churches. Feel free to send your parenting questions to her at Pastor.Kelly@comcast.net.