Happy New Year! I hope the new year has already brought you at least one experience of joy - a surprising burst of transformational ebullience in the middle of chaos, boredom, despair, preoccupation with some unhelpful other thing….
As discussed previously in The Comic Lens, “joy” is a sacred gift that we cannot control, predict or contain. It feels like a gajillion bucks when joy arrives, however, and it does arrive! And brings the most unexpected moments and places in our hearts and world to glorious, giddy, and unconditionally love-inducing life. Unfortunately, because we are usually inundated by fear, anxiety, wariness, cynicism from a variety of sources we can tend to treat joy’s arrival like it’s a telemarketer: the moment we recognize it we reflexively blow it off as insignificant and too much trouble to further explore the advantages it might offer.
Way too bad! As scripture tells us, joy is a spiritual gift. It is one of the best and most significant ways God makes God’s presence known.
One way I have found to regain my awareness, anticipation and appreciation for joy and all it can do is to recall its appearance in experiences past. That’s why for the past several years I’ve created a “This Year’s Top 10” - my 10 favorite encounters with joy of the past year. This list I usually compile on New Year’s Eve - a fantastic way to spend that day! However, this year I was too busy entertaining guests on December 31. And, most fortuitously, that “roadblock” was in fact one of my top 10 joys of 2018, so it’s all good! :)
If you haven’t yet compiled your Top 10 Joys of 2018 and would like to give it a try, may I give you a big fat bright green light to do so, and NOW??!! Here’s my list; may it get your wheels turning and heart singing as you consider what yours might include.
JANE’S TOP 10 JOYS of 2018
1. Palm Springs! I never cease to be thrilled with - and inwardly transformed by - my new home community. “It’s like living in a Dean Martin album!” That’s the best mantra ever…and it gets to be mine!
2. Palm Springs United Methodist Church! When I got the call in March inviting me to be the new pastor here, and for this congregation, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep! And since arriving in July, I still feel like a kid in a candy shop. My tasks; the people; and the creativity, humor and play that ministry here continues to engender is a dream come true. Here’s the video we made for Christmas, in case you haven’t seen it already…or would like to get into the Christmas spirit big time once more!
3. Backyard pool! On top of everything, I now live in a home with a large, beautiful, groovy and saltwater pool. What a luxury! And I never forget it. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons my pool gives me such giddy joy. (And fabulous relief in the dog-days of desert summer.)
4. Last-minute Iowa adventures! As I prepared to bid farewell to an incredible 5-year sojourn in rural Iowa to care for my parents (and heal my burned out pastor-soul), I embarked on some spontaneous day trips to local spots of interest. And man-oh-man was my imagination captured! Especially nifty: “The Little Brown Church” in Nashua and the Lovers Leap Swinging Bridge in Columbus Junction.
5. Mother’s Day at the Spa! When your mom has died and you have no kids, what to do when Mother’s Day rolls around? How about a spa? My friend Diana Wallace - also single and also grieving her mother’s recent passing - and I decided to spend the day doing something our moms would have loved: pampering ourselves in an elegant spot. Again, it’s a luxury, but engaging in an occasional luxury is one of the best ways of engendering joy, I’ve found. (Engaging in too many luxuries, however, is the most rabid joy-killers, fyi.)
6. Turning 60! Yup, it was a deeply joyful experience. Partly because turning 50 was for me horribly traumatic; I was super grateful I was in a much-better space 10 years later. I enjoyed a terrific party with LA friends (again thanks a gajillion, Jim and Ellen Agee), a very special weekend with my sister, and, most profound of all, a visit to the site of my brother’s tragic accidental death in Cheyenne 2 years previous.
7. Merman (and don’t call me Ethel)! Ever since I received my first copy of “Roadside America” 30 years ago, I’ve dreamed and hoped to visit a merman. Sure, jackalope sightings are a nice consolation prize - and I’ve collected several jackalope souvenirs over the years, but mermen are much harder to locate. I couldn’t be more thrilled to encounter one in the Indian Trading Post in Banff last fall. Oh, and the trip to Calgary to do my show, a workshop on playfulness in the church, and preach at the coolest church in Canada was pretty joy-inducing, too! :)
8. Favorite furniture from home! Besides my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious backyard pool, my new home in Palm Springs showcases some of the most significant pieces of furniture from my parents’ life and Des Moines home of my youth. It’s a deep deep joy to resignify and incorporate things from childhood into one’s adult life. I like to think my parents would be proud and pleased with how I am using their furniture. (Although it brings a special jolt of joy to know it’s wholly my choice nevertheless!)
9. New Years Eve! This is usually one of my most dreaded day of the year (and I know I’m not alone in my dread), but this December 31 was smiles, giggles and cheers through and through. My sister and family were visiting - which meant whatever we did would be fantastic - and the day began with a relaxing, curiosity-rich trip to the Living Desert; it was then onto a truly exhilarating afternoon in my rumpus room watching the Holiday Bowl between Northwestern and Utah (nothing like rooting for the team that’s behind 20-3 at half-time and then wins 31-20!); then a fantastic sidewalk dinner at a French Restaurant on Palm Springs main drag - along with everything else sitting outside gave us a chance to watch the colorful Palm Springs crowds ring out the old and ring in the new; and, finally, to cap it all off, midnight found us all in a super-comfily warm jacuzzi taking the best timed selfie ever! We capped it all off indeed! :):):)
10. Mid-Term Elections! I can’t help but include in my joy list the momentous results of the November 2018 elections. I know politics is often a dirty game filled with baloney propaganda from both sides of the aisle, and who knows if what will happen in the next couple of years will improve the direction of our country and future of our world. However, the Blue Wave and considerably eclectic group of new, fresh and young elected leaders representing all parts of our nation give me hope.
Thanks , too, for your continued interest in my work with the comedy of the Bible and this blog. I look forward to seeing where things go with this project in 2019. As always, send me your suggestions and questions. And, most of all, please hear me as I say, “For the love of God, make room for joy!!” I love you all. xox