Welcome to the second half of Discovering Joy.
If you missed the first, you can read it here.
I wrote previously:
I learned that really getting the most out of Allume (a recent blogging conference I attended), or any other gathering in life, really learning to discover joy right where we are, is that it is up to us, but not about us.
I suggested that when we truly take interest in others, when we make it about someone else and not us, that we receive and are blessed beyond measure.
When was the last time you reached out to someone nearby in need?
Did you offer your shoulder to a friend who needed support, share your arms with a child who craved comfort, pull up an extra seat to your dinner table for someone hungry to sink their teeth into food and friendship?
Can you still feel the warmth as they gratefully leaned into you, easily melted into your embrace, and dug into your delightfully seasoned offerings?
Remember how that hit you right in the heart?
That is joy, my friend, right where you live.
As Mark Twain quipped, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”
I came away from the conference changed, having taken actions that were uncomfortable, but that brought me incalculable joy.
Here are the rest of the steps I took that I highly recommend.
Let go of expectations. Tear up that list of people you have to meet, autographs you must seek, seminars you must take. Those expectations are mostly all about you and can lead to huge disappointments. Pray or meditate for guidance, to be where you need to be, to connect with those who you can help, to land where you can learn necessary lessons.
When you let go, your attitude shifts from a dogged and dry determination to complete a checklist, to a light-hearted and joyful curiosity about what the next day, hour, or even minute will hold. I experienced and heard about many impromptu elevator and hallway meetings where folks were able to enjoy a brief one-on-one chat, pray over and with, share gratitude, or ask a question. This is equally true anywhere you go.
Be visible. If you are alone, be out and about where you can see others and be seen. Unless you need some rest, of course, which we all sometimes do. Being visible allowed me to enjoy breakfast and a two hour chat with a new buddy, put me in a position to ask two other newbies to join our small group for dinner, and to run into countless others who became new friends.
I did completely miss one over the weekend, sorry to say. She wrote to me that someone said to her, “How have you not found Kim Hall yet? She’s everywhere!” Heh. Note to self: next year I’ll have a smart phone so I’ll see her twitter message while she is still in the building.
Assume the best. Lisa-Jo Baker illustrated this beautifully at the How to Build Community w/o Competition workshop. I didn’t get the exact quote, so I’ll share my takeaway:
Offer more grace than you think is possible and necessary, and generously give the benefit of the doubt. Yes, yes. This has always served me well.
You may still feel like a target bristling with arrows sometimes. If so, go here to learn productive ways to deflect them.
Volunteer. Yes, I’m suggesting you lend a helping hand. In smaller conferences, the folks in charge almost always can use a hand with set-up, take-down, and in-between. This is not only an opportunity to give back, but it’s a chance to get to know women you might not otherwise. In your neighborhood look for places to help, and remember that even what feels like a small gesture can give tremendous hope to others.
Allume provided Impact Opportunities which gave us a chance to give to those in need and connect with like-minded women. I participated in Help-Portrait, an event to help folks in need see themselves as normal and worthy. Local hairdressers, talented photographers, and my fellow volunteers gathered to help at-risk middle school girls see who they truly are, to share their hope, joy and excitement.
We fed them treats, chatted, laughed, and encouraged, and especially treated them with respect and dignity. Who knew that my childhood experience with folding paper would be such a huge asset, as well as result in me earning the nickname the Queen of Origami?
Welcome others with your countenance. Tsh at Simple Mom quotes another in a recent post: When you walk into a room, does your body language and your expression say, “Here I am!” Or does it say, “There you are! It’s a tremendously powerful perspective shift for creating and maintaining happier relationships. Go read it.
As the now walking on air middle schoolers were leaving their photo session, they ran into best-selling author and keynote speaker Ann Voskamp. Ann stopped and knelt to speak with them, putting her arms around them. She gave them copies of her book, 1000 Gifts, and offered more gems of encouragement to store in their hearts. Those girls were transformed by her welcoming countenance.
Be involved. Gather your courage and create a gathering, or just join one. As part of the pre-conference activities, Blog Cheerleader Deb Stangeland organized a walking tour of Greenville that was fun, enlightening, and allowed time for conversations. By the way, if you blog, you need to be reading Deb.
Be a receiver as well as a giver. When we continue to insist we don’t need time, money, or anything else, we rob people of joy of giving. Allow others to help. It ends up being a gift for both of you. Just know this: if you don’t take the opportunity to receive in little ways, you may be find yourself one day in a position where you have no choice but to receive. Trust me. The former is better than the latter.
The last night of the conference I was sitting quietly alone in the prayer room, sharing notes of encouragement in the journals of people in attendance. Without warning, a woman grabbed my arm and pulled me out of my seat. Starting to protest, I realized it was my new friend Melissa bringing me over to a group of now close friends so they could pray over me before we all parted company. I was touched beyond belief, and sat there with tears rolling down my face as they breathed sweet hope into my dreams.
Let go of the vanity. Looking and feeling great is one thing. When your focus is on you, and on how you look awesome, how you are going to make the others green with jealousy, how you have moved up in the world so you are too important now to talk to or help the little people, or how you are headed up the ladder, so you aren’t going to waste your time talking to anyone who isn’t a mover and shaker, well, you are missing out. Missing out on a chance to encourage, share your wisdom and your message, or to make a difference. And meet some great folks, too.
If you disagree, be decent. We were all created wonderfully different, so it stands to reason we won’t agree on lots of things. If you are listening to a someone speak and you hold different beliefs from them, please mind your manners. You aren’t going to change minds and hearts behaving like a catty teenage girl. Take what nuggets you can and gracefully leave the rest. Remember you only have three choices in life whenever you run into similar situations, because There is No Door #4.
Our lives and our joy are measured mightily in these small moments.
We dance to the music of an unseen choreographer, friends and strangers weaving through the colorful blossoms, urban sidewalks, and digital universe, coming together for brief moments, and offering seeds of encouragement and growth: a helping hand, a hopeful voice, a resource, a name and number, possibly even a mild rebuke.
Join me in stepping forward today, won’t you?
Plant flowers in others’ gardens and your life becomes a bouquet! ~Author Unknown
Question: Did you take a step forward last week, or are you planning one this week? Please share!
Sharing at Messy Marriage Wedded Wednesday
Original image credit