One of the most beautiful gifts we have been given is the gift of joy.  I love being around people celebrating the dance of life joyfully, even on those days of struggle.  I’m surrounded by many wonderful friends who love to laugh and celebrate the little moments like a good cup of coffee or a warm embrace from a long-time friend.

I grew up singing in church children’s choir.  I recall the song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” All five of us in the children’s choir debated just how many “joys” we could add to the verse before it all fell apart in a musical circus.  I still laugh, thinking about those moments when we would get in trouble for scheming the word “joy”.   Oh, the look of disdain on my mom’s face from the fourth pew when our giggling began! When I think back, I realize that I didn’t have a care in the world back then.  Life was pure and the unadulterated joy we experienced was simply from heaven.

Fast forward through the years, and I now have the most wonderful opportunity to learn from inspiring individuals who have made peace with their challenges and live with joy amid adversity.  Countless women – young, old, rich, poor – all consciously choosing to live life more fully by finding joy through their journey.

Earlier this week, I chatted on the phone with my dear church friend, Becky.  She was planning a spontaneous trip to West Virginia with her husband of 30+ years, just to see a popular country music singer. The joy and laughter flowed from the conversation as she unveiled their very last minute plans of what was quickly becoming a chaotic travel event.  She had decided both she and hubby, Don, had lost their minds.  As we laughed and laughed, my girlfriend reminded me how we have a choice to live life with joy, every day. For her, it was packing up with Don and just heading out to parts unknown with really no true plan, making the best of every moment and most likely laughing out loud along the way.

Have you ever noticed joy is one of those emotions you can actually see in someone’s eyes or hear in their voice? With joy, there is a “spark” of engagement you see or hear first, feel second. It’s hard to explain, but for those who feel joy in their lives, they certainly understand.

The truth is, without feeling some form of joy in our lives it’s hard to find true purpose and passion. Joy can speak to the heart and heal a broken soul.  Joy helps us find forgiveness and open our hearts to blessings we didn’t realize were right in front of us. With joy in our heart, our relationships can grow stronger and sweeter.  With joy, it becomes too difficult to hold bitterness or resentment. With joy, we find inner beauty and the wisdom to let go of the negative and replace it with positive. With joy, we don’t have to live behind the mask of perception. We can simply “be” ourselves. With joy, we can finally experience true, authentic happiness in life, and have the energy to search for our purpose here on earth. With joy, we are allowed us to be fully engaged in the gift of love. Instead of noticing what is wrong, we notice what is right. We learn to be thankful for those people around us that truly bless and love us.  Finally, joy allows our heart to be happy and can help us find our passion and purpose in life.

I find joy in savoring every moment of life. After my own struggles, I am simply happy to be alive, but more so to be inspired to bring joy and hope to those in true need of these blessings.

We all need a reason to watch the sunrise kiss a new day on the cheek. We owe those moments to ourselves every day.  Let’s live each day with an authentic happiness, valuing those special people in our lives, and, in turn, bring joy and purpose to others in need. Today, it is my hope that each of you can let go of those things holding you back from a joyful life.  May you dance in the rain, sing off-key, and giggle with friends. May you discover these joyful moments, let them build within you, and truly live a life of authentic happiness.

(And, if anyone is in the West Virginia area, please keep an eye out for two lost Brentwood souls probably trying to find their way back home. I would appreciate it. ;).