Sunflowers and dragonflies. That's August.
Growing up, August days were filled with the essence of summer. My childhood was spent roaming the untamed woods and fields on my parents' property with my four siblings. There were August gatherings of family and friends to celebrate birthdays, meadows in which to sit among wildflowers and watch dragonflies hover and dart, and always a quiet spot to get lost in a good book.
Looking back, those days were a gift, and I'm so grateful for a childhood that held love, contentment, and joy. Today, now in my 52nd August, I have to admit that lately, joy has been allusive - a bit like the dragonflies. There has been a deep sadness that fills me due to a loss of relationships, and there is some grieving that goes along with that. Grief has replaced joy, or at least has stifled it. I could easily allow that sadness to dwell inside me indefinitely. But after a month of intentional reflection and collecting the quiet, I've come to realize that I cannot let outside circumstances consume me. I cannot let them control my life. I have a choice! I can let the sadness pull me into depression, or I can choose to fill that void with something uplifting.
So I choose joy. Just saying those words is empowering, like taking the first step forward. Joy. It's different from happiness which is based on circumstances - like a rollercoaster of emotion. But I can be joy-filled despite circumstances. Joy comes from a spring deep within, drawing life from a well of gratitude and contentment. Author Ann Voskamp writes, "Being joyful isn't what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful." In her book, One Thousand Gifts, she shares a profound connection between gratitude and joy. Are you ready for it? The Greek word for joy is chara and the Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharisteo - euCHARisteo. It's right there! Joy (chara) is literally found in the word thanksgiving (euCHARisteo)! I read those words for the first time several years ago, and I still get goosebumps when I read them.
There's one more missing piece to the joy puzzle, at least for me, and it's another Greek word - charis. It means grace. Grace that comes from a God who loves unconditionally, and who is the source of a deep, holy joy. Charis - eucharisteo - chara. Grace, thanksgiving, and joy. I want that again. I NEED that again. So I choose to be joyful and it starts right now - today - at this moment. And it will be how I start every day, no matter what is happening in the world, in our country, in my family, or in my personal life. Those things are beyond my control. However, I can control one thing, and that is my response.
Did you know that sunflowers follow the sun from east to west as young buds? Then, when fully mature, their flowers face east to greet the sun every morning. And did you know that dragonflies begin life in dark water before rising up to the light? When sunlight hits their colorless bodies, they become beautiful, colorful, and iridescent - transformed by the sun. They continue their homage and begin each day drying their wings in the warmth of the sun. Like sunflowers and dragonflies, I invite you to join me and begin each day this month with gratitude. Let's be thankful for at least one small thing, because that one small thing will lead to a little bit of joy. Speak it or write it - it doesn't matter. What matters is acknowledging it. Let's mark the days of August by listing more and more small things, so August can become filled with joyful moments. Each day a step forward. Each day a step towards transformation and a joy-filled life.
I'll leave you with this thought:
"If you let something steal your thanksgiving, you let something steal your joy, and if you let something steal your joy, you let something steal your strength." - Ann Voskamp
and this encouraging scripture:
"Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times." - Romans 12:12 (NCV)
Two books I recommend:
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and the devotional companion
The book of Philippians which is known as the Letter of Joy
At the top of today's gratitude list: sunflowers and dragonflies. What's on yours?
Hi, I'm Tracy - horticulturist, beauty-seeker, Word-lover, and blessed to be the owner of Bella Botanica. I also love to write about plants, gardening, and about my faith journey. Thanks for reading!