March 4, 1998 – My youngest daughter surprised my husband and me by bringing home gifts for us both. It was not our birthday, anniversary, not any holiday. It was one of those “just because” gifts that are so special.
One of the gifts that day was “The Joy Journal” by Barbara Johnson. Known by many as the “Christian Erma Bombeck”, she wrote many hilarious books such as:
Barbara wrote in the introduction to this journal
This Journal is a new way for you to add joy to your life. When good things happen to lighten your load and brighten your day, write them down. When someone pays you a compliment, write it down. When you remember nice things from the past, write them down. Let the journal become a personal treasure chest – your collected thoughts of hope, gladness, and love. When you start to collect joy, you will find it’s a magnet. Joy is everywhere. All you have to do is look for it and use it instead of saving it for Sunday-Best.
Less you think Barbara Johnson lived in denial and was just a “Pollyanna” telling people to “be happy” without really knowing what problems and sorrow were, she had plenty of sadness in her own life.
Barbara lost two sons, one in Vietnam and one at the hands of a drunk driver. Another was estranged for several years. A few years after her husband’s death she was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lymphoma (CNS), a brain tumor and also diabetes. Refusing to give in to despair, Barbara chose humor and looking for joy as a way to beat the odds of adversity. In 2005 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association awarded her the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award. Her book “Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy” has sold over one million copies. While facing death, she was working on a proposed final book, Joyfully, Barb!
So – I took her at her advice and began looking for joy – and recording it. Now 20 years later, I look back at all the entries in my journal and Barbara was right. She had said this journal would be “a treasury of gladness to inspire you for years to come.” And it has.
Most of my grandchildren are all grown up now – but I pull this journal out and relive those moments of joy I shared with them. Here are just a few that make me smile and I hope they will also bring a smile to your face.
March 7, 1998 – Rob and Rebekah took Matthew to kindergarten roundup this week, a chance to show him the classroom, meet the teachers, etc. After coming home he informed us that he was going to love kindergarten because there were lots of girls and they were going to love him!
January 16, 1999 – Robert spent the night with us and I took him to the Putnam Museum. On the way there he just kept talking and talking. I always want to give my grandchildren my attention when they are with me, but I had a headache and did not really feel like listening to his chatter. So I told him, “Robert, Grandma has a headache and I don’t really feel like paying attention to what you are saying right now.” His response was so funny, I had to try hard not to laugh. He said, “It’s okay Grandma. You don’t have to listen. I just want to talk.”
April 4, 1998 – Took Barbara shopping at the mall. Brought her a necklace and a headband. We had tacos and sundaes. She has been trying hard to “be good” so her parents would let her have this date with me. As we were enjoying our sundaes she told me, “Momma is wondering if I am going to still be good tomorrow. I’m not going to tell her but I’m going to surprise her and be good. I’m going to try hard to be good but if I mess up, I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry.'”
I don’t have a date written down for the laughter this granddaughter gave us but when she was quite young she came with her siblings to spent a week with us. Helping her Aunt make some cookies, she sat on the counter and began chattering away. Seeing a frown on her grandpa’s face she asked, “Am I annoying you Grandpa?” When he said yes she quickly responded “Good!” Which brought laughter to us all – including Grandpa.
There are many, many more memories I could share but I’m sure at some point you would stop reading. But I want to encourage you to look for joy that is all around you and record those special times. Not only will you enjoy the moment, but like me, years later you can remember and experience the joy all over again.
As Barbara Johnson said in her journal, “Laughter is like a shock absorber that eases the blows of life.”
Get busy looking for joy! I wish you good hunting!