“If I ask you to name a joyful shape, what’s the first one that comes to mind? For many people I’ve asked over the years the answer is a circle.” So writes Ingrid Fetell Lee in her book ‘Joyful’. This comes as no surprise when I think of all the shapes of joyful things, balloons, confetti, a cup of coffee, plates of delicious food, bubbles catching the light and gently floating up like a dream, the spinning of a pastel striped hula hoop, the soft curl on a newborn’s head. A spinning top, a penny flipped to spin on it’s edge, the spin of a waltzer at the fairground. The symmetry of a circle is so complete, satisfying somehow in it’s completeness. Is it this completeness that resembles joy to us?
Joy, complete & childlike
Or is a circle the shape of joy because it is the shape of home; our planet, a pregnant tummy, a face, a hug? Can we combine the two? Completeness is a feeling of being home?
A circle is a curved shape, in design curves are associated with femininity and softness. Joy represented in shapes could be described as childish, youthful, elegant, feminine and complete.
“The circle’s unbroken perimeter and even rate of curvature make it the most stable, complete and inclusive shape. A love of symmetry is one of the best studied human aesthetic preferences. One reason we love symmetry may be that it is an outward symbol of inner harmony”.Joyful – Ingrid Fetell Lee
Joy beyond the physical
What about musical notes, curved balls of sound hung on telephone wires of five and the wide open mouths of a choir, these physical circles of joy create feelings of joy: “Sing in a group and you experience a rush of hormones associated with mood elevation and reducing symptoms of depression including endorphins and dopamine.”James Sills. Those round notes of melody in turn inspire dance; the movement of joy. Dancing also releases endorphins and helps you to connect with your inner child and express yourself. Dancing comes in forms of spins and twirls, circular steps and sets. Is the activity of singing and dancing why we associate circles with joy?
How about those metaphorical circles, a friendship circle, the idea of what goes around comes around, the moral arc of justice, renewal, recycling, restoration, – how do these circles play into our idea of joy? A circle is inclusive, it faces all, includes all, it has no sharp edges to cause pain or entrapment. Is joy found in justice, inclusion and comfort?
From this consideration of the shape of the circle; the shape of joy, can we then infer that joy is youthful, complete, feminine, musical, movement, justice, and inclusive?
Is it not too much to consider The Creator infused the shape of a circle with joy? That he meant it that way, that circles are meant to show us that joy is found in these things and finding these things actually brings joy? I like to think he did.
Abi Louise helps those in the writing business make their important message beautiful and highly valued. She lives on the edge of the bookish city of Oxford, UK and the beautiful countryside of the Cotswolds with her three children.
The snow gently falls around me as I take a walk on the brick sidewalk in my city, leaving snowy footprints behind for someone else to walk through. I feel the cold air on my cheeks on this evening shortly before Christmas, stopping to look in storefronts with all the pretty things in the windows. Every store on Market Street is decorated for Christmas, and there are twinkling lights in every window I pass. The trees beside the sidewalks are covered with an array of white lights, lighting my way through the darkness of the evening. Feeling filled with delight in these quiet moments, I have walked these streets every Christmas for many years now and know just which stores I like to linger longer in front of. I reach my favorite store. Whenever I walk in its doors, the beauty on display captivates me. Rejoicing in the middle of the store, I find nostalgia here; home décor items, homemade chocolates, jewelry, cards, books, and simple pretty things to buy as a gift for that someone special on my gift list. I also like how they wrap the gifts I buy with pretty packaging so they are ready to put under the Christmas tree when I get home!
Walk in the snow
On my way home, I visit another store up the street that has been here for decades, a local pizza shop where I meet up with my husband for a pizza and soda while the snow continues to fall outside. We enjoy the noise of being in this busy crowded space, yet alone together in a booth where we talk about our moments, our memories, and savor the pepperoni and cheese pizza before us.
With many seasons behind me and my walk a little bit slower than it used to be, on the way out I find my heart filled with memories, making me smile as I feel the warmth of the mittens in my pocket and a reminder of the friend of mine who made them. The longing of these moments have a way of winding their way into my heart to stay for a long time once the snow begins to fall in the winter season!
Even after Christmas is over, I find a walk in the snow to be something that brings me comfort and joy in anticipation of the New Year ahead of me. The lights on Market Street stay lit long after all the presents are unwrapped and the Christmas trees are taken down. They light up the way for snowy evening walks for a long time after the holidays are over.
The longing in my heart that comes with the season of snow falling is reminiscent of years past, going all the way back to my childhood, back to the days of my marriage and young love, the times when my son was little and seeing snow for the first time, walking hand in hand with my husband on cold snowy nights, and times when I felt closer to God in the snowdrift times of my soul. There also comes a longing of sadness and often loneliness that accompanies the snowy season, wishing for “long ago times” and re-visiting times of loss from past winter snows. They both have a place within my heart as the snow collects on the ground outside like the memories have collected in my heart.
Intentional list of rejoicing
On a snowy evening walk in the beginning of the season, I lift my head upwards and see the darkness of the sky and the tiny lights on the nearby trees. I find a tug deep within me longing for much more of the season’s warmth and delight than for traveling the path down the lonely road of loss and sadness that can come on dark winter days. What helps me get through lonely times of the soul in winter, when the days are short and I come home from work in the dark, is my intentional list of “rejoycing“. I know, I am spelling it differently. That’s intentional to keep me remembering the reasons behind it! I have determined to pile a snowbank inside my heart — built with wonder and rejoicing in the winter season, as I walk with the quietness of snowflakes falling on my face. In reflecting on before, during, and after the holidays, this is how I have found and keep “joy” in the middle of rejoicing in the middle of it all:
1.Remembering good times Being intentional in remembering times of gladness helps to embrace ordinary moments.
2.Realising blessings Making a list of things to be thankful for and writing them down on a regular basis helps the heart remain grateful. One year I bought a tiny journal I kept with me throughout the day. It allowed me to add to it when otherwise I may have forgotten to write in it.
3.Reaching out Encouraging others and bringing comfort and cheer to someone else who is hurting helps take the focus off my post-holiday blahs and my own difficulty of getting through the middle of winter.
4.Refreshing my heart Reading God’s Word refreshes and renews the inside of the heart. In return, the Word gives strength to endure and helps thankfulness rise. It helps me walk through seasons where “snowdrifts in life” are deeper than what I think I can walk through. I glance through the Amplified Bible to Romans 15:13, which reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.”
5.Resting in quiet moments Learning to rest in quiet moments is much like walking on a quiet evening in the snow. Rest takes ordinary moments and puts a zip of extraordinary in them, falling quiet around me and covering the inside of me. I find a snowy evening synonymous with needed rest on a regular basis, giving me a much needed pause. It fills me up inside, giving me a space I need to dwell in. Rest gives treasured moments in time and a peace that no one can take away.
6.Restoring my soul My soul is restored when I let God lead me beside still and quiet waters [Psalm 23 is my favorite]. Like I restore an old broken piece of furniture, God restores the “old” parts of me that have become broken. He restores me as I walk through ordinary moments. I am restored when I walk in places where I feel His presence and surrender to His leading. Looking for something beautiful in each of my days helps my heart feel restored when I see evidence of God in that place of beauty.
So, when the first snow starts to fall each winter season, I pull out my re“joy”cing list and keep looking at it from time to time. I need it at the beginning of wintertime when the first snow falls and in the middle of the season when wrapping paper from the gifts under the Christmas tree are scattered all over the floor on Christmas Day. I need its reminders as the season of snow continues, here in upstate New York, long after the New Year when I really need inspiration and hope for those post-Christmas blues and weariness that often catches hold of me. I surely need it when I wish the snow would simply go away after months and months of it falling everywhere. I find the re“joy”cing list to be something that helps keep my heart wondering of God’s goodness and gifts, instead of wandering where my emotions try to pull me.
I find myself sitting on the couch writing tonight, yet again, on another snowy evening. The hot cup of French vanilla cappuccino on the table next to me, topped off with a generous portion of whipped cream, helps me to embrace the ordinary winter evening moments of snow falling and to delight in the beauty of it covering the sidewalk outside my window. I glance at my journal and the words written there from my heart, and find comfort in my view from where I sit, which includes my husband and our son’s dog sitting near each other over by the window. Blessings abound in this snowy season called winter as I am tucked away here in this warm place I call home.
Journaling Prompts for the Winter Season
Write about how you embrace ordinary moments and how God meets you there. What ordinary moment became extraordinary for you?
Start a list of things to be thankful for. Keep it going in the new year. Share it with your family or a friend. Take it with you throughout the day so you can add to it when thankfulness rises inside.
Write about a time when you reached out to someone else who was hurting. How did it change you?
Write about a season when the “snowdrifts in life” were too deep for you to walk in and how you made it through with God’s help.
Write about how you have experienced rest and/or how you yearn to experience rest in your life.
Write about ways God has restored you. If you are waiting for that restoration, write about what you would like to experience.
Think about “One Word” you feel God leading you to for the New Year to experience in a new way and to walk in throughout the year. Do a word study on this “One Word” — looking up meanings, synonyms, word origins, etc. Find this “One Word” in the Bible and study the verses it is mentioned in.
What would you like to change in the New Year? Write your thoughts about it and how it will help you grow personally? Write down a prayer to God about it.
In your writing, find a scripture verse that goes along with what you are journaling about. If you don’t know where to find one, googling “verses about ______” will help you find some options to look up.
To go deeper, find a group of friends to journal with and share your writings with each other. Gathering around a table with a group of women will break down walls as you each share about your life. You will find that you are not alone.
Noreen Sevret lives on a picturesque river in Upstate New York with her husband and their son. She has a passion for finding beauty in unexpected places from behind the lens of her camera and writing about how God speaks to her heart through that picture. She facilitates journaling classes at her church. Noreen enjoys spending time with family, writing worship songs, playing the piano, reading, participating on book launch teams, going out for coffee with friends, and going to beautiful places in NYS and beaches in NJ with her husband. She also works as an office manager for a local funeral home.
It has been the craziest couple of weeks. But they fit perfectly with the insanity of the past few months. If hindsight is 20/20 then what is foresight? I could use a little of that right now.
Hmm… What to do … what to do?
She’s not feeling well. I’ve got to find a place for her to sit. Stay calm. My heart has been pounding out of my chest for weeks because of stress and worry. If I freak out, she will, too.
I’m trying to wrap my mind around the baby, plus this trip through the mountains. Why in the world are we doing this? This government is insane, although I’d never say that aloud. I can finally see the lights of Bethlehem. Thank you, God!
There are so many people here. This is ridiculous. I thought we’d easily find a place to stay. I just didn’t think our plans through. We were in such a hurry. A friendly innkeeper offered the only solution when he saw how pregnant Mary was. Now, we have no choice but to sleep in a dirty cave. Mary says we’ll be fine. She’s sweet and calm. I’m sweaty and stunned. I’m such a failure. I had so much on my mind. I thought there would be more time. If we had left a couple of days earlier, I could’ve found a place for us to stay.
As I help Mary off the donkey, I roll the scene from a few months ago through my mind. It’s kind of a never-ending loop. I attempt to pray it away every time it pops in my head … which is a lot.
When I saw that she was pregnant, I was blown away. Why did this happen? How could this happen?
I must be insane because when she explained, I didn’t believe her, but I did, too. The look on her face was so convincing.
I was angry. Then I was sad. I felt betrayed. How was there another man? I figured I’d just cancel the wedding quietly, not tell anyone. It’s rough keeping the gossip mongers at bay, though. I love her. I just wasn’t sure what to do. One thing I knew was that I couldn’t let anything terrible happen to her.
Then I had the wildest dream. An angel came to tell me not to be afraid. Yeah, right. He revealed that she wasn’t lying. Said I was chosen to protect them, to love them and to raise the boy. He said I could choose.
I pulled my hair out.
I was sick and tired.
I decided to trust God.
What would you do?
When my friends asked about her, I told them, ‘We’re in love. That’s all that matters. We’re a team and the baby, my baby, will be cared for.’ That mostly shut them up.
I hurried to prepare the house, our home, for Mary and our baby. Now we’re hurrying because the government came up with this census thing. We’ve walked 90 miles this week, I’m exhausted. She’s exhausted. I’m terrified because the baby is coming soon.
Oh no! The baby is coming! Mary is in pain, but she isn’t screaming like I’ve heard other women do. I want to scream. I’ve never done anything like this before – that’s what the midwives do. Lord, help me to know what to do. Also, Lord, forgive me for my ignorance and fear and help me to help her. Please keep us safe in this filthy place. Oh, why didn’t I get us a room!
She did it! I’m not sure how, but I prayed my head off. He’s here! He’s beautiful! He’s radiant.
I’m amazed at how magnificent they both are. My heart is bursting with love. I’m praising God along with all these weird shepherds that are running around us wanting a peek at Him. Where did they come from?
I’m laughing. I’m crying. I’m exhausted.
Is that angels singing? I must be delirious.
Mary is resting. It’s quiet now. Just the three of us plus a few cows and sheep huddled close to the fire. We’re all keeping Him warm. As terrified as I am, I’m thanking God over and over for this miracle. God asked me to trust Him. I did. This whole thing is amazing. Awe inspiring, really.
What a huge responsibility. Will I have enough money to provide for Him? Will I be able to teach Him anything? Am I up to the task? I hope so. Do I have to change diapers? I hope not.
As I look at this beautiful baby’s face, I am overwhelmed with love. I see His radiance all around us and the glow on Mary’s face. My faith is in God. I know He will protect me while I protect this beautiful little family. I’m going to be the best father ever. I’ll love Mary and Jesus until the day I die … forever.
I can’t fathom that this baby is the Savior of the World, but God told us that He is.
We’re gonna take this one moment at a time.
I wonder if He’ll call me Dad.
Mary Mahan-Deatherage is a freelance writer, brand designer and strategic planner.
MMD Creative is her flagship company specializing in branding and strategic planning for small businesses. She owns Spoken Women, a creative community bringing the Catholic perspective to the world through bold writing, podcasts, and art. Her blog, Divine, Clever, or Whatever is a Christ-driven endeavor to lighten your soul through her uplifting stories. Mary is a mom of two and Mimi to a pair of rambunctious grandsons. She and her husband, Greg, are enjoying their vibrant, amusing, busy empty-nester life in Dixon, Illinois in the 127-year-old Craftsman home where she grew up.