choosing joy

I’ve spent the last few weeks rummaging around in the basement, carting boxes of stuff off to Goodwill, decorating for the holidays, making granola and other gifts from the kitchen. When my mind is unsettled, I have a hard time sitting still. Better to put my body to work doing something physical that manifests visible results, whether it’s baking cookies or cleaning the shower drain (I did that this morning).

Still, it feels strange to be entering the holiday season, stringing lights and cutting greens, when there’s so little cause for celebration in the world at large and when so much of what we hold sacred (truth, democracy, and decency for starters) is under full-scale assault. To pay close attention to what’s happening in our country is to wrestle with painful realities most of us couldn’t have begun to imagine even a year ago. It is to open, as Annie Proulx recently observed, “a savagely difficult book without a happy ending.”

And yet, it is December, time in our house to put up a tree, to welcome grown children home, to bake cranberry bread and wrap gifts and gather with friends and family. What I always love most about these weeks before Christmas is the opportunity to connect with loved ones near and far, sending packages off in the mail, exchanging cards and holiday letters, lighting candles and gathering around crowded dinner tables. But this year feels different, as if the darkness of our human affairs has dimmed the lights of hope and faith and joy.

My guess is I’m not alone in feeling shaky and overwhelmed. Yesterday after yoga class, my friend Maude and I paused in front of a plaque in the studio, a quote from the Dalai Lama. Although I’ve walked straight past these words on the wall a hundred times, they suddenly hit home with the force of truth: “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do, and mostly live.”

I have been desperately in need of this reminder. There’s no magic formula that can take us back to better times. No amount of worry or despair or sleepless nights will shape our future. But there is today. And today offers countless opportunities to act with kindness, to embody peace, to donate to a good cause, to call a friend (or a politician!), to visit someone who’s alone, to take small steps toward the light, steps that make the world just a little bit better.

Perhaps this is the challenge we are called to this season: to choose joy without turning a blind eye to the chaos. Joy not as an emotional response to the outer world, but joy as a practice, joy as an inner vibration of the soul, joy as an offering, a way of being, a way of healing what is broken.

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.

All things break. And all things can be mended.

Not with time, as they say, but with intention.

So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

~ L. R. Knost

books for holiday giving

I’ve heard from quite a few readers who plan to give copies of Moments of Seeing this season. That means so much to me, and I’d love to make it even easier for you. For the month of December only, I’m offering signed copies of Moments of Seeing for just $15, a savings of 25% off the list price of $20.  Buy four copies (or any combination of my books totaling $60) and your shipping is free. I’ll tuck in a bookmark, too!

Click here to order.

The link takes you to my husband Steve’s small company, Earth, Sky & Water, where you may well be tempted to do some other holiday shopping.  I especially love the new holiday themed notecards and keep asking him to bring more of them home for me.  Perfect stocking stuffers and hostess gifts.

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. Oh, Katrina, you just know instinctively what many of us are thinking. Wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone would take your advice. STOP, be thankful, be grateful, help each other, and take the time to just be.
    I am 64 yrs. old, have two hip replacements and two knee replacements. Now, I need
    a shoulder replacement. I am thankful that these operations can be done, but it is a challenge dealing with the things that go along with them. Everyone has something to deal with in life so I will continue to move along. Maybe I will be a little slower than some.
    The state of society and the country concerns me more, for I want a decent and caring world to leave to my children and their children. I can only teach them to value their beliefs and to speak up for themselves. Thank you for your wise and caring writings. We need them, especially now,to remind us.

  2. I believe in the light, the Lord and joy. Not every yesterday was good and possibly tomorrow as well. We gave two choices each morning…looking for positive living or not. We are those who seek how our day will be. Stop comparing and stop reading any type of media. Find God in your life and comfort there. Rejoice in what we do have.
    Merry Christmas

  3. Barb from CNY says:

    I have so, so needed this gentle reminder that although there is so much wrong with our world there is still so much good in our lives. Thank you.

    • Yes!! Just living in this country!!! I have traveled throughout the world and always grateful that I was lucky to be borm here….even with all its failings. Be the change you want to see in the world and do it today with joy!

  4. When I get discouraged, as we all do, I turn to my sphere of influence. It’s not large, but it is where I can make a difference, and to those individuals whom I can help, it means the world. This is how I deal with darkness at any time. I also hold near the truth that nothing is forever.

  5. Katherine Stevenson says:

    Beautiful words I desperately needed today. Thank you!

  6. Friendship and family help during the dark times. Hugs, funny stories and sharing time with grandchildren always bring joyful light. But turning 70 on Sunday brought such deep thoughts about who am I really? One friend knew exactly what I needed as a gift to ease the transition into the 70’s. Your books…”moments of seeing” and “magical journey.” Two books I always said I should buy, you know how often we say “maybe one day.” Well my friend of over fifty years knew exactly what I needed. I shared your blog with her years ago and your words speak so personally to each of us each time we open your email. Today, a breezy cold December, was spent sitting and reading your books. I guess I could almost say I took a pre-holiday break to just sit and read such wonderful books. Thank you!!

  7. Charlie Boswell says:

    I second what everyone above has said. Thank you.

  8. Salving, healing words Katrina. Thank you.
    Our kindness forecasts how we move in life.

  9. so beautiful. so perfect. thank you. the broken world awaits….

  10. Thank you Katrina! It’s amazing how you know just the right words to say and the right approach to take. This was so comforting and inspiring at the same time – just when I needed comfort and inspiration. Hugs!

  11. To find your email in my inbox is always a gift. I love your wise words, and reading the comments makes me feel part of an intelligent, accepting community. Thank you for creating this!

  12. I couldn’t agree with you more. Every day I pray for those who’ve lost loved ones, those who need healing, those who have weathered horrific situations, and, yes, those who simply need to pray for a more loving, caring, compassionate world. Future is always an uncertainty. Now more than ever, we have to seek reassurance that all will be well, eventually. At 73+, I hope I’ll live long enough to witness joy for all of human life – because everyone deserves love, peace of mind and safety.

  13. Lauren Seabourne says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, all of which resonate with me deeply. I couldn’t agree more with these lines: “Perhaps this is the challenge we are called to this season: to choose joy without turning a blind eye to the chaos.” Joy is indeed a practice; and whether we are struggling with the news of the world, a family situation, or trying to juggle all the obligations of a holiday season, your words here remind us that we can make an effort to choose joy to accompany us through it all.

  14. Shelly Gilliland says:

    You’re definitely NOT alone in your rumination about the holiday season. Last year’s holiday season found many of us in sheer and total shock over the November election. Any hope we managed to muster just to get us into 2017 turned to dust day by day by day…and any hope we had of feeling better by now…evaporated like the frigid cold windy Midwest day today. But…we will NOT quit! And we know you won’t quit either. #neverthelessshepersisted

  15. Leigh Sloss says:

    Your words often inspire me. Today they made me cry. Yet I still choose JOY – for my own personal life and the world at large. And I shared your words on facebook because the world needs more inspiration and JOY and most of all connection that we are in this together.
    Thank you, Katrina.

  16. I suspect there’s a chance my words might be misconstrued or even disregarded, but please take them in the spirit they are written–truly a place of compassion and kindness. I write to you as fellow mother (with many concerns) who is also doing her very best to raise children in this world. Over the past year+ I have also wrestled with how we got here, how people seem to have gotten so numb to cruelty, whether it be through words or actions–how people can be so disengaged, lacking compassion, etc. And the only answer that keeps surfacing is the absolute devaluation of life that has taken place over the last few decades–people are figuratively killing people with words, literally with guns and other violence (against people and animals), unborn children are not respected, the list goes on. And at the risk of completely being dismissed: Going back to basics with my faith is the only thing that has provided comfort. Yes, I’m Catholic. Yes, I’m pro-life (though not a Trump supporter) and I have finally started to see that many things in our culture, things that were supposed to liberate us/set us free, are the very things that perpetuate the culture of violence and hatred, disrespect of women and human life, that persists today. Saint Pope John Paul II had some very prophetic predictions in Humane Vitae. They were bold statements, but many of them have come to pass. I know many things related to religion and faith are not always popular,( and let’s face it, many sinful behaviors have occurred in all religions) but in this case, the solace I have found comes from my faith (and the sacraments) and is the guiding force in how I choose to live and make a positive impact in my little corner of the world. God bless you, Katrina and your readers as well.

  17. Julie Abbott says:

    Wow, spot on Katrina. Thank you for the reminder. It definitely takes more of an effort this year to find the joy. I have been approaching it by just taking one day at a time. The Santa Anas and resulting wildfires here in California have not helped an already difficult time. When I am feeling bogged down I turn to the birds in the trees, the dog on my lap or a hug from my husband. Always works to bring on a smile.

  18. Nancy Oberrath says:

    I was reading all these beautiful comments, while Pandora chose the music. It was the “Hallelujah” song, and it makes me cry to think of all the beautiful people in the world, struggling to find the joy, but always looking for the light. Thank you for putting your thoughts out there for us.

  19. Joy as a practice.
    Gratitude for you, your words, your wisdom.

Share your thoughts