GIFTS – An acronym for the joy you carry

Taken from my e-book “Finding Joy During the Holidays When You’re in Your Thirties & Feel Broke” the following excerpt is still relevant all times of the year. We all experience brokenness in this life. It can look like feeling broken over painful world events, financial brokenness, relational brokenness, brokenness within our goals and dreams that don’t seem to be panning out and we’re already at an age where it seems like “will it ever change”, loss of loved ones, and feeling physically broken with illness pain.

When I wrote the short e-book, it was with a specific season, “The Holiday” season, in mind. With the holidays, it seems like everything should be pleasant and joyful! It’s the holidays! So there is an added level of buzz around our feelings when they really don’t align with the season. But the truth is that brokenness and the pain of the here and now seem to follow us when we don’t have the strength and power of joy.

And with that, I hope the following excerpt brings a sense of joy to you. (To get the full context- download your copy now.)

I’ve come up with an acronym to help you remember all that you truly have at your disposal this Holiday season that can help you tap into true joy (historical definition: calm delight and inner gladness). GIFTS stands for Giving, Inspiration, Forgiveness, Thankfulness, and Spark. The GIFTS acronym will help to reassure you that joy is attainable, it doesn’t have to live far away from who you are and what you carry, and you have more gifts in you this Holiday season than you may realize.

Giving

Though it may not seem like you have extra to spare, you can still still choose to give. Giving is one way to choose joy. Some examples of giving during times of (financial) struggle are to give of your time (volunteer, babysit for free); give of your talent (if you’re a photographer, you can take photos of a friend or co-worker as a gift); give of your home (like inviting a neighbor over for dinner one night).

Inspiration

Joy is inspirational, and so are YOU. You can choose joy by inspiring others with kind words and actions. These don’t have to cost anything. Sending your supervisor an appreciative email or helping someone with their groceries next time you see someone with a loaded cart at the store are examples of how you can inspire others.

Forgiveness

Joy can’t thrive if you have bitterness in your heart against others; it’s time to forgive. Are you holding onto anything that you need to let go of that’s hurting you? Joy will immediately start to flow in and through you when you let go of that which no longer serves you or is yours to carry. It’s time to forgive and let the past be in the past. Joy lives right on the heels of forgiveness.

Thankfulness

It’s almost impossible to not feel joy when you are truly thankful! Keeping a list of people, events, and things you are thankful for nearby, especially in the midst of troubles can bring that inner calm that we talked about before. Thankfulness is a value that joy is partnered with. Despite problems around you, recognizing what do have and are thankful for will initiate joy.

Spark

Lastly, joy sometimes starts as a little spark that can turn into a sustainable fire. We all have a spark in us. We all can tap into that place that no one else can and see joy. Think about the spark that you alone have and can spread. By choosing to seize the unique, beautiful gifts and personality traits that you have intrinsically, joy can arise out of what you see as ashes and fan into something big, warm, and sustainable. Joy is the spark that sustains us through the bad, even when [we feel broken down when we see devastating world events.] Once again, joy lets us face our circumstances with strength.

I will add that though joy is strength and does bring a sense of calm when things in the world and our personal lives go wrong, it’s okay to NOT be strong. It’s okay when joy seems illusive to the circumstances of our lives and things we are going through. It’s okay to feel devastated when we hear devastating news. It’s okay to allow others to help you carry the burdens of life that you can’t carry alone. Joy is one of many dynamic lenses we put on (with or without trying) to view the world around us.

GIFTS speak to the joy that we can choose. The joy we can tap into. The joy that gives us strength and can help us keep going. And GIFTS is a way to get there WHEN WE ARE READY. In the meantime, allow yourself to feel grief, sadness, anger and the whole spectrum of emotions during trying, upsetting, broken times.

When Skin Tells a Story

I was rubbing my sun burnt legs down with lotion and noticed not only the hot feeling of a surface burn, but also felt an itch with a cluster of mosquito bites on my left calf. Scratching only irritated the burn, but if I didn’t scratch the bites were impossible to handle. Then, I noticed the nick where I had cut myself with a razor blade down near my ankle; blood was starting to trickle down my foot. I had rushed my shower, obviously, to have not noticed my beat-up legs and allowed myself to be so careless in cutting myself. Cuts, burns, and bites made my leg looked like it had been to battle.

I studied my other leg taking in an old scar down by my ankle. Fewer bites, but still uncomfortably burnt and a giant bruise on my shin.

All of a sudden, I felt a wave of being proud of my legs. I think typically my mind would rumble through thoughts of frustration having to dress a certain way to cover up the mess that was my legs in that moment. But not this time.

“Look at that.” I thought. “My skin. Taking the heat literally for all I go through and put it through.” My skin protects me from all kinds of elements just by walking the daily ins and outs of life. And look at all it can handle. The sun. Insects. Scrapes. Scratches. Bruises. Cuts that lead to scars. Though imperfect, my skin was beautiful to me in that moment. Is beautiful. And I don’t give it enough credit.

Skin is the biggest organ of our bodies and gets treated the harshest. Do we thank our skin for all it protects us from? Do we take care of it as we should? Do we drink enough water or eat high nutrient foods that hydrate and feed it properly? I try to. But besides the physical necessity that skin is by providing our bodies protection, there is so much more depth to understand.

My skin told the story of a woman who loves the outdoors— bug bites and sunburns. The bruises point to someone who is active, jostling around, and bumping into things. The scar on my ankle showed something of adventure or an experience that might have been rough in the moment, but ended with me being more resilient and now it’s healed. The razor cut by my ankle points to a personality of getting things done quickly, maybe too quickly and even rushing at times.

And what about you? What does your skin say to the world? What stories can people gather beyond the surface from that tough outer layer?

Some people have tattoos. (I love asking people about their tattoos! Sometimes the stories of a person’s tattoos are deep and meaningful. Others say they got a tattoo on a whim because of a bet or a preference. “I just like stars!” someone responded when I asked what the array of stars on their shoulder stood for.)

Some people have unique birth marks.

Some people have freckles.

Some people have stretch marks or wrinkles.

Some people have callouses built up from work and play.

Some people have more or less melanin, making them “black” or “white” or somewhere in between.

Think of the individual fingerprints you specifically were born with.

It’s pliable and soft. Growing with you. Stretching with you. Unique to ONLY you.

You can get skin wet and dry it off in a matter of seconds. Sometimes when it’s rainy and I need to run outside to the mailbox or take the trash out, I would rather go in my bare feet knowing that shoes will take forever to dry compared to wiping my feet off.

Skin gets dirty and it’s never a problem knowing you can then get it clean in the next shower.

Whatever your skin says on the outside about you, your life, your story—know it is absolutely beautiful and deserves appreciation and care.

Be proud of your skin. Be proud of what it says about you. Be proud of the first cover people see to the story and book that makes your life. And live your best life knowing your skin is beautiful even if it’s imperfect.