Finding My Way Back to Joy


nicole t walters -back to joy3“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” ― A.A. Milne

It was like we were in the middle of the fireworks show as they exploded with light and sound on every side of us. The crowd gasped with awe and let their delight be known in applause and audible “oohs” as Wilbur frolicked through the state fair. It was pure magic watching my children see Charlotte’s Web acted out feet in front of us at a local puppetry center.  

When the show started, my eyes naturally focused on the black shapes moving in the background. My mind went into evaluation mode as I tried to figure out how the puppets worked and how the people controlled the seamless movement of the delightful characters. I looked back to the sound and light booth to scope out the source of the fireworks that enveloped the theatre. It was then that I heard the most beautiful sound. My six-year-old was snuggled next to me in the dark theatre and he erupted with laughter when one of the puppets tripped over the barn door and went flying through the air.

I stopped looking at the play and started watching him. His eyes were transfixed on the stage in fascination and his hands fidgeted in his lap, trying to contain his excitement as he waited to see what was next. I suddenly saw one of my favorite childhood stories completely differently—through his eyes. I have always loved the tale of friendship and sacrifice and wanted to share it with my children. Charlotte’s Web was the first chapter book we read together at bedtime. But for the first time in years I saw it as more than something to pass on to them, but a delight to experience anew. I wanted to stop observing their lives and start living alongside them with childlike wonder.

I started listening and watching their reactions more after that. When I met a circumstance with worry, they saw the opportunity in it. As I evaluated  when we needed to sleep on our transatlantic flight to ensure we’d arrive with the best leg up on jetlag, they counted how many movies they could watch. While I asked for prayer for our transition into a new culture and all the logistics of our move, they dreamed about what their new room would look like, glorying at the opportunity to get all new stuff.

As we embark on a brandnew adventure in life, I don’t want to miss it because of my tendency towards anxiety and planning. Yes, someone has to keep the schedule and figure out the meals and homework and all the practicalities. But there’s more to life than to-do lists and I don’t want to miss the joy of new discoveries and the delight of God meeting us in the unknown. I want to return to seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

After the newness of a different culture wears off, I know I will find myself trudging through the same mundane tasks I did back in the United States. Life will still be life, no matter where it is lived. Whether a new adventure or the same old thing, I can choose to see the hidden beauty or focus on the mechanics behind the scenes ruining the magic.

So here and now I make the commitment to return to delight. I choose to see the world in the way my children do. I am deciding to believe as they do:

Every day is a new adventure waiting to be discovered.

Everyone is a friend waiting to be found.

The world is full of possibilities and I can do anything.

Imagining is fun and creating for the sheer fun of it is necessary.

I don’t have to care what other people think.

I can slow down and watch life happen.

I know I’ll have to remind myself every day of these truths I forgot long ago. They won’t easily replace my desire for structure and hurry, for plans and schedules. But I have the best teachers in the world. Every time I am tempted to forget, I will see the astonishment in two little pairs of eyes that look to me for direction. And I’ll take a cue from them instead. I’ll try to let go and find my way back to joy.