A few summers ago, my little sister worked at a summer camp in New Hampshire. When she arrived, she texted our family to tell us about her cabin and her campers and the other counselors. She ended the text with the simple line “I am looking forward to everything.” The phrase was so expansive and full of hope that I wrote it down and have thought of it often since. What if like toddlers we rolled out of bed every day and thought to ourselves about all of the things to look forward to? What if we were brave enough to love Mondays?
I’m starting a graduate program on Saturday. Anxiety trails that phrase like a slowly stalking beast, staring me down with yellow eyes and bared teeth. I am enormously excited to be studying again and know that this is the right next step, but we have been conditioned to believe that pessimism is chic and anxiety is an achievement. Hopefulness and genuine optimism just aren’t very “cool.” We brush that optimism off as naive or disingenuous and happily turn back to our stress and busy-ness.
Every year I share the same Humans of New York Facebook post when it pops up in memories. It features a picture of a little girl, who when asked the question “What was the happiest moment of your life?” replies with a confident grin “I don’t think I have one but it’s probably coming up, and it’s going to be a surprise.” I adore the hope of that little line and that self-assured grin. And I love that my faith in the God of joy makes it more than just a chance. Our experience of happiness isn’t like winning the lottery—it is an interaction with a God who made everything that brings you joy and who hides new experiences of delight around every corner, waiting for you to find them, and through them, find Him.
Every time it snows, I smile. I smile because God made snow, and then a little while ago he made me, and when he made me, he knew that I would love snow. When fat flakes brush my cheeks, he’s giving me kisses, and I smile because I am known fully and deeply by a God who wants me to know the fullness of joy.
Those trained well in cynicism may not like the idea of today being the happiest of days—after all, that means it’s all downhill from here right? I suppose that’s true, in a way, but I also don’t think that happiness and joy are nearly as scarce as we imagine them to be. Choosing hope today doesn’t deplete what’s available to us tomorrow. As we move always closer to eternity, we move closer to the much longer part of our lives, where each day truly is the best and brightest. Responsibility and diligence and persistence are acts of faithfulness, but when they breed anxiety, we have forgotten the one who has taken ultimate responsibility for creation and its woes.
I have often struggled to find joy, consumed by worry that I am wasting my days. Bria, with her quiet peace, persistent gentleness, and bottomless hope, has always been my example in this area—watching her life has helped me to live mine. We should all be so lucky to have an example like her’s.
If I may offer a closing thought on this: a couple of years ago I was trying to make some big decisions and was worried that I would make the wrong choice. I worried about choosing a path that would end somewhere other than joy, and obsessed over a destination in an imaginary future. As I journaled those thoughts as prayers, this revelation dripped onto the page:
“And then I think, what if I am to die tomorrow? What if my life will not soften into gold and autumn but will stay always in spring?
Then I will have lived a good life. I will have become who you called me to be. I will have loved sailors and cowboys and hippy-wisdom teachers, and skiers, and bakers, and church people. I will have given myself to life, as fully as I knew how. And I wouldn’t have one regret, because I found you in snowflakes and waves and light that comes through the trees. I found you in my life, and I followed you to the joy.
And maybe that’s just it: to find God in our lives today. Not tomorrow, in the land of hopes and dreams, but today, as our heart beats out the minutes. Thank you for today and its miracles Lord, and in your faithfulness, hold all of our tomorrows. Bring us back to you as the time draws near. Amen.”
Ansley Kelly (’16) makes her home in Buffalo, NY, where she delights in short, sweet summers spent sailing and long winters spent skiing at her favorite mountain. Between outdoor adventures, you can find her buying books more quickly than she can read them and indulging in mid-morning naps. She works for Wegmans Food Markets where she finds purpose and joy in feeding her community and the wider world.