100 Days of Looking for Joy

I originally posted this on The Faith Friends

JoyI recently spent 100 days recording “Moments of Joy” on my personal blog. Doing so helped me see more clearly the blessings of life.

I felt inclined to record daily experiences of joy after watching LDS General Conference last fall. I was a few weeks away from getting married, and my internal “bridezilla” was in full force. I felt myself stress over inconsequential matters all of the time.

So for 100 days I actively sought after joy. Joy came quickly and easily during experiences such as my Temple sealing (marriage) and date nights with my fiancé and now husband. But at other times, I felt weighed down by inadequacies, by the coldness and darkness of Winter, and by my own selfishness.

I learned to find joy in places I wouldn’t expect – like the refrigerator. For example, this past Saturday I went shopping for groceries like I always do. After coming home and putting the groceries away, I looked into the refrigerator and saw how full it was. Gratitude and joy filled my heart to the point that I felt guilt for often taking for granted the blessing of daily food to eat.

I am grateful for the prompting I had to record “Moments of Joy” for 100 days. While I still too often allow useless stress into my mind, I’ve learned joy can be found everyday in unanticipated ways if we look for it.

Sincerely,

​Meghan

Days 94-100: 100 Moments of Joy

I can’t believe today is the last entry for my “100 Moments of Joy” project! It’s been a good and beneficial journey. Later this week, I hope to write a post on what I’ve learned during these last 100 days.

Day 94: Tuesday was another snow day, meaning no work for me. John had to go into the office (he only works five minutes from our home), so I was by myself for most of the day. I spent a good chunk of the day writing thank you notes for wedding gifts we received. It was a peaceful and calm day, and a nice (forced) slow down from the crazy pace of normal life. I had joy sitting in my living room writing thank you notes while the sun streamed natural light in through the blinds.

Day 95: The commute home on Wednesday was epic. I left my office at 4 p.m. because John and I were having dinner with a friend that evening. However, my commute took three hours. Two of those three hours were spent with John driving the typically 10-minute drive from the metro to our home. The roads were jam packed, so we cancelled dinner with my friend. While this was a frustrating commute, I was so grateful I left at 4 p.m. so I could still have some sort of an evening that night. This was a tender mercy that brought joy.

Day 96: My dad picked me up from the metro after work on Thursday because John could not. I appreciated being able to spend a few minutes with my dad. As I walked up to my apartment, my heart felt full of joy for family and the opportunity I have to live so close to mine.

Day 97: I had the day off from work and was able to go to the Temple, go to the DMV to have my name officially changed, get the oil changed in my car, and do some grocery shopping. Attending the Temple brought joy because of the peace I felt while I in that sacred place. Going to the DMV and getting my oil changed didn’t necessarily bring joy, but made me really happy because those two things have been hanging over my head for quite some time. That evening, friends of ours texted to see if we wanted to have a double date that night. They ended up coming over to our apartment, and we ordered dinner from The Counter, an amazing burger place. Spending time with these friends was definitely joyful. They are so positive and always make me laugh when we’re around them.

Day 98: On Saturday night, we had dinner with my friend from high school that we were supposed to have dinner with on Wednesday evening. John had never met this friend. We went to Cafe Rio, and then came back to our apartment and just talked and laughed. Reuniting with old friends brings me joy.

Day 99: I love Sundays! Sunday is the most peaceful and joyful day of the week for me. Yesterday was no exception. We slept in, ate cinnamon rolls, eggs, and fruit for breakfast, went to church, came home and ate dinner, visited with some members of our church congregation, and then relaxed by watching a couple episodes of a show we like.

Day 100: I can’t believe today is Day 100, and this project is officially complete! Today also marks 100 days since John and I got married. I started this project a couple weeks before we got married and then took some time off when we got married and went on our honeymoon. John brings joy into my life every day. He is patient, funny, gentle, and kind.

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Days 80-93: 100 Moments of Joy

I am 14 days behind on my “Moments of Joy” project. Getting up to date seems like quite a bit of work. But I’m only one week away from completing this project, and I don’t want to give up this close to the end.

To be truthful, I can’t remember everything that’s happened in the last two weeks. But I have thought about joy each day. These last 93 days have been impactful in helping me create joy in my life and see life through a more joyful lens. That’s not to say that there aren’t still times I stress out and feel negative. That definitely still happens. But I think these last 93 days have helped make my perspective more optimistic than it was 94 days ago.

Below are 14 “Moments of Joy” from the last two weeks:

  1. Going to the Temple. John and I each took a day off from work, and this presented an opportunity to go to the Temple together. I love the Temple because I feel like I leave the Temple feeling more confident about myself. I think this is perhaps because being in the Temple elevates my perspective to a more holy level.
  2. Watching the snow fall. We had quite the blizzard this weekend. The view from our apartment is somewhat limited, but we could still watch the heavy snow fall. This was the first real snowfall of the year for us. To me this first snowfall of the year is magical.
  3. Completing a major project at home. When John and I moved into our apartment, the closet in the second bedroom became the “closet of death.” We stuffed that bad boy full of everything that didn’t have a home. I’ve known for a while the day would come when we needed to go through that closet, and I dreaded that day. When it came time to put away the fake Christmas tree we ordered this year, I knew that meant we needed to go through “that” closet. So I woke up early one Saturday and got to work. We ended up sorting and organizing from about 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It was quite the day, but knowing that project was done brought joy and gratitude.
  4. Being reminded that God can use us to accomplish His grand purposes. Listening to this BYU devotional a couple times over the past week brought joy and peace.
  5. Spending time with family. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my mom, sister, and I went out to lunch. We went to Cava, my favorite restaurant (currently).
  6. Writing thank you cards. I’ve started sending our wedding thank you cards. Taking the time to write these notes reminds me how blessed we are to have friends and family who love us and support us.
  7. Getting a headboard. A few years ago, I found a headboard that I really wanted. I knew that I’d be moving from the house I was in in just a few months. So I decided to put off buying the headboard until after I moved. But then the house I moved into had dollhouse (angled) ceilings on the top floor. Where I wanted to place my bed wasn’t conducive to a headboard. I lived in that house for two and half years. Now that I’m in an apartment, I was finally able to get that headboard I’d been eying all those years.
  8. Having a meal turn out unexpectedly well. Last Sunday, I was a bit nervous about dinner. I made dinner on the fly. I made a pesto pasta, and I loved it! I was so nervous the meal would be bland, but it wasn’t at all. This made me really, really happy because I don’t consider myself an experienced cook.
  9. Participating in a panel discussion about faith. The youth (ages 12-18) in our church congregation asked John and I to sit on a panel. The youth asked the panel questions about pushing forward with a steadfast faith in Christ. I wrote a little bit about my experience on The Faith Friends Blog. I loved the opportunity to get to know the youth in our congregation.
  10. Exercising. John and I are trying to make more healthy decisions. We started what we call “The 30 Day Challenge.” We have to exercise for 30 days before being allowed to purchase a specific item of our choice. I’ve felt more motivated to exercise lately, and it’s improved the quality of how I feel on a day-to-day basis. When I exercise, I am more energized and more positive.
  11. Framing and hanging pictures. For the last three months, the wall above our TV has been empty. I’ve known I wanted to put a wedding picture there. I’ve also known I wanted to find pictures or objects to put on each side of the wedding photo. Well, last weekend we hung our wedding picture. On each side, we placed a framed magazine cover that has  special historical significance. Having these pictures on the wall make our home feel more complete. For me there is a real joy that comes along with home decorating. I love it. And I love how the house feels once its walls are decorated.
  12. Spending less time on Facebook. I’ve found myself going to Facebook on my phone when I’m bored. A little over a week ago, I logged myself out of Facebook on my phone. Once I did so, I spent way less time on Facebook. Doing so made me feel more connected with the present world around me. It is a good feeling.
  13. Baking. I enjoy baking when I have the time to do so. Winter Storm Jonas provided me with that time. The only thing I baked was brownies, but I plan to bake some cookies today.
  14. Reading the Book of Mormon. Winter Storm Jonas also brought with it time to read. One evening I turned of all the lights in my bedroom. I opened the blinds to allow the freshly fallen white snow to light up the room. I laid in my bed and read. It was the perfect atmosphere for reading in the scriptures. The world was quiet, and my heart felt joy.

 

Days 73-79: 100 Moments of Joy

This entire last week I was in Tucson, Arizona for work. I was looking forward to the warmth and sun, but it was pretty cold and rainy nearly the entire time.

Day 73: On Monday, I had an inspiring conversation with a faculty member at my work program. He is so positive and happy on a consistent basis. I know his family faces some real struggles, but I am always so impressed by his joy. His joy is contagious and helps me feel joyful.

Day 74: On Tuesday night, we headed to a Mexican restaurant (it’s tradition!) for some delicious food. I believe that joy always surrounds large gathering of friends enjoying a delicious meal together. It was a fun night.

Mexican Dinner

Day 75: This day was a long day. It’s the graduation night for the fourth-year participants in the Institute program. Hearing the graduation speeches always brings joy because their speeches remind me that what I do does make a difference in the lives of others.

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It’s tradition for our work team to take a “selfie” after the Graduation ceremony.

Day 76: It rained and rained and rained on this day. When I arrived back at the hotel, the staff had warm apple cider ready for our group. In fact, each day we returned to the hotel, the staff had some sort of delicious treat for us. Their kindness brought joy at the end of long days and inspired me to think of ways I could go above and beyond in my job to make others feel special.

Day 77: I returned home! I was excited to get home and see John. John knew it had been a long day and week for me, so he planned a special night for us. His thoughtfulness brought joy.

Day 78: Saturday was awesome. It was nice to be home. We relaxed in the morning and spent the afternoon running errands. I made Beef Stroganoff for dinner. I was a little nervous about it, but it turned out great. I’ve never been much of a cook. But getting married has prompted me to expand my cooking abilities. When I make meals for the first time, and they turn out, I feel so proud and happy. This was one of those happy times. I can’t say the same for dinner the next night 😉 And to be honest, I am a bit nervous about tonight’s meal too…

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While we were out running errands, we ran into this 13 foot nutcracker on sale for $800.

Day 79: I always love Sundays. We have church at 1 p.m. this year (the congregations in our church building rotate times annually). This allowed John and I to have a relaxing morning. I made German Pancakes for John. I don’t think he loves them as much as I do 🙂 In the evening, we listened to the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults. Listening to the speakers brought joy as I was reminded to exercise faith and believe that God has a divine plan for my life and all of His children here on earth. As we exercise faith, God will help us achieve what otherwise may seem impossible. This reminder brought joy and peace. You can watch the devotional here.

Days 71 and 72: 100 Moments of Joy

Day 71: At church on Sunday, members of the congregation had the opportunity to get up and share their thoughts, beliefs, and meaningful experiences they’ve had recently. This happens every first Sunday of the month in the LDS faith. I attended a different LDS congregation than normal because I am Tucson. I was very touched by three things individuals shared.

  1. The first person to share said he’s not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but this year he is making a goal to focus on what he loves – focus more on the people he loves and doing what he loves. I was especially touched by this comment. I spend so much time focusing on the practicalities and logistics of life that I feel like I miss out on actually living life and creating daily, happy memories. I appreciated his decision to focus on what he loves this year. I want to do the same.
  2. Another individual invited the congregation to tell their spouses every day that they love them. This individual lost her husband four years ago. She reminded all of us that we never know how long we have with those we love.
  3. A woman who was probably about 100 years old shared how grateful she is to be alive. I was inspired by her and her love of life.

Sitting in this church meeting brought so much joy as I reflected on the people in my life who mean so much to me and the blessing that life truly is.

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A very happy picture of some of the people I love.

Day 72: Yesterday I had joy walking in the sun. It’s soooo nice to be in a place where the sun is shining and it’s not raining. I love it!

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Lastly, I learned one of the attendees of the program I work for has had quite a year and could use some help. She was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of 2015, and then the day after Christmas, she lost her house because of a tornado. You can learn more about her story and support her here.

Day 64-70: 100 Moments of Joy

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Happy New Year! My goal this year is to make 2016 a year of “cheerfulness.” I like that word because cheerfulness to me is faith and optimism combined. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, an apostle of Jesus Christ, described cheerfulness as “trust in God’s unfolding purposes, not only for all humankind but for us individually.” (You can read the full talk Elder Maxwell gave on cheerfulness here.)

Now to catch up on my “Moments of Joy…”

December 27: We headed back to Virginia early because of impending bad weather in Iowa. We drove about five hours on the 27th and stayed the night in Indianapolis. I had joy in the car ride as John and I talked about a range of topics. I love talking with him.

December 28: We made it back home. That night we went to the outlets to exchange John’s new coat. We stopped in a store to look at pants for me. I’ve been needing some new pants and this store never seems to have them in my size. But on this night they did. That made me really happy because this is like the only store where I buy my pants due to my struggle finding the right fit in other stores.

December 29: After work we headed to my parents’ house for dinner and to exchange Christmas gifts, since we had been in Iowa for Christmas. I love my family and being with them, chatting with them, laughing with them, and joking with them brings joy.

December 30: This was our first evening at home since we got back. I had some things I needed to get done, so John offered to do all the dinner dishes. There are only two of us, so it’s not like there are a ton of dishes, but it still meant a lot because he recognized that I had things I needed to get done. And even though he too had things to accomplish, he still chose to do all the dishes.

December 31: Again, we headed over to my parents’ house. We had dinner, watched football, and just chatted. My brother Trevor is home from college and it was especially fun to see him. As I said before, being with my family fills me with joy and gratitude. John and I had to head home early because I had a 7:05 a.m. flight the next morning. So, no I did not stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year 😦

January 1: I flew to Tucson for work. The first week in January is always our annual Winter Institute. Each year I come here, I reflect on all that has happened in the last year. There is quite a lot that happened in 2015. The biggest event being marrying John. I am filled with joy when I look back on what has transpired in my life this past year. Have there been hard moments since I was here last? Uh, absolutely! But that’s life. And the good outweighs the bad.

January 2: This morning I had joy while working out (which, is truthfully shocking). In 2016 I want to take better care of my body. I found a 20 minute youtube exercise video that I did this morning. I have joy when I think about all that the human body can do. And I definitely need to take better care of mine. I’ve felt so run down lately, and I my guess is it’s from a lack of exercise and eating lots and lots of goodies.

Days 59-63: 100 Moments of Joy

Merry Christmas (one day late)! This is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s been a little different this year celebrating with my husband’s family. We’ve been married for two months and two days. It’s fun to observe and participate in the Longenecker family traditions and favorite holiday activities.

Day 59: On Tuesday we went to Nauvoo, Illinois, a historic town built up by the Mormon pioneers and the location of where I served my LDS mission. Learning about the lives of the pioneers who lived in Nauvoo brings great perspective. I prayed before I went that my heart would open to a perspective shift to more fully focus on faith. I’ve learned the most joyful times of life are the times I am leading a life of faith.

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The Nauvoo Visitors’ Center had a beautiful Christmas tree.

Day 60: On Wednesday, John and I went on a long walk with his grandma’s dog “Buddy.” The weather was beautiful, and the scenery gorgeous. Going on walks brings joy. I appreciate the opportunity to step away from the hustle and bustle and focus on the beauty of the earth. About 20 minutes after we came inside, a thunderstorm commenced and a tornado touched down across the river – crazy!

Day 61: Watching this video before I fell asleep brought joy as I reflected on the birth of Jesus Christ. I had never seen this video before.

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Christmas Eve also marked the two month married mark for John and I!

Day 62: Yesterday was Christmas. The highlight of the day was talking with my brother Blake, who is on a mission for our church. Even though John and I were in Iowa, we were still able to FaceTime with him and my family. The rest of the day was also full of Christmas cheer and joy. We opened presents in the morning with John’s immediate family. In the late afternoon, his extended family came over to his parents’ house for Christmas dinner. One of my favorite Longenecker traditions is “Christmas Cookies.” His family prepares these cookies months ahead of Christmas and then freezes them. My favorite of the “Christmas Cookies” are the peanut butter balls.

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My last picture with Blake before he left on his mission.

Day 63: Today we were supposed to head down to Nauvoo today to go to the Temple, but because of some things beyond on control, we ended up spending the day at John’s mother’s parents’ home. I played Phase 10 for the first time with John, Jenny (John’s sister), and Grandma June. Even though I was disappointed we didn’t make it to the Temple, it was a fun afternoon. Playing games with family generally always seems to bring joy. I appreciate the opportunity to slow down and spend time with each other.

Days 55-58: 100 Moments of Joy

We’re in Iowa to celebrate Christmas with John’s family. On Saturday, we had our Iowa Open House to celebrate our wedding. It was a long day but a fun one. I hardly knew anyone, but it was great to meet people who’ve influenced John’s life.

Now, to catch up on my “100 Moments of Joy” project…

December 18: The car ride to Iowa provided us with some beautiful scenery. My favorite was the sunset we saw. I love the sky, and it’s beauty helps me to feel joy and feel of the grandeur of God.

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A blurry picture of the sunset I tried to capture.

December 19: Saturday was the day of our Iowa Open House. All of the wedding festivities, including this one, have brought joy. Over and over again I have been touched by the generosity and kindness of those who have celebrated with us.

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A selfie before the Open House.

December 20: Before church, I read an article in the Ensign (LDS Church magazine) that touched my heart and brought joy as I reflected on the counsel given.

December 21: Last night (into early this morning) John and I stayed up just talking. Life is busy for us (as it is for everyone!) and it is nice to not have any looming deadlines in front of us right now.

 

Day 54: 100 Moments of Joy (Christmas Carols)

Last night John and I stopped by my parents’ house to pick up some items. When we arrived, my mom was practicing Christmas carols with a friend. My family has a tradition of Christmas caroling each year. And this year, this friend of my mom will join in. So, John, my dad, and I joined them at the piano and sung a few Christmas carols. Singing songs about Christ’s birth with loved ones always brings joy to my heart.

This experience reminded me of last Christmas when my family headed to the Kennedy Center in DC to participate in the annual Messiah Sing-a-long. I love the power of music and the emotions music can conjure inside of me.

My sister's Instagram post from last year at the Kennedy Center's Messiah Sing-a-long.
My sister’s Instagram post from last year at the Kennedy Center’s Messiah Sing-a-long.

Days 46-53: 100 Moments of Joy

It’s been eight days since I’ve posted. Eight days. While that doesn’t sound like a long time, when you’re trying to blog daily, eight days feels like a long stretch.

Although I haven’t been recording my daily “Moments of Joy,” I’ve had at least one experience each day when I’ve thought, “This would be a great thing to write about on my blog tonight!” Alas, I never actually got around to posting those experiences. However, below are eight moments when I’ve felt joy over the last eight days (in no particular order)…

  1. Seeing a truly beautiful sunrise yesterday morning. I couldn’t take a picture because I was driving.
  2. Driving around with John to check out Christmas lights in nearby neighborhoods.
  3. Listening to President Uchtdorf’s talk from this year’s LDS Christmas Devotional.
  4. Reading about Jesus Christ in the scriptures by the light of our Christmas tree.
  5. Shopping for Christmas gifts and thinking about the people in my life whom I love.
  6. Receiving and delivering Christmas goodies.
  7. Relaxing on Sunday night with John and his uncle and playing “The Grandfather Game.”
  8. Looking at my wedding pictures.
Another one of my favorites :)
Another one of my favorites 🙂