How to reclaim everyday joy

My six year old burst through the door one morning recently to say “Guess what day it is!?”

I smiled at the twinkle in his eye. I knew what he was gettting at. “It’s Friday!” I watched him jump up an down with excitement.

“It’s PIZZA NIGHT!” he shouted.

He and his older brother had been patiently waiting for htis day ever since my husband had brought home a frozen pizzza earlier in the week. As my boys surveyed the bounty from the grocery store, they asked if we could have pizza for dinner that night.

“Nope!” Max said cheerfully. “I’m saving it for Friday night. It will give us something to look forward to!”

And that’s why my six year old was counting down in joyful anticipation of Friday. He was dreaming big – hoping we would let him eat his slice in front of a movie, and planning on asking us for popcorn as a side dish.

The joy of counting down

We do this as adults, too. We plan fun things we can look forward to: a concert, a vacation, a pedicure. There is some research to suggest that the anticipation of a fun event heightens our enjoyment of it. The anticipation itself becomes part of the fun.

That’s one aspect of what makes this pandemic so difficult. Fun events have been cancelled left and right: birthday parties, weddings, reunions, live shows, weekend getaways, etc. And it’s not just the big things, it’s the small things that are gone, too. Goign to the beach, having friends over, meeting up for coffee. Our calendars are full of white space and there’s no end in sight. We’ve lost our ability to schedule fun things, and we’ve been robbed of the joy that anticipation brings us.

My birthday is this week. When 2020 started, and I opened up my brand new planner, I was excited to discover that my birthday was on a Saturday this year. I don’t typically gather with friends to celebrate, but the fact that I could easily choose to if I wanted to was nice. My husband wouldn’t be working. My kids would be home.

But this year, there will be no special outings. In fact, it will probably look remarkably similar to all the other days we have spent in quarantine. The impetus is on me to plan something special to mark the day (I guarantee that a homemade ice cream cake will be involved in some way or another.)

How to reclaim everyday joy

It occurs to me that we all might be well served to dust off our planners and schedule some fun things to look forward to. No matter how small or simple, let’s reclaim the joy of anticipation. Let’s give our kids and ourselves a reason to countdown.

Here’s a short list of ideas you can schedule into all that open space in your planner:

  • family bike ride
  • candlelit fancy dinner
  • spa night with DIY face masks (glow stick bath for the kids!)
  • family minute to win it game night
  • backyard camping with smores
  • (or indoor sleepover with sleeping bags and Christmas twinkle lights)
  • Redbox movie night
  • (or organize a Netflix watch party!)
  • plan a family (or couples) paint night
  • cook a new recipe
  • order photo prints and put together an old fashioned picture album. The kids can help you with captions!

Ultimately, you know you and your family best. Think of the things that make you happy and bring you joy. Then schedule, plan, and enjoy the sweet anticipation!

Thanks! I can't wait to connect with you!

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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