In Brene Brown's book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, she talks about how to find joy and even more importantly, how to hold on to that joy in the midst of all the tragedy and pain that we experience or see others go through in this broken world of ours. Feeling moments of utter joy can leave us feeling vulnerable that something bad is just around the corner.
Practicing gratitude is one way to help us to stay in the moment and hold on to joy. She says, "The shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us."
"When she (her daughter Ellen) was in the first grade, we played hooky one afternoon and spent the day at the park. At one point we were on a paddleboat, feeding the ducks stale bread that we had brought from home, when I realized that she had stopped pedaling and was sitting perfectly still in her seat. Her hands were wrapped around the bread sack, her head tilted back, and her eyes were closed. The sun was shining on her uplifted face and she had a quiet smile on her face. I was so struck by her beauty and her vulnerability that I could barely catch my breath.
I watched for a full minute, but when she didn't move, I got a little nervous. "Ellie? Is everything okay, sweetie?"
Her smile widened and she opened her eyes. She looked at me and said, "I'm fine, Mama. I was just making a picture memory."
I had never heard of a picture memory, but I liked the sound of it. "What's that mean?"
"Oh, a picture memory is a picture I take in my mind when I'm really, really happy. I close my eyes and take a picture, so when I'm feeling sad or scared or lonely, I can look at my picture memories." (An except from Brene Brown's, Daring Greatly | Chapter 4, The Vulnerability Armory).
I thought Ellen's picture memories were the sweetest idea and oh, so very profound. Today, I am up visiting my daughter and her husband and my sweet little granddaughter in the small town they live in up in the mountains. My husband, my youngest daughter and even our dog are here. It has been a weekend filled with carnivals and street fairs, a parade and even a rodeo. It has been a weekend filled with joy and we are making picture memories to last us a long time. We need those moments.
That sweet little girl with her beautiful big brown eyes watching her first parade; practicing her princess wave at the passing floats filled with real-life princesses and beauty queens. Seeing the excitement on her face as the horses prance by, the gymnasts flip and the cheerleaders clap and cheer. Those tiny little dimpled hands, finger pointing at everything new and exciting. I try to grab some of those images on my camera but none are captured well and then I remember the story of Ellen. I put down my camera, lean back and let those precious moments just float in. And I make picture memories of my own.
I am ever so grateful. And filled with joy.
"The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:3