Thursday, January 12, 2017
Pic via: our time in last week's snow storm. We braved it. Even while dreams of sunny San Diego literally danced in my head - the night before waking up to our snowy-globe world, I dreamt of being in SD on the hot beach in the hot sun (yes, seriously). But we braved it! And for a good chunk of time there, we beach babies loved it. ๐Ÿ’™


We're two weeks into this beautiful new year, and I'm just getting around to feeling like it's new. Having our NYC trip extend over that first week of January gave the air a different feel (the vibe was definitely still play > plan). But we're settled enough. I can finally digest 2016 and, for now, divulge at least one hope for 2017.

First -- I want to say that I'm grateful. Really grateful for my goals from last year. I set a lot of them and, amazingly (this seriously amazes me!), I kept them. A few goals are half-way marked, but most were checked off in full.

I don't say that to boast. At all. I say it because being so thorough with my 2016 goals and seeing them through was a very new thing for me. I've never been a deliberate goal-setter. Rather, and not unlike a bull before a red flag, I mentally charge things: I get an idea, I have a desire come up, I make it happen. So writing things down and moving that way? Until 2016, I just didn't do that. I thought I accomplished enough by flying off the thoughts in my head and drivers of my heart. In a moment of reflection here, to finally, deliberately write a list of categorized, reachable, yet challenging, goals and keep them in 2016 was a big deal for me. And I'm grateful to have changed!

I chose goals that pushed myself to change in a lot of little ways - like schedule out every day in my planner (the best feeling ever!!); blog 2-3x/week; read at least 3 books. Then I challenged myself in a few big ways...

As a personal business challenge: market and sell the COLOR BLOCKS and pocket a particular profit. This little venture took months of work. I can't describe how thrilled I was to ultimately sell all of the cogs turn: I developed the product, I set up selling power on my site, I sold the product on my site. What a thrill.

As a physical challenge: run the Charlottesville half marathon in 2:00 hours or less. I had to do sprint training 2x/week to increase my speed, cross-train 3x/week, and accumulate milage every weekend for 10 weeks to reach my goal (I followed my training program here). My finish time was 2:00 hours flat. What a thrill there (thanks so much to my Ryan - he pushed me to that finish)!

As a emotional-mental challenge: sleep. Sleep like I wanted to sleep, like I knew I should sleep. Admittedly, I nearly failed this goal. It wasn't until the world kind of crashed in late October-November that I finally started to let myself go to bed early and wake up early. I wish I could say that my willpower was strong enough to see this one through, and that Life didn't have to push me to perform. But it's okay. I'm grateful that I at least started to change, and that I finally felt the beauty of sleep again. The goal to sleep is staying on my list for 2017.

Now for the biggest one of all...

As a spiritual challenge: feel joy, be joy. I remember the feeling coming to me while praying over 2016 that I needed to pursue joy. I felt so strongly that it was time for me to learn about true joy, to foster it, to be joy. 

Growing up, my sweet Mom called me "Jeni Joy" - that's how she saw me. Between remembering that identity and simply feeling the power that accompanied the idea for this goal, I was ready to absolutely knock it out of the park. 2016 was going to be my brightest year. 

However, it was my darkest.  

Of all my goals, the noblest, most spirit-driven goal to find and be Joy almost escaped me.

By all means, it was not for lack of effort. I tell you - there was an energy about this goal right away - and I charged immediately. But the things we want or need most in life are fraught with the most briars. In my determination to have the most personally joyful year of my life, I was opposed, and 2016 instead housed some moments of being hopelessly sad.

Were the moments of frustration, impatience, and criticism (of myself, others, and my life) dark enough to keep me down? No. I would not let them. Partially because of what I had felt at the New Year: I knew that Jeni Joy was me, that tangible joy existed, and that I was to seek it and be joy. I knew that I was a spiritual being having a mortal experience: God has taught that "men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25): He made us to be joyful. So while I was so frustrated by how opposite of Joy I was in those dark moments, I still knew - and with a passion - that Jeni Joy was within my grasp. I was going to get there. 

"Find joy, be joy" is staying on my list for 2017, since I can't write down the totality of how Joy works and lives. But thanks to attempting to know, and to the trials of 2016, this last year taught me what joy is not, and I can't help but feel that that understanding is half of the battle:

Joy is not zooming in on others. It is not zooming in on what someone else has. It is not zooming in on what someone else is. It is impossible for joy to exist in even 0.2 seconds of comparison, let alone a mindless 20 minutes.

Joy is not in negative thinking. Especially about you. Joy is not found in disliking your personality or and criticizing your body. Joy exits the heart immediately when self-criticism enters the mind. 

Joy is not in losing friendship. However, when that loss is out of your control, joy is especially absent when dwelling on why. Joy is not found in nail-biting, stressful worries about what others think of you and, mostly importantly, why

Joy is not in anger. An angry response neither solidifies nor sells your argument. An angry mother doesn't change her child's behavior. An angry wife doesn't inspire her husband to think of and love her. 

Joy is not in fear. Holding up and holding back halts joy in its tracks.  

Joy is not in disbelief, especially in God's love for you and Christ's closeness to you. When the extra dark days of 2016 were too heavy for me, I grasped for a grip on the only thing within my reach: what I had known about joy for a long time, which is that it comes from Christ. He gives you joy. Bluntly asking for Him to "give me joy here" was not an uncommon prayer. How beautiful it was to see that simple, pretty desparate prayer consistently answered.
Come late December 2017, I'll write again about all that Joy is. I expect the list to be long and real - a year is a real and long time.  I expect to fail, at times, at finding joy and being Jeni Joy (yet again), but I'm going to stand up faster and taller after the trips this year. I've had practice at this game. I know how to play. The nature of the opposition beast won't change - I'll be thwarted - but my capacity to chase him away has increased. 

Here we come, New Year. Here we come, JOY!


All I wanted for Christmas this year was the jewelry piece above made by my sweet friend, Mary. I'm grateful for it. It will remind me daily me of where I've been last year - soo many places where joy is not - and where I am going to go this year: everywhere that Joy lives. ๐Ÿ’› 


  1. In late june 2016, missionaries knocked on my family's door outside Stockholm in Sweden. I am a married mom with two daughters, 5 and 10 years old. I started to study the book of mormon and I got baptized in August 2016. Now I'm secretary of the relief society �� I love church, and I love what god has made with me and my family. Your blog was the first blog I found when I looked for blogs from other women in church, since I didn't know much about members in general. i LOVE your blog, you seem like such a sweet person, and I'm so grateful that you are willing to share bits of your life with us �� Kind regards, marimba, Sweden

    1. Marimba! If only we could get together in real life -- you are an angel! Thank you so much for your comment and for being here! You do not know how much it means to me. If I'm going to spend precious time online, I want it to pay out in connections and uplift with other women in my shoes - especially in the way you've lifted me! - so thank you again and again for your words and for being who you are. LOVE you. Soo much! Please don't hesitate to reach out with any kind of question about anything. We are sisters!!

      XOXO, Jeni

  2. Jeni, I would so much love to meet you too! Maybe if one day I'll visit some of my missionaries with my family we could meet!
    You were my first impression of a mom from church since I started to follow this blog before I even stepped into our church, and I remember reading something about you reading scriptures on the floor in the mornings :) that was fun, now I read my scriptures at about 4 am! You are such an inspiration to me, i even started jogging because of you :D
    Love you
    Your sister in Christ, marimba

    1. I LOVE that. And isn't that just how it is? We have to literally squeeze those scriptures in every day and it's gosh it's worth it. And you're running, too! Go on a run for me soon (but only if it's not too cold over there). I'm itching to run again (soon)!!

      XO, sister!


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