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Joy, Junk & Jesus

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As you know, this strange time in our world has been vastly labeled “uncertain.” There’s one thing for sure about this season, though: we are spending A LOT of time in the house together with our families. I don’t know about you, but I have found great joy in being able to lock eyes more with my little ones. But often in the hustle, the work-from-home realities, the hours passing, the screams and sibling brawls (is that just us?!)It is easy to get to dinner-time and find ourselves watching the clock for the day to end (and the kids to be in bed!).

But alas, thankfully, there is a “hack” that we started implementing a few years ago that has helped our family to meaningfully reflect on each day. In 2017 when my “word of the year” was “present” and yet, during this time, it has seemed to be more meaningful than ever. In order to be more present around the dinner table and create a space where we can share openly with each other, we adopted the daily tradition of asking each other “What is your Joy, Junk & Jesus for today?”

The Joy is something that made them happy that day, the experience or interaction that surprised them with the gift of Joy. The Junk is something that didn’t go as planned, maybe a hurt feeling, a poor interaction, or an unexpected and unwanted moment. And last, Jesus is a part of their day where they saw or felt Jesus in something they did, someone who cared for them or someone they cared for.

And here is the thing: everyone can participate. Mia, our 35 year old extended family member with Down Syndrome, has even brought into our dinner table tradition. We hear her daily adventures from work and afternoon activities from ESP programs. Most recently even Tate (age 2) has caught on. He declares, “My turn, my Junk and Jesus” and proceeds to mumble out a list of words like friends names, school and snack.

It’s interesting that even in the “forced” family and home time, I have found that I am able to see the world through the filter of my children because of this simple, daily tradition. I’ll learn about something they read in a book, how a hard conversation or fight with a sibling made them feel and what brought them joy in the simplicities of being home more.

How symphonic it is to hear so many highs and lows fall onto the kitchen table, to see the responses in listening, sympathy, and celebrations for what each other’s days included. It has opened our children’s hearts, helped us all to communicate and allowed us to connect on the fact that all days will include highs, have lows, but are guaranteed to be covered with Jesus.

Joy, Junk and Jesus. A simple and favorite family cadence. Other options I’ve heard is to ask about your Roses and Thorns, your Happies and your Crappies, your Highs and Lows, your Mountain and your Valley. No matter the words used, this smallest tweak of “how was your day?” can stretch the day’s reflection and make the conversation much deeper.

Here’s the family dinner table challenge: skip the “how was your day?” and don’t settle for “good” and “alright” because there is always more to hear, to understand, and to celebrate. Go ahead and try it out tonight. You might just find that there is the sweetest melody of tradition, stories, and celebration just waiting to be heard around your table.

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