Now This Is My Joy
Alma 25:14 - Alma 28:13
I visited my grandma’s home just before she died.
She lay on her bed, surrounded by pink pillowcases and a floral blanket. I sat in a chair next to the desk in the corner of her room. We talked about each of the pictures that had been carefully placed on her writing desk. Hanging on the wall next to the desk was a typed list of items that had been framed.
I asked my grandma what it was for.
She explained to me that when my grandfather died, almost thirty years before, she had really struggled getting through the day.
Sometimes she couldn’t get out of bed because she was overcome with so much sadness. She prayed that she would find a way to make it through each day, and she felt prompted to write down the things she loved to do.
She thought of 30 things, one for each day of the month.
They were simple things like, invite one of your sons to breakfast, have an ice cream cone, find out something about one of your grandchildren that you didn’t know before, watch the sunset, feed some ducks, take a different route home.
She planned to do one every day.
She went to bed each night looking forward to what the next day would bring. It was how she made it through life without my grandpa.
One of my favorite parts of the Book of Mormon is found in Alma 26, when Ammon is reflecting back over his mission experience with his brethren.
My son just returned home, and we have spent many evenings listening to him describe his mission experiences and memories. It has been especially fun to watch him talk about his experiences with friends who have also recently returned home. I have seen the way their faces light up as someone begins a story, “There was this one time…” I have heard their deep, heartfelt laughter; and just listening to their memories, I have felt joy.
I imagine this chapter of Alma was a moment much like that.
Within this chapter Ammon has made his own list, much like my grandmother’s, except instead of simple pleasures, Ammon listed his experiences.
As I read through Ammon’s list of experiences, both the good and the bad, I find myself nodding in recognition. I remember those moments, both the bitter and the sweet, because I have read the previous scriptural entries that lead up to this moment.
As Ammon recounts the individual details, sharing memories from his heart, my own heart becomes full until I too feel that “my heart is brim with joy,” (Alma 26:11)
What a wonderful experience they had been through! What an amazing change of heart! What heaven sent blessings and miracles had surrounded them throughout!
As he lists each of these moments, Ammon eventually becomes so overcome with joy that he says, “Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.” (Alma 26:16)
Ammon’s heart is so full, he finds himself almost speechless, yet he continues on for almost 20 more verses, listing the things that he loved about that experience.
My very favorite part of that chapter is contained in the very last verse. After that long list of experiences and blessings Ammon concludes with his testimony and then says, “Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving.” (Alma 26:37 emphasis added)
This chapter teaches a very important life lesson ––there is great worth in writing down the life moments that bring us happiness. Simply looking back on these moments and experiences can fill our hearts until they are brim with joy. Maybe you could make a list of your own. What brings you joy?
You might consider taking a moment to look through Alma 26 for ideas before you begin.
From Ammon’s example we come to recognize that all of the moments on your list don’t have to be sweet. Sometimes joy can come from Heaven’s resolution of bitter experiences.
The list should include blessings and tender mercies from the Lord that you recognize in your own life.
It might include moments where you have been able to serve others.
You could write a description of that service, and how you felt when the service was finished. Include within your list details of hard work, moments of rejoicing, and occasions that were momentous.
Your list might mention miracles and answers to prayer.
Have you ever experienced moments when you had to step out of your comfort zone, moments when people laughed at your vision, or moments where you were afraid? List those too. Next to those moments try to recall times when you received strength beyond your own, comfort that only the Lord can give, or maybe an increase in charity.
You might want to list some of the places you love ––homes you have been to; areas you have visited; a spot of the world that holds memories that are irreplaceable.
Include your testimony.
If you look carefully you will notice that Ammon did all of these things.
Several years ago I purchased a book entitled 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. The author started writing it when she was in sixth grade in a tiny spiral notebook. For twenty years she listed all the little things that made her happy. It is a 612 page list, single spaced, of happy things. My daughter, Grace, who happens to be in sixth grade, decided to start a spiral notebook of her own. Among others, her happy list includes the sound of popcorn popping, owls hooting from a tree, when my friends stand up for me, the warm feeling of hot cocoa, and sleeping in my bed the first night after a trip.
If I were to start a list of simple pleasures mine would include firework shows, a long walk at twilight, reading a book next to the fire, wading my feet in a small stream, parades, a cup of French cocoa on the first day of snow, s’mores under the stars…
Lists are powerful.
Perhaps you could start making your list today.
Consider your simple pleasures; your favorite memories; your best days.
Share the beliefs that bring you happiness.
List what you love.
Maybe at the very end you could include the line that Ammon used…
now this is my joy.