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Kathryn Swegart shares inspiration from last summer's presentation by speaker and author Chris Stefanick. 

My home state of Maine is known as Vacationland, and rightly so. Miles of rocky coastlines, quaint New England villages, and sparkling lakes attract thousands of tourists every year. That is why the rainy summer of 2023 was a big disappointment to many visitors to our state. 

Given the weather pattern, it was a brave venture by our humble parish to invite an international speaker, Chris Stefanick, to appear in an outdoor venue this summer.  

To our great relief, sunshine carried the day, much to the delight of the hundreds of people who settled into their lawn chairs to hear Chris speak about living a joyful life. 

I felt a sense of community on this bright summer day with the sun setting over the western hills. Even before Chris burst onto the stage of the drive-in theater, the crowd of almost five hundred Catholics were in high spirits, chatting with friends. 




And then the moment arrived. Chris appeared on stage dressed in his black t-shirt, jeans, and a smile that exudes deep joy. Don’t be fooled though. He does not have a cushy life. Life has thrown fastballs at him, like we all experience in different ways. His wife openly talks about abuse she suffered as a child and the challenges it created in their marriage. Their son struggles with clinical depression. A daughter was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Why is he joyful? 

Chris shared his insights into deep joy, not just a fleeting good mood. Perhaps you think we are about to dive into a deep pond of profound contemplation. Nope. It is all quite simple. Joy is vital to the human heart. We are simply clueless that the search for joy is the fuel of our lives. 

Right away Chris hands us the key. Jesus started his public ministry with the word “repent.” The Greek word for repent is metanoia: to change your thinking. In his book Living Joy: Nine Rules to help You Discover and Live Joy Every Day, Chris drops a bomb on us. 

Your lack of joy, and the ways you don’t feel like you’re living the life you were made for, isn’t because of your circumstances. It’s about you. The biggest obstacle between you and joy is yourself. 


That may not sound like good news. To change the way we think about our lives is to change our lives for the better. 

It all starts with self-awareness.  




Many years ago, back in the days of little children and heaps of laundry, I was vacuuming the carpet and feeling sorry for myself. The drone of the vacuum was accompanied by my inner complaining. What drudgery! And then it happened. I eavesdropped on myself. Woe is me, I said to myself. That was a bad attitude. Take control. Try thanking God for my happy children, for our little house with the fenced-in yard, and for my health. Suddenly I was glad to have the strength to vacuum.  


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I did not realize the power of thankfulness, that God is close to the brokenhearted. #CatholicMom

I will give you a peek at Rule #1 in Living Joy. Give thanks. Chris quotes from 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. 


St. Paul tell us to be thankful in all circumstances. Sure, it’s easy for me to be thankful when I am eating a lobster roll on a sunny deck overlooking Casco Bay. Life is good enjoying a meal with hubby and friends, watching lobster boats come and go. 

I have had hard times. I have experienced the heartbreak of five miscarriages. I have felt financial stress and have watched the decline of my mother as she struggled with dementia. To be honest, I was not thankful for any of these sorrows. Back then I did not realize the power of thankfulness, that God is close to the brokenhearted. C.S. Lewis called suffering “God’s megaphone.” 

Step by step, using humor and common sense, Chris teaches the reader how to make gratitude a habit, to color our thoughts with thanks. Wake up in the morning and count one little thing that gladdens your heart. Perhaps it is blue sky or the breath you take.  

Now I can push the button on my vacuum cleaner and rejoice that God has given me another day, whatever it might bring. 



Copyright 2023 Kathryn Swegart
Images: (top, bottom) copyright 2023 Jeff Wrigley, all rights reserved, used with permission. All others copyright 2023 Amanda Ferriter, all rights reserved, used with permission.