Connect Live

Connect Live | December 16, 2021
Story 72

In this week's special holiday episode of Connect Live, Joyce Newmyer welcomes Chief Mission Officer Alex Bryan and Mission & Spiritual Care Executive Sam Leonor to discuss the timely topic of finding joy.

Joyce Newmyer: Welcome to Connect Live at Adventist Health. I'm Joyce Newmyer, the chief culture officer at Adventist Health and your host for Connect Live. Live this week hope this Christmas. What brings you joy? Places of peace. Hope this Christmas. Adventist Health is coming up on its decade anniversary next year celebrating the partnership with COPE Health Scholars. Ten of our hospitals all offer COPE Health Scholar spaces, which is the opportunity to develop your skills in healthcare along any point of your career journey.

Little did the Adventist Health Glendale Hope Scholars know that part of their experience would be to join our film team led by Gabrielle Nichols-Roy, and be one of the extras in our Christmas film this year. Thanks to the leadership and communication teams who help us captured hope this Christmas.

Now online, you, too, can pause and remind yourselves with your family that love brings hope in all spaces. Hope this Christmas can be seen at Today, I am delighted to welcome our guests, Alex Bryan and Sam Leonor. Alex is the chief mission officer for Adventist Health. Sam is the mission and spiritual care executive for Adventist Health. And this is the Christmas season, and I couldn't think of two better people to help us wrap up this first season of Connect Live. Welcome.

Sam Leonor: Hi, Joyce.

Alex Bryan: Merry Christmas, Joyce.

Joyce Newmyer: To you, too. So Sam, let me start with you. What brings you joy?

Sam Leonor: Oh, well, joy for me looks like often just a good long nap, Joyce. Just getting some sleep that my body desperately needs. But look, also, having as many people of my family under the same roof at one time, that's joy for me.

Joyce Newmyer: Sure is. I love that. Alex, how about you? What brings you joy?

Alex Bryan: Laughter. Boy, I'll tell you. When you get a group of friends together or my children have a great sense of humor and we start laughing at the dinner table or in the car on the way to school, and you get that belly laugh, the kind that constricts the throat, and it hurts the ribs and the tears are rolling down and you can't stop, I love that.

Joyce Newmyer: I love that, too. That's what happens when my sister and I get together. So Sam, what is one of your favorite Christmas traditions?

Sam Leonor: Well, my family and I began going to ski in Utah about a decade ago. And to make things cheaper, Joyce, we'd go to a resort that allows you to ski for free on Christmas Eve and Christmas day if you're wearing a Santa suit, a legit Santa suit complete with beard, whole thing. So we started doing that and it's become our thing for the last 10 years. Again, at first, because it was free and now it's just become a thing. Three of us dressed as Santa, my wife made herself a Mrs. Claus dress and we look like the fantastic Santas during Christmas going down the slopes.

Joyce Newmyer: Wow. I think I'm going to need pictures of that. That sounds exciting. Alex, what about you? What's your favorite tradition?

Alex Bryan: Home made peppermint pie. So you've got crust with the right oil, flour, butter mixture, and then you have layers of green mint ice cream with chocolate topped by a magnificent snowstorm of meringue. And you thrust your fork in there. And the fork gets cold because of the ice cream. And so you have a cold fork with that master work. I can't wait till December 25, if you can't tell.

Joyce Newmyer: Wow, that sounds delicious. Okay. Now, let's switch to music. So Sam, what's your favorite Christmas song?

Sam Leonor: What could be better than a song that's got two languages in it that says Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas and invite you to stand and move a little during the season? Feliz Navidad, best song.

Joyce Newmyer: It's a good one. It's a great one. I can't not sing when that comes on. Alex, how about you? What's your favorite song?

Alex Bryan: Well, because it would be embarrassing to say Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You. And I probably shouldn't say that. I'll say Joy to the World, the good classic hymn that's an octave. By the way, for those of you that know music, it's an octave. Just goes down eight notes, and I love Joy to the World. And just forget about the first song I mentioned altogether.

Joyce Newmyer: I love Joy to the World. It's bright and it's happy and definitely joyful. So this isn't always the most favorite time of year for everyone, right? For some people, it is the most joyful time. It's the most wonderful time of the year. And then for some people it's filled with tension and way too much to do and busyness and stress. I know I have a coffee mug that says, "All mama really needs is a silent night." One of my favorite mugs. And yet, I can't help but think about the people where this brings stress into their lives. So Sam, what advice do you have for people to face the season when it's not all joy?

Sam Leonor: Well, Joyce, I would say that often we talk about giving yourself a gift at Christmas. You go shopping. There's places that say treat yourself this Christmas. What if instead of treating ourselves the things, we offered the same things that we encourage each other, to give each other at Christmas. What if we gave ourselves more time, if we forgave ourselves, if we spend more time reconciling to some of the things happening in our lives, what if we just gave ourselves more time? Maybe give ourselves time to reflect during the Christmas season. We would reach January in better shape, more refreshed, more attentive, maybe with some healing happening in our own lives.

Joyce Newmyer: That sounds peaceful. So Alex, do you have some advice for us about how to face the season if it's not necessarily full of joy for you?

Alex Bryan: I think the key date is January 3. That's the Monday end of the new year, the first Monday, where we go back to work and school. And I really try to focus on that day. And I have for the last few years and say to myself, "What do I want to be thinking, feeling? Where do I want to be with my life on January 3?" And then by beginning with the end in mind, I go, "All right. Who do I want to love and forgive? How much do I want to eat or not eat? How much do I want to exercise or not exercise? What are the things I can do over the next couple of weeks that are going to fill me up moving forward come the 3rd of January?" So Joyce, I guess that's my little mental exercise. And here in a day or two, I'm actually going to go through and write down very carefully where I want to be on that day. And I find that that just transforms the possibilities as you say of a holiday that can have joy, but also it can be tough and it can be filled with sorrow and some stressors.

Joyce Newmyer: Well, thank you to both of you for helping provide a pathway for both joy and reflection through this holiday. Thank you for being with us here today. And I hope both of you have a very Merry Christmas and thank you for bringing joy to all of our lives all year long.

Alex Bryan: Thank you, Joyce.

Sam Leonor: Merry Christmas, Joyce.

Joyce Newmyer: Our final story today is Places of Peace. Kirsten Cutler, the managing editor of Adventist Health's story website, recently reflected on one of the most important concepts during the Christmas season, peace. In a world with so much bad news that can ruin your day, how do you find peace? It can settle in after carefully considered and prayed over decisions. It can stem from gratefulness that allows you to stop striving for more. Some of us find it in the embrace of a loved one. Others find it in their morning walk. Many find peace and faith practices. Perhaps it's in the pages of your favorite book.

Peace may seem elusive right now, but let's seek it. Let's make it. Let's share it and declare it, because we need it more than ever before. Blessed are the peacemakers. Enjoy this full story at Friends, thank you for connecting live. We'll see you here in the new year. My first guest of the new year will be Kerry Heinrich, the new CEO of Adventist Health. Until then, let's be a force for good, and Merry Christmas.