December 25 – Decided that “Choose Joy” would be my theme for the new year.
December 27 – Headed to the ER at 4am with pains in my legs.
December 28 – Engine light comes on.
December 29 – Discover the van’s transmission is faulty.
December 29 – Insomnia because of random “brain zaps” that occur while drifting off to sleep.
December 30 – Insomnia…again.
December 31 – Husband has unexpected allergic reaction while blowing up balloons for our New Year’s Eve gathering.
December 31 – Insomnia…Again.
January 1 – Husband out of commission all day due to medication taken to treat allergic reaction
January 3 – Insomnia…yet again.
And so began 2016.
The problem is, I had spent 2015 utterly exhausted and consumed by fear and anxiety, to the point that it manifested itself physically (thus, the insomnia and brain zaps, according to my doctor). Health, husband, kids, ministry, writing, finances…name an area and anxiety choked the life out if it, out of me.
So, I emphatically, intentionally, with a finger pointed at life announced that in 2016 I would “Choose Joy.”
To be honest, before I could get my big toe over the line into 2016, I failed. Miserably.
See, life happens. And for us this year, part of the life that happened was moving back across the country after 4 years of building relationships and getting somewhat established in California. I was slammed – with planning, adjusting, crying, preparing, navigating, praying, changing, researching…all.the.stuff. The Grief. Excitement. Anxiety. Anticipation. Weariness. Exhaustion.
But, notice what’s missing? Joy.
I have spent the majority of this year, trying to figure out what it means for me to choose joy. Sure, I knew it was a mindset. Yes, I knew that God granted it. I even knew that one of the ways to maintain joy was to “abide in Christ”(John 15).
But how? How would I choose joy when jobs fell through? How would I choose joy while watching my kids grieve because they were leaving friends? How could I choose joy during sleepless nights and long days?
Then, one weekend when I’d reached the end of the end of my frayed rope, I went off to a friend’s home to spend time alone. I planned to read one book, but kept coming across another, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. So, I read it.
Her journey has been one of grief and trials. One who knew God -knows God -yet couldn’t seem to unshackle the shame and anxiety that had gripped her heart. She too, chased joy, but found it elusive. But one day, she was challenged to write down 1000 gifts – one thousand things that she could give God thanks for. One thousand things that in the hum-drum, mundane, yet busy-ness of life she would miss if she did not intentionally stop to enjoy.
What she came to discover is that joy is intricately tied to gratitude – to giving thanks.
And, that was my answer.
How do I choose joy when things are not how I would like?
Give thanks for the things that are.