12 Ways to Choose Joy

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We all have those times when our hearts feel overwhelmed. Maybe it is a death of a loved one, perhaps you are feeling all alone, possibly it is a financial crisis or job loss, could be you received bad news about your or a loved one’s health. Maybe your child is going down a dark path and you feel helpless, or maybe it is just something as simple as a fight with your husband. Whatever it is, we all have times when it is difficult to find joy. For me, I have learned a few simple steps that help me regain my joy and turn my focus off of my circumstances and back onto my all-knowing God.

What I do when I have trouble finding my joy:

  1. Simple Prayer
    – Sometimes when I am distressed I have trouble praying a long prayer or I don’t know what to pray other than just a simple, “Help me, Father!” Eventually, I pray longer, but this is my appeal when I don’t feel like praying.
  2. Cry
    – I do not cry often, but I have found that when a situation is overwhelming me, getting out the emotions helps me to move through my feelings faster. The bible is FULL of verses about crying out to God, and even Jesus wept. God gave us the ability to cry for a reason (other than just cleaning our eyes), and I believe a reason why is so we have the ability to release pent up emotion. I think this is a gift He gave us after the fall, because He knew our hearts were not created to hold pain. I love the fact that God even says that he bottles our tears. One day He will wipe away all my tears forever, until then I am grateful for His gift.
  3. Write About It
    – Granted, I will admit I like to write and not everyone does, but personally I have found that it really helps me to process what I am going through. Whether by writing out a prayer about how I am feeling, or a letter to a person I am upset with this method works well for me. No one ever sees my prayers and I always destroy the letters, it still gives me the release I need without saying anything I will regret.
  4. Listen to Good Music
    – I really believe that music is a balm for the soul and can really help brighten our outlook, just like David’s songs soothed Saul. Sometimes they remind us of truths that we might not be willing to hear any other way. When we are depressed they remind us of God’s truths.
  5. Keep Going to Church
    – Sometimes the last place I want to be when I am upset about something is church. I don’t want to be around people, I don’t want people to know I’m struggling, and I certainly don’t want to act like everything is okay. However, church is normally just what I need whether it is a song that is sung, a sermon preached, or maybe someone encourages me. I think that is one reason why God created the church. We can worship God on our own, but we can’t encourage ourselves.
  6. Confide in Someone I Know Will Pray
    – It is a great comfort to me to know I have a very small circle of friends that if I call and ask, I KNOW they will pray, and they will also not share it with other people. The bible says where two or more come to Him …”there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) It always immediately makes me feel more at peace knowing that I’m not the only one petitioning God in a situation.
  7. Write Down One Thing I’m Grateful for Each Day
    – This very small act has helped me so many times. When I had a miscarriage, and was is a dark place for a few months, this one act really helped me to see how much I still had to be thankful for. I got a small pocket calendar that had squares just big enough to write one thing a day on. I then made myself find something in that situation to write down each day to be thankful for. It really helped me step outside of the situation and see how God used even an awful situation for my good.
  8. Read Psalms
    – If anyone knew despair, pain, and joy is was David, he had moments of feeling utterly alone, friends turn on him, he had deaths of loved ones, etc. (Ps. 16:11) Every time I need encouragement or need to feel like someone knows how I feel, I read Psalms. It never fails to encourage me.
  9. Write Out Verses
    – I write down encouraging verses on note cards and tape them to my mirror or window over my sink so I am continually reminded of God’s promises, which encourages me. It’s hope to cling to right in front of my eyes all day long.
  10. Go for a Walk
    – I have learned in recent years that when I am upset walking greatly helps me to clear my head. Not only is it peaceful and quiet enough for me to gather my thoughts, it also is great way to expend pent-up frustration.
  11. Do Something Nice for Someone Else
    – It never helps to sit around just feeling sorry for yourself, because the more you sit, the more you brood. When I get up and do something for someone I turn the focus off myself and start to notice others again.
  12. Doing Something I Enjoy
    – After doing all the above I chose to do something which normally brings me joy. A date with my husband, reading a good book, taking a walk, going somewhere fun with my kids…eating chocolate cake… are all things that make me happy. Yours may be totally different, whatever it is, make sure you do something that leaves you smiling.

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All of this doesn’t happen by chance. I have to CHOOSE to do it. I must CHOOSE to find joy. What are some of the things you do during a rough patch to help you regain your joy?

Seeing God Around the Distractions

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“Mommy look at the sunset!”

I had to agree with my 6-year-old son, the sunset was breathtaking. I had already noticed it, but the fact he did as well spoke to how awe-inspiring it truly was that evening. Due to my picture taking obsession, I wanted to photograph the awesome scenery, but there were power lines and buildings obstructing my view. While I could have gone ahead and taken a picture, they distracted from the grandness, making the picture look… blah.

I have a “thing” about taking pictures with distractions in the background.

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The distractions frustrated me so I drove for a bit and tried to find a setting where there were no power lines, houses, cars, buildings, etc. Without all those interferences, I would have been able to see the sunset better, appreciate it more, and have been less distracted. However, it was not meant to be that night, and it got me to thinking…

Sometimes I wonder if “no distractions” is one reason people love the beach so much. There are fewer things to distract you from of the grandness of God. No one permitted to build on the beach, and there are never any power lines blocking the view. There is just the beach, the ocean, and the sun. Also, I think this is the reason why the Grand Canyon, the Smokey Mountains, and other breathtaking wonders have such an awe-inspiring effect. With fewer man-made distractions, people are drawn to their beauty and are overwhelmed at their splendor.

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The point is that God’s beauty is everywhere, and is not limited to these locations; however, distractions are also everywhere. Take our lives, for instance, most of the time it is hard to see the magnificence of God.

For example:
-Just like power lines obstructing our view of a sunset… maybe it’s the phone disrupting us during our quiet time.
– Just like how buildings block our view … maybe it is TV (etc.) keeping us from focusing on our family.

Those examples are just a drop in the bucket of distractions in our lives, but these disruptions will not go away on their own. Whatever the distractions maybe we must be intentional in our attempt to notice God. We must make the time to get away from them just like Jesus did when He wanted quiet time. Just like I had to drive to a spot without powerlines to enjoy the view, it is necessary to make time to appreciate God. All throughout the Bible God reminds us to “be still” (Ps. 46:10) so we can concentrate on Him and see Him for who He truly is.

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“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” Psalms 4:4

There are a few ways I try to daily obtain undistracted time with Him; I try to get up each morning and have time with God before the craziness begins, and I also try to go for a short walk daily. This may only amount to 20 minutes a day but it helps me to lessen my distractions, to notice God’s creation, and refreshes me.

Sunset happens every day – but if I want to see and experience it I must take time each day to notice it. It’s the same way with God, He is waiting for me every day to take notice and really see Him; whether, it is a sunset, wildflowers on my daily walk, or even just my kid’s smiles, it’s up to me to be aware and to make it happen.

What are some ways you set aside time to notice God?

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Love Sacrifices Time

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“Mommy I go for a walk with you?”

I’m very territorial over my daily walk since it is my time to have quiet and recharge. I started doing it for exercise since I wanted to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. Even though it may have started for exercise, but it ended up being a sanctuary of peace … just me and God and quiet.

This day in particular though, my four-year-old looking at me with pleading blue eyes and begging to join me on my walk and I knew he probably needed some mommy time. The selfish side of me wanted to say no, but instead, I put aside my desires and said yes.

I looked at his little hands in mine and his big smile melted this mommy’s heart. Even if we did have to stop and pick up a “pokey” …and stop again to get a rock out of our shoe… and even if my walk was cut short. It may have been and more leisurely and less exercise, but was glad I sacrificed my “personal time” and said yes.

It is easy to forget that one day his hand will be bigger than mine and he will be holding another girl’s hand other than mine. Even though he was in trouble all the day before, that day I just wanted to squeeze him and tell him to stop growing up so fast.

Many times when doing menial tasks for my kids I wish I was doing something else instead. For instance, tasks like…wiping a butt for the 700th time… working a math problem out with a child who is in tears … or moping. However, sacrificing “my personal time” is what God has called me to do: Being a mom and teaching my children he has seen fit to bless me with.

Hear me out. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of ourselves and allow time to recharge. Most days I walk alone, telling my kids that I need some time to myself so I will remain a “happy” mommy. Also, there are days that I sleep in so that my attitude will be what it should …  However, it is important that we strive for a balance in our lives.

Jesus was never hurried, in fact, He made sure to take the time to help others with their problems. Jesus knew the importance of recharging and alone time, and regularly spent time alone early in the morning. However, when people found Him and asked something of Him He didn’t snap at them and say things such as: “Leave me alone! Are you all trying to go for a record of how many people I can heal in a day”? Also, Jesus never said, “You want to be fed too?” or, “I have a job to do, and I don’t have the time to help you right now.”

In fact, he tried in several bible passages to go off by himself and people still followed him. (To be honest, I wonder if he was trying to use the restroom since this is always when I have a following.)

He sacrificed His time… He sacrificed His sleep… He knew His Father’s purpose and He fulfilled it.

His purpose was: “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Luke 2:49

Isn’t that what we are called to do? Should we not open our hands to God and say, “Here are my 24 hours how do YOU want me to use it?”

This is super hard for me.

I am a type A person. Planning is one of my favorite things to do. I use a little notebook to plan out my days and everyone close to me knows it. It greatly upsets me if my day does not go according to my plan. It shouldn’t be my plan though… It should be HIS!

Also, sometimes I fill up my plate so full that I fail to recognize the opportunities to serve others that God places before me, or I think I just don’t have the time to do it. Like

  • Feeling like I should take a meal to a friend who is having a hard time … but don’t because I don’t have “time” in my schedule.
  • Knowing I should spend time with God each morning…. But I choose to sleep in and my hour for getting stuff like that done goes out the window.
  • Not writing a note to someone God has laid on my heart … because I don’t feel like giving up watching my favorite TV
  • Saying no to coloring with my kids … and chose to scroll facebook instead.

I’ve learned the hard way to pray before I say yes and make sure it is the best “Yes” for our family so my plate is not too full to serve my family. There are so many good things to say yes to, but what is best for me may not be the best for you.

It is important to remember that we can only manage our time so well on our own, but when we turn our time over to God He is able to do things with it that we never could. Sometimes it is hard to remember that He has my best interest at heart and will help me have the strength to serve others. However, in my quest to be more Christ-like I will attempt to say yes to opportunities for service He provides, and not become upset when my plans go off course.

How about you? Do you find it easy to let go of your plans?

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