“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” These famous words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet were used to open a business workshop I attended this past November in Nashville. Our leader, Julie Solomon, began the workshop with exercises about how our thoughts can become our reality, whether it be a positive or negative outcome. What a powerful message that was to open with when I thought I would be hearing straight-forward business strategies right out of the gate. The strategies were many, but as we heard from many success-filled panels of women, a common theme kept surfacing… Moving forward in times of adversity, or simply stated, choosing joy. I love good irony, and as I looked ahead at our writing topic for this week being “Choose Joy,” I’ll admit, I’ve been lacking inspiration. Dare I say I’ve had “writer’s block” because David would never believe I’m short of opinions or something to say. But it’s true, I felt stuck. Then, right in front of me was a new way of thinking about choosing joy, and truly HOW we choose it, and WHY. It’s hard for me to simply skim the surface of topics. I’ll save that for Instagram stories. But while I have my keyboard, I’ll do what I love doing best, which is digging into the deeper part of the subject at hand, JOY.
The facts of life, or our circumstances are just that – facts. They cannot be changed, but can ultimately control our next move. This is where life gets tricky. Do we tend to make good decisions when life seems to be going well? Quite frankly, it’s easy to find joy in the simplest things in life when all feels comfortable. Hugging my children, taking a warm bath, enjoying a crisp glass of wine after a long day. But what about when things feel uncomfortable? Am I still seeing those simple joys that are right in front of me? Probably not, because I’m human, and we fall short in so many ways. Motherhood has been the biggest test I’ve had in life that has shown me the importance of perseverance. Are there mornings I’m exhausted, and they’ve woken up for the third time before 7am? Yes! But I’ve got to show up because they’re counting on me. Their little lives depend on me. My Granny always said, “A woman’s work is never finished.” This statement couldn’t be truer. I feel like my life as a mother is complete with all these mini deadlines, and when I feel like when they’re complete, I can rest. Then, Monday rolls around, and the next week brings more deadlines, duties and obligations. This is true for everyone, not just mothers. Life is never finished, we continually have to put one foot in front of the other.
Maybe you find yourself in a challenging season. It could be financially, in marriage, in parenting, a friendship, or in the workplace. It could even be a seasonal challenge. I know the months of January, February and March in Southwest Virginia are particularly challenging with all the gloomy, wet weather. I like to dig through those months with lots of busy tasks, but there’s something about them that still GET ME. I still get sleepy, hungry and just generally feel… blah. Wherever that challenge presents itself, we can choose to look at it as something in life that brings us defeat, or we can look at it as an enormous blessing. I’m not claiming that looking at trials as blessings is easy. Sometimes I can be the world’s worst at it, but I have seen my greatest moments of growth come out of trying times. Or facing fears. After all, it is stated throughout the Bible, in different ways, that the opposite of FEAR is JOY. When I agreed to be a contributor to Modern Southern Mother, I was petrified to write my first blog post. When I finally did it, I received such a feeling of accomplishment. A feeling of JOY. This joy did not come in monetary form, or even in a number of “likes” on Instagram. No, my true JOY reveals itself when I receive a personal text or DM from someone telling me they could relate to me or “thank you for sharing your real moments.” I quotes a favorite designer back in February on my first blog-related Instagram post “where would you be if you weren’t afraid.” For me, it’s easy to see the happiest I’ve been is when I decided to step OUT of my comfort zone and face those fears. As stated in the book of James (1: 2-4) “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Sure, being happy is a choice, but just as easy we can choose misery. Many days, as soon as my eyes open, I’m faced with how I’m going to start my day. Does it feel happy? Did Lottie sleep through the night? Did David snore? Are these determining factors for what lies ahead today? Or maybe it’s not your night that determines, but what you look at in the morning. Do you wake up and instantly scroll through the reel of Instagram posts? Who do you see? Do they make it look easy, perfect? Subconsciously that could be setting the tone for your day, even when you don’t realize it (by the way, I have a CLOCK for this reason, no grabbing the phone to look at the time all hours of the night). These things can also determine the week, month or even years of your life. It is a daily effort to choose happiness. Deciding to overcome, or “slough off the bad hits” as David says is necessary. Otherwise, we risk becoming a person nobody wants to be around, a person we don’t even like ourselves.
I’m comforted by a deeply rooted faith, that allows me to know an all-forgiving and accepting Lord who reminds me that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 22-23) In short, this is about endeavoring to choose joy every day. It’s difficult to do, but something one has to do not only survive (literally wake up and breathe) but also to prosper in all facets of life.