While scrolling social media one day I began to notice something –
New Years Resolutions are a thing of the past! Apparently, the thing to do now is to pick a word for the year, and I don’t know why but this got me all kinds of excited!
Seriously though, this took a lot of thought and prayer. The whole process was very intentional and focused for me. I just couldn’t figure out what my word needed to be!
Then one Sunday morning while sitting in church my word came to me. Or I suppose I should say, God sent my word to me like a slap in the face!
If I’m going to be transparent, which I should be since this is my blog and I really do want to be honest here, 2018 had its rough moments.
I know that’s a normal thing in life, but I really seemed to struggle with handling the weight of multiple businesses piled on top of being a semi-decent wife and mommy. I felt like I was going through the motions more than actually living, but those motions were more like sprinting a race that I could never win. Every time someone took a picture of me all I saw was a tired, forced smile and dark circles under my eyes that my concealer was obviously doing a poor job of hiding!
I know what you’re thinking. You’re working too hard Stephanie! But all joking aside, my schedule really isn’t terrible. What was pulling me down was how poorly I managed that schedule. I could go into so much detail here, but that is a blog post for another time!
At the end of the year I looked back and realized that this really wasn’t how I was meant to be living. That kind of stress is not God’s desire for my life. I am just not naturally an optimistic person. I think I used to be but sometime in early college that began to fade out in my life. Since then I have had a hard time enjoying the day-to-day jobs and responsibilities that honestly seemed so menial.
I think what really opened my eyes was a new friendship that I was blessed with right around the holidays. I was amazed that no matter what the world threw at her she still smiled the most genuine smile and exuded so much sweetness that she made sugar looked sour. All I could think was how?!
I knew without a doubt it was joy, and I really needed it.
What is Joy?
I don’t think anyone really knows this about me, not even my husband.
I love definitions.
There is something about taking a phrase word by word and breaking it down…when I start I can’t stop! Picking a word apart and digging deep into what it really means, learning its origin, finding words that help support it – it’s so good. It’s like a guilty pleasure for me!
Seriously, try it.
On second thought, let’s do it together.
It is a commonly used word, often misused as a synonym for happy, but what does it really mean? Where does it come from? How do we obtain it?
Merriam-Webster defines “joy” as:
1. the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires
2. a state of happiness or felicity
3. a source or cause of delight
I don’t usually disagree with these folks, but this time I’m going to have to. In my humble opinion, the first two just don’t cut it.
First of all, joy doesn’t come from wealth, having all your desire, or doing good at life. In fact, joy comes even in the face of trial.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,”
Joy has one source, and that source is God.
In Proverbs 10:28 it says,
“The prospect of righteousness is joy…”
and a synonym for prospect is expectation. I can expect joy to come as a result of righteousness! Even better than that, Romans 15:13 says,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Do you ever feel like you need something so bad that your entire being is drawn towards it? I do every time I read that verse.
That right there my friends, that hearty stuff that Paul is talking about in Romans 15:13, it is exactly what I need. I need that joy and peace that will make me overflow with hope!
Here is the thing about joy though – if we know Jesus, like really hardcore love him and desire to follow him in our lives, we have joy. It’s in there deep down, even if you don’t feel it.
And that’s where I was – I couldn’t feel it or see it. I had taken that beautiful gift of joy that I was so blessed with and buried it deep. I buried it under all of my insecurities, anxiety, stress, responsibilities, and the list goes on. I took the pressures of life and allowed them to cover my joy so heavily that I couldn’t see its light anymore.
So this part of the post actually took a while to write. About a month after the rest to be exact. The first two sections were easy, I had figured out what I was missing in my life – the fix though, that is not an overnight thing. It’s more of a work in progress!
It literally starts by waking up each morning and choosing joy.
Even reading that as I type it I know it sounds crazy. What on earth does that mean?! Choose joy. I still don’t think I really know for sure but I’m slowly figuring it out.
Everyone is different, but for me I had to enforce some discipline in my life.
A quote from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst – which I highly recommend – says:
“When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”Day 21, page 63
My life was chaotic. I don’t know why I say “was”, it definitely still is at times! It was getting bad though, no rhyme or reason to what I did or when I did it. This resulted in loads of backed up laundry, a house that needed cleaned, business opportunities I was slacking on, fights with my husband, and so on.
For me it all begins with getting decent sleep (still working on this part!), followed by waking up before everyone else – this is necessary for me! I knew I needed alone time with God but I wasn’t making myself do it. I would wake up scrambling to get myself semi-presentable, dress Oliver and get him to school, then get myself to the cafe. I left no room for any kind of quiet time or even reflection on God before jumping into my day, and if I try to do it at night I will almost always fall asleep in the middle of reading. I also know that for me a good morning equals a good day, while a bad morning equals a rough day, so I need to be refreshed and ready to go by the time my boys start waking up.
The next area I am working on is my attitude.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says,
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
This verse has become my slogan for my daily duties. I have to put mind over matter and actually will myself to enjoy what I am doing each and every day. Not only in the area of housework, but also in how I respond to people.
Over the holidays someone very close to me informed me that they were struggling to believe in God, partially because they don’t see Jesus in the people that supposedly love and follow Him. This hit me hard, because I’m sure I am one of those people way more often than I should be. I made it part of my goal that whether I am passing a stranger in the grocery store or talking with my customers at the restaurant, I will try to let them feel the warmth and joy of Jesus coming from me with each interaction.
I’m still new to all of this and I have already failed so many times, but I can honestly say when I at least try to follow these practices, it works.
I have felt an unusual level of happiness, peace, faith and unmistakable joy.
I am still, and will always be a work in progress. However, as a result of these efforts and more than anything else, God’s faithfulness, my days have become more routine and productive without feeling overwhelming, I am not drowning in laundry – which is a big change, my house is clean and I am working hard on organizing our life daily, I greatly look forward to waking up early so I can have my quiet time, and I have more patience with my family and less fights with my husband.
So, this is where I agree with the final definition from Webster.
3. a source or cause of delight
Joy is the source of delight. It produces happiness.
I have no doubt about that.