Wednesday, June 5, 2019

On Choosing Joy

I have experienced a lot of growth since having kids. Lately I have been learning about joy.

It's strange to realize I am my own worst enemy when it comes to contentment in my life, but it's true. I like to complain. And with two kids, a postpartum body, a mother who is sick and a husband who works late there is a lot I can complain about.

Until I quit. Complaining, that is.

Why? Because it was stealing my joy.

I realized somewhere between my last ranty Facebook post and angry text message that I actually choose to be unhappy.

I was floored. And also miffed at myself. How could I participate in this cycle for so long and not know it? But I was. I was choosing to be miserable!

I've never experienced true suffering (and I hope I never do). I have had three meals a day all my life and clothes and a roof over my head. I have my health and two amazing kids. I should be rejoicing daily not crabbing about my lack of sleep or free time!

When I have a hard day I make it harder by wallowing in my own pity.

Typing and publishing that sentence is refreshing milestone and an honest confession.

I have realized that trials in my life are one of two things:

  1. Things I cannot control
  2. Situations that I have only myself to blame for
What I can manage is my reaction. I can choose to complain to everyone and let whatever I am going through ruin my day, my kids day and my husband's day. Or, I can look for the blessings in my life and allow those small sparks of joy to point me to worship God in spite of my hardships. I can choose JOY.

I've been doing it all week and it's been amazing. It was hard to rewire my thinking at first. Habits, even bad ones (actually especially bad ones!!) are difficult to break. But so necessary! 

Here are some things I struggle with.

When my husband comes home late I used to be angry with him. It would ruin my night and sometimes the next day. Now I thank God I have a husband who loves and supports me. I count my blessings that we have a roof over our head and money in the bank and I try to do something nice for my husband to help him relax when he does get home instead of complaining about how rough my evening was because he was absent. It is rough that he works late. But I still need to take care of my kids and God is still good even in the hard times of parenting while my other half is programming. 

When my kids are whining and everyone is crying I don't complain on Facebook anymore about how done I am with being a mom and I don't give into fantasizing about escaping my life. I don't punish my kids for being kids. I stop and read a book with them and try to love the closeness of our family while I can. It is hard. It requires effort and discipline. But following through creates joy and brings positivity to the situation instead of despair. God is still good when my kids are melting down. I can lean on him and have his strength fill me through tantrums and whining. 

When I look in the mirror now and don't like what I see, I don't let it crush me. I don't spiral out of control with dieting. I don't begin creating rules around food. I don't let my negative feelings over my middle-aged postpartum body foster resentment against my children. And I no longer talk bad about myself. In my 20s, I craved attention from men and women in regards to what I wear and how I looked. I wanted to be told I was beautiful: and I only felt beautiful through the eyes of another. When I gaze in the mirror now I thank God for my strong legs that let me hold my babies. I thank God for my arms that prepare meals for my family, for my hips that birthed two and my saggy belly that stretched as my little ones grew. I see the beauty that God has given me because God made me. I hope I will be blessed with 80 years and wrinkled skin so I can see my grandchildren. Beauty is not how I look. Beauty is my name in the book of life and God's eyes on me. God is still good even if my body falls apart.

Every time I face trials or uncertainty I remind myself that God is still good. I don't question God's goodness or lack of control. I pray. I ask for help. And I try with all my might to lean and trust in him.

I'm still a work in progress but I am going to choose joy.