Choose joy, that you might live.

I have written before about how difficult it is for me to let go of my dreams and aspirations. See, what I am doing now isn't like a "new dream" for me. My dreams of pursuing graduating education, moving, traveling, and living in those ways are still very much present. But I gave it up for the three and a half year old boy sleeping in the other room. Today as I was driving him home, he was in his usual after school funk.  Some popular after school greetings I am often met with are, "Don't look at me!", "Stop!!", "No mommy!", "I need a special treat in the car!" The list goes on. Today as this was going on, I had this sense of gratitude for our life together and for the home we share. That was what my "tree of gratitude" leaf was today.

I began to think about the ways we must choose joy in every circumstance. Joy is not this separate emotion or experience. It can be, sure. We can be joyful, as we are happy, excited, etc. And I think joy is certainly a feeling of being glad. But it is also a choice. In hardship, there can be joy.

When I was dealing with this necessary, good, healthy, but incredibly painful cutoff from Spencer awhile ago, I still felt a God given joy in the midst of the incredible pain. Even though I felt like my heart was cut open (again) and bleeding, I knew it was right and good and very much necessary. And I had prayed for such a departure to happen, since we were not together but were still too enmeshed. In all of that, I had joy.

I have had my fair share of hardship, loss, struggle, pain, and abuse in my life. People often tell me that it is amazing that I am as steady of a person as I am, given my life's history. But you know what? I credit God for this. I credit God for preserving me in the ways he had. I am not without injury. I am not without symptoms from a lost childhood or from growing up too fast. And I still have concerns about all that. But I am who I am now, desiring to abide by God's grace and love, because of his consistency and preservation in my life. Because of his ever present constancy, I have this unquenchable belief in hope that lays root deep within my soul. I have hope, always. For this world. For everyone.

It is exhausting loving the world and its people with the weight of the ugliness in the world. I mean, it blows my mind how evil things can be, and how evil people can be. It is such a departure from the love God has for this world and its inhabitants. I can't imagine how it must break his heart to see all of the evil that there is, when as a mere human occupant of this planet Earth, it often feels hard to handle. That's why I frequently just have to release it. Let it go. And believe in this hope that is found in the creator of the universe.

I know that I am lucky...blessed...to be in the place that I am in. I have a blessing of a child. I get to be his mom, no matter how inadequate I feel. I get to deal with his foul moods, his growling and his flexing, his ability to make everything a competition at the age of three, his wit, intelligence, intuition and humor.

You see, I am thankful. I am thankful all the time. Not just in November. Not just for this upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving. But year round, I sit back amazed at the people in my life, and the place we are in, and at the child that I have. It is easy to choose joy, given all of these abundant blessings. But it doesn't erase my loss of what I gave up. It doesn't make it less hard sometimes.

I just remember, that God is bigger. He is bigger than my loss. He is bigger than the hardships of my life. He is bigger than all of it. And we have a hundred and one reasons to be grateful and willfully joyful. Even when sometimes, we don't feel this joy naturally. We can choose it because we are surely blessed. Even in the bad, we can stand on whatever shred of joy and hope there is. I know I have, many times. For some reason it is easier for me to do when life gets ugly.

I don't know why I am writing about this right now. Hell, I hardly ever know why I write about some of the stuff I do. But it was just something I was thinking about. Just where life has brought me, and how I am (crazily enough) a mom. And how in so many circumstances, before him and after, there is joy. I didn't feel joy in the raging fury of my childhood home. I felt excruciating pain, and then numbness. But my joy, even then, was the hand of God holding mine. And that, is something to be eternally grateful for.

Nowadays, joy looks at me at 6:30 am singing and jumping. Joy holds my hand, gives me a kiss on the arm, and runs off into his classroom. Joy tells me how strong he is, and how he is clearly much stronger than I. Joy makes silly sounds and laughs at things related to poop and pee.

Joy looks like the weather, both filled with sunlight and shadows. Joy looks like our home. Our food. The faces, voices, messages, and words of our friends. Joy looks like the hearts and hugs of love from family and grandparents. Joy looks like the ever present hand of God. These descriptions of joy are interchangeable with that of love. And in all of this-the good, the bad, the loss, the pain, whatever other elements life brings, we are blessed. We have joy, love, and we have our God.