Why should you choose JOY over any other feeling?

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 “She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.”

(Pr 31:25 NIV)

Have you noticed? Some people are naturally happy, effusive, and fun-filled. However, others are more inclined to be sombre, moody and sad. The extremes are characterized in Winne-the-Pooh characters Tigger who is always happy and jumpy; and Eeyore the donkey, always down in the dumps.

When at my worst, my natural tendency is to be like Eeyore. But I choose Tigger as much as I can. Life is much more bearable if everything is perceived from the positive rather than negative viewpoint. Or perhaps it’s like Mary Poppins, who could click her fingers to make Michael and Jane laugh in an instant. It’s a shift in attitude. And you get to choose!

A Discovery: JOY is very different to HAPPINESS

Happiness is an emotion which depends on outward circumstances. Here are some examples of what you might say when you are happy:

“I’m happy because we are going to the big game today!”

“It makes me happy to think about my next holiday, relaxing on the beach.”

“My son just gave me a call with some good news, and I’m so happy!”

Joy however, is a much deeper experience. Joy has to do with “being”. You choose joy over other circumstances going on around you. And you might begin sentences about joy with “Even though:

“Even though I’m tired, I’m still joyful.”

“Even though I’m in so much pain, I have joy, deep inside.”

“While I’m disappointed in my son’s choices, I’m still hopeful, and choose Joy.”

I think I was onto something when I wrote this haiku poem a teenager:

~ JOY ~

A deep silent sound

Welling up from the depths of

Just being alive

Joy has to do with confidence. With hopefulness. With peace with yourself, God and others. It’s being assured that while there may be difficulties surrounding you, you will not let them stop you holding onto joy deep down inside.

Joyce Meyer says, “I spent years doing life my own way, not really following God. At the time I thought it would make me happy to do everything I wanted to do. But the fact is I was miserable.”

Don’t be Miserable . . . Instead, Choose Joy!

Joy is so much more than the emotion of happiness. Like true love, true joy is a decision.

Jesus’ brother James wrote these words about joy, in the early days of a fledgling church.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

James and many others were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. It’s an interesting perspective on joy, and is very different to the way we would describe it now.

Or is it?

Perhaps being tested, and the perseverance it brings, is a good reason for the deep joy James wrote about. And perhaps that’s exactly where it aligns with motherhood especially if, like me, there is no mother who can show you the ropes. If you can get through those tests and trials, and persevere at being a great mother, that certainly is a place for joy!

Yes. Tests and Trials.

There are those days when you feel like you’ve been in the wringer, and what comes out isn’t pretty. The days when you didn’t get a shower, and you’re bleary-eyed and lethargic. The days when everything goes wrong, and you wish you had never got out of bed.

Some mornings are like that. When there is extra laundry because of a wet bed; and a lunchbox mysteriously contains yesterday’s lunch (Ew!); the spelling-test-today last-minute run-through; while toast burns, and the phone bleeps with new status updates of other mothers and their perfect lives.

Except no one shares when they are less than perfect.

And the guilt creeps in. Because while you too have Insta updates of your “perfect family”, today is not one of those days. There is “motherhood regret” too, that you ever decided to do this motherhood gig – and yes, it was even a longed-for event!

Then the husband wants to be frisky, and all you can think about is writing to the teacher because your daughter is limping, so can she please sit out of sport today.

It’s the days when you can’t think straight, and everyone knows something is wrong, but they can’t say anything because if they do, they’ll get a piece of your mind; and all you want to do is go and scream into a towel in the bathroom. And sometimes, you do.

All you want to do is go and scream into a towel in the bathroom.

Those are the days when joy feels absent. And those are the days you most need joy. So how do you switch that? How do you give yourself permission not to be Facebook-status-perfect. Oh my gosh, social media has much to answer for! How do you make the move from chaos to calm?

Make the Move into Joy

Give yourself time. Remember, that this too will pass. By all means head to the bathroom to scream. But while you are there look into the mirror and . . .

Laugh. Make yourself laugh. Head to the kitchen and laugh there, and watch those lovable faces around you dissolve into giggles. Then you can . . .

Choose Joy. It just gets blanketed over by everything else, and like a blanket over a fire, it snuffs all the life out. Then you can remember that . . .

Not every day is like this, thankfully. Remember the big picture. When you think about a lifetime, then one day, or even one week, is not so big after all.

It’s okay to be real. You are an emotional human being after all, and that’s good! It’s okay to not be the perfect mother on Insta every day. This day will pass. And the JOY is there all along.

Choose Joy

And so, it Continues . . .

Now, for me, all these years later, joy is still a choice. You would think it would become as natural as breathing. But, like having children, it’s still the choosing that makes the difference.

Mine are all grown now. And there are days when I’m sad because I haven’t spoken to my son for weeks and while I am really happy to ring him, I just wish that once, he would ring me. When my daughter, now living in Paris, is a little too close to terrorist activity for complete comfort. Or when my grandchildren will soon enter an education system, which is far less than perfect.

I see some of their gorgeous photos on Insta of treks in New Zealand, new French apartments, and picturesque antics in the park, and I wonder at the impossibility that all those years just slid by. Just like Mary Poppins when she clicked her fingers for the impossible to happen – and it did.

There are still days, when disappointment and worry and sadness can cover everything like a blanket and snuff out all the life. But those are the days when I take Tigger over Eeyore. I click my fingers, and I choose the impossible.

And I choose JOY.

Next week: 20 Ways to Rock at Being a Mother No 9: Build in Margins

What did your worst motherhood day look like?

How do you go with choosing joy?