Today seemed better than any to write about thankfulness. Either way the election went, I knew today would be a challenge and I would remain fairly dumbfounded on how we got here. On top of my own thoughts and feelings, so much of mainstream and social media has been so doom & gloom that joy & gratitude are getting drowned out.
This is no way to live.
One hundred and sixty-two days ago, I needed an attitude check. It had been a hard year. In some ways, an excruciating year. I kept hoping that I would see a light at the end of the tunnel and it seemed that that light was never going to come – something was always going to happen: disappointment, heartbreak, heartache, relationship problems, health problems, relapse, overdoses, death, identity theft, and the list goes on and on. I was tired. I was frustrated. I was done.
I was soon reminded that something is always going to happen. Always. But that it is my response to what happens that matters; it is the only thing I can control.
I wondered that if I was more aware of my responses, my heart, mind, & body would improve and, just maybe, I had a choice in the matter. It turns out, I did have a choice: choose joy or choose the opposite – bitterness, apathy, anger, etc. It took a minute to get there, but I chose joy.
Although it may seem simple to be joyful, when you’ve been walking through the wilderness for months or life appears unbelievably heavy, being joyful requires a lot of effort. To hold myself accountable, I began a 30-day journey to capture an image/moment daily that reminded me to be grateful and to choose joy. I posted my #thisistheday moments on Instagram and hoped it would not only provide accountability, but it would foster vulnerability and growth. Boy did it.
Up to this point, I rarely posted on social media. I wondered, “What will people think when I share…and share daily!? I don’t need people knowing about my business. They don’t know me!” I soon realized, I cared too much about what others think to be truly authentic. Ugh. I had to be honest that some days are harder than others. I don’t have it all together. I need other people. I am not perfect. [Gasp]
In addition to those insights, there was significant growth happening: growth in faith, growth in perseverance, and growths in my uterus…called fibroid tumors. Nearly three weeks into the #thisistheday challenge, I had to make the biggest decision of my life – live in constant, agonizing pain or forfeit bearing children. This was never a decision I thought I would have to make, especially since I am a [usually healthy] 34-year-old woman with no kids remotely on the radar. But there I was – choosing to change my immediate and distant future.
Without hesitation, I can say intentionally desiring joy each day in the weeks leading up to that doctor appointment gave me inexplainable peace that taking out this life-producing organ was going to allow me to live a productive life. And the same goes for the next 12+ weeks of recovery. I was placing my hope in the Author & Perfecter of my faith. There were moments of heartache and doubt, but I remain confident that this is part of my weird, quirky, hilarious, painful, unique, beautiful, and lovely story.
In a culture where we don’t always talk about real life, God had been and continues to lead me into real life. Real life is hard. My decision to not have kids was hard. Daylight Savings Time is hard. Eating salads are hard. Paying bills are hard. Today’s election results were hard.
Real life requires joy or its gonna be a miserable life. Choosing joy produces abundant life. Even in circumstances out of our control, joy gives way to feel, share, hope, believe, do, and be. We are responsible for how we respond and what we do with that response. Joy is a call to action.
Being thankful for the small, ordinary moments in life has changed the way I see my days. There are definitely moments I fail at this, but I give myself some grace and remember, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”.
Without these experiences, I’m not sure where I would be today and I am thankful that I don’t. That part of my story was never written. Because in the end, love wins. Because joy wins. Because I do not fear the unknown. Because the Lord is good and the Lord is faithful. Because I have a greater story that is being written. As do you. And somehow, as does this country. There is a time for everything under the sun, but let’s not rest in the shadows.
One hundred and thirty-two days ago, my 30-day photo expedition turned into a year of thankfulness. Instead of doom & gloom, where are you placing your joy and gratitude?
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.