Thoughts on choosing joy

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I long to choose joy every moment of my day and of my life, and that’s one of my biggest desires and hopes in life. I want to honor God with my outlook and perspective; with my actions and words; with my love, grace, and joy to myself, to Him, and to others. I believe that joy is something so much deeper and more lasting than fleeting happiness, and it’s also an action that you are called to seek and to choose every day. Joy, to me, has so much to do with my faith and with the hope that comes from the unconditional and never-ending love of Christ. Joy and gratitude go hand in hand, I deeply believe, and when you have a deep and profound sense of gratitude, you can find joy in countless things, big and small. When you find joy, gratitude simply overflows from that joy.

I love the simplicity and eloquence of this: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” Yes! I am in no way perfect, but I try each and every day, and in every moment, to be deeply and profoundly grateful for all that I have and all of the blessings that I have so graciously received from the Lord. Without Him, I am nothing. Without his love and his grace and his generosity, I have nothing.

Gratitude and thanksgiving are two of the most important foundations in living an intentional, fulfilling, and joyful life, I firmly believe. If we’re not giving thanks for the things we have and the blessings we have received, then we’re being ungrateful or complaining or always desiring more. I have so much – SO much. And yet it’s easy for me to slip into the downward spiral of comparison or envy or greed or simply wanting more and more. But when I stop and take a hard look at my life, I am overwhelmed with all that I do have. Being continually aware of all that you have in your life (big things and little things alike) is a critical piece in gratefulness and gratitude. True joy stems from a sense of gratitude, and that joy radiates out to those around you.

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The key to a joyful life and a joyful attitude is to look for opportunities to see the good in others, to seek out ways in which you can spread joy to everyone you come into contact with, and to be grateful and filled with joy for your life and everything that makes up your day. There is no better way to feel happiness yourself than to spread happiness to others – strangers, coworkers, family, friends, significant others, everyone! It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or an expensive gift by any means. The little things and the little details are often the best and most meaningful. Think of how you can serve others selflessly – and you will in turn be filled with joy. Filling your life with people who bring you joy, being deeply grateful for the blessings in your day & thanking the Lord for them, attempting to lift others up, recognizing little ways to lift up your attitude are all keys to making your day more joyful. And if you are a joyful person, I hope it’s contagious to those around you!

Over the last few years, I’ve also learned how to reframe my perspective in order to live a life of joy, even when I have cause to complain, worry, or stress. Instead of griping about doing the laundry, I very intentionally think: I GET to do our laundry. I have a laundry room (something we did not have in our last apartment). I have the capacity and the ability to do laundry and have clean clothes. And most importantly for me: I have a husband that I get to love and serve by doing our laundry without complaining. I prayed and waited a very long time to find my husband and marry him, and now I GET to do our laundry! When my perspective is reframed, I’m able to see what a blessing and yes, what a joy laundry actually can be! I am reminded of things I am profoundly grateful for: a house, a working washer and dryer, clothing, and a husband that I get to serve (and who serves me in countless ways, too!). And then I’m not complaining about something like laundry and chores but instead love my husband well by graciously serving him in little ways in our marriage while knowing he is doing the same for me in other ways. Joy and gratitude can be found in grand gestures and milestone moments, but it can also be found in daily actions and decisions.

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It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and in to-do lists, but I want to try to stop and simply be. To think and remember and reflect on the extravagant ways that I am grateful and thankful. To reflect on the people in my life that I love tremendously and who love me back. I am blessed, truly – and I am so very grateful for it. And there are things that I want or yearn for; things that are deep desires. But we are commanded to “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.” So even when something is missing or I feel discontentment or disappointment or rejection, I am GRATEFUL. I want to remember, all the time, to give thanks to the Lord & to rejoice in Him. Instead of worrying or comparing or complaining, I want to reflect on and give deep thanks for all that I do have in my life, as I have abundantly more than I could ever ask or receive. I thankfully have a very full life, indeed. When I am grateful for what I do have, I no longer need more because I realize that what I have is enough. It’s more than enough. Gratitude is a definite way of praising Him from whom all blessings flow, and I choose to find joy in this hope and promise.

It’s so, so true – comparison really is the thief of joy. In this day and age where social media seems to have taken over our lives, comparing yourself to what you see on other peoples’ social media can definitely take your joy and your once-grateful attitude away. Comparing yourself to others and letting that affect your own self-worth with diminish your joy, every time. You live a less grateful life when you’re always wanting more and better and bigger. You diminish all of the things you were once grateful for when you think it’s not enough or not good enough. When you let yourself get caught up in comparison, you are letting yourself fall victim to a perpetual, endless cycle where you always need more or need to do more. Stopping and really evaluating your life and all of the things that bring you joy is essential to building up your own self-esteem, focusing on what you already have, and choosing to be truly grateful for your life and what makes up your life.

One of my very favorite Bible verses (and a life motto) is from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.” The key to this, I think, is to give thanks in ALL things. When you really think about it, that’s one of the most difficult things in the world to do… to give THANKS in ALL things. This includes the big things, the little things, the good things, the awful things, and even the average things. Being truly thankful for all things in your life (though it may seem so impossible to do in some instances, for sure) is tough to do, but it’s absolutely critical to do so. Giving thanks in all things is an act of praise; it’s trusting that there is a reason for whatever it is; it’s giving God the glory for all that He has done for you. I’m a firm believer that these three verses are a daily act of loving God and cultivating gratitude and joy in your life. You can’t do it halfway, or when it’s convenient for you, or when things are great in your life. You must give thanks all the time and for all things!

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“It’s rebellious, in a way, to choose joy, to choose to dance, to choose to love your life. It’s much easier and much more common to be miserable. But I choose to do what I can do to create hope, to celebrate life, and the act of celebrating connects me back to that life I love. We could just live our normal, day-to-day lives, saving all the good living up for someday, but I think today, just plain today, is worth it. I think it’s our job, each of us, to live each day like it’s a special occasion, because we’ve been given a gift. We get to live in this beautiful world… I want to say, “What can I do today that brings more beauty, more energy, more hope?” Because it seems like that’s what God is saying to us, over and over. “What can I do today to remind you again how good this life is?”

– Shauna Neiquist, Cold Tangerines

Isn’t this beautiful? Shauna’s words have deeply resonated with me for so many years, and I find myself coming back to her books and her words over and over again for perspective and inspiration. Reflecting on those things that I’m grateful for brings so much joy into my life. Taking the time to reflect back on your day, turning the mundane things into praise, recognizing all of the blessings in your life, and pausing to be truly grateful for the beautiful life that you have been given is paramount to living a life filled with joy.

all photos by Ally and Bobby

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