Choose Joy

God brought me here.

To Kansas City. To married life. To my idyllic apartment-outside-the-city home where I can watch the sparkles in the pond and the tree leaves flutter. To the blessing of teaching in my own home, running my own business, and choosing my own path.

I dreamed it, and God did it.

It’s quite a feeling to think back to high school when life in my mid-twenties was just a dream. I wondered what I would end up doing after college and where I would be. What city? What job? What people would enter my life? What kind of person would I be?

How strange it is to remember that the way my life is turning out is so very close to how I imagined it to be years ago. Sure, I thought my studio might be a bit larger, more urban, I thought I might be more talented, able to give more, able to do more. But life now is a perfect fit. And it’s not even the end of the story – who knows where the next 50 years will take me?

I just finished reading “Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts” by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver. I was drawn to it first by the title, was more intrigued when I read that Mary Carver is a Kansas City native, and decided to buy it when I saw that both authors were bloggers. “Choose Joy” was a moving read.

Sara Frankl had so much wisdom to share through her devastating journey with chronic illness and pain that ultimately ended her life in her late 30’s. The book was a compilation of Sara’s blog posts with commentary by her friend Mary. Before her death, Sara wrote about how her life turned out so differently than she imagined. Instead of becoming a writer, wife, mother, or singer, she was homebound, lived in constant pain and was limited to just the company of her dog to avoid getting even more sick from contact with other peoples’ germs.

Through her unwavering faith and trust in God, she found strength in the storm and was blessed with a community of friends through her blog. She believed that God’s plan was to bless others through her illness, despite how hard it was for her to live each day in pain. She chose joy to be better used by God. She chose to be the hands and feet – and the words – of God. She wrote, “Life isn’t about being normal. It’s about doing the best you can with what you’ve been given.”

There are very few days that I feel like I’m living a “normal” life. While friends younger than myself are buying houses, having babies, getting promotions, and going on expensive vacations, it’s easy to feel less than. It’s easy to feel like I made the wrong choices in life and should’ve done things differently, even though my life now is the best it’s ever been. I struggle with joy some days. I have to fight for it, but it’s not a battle I’m ready to lose. Joy is my choice. Doing the best I can with what I’ve been given is my choice. Life is too good to feel sorry for myself.

In a chapter titled, “God’s Best: On Being Thankful for What You Had,” Sara writes about quiet moments with her mom while watching snow storms from a window in their farmhouse in Iowa.

“She would sit quietly at the window and rest in the sound of the new-fallen snow. The peace in the wild whipping of the wind… She would show me the light we were trying to see in the distance – the one a quarter mile away that lit up Dad’s hog buildings. She was making sure the power was still on so the livestock were warm and fed and safe. But then she would take her eyes away from the light to make sure I saw the diamonds in the snow. She said they were the little gift that God gives in the middle of a storm.”

My husband, my puppy, my students, my friends and family – they are my diamonds in the snow. I get to be a constant in the lives of little people, a listening ear to friends, the love of my husband’s life. I get lots of time at home with my cute puppy and time to think, read, write, and go for walks. I get to live in a city bustling with things to do and people to see. I get to walk a path full of open doors and opportunities. All I must do is be patient and trust God to do all things in His perfect timing. I must remember that it’s not about me. I must have faith, and I must choose joy.

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