choosing joy

by Kayla Raymond

The morning sun is beginning to peak through my windows and Wishla is crying loud enough for the whole world to hear her. Doesn’t she know church isn’t for another three hours and today we can sleep in? I lift my head up ever so slightly and see her standing up in her crib, watching for one of us to give in and come pick her up. Sleep is one of those things you give up when you choose to become a mom, and I’m honestly annoyed I can’t just get one more hour of sleep.

So, I give in and pick her up. We lay back down with her head heavy on my chest. I try not to move a muscle, to see if she’ll fall back asleep. After a few seconds, she pops her head up with energy, I peak my eyes open and she’s just grinning from ear to ear. She melts my heart all over again and I laugh out loud with this sweet child.

My feelings of annoyance and fatigue turn into joy as my day begins to unfold.

It’s a choice, that’s what I’ve been learning, anyways. It’s a choice to choose joy instead of bitterness – or in my case annoyance. It’s a choice to live in thanksgiving, acknowledging every moment as a blessing from God.

Pancakes are in the fry pan and the aroma of delicious bacon is filling the house. I love Sunday morning breakfasts.

We find our way to church in our Sunday best. The boys go to children’s church and I bow my head in prayer on a wooden bench. Wishla bounces in my arms and loves to clap along with the crowd. We begin worship and she falls asleep in Webert’s arms. Announcements pass and the sermon begins; Psalm 145 are the closing verses.

“I will exalt you, my God and King;
I will praise your name forever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
And extol your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
They tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of your glorious splendor of your majesty –
And I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
And joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all he has made.
All your works praise you, Lord;
Your faithful people extol you.
They tell of your glory of your kingdom and speak of your might,
So that all people may know of your mighty acts
And the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
And you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
To all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
But all the wicked he will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name forever and ever.

I get it, there are a lot of words right there. I chose to include them all, because different words speak differently to different people. For me, I love verse 7:

They celebrate your abundant goodness
And joyfully sing of your righteousness.

These people recognized all their blessings, all the good stuff, and the gifts. All these things brought them joy. So much joy, in fact, they were led to sing about it! Let’s not get carried away, I’m not about to sing for joy when Wishla wakes me up early in the morning, but I want to recognize the moments of blessings and give thanks.

The Lord asks us to give thanks in all circumstances.

Remember the lady on my porch? The woman has hungry children. She is without a job and desperate. She came back. Just the other day, in fact. I wrote about her a while ago, in a post title the woman on my porch. Nothing has changed since she last came, she told me she was coming back to see if anything had changed for me. I shook my head, ashamed. She told me she cries a lot, but then she reminds herself to stop crying because crying will get her nothing so, instead she prays. She says something will come out of praying.

I agree, although an older version of myself would have doubted this god she prayed to in hopes of something. In this journey of choosing to give thanks and choosing joy, I completely agreed with her on my porch this time. I told her to start giving thanks for what God will do, for what he has done, and I too would join her in prayer. Will you join me in praying for her?

I go back to this chapter and see verse 9:
The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all he has made.

He will be good to us…let’s give thanks. He has compassion. It continues to promise us that he hears our cries; he saves us and watches over us. I’m choosing to believe in these promises. For my sake and for her, for her children, too.

It ends by suggesting we praise his name forever and ever. Tears well in my eyes are these worlds of thanksgiving, promises and joy collide.

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You’re probably wondering where this is all coming from, why such a random journey of thanksgiving and joy. But, it is because we’re coming to the end of a Bible study called 1,000 gifts by Ann Voskamp, maybe you have heard about it, maybe not. But, she challenges the participants to choose joy and to live a life of wholehearted thanksgiving. And so, with all of her words, thoughts and ideas, for the last four weeks I’ve been trying to live this way. I’ve been trying to take the ordinary details of life and recognize them as gifts. I’ve been trying to turn my frustrations, problems and annoyances into blessings and moments of thanksgiving. I’ve been trying.

I think we are guilty of it all: taking things for granted and allowing our joy for life to be trampled by the troubles of this life.

Even as her early morning cry cuts my slumber short, there is truly no other way I would want to wake up. I give thanks for Wishla coming in my life every single day. I’ve chosen to give thanks for the dirty dishes because dirty dishes mean we’ve had food to eat. I’ve chosen to give thanks for dirty boys and a noisy house because that means I have two boys who have overcome it all and are healthy. I’ve chosen to give thanks for the big things: friends, family, a house and a car. But, I’ve chosen to give thanks for the little things more often: sunsets, bedtime prayers, hugs from orphans, a still ocean and holding hands with my husband. I’ve chosen to see moments as blessings and the details of the day as gifts. I don’t want the miracles of the every day to pass under my nose anymore.

My hope is that we all choose joy. I pray that the lady on my porch doesn’t lose hope in the god she prays to. I pray for miracles and the impossible everyday. I believe my prayers are answered because I seem to witness unexplainable beautiful things all the darn time in this wicked and dark place. Amongst all the ugliness, I see beauty and for that I will sing of His righteousness.

Choose joy, my friends.

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