For me, happiness is linked to external circumstances. When positive things are happening in my life, I experience happiness. I view joy quite differently. I feel that joy comes from within. It is not dependent on the circumstances in my life. As a Christian, I believe the source of this joy is God.
When the darkness closes in, I can choose to dig deep within me to find joy. Sometimes it's buried beneath my sadness, but when I choose to look...it's always there. That joy can glow in the corner of my heart, helping me hold on to hope.
A little less than two years ago, I remember coming home from a dear friend's house in tears. I watched her darling child play on the carpet while she and I discussed the hopelessness I was feeling about ever conceiving a baby. She prayed with me and encouraged me and loved me. But when I got in the car to drive home, the doubts pinched at my heart and the tears began to flow.
But what's the plan, God? What's the plan?
I'm lonely for a child. I long to be a mother like so many of my friends.
Do you even care? Are you even listening?
I came home to our quiet, empty house. I stood aimlessly in the kitchen as my sadness began to form into anger.
Should I throw something?
Should I yell?
I am so disappointed, God.
And that's when I realized I had a choice to make. I could give myself over to the bitterness.
Or I could choose joy.
Through a blur of tears, I began writing on the blank chalkboard hanging on our kitchen wall. I wrote three words...
"I am blessed"
I chose joy. I chose to love my husband more than ever before. I chose to love the children in my life until God blessed me with my own. I chose to be grateful for our home and our jobs and our families. I chose to hope.
The day we left that doctor's office with the devastating news of William's condition, I felt as if the glow of joy within my heart had finally gone out. I felt as if I were in some sort of terrible game, and I was losing.
I tried, God.
I can't do it anymore.
Losing this baby will break me beyond repair.
For several days, when I looked at the chalkboard my eyes would narrow in bitterness.
I am not blessed...I am destroyed
And then I began to feel the familiar longing to dig beneath the sadness for joy.
And do you know what?
I still couldn't find it.
A few days later I would dig again. Through my pain and weeping, I kept digging.
And slowly...I began to find it again.
I decided to reclaim joy.
It's a choice I have to make every single day. Some days I'm successful and other days I'm not. But I know that God has placed a joy in my heart that cannot be stolen, despite my circumstances.
Today was a particularly low day for me. The joy was hard to find...but it's still there.
As I write this, William is wiggling inside of me. So I choose joy.
Our friends and family continue to love us, pray for us, support us. So I choose joy.
William has been a part of our family for 22 weeks and 2 days. So I choose joy.
God has made me a mother. So I choose joy.
As I sit in our family room, I can see the chalkboard hanging in our kitchen. I've never erased it. It reminds me that I made a choice that day. It reminds me to recognize the blessings in my life.
Most importantly, it reminds me to choose joy.