Yesterday I chose joy! I anticipated a New Year ahead and upon reflecting on the last year or two, I recognize the losses are many as I continue to grieve my wife's death and wrestle with direction for vocation while parenting two young daughters on my own. I look at photos of Laina over the years and smile at the wonderful memories. Then my heart aches for wanting to hold her again and talk with her as I make decisions or wanting to share some crazy thing the girls said or did. I cannot escape the smiles or the tears. This will be a part of my life moving forward. But today I chose joy! As Laina stated in her Mother's Day video, joy is a choice. Each moment is a choice. We can reflect on the losses and circumstances that led to our grief, or we can find joy in the blessings that are right there in front of us. My daughters are blessings for sure! We spent time playing at home over the weekend. We played board games, had a snow ball fight with the neighbors, watched Mary Poppins twice and went sledding. I took Kysa to a Milwaukee Wave soccer camp and all of us attended their game. There are so many beautiful moments to live each day! I know I am not alone in the challenges of life. I see many Facebook posts of loved ones falling ill to cancer, deaths of young people, mothers and wives. No one is alone in the trials of life. Please know there is hope in Jesus! He leads us as a good shepherd. The trials of this life do not surprise God. He knows every pain, every tear, every heart ache. And He chose to enter our suffering with joy!
Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I don't believe there is anyone who has suffered as much as Jesus. The weight of ALL of the worlds sin fell upon him. Yet he held onto the plan and promises of the heavenly kingdom of whom he is the king, who gave his own life to provide a way for ALL of us to enter his kingdom. He holds the keys - Do you know how to enter his kingdom?
I watched a YouTube video the other day showing crowds of people pressing into stores on Black Friday. It was ruthless! People shoving, pushing, hitting and even wrestling each other to the floor over what? TV's and other material items that probably wouldn't even work after the way they were roughed up. What if, we all had that type of enthusiasm to seek entry into the kingdom of heaven that way? We'd read our Bible's not as obligation or to check off the list of things to do today. But we'd read our Bible's to hear from the Living God who has all wisdom and insight into our world and our own lives. We'd also pray alone and with others and lift up burdens and praise God together! We'd watch for every opportunity to share the hope and joy that we have with others as we walk down the street. Have you ever experienced a "divine appointment?" Ask God for one right now. And then write back to me about it.
What a radical way to live! Wouldn't people be curious about why we have hope when we just suffered so much?
Today, I choose joy! I choose joy in the little things - while I wash dishes, pack lunches, clean up toys and snuggle my girls before bed. I choose joy while I wait for the Lord to show me next steps in my vocation and as I substitute teach. Even in loneliness I choose joy, because I am not alone - the Lord is with me! I feel Him with me right now as I write. It brings me joy to know someone else can benefit from the words I share.
One last thing, as I close. As a person who has lost his wife to cancer I've heard this statement often: "This must be a hard time for you without your loved one this Christmas." Or something to that effect. I know people care and mean nothing by it. Of course it is a hard time when losing someone you love. But I don't think it is helpful to state the obvious. It just adds to the grief. One time in response to someone that continued to say, "It must be hard for you... It must be hard for you..." in our conversation. I responded, "Actually I'm doing well. Everyone grieves differently and I grieved more the last two years than I have after Laina passed." I learned from Laina that I can choose joy today! It is a gift from God. What has been helpful for me and the girls is: time with family and friends, people who pray for us, people responding to my blog about how what I've written has helped them, people sharing a meal with us, people helping with the girls or cleaning our house. All of these are practical things that just make day to day life easier and more fun.
I choose Joy today - because I know that Jesus is fully in control and he gives good gifts to those that trust in Him! I am hopeful as God leads my girls and me into this New Year!
A joyful New Year to you all!
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