You know what I’ve always been good at? Getting excited about the little things.
I get amped up about what we’re having for supper. I can’t wait for the ten minutes I sit in the pick up lane at school before my boys come out so I can read my book. I love getting home from school at 12:45 to eat lunch while I watch my Netflix show for a few minutes. I get excited to go for a run, to chase my boys down for a kiss when they pretend to hate it, to bake a pan of chocolate chip cookie bars. Heck, I get excited by the thought of putting on my jogging pants at night and sitting down to watch the Wheel of Fortune with Benj.
I have so many little moments in a day that I get to look forward to simply because they are my life, and I have every reason to celebrate my life.
More Than Optimism
I often wonder if my ability to find joy in these small ways helped me through my recovery. Yes, I wanted the end result, but I couldn’t see the recovered end that was months, or even years, away until I had made it through each day. And I couldn’t make it through each day, until I had made it through each moment of that day. And how would I have survived the sucky moments if I hadn’t have had happy moments to celebrate?
God gave me the ability, and the reasons, to celebrate joy in all my moments, and that made the difference.
Yes, I’ve always kind of been an optimist. My personality seeks optimism. My middle name is Joy and I’ve lived into that name. My parents have always called me Joy more than they call me Rhonda. I love my middle name, always have.
But when God set me into treatment, he elevated my ability to find joy to a new standard. When he came to me in the middle of that first night and taught me that the truest joy comes in letting go – that has been my defining moment. Life since then has been forever altered.
I see joy more clearly now because I had the muted version in my life with ED. And joy now shines brighter. It’s not just an optimistic personality.
Joy is my decision.
Joy shines brightest when we have experienced the despair that comes from the absence of it.
We need hurt, pain, despair, hardship . . . not because those are good experiences. We need them because often the best way to define a word is by understanding the opposite. When joy is gone, we feel the absence acutely. And we want it back.
We don’t want unsettled chaos. We want peace from the storm.
Joy is God’s peace in moments of chaos. And I want that. I want peace when the world screams chaos. So yes, I decide.
Joy is my decision.
God’s Peace Leads to Joy
In those moments of pain we reach for God. We reach for calm. For sanity. For life to make sense. We reach for God as the source of joy because only God can poke a hole in the darkness and shine his light into our shadows. A world without light is no place we are meant to be.
In moments of pain we see the brightest joy. Because only God can blanket us with his peace and overwhelm us with his love. He doesn’t say, “Good luck with that.” He says, “I’m right here with you in all of it.” His is the peace that surpasses any logic.
His peace allows joy to stand solid in moments of unrest.
That doesn’t mean we have to go looking for hurtful experiences, or that we don’t truly know joy if we haven’t experienced something awful. Even in the small moments, we understand how the opposite better defines the good.
A bad hair day makes you appreciate the good ones. The hard work of studying for a test makes you proud of the accomplishment. Stubbing your toe makes you thankful for the unstubbed ones. Living off Ramen noodles makes you yearn for Mom’s home cooking. A day with the flu makes being healthy the best thing ever.
Joy is my decision because deciding to dwell on the bad only drags me down. My hair may be bad today, but at least I have hair. Ramen noodles may not be my first choice for lunch, but at least I have lunch to eat. Having the flu sucks, but at least I know I’m going to get better soon.
Joy is my decision.
The Fun of Fighting Satan
I’m not happy I had to have an eating disorder. I wouldn’t wish ED on my worst enemy. But I find gratitude in the fact that because of it, I understand joy brighter.
And I live aware of that joy. I can’t help it. I remember how scared I was to break any of my eating disorder “rules”. So now, every time I “break” one, it’s darn fun. Even 4 years later. I don’t think that’s ever going to change for me. The difference between that pain and this joy is simply too stark to ignore.
Every time I break an ED rule, I feel like I’m metaphorically mooning Satan, or kicking him exactly where it counts. “Take that,” I say.
I shared an omelet with Benj on vacation. It had ham and cheese. Four broken rules – eggs, ham, cheese, and eating more than fruit for breakfast. I freely enjoyed sharing a meal with my hubby.
I had sweet potato fries with my fish tacos. Two rules broken – fries and a creamy sauce on my tacos. Instead of worrying about the food, I laughed with my family over our meal.
I had a breaded chicken salad for lunch. Three rules broken – meat at lunch, breaded food, full fat dressing. While we ate, we decided which ride at Busch Gardens we were going to go on next.
I eat Grooves everyday for lunch. Why? Because every day I’m breaking the rule of only vegetables for lunch. Grooves are my absolute favorite.
I eat a handful of Peanut M&Ms after lunch for a bit of chocolate. Huge rule broken – chocolate. I hide my stash where my kids can’t find them so they are all mine.
I ate the chips and dip in the teachers’ lounge at break. Two rules broken – chips and snacking. Instead of missing out on teacher camaraderie, I get to be a part of it.
Joy is My Decision
I find joy in these broken rules because breaking them stands in stark contrast to living by them. Joy shines brightly in the freedom I have from illogical living. I define joy in my life by the absence of ED’s chains. I define joy by peace from the storm.
So yes, maybe part of me finding happiness in the small moments is my personality. I can find happiness in the mundane simply because life is too short not to enjoy jogging pants and the Wheel of Fortune.
But more likely, I find joy because I’m holding tightly to the freedom God has given me when I allowed myself to live in chains for too many years. I know joy because I experienced the opposite.
Joy is my decision.
Find Your Joy
Find your joy. Find those moments that contrast to the hurt you’ve experienced. Find the moments that prove God’s goodness. They are there. Always they are there. Even in the midst of the fight or the hurt or the pain or the despair, God and his goodness are there.
His joy stands in contrast to your hurt.
His joy shines brightly in your darkness.
Wear your favorite shirt. Eat a tasty treat. Smile your best smile. Read a good book. Take a long walk. Crawl into your bed made with clean sheets. Watch an exciting movie. Admire a beautiful sunset. Smell a fragrant flower. Put on your most comfortable pants. Pet a fluffy dog. Burn a scented candle. Enjoy a quiet conversation. Listen to the radio as loud as you want. Sing along to it as loud as you want.
Find your moments. Actually, don’t just find them, fight for your moments. In those moments, big or small, God gives you the strength, and peace, to realize that the pain won’t last. The pain will only contrast more brightly to the light of God’s goodness, God’s peace, and God’s joy.
Make joy your decision.