When the preacher rings over, I stand there with the phone thinking about the answering machine.

What worthwhile inventions they are.

And how if I had just chosen to let it go to the machine, I wouldn’t be standing here trying to push stubbornly awkward words from my flustered brain to my thick tongue.

Technology can connect or cut off and machines can liberate or incarcerate, and the preacher says he’s glad I chose to pick up.

How do you live in a community of faith when a community can fail?

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How do you reach out when women can bite?

Or wear maddening masks or talk about lifting Jesus high but let you down or seem all coiffed perfectly round while you’re chiseled definitely square? I manage the phone between shoulder and ear and make a bed.

The preacher tells me about the new sermon series. I try to stammer two words in a series that make sense. He asks if I have any books on my shelf that might help with sermon preparation? And I am running my finger along the spine of books and it was last week a woman told me she really didn’t like women’s events or gatherings and  there are a thousand reasons why the spine of a woman can curve away from her own.

And then he says it, words of a gentle shepherd, while my finger’s somewhere near a dog-eared commentary on Matthew:

“You know – I’m looking forward to the day when you aren’t the first one out the door Sunday morning.”

When you’re read like a book you don’t have to look for anything else on the shelf. I lean up against the wall and it supports. What do I say? 

How many years has he noticed that I’ve been running, that I’ve been bent over and heaving with this side stitch of the getting away, that when you don’t think anyone will take you, you take the exit door first.

And I turn Sara’s silver ring, bent and hammered, right there on my right hand. I’ve worn it for more than a year of Sundays now.

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A gift from Sara, the woman who couldn’t leave her house — to the woman too afraid to leave hers. How many times in the last year I had opened the front door and known that ring’s encircling, its certain embrace? I had never even met Sara face to face. But you can pray through pixels and you can strengthen through screens and community happens wherever grace makes a safe place.  

Hearts can transplant directly into words and encouragement can save lives.

Sara had laid in a bed, her pain at a 9 on a scale of 1 to ten, and she had sent me words. I sent her sheets and silk pink pajamas and a new keyboard. She had written more words. I had wept over deep barbs. She used vowels and consonants and the balm of the Word to free me. She couldn’t leave her house. She was dying.

But she knew it: You only really breathe inside a Body.

She didn’t let anything cut her off from the oxygen found in His Body.  

That’s what Sara had said: Choose Joy. The universe works this way: you can choose joy like your weather, like your very own sky. Like your very own oxygen.  

I look out the window to the west, to the conflicted October blue laying out over fields and I turn Sara’s ring and the pastor waits in this long gentle patience on the other end of the line and wasn’t that what Sara had wanted to encircle me: You can have every excuse — but let nothing excuse you from joy.

Excuses to avoid community can right excuse you from joy.

Why is to so hard to let people love you?

How do you let imperfect love get into your imperfect places?

How many times do I have to learn it — The shields you use to protect yourself can become the bars that imprison you alone.  

I had told Sara that and was I ready to feel it: Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living.

There’s no other way to really live. Risking pain is the only way to risk really living — and the only other option is to live safe and dead.

Sara chose joy because she chose communityright where she was, right how she was — even when everything was all wrong. Which was the beginning of turning things right.

And I whisper yes.

I tell the Preacher man yes, I need to stop running scared before I run out of time and I need to risk closeness and one plus one can make a holy community of three.

And after Sunday sermon, I don’t run  – I stand in the chapel foyer long, listening, and I let women’s shoulders brush mine and we are real and velveteen.  Babies cry. We pass them back and forth. We rock and we laugh and there is no shame in tears.

Is this the messy threefold cord He intends to use to bind up wounds?

And it wraps around me right there —

one ring ringing me awake to every day’s silver-lined choice.

:

 

 

Free Printable: Just CLICK HERE to download a free 8.5 x 11 printable version of the above quote from Sara on encouragement.

It’s this week’s free (in)RL Check-In Printable – featuring copy and art from a postcard in the our new Postcards from God’s Beach House, Encouragement Set.

{The downloadable print is available through DaySpring.com. This is a free download and your credit card information will not be requested. You’ll receive a link to the Printable in your confirmation email. Easy. Free. And Fun.}

 

Finding it hard to know where to find community, how to fit into joy in community, where beautiful you really belongs?

God’s been preparing this, just for you. Don’t miss it — Him.

An announcement that sounds like a door opening wide and whispering welcome.  ….

 

 

{This Post is part of the 31 Days to Crazy Joy series
Find Day 1 of the series here.
Come read more Joy Habit posts?}

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~ written for you and Sara with such love, by Ann Voskamp … some photos by Jessica Turner

Q4U:  Do you think joy is a choice? Why don’t we always choose it?

Tell us your CHOOSE  JOY story… here is a safe place to do real community together

RSS readers and those reading in email — there’s space here for you to share your story:

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  1. 2

    My Choose Joy Story involves Sara and Ann! True story! While reading “One Thousand Gifts” I interacted with Sara on Blog Frog for the Bloom book club. I was going through a time of loss and sadness as my husband and I were faced with “moving on” after a decision others made for us that changed the course of our life. As I was reading of one woman’s journey to crazy joy through writing gifts down, another woman was sharing her Choose Joy message with me and others as we talked about the nitty gritty of this idea. It hit me that if this dear woman, Sara could choose joy and find it as she was in pain, could not leave her bed, etc. then just maybe I could too! And if this other woman could choose joy in the middle of daily living, working through past hurts, etc. then just maybe I could too. To choose joy and to count gifts has shown me just how much my Abba loves me and that He never leaves me. And it also shows me that His people can love each other by sharing in community as we speak Truth in the middle of what’s going on in our lives right where we are. I thank God for Ann and Sara and this community and I can’t wait to see what He’s going to do next!

    • 3

      Libby!

      Your choose joy story has Sara too?!

      Wasn’t Jesus amazing in Sara?!! That in the midst of pain — she would pray to be used of God to bless others — the joy always in the giving… Your story amber-warms the heart this morning, Libby…

      How are you now, friend? In the choosing joy after the course all changed? What would you share with someone right in the midst of that right now?

      *Thank you* for ministering to us all, Libby…

      • 4

        My thought when I read your words this morning was the same “your story has Sara too?!” :)
        How am I? What has changed? There are still hard things, my situation hasn’t totally changed and yet my perspective HAS! That is the life changer right there. My God loves me and is with me right here in the middle of this daily grind and these hard things?! He gives me gifts?! – He gives me gifts! And then it’s like a chain reaction of realizing things…He loves me, He’s with me, He gives me gifts, He gives me HIS strength each moment, He is guiding me, I can listen to HIS voice not these other ones, and on and on it goes. Yes, I still struggle to see any good and yet when I acknowledge just one tiny thing He’s given me in this moment the miracle happens…even just my change of perspective is a true miracle! All thanks to the Giver of Joy!

        • 5

          Libby — Your testimony astonishes and confirms and blazes His Truth: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord…

          To read your words over half a dozen times… saturated in His Words.

          Please know how I mean it? *Thank you*

          • 6

            This means a lot. Thank you Ann! I can’t wait to meet you someday. “Here, there, or in the air!” as a friend of our says.

        • 7
          Peggy S says:

          Libby, I didn’t know. Didn’t understand. I saw the pain, but truly it did not come from me–I hope. I was praying, but woefully unenlightened. My heart breaks to think how your’s has. Know that I still pray for you, will pray, more, with more knowledge. Yet He knows, He’s always known. Your sister-in-Christ.

          • 8

            Peggy you are a dear! You have been an encouragement to my and my family since we first met you and you continue to be!

  2. 9

    You, me, a room full of sisters, a laptop skyping with Sara out by the ocean, a bowl of water, a towel …. More joy than this girl from South Africa could have imagined. Thank you for choosing too love on us and with us, Ann. Love you so. LJ

    • 10

      a bowl of water and a towel…
      oh.

      Does He gives us greater than to be like Him and bend and wash the feet of our Cross-kin?

      To be given the opportunity to love at all? Thank you for the grace, Lisa-Jo…

  3. 11

    This choosing joy has been a battle during these 5 months since my son was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. How freeing it is, though, when we choose to live in joy rather than seeing what we’ve been given as bad. HE alone is the source of joy and as we choose joy, we choose Him!

    • 12

      Perspective… to choose joy rather than *seeing* it as bad. Yes — and this encapsulates it all and there is nothing more or before or after: “HE alone is the source of joy and as we choose joy, we choose Him!”

      And all the people said Amen….

      I am praying with you right now, Lauren…. will you give that wondrous boy-gift of yours a sweet kiss this morning?

  4. 13
    Amanda Jay says:

    This spoke volumes to me. I am working through One Thousand Gifts with a group of ladies and one of them has felt “so disconnected from everything” lately. Friends, her husband, etc. Her first step is to delete facebook from her phone, which she’s done. We spoke last night about how the core of our phones and technology is an opportunity to connect and can be used for good when used in moderation, but some use it as their only way to connect to the outside world, when opportunities to connect face to face are all around us if we can just take hold of the opportunity. God built us for relationship. Sara is an inspiration. Thanks for sharing Ann.

    • 14

      Yes, Amanda — there’s a choice in that too, yes? Will we choose to let the technology connect us — or cut us off? Liberate us or incarcerate us? Sara wielded it for eternal good all for His glory… And that is the essence of everything, Amanda, exactly: God’s wired us for relationship — with Himself, with the Body of Christ. Technology can be used to further that — or cause things to go a bit haywire. My warmest regards to your friends — their testimony to take measures to choose joy testifies boldly of their Savior…

  5. 15

    This was beautiful, as was your post yesterday. I find myself in a strange season, one of crazy busy out of my control, health issues and on and on. I feel like i have forgotten how to choose joy. It’s like it’s kind of foggy. Like I have lost my way. My dear husband has reminded me at times that it is a choice, but I seem to have forgotten how.

    Of course the guilt is right there because I am wildly blessed, yet somewhat joyless. Seems a shame, I know.

    Would you pray I find my way back ‘home’, back to the place of joy? Just being real and raw here. Thank for that.

    • 16

      Heavenly Father — Thank you for Michelle — and her brave real and raw heart.
      Your word beckons — In You Presence is fullness of joy. Please keep drawing her close to You, to Home in Your heart… Help us all find our way in You == thank you for being our Good Shepherd…

      In Jesus name….

      {Reaching over and squeezing your hand, Michelle}
      Praying…

  6. 17

    Oh sweet Sara spoke Choose Joy and I was never the same. Your book, Ann, and free printables, I have shared to any and all.

    My first memory is of being abused by a family member. And I drove the tractor at 17 that pulled the huge mower that killed my 10 year old cousin, my Aunt and Uncle’s only child. I choose joy. I rarely speak of the accident. It’s time. His Hand was over us all.

    Choose Joy!

    • 18

      Dearest Tammy…. May I just sit with you this morning?
      Underneath His hand carries and Over His hand enfolds like a wing and in Him there is joy and He chooses you.
      You are so dearly loved….

  7. 19

    “How do you let imperfect love get into your imperfect places?

    How many times do I have to learn it — The shields you use to protect yourself can become the bars that imprison you alone.

    There’s no other way to really live. Risking pain is the only way to risk really living — and the only other option is to live safe and dead.”

    This, from the beloved who dares to question the state of the heart and to hold still for the answer; from the one who listens with her eyes and inhales with her ears…firey sparks that build a fire.

    But not to consume, to refine.

    In *that*, I take joy!

    I was expecting perfect love from the imperfect, TO the imperfect; the shields I’ve constructed to protect have imprisoned; I don’t want to settle for dead man walking.

    Witnessing your years’ long stretch for the cause of Christ leaves me heartened that He, indeed, can twist a soul into the shape of his choosing. Even when we resist.

    {{{annvoskamp}}}

    • 20

      I can’t possibly make these letters shape into the love I feel you, sister — I pray He can? You have taken up this place in my heart and — please stay?

      I eagerly await your shaping, kin.

  8. 21

    I titled this year “The Year of Today is the Day.” I wanted to live for only today, and I thought that would make choosing joy easier than trying to look at an ocean of days ahead. I think it is easier, but not easy. I am selfish and easily wounded and I seclude and I want to seclude. I have a husband who is a worship minister and 4 children…I cannot seclude! For me, though, it’s not the big crowds that scare me; I find I can thrive for awhile on everyone else. It’s the simple times – the after meeting with the Church on Sunday afternoons…like this Sunday. I wanted to go for a run, then one child wanted to ride his bike…okay. Then another boy wanted to ride too…okay. Then…the 2 year old little girl wanted to be pushed in the stroller…no run. I would be walking, and it took a good 15 minutes into that walk for me to choose joy. Why?! It should not be that way! Self should not mar me like that! There will come days – soon – when 4 littles will not be asking to do things with me like that – and I took 15 minutes to even find joy in their presence!
    It is a shame I deal with over and over in marriage and motherhood and ministry…fighting the want to be alone. Fighting the urge to keep my door closed…physically, spiritually, emotionally. “Just me and God.” Except nothing was ever built to thriving with a person living in solitude. God is community and He made it for us as a gift. I let the Enemy “steal” it every time I let him convince me I don’t want it. My Dad is the same way, but we both know the Truth. Eventually, we die under the crushing of so much “self”.
    So, when I choose joy, Ann, I choose to look out and not in. To Him first, yes, and then to “them.” It’s not easy; most days I don’t want it…at first. When I do it, though, I find the gift He has waiting for me, and it is good. It is joy!

    • 22

      Beautiful words here, sweet Anastasia, and such beautiful Truth. You are right – choosing Joy, does cause us to look out, and not in, to Him and then to them. I love your theme of the year ‘The Year of Today is the Day’.
      I will be pondering this one. To You, O Lord, we lift up our souls – today, in this moment. ((Thank you, Anastasia))

      • 23

        Anastasia I too am a pastors wife, with 3 daughters and natured like you. There is a great book by a pastors’ wife with a shocking title.:) “I Quit” by Geri Scazzero. It is an enlightening guide to emotionally healthy spirituality, for a pastors’ wife. It has questions so helpful for discerning when to say yes and no to our many demands. I love the hourly perspective of what gifts our Abba has/is giving me from 1000 gifts, this other book has given me tools for healing and navigating a healthy life, along with Gratitude, choosing joy!

    • 25
      Suzanne says:

      I too am a pastor\’s wife, Anastasia. I know the pull of people, of sons and friends, good-hearted followers of Jesus and needy lost doubters. Joy can be elusive and often hard to choose. Exhaustion, isolation, and the relentlessness of it all can rob me of perspective and groundedness, keeping me from leaning hard into God\’s sufficiency for me. Only in Him and His forever flowing goodness to me can I find the peace and easy yoke He offers. The very source of joy. May I gently suggest that you not be so hard on yourself. Your sensitive nature is His gift too. Honor it, nourish it, be gentle with yourself. Nourish yourself in quiet times away from people and community regularly. Sometimes it\’s okay to say no to our kids. And it’s not selfish. Your heart is longing for the joy He offers. My heart goes out to you as you balance all that is within you and reach out in His strength.

      • 26

        Dear Suzanne,
        Thank you. Your words are balm!

        • 27
          Jocelyne Sade says:

          Well said, Suzanne. We mustn’t force ourselves to be something we are not, but we do want to become what He wants us to be. Sometimes, we need to take breaks, to find out what that is. Good words, Suzanne.

    • 28

      I hear you Anastasia! I Am a minister’s wife and a mother of 4, and the greatest gift anyone could ever give me is 30 minutes of quietness. It is a struggle to walk that line of balancing needs…mine are usually ignored and bitterness threatens to take over. God has been working with me on Him meeting my needs and learning boundaries (especially with the kids!). I am learning to trust in Him in the moment more, and worry less. I am struggling with the choosing joy part. I am so good at being mechanical, to ignore my needs an meet others, that my choosing seems to be in that department too. I want to choose something and FEEL it. I so often feel nothing. Or if I do, it is painful. Please pray that God would help open me up emotionally to feel good things, too. Got to go…kids at my shoulder! Thanks!

      • 29

        Kim,
        Balance – what a word! I have often wondered if we live life too much on a tight rope, trying not to fall, scared to fall, frustrated with the balancing act, that we don’t notice the depths that are below and around the “rope” are His arms. I don’t know, God is teaching me about balance – it leaves me a bit “unbalanced:)”
        Dad,
        I pray for my sister Kim…a fellow minister and mother (I suppose we all are). I pray that she will be able to wholly open up before You. We often live “pieced” lives; yet, we were created for wholeness. We often separate the mind from the physical from the emotional from the spiritual. You didn’t create us to live so divided in ourselves, but ever since Eden we have been torn apart! I pray for wholeness for Kim (and myself), I pray her trust in You will grow (and mine), I pray joy will be her victory and no longer her struggle (mine too), and I pray that every need and desire she has will be found in You alone (mine too!)! I thank you for this sweet communion with You and with her and these other beautiful sisters! Wow, didn’t even expect this! Thank you! In Your Holy Name, Amen.
        Thank you Kim!

  9. 30
    Jill B says:

    Wow! I’m sitting in my quiet time chair realizing that the words I see in this beautiful post are reflecting on me like a mirror. Community is so very hard for me. Always has been but over the last 28 months it has been worse. I have found recently that some of the problem comes from me not being confident in who my daddy is. As I continue to know my daddy’s voice and learn from him, he opens the keys to doors that have been locked for too long. Slowly but surely His truth is going to bring me into community with confidence. One second at a time for as long as it takes.

  10. 32

    Dear Ann… God used your words in One Thousand Gifts to help me choose joy! I will forever be grateful! It was such a joy to sit next to you, friend, this past weekend here in Toronto. To hear your story in person & to witness you choosing joy by returning to Toronto, and seeing Sara’s ring on your finger. It was pure joy! *Thank you* Ann!

    Now, with a name like mine… how can I not have always chosen joy? Yet, it took reading your book to realize that I am *always loved*! You wrote this in the foreword:

    “A-I-M-E-E.” Loved one.
    God is always good and I am always loved and eucharisteo has made me my truest self, “full of grace.” Doesn’t eucharisteo rename all God’s children their truest name:
    “Loved one.”

    One Thousand Gifts and the practice of eucharisteo has indeed transformed me. Eucharisteo has allowed me to see Grace every single day. Each new day, I am on the hunt for grace-gifts! And… eucharisteo didn’t need to rename me… like you, Ann, it has made me my truest self, “loved one.” Aimee — it means loved one! :-)

  11. 35

    Ouch. Such food for thought here. I am straining, reaching for joy, yet I have pulled from the body from barbs, scrapes, and wounds. Thank you. I will ponder.

    • 36

      Praying for you as you ponder, dear Holly…

      ‘Show us Your ways, O Lord, teach us Your paths’…have Your way in us as we follow You and seek You with all that we are ~

  12. 37

    There were times when I was facing death that life was easier because I thought the struggle was ending and soon I would be face to face with my Lord, but instead I woke up. I might have been in the ER or on the floor, or some other place struggling to breath, but I woke up. It is odd how much peace comes when you know or believe your next breath could be your last and the next time your eyes opened a far different scene would be taking place. As years drag on and this occurs more times than one wants to remember, it is the staying that gets harder. As the Apostle Paul said, he would rather be with the Lord, but now he was in his earthy tent. Though that earthly tent was wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed. The joy of the Lord set before Him, He endured the cross. Joy is a funny thing; it does not always wear a smile or looks happy. The cross was a very painful thing for Christ, yet He called it joy. Sometimes, what we are called to do for the sack of joy is not about happy things. Just like Christ gives a peace that passes all understanding, so is the joy we are sometimes call to experience.

    • 38

      The line “Joy …..does not always wear a smile or looks happy,” catches me in one of those really difficult seasons. In July my siblings and I had just finished going through my mom’s house, memories, trying to restructure family a year after laying her to rest beside our dad in the cemetary. We chatted about time for a” season of spring” after her struggle and death with cancer, before they left to go back to their homes in other states. Our daughter came home that evening to work on wedding plans for the fall; the first time we had together since her engagement. The next afternoon we recieved a call stating our youngest son collapsed while running and they could not revive him. We have been devasted and overwhelmed with the loss of our encouraging, quirky, loving, visionary 24 year old. Friends, family, church, embodies the word “community”….we are so grateful for them – the continual prayer support, eleoquent candle-lit pre-wedding party for our daughter and fiance, checking in on us to see if we are okay….. and the list goes on. I appreciate the perspective of finding God’s joy…….because it really is difficult to be happy crying at the place where our son’s body is buried….not that far from my parents. I don’t feel joy in wrapping my son’s shirts around me to smell his scent and know I will not get a hug from him in those shirts again…..or walking the parks together…or dreaming over some future possibilities while on the computer….the pain of loss seems to comsume finding joy. It’s been hard finding God’s heart …we all know the right answers in our heads, but it is the processing and waiting …. My Father-God of relationships allowing such immense grief….realizing He knows the loss of His Son for my joy……. but I am so earthy…. so limited ..feeling the coldness of death. Knowing in my mind that I can again be with him, but not being able to communicate and hear his laugh or seeing with my mom-heart that “everythings okay”. So I need to find those joy-seeds….so small my tears cannot see, but hopefully water. They will give me life and a path to my Father’s heart.

  13. 39

    So, so true. And yet I have so much trouble connecting. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.
    Here’s my story:
    http://musingsandmeanderings-mlp.blogspot.com/2012/10/day-2-of-31.html

    • 40

      Seeking Him right with you, sweet Melanie. Remembering that His love endures. Regardless. Praying that His unfailing love will be your comfort today. And in your questions, you will find grace. May His tender mercy surround you as you continue to reach out, Melanie. Trusting Him with you in this. Sending so much love to you…

  14. 41

    I read your book, Ann, a little over a year ago. Since that time, my husband deployed to serve our country for almost a year, and is now back home. But, because of your words and a very intentional thought process of looking for the smallest of gifts in every day, I have found more joy in my marriage, and my kids than I thought possible–even without him here for much of that time! I have such a long way to go, but don’t we all? The community of my church provided to me while he was gone was unexpected and more difficult to receive than I thought it would be. But, God used that time to show me how someone I may not be drawn to initially is still part of His hands and feet here and now. And, that reinforced for me the need to accept that help, assistance, and love from others–so they could do what God has asked of them.

    Now, my wonderful husband is home, and I have started my own list (thank you for the App), and I am realizing daily how much my Creator loves me through every little thing. Thank you for your perspective.

  15. 42

    ” But you can pray through pixels and you can strengthen through screens and community happens wherever grace makes a safe place. ”

    I never met our Sara, either, but she did exactly this, didn’t she? She was the place where grace and safe meet up, and I’ll never get over how I can miss someone I never even met.

    You are that kind of place too, Ann. I’m so thankful you are here, rubbing those beautiful shoulders of yours with us girls. You are pure delight, and I love you more than all the words could ever say. xoxo

  16. 43

    Beautiful, as always, Ann. Glory to God. My favorite line is “joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through those who don’t numb themselves to really living.” Because I believe to really live means asking God to give me heart of flesh when the world gives me one of stone.

    I do believe that joy is a choice – one to reach for with open hands of surrender and hold onto with fierce determination when the enemy of our souls seeks to snatch it. Because sometimes joy does fall into my lap, but how can I grasp it if my hands are full of control-worry. Because there is joy to be had, but only if I really want it. Really take it and hold onto it with gratitude.

    My story of choosing joy? I tell it often – for His glory on my blog, if you have a few more minutes today …

    Yes, joy is a choice, and I am so thankful.

  17. 44

    To choose Joy…sounds simple but often found to be difficult.

    Our only son and his family lived with us for over 3 years. The joy – my amazing grandchildren permeating every nook and cranny of our home…and my heart.

    Anger, hurt, hatred poured out of him like a tsunami…wiping out everything beautiful and loving. Our own son hates us. How does a parent live with that? I have no idea at the time…only pain so deep it is physical. To be told that we will never be allowed to see those precious little people again is like a sledgehammer to my heart. How can this happen? How can life go on?

    After two months there is still not a day that goes by without sobs and tears….and pain. That is my reality. How does one CHOOSE Joy when you can’t even seem to remember what it feels like?

    I curl up on the couch, in the lap of my Abba, and cry my heart out….hoping it will ease the pain. Only He can heal pain that deep. Only He can understand pain that deep. I believe He cries with me. But He doesn’t let it stop there…

    Driving home from visiting a friend. Not knowing where my little angels are. Feeling the loss and the hopelessness. He whispers to the very depth of my heart and hurt…”I know where they are. I’m watching…and taking care of them. They might be beyond your reach just now but they are NOT beyond MMINE!”

    So I choose joy…because I can choose to believe and trust Him. Because He is Joy. Deep joy to heal the deep pain. Oh Abba, I choose you!!

    • 45

      Oh, Kelly. My heart hurts deep with and for you, here. You are right – He can understand the deep pain. He can. And does.
      And through it all, you are choosing Joy. Thank you, Lord.
      {Praying His grace and peace over you now, for the days to come}

  18. 46

    The link to the free printable for “Choosing Joy” is going to the body of Christ one…am I doing something wrong?

    Skimming the above comments the phrase “simple, not easy” keeps coming to mind. I am so guilty of being the burden bearer, listening, praying, sharing examples of others, but keeping myself removed of personal info. I’ve been so hurt that keeping an arms length is the “easiest” for me. How do I learn to WANT vulnerability when I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be?

  19. 47

    I recently read that ‘the expression of delight, warmth and enjoyment are the three things that build attachments with our children the fastest’. Perhaps that was Sara’s secret to building attachments to so many women too – that ‘Choosing Joy’ meant expressing delight, warmth and enjoyment in others…
    Just pondering what it might look like if Christian women the world over, began to express delight, warmth and enjoyment in others…JOY I think!

  20. 49

    Oh Ann…you and Mike Mason…healers in the hands of God…words crafted to reach into the deepest places and touch the deepest longings. You have helped me see the power of choice…I do get to choose this day whom I will serve…I do get to choose to let pain and sorrow be a gift of transformation…I do get to choose to embrace this truth…”There’s no other way to really live. Risking pain is the only way to risk really living — and the only other option is to live safe and dead.” I am too…learning not to run from community…letting God teach me anew His ways in HIs Body.
    words will never suffice to express all the thanks I have for you sweet sister~

  21. 50

    Ann, your post encourages me to choose joy instead of choosing to hold onto hurt.

    The past 22 months have been filled with hurt–hurts that run deep because of who has done the wounding (and I must admit there have been times I’ve chosen to take the exit door first).

    I’ve grown weary in reaching out even when I’ve known I should because I’m afraid of what the next hurt might be.

    But through your words today, I heard the Holy Spririt speaking clearly to me: “The shields you use to protect yourself can become the bars that imprison you alone.”

    Today, I choose joy.

  22. 51

    8 short months ago – 2 weeks after giving birth to my third baby, driving down the road after a quick shopping trip – my Mama announces that she has it – the same disease that Sara had – A.S. I’m hoping and praying that it doesn’t progress like Sara’s did. Lord, hear my cry.

    And now…. anxiety grips me with every little ache or pain I have. Because it’s genetic – and can run in families. And I find myself praying constantly that me and my kids and all the ones on down through the ages are spared. Oh yes, God.

    Lord help me…help all of us here…to choose joy. Let it replace the fear and worry and pessimism.

    Joy is our choice, yes. But He is the one that gives us the ability to choose it. Even that comes from Him – and isn’t something we can muster up on our own. He’s the giver of all good things, oh yes!

    Thanks for the thoughs today, Ann :)

    • 52

      Kate, I’m so sorry for your family’s pain. May the Lord grant your prayers that this illness would not continue on to anyone else in your family. More than that, if it would be to His glory, I ask that He would heal your Mama, body, soul, and spirit, and give her many more blessed and healthy years with your family. Further, I ask that He would pour encouragement into your heart today in the way most meaningful to you, and in a way that tells your heart it is a love gift from Him.

      Grace, mercy, and peace be *multiplied* to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord (2 Peter 1:2).

      • 53

        My goodness. Your precious prayer blessed me today. Thank you a million times over.

        May the Lord reveal Himself to you in surprising and joy-inspiring ways as autumn nestles in!

        Oh yes, thank you so much.

        Have a lovely Tuesday, kind friend.

        - Kate :)

  23. 55

    This is so beautiful, Ann. It made me cry. Even though I only knew Sara through her blog, I miss her. Her courage helped me so much in the chronic illness journey. The hearts of you who knew her in “real” life must ache so much more. Thank you for these honest words and for bringing her back to this place as her story meets yours.

    I recognize myself in so many of your words. Thank you for sharing your struggle and God’s strength. Grace to you in Jesus, dear Ann!

  24. 58

    I really needed this today. Planning to get with a 2-decade-old-friend and we just…can’t…..seem…..to pour…..GRACE on each other. Please pray……

  25. 59
    Scott Lohse says:

    I just started reading the book today and thinking this will be perfect as a starting point for my Advent/Christmas messages. I anticipate the Study Guide with enthusiasm and am going to get the DVD. Thanks

  26. 60

    Hi Ann,

    I. Love. You.

    Today, I spent one hour FaceTiming a friend in England who is dieing. Last night, her liver failed. This morning, she is stuttering.

    But every word. Every smile. Every HUGE dimple that forms when she is creating the next word. It is all worth it. So full of love. So full of God.

    Amazing. I have never met her face-to-face. I have only known her for a few months. But, she is closer to me than any other human. She has taught me the depths of God’s love…and JOY.

    God is so good. I am blessed, to know Anna will be with our Father when she overcomes this trial. I will miss her more than anything. But I will be blessed to know she is with our Father…dimples showing all the time in her smile of praise and adoration.

    Hugs, and all my love,
    Tracy May

  27. 61

    Ann,

    Thnk you so much for sharing this and also for showing the invite. I sooo need this.

  28. 62
    Denise says:

    The things you write are always so touching to me. It goes right to my heart. I so want to have joy. You talk about letting community love you. What do you do when community was taken away from you? When you have been put in a place where there seems not to be any community around you? Or when it seem like all your friends have just forgotten you, people that I though were real friends? I get it, I so get it.
    Thank you for sharing the struggles of your daily life. It really speaks to me!
    Blessings, Ann!

  29. 63

    I so desire community. We live in a very rural area and I spend most days just tucked in here at home. How I long for deep friendships. Trying to foster the few, a very few, little friendships I have made, but find myself rebuffed so much. Everyone else is “so busy”. It’s hard.

  30. 64
    Mary E Flanagan says:

    This is the season. The counting down–the last months of my daughter’s life in 1999. She was 15–my only daughter. Her grave marker–”In His presence is fulness of joy.” For 12 and a half years I keep trying to understand (and practive) that whether here or there we are all in His presence and can have daily joy. That is the gift and the challenge–to live joy full days. This is what I would have told you in Des Moines had there been time. Your book has been read 5 times with new understanding at each reading, earmarked passages-I finish and start again. Hopeful as I face hard challenges each day. I am grateful for so much and hope for miracles. Walking into the future through the pain with the daily joy around me. Grace and peace. Mary

  31. 65

    After years of dancing around an issue, I’m going to share my story with a friend of mine. But I can already feel the joy that comes with truth. I hope that she’ll share her story with me too. And that God opens up doors for us to be sisters to each other and pilgrims on the common road.

  32. 66
    Karen E says:

    I have learned to choose joy — in the midst of all types of circumstances, God has never left me. When I have trusted Him (Romans 15:13), by the Holy Spirit’s power I have been filled with hope and peace and JOY! And yet the feelings can try so hard to win out over joy. What most grieves me at this time is my friend Denise who has done that isolating thing because she is too afraid of the pain she will (not just might) encounter. I miss her so much. She is missing so much of life in all its abundance.

    Thank you for your brave choice, Ann, and for sharing your deep ponderings. God is up to good stuff here!

  33. 67

    I’ve finally learned to choose joy after 10 years of grief over the death of our only child at the age of 21. Her life was so full and joyful. Your book opened my eyes to the joy of my name! You can read my story in the blog, but I credit your book for changing my perspective. And what has God done with this? He has given me opportunities to speak and write and touch people in ministry. I am so thankful for the blessings of your writing; it inspires me!

    I’ll be writing about giving joy away soon with my version of Joy-In-A-Box. This is also touching more lives than I thought possible. God has been waiting for me to speak, and I finally quit fighting Him!

    Counting joy every day since March, 2012.
    JoyMartell

  34. 68
    Amy Kneen says:

    I read your post with a lump in my throat.. I choose JOY! Out of pain.. and heart being ripped. I finally chose true whole forgiveness. And in that came pure joy. As I was set free EVERYTHING became joy! ((and the thanks came even in the pain)) And as I choose joy.. Oh I feel I can take on anything. Climb that mountain high. He has set my feet on a Rock! Crazy passionate Joy because of Christ!! Letting go of unforgiveness made this girl whole~ in Him

  35. 69
    Amy Kneen says:

    I read your post with a lump in my throat.. Your writing touches deep. I choose JOY! Out of pain.. and heart being ripped. I finally chose true whole forgiveness. (I had held on to so much hurt..)And in that came pure joy. As I was set free EVERYTHING became joy! ((and the thanks came even in the pain)) And as I choose joy.. Oh I feel I can take on anything. Climb that mountain high. He has set my feet on a Rock! Crazy passionate Joy because of Christ!! Letting go of unforgiveness made this girl whole~ in Him

  36. 70

    joy a choice?
    for some time now i have considered joy a gift. i just don’t think joy is like a light switch that we can turn on or off. the feeling of joy is a gift that God may choose to give us, but in the same breath, He may choose to withhold the feeling of joy for a greater good that He only knows. maybe it is less about the feeling of joy and the choice to grab hold of it, but perhaps joy is something we choose to enter . i just fear that we neglect too often our feelings and just choose with our minds to do something (ie. choose joy, choose peace, choose goodness) and we cut ourselves off from the true reality of our souls. i think joy is an outstretched invitation to us. always. something far greater than a feeling. an invitation, an extension of the arms of Christ, into the wrists of His wounds. Joy a gift, an invitation from our Father to enter intimacy despite our pain or happiness, despite confusion or anxiety. joy, is the intimacy of knowing we are not being alone.
    just thoughts i’m still processing. thanks for letting me process out loud.

    p.s. i put on my sunglasses before my feet hit the foyer of our church, i head straight to pick up the kids, and my meet my husband in his office. your post hits home. thanks.

  37. 71

    So grateful I found your blog in this season of my life. My mother is losing the battle against heart failure. I ‘m going to stay with her the next few weeks. She wants to take drives in the car to look at Fall that is moving in. My plan is to love on her and show her as much joy as possible. My hope is that she truly sees the Joy in the Lord and can be at peace.

  38. 72

    Ann—you will never know how your words have ministered to me, changed my perspective on my life and God’s heart.

    I found Sara and your book within months of each other, during an extremely painful season. Your book? Changed my eyes, gave me new vision. To see, for the first time, that God is always good, and I am always loved…such a simple truth that eluded me for so long. And oh, to be thankful in all things, because He. is. good in all things; even the hard things…He is still good. In friendships shattered, in screaming kids, in clashing sibling wars, in mountains of laundry…I can trust Him because He is always good and I am always loved. This was my mantra, this was my prayer–that I would believe the words that I read.

    Sara—how I miss her. Never spoke with her, only left occasional comments on her blog. She radiated crazy joy from that blog screen. Recently I read on someone’s blog (I think Jessica Turners’) that Sara “chased down community”. I admit I have been wounded and have wanted community to come to ME. I have wanted people to notice my pain, to notice my heart crying out to be known. I want community, but I want it to be risk-free. If they come to me, then they won’t leave me…right? God has kept people at bay while I wrestle this out…because the truth is that I am extroverted, love being out and about, and love people. The truth is that one of my gifts is reaching out, noticing the lonely. It’s past wounds that have kept me in my own prison of solitude.

    So last week, I decided to chase down community…to allow myself to risk, to take steps outward. To be the one to smile, to say “hi!”, to reach out, to invite. And, of course, He is blessing it. Because He is always good…and I am always loved. :) I am choosing Joy, and it is changing my life.

    Ann—you have tapped into special places in the Lord’s heart. I very much understand the “bolting out of church” thing, because I’ve done it for years. But might I say…you are worth knowing, worth spending time with. You are worth rubbing shoulders with. You have beautifulness written all over you. Not because of your writing, or your family, or your giftedness of photography. Not even because of your amazing insights, or the way you phrase things *just so*. But because of who you are, and Whose you are. Because you risk sharing the hard. Because inside of you is a special gifting, a special purpose that He has for YOU. Because you show us the vulnerable places, the thin places. The hurting places that we all share. Because you are real.

    You love well, Ann. Thank you for teaching this mom, wife, sister, and friend how to be thankful and joyful in the middle of the hard. And thank you for always pointing to Him. He is always good…and we are always loved. :) xoxo from a sister in Minnesota :)
    ps–I love the art you’ve been creating and sharing with us—text on images—beautiful :)

  39. 73
    stephanie says:

    Choose joy….how hard, but necessary. How do I choose joy, when, as a missionary, there is such a visible, unvisible battle waging for my 8 year old son’s little soul? That, at the mention of church, Bible, prayer, there is an anger that lashes out…and as we have felt very moved to pull him from school last year, due to being bullied, and even threatened with a knife (yes, at 8 years old), and seeing character issues we wanted to deal with….now this fall, though obedient to God’s call to walk this road for this season….such assault from the enemy, who longs to rip my son from the fold. And who can I share this with? Such a lonely place when I walk into church, because of many years of hurts…..and ye I know Jesus is there, waiting for me to fall down and lay it down, this burden…..but why is it so hard? Do I think I don’t deserve joy, when there is such a war raging in the heavenlies around me? I don’t know, but thank you for sharing that, though you are choosing to live for Jesus in this messy world, that you don’t have perfect relationships, children, marriage or life, dear Ann. You are human, like me. Oh, that we as believers, would LOVE and infuse JOY to each other, because we are receiving it from HIM….and may my son know this Jesus, this Joy giver, before it is too late.

  40. 74
    Sarah H. says:

    Oh Ann, I just got home from a meeting where I got hurt, yet again. And I came home to read this from you. Just what I needed. Like a cool salve on my burn. I am so thankful for women who have gone through similar things and still choose joy. It is the exact reminder I needed right now. Thank you for sharing. (and my eucharisteo list is still going strong!)

  41. 75
    Martha says:

    Ann, I am seeking joy and God has sent your messages to me so I may know that in the midst of a world of pain, “all’s grace”; that God’s gifts outshine the evil of this world and that my small life as an English teacher (teach creative writing, not because I am creative, but because I love lyrical words and teenagers) is enough- if I love my students and colleagues each day, I count for something in His eyes – if give them the gift of presence and share our loving Father with them.

    I am learning to be at peace with myself, a self that I wanted to destroy for 30 years and tried, but God didn’t let me go and now I know He loves me and I am good enough and that is joy. When I listened to your interview yesterday and heard you say Elisabeth Eliot’s words “Do the next thing,” I wept because her words were the lifeline God had given to me to repeat to myself as I climbed out of a life of despair to embrace each day.

    By the way, I always try to exit church first as well. Maybe I’ll stay and chat next Sunday.

  42. 76

    I am trying to chose joy, but I have fallen so much, but I will try again just because of all of you who’s stories fill me up and wring me out. His Word, His Comfort, His Joy in all things. Sadness surrounds and deepens and sometimes destroys. I commit (again) to chose joy because of and in spite of. Thanks to all you very strong and joyfilled women.

  43. 77
    Audrey Krizman says:

    Joy and pain. Two veins of the same artery, eh? Definately. After a life full of messy parents divorces’ and bitter custody battles that seperated siblings between 2 houses and across 60 miles and scarred the heart..to my own dysfunctional marriage that ended in physical abuse and 7 weeks later after my flee cross country, my husband’s life was finally ended by the drugs that were invisibly slowly killing us all those years. During those deathly years I found Jesus and I found life and I found it abundantly, but only in Him. I didn’t do such a good job of finding the joy durning the pain. Joy in Christ alone, but not much Joy in life around me. There were nights I was yelled at while doors were slammed and I slept alone asking Jesus to hold me because He is the only who would.
    Then after the final death of the my husband’s life and our marriage, not many would come around to share in my pain. It was me and Jesus and my boys. And life was easier in some ways…the lifting of the difficulties of doing life with a closet drug addict…but the pain was deep and dark and lonely.
    God keeps beckoning me to Be Still, rest, and trust in quiteness. For the first time ever life seems to have come to place where I can be still. For the first time life is being filled with blessings…and not blessings that need uncovering…blessings that are right in my face!!! And as strange as it sounds I’m afriad to jump into the joy of it…the joy of new relationships, the joy of loving others through their pain, and the joy of a season of life of tremendous blessings because there is pain too. And I don’t know blessing. I don’t know healthy relationships(not perfect, but healthy).
    It’s no coencidence that I was rereading the last chapter of One Thousand Gifts and God spoke it to me too…”enjoy Me” WOW!!
    BE STILL
    REST
    QUIET
    ENJOY ME
    I will listen and I will obey only because Christ is in me transforming me day by day to be more like Himself. It’s time for a new thing to spring forth.

    Thank you for the encouragement and the constant reminder that all is grace!!

    Audrey

    • 78

      Audrey – I hope Ann won’t mind me stepping in here.
      I have had ten years on my own with children, now aged 15 and 19, following twenty three years of marriage with a closet gambler who eventually chose to leave. Finding deep joy only in Christ is probably the right place for you, for a time ( maybe a long time) after such hurt. The depth of broken trust in the most intimate of relationships, a marriage, can leave us incapable of trusting our own judgement and vulnerable to much insecurity in relationships. May I encourage you to continue finding your joy in knowing Him – truest Friend. Trust Him with your loneliness, while on the outside, fostering friendliness, that genuine interest in others, which though it lacks the intimacy of friendship, will help you to avoid isolation.
      Praying He might mercifully, in time, redeem your pain, and that He might bring you deep and lasting, healing friendships.

      • 79
        Audrey Krizman says:

        Judy,

        Thank you so much for sharing. After my husbands death I also discovered he had a pornography addiction. There was much darkness and pain after his death but I believe He is redeeming the time right now. I am actually in a season now of settling in, after a life of chaos, into a church family and into a relationship with a godly man. I am in amazment as I am watching it happen. The Lord is bringing a stillness to my life that is allowing me to still my mind and that is helping me breath…Selah.

        I have moments in this season of overtly evident joy where I let fear take over. It’s a knee jerk reaction. I’m enjoying forming there new relationships and then some tiny little thing sends me running for cover…scared to be vunerable. But I know the Lord is wanting me to be in relationship with others, not only for me but to help others learn to love the broken and the hurting.

        Much love,

        Audrey

        • 80

          God’s blessings in it all, Audrey – and joy in your future.

          • 81
            Audrey Krizman says:

            Thank Judy. I hope to keep Christ as my number one priority. If you think of it, would you mind praying that I would?:-) Thank you dear sister

  44. 82
    Shereen Lynn says:

    There is much good that is shared among women on blogs these days … gifts of words given back and forth. I enjoy scanning and reading about how joy is chosen and friends are made and cherished.

    Then, the screen goes to bubbles and I push back my chair to take in my RL. Years of putting past hurts aside and coming out of hiding, choosing to find my true self behind the walls, daring to wear vulnerability. Unlike the blog world, gifts in my RL go unreceived. Words are twisted, mis-taken. Choosing to live from my heart, rather than maintain control left me open to women who play games, just like Jr. High. Now it’s with email rather than letters passed in class.

    How can we make the treasure of words we find her online real enough to seep into the life we LIVE?

  45. 83

    Oh Ann…I so hope I get to have coffee or tea with you someday this side of heaven!

    It’s no coincidence that I read your words today as I have been pondering hurt within my own community. Imperfect love it is, but it IS love! Thank you for this reminder – just what I needed!

    I DO think joy is a choice, but I think sometimes it’s a difficult choice, one we have to train ourselves to do. My pastor always talks about our “default setting” that we wake up with every day. And speaking for myself, the flesh is my default setting, not the Holy Spirit! I have been training myself, the moment I wake up in the morning, to pray and ask Jesus to help me walk by the Spirit instead of the flesh – to choose joy, to have my first thoughts of the day be ones of thanksgiving. It’s not always easy, but little by little, the Lord is using this to change me! Thank you for sharing!

  46. 84

    Oh Ann,
    I needed to read these words, needed to feel these words today. I run from closeness and run from love. Hide from community at times too. Why do we do this? With four children, wonderful and blessings…comes four children with type one diabetes. Medical mystery, tough on them. I struggle with finding joy sometimes as I can be shadowed by the sad inside I feel over this. BUT, when I truly remember, truly try, I see the joy all around me. Feel the joy, feel his love and the love of these remarkable gifts.. these boys of mine. Thank you for the reminder today!
    Kim

  47. 85

    I have not lived a very joy full life. Until recently. I’ve had many health issues over the years and this last year in particular, I was very sick with no known diagnosis, it was an awful year, and especially hard to find joy with no answers in sight. I finally did get a diagnosis one year later, which has been a year ago this month. As I started to recover, I started to turn to different books, scripture, anything to pull myself out of this dark and desperate place. I read a quote from Brene Brown one day that changed everything for me….”when I’m standing at the crossroads of fear and gratitude, I’ve learned that I must choose vulnerability and practice gratitude if I want to know JOY”
    Gratitude has changed my life, my marriage, and the way I parent my beautiful 14year old daughter. Every day it is an intentional choice to choose gratitude and experience JOY.
    Thank you for sharing your stories
    Kelly

  48. 86
    Jillie says:

    Dear Ann…At long last I have found a place where I can get a message to you! I’ve been looking everywhere! I sure hope you read this.
    I am a fellow Ontarian, here in Canada. I bought your book early this summer and have begun my own ’1000 Gifts’ list–I’m up to 596. I actually went to a Christian bookstore today to get your book for my friend’s Birthday, plus a journal, but they were all out of your book…again! I’m praying my friend cherishes your book as much as I do. It has changed my outlook and perspective on my life. Your words, which I read daily, are so anointed of the Spirit. I often wonder how you care for husband, children, home, farm, speaking…and still stay so very close to the heart of Jesus?!? It’s like you are ‘otherworldly’. I admire you so much!
    I have seen you on Crossroad’s ‘Full Circle’ and listened to you online as well.
    Two questions: Do you mind me asking in what part of Ontario you live? AND…Could you please tell me WHERE you got your ‘Eucharisteo’ bracelet that you always wear???
    I would love to have one. Thank you Ann. God bless you.

  49. 87

    I am still seeking out my joy story. I accepted Christ almost 2 years ago so the prior 32 years I had lived convinced that joy could only be found in others’ sympathy in my tragedy. I could only feel good when others felt bad about me and about what I was going through. I thrived on it. I will be painfully honest. And this isn’t something that just ah-ha’d me while reading this amazing post by Ann….this has been something I’ve been thinking about lately…how I really am scared of joy. I’m scared of happiness. I’m scared that joy will take away the love of the ones I love. If I don’t need, will they feed? I feel so foolish writing this, so newby-Christian, so young and immature as I turn 35 next year. I am going through horrible times here on the homefront; things God has prepared me for and so I serve willingly and try to do so gladly….but it is so hard I fear I will one day run and give up. So I try. I try to seek Him first. Maybe joy is a scary word, but God is not. I know that word. And I suppose God is joy in many ways. So perhaps I am seeking joy…without realizing it.

  50. 88

    Here is my question. I spent years pretending to be happy. Acting like I was happy. I thought I was choosing joy… But I wasn’t… I was just pretending I didn’t hurt. Now I don’t know what this kind if “choosing joy” looks like, because I don’t want to pretend anymore. But I do want to choose joy if that is truly possible at a deep authentic level. Thoughts?

    • 89

      I really can relate to what you’ve said here, Molly…so often acting happy can be not really authentic as opposed to real, deep joy that we experience when it is in fact authentic. It can be hard to know the difference between choosing that deep joy and simply avoiding something painful….I’ve struggled with that at times too. But I think over time I’m beginning to learn the difference between the two, between what is authentic joy that can be chosen and cultivated and what is simply a pretend happy feeling that comes from running away from painful things or pretending; I think all real, deep joy that we choose always comes from God, so I find prayer to be very helpful in distinguishing between that kind of joy and simply avoiding something that hurts inside; prayer always gives me good perspective on that, seeking God’s advice about it. I think also that joy can come even when we stop pretending and face painful feelings–joy can break in somehow in the midst of that, even though a less deep, sort of superficial pretend happiness can’t. At times I’ve felt great joy even right in the midst of facing great problems or pain because I have a sudden sense of God’s presence that comes breaking through, and that’s the most joyful thing of all! Hope this helps! Prayers and blessings to you!

  51. 92

    I only followed Sara for a very short time and so wish i would have done so longer.
    thank you for sharing this today.
    Working in Girls’ Ministry for Youth I feel this question all the time: “How do you reach out when women can bite?” and they do…in so many ways.
    I’ll be praying for you as you open yourself again!

  52. 93
    Karen Smith says:

    why is it so difficult to let others love us

    wow
    the age old question
    simple
    we need firstly to love ourselves, to accept the LOVE from the LORD to us, deep within our hearts, to open our hearts to those we care about and let them in though they hurt us deeply, they probably have never had someone love them and probably hurt them deeply, so their hearts are shut tightly, why is it so easy for children to love and to accept love, they have not had time to get hurt, they are trusting, why did JESUS say, do not stop the children from coming to ME, cos HE knew they would love HIM and accept HIS LOVE so innocently and trustingly and faithfully without doubt, it is easy to love if but .. let go of fear, let go of self, let go and let God, there is beauty in every person, face to face, it’s hard, but, it’s easy too, it’s not this simple but it’s this simple too, it’s not complicated, we complicate it,
    hope this helps
    the age old question of all time
    wow
    you are right
    choose joy
    choose Christ JESUS
    HIS LOVE

  53. 94

    Ann, I loved this. I’ve never met you but I am a blog stalker of yours… :) and am so thankful for the way I get to read your heart most days. Thank you for helping me choose joy in the midst of the mundane…which makes the mundane NOT so mundane after all, eh? He is in EVERYTHING…and cvhoosing to see and encounter Him in it all is choosing joy….

  54. 96

    If there was a way that Ann could see this, I would tell her that tears stream down my face every. time. I. read. her.
    Good tears, healing tears.
    And, I love her.
    Thank you. You are truly a gift sent to us by God.

  55. 97
    JacquelineB says:

    Hi Ann. Remember me? Miss you.

    I do choose joy and have God-breathed moments of contentment in my days.
    But married to those moments are erratic, timid, disquieted days lived within the walls of my home, my skin.

    How can one know the Perfect Love that casts out fear and still be remarkably apprehensive???

  56. 98
    muchalone says:

    What a touching invitation from your pastor! And so wonderful that you stayed to join your local community after worship! And that it was good.
    Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t stayed…that I had left before stinging words branded my heart deep…and I try to tell myself that it was worth a try…because God determines my worth. And tears never fully wash away the wound that burns deep within, longing for acceptance.
    Joy? I often feel incapable of making that choice and I’m thankful for those moments when God chooses to surprise me with a hint of His joy.

  57. 99

    Can I ask a dumb question? How can I not let joy override my need TO grieve?

    To understand this, let me give you a little background: So far, in my life, I burried my parents when I was in my 20s (I’m in my 40s now), on the day of my dad’s funeral I had my 4th miscarriage, had one more miscarriage, then a failed adoption placement. Afterwards, I was able to carry one little one all the way to 32 weeks before she went to be with Jesus. Along this journey, I learned my husband struggled with his sexual identity , which eventually he acted out on. And even that couldn’t be kept a private matter between us, because he was a pastor…so I lost my friends and ministry, and had no reason to stay married.

    Through it all though, God did some incredible miracles in my life and my husband’s. I have MUCH to be thankful for… but like anything in life, healing comes slowly. The only way I could cope was to “shoulder up” and be numb.

    Or run away…even without running away. Be the first one out the door; don’t invite anyone into my pain-ESPECIALLY NOT women. They’re emotional, and I don’t want emotions! They’ll cry, that’ll make ME cry…and I can’t go there. Cause to go there means opening that BIG box of pain, and I can’t bear to feel that, much less see it.

    But God in His gentle way, started prying off the lid of the box.

    But here’s where I get stuck at. When I start pulling things out to start grieving them, my head starts going, “But wait! You wouldn’t have —-(met, experienced, known, etc…) without going through —(name of painful event).”

    Its as if my head is screaming, “Don’t go there! Choose Joy, because God has been so good to you, you don’t have the right to grieve-especially over past events He’s brought you through.”

    But if I don’t grieve, I’ll move back into being numb…being the first to run out the door… slap on a smile forcing the tears to stay put. And that is STILL NOT living.

    How do I choose TRUE Joy, and not a psudeo-synthetic-keep-me-from-being-authentic-fake-joy?

    How do I keep my brain from hijacking my heart?

    • 100
      muchalone says:

      I don’t have an answer to your question…mostly just the same questions.
      But after reading your honest heart here, I wish I could just sit and grieve with you…and I know–that brings up the feelings you don’t want to feel…I don’t either…but being a silent weeper makes our tears a prison.
      Praying that God will cradle your heart and give you a safe place to feel.

    • 101

      Holly,
      Our circumstances are so different, yet so similar in principle. I’ll try not to repeat here as I’ve written a post just below yours. I, too, don’t have any clear cut answers, but what has been helping is letting go of time tables and expectations. As much as we deal with others’ expectations, we also put expectations on ourselves that hinder. I think its looking at joy differently and allowing ourselves to go through the process of grief….and trusting God with the outcome. For me that has been scary and a new level of faith and trust in Him as I just have never been down this road before or have a clue to know what to expect. So I journal, memorize and cry and sometimes when I look back over the course of a week or a month, I have cried less. And then I know, God is healing me. This last year I have for the first time, grieved the loss of my mother, who is still alive and yet it is so clear to me, that that position has really be in name only in my life.

      I pray that God will minister to you and heal you inside and out, in a way that only He can.

  58. 102

    I wasn’t going to write. As I read the posts yesterday, all I could think of “what’s wrong with me?” God has been so good, so gracious for so very long. But as I went through my day, thinking about choosing joy, I realized once again, choosing joy for me is as different as all the other posts. I do choose joy, I have chosen joy most of life….it just looks different than what I think it should. When one has a burden that won’t go away, such as growing up with a mentally ill mother and still dealing with the issues, buried and ongoing, what does joy look like?

    In your blog on the 26th, Ann, you ask the question “In the Body of Christ, a mind can break just like a leg and if we don’t hide the shattering of our bones, why be ashamed of the shattering of our hearts?”

    I can’t fully put into words how this question resonated with me. How do you do it, but through the Holy Spirit speaking through you. Thank you seems like such an understatement, but thank you and thank you to our Great God who uses each other to touch us.

    So in spite of being a daughter of a mentally ill woman for 48 years, being a Christian in churches where mental illness has been ridiculed, hidden, and ignored, I have chosen joy. Each day I get up and learn again to take each day as a new start, I choose joy when I memorize God’s word…I choose joy when I read encouraging words from books and blogs….I choose joy when I exercise …. I choose joy when I am transparent whether other people are comfortable or not…etc, etc, etc

    So middle age has taught me that my joy may not look like what I think it should. It comes from within. It comes from knowing that I am in God’s hands and regardless of what the future has in store, I have today…one hour at a time to choose whom I will serve.

    • 103

      Thank you Barb,
      I am learning to share your perspective. That choosing joy does not eliminate the struggle, does not fix the circumstances, but assists in helping me get through another day.
      One of the situations of my life is also a mom who has the same challenges as your mom. One of the choices I make is not to hide the shattering of my heart. In this way I hope to make it safer for others in the shadows to peak out and say, “me too.”
      The shattered bones of a broken leg may leave someone with a permanent limp, the need for a cane or even a wheelchair. The shattered heart sometimes leaves a quieter, more cautious nature, a tendency to hide or to bluster or to lash out.
      My pain is not on display for everyone but I have been able to find some I trust and occasionally I do find a moment to let the wider world know there is a way to not be so alone and there is a God who holds and comforts and brings enough joy for survival and even for celebration today in the middle of the mess.
      I love your paragraph on what choosing joy looks like in your life’s routine. Some days for me it is being on my porch, under His sky and feeling His caress in the wind and His kiss in the sun on my face, knowing these are gifts.

      • 104

        Thank you Annie, for responding. We humans are such weird creatures at times. I really don’t want anyone to experience what I do, but when I know someone else understands, really understands, it seems like a blessing. Transparency is hard, but for the church to change its thinking and acknowledgment of mental illness, the church needs us to not hide, doesn’t it?

  59. 105
    Peggy S says:

    Oops, I’m late getting to this. Maybe that means less people will read it. I hope. My Choose Joy came also when reading your book. I’m not sure how long ago. But I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when I began waking in the middle of the night with back cramps. Then a year and a half of being house-bound due to a cyst on my spine, which we thought was just the FM. I could see only time spent at home. Not serving. Not loving of the youth group. Alone. Lonely. But your book helped me find purpose and strength in merely (merely, hardly) being in His Word daily. And praying. Praying for a sister in Christ who was also house-bound. Asking her to pray for my pain, and I would pray for her’s. And in this way I began to think of others, not myself. Physical pain has a way of being selfish! You can’t do that! You must take care of me, your pain! But God in His awesome love helped me to grow more in that 18 months than the 30+ years of His salvation in me. Surgery relieved my pain, somewhat. But, I hope, new patterns of thought have taken hold of me. His word is a light unto my path. And drawing near to Him, He then inclines (bends down to hear me) to me as I whisper in His ear. So personal. So never-alone. Help me, Father, to dwell in Your house forever.

  60. 106

    Choose Joy… It sounds so easy – you just make a choice to do it… but as with others on here it’s something I struggle with at the moment. 18 months into a battle with depression and anxiety – with no clear view on how long I’ll be feeling like this – I can’t just choose joy much as I would like to. I just don’t ‘get’ it. I know God has a plan etc and that this depression/anxiety will make me stronger as a result but there’s too much to let go of before I can feel joy. I mean real joy. I am not content with where I am, I hate feeling so low. Anywhere there are crowds I try and avoid. The worship at church is tough too… noisy, loud singing, and it just feels like it’s all pressing in. Many a time I stand/sit in church willing myself to stay where I am and not run out.

    It is reassuring that others are finding joy – that gives me hope. It terrifies me to be vulnerable to others yet I know that is the only way to wholeness… the risk of rejection to me is a very great fear and one that is stopping my accepting God’s joy for myself.

    Ann, thank you for your honesty and openness, it gives me hope that I can be vulnerable and still be accepted for ‘me’… a long journey still to go but know that you are lighting the way. I only hope I can do the same for others some time in the future.

    I have been following your blog- albeit vaguely – and have got your book though not yet read it… I will endeavour to do both more regularly as the encouragement found within is God-given and stuff I need to listen to. x

    • 107

      Hi Alex,
      I have experienced that same ‘willing myself to stay where I am and not run out’ – I found sometimes that it helped me to leave the main room and sort of hang out in the foyer, just nearby… at a distance and able to hear a little but not to have to be right in the middle of it all. Or even to sit down quietly and just breathe (pretend you are praying if that helps.)
      Depression and anxiety can feel so much like they are controlling my actions and my very thoughts, so I had to battle hard and receive little changes as progress.
      ‘I will not SHOULD on myself.’
      -holding out a hand for when you are ready for just one more step.-

      • 108

        Thank you Annie… it’s always encouraging to find there are others who feel the same. Why is it we always think we are the only ones to feel like this – it took me a while to start being open to a select few – then found out that some of them felt very similar! It helps keep at bay the fear that I’m not ‘normal’!

        Quite often sitting down and pretending I’m praying is the only way I can cope… it’s as if the only way I can worship is to do it my way. Trouble with leaving the main room albeit only to go to the foyer is that I don’t want to draw attention to myself and have people coming to check on me when I just want some quieter time. Maybe it’s just the case of having the courage to do so…

  61. 109
    Pastor Jeremie N. says:

    Yes, choosing joy! This is good and it make someone live longer. But sometime in the community you meet people who distubs so much. Once they do it morally responsible, it is then hard to keep joy. Any way, it is helpful to choose joy.

  62. 110
    Laura (Frankl) Pedersen says:

    Thank you for your precious words and for continuing to honor my dear sister! She loved you and many with all her heart! Knowing that she continues to touch lives here on earth brings much joy! Thank you!

    Love and blessings to you.

  63. 111

    Thank you for all you open up and share. Have been feeling grace and love pouring across my heart and soul through your blog over the past year. I have been telling God I am so weary of “pulling myself up by the bootstraps” for some time now, and I heard a gentle reply through your words. Deeply touched. Thank you.

  64. 112
    Beth Williams says:

    Great words of wisdom. It is often hard to choose joy in the midst of pain & chaos. Do yourself a favor and try to find the good in everything!

    Choosing to be joyous will help you stay healthy & will permeate to others around you!

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