02052016_James1-3

I’m a party girl. Not the rootin’ tootin’ dance on a table top, swing from a chandelier “girl-gone-wild” type. I’m more of the games, themed decorations, cutesy door prizes soiree socialite. What I enjoy even more than attending parties is planning them. In the past few decades I helped organize 11 weddings, more than 60 business events, 12 bridal showers, 22 baby showers, and at least 35 birthday bashes.Planning parties meshes so much of what I love –people, food, expressions of connection, and fun activities — into one afternoon or evening.

Sometimes I throw a different type of party all together. The pity party.

A few weeks ago in the middle of what I like to call a crazy-making day, I decided to throw a party of the pity variety and deemed myself the worthy honoree. You know the kind of day I’m writing about. Mine started with a cold shower, spilled coffee, lost library books, misplaced keys, and bickering children. The post-dawn frenzy spun into me snapping at my kids, slamming my heel with the car door, and squirming in a 45-minute traffic jam because I drank too much coffee before spilling it all over my blouse.

The day only worsened as it ticked on. One mishap joined another until I was spent faster than a fifty-dollar bill in Target. I returned depleted to a messy house, and I morphed into the toastmaster of my personal woe-filled hullabaloo. I stomped. I pouted. I cried. I’ll save you from the gloomy itinerary of the rest of my pity party except to say it included me ceremoniously proclaiming myself as a second-class citizen in my own home. Not. Good.

I invited a friend to the festivities.

I shared the every gritty detail of my day, expecting her to tell me that it was permissible for me to wallow. But she didn’t. Instead, she validated that I had the right to feel crummy, but encouraged me to press into Jesus for endurance. She reminded me that everything that happened to me that day didn’t deserve the power to keep tripping me up. She was right.

It’s critical to allow oneself to feel all the feelings that come with disappointments and tough days. Sitting with our emotions and examining them is one of the key components to rising after an emotional fall. It’s natural and healthy to stare a setback head on and think, “This stinks,” or “This hurts,” or even ask probing questions like, “Am I really mad about losing my keys or is there something else driving this anger?”

Naming pain and falling into the pity party trap are two completely different coping mechanisms.

When I process painful emotions, I lean into Jesus. My faith in His love and promises comfort me as I hurt. When I compile a mental list of how I’ve been wronged by the universe and fall into self-pity mode, my focus shifts from what is pure and soul-healing to what I think I deserve.

After I talked to my dear friend, a scripture song written by Rob and Wendy Jacobson flooded my mind.

“The joy of the Lord will be my strength. I will not falter. I will not faint. He will be with me for all of my days. The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Recalling a melody I had learned while in college more than 20 years ago, helped untangle the mess of the day.

Jesus doesn’t promise that our days will brim with one happy moment after another. But the joy we have in Him and through Him and because of Him provides the fortitude to make it through the rough stuff.

Though my day included a multitude of mishaps that opened up feelings of fear, inadequacy, and frustration, it also contained blessings that I barely noticed until I shifted away from self-pity. A co-worker took the time to tell me how much she appreciates my insight; new friend presented me with a lovely and unexpected gift; my son hugged me tight and told me that I’m beautiful.

Turning my heart back to the Source of Joy enabled me to turn my pity party into a praise party.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” {James 1:2-4, NIV}

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