Choosing Joy: A Lifestyle of Gratitude

I’m all about lifestyles these days!

We define how we eat as a “lifestyle.”

We live a simple living lifestyle.

Aaaand, of course, I live an essential oil lifestyle as well.

But the past few months I’ve been disciplining myself in a new lifestyle, and it’s one that has been life-changing for me!

Choosing Joy

This new lifestyle isn’t something “new” in the sense that no one else does it, but rather, new to me. It’s basically an attitude shift, and a conscious decision to act, think, speak, and love a different way.

As a Christian mom, sure, I think about being joyful. But when I actually stopped and worked on making that thought into an action, it started to make a world of difference to me!

We all choose things every day. Even without thinking about it we choose. We choose what we wear, what food we will eat, what music we’ll listen to, what work we will do. All of it, consciously or subconsciously is chosen by our brain and performed by our bodies. I believe heart issues are exactly the same. We choose. We choose to obey or we choose to sin. We train our bodies certain ways to automatically choose certain things, and it is no less important that we train our minds the same way!

I recently was blessed to speak at a ladies’ Christian fellowship event. I shared my testimony with them and also shared how meaningful this discipline of choosing joy has become for me. I thought I’d share here a few of the things I shared with them in the hopes that you might be encouraged, too!

Choosing Joy is Our Weapon of War

I was recently at my sister’s 4th delivery. She did amazing, especially considering it was completely un-medicated. I think I expected her 4th to be somehow easier, but you know, it was really hard! Childbirth never gets really easier. We just get more prepared for it each time. If you’ve experience natural birth you know how incredibly hard it is at the end, in transition, when you can literally think of nothing but all the pain you’re in! You start to feel a bit insane with pain, and I know I usually start talking about how I can’t go on, I can’t do it anymore, I want to give up and go home.

It’s ridiculous, of course, but I always feel that way! The midwives teach us techniques, though, of how to get through that pain. My sister was amazing when she started doing what they call the “horse lips,” literally just blowing her pain away. It helped her get there so much more easily! It doesn’t actually take the pain away, but it helps you focus on what’s really important and be able to function through all the craziness, so you can get to your goal: delivering a baby!

That’s a little like what choosing joy is. It’s a method of survival in a world full of chaos, pain, and grief. It’s a weapon of war to help us fight through days of darkness, despair, and the want to give up. It’s a beacon of hope for us when everything else is dark and void and meaningless.

For the Joy Set Before Him

I believe we can choose joy. I believe we are commanded to choose joy. Paul says we are to “rejoice always!” (1 Thess 5:16). That word always doesn’t leave much room for excuses!

We cannot choose joy on our own, however. We have absolutely nothing to be joyful about without the work and sacrifice of Jesus. We have to constantly remember him and what motivated him to die for us!

I love this passage in Hebrews chapter 12:1-3:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Jesus had joy! Jesus suffered immense pain, persecution, and separation from God, and yet HE CHOSE JOY. It was a joy to him to redeem a people for his own possession, to save you and me and to present us holy and blameless before God! That was his joy! And our joy is fueled by and stems from his joy! Because of him we are able to lay aside sins that entangle us, we are able to run with endurance our race. How? By fixing our eyes on Jesus, the one who gives us our faith and perfects it, and who was joyful to suffer on our behalf. How can we not be joyful in light of that?

This passage comes off the heels of Hebrews 11, the great “faith”  chapter of the Bible. The people described here are men and women of faith, people who looked to Jesus expectantly, yet never got to see the fulfillment of their hopes. They were people who were joyful in expectation and radiant in the hope of a savior. And that’s exactly how we are to be. We’ve seen Jesus revealed in the Scriptures, but our joy now stems from the hope that he’s returning very soon to redeem us finally and fully. Isn’t that something to be overwhemingly joyful about?

Practical Ways to Choose Joy

I certainly don’t have it all figured out, dear mamas and friends. I certainly don’t look to Jesus as often as I should, or choose joy all of the time. But I have learned a few “battle tactics” to help me survive, to help me say yes to joy, and I want to share them with you in the hopes that they’ll be a blessing in your life as much as they have been in mine.

  1. Choose joy. Yeah, I know, I said that already. But what I mean is, make it your goal, your conscious effort to choose joy. Somedays that looks like me literally praying, “Lord, I don’t feel like being joyful. Please help me to choose joy in this situation!” And he does! The Lord answers in astounding ways. I literally stop where I am at times and pray this out loud. My kids might think I’m crazy, but for me, it’s so helpful!
  2. Turn on the music! I have 3 kids 5 and under, so believe me when I say I get grumpy sometimes. Kids are a lot of work! They fight, they disobey, they whine, they break things, they pee on the floor… all of that, and I don’t always respond like I should. I get grumpy, I get angry, I yell sometimes. But I’ve found that when we turn on music everybody gets happier. Sometimes we just sing hymns out loud together, sometimes I turn on Pandora to a Fernando Ortega or Audrey Assad station, sometimes we turn on Disney Princess songs, and sometimes I play the piano and they all dance. Music is a beautiful gift that inspires joy involuntarily. (Mamas, you might also like my post When Motherhood Defeats You)
  3. Post scripture and inspiration around your home. This can look any way you want to. I like to do chalkboard art and write out pretty verses for my walls. Sometimes I’ll do sticky notes different places, or print out a passage of scripture to put next to me while I do dishes… whatever it looks like, having reminders around the home is a simple and effective way to keep our minds on scripture and truth. One of my favorite verses that I’ve had up before is Galatians 6:9, which says: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap, if we don’t grow weary.” What a beautiful truth that is. I also have a simple little sign on my mantle that says “choose joy.” They’re just reminders of what we are fighting for. Battle flags, if you will.
  4. Simplify Things. This may sound like more work, and it is, initially, but I’ve found time and time again when I simplify my home we are all happier. Fewer toys means fewer fights, somehow. The children learn to be content with what they’ve got. Fewer clothes means less laundry which means a much happier mama! Less clutter means simpler days for me and inspires me to be grateful for the beautiful things I do have. The list goes on, but I’ve personally experienced great freedom in letting go of stuff and learning to enjoy the simplicity of life. Plus, when there’s less stuff, there’s less cleaning to do, which means more time we can spend enjoying each other!
  5. Change up the Routine! This may seem basic too, but I find sometimes we are tempted to get grumpy and complain because we are bored. So, we often end up spending a lot of time outside exploring, painting pictures, baking cookies, or reading new books. We try to choose things that are fresh and captivate the mind. Busy minds and hands seem to make for happier people, in my experience! Pull out the finger paint, make happy messes, go for a walk, bake together, gather a nature collection… whatever it looks like for you!
  6. Meditate on Truth. This goes along with posting Scripture, but meditating on a passage is so helpful for me when I make the time to do it! I try to routinely work on memorizing various passages and when I have time I try to chew through the words and think about their impact. Having Scripture on my heart and mind just naturally makes me more joyful. And it makes it easier to say no to sin.
  7. Let go of what we can’t control. I know that’s so hard to do! If you’re like me we just want to control every little detail of our lives. But God has made us dependent for a reason, and that is so we will learn to trust him for our every need. So letting go of future, uncertain things, and choosing to rest in God’s sovereignty is freeing and inspires joy. When we are truly resting on God’s promises we can truly have joy in his plan. Sometimes this literally looks like me telling God I need help. I often pray out loud, as I’ve said. I just try to remember to stop what I’m doing when I’m overwhelmed and look to my Father who has it all in control. And he brings comfort in ways I never expected when I turn to him instead of to my own fears and misgivings.
  8. Bring joy and beauty into your home! Bring in flowers, bring in nature, use essential oils, burn candles, make yummy food, get some new pillows… whatever it is that helps inspire joy in your home, do it regularly! For us it’s often diffusing a yummy blend of essential oils and baking together. There’s something joyful about the smell of wild orange or peppermint while you’re baking your favorite molasses cookies!
  9. Find time to be alone with God. This is a huge one, and perhaps should be first on the list because, without this one, all of these others are probably not going to go so well. God created us to be in communion with him, just like Adam and Eve were in the garden. They walked and talked with God. I wonder, how many days go by that you don’t walk or talk with God? That you don’t read your Bible, journal, or pray? I know I don’t always do great with this when my life feels busy! Making time for this is absolutely vital if we are ever going to survive this crazy thing called life! It certainly is so if we want to be able to choose joy.
  10. Keep a journal! I keep a joy journal and I fill its pages with everything that inspires me and makes me happy. I have quotes about seasons and nature, inspirational Bible verses, pretty doodles and hand-lettered words, list of favorite things, prayers that have been answered… all of that I write down often and sometimes when I’m sad I pull out that little book and peruse the pages. It always cheers me up and reminds me how good God has been to me. I really, really recommend beginning a small joy journal! I don’t use it every day, but I try to pull it out several times and week and either read through it or add to it (or both!).

Take heart, dear sisters!

I don’t do any of this as well as I’d like, and it’s a constant battle for me too! But it’s an improving battle, and it’s one I’m seeing victory in day by day through Christ, and so I share all of this in the hope that you will be encouraged to fight for joy, too.

As women we have to fight very hard against all the lies around us telling us that we have to look a certain way, have a certain-sized house, drive a certain car, be a certain type of mom. Lies that say we must make a certain amount of money to be truly happy, that we have to be like so-and-so, that we must be perfectly put together at all times, that it’s not okay to be weak and cry, that we can never have victory over sin. Lies that say that God is not good, that he doesn’t love us, that he’s not really enough… there are so many more lies out there, and they are all dangerous lies that will stifle the love and joy right out of us if we allow them to.

So let’s be women that choose joy daily. Let’s ask the Lord for grace and strength. Let’s put practical things in place in our lives and homes so that we can more easily choose joy, choose love, choose obedience.

Is that something you desire?

Laura Beall is a lifestyle blogger and writes about simple living, faith, family, and motherhood. She is an essential oil educator and shares simple DIYs, recipes and tutorials for using essential oils and natural remedies. She also shares her love for food and nourishing recipes. She lives with her husband and 3 children in Kansas City Missouri where she works from home, homeschools, and enjoys being outdoors and gardening.

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