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Free to Find Joy
Photo: Steve Ford Elliott
Going through life, someone taught me or I absorbed the concept, that life will always disappoint you—so do not hope for much since you will just be disappointed. I also learned the expectation that if I was a good Christian, that all my ducks would be in a row, and I would have a happy life.

Somehow I also thought that it was my duty to be miserable; that I did not deserve to be happy if all my ducks were not in a row; hopelessly trapped in perfectionism and unable to tell you “I’m fine.”

Several weeks ago, I had one of those “Aha” moments where I discovered a major secret of life. Mind you, it took me almost 50 years to figure this out. I had been struggling with what to do to help my aging parents, from 1200 miles away. I was anxious, unhappy and figured I would be in that state for the rest of my life. My emotions were spiraling downward. I think I felt responsible for the pain and suffering of which I was aware. I did not believe that I had a right to be joyous when my parents, children, neighbors, or church members were suffering. Therefore, that made life one long funeral dirge.Yet while walking my dog, I timidly started to take delight in small things about my day—birds singing, blue sky, my ability to be mobile. Not everything about my day was ruined just because some things were bad. Life does not need to be perfect in order to have some enjoyment! Wow, I was onto something. Could it be, that God was giving me permission to enjoy my life in Him, even though the prospects for bliss on this earth were nil?

How can we inject joy into our days and feel free to smile? If the babies and my dog could, I believe they would suggest:

(1) Remember to use your magnifying lens and your microscope. When the little annoyances threaten to rob your day of peace and purpose, ask God to show you the Big Picture. Life is not all about me, and it is very short—be happy to dispense grace for Him. The flip side is a need to narrow one’s focus from a big, ugly messy world, to one beautiful flower, an inspiring painting, a new inspirational song, a talk with a child. Which leads me to the next point,

(2) Turn off the news and do not read the newspaper. Our emotional and cognitive processing abilities were not designed for responding to worldwide events—thrown at us every 30 minutes with photographs and sound bites. Literally, take a media holiday and dwell on God’s Word for your sense of security.

(3) Take simplicity breaks, like holding a baby, walking the dog, baking a loaf of bread. Stroking a pet can lower your blood pressure and make you feel more peaceful. Short walks are very helpful in turning depressions around. Washing a car and baking food are things that bring immediate results. My daughter finds visits to the pet store restores her sense of balance in life and brings her joy.

(4) Each day I serve a personal Savior who renews my inner life, even while my body and the rest of the world is wasting away. He is victorious and He is King of the Universe. Life is about smiling and crying. They both exist in one person, during one day, and in one lifetime.

It is a good day. The flowers keep blooming, the birds keep singing, my dog keeps wagging his tail, babies smile, and people do kind things for each other. Because God’s Spirit is still with us, with me.

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By Karen Spruill, M.A. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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