“Make sure you choose Joy®…” I called after my son. We were in the supermarket and his assignment was dish soap. His brothers had been dispatched in different directions: one’s mission was milk and the other was headed to the bakery.
“Uh huh,” he said, without turning around. I say the same thing every time we need dish detergent.
We always get Joy dishwashing liquid. I like the orange kind (because the color goes with the walls in my kitchen) but will buy the lemon variety if that’s the only kind available. Even though I have a soap dispenser built into my sink, I keep the bottle out so we can see the label.
It’s a good reminder for my family and me to think about joy. Joy is a choice. We may not be able to control everything that happens in life, but we can control our attitudes about it.
Not long ago I came across a speech my late mother had delivered one year at a Relay for Life event. My mom was a cancer survivor. She talked about that and mentioned that she had “also experienced the terrible disappointment of divorce – and financial disaster, too.” But she didn’t want to focus on the hardships. She challenged us to choose our attitudes, choose our experiences, choose to be the best people we can be, choose to create the life that we want to live.
And she concluded with “Choose joy! And let your light shine brightly in the world.”
Everyone experiences hardship in life. God allows trials and tribulations to help us grow into the people we were meant to be, to draw us closer to Him. He will never give us more than we can handle with His help.
I can choose to be happy even if I don’t get the raise I’d hoped for. My kids can endeavor to be good sports even when they lose a baseball game. We can find moments of joy even during times of great sadness like loss of a loved one.
I remembered the time when I had flung myself face down on my bed, sobbing, lamenting that I felt completely alone and resentful that I was in charge of “everything.” I could no longer call my mom to ask “How do you cook leftover lasagna without drying it out?” Or “Can you take so-and-so to soccer practice?” Or “Do these shoes work with this skirt?” Or “Do you want to come over for dinner and ‘Family Movie Night?’ ”
But I couldn’t indulge in self-pity for too long; I know I’m not really in charge anyway. That much was perfectly clear when my mom, who was healthy and vibrant just the weekend before she was hospitalized, became sick overnight, slipped into a coma the next day, and passed away less than two days after that. People asked me, “How?” “Why?” “Had she been sick?” “I don’t know,” “I don’t know,” and “No,” were all I could answer. Doctors couldn’t explain it either. Only God knew. It is through trials that we learn to have faith, to let go and let God work in our lives.
One of the joys during the time of my mother’s passing was witnessing God’s children come together for a common purpose. It didn’t matter what religious denomination they were or whether they were affiliated with any church at all, they allowed God’s love to pour through them to my family and me, and each other, as we tried to come to terms with a sudden and unexpected loss.
One day recently when I was wondering if I really was “the worstest mother in the world,” I was trudging along the rail trail with the proverbial dark cloud looming overhead. It had been a thankless morning. However, if I hadn’t been walking so slowly, I wouldn’t have noticed that the black raspberries on the bushes alongside the trail had begun to ripen. This was enough of a bright spot in my morning: a seed of happiness that led to hope, that restored my joy and my faith that everything will and does work out for the good.
Sometimes sadness or pain is a little wake up call that something needs to be changed, such as our approach to solving a problem or even just our attitudes.
Because the detergent my son chose that day proclaims that it’s not only “Ultra Joy” but also antibacterial soap, we’ve been using it for bubble baths. My boys bathe regularly in “out-of-the ordinary, extreme” joy.
As my mother said, “Choose joy! And let your light shine brightly in the world.”