I Choose Joy!

That day, my nursing supervisor called me to intervene with an employee situation. Since I’d worked in mental health for fifteen years before becoming a school nurse, she depended on me to help settle down a staff member who was upset, out of control about a student situation she felt had been mishandled. By the time I arrived at the school, the employee appeared to be manic and was distrustful. I spoke with the guidance counselor who had knowledge of the incident. Before I left her office, I noticed a banner above her desk that said, I Choose Joy!

I met with the troubled employee and eventually she calmed down and left for the day. Later she got the help she needed. Over time, that incident faded from my memory, but the banner never did.

I Choose Joy!

colorful-colourful-desktop-backgrounds-909

What a simple, declarative statement. Years later, I remembered that banner.  Three days after I received my breast cancer diagnosis, I was lying across my bed on a Friday after work, feeling totally downcast, overwhelmed with the long road of treatment ahead of me. My sadness was interrupted by a phone call from my cousin, Ron. He told me he’d just found out about my cancer.

“Connie, you’re not going to believe this, but God is going to bring you such joy,” he said, my cousin who knew about hard times. He’d had many health problems, including cancers and a liver transplant. His life appeared to be one challenge after the other, and we often thought he had ‘9 Lives.’

He went on to explain.

“You’re going to be aware of God and all the ways he works during this time,’ he said. “I know, because that’s what has happened for me.”

How can that be? I thought. With the chemo that I faced, inevitable losing of my hair, thirty-plus rounds of radiation, events that I’d miss when I had to avoid exposure to crowds, how could I experience Joy in those circumstances?

Weeks after our phone call, I was reading in the Psalms, my go-to book of the Bible when I went through cancer treatment. I identified with the Psalmist crying out to God in despair. My poor concentration could handle a pithy psalm, like the one in  the first portion of Psalm 86:17 (NIV):

” Give me a sign of your goodness”

 On mornings when I started the day feeling I just couldn’t make it through all the challenges, I prayed that Psalm. Then I’d watch to see how God answered my plea.

fullsizeoutput_955

Morning at Iona

I don’t know how much of seeing God’s answer was because my eyes were focused on the goodness in my path, and how much God placed things there after that prayer. Maybe some of both.

Over the past few years, my morning devotional before my walk, comes from Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. I am grateful to Sarah for how she writes in a way to help the reader see things from God’s POV. Her words have been used in my life to help me become more present to God in each moment. In the October 5threading in Sarah’s book, she writes:

“Remember that Joy is not dependent on your circumstances.” And further down the page, “True Joy is a by-product of living in My Presence.”

Now her words help me to put these pieces about Joy into a more fully-formed understanding.

Ron experienced that Joy going through his crises because he lived in God’s presence. No matter how much the impact of the anti-rejection drugs wore down his body, he chose to be present with God, and that’s how he experienced joy.

Thinking of the banner, I Choose Joy, that action of choosing is key. Choosing to be present with God, is choosing Joy.

IMG_0755

God’s presence in Notre-Dame Cathedral

That verse from Psalm 86 asking God to “Give me a sign of your goodness” works when we are present to God in each moment, able to see the blessings in our path, no matter our circumstances.

I’m grateful for that banner in the guidance counselor’s office all those years ago. Now, at those times when I feel downcast, I remember that Joy is a choice. I have the power to choose no matter what challenges I face. May we all be able to say

I CHOOSE JOY!

spring-1281153_1920

How About You?

Is there a situation in your life where you need to choose Joy?

How would taking that action step change that experience?

 

 

 

 

Finding the Divine in the Everyday

The evening after my third chemotherapy, I was lying on my bed and barely able to lift my head.  My nausea and fatigue had increased with the cumulative impact of the medicine.  It was distressing to think I had to go through three more infusions, scheduled once every three weeks, and after that thirty radiation treatments.  In my cast down state, I turned to the Psalms my go-to book of the Bible.  I identified with the cries of the Psalmist and had just enough concentration for the pithy verses.

Thumbing through the chapters, the first portion of Psalm 86:1 (NIV) caught my attention: “Give me a sign of your goodness.”  I could think of nothing good, only the daily strain of dealing with cancer treatment, trying to maintain our home life, and struggling with my job.  In the darkness of that hour, all I could do was pray the Psalm, “God, give me a sign of your goodness.”

pink-lily-4-1494852-1278x960

Give Me A Sign of Your Goodness

I wondered if that prayer would make any difference, given my situation.  I found myself changing “Give” to “Show me your goodness.  Was it because I needed the eyes of my heart opened?

I waited and watched, almost like I was daring God to do something.  Some of me was dug in, determine to be despondent—like I could get something good from a martyr’s stance.  Finally, I began to notice what could be answers to that prayer.

In my mailbox arrived a stack of “Thinking of You” cards that matched the number of medical bills.  A co-worker offered to help me sort through the insurance statements that totally overwhelmed me.  A friend called to invite me to go to the mountains for the weekend.

Some days nature was the provider of that goodness; our Heavenly Blue morning glory vine delighting me with a mass of those stunning blooms; my Golden Retriever, Molly snuggling next to me as we sat together on the porch; a beautiful walk at sunset with a horse neighing as a blue heron landed over a neighbor’s pond.  All of these reminded me of the steadfast beauty of creation, how nothing could change that.

IMG_0341

My first Golden, Molly

While it’s been years now since those days of cancer treatment, I still look to that Psalm when I lose my way.  When I’m discouraged and everything seems to be a challenge, I try to remind myself to step back, take a moment, and pray for a sign of God’s goodness.

I’ve thought about whether God causes new things to show up, or were those things present all along—waiting for me to have the eyes to see?  I think maybe it’s both.

When I’m listening for God’s direction in my life, through that ‘still small voice’ inside of me, sometimes I’m directed to do things for others.  I get the nudge to make a phone call, an impulse to send a card, the courage to approach that stranger that God has put in my path.  The longer I live, the more I see that when I, and others, follow that intuition—that leading from within, people receive what they needWhen I’m moving in my own direction and paying attention only to my agenda, some of these needs undoubtedly go unfulfilled.

By opening the eyes of my heart, God prepares me to receive the gift that will meet my need.  While these things may seem very everyday—the phone call, a colorful sunset, the comfort of your dog, they become Divine because their source is our Creator and they are a healing balm for our souls.

 IMG_1620

What about you?

Have you seen God’s goodness show up in the Everyday when you most needed it?

How did that sign make a difference in the direction of your life?

Have your actions supplied that Divine sign for someone?