Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to my MOPS friends about Joy. MOPS stands for Mothers of Pre-Schoolers, if you didn’t already know. I was invited to join this group two years ago and I am so very glad I did. It definitely led me on a journey to joy.
But let me back up…
MOPS recommends a topic each month for your group to focus on and this month it was “Choosing Joy.” It was suggested that I was a great person to speak about this topic because of how fabulous my life is! Eh-hem, I mean how joy-ish I am despite how hard my life is. Having spoke about our family four other times in the last couple years to different groups, I felt up to the task. Of course, as the date was looming, I felt like a fraud. “Who am I to speak about joy? I take depression medication, eat and drink my feelings and spend a number of hours a week hiding in the confines of my bedroom under my covers. This is silly!”
But as I was kind of dreading the speech one day in the depths of grocery shopping hell (I hate it), I realized I was cheerfully humming Christmas tunes, saying hello to the cart guy who NEVER speaks back or even smiles, and enthusiastically saying “Sorry! Excuse me!” to people who were in my way. And this was after only a couple of really tough days in our life in a row. It occurred to me that despite all we deal with, I truly do seek out joy and crave happiness…even in the grocery store.
Even this blog itself, I think, is usually joyful. I share hardships, sure, but I usually use my perspectacles to find the silver linings in all our situations. I wrote a post titled “Why I don’t hate stomach bugs,” for goodness sake.
Here’s my list about my Journey to Joy…
- Grieve the dream. The dream of having a healthy, neurotypical (new word for normal) child. I had to do this twice before moving to joy. I still have to do it on the daily, but my focus on that old dream has changed significantly. Thankfully.
- Marry an optimist. I’m a realist. He’s an optimist. I think we are meeting each other in the middle after all we’ve been through together but his general optimism definitely helps me on tough days.
- Therapy and medication. Can’t reccommend both enough. “Jesus loves me this I know, because he gave me Lexapro.”–Glennon Doyle, Momestery
- Humor. Even in the depths of 45 minute seizure induced hospital stays, The Optimist and I laugh. We laugh at the situation and the people helping us. If you can’t laugh, you’ll cry…
- Acceptance. I knew that I would not be able to help raise my sweet children the best I could until I accepted their disabilities. This was tough. The next couple items on my list led to my acceptance.
- Asking for help. Certainly from friends and family during times of stress but it’s also more than that. If you’ve been following our story for awhile, you’ll remember that there there were some very dark months leading up to Kelsey’s epilepsy diagnosis. Days were hard and I couldn’t find out how to help my cranky, developmentally stagnant daughter to thrive. I couldn’t figure out how to make her smile, even. And I was taking the ownership and responsibility of fixing her. Don’t we all as mothers? Well I was so low that I finally learned to release some of that power. I prayed for the helpers. I prayed that God would send me the helpers to save us from the hard times we were experiencing. I had nothing left to ask for, so I just kept praying “Help me. Send me the helpers.” And He did.
- Spiritual Evolution. We had just joined our church around this same time as Kelsey’s tough period. At the time, I didn’t consider myself truly religious or spiritual. I just liked the routine of services and the community ties the church offered and the hour break I got each week when Kelsey was in the nursery and Ben was in Sunday School. That was until someone from church had to come to my house to pick something up. She came and I mentioned it was Kelsey’s nap time. This angel of a human who came over asked me why I wasn’t a member of MOPS and that I needed to come to their meeting the following week. So I did! I’m so glad I did. Not only did I meet some fun, new friends and get another break from Kelsey (there’s childcare at MOPS!), but I also started on a new journey. The next year the friends I made in this group asked me to come with them on a women’s retreat. I was hesitant but the results were life changing. I had found a new “therapist.” A new way to look at life. A new way to find peace. I learned to hand my troubles over to God. During this retreat I also found the acceptance I was looking for.
- My best friend, Grace. Many of you may be reading this now and saying, “Hmph! I’m her best friend! I’ve never heard of this Grace chick!!” You’re right. I don’t have a friend named Grace but I’m trying to make her one. I learned this from my therapist. I realized that I truly am my own worst enemy. That I tend to beat myself up for the stupidest things. Things I would tell my friends to “Relax!” about. So in many situations, I try to have grace for myself when I can. I’m still working on this one.
- Good habits–Exercising, reading, napping, cooking, and writing! Presenting yesterday was therapy. This blog is therapeutic.
- Bad habits–Shopping, food and wine! I tend to do these way more than the good habits but they still really help. 😉
- Words, verses and quotes.
- Books and their authors who are so much more than writers. I’ve recently discovered podcasts and I’m particularly in love with Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” show.
During our biggest trials, people often comment how “strong” we are. It takes a lot of love and a whole lot of all of the above. May you and yours have a joyful Christmas season. Thanks for reading.