I can’t carry purses anymore. I’ve tried. I like the idea of a purse. I feel trendy and more feminine when I carry one, but it just isn’t working out for me. Recently, I even thought I’d give it another shot—my kids are getting a little older and require a bit less stuff; surely, I could enjoy the simple pleasure of toting a purse I like. From the top of my closet, I dug out a beautiful Coach purse my husband had gifted me after a business trip he’d been on. It is several years old but still looks brand new (which is telling to how much use it got after he surprised me with it). I put the few things I typically carry into the purse, looked down into the essentially empty bag, and laughed. Why would I ever need a purse this big? What could I possibly ever fill it with? I stuck a few pens in the bottom—mostly as back-ups for my children, who are obsessed with doodling, but also because I thought I’d feel a little better if there was an actual reason to be hauling such a large satchel around on my shoulder. As if pens needed such a large mode of transportation.
Fast-forward one month and a lot of life later, and if one of my children asked me for a pen, I would have to dig through an enormity of junk to find one…if I found one.
You know the song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart…”? (You’ll sing that in your head all day now….you’re welcome!) Anyways, here lately, that joy down in my heart has seemed a lot like that lost pen way down in my purse. I know it’s in there somewhere, but I’ve allowed it to become buried beneath a whole bunch of junk I don’t need to be carrying around anyways.
Somehow, both my purse and my heart have become a lot like Hermione Granger’s enchanted bag—filled with so much “stuff” I can’t seem to find the one thing I need. Let me just pause here to say that, yes, I am aware that Mary was the OG of never-ending bags—and I am sorry, Poppins fans, but I am a Potter girl for life.
“Joy” is our family’s word for 2019. My husband and I chose it with the intent of remaining joyful despite the circumstances that may surround us. We both know that in order for our joy to grow, we must invest in our relationship with God. Our joy comes from the Lord—from having a relationship with our Father in Heaven. For me, that looks like quiet time alone with God in the uninterrupted and peaceful hours of the morning, reading my Bible and praying. However, the more I lean into that relationship, the more “thieves” I seem to encounter.
In order to combat these destroyers of joy, I felt it best to first name them. What do I allow Satan to use to steal my joy? If I don’t identify them, I won’t recognize them as tricks of the devil.
- Comparison. This thief is a sneaky one for me. I don’t tend to compare in terms of material things. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the pretty things in life; I just don’t care so much if I am not the one who has them. Where I tend to compare myself to others is from within. If I was more outgoing like so-and-so… if I was better at this or that, then… if I wasn’t like this, then I’d be more… if…if…if. The worst comparison, though, and the one that will rob me of my joy every single time is when I compare myself to the wife or mother I feel I am supposed to be. A completely unattainable Stepford version of myself that I will always fall short of. Comparison will sneak into the quietest places of our hearts and steal our joy if we don’t defend ourselves. It doesn’t always attack full-force and blatantly.
- Circumstances. I believe this masked bandit probably attacks everyone at some point in their lives. It is difficult to maintain joy throughout difficult circumstances. Big or small though, our circumstances can rob us if we allow them. We all recognize those big circumstances that come thundering in and threaten our peaceful, happy existence…divorce, loss of a job, illness, loss of a loved one. But we must defend ourselves against the day-to-day as well. Like when you’ve been looking forward to date night all week, only to have your sitter fall ill at the last minute and become unable to watch the kids. Or when you plan out a great beach day, pack up all your belongings, and arrive only to find it storming when you get there. Or maybe your toddler going on a napping strike for the entire week. Point is, any of these situations can derail our joyful journey, but only if we let them.
- Other people. We all know this one is true—whether it is a cashier with an attitude, a friend, co-worker, family member, the spouse you vowed to love through good times and bad, or that sweet little angel God gifted you with, they can all steal our joy. I don’t believe most people intend to steal one another’s joy; I mean, I have never woken up and thought to myself, “Okay, whose day can I ruin today?” Have you? But we are all guilty of letting others ruin our day. What I find helps me most when it comes to other people is remembering two things: 1) They are not my enemy. The devil is my enemy, and he would like nothing more than to destroy my day, their day, our relationship, and take all the joy along with it. Well, not today, Satan. 2) I cannot control other people’s actions, I can only control my reaction to them. This is the big one for me, especially with my children. My reaction to whatever misbehavior, tantrum, or mischief they have caused will either guide them to a new path or propel them to continue on their path of destruction.
Once I know what to look out for, how do I remain steadfast? As much as I’d love to stow away to a quiet closet, secluded with my Bible and a warm cup of coffee every time I see the enemy approaching to attack, I know the chances of that weapon being readily available throughout my day is highly unlikely. So, I ask myself, “What would Hermione do?” Well, she’d stop searching the ginormous bag, pull out her wand, and “Accio!” herself some joy. (Again, I apologize to the non-geeks who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.) She would use her resources.
- Time with God. I may not be able to grab my Bible and steal a few minutes away by myself each time I feel my joy slipping during the day, but if I start out my day reading my Bible, praying, and in quiet devotional, I have already won half the battle. This is the time that I am putting on my armor, getting ready for the battle. Without it, I cannot adequately protect myself throughout the day.
- Dance and worship. Our home is more joyous when we dance. When the kids are getting crazy, there is not much that a little dance party can’t help shake off. We almost always have music of some sort playing, and in the afternoons when I am cleaning and we are getting ready for dinner, it always helps to have worship music playing in the background.
- Get out and move. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise are necessary in my life to maintain both my joy and my sanity. To quote Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” I said this to my husband once after a great workout and quickly found out he was not up to par on his “Legally Blonde” movie quotes. That took some explaining. Haha!
- Serve others. I’ve been trying to find ways to serve someone every day. It is great to serve at church, local charities, foundations, etc., but there is also great joy in serving those within our household. My two youngest children are great stewards of this principle and have encouraged me in this task. Both of their primary love language, along with my husband’s, is Acts of Service. Our oldest and mine is Words of Affirmation, so this does not come naturally to me. However, I have found that I find great joy in serving my family, whether it is preparing a healthy meal, allowing them to come home to a clean house, or helping them with something—like building a Lego airplane with five million pieces. This has also helped me to recognize that they need to help me in my daily tasks to express their love. They need to serve our family, as well, and while it may not be easier (or faster) to allow them to help, it is necessary in order to maintain their joy.
While your lists may not look just like mine, I hope that you are able to draw from them and create your own identifiers. If your joy seems to be lost way down deep in your heart, find it. Protect it. And grow it. So that it can never be lost again.
“Down in my heart to stay.” (Just in case you weren’t still singing it 😉 )
Only by grace,