I Choose Joy

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Joy is a choice.

My spiritual father recently told me this profoundly wise statement. It isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t “feel” good. And it isn’t what I wanted to hear. Why? Because it puts me in control of my feelings. It puts me in control of my thoughts. It puts me in control of my response to circumstances around me.

This year I have struggled. With negativity. With complaining. I am stuck in a negativity bubble. And I can’t get out. As I confess and pray about it, I have the solution. Now, I am faced with a decision: do I want to take control and get out of this bubble?

Have I gotten used to this bubble? Maybe deep inside if I search myself, I want to let circumstances control me. My responses. My thoughts. My actions.

Joy is the narrow road. I know I want it. But, can I choose joy?

I have spent too much of my life letting others have control. Letting circumstances control.

It is both terrifying and refreshing to know that I can be in control. By my response. By my thoughts.

Joy is a choice. It is a decision that puts me in control. It ultimately puts God in control. One of my favorite verses that I like to meditate on is, “in Your Presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11

If I choose Joy, I choose to be in the Presence of my Savior.

Let’s chat: how do you intentionally choose joy?

From the Jesus Prayer to Jumping Jacks

A certain monk asked one of the elders, “Why are my thoughts always inclined to defilement, so that they give me no rest even for an hour, and my soul is troubled?” The elder said to him, “If the demons inspire thoughts in you, do not give in to them.” It is their nature to tempt constantly. And even though they never leave off this temptation, they cannot force you to sin. It depends on your will to listen to them or not to listen.” The brother said to the elder, “What should I do? I am weak and the passion is conquering me.” The elder answered, “Guard against them, and when they begin to speak to you, do not answer them, but pray to God: Son of God, have mercy on me!” 

(Ancient Patericon, 5.35)

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My little four year old has a new spiritual battle. His thoughts. He wants to say “bad words” like shut-up and they keep popping up in his mind. He didn’t know how to overcome it, and he struggled. We advised him to ignore the thoughts. He tried and could not stop the thoughts. We told him to get busy. But, as he played or even watched T.V., the thoughts kept coming to him. Finally, we reminded him to say the Jesus Prayer.

For days after, when he battled his thoughts, he would whisper “Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” And then, he would look at me and say, “Mommy, it isn’t working, I still feel like saying those bad words.” We continued like this for days. Then, one morning, as we were all doing our morning quiet time, he just couldn’t stop the thoughts. My husband suggested he then do the highest spiritual practice . . . . .jumping jacks!

Now, I don’t think it would be normally advised as a spiritual practice to do jumping jacks but we did enjoy a good laugh! And we learned a lesson that day. To persevere. The spiritual battle is a long one. We must stay vigilant. To overcome. As we found out, the “quick fix” my son thought could work after saying the Jesus Prayer once does not work. The battle requires continuous prayer. To persevere. To overcome.

Thoughts are a hard battle. I hate to see my little one struggling already. But, I know as he grows up, the battle will only get worse. Satan will never leave him. I pray that I can equip him from now to fight the battles with prayer. To persevere. To overcome.

I am also reminded to keep up with the fight myself! I battle long and hard with my thoughts. Bad attitude. Negative thoughts. Angry thoughts. Prideful thoughts. Selfish thoughts. Lack of Contentment. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

May God strengthen us all to persevere and overcome our battles so one day we can be victorious in Heaven.

In what ways do you practice or teach your children to overcome the battle of thoughts?

Giving. It’s What Women Do.

The day I watched this commercial, I was feeling sorry for myself. We understand those days all too often. It was a Sunday after Liturgy and I was ready to teach a lesson for the Mamas & Babas. I was carrying around my little girl. She was clingy and feeling a bit cranky and sleepy. My little boy also didn’t want to go to Sunday School and wanted me by his side at that moment. Everyone was feeling grumpy. And I was questioning how I can serve others when I am “stuck” with my kids!

I wish I can say I was the best missionary that day and that I overcame my negativity and happily began to teach. But, the truth is, someone taught in my place. And I went home annoyed on a number of levels. As I walked home, complaining to myself, I looked in the hut next to me and saw one of our local servants happily serving the young children. She was “wearing” one of her twins on her back and holding the other one in front of her. She was joyously leading the songs of praise for Jesus. I know this lady. She has a thousand challenges. She has many children of her own. In addition, she and her husband also foster orphaned and abandoned children from the church in their own home. She is struggling herself, yet she never stops giving.

These women here in Zambia. These simple women. They are the hidden saints. They teach me how to give. Not to complain. They truly inspire me.

Giving is just what women do. It is how we were created. So, Moms and other Women, my encouragement is to never stop giving. Even when it hurts. Even when it is hard.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

I would love to hear from you! In what ways do you stay encouraged to keep on giving?

Another Mommy Blogger

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I have decided to join the blogging world.

Does the world need another Mom blogger?

I am not sure. But I do know that we need each other.

My goal is to share my world of mission life here in Africa. My lessons in being an Orthodox Priest’s Wife. My trials of raising my own children. My heartaches of trying to serve a broken world of my many other children in Zambia.

I hope you come along and join me. I pray we can encourage each other.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 5:13 (an encouraging verse I read in my Quiet Time today just before I decided to launch this blog!)