By Sarah Lundgren
“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” ~Russell M. Nelson
A few weeks ago, I met up with a friend and her family to spend the day at the local botanical gardens. My husband and I are members of these gardens and visit them often. I find peace and inspiration abounding every time I go.
As with many things in our lives, the more familiar we are with a place, the more we tend to overlook its greatest treasures. I learned this lesson in spades on this particular day.
My lesson started in the children’s garden right next to the bathrooms. As we were waiting for the whole party to gather back together after getting snacks from the vending machines (because as we all know, snacks are absolutely critical on a day of adventure), my friend’s daughter, Mia, found a miniature pond amongst the landscape. Honestly, as many times as I had been in that exact spot over the years, I had never noticed this little pond. If you didn’t look carefully, you would think it was just a muddy little puddle from the drainage spout attached to the building, but that assumption would be wrong. This pond may have been small, but as we looked at it, we could see plainly that it was definitely intentional.
As the adults were chatting, all of a sudden squeals of excitement came pouring out of Mia, and we came clamoring to see what all the noise was about. With pure joy absolutely oozing out of her, Mia pointed out her discovery of three toads and one adorable green frog. We watched these four little hoppy delights for at least a good fifteen minutes or more. Frankly, I could have watched them a lot longer. I will leave out the part about two of the toads ‘cuddling’ and all the awkward questions that ensued. Let’s just say nature has a way of teaching children all. the. things.
As we continued our adventure through the botanical gardens that day, I found myself paying more and more attention to little Miss Mia and her discoveries. There were more squeals of delights, moments of pause at unexpected places, and a sense of joy and awe that was so pure. Through her eyes, I discovered flowers I had never seen before, little critters I would have walked right by, and a sense of wonder that I had not experienced in a long time.
Mia was expecting to find joy in everything she encountered.
I left my beloved gardens that day feeling like I had visited a whole new place. The only thing that had changed was my perspective. All I had really done was watch someone else find joy in the very things I had become so familiar with, and I was incredibly humbled.
I realized that at some point I had become so familiar with the gardens, even though I love them dearly, that I had begun to take in the beauty around me at a faster pace. I was therefore missing all the wonder that could only be found when I slowed down and let my eyes truly focus on the glory around me.
This is what many of us tend to do with anything in our lives that become a little too familiar: our jobs, home, friends, family, the town we live in, and even ourselves. In this fast-paced world, it can be incredibly difficult to find time to slow down, look around, and truly see the blessings that surround us. Slowing down and finding joy is critical to our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
The last few weeks I have been working through circumstances beyond my control. I knew I needed to reclaim the joy I had unknowingly allowed to slip away. As I prayed, I felt the Lord challenge me to actively choose to find joy every day, and to start eliminating some of the things that tend to steal my joy. For me, choosing joy daily has looked as simple as going outside to talk to my neighbors after dinner, going to look at the tulips that have bloomed in our yard, lighting my favorite candle, and even finding time to treat myself to my favorite indulgence, a lavender latte and a few French macarons at a local cafe. Electronics have become a big joy stealer for me, so I have spent many recent days with my phone on silent, limiting my time online, and quieting the noise that was consuming my mind.
Kay Warren says something profound in her book Choose Joy:
“Each of us has been wounded by our families, our friends, circumstances we brought on ourselves, as well as things beyond our personal choices. Some of the wounds have left us broken, discouraged, and damaged. But to experience joy daily, we need to take responsibility for how emotionally strong and healthy we are in spite of our hurts . . . Control the controllables and leave the uncontrollables to God.”
This is so incredibly true. There will be circumstances that threaten to steal our joy on a daily basis. We must face this fact, be wise enough to let go of the uncontrollable, and seek the joy that surrounds us in plain sight.
Lord, you give us joy as a spiritual fruit. Help us cultivate it so we feel an abundance of joy no matter our circumstances, and it overflows onto all who surround us. Give us the eyes of a child so we can actively seek your daily blessings and not overlook them just because we have become too accustomed to them. May we choose joy in small ways each and every day, and to seek you first. Amen.
Scriptures for Reflection
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV)
“Rejoice always,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NIV)
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)
Reach For More
This week’s challenge is twofold. First, seek out something that brings you joy each day. Maybe wear your favorite outfit one day, have your favorite meal, take time to talk with a treasured friend, or even give yourself permission to take a long bubble bath. Whatever you decide, be intentional and choose joy. Second, pray and ask God to reveal something in your life that steals your joy. Then actively try to eliminate your controllable joy stealers each day. This can be a hard process, but with God we can do hard things!
Dear friends, we can do this. Be courageous, and let’s be brave enough slow down, choose joy, and see the blessings that already surround us in abundance.
Sarah Lundgren has a passion for all things sparkly, loves God with her whole heart, and is known to love Starbucks chai lattes a whole lot, too. Sarah is currently snuggled in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan with her sweet hubby, J, and her full-time job is making pretty things all day long for her Etsy business, so sarah designs, but she also loves writing devotional content here at The Glorious Table.
Photograph © Bethany Beams, used with permission