One of the questions we ask in our Nightly Examen with Children is, “Did I choose horses?” I know, confusing, silly and maybe even inappropriate sounding for a nightly examen question. What that question really asks though is, “Did I choose joy?” I write frequently about how important our thoughts and words about and to ourselves–our daily affirmations–are to our joy. Remember, I consider our daily affirmations the truth we tell ourselves everyday–within reason. I cannot tell myself after seven children (and honestly even before) I have a rock hard body and mathematically brilliant brain with a constantly pure heart, mind and soul. The nightly question, “Did I choose joy” reminds me to choose joy. It also reminds me I can choose joy.
The phrase, “Choose Horses” came about after a long, rainy day in a camper with six children. I was a little cramped physically, mentally and emotionally. As I was sitting there at the little table with little people arguing around me and climbing over me, I declared out loud, “I Choose Joy!” It was actually more of a battle cry than a declaration. My then three or four old sitting across from me coloring thought for a moment and then hollered, “I choose horse!” Although he was totally serious, that silly declaration broke through my gloomy, fight or flight attitude and turned my day around. So let’s talk about how we can choose joy.
Daily Affirmations: Choose Joy
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First let’s look at the difference between joy and happiness. They are not the same thing and must be understood correctly. Here is a good explanation I found:
Some believe that joy is a conscious commitment to be happy, to have a sense of contentment for the moment, despite life’s challenges. Joy is an internal lasting emotional condition…Joy in the Biblical context, is not an emotion. It is not based on something positive happening in life, but is an attitude of the heart or spirit.
So how do we choose joy? We make the decision to, regardless of situation or circumstance. We choose eternal over earthly, infinite over temporary. Let me tell you a story about my mother-in-love who passed away seven years ago after a three month battle with Uterine cancer. She chose joy even though her situation was dire and her circumstances were painful and grim.
She sat in a recliner two grandsons moved into her bedroom. Her usually small frame had wasted away to baggy skin hanging on brittle bone. Her smile showed signs of pain if you looked close enough–It’s Mother’s Day 2007. Almost two months previous to the day, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. And one day while helping her shower I cried that her body was betraying her. The very same body which had held 8 precious lives until their birth-day, was now killing her. She touched my hand, “My body is not betraying me Jenny.” If it were not for her, for her body, I would not have my Chris. She told me she had prayed that she never got cancer…
My mother-in-love always made us meet at some park to celebrate Mother’s Day. Sometimes the grass would be high and the playground equipment uncared for. The lunch cold and the wind whipping the table cloth off along with plates and utensils…she smiled…she chose joy. She sat in an old lawn chair when she wasn’t scooping potato salad and laughed in her old lady cackle. But Mother’s Day 2007, the picnic had been moved to their driveway. The same driveway Chris knew his entire life. One by one, each family went in to see her sitting in the old burgundy recliner moved into her room at the foot of the bed so she would be more comfortable that Mother’s Day. A few of her boys, now grown men, wore their sunglasses inside. As they left her room, I could see the runaway tears; the ones that slipped past the UV protection meant to contain them.
She was swollen, near death, in pain…she smiled…she chose joy. She made the decision to see beyond her situation and circumstances that day. She chose to see us that day regardless of the physical exertion just to remain in an upright position, let alone smile. She spent her last Mother’s Day at home, with her 8 children, in-laws, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She looked every single one of us in the eye and smiled…she chose joy.
She chose joy as she smiled through the pain of cancer gnawing through her…I can choose joy and smile at my children as I cook their lunch when hunger pains make me want to act like a big ‘ol pain.
She chose joy as she smiled and sat there talking to us through pain. I can choose joy and smile when a ten year old suddenly wants to talk after it’s lights out and I am done…capital “D” for the day. (Oh Lord do I need to hear this right now.)
She chose joy and smiled when her big boys were dripping tears in her bedroom. I can choose joy and smile when my littles are dripping syrup across the kitchen floor.
Tonight before bed, make a nightly examen with you children and ask, “Did I chose joy today?”
Everyday this week, morning, noon and night, let’s tell ourselves–“I Choose Joy.” Repeating positive daily affirmations to ourselves will change the way we think about situations, people, ourselves and our life.