joy equals.

We had a blizzard on the East Coast this weekend. And while I’m much more of a beach girl than a snow girl, I couldn’t help but enjoy the cozy gift we were given. As the wind blew and the snow piled up, we ate fish chowder and spoon bread and [everyone but the baby] drank hot coffee. We braved the weather for a bit, only to come back in for a superhero movie on the couch and some reading under thick blankets.

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And the book I happened to pick up for this snow day was Stephanie Rische’s book, I Was Blind (Dating) But Now I See. Oh man, I loved this book. I laughed out loud at her stories of wading through the mess of singleness and eight different blind dates throughout her twenties and thirties. It wasn’t just funny story-telling either. She was sharing how the Lord used these circumstances to change her. As I read her words and let her stories soak into my heart, I was reminded that while our specifics may be different, choosing joy that goes beyond circumstances is something we all face. Following Jesus through our fears and into the unknown is the battle of every Christian. I loved what Stephanie shares how she defined joy in that season of singleness.

“Somewhere along the way I’d gotten the idea that joy was a conditional state–something that ebbed and flowed with the tide of circumstances.

Joy equals being loved by a good man and having someone to live life with.

Joy equals snuggling a chubby, pink-cheeked baby in my arms.

Joy equals dreams come true.” (235)

My specifics may be different than Stephanie’s on this particular day but I know I’m the same. I define joy as something conditional, not something I can choose. I see joy as something that can only happen if and when [fill in the blank.]

Being pregnant was difficult for me. There were a number of reasons, but one of the biggest was a small, but powerful voice that whispered to my heart that my life was over. My heart started to believe that my life wasn’t just changing, but was doomed. It was if every positive interaction and dream about children had evaporated under the weight of the lie that my life was over. I started to fear that becoming a mom meant the life I’d hoped for was ending and a life I didn’t want was just beginning. I was terrified.

Like Stephanie, my heart had begun to define joy as conditional.

My heart said:

Joy equals having time with my new husband without a baby.

Joy equals being a newlywed without morning sickness.

Joy equals celebrating a first anniversary without a newborn.

Joy equals kisses without nausea.

Joy equals not being inconvenienced.

Joy equals a full night of sleep.

Joy equals having control over my life.

February 2014
20 weeks in February 2014//Proof that social media is never the full picture of someone’s life.

But in the months of my belly growing and of my heart feeling faint and fearful, the Lord was busy speaking truth to my heart. One of the best things he told me was through my friend, Mary who was about year ahead of me on the path of motherhood. Her recent circumstances had similarities to my own and truth coming from her lips felt especially powerful. If she could believe truth, maybe I could too.

It was only a few lines written in a card and a brief conversation at a mutual friend’s wedding, but it was what I needed. Mary told me that parenting wasn’t any different than anything else in the Christian life. She told me that we are called to trust the Lord in parenting, just like we are in any other aspect of our lives. It may seem different on the outside, but it is the same. It is still following Jesus.

I remember breathing a sigh of relief as her words sank all the way to my heart. Somehow the simplicity in the truth she spoke made the sense of impending doom dissipate. Even if my heart needed time to grab hold of her words fully, I knew that she was right.

My life wasn’t over. I was following Jesus. The joy he offered was not dependent on my circumstances.

One of the words Jesus has given me for this season has been learn. This word is slowly shifting my mindset for how I see what is happening around me. I’m working hard to ask what the Lord wants to teach me through my circumstances, instead of just trying to make it through or survive until it is over. (I hope it goes without saying that some days are much better for this than others.) I loved Stephanie’s perspective on her own longings and the pain of waiting.

“What if this season I was in wasn’t just something to get through, to survive? What if the point of praying wasn’t just to get the answer I wanted, but to become the person God wanted me to be?” (265)

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I think back on those days of my body changing and growing a person, and I know Mary was right. It was so much more than parenting or a growing family. Just like with Stephanie, it was much more than waiting to have married sex or not be alone. It is always so much more than what we see on the surface. It is all about following Jesus. In that season of growing a tiny human, it was the Lord working to bring out the fears in my own heart so that he could speak love over them. It was the Lord using the pain of my circumstances to weed out some of the controlling tendencies of my heart. It was the Lord loving me enough to allow me to go through suffering so that I could look more like he intended me to be. It was the Lord changing my definition of joy, taking me beyond my circumstances for my source of contentment. On the other side of that season, I can’t help but thank Jesus for giving me this girl that I thought I didn’t want. As I snuggle my daughter or hear her laughter or feel her small hand in mine, my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude. Only he could change my definition of joy and teach me what truly makes me alive.

I know the Lord isn’t done teaching me. These days, I’m still trying to fill in the blank of what joy equals. [Hint: it isn’t always Jesus I’m putting in the blank.] At a few points this weekend my heart said that joy equals living somewhere that doesn’t require me to drive in snowy, icy conditions. Joy equals living somewhere without weather problems. (Does such a place exist this side of heaven?) As I see my tendency to control things and demand different circumstances, I also see the things my heart needs most of all.

More than good weather or perfect circumstances my heart needs to believe what joy truly is.

Joy equals allowing the Lord to be my teacher in living life more fully.

Joy equals seeing my circumstances as my classroom to looking more like Jesus.

Joy equals praying the prayer of Sarapion of Thmuis, “We entreat you, make us truly alive.”

Joy equals following Jesus into whatever specifics he allows, trusting that his grace will meet me there.

Joy equals Jesus going with me into any and every circumstance. I am never alone.

Joy equals celebrating every grace I’m given and believing that I am loved.

 

*Friends, thank you so much for reading. As a small thank you, I’m giving away a book to one of you. The giveaway is open through this Friday, January 29th. You can find all the details here.

*I highly recommend I was blind (dating) but now I see. This book is for every Christian, following after Jesus. Stephanie’s story isn’t merely one of singleness. It is a story of the Lord using pain to grow us and change us into the person we were meant to be. It is funny and insightful, deep and witty. I couldn’t get enough of her humorous, masterful, honest story-telling. It was a breath of fresh air for my heart. 5/5 for me.

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Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “I was blind (dating) but now I see,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Alison, thank you so much for this lovely post! I so appreciate your honesty in sharing your story and your quest for joy. May God fill your heart with joy-to-bursting in the year ahead.

    Like

    1. I’m so grateful for your book, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing your story with so many of us. And thanks for the comment! It was a treat for my heart to hear from you.

      Like

  2. Christine says:

    Dear friend, my heart feels stirred and soaring at the same time as I read this. For your courage to write these words, but mostly for your courage to live this story! Ever since you told me Mary’s words, they hold truth in my heart on my own journey. Both of you ladies (and you too, Stephanie!) inspire me daily.

    Liked by 1 person

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