I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spelled out my email address for someone and they’ve heard “Mama Choose Joy”. I typically roll my eyes and then smile and spell it correctly for them. “It’s CHOSE”, I say. And if they’re female and definitely if they’re southern they say something like “that’s cute” and I can see them on the other end of the phone leaning their head to one side with a tiny smile and warm heart.
Joy isn’t a word we hear a lot outside of Christmas – or was that just me?
I didn’t grow up in a church that talked about the gifts of the spirit and other than Joy to the World at the Christmas Cantanta, I didn’t hear the word much. So when I was managing a large team at an apartment community and pregnant and then pumping and raising a toddler and making my own baby food, it confused me how someone could find joy in the busy when I was just barely keeping my head above water.
But as I looked out of my office I could see it on her computer screen. The screensaver said: I CHOOSE JOY.
I think at first it annoyed me if I’m being really honest. But it didn’t take long for it to really hit my heart and I remember starting to cry.
There’s a choice. And I’m making the wrong one.
That tiny shift in perspective made one of the biggest differences in my life. In a nutshell, once I realized I could choose joy in my life, things began to shift. Then, almost 4 years ago to the day, I almost vomited, felt God in a big big way, quit my job, and started blogging. You can read my very first post here and here all about it.
I knew I had to name my blog something about choosing joy. One day while nursing Everly in her bedroom in my “special place” I brainstormed with my precious friend “Clancy” and being the external processor that I am, it just came out: Mama Chose Joy. She had a name.
I reached out to an artist friend to ask him for help with a logo design and in exchange for a pack of newborn diapers, he drew my beloved logo. “I want something hand-drawn. A tree, with a dove, with deep roots and make it take the shape of a circle.” It’s imperfect and simple and unique, kind of like me.
It was raw, real-life happenings that could make it easy to call me an oversharer. But you might also call me brave and inspiring and maybe you read my story when your world seemed dark and you thought no one could understand the pain of never feeling like you were enough.
I never set out to make money on this blog and have never made a single cent. I don’t even know how to do that and don’t have bandwidth to learn in this season.
I do know that I am starting to recognize that our hearts have muscle memory and like any good workout, it’s painful to just keep going sometimes. But we do, and we try to learn what we can along the way, and when we come to a familiar place, we use what we recall from last time to get us just a little bit further along this time.
And we accept that it still may not be enough but we keep going.
Nearly a year ago when the world seemed to be ending, I got a vision from the Lord. Many times, he uses garden references with me to speak and show me things. He showed me the garden of my life, and that he had pulled everything out of it and laid it to the side. He had me notice that they were pulled up from the root, and as I noticed the empty garden, he advised me to be very careful what I put back in when I replanted things. (Maybe you think it’s weird that God speaks to me that way, but it’s true. I think he speaks to all of us, it’s just that we are moving too fast to see. I certainly could not.)
Unenroll from public school.
Put the house on the market.
Cut back to one income.
Talk about growing your family.
If I were a spool of thread, it was as if I’d been all spun out and had been exposed down to the spindle. And slowly, someone had their foot on the pedal to the sewing machine and the thread was going back on, but this time in reverse – to a familiar place, but in a different direction.
Toward the end of summer, things starting happening out in this sunroom, and I’m not talking about the mildew on the tile. God started moving in me. Tears were plenty and prayers were bold. Ideas would come. Plans were made.
Maybe this year I will write more about the relationship with my mother and how it’s shaping my role as a mother to my own daughters. Maybe I’ll write more about things I wish I’d known along the way or share more stories about my daughters that make me cry.
Maybe I will share about our homeschool journey or my homesteading failures or how I do not practice yoga or the Enneagram anymore.
My garden does look different, and it’s just how it’s supposed to be. I’m thankful that for once in my life, I listened to the Lord and didn’t just throw my plants back in and keep going at the sake of comfort and not wanting to make changes. The shifting and sifting was necessary to get the soil ready for the next round of plants, and this time we started with seeds.
Seeds take time to grow. So do people.
I won’t ever give up on writing if you promise me not to give up on that person you’re close to quitting on. And don’t give up on yourself, either.
God didn’t give up on you. He won’t.
Lean into believing that tonight as you close your eyes to rest. Let your heart hear it, and may it soften you to feel something you haven’t wanted to feel.
Choose joy, friend. It’s always been an option.