Don't Squander Joy

Before I get started, I just want to say that even though some of these thoughts are kinda sad, don't get me wrong- I am generally a happy person and I'm extremely thankful for my mostly boring (in a good way) life. But like so many others I know, moms in particular, I struggle during quiet (or not-so-quiet) moments with this subject of worry. I'm okay, I promise. Don't worry about me! See what I did there? Carry on...

I've mentioned a time or two (or ten) here that I am a worrier. My mind can go from zero to worse-case-scenario in about two seconds and no matter how many verses I read or inspirational quotes I pin, I have always struggled with worry. (A sin, yes... I know. Adding guilt to worry makes it even better! Ha!)

Not only is worry bad for my mental well-being, it's just bad for my spirit in general. (I think social media has made this approximately one zillion times worse. Want to worry some more? Look on Facebook and behold the general awfulness of mankind at any given moment of the day.) So even though worrying does me no good and a ton of bad, I still indulge in it daily. (Why use the word indulge? Because sometimes it does feel like an indulgence- "I know this is wrong and I shouldn't do it, but I'm going to anyway." It's like McDonald's for the mind.) And then my mind (or yours) wanders to some catastrophic (albeit fictional) event and when it comes back to the present, realizes that that scenario hasn't/won't/couldn't possibly happen- or could it?! (Rinse, repeat.)

Since I've always been a worrier, I thought I had it down pretty well (what, it's not a skill? Oops) but then... I had a baby. And my pre-baby worries were teeny tiny potatoes compared to the elaborate worries I can now concoct while Alice sleeps just a few feet away. The worrying started during my pregnancy and continues to sometimes overwhelm me... again, it doesn't take long to look around and think about what a terrifying world this is to raise a child in.

Basically me. If only worrying really were a superpower...

So, since this is something that really bothers me, I'm actively trying to make a dent in my worrying ways and kick them to the curb (not that I'll ever do that for good, because, obviously, I'm a mom now so it comes with the territory) but I am trying. I was reading this book a few months ago and an entire chapter (but this quote in particular) jumped out at me. I try to write down good quotes but even when I do they rarely stick with me and resonate the way this did.

"Don't squander joy. We can't prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into a test drive for despair, we actually diminish our resilience. Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it's scary. Yes, it's vulnerable. but every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen- and they do happen- we are stronger." 

I basically need to tattoo these words onto my arm and read them every day. This is SO me! I love the use of the word "squander," which basically means waste but also sounds like "squash" and has the idea of destroying. Why would we waste or destroy our joy? If it's a precious gift from God- indeed, true joy can only be found through Christ- it's a terrible thing to purposefully squander it. Taking moments of joy and turning them into "test drives for despair" is a very, very bad habit of mine. Sometimes when I'm rocking Alice, or she's giggling with her daddy, or I'm watching her sleep (in a non-creepy way of course- ha!), I'll think of how lucky/blessed we are and how I want to freeze these moments- and then two seconds later I'm picturing how I could lose it all. WHY? Like the author said, that's actually diminishing my resilience instead of strengthening it for the inevitable hard times ahead. Another old phrase says, "Don't borrow trouble," and that's basically the same thing. 

As usual when I'm really struggling with a concept, answers for it come in pairs. The same week I read this quote, I came across the idea of worry in the context of guarding our minds when I was doing Priscilla Shirer's Bible study Armor of God (which I highly recommend.) Unfortunately I can't find my workbook (thanks to the move! It's probably in the garage...) but she talks about the fact that we have to protect our minds (with the idea of a helmet) because of the damage that worry and fear can do both mentally and even physically. (I can definitely identify.) I wish I could find my book to share exactly what she says but it was so comforting to reiterate the idea that even though I struggle with worry, God can equip me with what I need to overcome my fears. I can't equip myself, even though I try, but He can. 

So, my resolution (yes, in July) is "don't squander joy." There are plenty of actual, real-life moments that naturally make us unhappy or give cause to worry (like the news every single day!) but in moments that bring joy (and Alice gives us plenty of those!), I'll choose not to squander it. I'll try to fully engage in the joy I'm feeling even though that leaves me vulnerable to hurt and loss, and I won't "test drive despair"- such a descriptive phrase but truly something that should be avoided at all costs. If (or really when) hard times come, it's not like I'll be able to say, "I'm totally prepared for this because of that one time I was rocking my baby to sleep and started freaking out about the future!" It's better for me in every way (including in the example I set for Alice) to put my trust in God and allow myself to accept the grace He offers to help me through my worrying moments. 

Although... this girl is now pulling and crawling (instead of just her army crawl/worm) so if I have ever had a legit reason to worry it's now that she is a crazy fast, mobile, and fearless little explorer. Pray for me! It gets easier, right? (No, no it will not. I know this.)

Happy Monday! Even in this dark and scary time in our country, please choose not to squander joy. If we've ever needed to trust God and cultivate hope, it's now. <3

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