Sadly as I look back over the past 5 years or so, I really seemed to waste a lot of time trying to find joy in all the wrong places. Because of depression, anxiety, losing myself in my kids and family responsibilites and just going through the motions after a while, I had just lost my joy altogether and really couldn't find it consistently anymore. Yet there was still this deep longing for that joy to return. I just didn't know how to get it back.
I haven't talked about this much with many people but the only thing for a very long time that I could remember feeling true joy and fulfillment from was when I was pregnant and when my children were born. Therefore, my longing for more children would never go away, even after my 3rd child. Up until a few months ago, I wanted a 4th child pretty badly, but couldn't really figure out why. I had really lost that ability to find joy in my life outside of the idea of carrying and bringing another child into the world. Even raising my kids wasn't bringing any joy to me like I'd always hoped. It was a duty that turned into a daunting task each and every day because I truly felt I was a big failure daily with this job, as I know many parents feel, and it was zapping any joy I could find from my children sadly. They were just exposing my weaknesses and that didn't feel good. And of course there was always this voice that said I was nuts for wanting more kids because i could hardly take care of the ones I had without being a neurotic mess most of the time. But I still couldn't make the desire for more kids to go away. And I knew that desire was coming from a lack of something deeper.
I have maintained a relationship with God all this time even yet I still wasn't satisfied. I mean the Bible says that He is the one who satisfies our deepest longings, but I wasn't feelin' it still.
Well over the past several months, God has been unleashing some things in my heart that have allowed this longing to finally start being fulfilled. He has given me a world of things around me to enjoy and be filled by. I have been challenged to really list what these things are and recognize them as gifst from God. I think He tries to fulfill us in ways beyond our recognition sometimes. And as I have been recognizing these things, it has revealed to me that there has been a joy-filled life here for the taking each and every day of my life that I have been missing out on because I had that "grass is always greener" mentality all this time. Now I just have to choose to recognize that it's here...now...and to let my life be full...now...right where God has me. My dad used to say all the time to look for God's fingerprints everywhere you go. And that is just what I've been doing. And you don't have to look far. This is that "taking God outside of the box" mentality too. He's EVERYWHERE if you just look for Him.
So I'm gonna get even more personal and list some things that have been restoring my joy each day. Notice they don't have to be BIG or expensive or life-altering. Many are small things but that fill my heart up immediately if I just soak in the moment.
1. The freedom to pray and read the Word anytime
2. My kids' laughter
3. Hugs and kisses from my kids
4. hot baths (I just had to put this one in)
5. My husband's companionship and love for me
6. Serving my husband selflessly
7. Serving my kids their favorite meal and seeing the smiles on their faces
7. Dancing for fun
8. Worship music
9. Sunny 70 degree days
10. Speaking a word of encouragement to someone
11. The privelege of being at home full time
12. new opportunities to share Christ with others
These are just some of the things that I've found that I've taken for granted too long. But if I choose to see them all as gifts from God, my whole perspective changes. Do you realize that all of these things don't cost a dime (well I guess we could get technical about that baths..ha). And do you notice some things even involve giving out to others? Giving out I've found can be the most fulfilling if my heart and motives are in the right place.
Well, there you have it. Some improvements being made in Bethany's life. And God is behind it all. Just like we love to see our children filled with joy, he wants the same for me. That alone brings me joy.
What would your list look like? What things can you find joy in again? You dont' have to look far. It's all around you for the taking.
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.