I sit at the table and look around me. Food is being shoveled into mouths, forks are scraping against plates; the sight and sound of both send a tingle down my spine. I crave quiet, order and carefully grafted displays of etiquette. I see before me none of those things.
I see chaos. I hear noise. I cringe in the face of forgotten manners.
But mostly, I forget that those things don’t define this moment. My attitude does.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)
Because I am not, by nature, a person who sees the bright side of every situation. I am not a rose-colored-glasses-wearing-girl who somehow doesn’t see the stain of sin in everything around me. Some people may be, but I’m not among them.
Instead I have had to cultivate that tendency toward digging for the treasure even when it’s nestled in among all the trash. And it hasn’t been easy. But something in me has always screamed out for those treasures, those specks of positive in the minefields of negative, whether it be in people, places, or situations.
And now, after years of cultivating, I crave the good. I yearn after the golden strands that can be pulled out of the worst of circumstances. I find no joy without the search for it. And because I know that it’s one gift I (often) possess- though I tend to be so negative I’d be more inclined to say I have NO gift-I’d like to share a few secrets with you about how I rebound from negative times, with my joy intact.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (James 1:2-3)
Smile. Literally, it’s that basic. Because while a simple smile can be a balm to another, it is always a salve to one’s own soul. When my kids wreak havoc on my patience or work my fragile nerves, I often just remind myself to smile first and react second. The choice to smile acts as a centering for my frayed emotions and gives me pause to gather perspective.
I’ve been teased (in the kindest of ways) more times than I could possibly count for my propensity to smile when it seems out of place. I truly believe, however, that the simple act of adorning myself with outward joy builds a bridge between my mind and my heart.
Find God. Seriously now, go deep. He is in absolutely every situation even if it seems He cannot possibly be found. Look for Him as you would your child if she should become lost. Search in all the dark corners and in the unlikeliest of alleyways.
He can be found when your children are fighting. He can be found when your paycheck won’t stretch. He’s there when your best friend hurts you or your husband betrays you. The only reason we don’t see Him more often is because we’re so busy looking at our problems and not at our Answer.
Serve others. This one is huge. Because if you think about it, many of our hard moments come at us because we are self-focused. We get mad at the kids when they don’t act how we want, frustrated with our husbands when they aren’t who we’d like, fed up with our jobs when they ask what we don’t want to give, disillusioned with our church when it doesn’t reflect Christ as we think it should. The list goes on but you get the idea.
When we intentionally assume the role of a servant, our focus shifts from how we can be most fulfilled to how we can fill others. We transition from a me first mindset, to one that honors others above ourselves. It is exponentially easier to live a life of joy when you are purposing to set aside self in favor of another.
Contrast yourself with Christ. When you are tempted to be hard on someone, consider how far you fall short, yourself. This goes almost double when it’s your kids or your spouse. Humans have this horrifying tendency to excuse evil in themselves while feeling righteously indignant when calling it out in others.
This is not the same thing as excusing or endorsing sin. It simply means we are choosing to be a living example of how God is leading in our lives while offering another the grace and space to learn to allow God to lead in theirs.
Pray. This one could have, and probably even should have, been first. But I wanted to leave you with it. Because there is nothing more vital to our connection with God, and our subsequent positive outlook, than being bowed before the throne of grace daily. Hourly. Moment by moment.
Plugging into that source before your feet even hit the floor in the morning, gives you a one up on the devil. The moment we feel our spirits being tugged away by conflict, confusion, or chaos we can find Him and ask for discernment and grace. Grace for oneself and grace for another.