I just wrote this post for my church’s Marriage and Family blog. Thought there were some nuggets to share here too. For parents facing autism, it’s so important to rediscover and cultivate our joy.
When I was seven, I had a friend over to my house for the day. We were playing dolls or “Dukes of Hazzard” (or some such thing) when my mom called us up from the basement for lunch. Much to my surprise, there was my mom at the dining room table all decked out like a gum-chewing waitress with an apron on and a lunch ticket pad in hand. She said in a nasally voice, “Welcome to Diffy Daffy’s Diner. Come have a seat and I’ll grab you a menu.”
My mom had worked up a couple of homemade kid-friendly menus, and said we could each order whatever we liked. My friend and I were all giddy as we found two envelopes of Monopoly money at the table, and Mom recreated the full “goin’ out for lunch” experience for us two little ladies. Mom, or um “Diffy Daffy,” stayed in character for a good hour or so. It was a memory of unabashed joy that I will never forget.
My mom was a person who chose joy, and with that decision, God grew her creativity for cultivating joy in our home. As an adult, when I look back at that time in my family’s life, I realize that my mom would have had a whole lot of reasons to put joy on hiatus. No one would’ve blamed her. Money was extremely tight. She was taking care of elderly family members, and she had just lost her mom. With two teen boys and a stressed-out husband, there was always some sort of crisis or scrape that a family member was in.
Now a wife and mother myself, I am painfully aware of how important it is to cultivate joy for my home. I’m not great at this yet. Sure, when things are going well and I’m happy, I’m feeling joy-filled. But there are a lot of times when I have to fight for joy. After all, God says, “Be joyful always.” Really God? Always? Do you know what today was like?
In his book The 4:8 Principle (Philippians 4:8), Tommy Newberry says, “Joy is an outward sign of inward faith in the promises of God. It is a way of acting, and it is evidence of spiritual maturity. Joy is not a distant destination at which you arrive; rather, it’s a path you choose to travel each day.”
Three Ways to Choose Joy Today:
- Train yourself to swap out bad thoughts with good thoughts. In Romans 12:2 we’re instructed to be changed within by a new way of thinking. Did you know that your conscious mind can hold only one thought at a time, positive or negative? The only way to eliminate a negative thought is to replace it with a positive, empowering thought. Having some key Scriptures to focus and meditate on will call out the best God has for you.
- Pay attention to prime times for joy-killing or joy-filling. You can make or break your day—or the days of those in your house—by how you choose to approach these times: when you wake up, when you or your spouse come in from work, and when you go to bed. True joy has to be designed, discovered, developed and defended. It doesn’t just “happen.” Left to our own leanings, compounded by the stress of the day, we have to fight to value joy over funk.
- Intentionally give away the very thing that you need. I was in a season when I was really feeling like I needed some encouragement but I was coming up thin. So, I went on Facebook and said it was “Encouragement Thursday—leave your prayer requests here and I will find a Scripture and prayer just for you.” God totally spoke to my heart with all of the promises I found for others. They were blessed and I was blessed. This also works by giving away little bits of your time, finances, serving, etc.
Give these things a try, and just see if the joy of the Lord doesn’t start to increase your strength for a much brighter day. Your whole family will thank you!