Every parent has watched this scene play out over and over. A toddler walks over to a beautiful blank wall, a crayon in their chubby little hand. What to do? The wall beckons like a readied canvas. A choice has to be made...work the art or not? It might not be crayons...it might be two large containers of baby powder, as it was for me one evening when my daughter, Aimee, and her friend, Allena, decided my bedroom need a winter landscape makeover. With my granddaughter it was a "rose" crayon ( her FAVORITE color:) and the wall at the top of the stairs where she wrote "P R E H":). If you sound that one out phonetically, you will know what that little one needed to do when her mom and dad saw her artwork.:)
As we grow older, so do our choices in their importance and impact on our lives. Where we go to college. Should we go to college. Who we marry. Where we work, live, and worship. How many children do we welcome into our family. Life-altering decisions. But these are not the choices I want to talk about today. Our lives certainly have those peak moments when choices such as these are foremost in our minds. One author said we might have 20-40 of these momentous decisions to make throughout our lifetimes. As important as these are, the truth is our everyday lives are made up of hundreds of lesser choices that truly define who we are and significantly influence the joy we experience. It is crazy to think that many times we undermine joy in our lives simply by making the same poor choices day after day. Let me give you a little example from my own life.
Ten years ago I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I hated this diagnosis, so I sought out other answers. I found my way to a world renowned "gut" specialist at Cedar's Sinai Hospital and after many tests, he gave me good news and bad news. The bad news was that I did, indeed, have IBS, but the good news was that my IBS had some obvious triggers I could avoid: sugar, anything with gluten in it, and foods that had high carbohydrate content. What?!? These were my FAVORITE foods! I LOVED all those particular "forbiddens" the most. I loved bread, always had, but bread deep fried into an apple fritter, dipped in a sugar glaze...well, let's just say it gets me salivating simply writing these words:) For as long as I can remember, I have craved sweets. One teenage summer, my sister and I and a cousin literally ate our way through Rapid City, South Dakota going from one bakery to another. True story. But as a very sick adult, I was desperate, so I followed his recommendations and within months I was feeling better than I had in years. I made choice after choice to keep those foods that were, quite literally poison to my body, out of my mouth. But after feeling well for so long, all those foods that had caused me so much pain in the past, beckoned once again. I stood like a toddler with a crayon in her hand. I knew what they would do to me, but through a whole bunch of internal crazy dialogue such as, "Maybe I'm not REALLY gluten intolerant," along with other equally self-deceptive thoughts, I began to make some pretty poor choices. Even to this day, I will think when faced with some food I really want, but know will cause me pain, "This will be worth it." It never is. I make stupid, stupid choices, and they have never been worth it...not once. I undermine my own joy every time I make a poor choice about what I put in my mouth.
One verse Kay mentions in her chapter "Getting Back To Basics," comes from I Corinthians 6:19: "Or don't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for?" (The Message)
Reading this caused real conviction in my spirit, and I had to come to grips with a hard truth. Eating foods I KNOW cause problems to my system is really disobedience. It is choosing NOT to do what I know to be right and good for my particular body, a body that is a "sacred place of the Holy Spirit," a body ransomed at a high price. God has been good enough to show me how my body works most effectively so I can be strong and healthy. This has helped me to feel better and to be more available to serve the Lord and others. The truth is each time I disobey what I know to be true, I squander this great gift of love and grace. I am certainly NOT saying eating sugar or sweets is sin. It probably isn't a problem for you, but it most certainly is for me, and God has made that very clear.
Recently, while in North Carolina visiting my kids and grandkids, I went with my daughter-in-law to Zumba class. The instructor, Jess, is a wonderful Zumba teacher, so you better believe when the music begins, all eyes are on her. Mine sure were. I kept focused on what she was doing, trying my darndest to follow her. I wasn't perfect at it...not by a long shot, but I improved as I watched and followed her every move. One thing I noticed in Zumba class is no one is looking around to see how others are doing. No watching for others' mistakes. No comparisons, because everyone is so intent on following the leader.
When thinking and praying about this blog post, I was reminded of my Zumba class. If we are followers of Christ, He is the focus of our lives. We should be so intent on following where He leads that we don't notice if others are messing up their "dance." I wasn't comparing my "mad skills" of zumbaing to anyone else. I did not notice the mistakes others made as we zumbaed together through the songs. I was WAY too busy with my own dance. When we begin to focus on the sin of others around us, or, we think what God has spoken to us us truth for EVERYONE, we stop our own "dance," or at the very least, slow it down and get off track.
Everyday we are faced with choices. Choices that have the power to bring joy or grief into our lives and into the lives of others as well. We can choose not to get upset when a car scoots into the parking space we have been waiting for. We can choose to think the best instead of the worst in situations and especially of people. We can choose not to be easily offended. We can choose to give instead of take, bless instead of curse. We can choose to smile at a stranger. We can choose not to give into worry, fear and anxiety and instead "cast all our anxiety upon Him" remembering how dearly "He cares for us." We can choose to pray through difficulties instead of fret through them.
Think about it for just for a minute. Aren't many for those things that "pop-up" in our daily lives simply distracting stuff we can just let go? Like the stolen parking space? Kay said in her book we get "over involved" in things that won't matter five years from now. Very true. But I can tell you that in my life, I have made choices to get worked up over things that don't matter FIVE HOURS FROM NOW and are completely forgotten (or at least should have been) by the next day. I can be faced with the choice of eating a piece of wedding cake (because after all it is a special occasion) and suffer for the next three days as my system reacts, or I can choose to just say "No" and within minutes it is not an issue anymore. It doesn't take a scholar to figure out the better choice. Those defining seconds before we make our everyday decisions make or break the joy we experience each day.
Remember during those frozen in time moments when we are clutching a rose crayon and the desire to do what comes natural to all humanity rises up in us, that we have a choice to make. Take a deep breath and some advice from my granddaughter, Rebekah, and...
Love and days of joy-filled choices to you, my friends!