The Joy Road

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Does anyone else get really really excited for a new year’s beginning? I do.

When my family goes on vacation to Texas, every year there is a day that I’ve dubbed One Day More, and it is the last day before we leave to go home, and we usually spend it in a very low-key way, just existing quietly around the house.

This year, I sat down with my boredom-spurred irrational ambition, and wrote down 31 New Year’s resolutions.

Yes. 31 New Year’s resolutions.

Some of them are really easy peasy, like #2: Save $1000 as an emergency fund and don’t touch it. Then there are some that might not really happen, like #7: Practice cleanliness (my room is kind of an eternal mess). Then there are some that I’ve already done, and am thrilled to cross off already, like #11: Write a schedule for second semester.

And I was really excited.

But then 2014 actually began, and instead of accomplishing any of them, I was doing…none of them. I was doing calculus. I was outlining my novel. I was just doing homework that I hadn’t finished before the break started. That’s what I’ve been doing – lots of homework. And when I haven’t been doing that, I’ve been preparing for the next semester to start. Preparing for more homework.

On the Sunday before New Year’s, my youth pastor had us each write one word that we would focus on for the year – discipline, prayer, worship, grace (which Phebe is doing – and wrote a lovely post about:), etc.

The word I wrote down was joy, because I have seen truly joyful Christians and I am not one. And I do not believe that anyone would be remotely interested in converting to Christianity if it weren’t for these joy-filled people, who are living proof of God’s love for us and how He transforms us. Joyful people have gone from cranky, hurried and irritable people to peaceful, passionate and just plain happy people. I am not like that – I am a cranky, hurried and irritable person who happens to have salvation but has been stubborn to letting God change her. This is the year that I relent and find true peace and love and worth in Jesus.

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But anyways, going back to all the homework – I’ve been bogged down lately. And I mean, bogged. Take last night, for example. I was finalizing my essays to send in to Wheaton College, and I hit midnight, which is closely followed by Midnight Depression and Angst. (It’s a thing. I don’t know how all my writer friends can stay up til all hours of the night and get their creative work done. Maybe it’s fought by caffeine or something.) Midnight Depression and Angst consists of voices that could or could not be your own appearing in your head and telling you things to make you feel terrible. Such as:

“What if you miss your audition next Wednesday? What if you’re late for it? What if you don’t get a good role because of that AP Exam on May 7th? That’s a conflict. They don’t like conflicts.”

“Furthermore, what if your voice cracks? What if your head register isn’t strong enough by audition time? It’s looking pretty grim. Better go practice some more.”

“No, don’t practice. Keep editing your essay. You have to get this done or you won’t get accepted into any schools and you will become nothing more than an artsy bum.”

“And don’t forget the midterm. You have to ace the midterm. Or you will have a B in Calculus, and heaven knows William & Mary CERTAINLY won’t accept you if you don’t get an A in Calculus.”

“You’re worthless. You’re worthless. You’re worthless. Of course you won’t get accepted into any of these schools, because there’s nothing special about you. You should’ve done better. You should’ve tried harder. Regret it.”

Eventually I threw in my essay-editing towel, wrote down a long list of things I’m worried about, and cried myself to sleep.

Joyful, right?

Good grief. No. Not joyful at all.

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But, the thing is, God’s more faithful than I’m believing He is. I woke up this morning and gave myself a Midnight Depression and Angst-free reality check.

Here’s what the reality is: I was investing my heart way too much in things that are unpredictable and out of my control. Like college acceptances. I was also investing in my own huge resolutions list – believing that I could suddenly turn into Superwoman and be able to do things amazingly since it’s now 2014.

What my mini-meltdown caused me to realize was that joy is not the absence of bad, stressful things happening, but the choice to walk down a road that handles them in light of eternity instead of in light of earthly values.

What I can do differently, and want to do differently, is invest my heart fully in God. He isn’t in my control, but there is one thing I know about Him that I can predict in any situation – it’s all going to be for good, and it’s all going to be to His glory, and His glory is the most important.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
-Romans 8:28

This is the truth I will be standing on as the college letters come, as the auditions and callbacks roll around, as life gets crazier and crazier. This is my road to joy.

I have to stand on this truth, because this is a year when a most radically different viewpoint on life will be presented to me over and over. This is the year I figure out where I’m going to college, and there will be so many doors of shame and regret and insecurity and hopelessness that I could easily open and hide in.

But that’s not the life I’ve been called to, and the fact that I picked JOY as my year-word before any of this stress pile happened affirms that I’m not called to be that way this year.

Joy’s what I’ve been called to, and joy’s the road I’ll take.

-e

(This has mostly been a pep talk for myself. But, if it encourages you as well, then hooray!)

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