Choose Joy.

Happy Thursday, friends! I have to admit I drove into work this morning in a bad mood. A mood that was dictated entirely by my own selfish desires and personal circumstances. Truth be told, I was pouting like a five year-old. Then I was blessed to find this message in my email inbox, which is a daily devotional by “Girlfriends in God.” And just like the smack up the side of the head I needed (and deserved) this morning, I felt God speak to me personally through this message.

Thank you, Abba.

I hope that it speaks to you as well.

“Smiley”

(these are Mary Southerland’s words, and her story, not mine-emphasis is from me 🙂 )

I may not know which time zone I am in, but I do know that I am home from a mission trip to South Africa, India and Thailand. To describe the 19 day experience as life-changing is a colossal understatement. It will take me a long time to unpack the lessons, dreams and blessings of the trip. Even now, I wake each morning around 3:00 a.m. to a replay of memories. Smiley is usually one of the first faces I see.

I don’t know her real name, but Smiley is one of about 200 men and women who live in a leper colony near one of our church sponsored orphanages in a rural village of India. Leprosy has ravaged her body, leaving her with no toes, no fingers and a death sentence. Cows, chickens and goats roam the dirty, rugged road in front of her thatched roof shack. This precious woman does not enjoy the luxury of running water and electricity and food is scarce. Personally, I could see very little that Smiley had to smile about but it was her radiant smile that caught my attention and tugged at my heart. She sat in front of me in the dirt, waiting for a message from God. I think the message was mine to hear. We had come to bring her joy and hope — but she already had both. After the service, I wrapped this precious woman in as big a hug as I could possibly give because she was so rarely touched by others. With the help of an interpreter, we celebrated the truth that one day she will once again have all of her toes and fingers. One day, she would be well and whole. She laughed like a little girl at the promise of being with Jesus and living with Him in heaven. Smiley has fixed her eyes on the unseen and found joy and hope in the process. She does not depend upon the temporary things of this world for contentment. Hope gives her the strength to get up each morning and begin her daily search for food. The promise of Heaven comforts her each night when she lies down on a dirty mat to sleep. Smiley has nothing — yet she has everything because she has learned and lives out the truth that inner joy does not depend upon outward circumstances. Joy is a deeply rooted confidence that God is in control — no matter how it looks on the outside. Joy is an inside job and can only be found in a personal relationship with God. Smiley has joy. Do you?

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Joy has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Why do I continually let the irrelevant things in life rob me of joy? I am making a new commitment to constantly “fix” my eyes on what really is important — my personal relationship with God — and refuse to allow the tyranny of the urgent and the meaningless to dictate the attitude of my heart and the direction of my life. Today, let’s choose God and in doing so, choose joy.

7 Comments

  1. That is awesome that you went to those places to share the good news of Jesus! Sounds like you learned as much as they learned! God is so good!
    I would love to go on a mission trip someday!

  2. Oh Darlene, it wasn’t me on the mission trip, I WISH, I would love to do mission work someday!

  3. You go girl! I love your determination and focus to keep your eyes “fixed” on what is most important. He gave us free will to do just that… to choose. Thank you, Father.

  4. What a beautiful, touching and inspiring story. Thank you so much Erin for sharing it:)

    Hugs to you 🙂
    Melly:)

  5. Erin, I just wanted to say that I love your blog & wanted to add it to my favorites list on the new blog I just started. Thanks for all of the beautiful inspiration! 🙂

  6. Erin,
    Thank you for sharing that! We have so much to be thankful for and sometimes don’t understand how truly GOOD we do have it. Yes, God is GOOD, ALL THE TIME!!!
    Erica

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