How to Be Joyful When Nothing is Perfect

Dude. Life is so good, isn’t it? I feel like I’m living in the sweet-spot lately, and it’ll be nice, when October rolls around, to look back at days like today and remember that I’m capable of being this joyful. I’d say “happy,” but to me, “happy” is to “joyful,” what “pretty” is to “beautiful,” you know what I mean? And yes, while I am “happy,” more than that, I’m deep-down-in-my-bones joyful, and that’s a whole other thing entirely.

Melissa Jenna and Ellie Godsey

We just got done swimming and were giddy from all the excitement.

Am I saying nothing is wrong or bothering me? Absolutely not. There are plenty of things that aren’t the way they would be “in a perfect world,” and a few situations that I would wave a magic-wand over if I could. (You guys: the first time I typed that sentence, I typed “magic wang.” And then I snickered like a twelve year old boy.) But, and I think this is the trick to “joy” versus “happiness” (if I may be so bold as to claim that I “get” joy): those temporary things do not matter, and I know it. Like, more than head-know-it, I heart-know-it. And, at least for me, it doesn’t matter how much I “head-know” something; if I don’t “heart-know” it, it might as well not even be true.

I’m joyful in my housework, and errands, and snail-hunting (garden’s full of ’em), and in swimming with my kiddo, and my silly little blog, and sharing dinner with my husband. And in probably the darkest, most psychologically upsetting circumstance of my life (my mother “disowned” me over a year ago, and continues to remain divorced from me and my family to this day), guess what? I’m joyful. It’s electric.

Past versions of myself would be ears-deep in depression right now, looking for a thing or a person to throw myself into, to lose myself in the midst of my anguish and multiply pain upon pain. But that person died, and continues to die over and over again, as my present and future self continues to be reborn. (My husband would call this “circling upward, rather than just going in circles.”) It’s amazing, and beautiful, and I’d say “unbelievable,” except that I have to believe it, because I am living it.

Do I “get” it? Why I have this deep wellspring of joy? I mean, why me, and not so many others? I certainly don’t “deserve” it. I wish I could give it away to everyone I know, but if I tried, I’d hand them a box, and they’d open it, and it’d be empty. Because the source of my joy isn’t a thing I can contain, or a thing I can impart on anyone, no matter how much I want to share it; the source of my joy has always been, and will always be, and is right there in front of each of our faces, just waiting, patiently, to be noticed.

But many of us are so focused on other things, red-herrings of joy, that we miss it, that plain, soft-spoken voice that patiently calls to us. We peruse those red-herrings, and each time we realize that the source of joy that we’re chasing is inauthentic, a phony, we simply begin chasing another red-herring. I did that for years. Some people do it for a lifetime. How exhausting. How depressingly and frustratingly exhausting. Why not consider giving up the chase? Take a break, and examine that patient voice that is waiting to be heard. You’ve got nothing to lose. And trust me, the red-herring chase will be there if you decide you want to go back to it.


I really didn’t mean to get all spiritually weird on you with this one. I honestly just sat down to explain that the reason I didn’t follow any of the “Seven Sacred Pauses” for my “Summer of 7” today, was because I am so gosh darned joyful, that that book was actually messing me up in a bad way. (And that, my friends, is called burying the lede.)

This is seriously not a cop-out: the book was screwing with my biorhythms, okay? I had to put it down. So today, to remain faithful to cutting out the excess stress in my life (per my “Summer of 7” requirement), instead of obeying the “Seven Sacred Pauses,” once Ellie went down for her nap, I did my housework, then laid on my front lawn in my bathing suit and listened to an audio book. AND I FEEL NO GUILT.

I smell like warm Hawaiian Tropic and sweat, and I couldn’t be more joyful.

So there.

xoxo, mj

Oh, one more thing. Storyline Conference in TWO days! I am pretty gosh darn excited. You know who wrote a funny thing about Storyline? Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, that’s who. Never read her? You’ll love her, trust me. See you soon, Westmont!

Summer of 7: Stress Week, Day 2 of 7

The Summer of 7 Melissa Jenna GodseyThis week is not going how I envisioned it. Though looking back on it, I’m not sure what I was thinking? If I could go back in time and talk to myself last week I’d say something like “So let me get this straight. You’re going to stop everything you’re doing, 7 times a day, for a time of focused prayer? Sounds great, but what about when Ellie is smashing strawberries in her fists and rubbing it all over her face? Or when you your husband gets home from work, and you’re thrilled to see him? Will you simply hand Ellie over to him so you can have your focused prayer time?”

As lovely as the book “Seven Sacred Pauses” is, right now it is actually causing me more stress than I had before. That’s the opposite of what I was going for.

I enjoy the readings very much (though I’m not encountering them as deeply as I was hoping to), and I fully believe in praying throughout my day, but the thing is…I kind of already do that. No, I do not have alarms set on my phone called “The Wisdom Hour”  or “The Hour of Illumination” normally (hours from the book), but–at least for my stage in life right now–I like my usual prayer-life better.

I won’t say that I “pray continually” as described in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (“16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18) because I know that I don’t. But the idea of living in an uninterrupted spirit if prayer and gratefulness is one that I hold dear. And it’s that gratefulness for all things that keeps me relatively stress-free. What’s happening is that the “scheduled” prayers of “The Seven Sacred Pauses” are overwhelming me to the point that I’m not praying continually like usual.

A short story about how I learned to pray “continually:”

I really enjoy cleaning my house, but it has not always been this way. I used to hate it. Every dried-up spill I scrubbed, I’d imagine my husband carelessly spilling something on the floor, then choosing to let it sit there and dry up rather than bending down to wipe it up for himself. Every time I scrubbed the bluish goo mixed with shaving gunk from his bathroom sink, I’d see him in my mind’s eye, brushing his teeth, and then walking away from that disgusting mess without a second thought about it. Never once thinking “you know, if I just swished one tiny handful of warm water down the drain after I shaved or brushed my teeth, my wife would never have to scrub this blue gunk off of the sink again!” Every piece of dirty laundry on the floor. Every set of gunky fingerprints on the remote control. You get the idea. At the end of the day, I was fuming, but I never said a word about it.

But one day–I’m not sure why this happened–something just clicked in my head. Sometime in December of 2010, I think. As I was waiting for the dishwater to warm  up (I will only wash dishes in the hottest of water), I found my mind wandering to the mothers in Africa who have to walk miles to fetch their water. Water that I would never even think of cleaning my dishes with, let alone cooking with, because it’s so filthy. And there I was, frustrated to tears because my husband didn’t dump his food scraps into the trash AGAIN, while standing over my sink waiting for the clean, clear water to get hot enough to wash our dishes. POOR MELISSA. Cry me a fricking river.

Something inside me clicked, and I began to cry. (Also, you should know that until about August of 2009, I was not a crier. Maybe I’ll tell that story another time.) I cried because I felt ashamed at my self-centeredness, and my feelings of entitlement. I cried because I was angry that I was still so immature. I cried because it’s just not fair that so many people die because of lack of access to clean water, and here I am, letting so much of it rush down the drain because I don’t think it’s hot enough to wash my dishes. I cried because I was a spoiled brat, and it took me so. long. to see it.

Since then, I’m delighted on a daily basis with how many things I have to be grateful for. We’re blessed abundantly, and I’m not shy of thanking God every single time I notice something. No, my prayers are not sacred readings that I do at a dedicated time of day, but to me, my “dishwater” prayers are more sacred. God is changing my heart day by day, hour by hour, and every time I say “thank you Father for blessing me and my family with not one but THREE sinks to clean, all with hot and cold running water,” I feel my heart soften.

So while I will continue with “Seven Sacred Pauses,” I’m going to stop beating myself up when I feel like I have to rush through my readings because Ellie put a foreign object into her mouth, or dinner is burning, or whatever. Also, I’m recommitting to living in an unbroken spirit of prayer and thanksgiving. In celebration of getting my head right again, here are some prayers I’ve said today. Maybe you can identify .

(When I miss my husband and he’s away at work, or working later than usual) Father thank you for my Husband and all that he does for our family. Thank you for blessing him (and us) with a job, and one that he loves.

(When I feel want for some material thing. Lately it’s a digital camera, since Ellie broke my old one) Father, thank you providing for us no matter what our circumstances are. When I had Ellie, we knew that me staying home was what was best for us, at least for the first few years, but we were scared. You’ve provided above and beyond our needs, even though we’re basically living on one income. Thank you for blessing our lives so abundantly; please direct us in how we can share our abundance with others.

(When Ellie is being a stinker, or I’m feeling anxious for a “bigger” life) Father thank you for this incredible child. She’s the greatest blessing in my life, and we do not deserve her. Thank you for giving me all of this time with her- time that we’ll never get to do over again. Thank you for making me into a good mother for Ellie. If you never sought me and adopted me as your own, I’d be failing Ellie as a parent right now. Everything I know about love, and patience, and mercy, and grace, and forgiveness I learned from you, because you show those to me every single day. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect those qualities onto Ellie, that she might see you in me, and grow up with you as her foundation.

(When I’m watering the garden, washing my hands, showering, doing the laundry, rinsing some fruit, flushing the toilet, etc. Basically whenever I’m using running water) Thank you Father for this amazing gift. Many (most?) people in the world do not have access to clean water, let alone clean water in their homes. As I use this gift, I’m thinking about all of those for whom obtaining clean water is a struggle, and my heart breaks for them, and I’m angry, Father. It’s not fair. Please continue stirring up a restlessness in me for those who need water, and lever let me forget this injustice. Please continue to show me how we can use our resources to bring them the basic building-block of human life.

This is just a few that I can remember off of the top of my head. Do you say tiny prayers throughout your day? What’s your most common one?

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