What happens when you choose joy?
...well let's start with what happens when you don't.
2018 was a hard year for me. And actually it probably started more towards the end of 2017 and carried over. I had postpartum anxiety, got diagnosed with a painful inflammatory condition, got shingles, struggled to lose weight again, got some very hard personal news, my dad battled thyroid cancer... and that is just the beginning.
Then I ended up sitting up one whole night in the rocking chair with Sawyer when he was sick last Spring. I'm not sure if I pinched a nerve or what but I ended up with severe neck pain. I went to the chiropractor, I took prescription meds... then the tingling started. Neuropathy isn't something to play with. The whole left side of my head and face started either throbbing or tingling, feeling like it was going to sleep... then my mouth and neck. I was horrified what this could mean.
I carried all of those things- the emotional and physical things. They were like a weight on my back. All of the practical things I could do weren't working. The chiropractor helped briefly but the pain would come back. I was taking prescription pain medications to function. Bryan had to miss work and stay home with me so I could recoup.
I was grumpy. I wasn't joyful. I was mad at my circumstances and mad at God. I lost myself. I was carrying unforgiveness. I wasn't a fun mom or a happy wife. I was an anxious wreck, my kids couldn't leave my house without me almost going into a panic attack worrying about them. I wasn't enjoying the things I used to enjoy. I neglected the blog I love. I couldn't work out. I didn't care about eating healthy. I felt like crap.
In July we got some more heartbreaking news. It hit me very hard. I had a dream of what could be and that dream was shattered as quickly as it started. So I took a day to be sad. I took the boys to get happy meals and we went to the park. I let them play while I ate my McDonalds salad without a fork (thanks a lot for that McD's). I cried on the phone with Bryan for what seems like forever but I am sure was only a few minutes. I was upset because God didn't do something that I thought would redeem all of the bad... not just the recent bad but also the not so recent bad of losing Janet and everything that came with that.
Bryan's words to me that day changed my trajectory. God spoke through him because He knew he'd be the only one I'd listen to.
"Jen, if God never did one good thing for us ever again, it would be okay. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. If that's all He ever does, that's enough."
He was so right. I sucked it up. I stopped crying and let go of that shattered dream and decided to move on. I went to the doctor for my neck and got a steroid and lidocaine shot in the back of my head, and it started to relieve the pain. I overhauled my diet. I cut out gluten completely, something I'd dabbled with and "cheated" on several times in the last 15 years. Within two weeks my facial numbness was completely gone. I'm over 6 months completely gluten free now.
In September I started a new bible study. It wasn't really the bible study I wanted to do, but my best friend said it sounded good so I went along with it. I started reading my bible. I started trying to pray again. But Jenna didn't have words to pray. I didn't know what to ask for. I was numb literally and physically. So I just started writing scripture. I started in my prayer journal. And then I moved to note cards. I taped note cards with the scriptures I was writing all over my house. As I started reading and filling my mind with God's words, my attitude started to change. On the advice of my mom, I listened to a podcast by Lysa Terkurst that spoke volumes to me. I took away a huge key thing and wrote on my mirror (it's still written there today).
There is what Jenna sees... and what God is doing.
I've listened to that podcast 4 times now. As I continued to read my Bible, listen to uplifting podcasts and books and saturate my mind with GOOD and with GOD, I felt God telling me to let go and let Him step in and carry my burdens. So I did that. I gave it all up. It's been a process and didn't exactly happen overnight. My neck pain disappeared. My neuropathy was gone. The personal problems didn't feel so overwhelming. The anxiety was still there, but was better. I didn't know why, but I was looking at God's words everywhere I looked. The bible study I was doing was James McDonald's Think Differently. It dove into the story of Issac and Jacob. Everywhere I looked, and still look, I'm getting this story from different angles, to the point of when I start listening to something and it's about another aspect of the story I start laughing. "Got it, God, You really want me to understand this!"
...And then on October 23 while driving to bible study I got a phone call that changed my life. I can't share a lot about this story yet, there are a lot of unknowns and it has definitely not been easy. But on October 23, God healed me of my anxiety. God has showed me why I was memorizing HIS words. He knew I'd have dark and very sad days. He knew there would be a lot of unknowns. He knew I couldn't do it, but He could. He brought my joy back after months of searching for it. I was able to close my eyes in the midst of very hard things and see God's words that I'd written. Every time the unknowns crept in or I needed comfort- His words came visually to my mind- that's why I'd written those verses. That's why they were all over my home. He knew I'd need them in my mind when they weren't physically in front of me.
July Jenna... she could not have handled the situation I am in right now. October to now January Jenna... she's hanging in just fine. This new Jenna gets to love on a baby girl, part time right now. She's in the middle of legal craziness. Her family has been scrutinized with a home study which she was told would NO WAY be done by the end of the year (BUT GOD. God worked it out, and we got it finalized on Dec. 30 ;)). She's been misrepresented and been in a place where she's unable to clear that up. July Jenna wouldn't be able to get out of bed because of the physical pain and the severe anxiety she'd be under.
But not me, I'm changed, by the GRACE of God. I won't stop sharing about it. I wish I could share every detail and how God's hand has been on EVERY single detail over the last few months... and that that's included me sobbing on my bed and God preparing me for disappointment and me just rereading verse after verse in my prayer journal that I'd written since early September. I say that to tell you that just because He's healed me, He hasn't given me an easy journey to walk right now.
So what happens when you don't choose joy? When you think you've got a plan and it doesn't work out?
...nothing good. This is not a good place to be.
But when you do start to choose joy again and allow God into the dark spaces... the light shines again. I don't know how my story ends. Or how the crazy journey that started back on October 23 ends.
But I do know that God is good. He is faithful. He goes before me. He hasn't given me a spirit of fear. He withholds no good thing from those who do what is right. When I start to feel the anxiety creep in, I go back to those facts. His word holds true.
Stay tuned my friends.