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Here is a picture of my precious boys with Santa this past Christmas. I’m their mother, so of course my bias unabashedly slips in when I say it’s an adorable picture, but really, isn’t it ADORABLE? They both even managed to look up at the same time (which rarely happens), so I’d even venture to call it “picture perfect.”
What you don’t see in this presumably perfect moment is the messy, stressful chaos that occurred before and after the capture of said adorable picture.
You don’t see the 30 plus minute line we waited in, filled with tired and fussy children, including my own. You don’t see the last-minute diaper change and clothes change, and apparently my youngest must have grown two inches overnight because his “emergency pants” in his diaper bag were clearly way too small for him now, so back into the food-covered pants we went.
You don’t see the pacifier that dropped not once but twice (face up, whew!) on the floor that this sometimes-germaphobe mommy quickly picked up, blew on, and hesitantly put back in the baby’s mouth. Five second rule!
You don’t see the bawling melt-down in the car on the way home because the oldest claimed that his “most specialist” and “most favoritest” ball (a cheap, rubber ball— possibly even a dog toy— from Dollar Tree that he never played with till that day) fell outside in the parking lot in a muddy, sewage-filled puddle, and he just couldn’t fathom why I wouldn’t go pick it up for him and let him play with it again.
You don’t see the over-tired baby who cried during bath time (a usually soothing night-time ritual for him) and who struggled to fall asleep when it was time for bed. The oldest had since calmed down from his previous meltdown, but he was still hopped up on hot chocolate and Christmas cookies and didn’t want to go to sleep…. and all of this on a school night!
Typical night with kids, right?
I could have chosen to let the chaos and messiness get to me and cause me unnecessary stress, or I could have embraced it and accepted it, knowing “this is life” and everything was going to be O.K. Looking back, I think I approached that night with a little bit of both.
Life is messy. Life can be chaotic. But life is beautiful and precious as well, and every moment matters— even the messy ones.
Instead of focusing on the “mess” that often surrounds us, we can appreciate the beauty of it. I could have chosen to focus on the beauty of my fussy children that night because I love being their mother, and they are God’s precious gift to me. They won’t stay little forever. One day they’ll be too old for Santa pictures, and I know I’ll crave for those moments back.
We can ask God to change our heart and change our perspective, allowing us to see the beauty amidst the chaos.
We can ask God for peace, patience, and understanding, seeing His faithfulness in times of death, sickness, financial crises, and life’s daily stressors. It’s not always easy, but it IS possible. And others will notice the difference within us, and they’ll want to know how they can attain that same peace and joy for themselves.
James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” And Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always! […] Do not be anxious about anything, […] And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
My life is messy and chaotic at times— you bet— but I praise God for my life, and I am so thankful for His many blessings, in all their shapes and forms. I choose to fix my eyes on God’s goodness.
I choose JOY.
Yes, it is a choice, a choice I try to consciously make every day, several times a day. Now let’s be honest, some days I forget to choose joy, and it always helps to have reminders, so I’ve decided to place little “Choose Joy” sticky notes throughout the house. God’s beautiful blessings are everywhere, but I have to choose to focus on them and not focus on the things that I may view as burdens.
Piles of dirty dishes and dirty laundry that keep reappearing day after day? I can be thankful my family has food to eat and clothes to wear. Stressful day at work? I can be thankful I get to help others through my social work profession, and I can be thankful for a paycheck that helps pay the bills. Long line waiting for Santa? I can be thankful for the memories and bonding time with my boys.
And just like my kids who sat on Santa’s lap, I will one day sit on God’s lap, on His heavenly throne, and soak in with awe His eternal beauty. No more chaos. No more mess. Just picture perfect moments.
But we don’t have to wait until then for those moments. We can choose to embrace them now. We can choose beauty. We can choose joy.
What will you choose?
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2