When you buy your kids matching jack o’lantern shirts, there’s an expiration date on appropriate photo-taking opportunities. I mean, sure, they can wear them after Halloween, but it’s a little lame. And making them wear them on the same day and posting all the pictures I snapped on Facebook? Just doesn’t make since once we hit November.
So last week, just a couple days before those shirts were as irrelevant as the VCR sitting in my garage, I put them on my daughters and told them we were going outside.
We grabbed a couple of the pumpkins off the front porch and headed out to the soggy, leaf-covered back yard. I cheered and bribed and begged until I had at least one shot of both girls smiling at the same time. Then I gave up and let them run around like chickens for a while.
[Side note: I don’t know that they literally ran around like chickens. Maybe monkeys? Or just kids giddy to be outside after being indoors most the day. Whatever, they went a little nuts.]
As they ran from tree to fence to tree and back, slipping on hills and sliding on leaves, they couldn’t stop grinning. I could hear, “Freedom” by George Michael playing in my head as I realized that these poor babies really had been cooped up for too long. (Our backyard was overrun by mosquitos and spiders this summer, so for a while it was go to the park or stay inside. In hindsight, not my best mom move. #liveandlearn)
ANYWAY. They played while I watched and snapped a few dozen more pictures. My 8-year-old decided to create a nest for the birds and nothing I could say convinced her that was unnecessary. Meanwhile, my almost-2-year-old discovered how fun it was to roll pumpkins down the hill at the back of the yard.
After a while I said, “Okay, it’s time to go inside. I need to cook dinner!”
I’m sure, if you’ve ever met a child, you can imagine how well that was received. The NOOOOOOs came fast and furious, with a little bit of negotiating from my oldest for good measure. As she ran through her objections and recommended revisions to my plan, she finally landed on a good one. She said: “But, Mom! We’re CHOOSING JOY out here! Don’t you want to take more pictures of us CHOOSING JOY?!”
Well played, child. I see a debate team in your future.
See, my daughter knows that my first book is coming out in a couple months – and she knows the focus is all about finding joy. And, most importantly to her argument, she knows I’ve been working hard to really take the lessons to heart and intentionally choose joy in my day-do-day life.
So that afternoon, as the sun continued to set and we got colder and dinner got later, I decided to choose the joy. I decided to choose my girls and to choose the moment and to choose the joy.
And I decided to make use of that frozen pizza I had bought for nights exactly like that one.
I’m not always good at recognizing the opportunity for joy in my life. Sometimes it takes the heart – and, let’s be honest, the mouth – of a child to make me stop running through my to-do list and start running toward my kids as they laugh in a pile of leaves.
Is it hard for you to choose joy? When was the last time you did?
If you’d like more inspiration to choose the joy, you can find it in "Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts." And if you’d like to help spread the word about the book, I’d love for you to apply for the Choose Joy Launch Team! Click here to apply.
Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God's grace. Mary writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life, at her blog, GivingUpOnPerfect.com. She is also a regular contributor to several other websites, including (in)courage, a women's website from Dayspring. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.
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