*I wrote this post a couple of days ago, before our country was, once again, torn asunder by violence, outrage, and righteous indignation. This morning, as I sat for a few minutes in the peace and stillness, I was reminded that the instability of the world is great, and the fear of what kind of place my daughter will inherit is frightening at times. 

I’ve tried to raise my daughter in Atticus Finch fashion: that you don’t really know anyone until you’ve crawled inside his skin and walked around in it. I’ve tried to teach her that everyone has their own motivations that have come from years of conditioning – good, bad, or both. Most people are products of not only their biology, but their circumstances. Nature and nurture, or the lack thereof. But, as one of her favorite literary characters said, “It is our choices that make us who we are, far more than our abilities.”

We can choose to be ignorant, we can choose to only see that which we want to see or understand, we can choose to incite and provoke or to calm and soothe. We can choose who deserves our sympathy, who deserves our acceptance, who deserves our forgiveness, and who deserves our judgment. The choices we make are not often correct, and I wish that more people would stop and make the choice to simply love their neighbor. I wish more people weren’t so quick to judge, so quick to assume they are correct and that everything they read is true, so quick to condemn anyone who feels or thinks differently from themselves.

But it’s not a perfect world, is it? It’s a broken one. Which is why the post below is so important. Because it reminds me that every once in a while, we get a glimpse of heaven. Some are big moments, like the one I wrote about, some are so small and seemingly insignificant that one might miss them if they weren’t paying attention, looking for them.

On this day, this sad, dark day, following weeks of what often feels like unending violence, I choose to look for the joy. Reminiscing about the most joyful day of my life is an exercise in gratitude, and a reminder to count my blessings. And to do my best to be the reason someone else has joy today.

This is the first post I didn’t have to think twice about. The most joyful day of my life, hands down, was the day Reagan was born.

Nothing brings out emotion in me like this child of mine. The relief of seeing her face for the first time, knowing she was here, safe and sound, no major complications – I was absolutely overwhelmed. I cried, my whole body was shaking, and when I finally got to hold her, I couldn’t believe she was mine. In fact, I still can’t believe it sometimes. I was looking at her face last night. Still beautiful, but ever changing as she becomes a young woman. She is a mystery that I watch unfolding every day, right before my very eyes.

Giving birth to a child is, no doubt, a painful thing. But we couldn’t know and appreciate true joy without true pain. And parenting is a journey of beautiful pain. There are times when I can help her, and times that I can’t, and times that I have to choose not to, because there is a lesson she has to learn. She is far from grown, but she is a mature kid (most of the time). She is perceptive beyond her years, and has determination and strength that already tell me that she can accomplish any goal that she sets for herself.

Sometimes we get joy from a new thing. Something different. Something exciting. That’s why having a child is a joy that never ends. Because they are new every day. They are learning every day. They are evolving and maturing every single day, and as parents, we get a front row seat to this daily transformation. Sometimes it’s hard to watch and some days we want them to slow down. Some days we want to scratch their big blue eyes out! But most days, even if the night before was full of smart aleck responses to my questions, or a hormonal mood swing out of nowhere, I wake up the next morning feeling the promise that the day holds for my daughter. The joy that I felt the first time I laid eyes on her has not diminished.

That’s the thing about joy – it’s different from happiness. Happiness is a fleeting thing. Joy is an inborn wellspring. A supernatural gift from the Divine, and one that all of us need to find a way to tap into more often. You can start by counting your blessings.