Choose Joy, Even When Life is Crumbling in Around You

After one of my sessions at the CHAP conference last week, a 10-year-old boy came pushing his mom up to meet me. His mom, Beth, was in a wheelchair and I could instantly tell by that and the hat she wore that hers was a story of great pain and suffering.

She told me that she’d been diagnosed with leukemia a year ago and had gone through extensive treatments. I asked her more questions and discovered a little of just how intensive and intrusive those treatments had been. She’d been unable to do much to care for her family (she has seven children!) and she’d experienced unimaginable pain and suffering.

As she shared her story, though, the joy in her heart — even in this very difficult circumstances — was so evident. In fact, she wanted to come meet me to tell me thank you for my blog as it had been a lifeline for her in the midst of all she was going through.

My heart broke for Beth’s pain. At the same time, though, I was deeply touched that she could still be smiling and joyful.

Even when everything was so hard, even when they are really struggling financially (they’ve hired a full-time nanny–something that has been a blessing, but it’s also drained their budget), even when she doesn’t even know if she’s going to survive… in spite of all this, she was still smiling.

Truly, you can’t always change your circumstance, but you can always choose your attitude.

May I encourage you today in whatever you are facing to choose joy? Choose to smile. Choose gratitude.

It might not change or fix a difficult situation, but I promise that it will make it more bearable.

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  1. Jessica says

    I am always amazed by people who are able to find the joy in life even when they have been handed many lemons, as it were.

    I was raised by parents who complained and always found the clouds in life instead of the silver linings. Yes, they have had a difficult life, with my Mom growing up very poor as one of sixteen kids, and then my little sister was born severely prematurely when our parents were only 22 years old (I was 3 at the time). My sister was not expected to survive, but she did and is severely handicapped (she’s 30 now). My parents complain about everything, from “traffic” in their town of 2000 people to the weather to just about anything else. They only look at the tree in front of them and never consider the forest that surrounds them.

    Overcoming that type of attitude has been a challenge of mine. My husband has played a huge role in my mental adjustment in the past 15 years that I’ve known him (and 10.5 that we’ve been married). So much of your attitude is “contagious” from those around you.

    What a blessing this woman is for her children, husband, family, friends and community. While she has certainly been dealt a hand no one would ever choose, what an amazing example she is setting even for total strangers!

    • Sarah says

      I completely agree that attitudes can be contagious. It’s so important to surround yourself with positive people and do your best to “deal with” the negative people without letting them impact your spirit!

    • Debbie says

      Thanks for sharing this. I sometimes feel like I complain too much and I know my husband does! I don’t want to be like that.

  2. says

    Such wonderfully spoken words. I remember the hospice doctors saying to me when my mom was going through the last months of her battle with cancer that with the extent of the cancer she should be on three times as much pain killers, but she seemed to be just fine without them and they all said it was because of her “attitude” . She chose joy, instead of complaining; sure she grumbled here and there but she always had 10 pleasant things to say to every grumble that slipped and it really did help her pain level.

  3. Erica says

    I posted on fb, but don’t know which you will see first. This is my dear friend, and she actually has 7 kids. I can send you her email if you let me know where to send it. I don’t know if she is ok with me posting it here :-)

    • Christie Jester says

      Hi, Erica- I must have been writing at the same time as you…see my msg below that’s almost identical to yours =) -Christie

  4. Christie Jester says

    Crystal, You we’re privileged to meet my good friend Beth! (I was at CHAP also, but you had such a good crowd going after your sessions, that I didn’t get to meet you.) If she doesn’t respond to you soon, you can message me, and I can send you her email.
    Beth has been such a huge encouragement to all of us here in our town. She started our home school support group a few years ago, and has been greatly missed this year at our meetings. It sounds like you got to meet Jonah, her 10 year old- he’s a great kid- all of her kids are so helpful and have been very courageous this year. (She actually has 7, not 6.)

    Thanks for sharing Beth’s story- like you said, you can always choose your attitude, and she’s been a great example to all of us to choose the joy of Christ, no matter what the circumstances.

  5. Jerri says

    Kay Warren has written a book with that title, “Choose Joy”. Wonderful book that was written before the death of her son.

  6. Carrie says

    I think this illustrates how much of a blessing this blog is to so many people. It’s not just about saving money, or being a better mom, it is a postive, encouraging place to get inspiration from you and the other people who post their comments. You truly make a difference.

  7. says

    Thank you Crystal for sharing this heartbreaking yet poignant story. I can’t even begin to imagine what this has been like for her and her family. I can only begin to fathom the amount of strength it takes to still be smiling in the midst of the suffering she is experiencing and am inspired by the lesson being taught through her story. Thank you again Crystal for sharing your experience meeting her with all of us.

    To the woman this post is about, if you read this, thank you for being an inspiration in the midst of such a very challenging circumstance, your strength baffles and inspires me. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to you and your family.

    • Cheri A says

      ITA. I visit this blog every day. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, and I hope you find this dear lady.

      And to the woman this post is about, I also thank you for being an inspiration and light to your family and those who are blessed to know you. My thought and prayers also go out to you and your family.

  8. says

    I’ve been so challenged too lately (esp through a sermon I heard last week) to just be thankful…we can always find something to be thankful for, no matter how difficult life is! Some of the happiest people out there are those with very difficult lives and yet they can be happy because they have CHOSEN joy!
    Thanks for posting this…

  9. Kim says

    Thanks for this uplifting post. I love love love your site and your fantastic tips & suggestions. It helps me strive to be a better mom/better organizer, etc, etc and you & your team are just great! Keep up the good work & continued blessings to you & yours!

  10. Erin says

    This message is SO relevant to my family today. my grandpa has been dealing with a terminal illness and so angry with his situation that he has become almost unbearable, even though he is resting as comfortably as possible in his own home and still has a decent quality of life. His full-time caretaker (my dearest most beloved grandma!) was hospitalized today with a collapsed lung yet he is still concerned only about himself… now even angrier becAuse she will not be home tonight to cater to his every want and whim. i am trying hard to see the bright spots and realize the blessings in everything we face… But joy is a choice for sure! Thanks again for a very nice post!

  11. Carrie O. says

    Dear Heavenly Father, I just pray for a miracle healing for this lovely woman, and blessings upon her and her family. In Jesus name, Amen.

    • Sarah says

      I just want to say that this is MOSTLY true, but remember to cut everyone a lot of slack, when they are truly suffering. I have been a caregiver for many years, and witnessed SEVERE pain and suffering. I have remarked frequently that the suffering patient is VERY OFTEN kinder and more cheerful to medical staff than the care or bedside manner they receive in return. This is especially true when it’s chronic illness involved, rather than an acute or sudden condition.

      “I think it is a very common error among the well to think that with a little more self-control, the sick might, if they choose, dismiss painful thoughts which aggravate their disease. Believe me, almost any sick person, who behaves decently well, exercises more self-control every moment of his day than you will ever know till you are sick yourself. Almost every step that crosses his room are painful to him, and if he can speak without being savage, and look without being unpleasant, he is exercising self-control.”

      – Florence Nightingale 1859

  12. Kel says

    I love your message, your encouragement, and the idea of being intentionally optimistic and have a positive attitude.

    Even though I love your message, I want to make note of the alternate side….it is not always possible to CHOOSE your attitude. After both my parents passed away, two years later I was still devastated. I beat myself over the fact I was still crying everyday, so mad at myself for being in a dark place despite my many, many blessings in life. I finally came to terms with the fact I couldn’t choose my attitude and took action. One summer of weekly counselor sessions got me to where I needed to be. I didn’t need medication to get there, but some people do. I just want to present this side of it since there may be others out there who, like me, just couldn’t make myself find the bright side.

    Kelly up the good work Moneysaving Mom!

    • Janet says

      Thank you for sharing your story. It is important to remind ourselves that there are many times in life where we need to take time to feel what we feel and that this is not only okay, but healthy. Processing anger, fear, and anxiety can be part of the healing process. We all have met someone whose smile and positivity is skin deep, because they refuse to deal with their real emotions.

  13. says

    This post reminds me of my Mom. She passed away in 2006 from breast cancer. She was absolutely the strongest person I’ve ever met. Even up to her death she never – not one time – complained. She was always more worried about her kids after she would be gone. She always told us to live by the “3 C’s”…don’t Criticize, Condemn, or Complain. She would always say “you never know what that person has been through and you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes”. Such good advice. I strive to live by her motto in my own life now. If I have only half the strength she did, then I can do anything.

    Thanks for the inspiring post.

  14. Lora C says

    Thank you for sharing that story and for this blog. I shared with you a few weeks ago my current struggles. I have learned first hand that YOU get to choose your attitude when life hands you lemons. I can be sour or sweet–I am choosing to trust God and let that sweeten me.

  15. Lor Alessi says

    What a wonderful reminder. Over the past several years our family has faced trials, as all families do, and I have often cried out to God, “I choose to trust You. I choose to love You. I choose to find joy in this. I choose to obey You. I choose to trust You.” It’s all a choice and an act of obedience. When I choose to trust, obey and love Him no matter my circumstances and choose to find joy, I then find joy and peace. My God is so very faithful to see me through it all. I just have to choose to obey and trust Him. Thank you Crystal for your wonderful blog. Besides the great deals you tell all of us about, you often feed my soul and spirit. Thank you.

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