My Greatest Joy Stealer is Staring at Me in the Mirror

Kara Powell | Jan 8, 2015

Photo by Wonderlane.

“Dave, have we booked our hotel for our overnight?”

After searching our respective emails, we realized we hadn’t. We had cleared our calendars for 24 hours and asked my mom to stay with our kids, but we hadn’t finalized one important detail: where we would actually sleep.

Great. One more task I’ve got to cram in a busy Saturday—before the room rates jump.

As I scanned the internet for the cheapest hotel, it suddenly struck me, “Wait a minute. Taking 17 minutes to find a hotel so my husband and I could have a relaxing (and romantic!) overnighter is actually a good thing.”

An hour later, I turned my attention to sorting pictures on my computer so I could create a photo album of the last two years. Our family is great at taking pictures; we’re not so great at organizing them once we download them. (What is “DCIM” anyway?)

I dreaded the hours…and hours…it would take to sort our thousands…and thousands…of pictures. But as I clicked through family memories, my attitude once again shifted. I had the charming experience of looking through treasured memories and the delight of capturing them forever in a photo album.

I love my friend, Margaret Feinberg’s, new book, Fight Back with Joy. As I’ve been ruminating on her insights—and asking myself what causes me to lose my joy—I’m realizing it’s often the little things.

Sure, I’ve had those seasons when there are major joy stealers in the life of our family or others who are important to us. Cancer. Unemployment. Divorce.

But most of my day-to-day joy is stolen when I view good things as tasks. When blessings become burdens.

Like when I try to surprise my kids with breakfast in bed, and since I’m rushing to get the bagels and fruit and nuts (our stand-by no-cook morning protein) on plates, I end up resenting them. Even though it was my idea.

Or when I really want to spend time with the Lord in the mornings, but I squeeze it in between working out and a shower, and it feels like just one more “to do.”

What would happen to us this new year if we viewed our blessings as gifts and not duties? Sure, going to work, doing the dishes, and drafting e.mails to colleagues all have an element of “task-i-ness” to them. But at the core they represent the blessing of providing for our financial needs, enjoying nutrition, and using our gifts to help others.

So much of what we do every day is actually a gift from God. And from others who invite us into their lives. We just don’t see it that way.

This year may we claim Margaret’s goal and “fight back with joy.”

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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