When We Choose Joy, Our Children Choose Joy

Guest Post by Jordan Summers

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I like to have control. I like choices. I like feeling like there is something I can do about “it,” whatever “it” may be. I’m a problem solver, a fixer. I’m one of those people that you may call bossy, determined, controlling (yuck, don’t like that one). Ironically (and sovereignly), God has given me a life that has been full of situations that I have had absolutely no control over.

One of the most significant of those situations was when my daughter was born with a rare genetic syndrome. I did everything right and by-the-book throughout the whole pregnancy, and I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy. As soon as the doctor delivered my daughter, we noticed something was different. I waited three long hours to finally get to see her. They gave me five minutes to hold her, kiss her, take a quick picture, and then an ambulance took her to the nearest Children’s Hospital. The next few moments and days were filled with questions, tests, dozens of doctors, scary conversations, and every emotion in the book.

I immediately searched for a way to control this. I was literally glued to my phone as I Googled anything I could find. I had to find the diagnosis, and then maybe I could find a cure. I had to find the best doctors in the world. I questioned what I could have done different, how I might have caused this to happen to my baby. I looked for any and every way to gain control. Eventually, reality flew in and hit me so hard. For the first few days, it was gloom. It was despair. It was dark.

And then one day, standing there in the NICU next to my daughter’s bed, staring at her tiny little neck brace, wondering if I was ever going to get to hold her or talk to her or see her walk, a passage that I had memorized and known for years entered my head.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 “Be joyful always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I had heard those verses a thousand times, but in this moment they became alive to me in a way they never had before. I realized right there that I had a choice.

I could look at my daughter and our situation with despair, or I could look with hope. I could rejoice in the fact that she had life, or I could mourn the life that I feared she would never have. I could continue trying to gain control and drive myself crazy, or I could surrender and pray without ceasing. I could be bitter, or I could give thanks. I started to choose joy. I can’t even articulate the transformation that happened after this moment, but things were just different. Simply making that choice made everything change.

I realized the truth in the popular saying, “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to what happens to you.”

I started decorating her hospital bed. I started sharing her story openly and passionately. I started celebrating every tiny thing she did. I embraced every moment, and I loved it. After a couple of weeks we were released to go home with our beautiful daughter. Her future was still very unknown, but we were overjoyed.

Years later, we are still overjoyed. The journey is still hard, don’t get me wrong. There are still moments that are filled with anxiety for the future, filled with anger for what she can’t do. Sometimes I straight up fail at choosing joy. But for the most part, my husband and I even forget that there is anything different about our daughter, about our lives. We forget all of the things she can’t do because we choose to focus on and praise God for the things she can do. We don’t get caught up in worrying about the future, because we try to embrace the joy we have today. We pray for her without ceasing. We celebrate everything. We embrace every moment.

I knew that choosing joy and thankfulness was good for me. It was God’s will. It kept me mentally healthy. It made my life more abundant. I understood all of that. But what I didn’t realize until recently was how important my response was for my daughter.

Morgan is almost five now, and you know what? She has learned this principle of choice. She is leading a life full of choosing joy, full of prayer, full of thanksgiving.

Today she has cervical spine instability, two dislocated hips, knees that have no range of motion, ankles that are dislocated and can’t stabilize, and many more orthopedic issues that make walking sound impossible for her. But she walks. She runs. She jumps. She dances. She climbs. She rides a tricycle. She loves playing with her friends. All of these things are hard for her. She sees her friends doing them all so much easier and faster than her. And even with all that she can do, there is still a lot that she can’t.

But rarely does she complain. Rarely does she get sad. Never is there despair. She rejoices. She prays. She is thankful. She embraces and loves life exactly how it is for her.

It is humbling and scary all at the same time to realize my impact on her learning this type of response. It’s humbling because I praise God that He can do a work in me that will help teach and shape her to make these decisions that honor and glorify Him, but it’s scary because I know that in every situation, my response will shape hers.

And your response will shape the response of your children, too.

So as I continue to challenge myself to make a deliberate choice in my response every time something happens to me, I challenge you to do the same. I challenge us, together, to remember that no matter the situation, we always have a choice.

It’s revenge, or mercy.

It’s bitterness, or forgiveness.

It’s anger, or peace.

It’s despair, or joy.

It’s pride, or humility.

It’s greed, or generosity.

It’s stubbornness, or submission.

It’s rudeness, or kindness.

Whatever has happened, whatever is happening, whatever happens… we have a choice. What we choose matters.

We choose joy; our children choose joy. We choose forgiveness; our children choose forgiveness. We choose mercy; our  children choose mercy. We choose life; our children choose life.

Jordan Summers

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Jordan lives in Central Arkansas with her husband of six years, Marty, and their 4-year-old daughter, Morgan. She was a youth and college girls ministry leader for seven years until her daughter was born. She is now the director of a developmental preschool. She and her husband are passionate about orphan care and have been foster parents for a year-and-a-half. They have fostered four children in the last year, including a one-year-old they have had since birth.

 

*Please leave your comments below!

3 comments

  1. Seana says:

    I absolutely love this family! What a treat to read my dear friends words, a story I’m familiar with yet with such newness in perspective. Thank you Jordan for this! It’s what I needed to hear, what an encouragement you and your family are to me and my family!

  2. Karen Mize says:

    I have followed this family and their story since sweet Morgan was born. I cried reading this and remembering everything our children can go through. My youngest son has a lot of health issues and too often I choose despair shamefully. I choose blaming myself over things he inherited. I choose darkness when I should rejoice that he is alive, happy, and that there are worse outcomes we could have experienced with him. My son smiles, laughs, and is silly all the time and I think it’s a simple reminder to myself that life can be pure joy we just have to see it that way. Too often I get lost in what ifs and googling everything about his multiple illnesses.
    Thank you Jordan for sharing your story yet again and revealing a different way to approach how we feel when it comes to
    Our children going through hard times. Sometimes it’s a reminder like this that changes how we think, perceive things, and act towards situations we are placed in.

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