I don’t always appreciate when people tell me, “You’re so optimistic. I wish I could be like you”.

It sounds and looks like a compliment, but as someone who pulls on a smile with effort at times, I want to set the record straight.

Over the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about who God made me to be. In Texas I learned that focusing on fixing your weaknesses is a waste of time. Too much effort spent improving something that will never be a strength is going about self-improvement the wrong way.

The one thing people have consistently said about me for as long as I can remember is that I have lots of joy.

“You are so positive. You have an energy that lights up the room. You have a beautiful smile. I really appreciate the way you can view situations in such a positive light.”

And on, and on.

It sounds like I’m ringing my own bell here. But I’m not! Keep reading.

This is a real part of who I am. Depression and anxiety are also a part of me. It doesn’t show often in public because I consciously and unconsciously try to control how people think of me. That characteristic doesn’t sound so healthy. It’s not, but I bet most of us do it.

I don’t want people to see me break down or in my weaknesses. When I break down in public, I feel so ashamed that I can’t handle life.¬†Privacy protects my ego, but my inner life still suffers.

All of this is to clarify that sometimes my joy is a natural extension of who I truly am, but I’m not joyful all the time.

Sometimes my joy is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Am I making this too spiritual?¬†I don’t think so.

There are times where I feel desperate, but I decide to press in and seek God’s face. For example, when I really start thinking about what salvation means and how we attain it, my cynicism creeps in. I fight the cynicism by relying on who I believe God is and looking for that God in my day to day.

My Joy Jar

My Joy Jar is an example. I can’t tell you about this jar without making sure you know that I’m not the unbreakable optimist that sees everything with a tint of happy. I’m just a regular person who gets depressed and lonely sometimes yet doesn’t want it to stay that way.

I’ve struggled on the ship this year to connect with patients. I feel often like I’m missing out (I wrote about it HERE) on learning their stories and developing meaningful relationships with them.

It was in this feeling of missing out, or lack of depth in relationships that the Joy Jar was birthed. It wasn’t out of idealistic happy-go-luckiness. It was out of a confidence that we are created for relationships, and so there must be more than what I was experiencing.

I need to look for it.

Every time I have a special moment in the hospital, I write it down and slip it in the basket. A moment where I feel like I really connect with a patient or where I see God’s miraculous hand in the little details of nursing life.

what is provocative joy?

This blog is a continuation of my previous blog, This Dust Never Settles. That blog was about my ever-changing life and my constant search for a more abundant life. That’s still relevant, but I chose this new name to represent a slightly broader season.

Provocative Joy represents who I am and what I strive for. It’s my current status and my aim for the future. Life isn’t always exciting. Sometimes things slip into monotony or routine (even when you’re in Madagascar).

I’m not simply happy. I’m more than that. Maybe that’s why my thoughts turn when someone comments on it.

In fact, currently I’m really struggling with how to let God meet my needs and how to obey him no matter what. Maybe my gift of joy is one that reveals itself in the midst of my darkest, most confusing times. The joy I feel provokes. It provokes me to seek the Source of joy. It provokes others to ask me where this joy comes from.

It provokes me to embrace freedom and be who I am. That, in turn, provokes others to want to be his or her most authentic self.

Christ’s joy provokes me onward in this journey because, “for the joy set before him, he endured the cross.”

It’s a provocative joy.

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