Choosing Joy

I've been home a little more than 24 hours.

Most of the dirty clothing and shoes have been washed. It made me a bit sad to do it, actually. It's not that I wanted to wear clothing that wasn't clean. Rather there is a certain scent to Tanzania and you cannot help but to carry it home with you. Granted, not everything you smell in the city is pleasant, but there is a something that cannot be expressed except to say that when you breathe in a bit of it, you know where you are.

That's why when I mentioned that our suitcases smelled like Tanzania, my sister (who has been twice before) immediately bent on down and took in a big whiff.

It made me a little sad to wash all of that away and replace it with my squeaky clean American laundry detergent.

Thankfully it would take infinitely more to sanitize all of the images, emotions, memories and resolutions that have come from this journey, this safari.

In my last post, I was determined not to forget what I had seen and was afraid that after awhile, I would lose focus of what is truly important and slowly begin to go back to what is not.

I asked God to help me to keep Tanzania and the people there alive in my heart and mind. And not to be consumed and dismayed so easily by things that are maybe...just maybe not the very end of the world. #firstworldproblems indeed.

I asked Him to burn it into my heart, so to speak.

That prayer  is already starting to be answered.

After being picked up at the airport by excited family members, dropping off my mother-in-law and going through a drive thru for dinner, we arrived home yesterday to a cold house.

I figured that our house-sitter had maybe gone polar bear or hadn't needed the heater up to that point. So, I flipped it on and....nothing.

It became quickly apparent that it wasn't coming on. Something was wrong. Upon texting the house-sitter, we found that early one morning, the smoke alarm, smoke and the smell of burning woke him up..

The house was cccooooold, but we were too worn out with jet lag from our 30+ journey back home to consider packing up and spending the night elsewhere. We called a repairman and made an appointment for the following day, put on our warm pjs, and got out and plugged in the electric blankets.

We slept well.

This morning, the tip of my nose sticking out of the blankets affirmed that it was still brisk in our house....57 degrees to be exact. So, sweatshirts and snuggly pants and slippers were worn underneath thick blankets on the couch as we huddled together for warmth.

I made some coffee to warm me up a bit and noticed a package on the counter I hadn't seen the night before. I was delighted to see what was in it.

I had ordered it a few weeks prior and there it was, just ready to be put on and reminded of on a daily basis. If "journey" is one of my personal mantras for 2013, then "choose joy" is the other.

joy - (verb) to feel joy; be glad; rejoice

I was actually thinking about joy on our safari. Part of my year of turning and experiencing 40 (aka "Fab4D"), is reflecting on the journey thus far -- who and where I am and who and where I want to be. When I was a young girl, I discovered that the "bible meaning" of my name is "joyful spirit" and I've always tried to ascribe to be that. So, I asked our driver what the Kiswahili word was for it. He said he would have to think on it. "Raha means happy," he said. "I will have to think about what the word is for 'joy.'" 

Rylie said he thought they it was the same word, because they were the same thing. I looked at him in disbelief. I said that I definitely see them as two different things. He raised his eyebrow skeptically. I told him (and Charles who was listening to us "debate" this issue) that to me, happiness is an outward expression of an internal state of being -- which I believe is joy.

I'm not sure I convinced either one of them, but I did find out later that 'joy' in Kiswahili is furaha, which you can see it similar to the word for happy, but not the same.

I think of the verse in the Bible where Paul says, "consider it joy my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds, knowing the trying of your faith will bring you patience...."(James 1:2).

I don't think that I will ever be "happy" about facing trials. There wasn't a smile-a-polooza going on last night as we realized we would be facing a cold Valley night. No whoops of delight or high fives either.

But I thought back to the power outages, water issues, poverty and grim conditions I saw and experienced in Arusha, and I didn't feel put out or upset. 

I felt peace and oddly calm about the situation and a certain wonderment about what God would do in and through this situation.

That unshakable solidness I felt -- I think that is Joy.

And it can be chosen or avoided.

We get to make the choice. To choose joy in our days or choose complaint.

To choose to shake your fist over the pen left in a pocket that then splattered all over the dryer walls and thus onto the clean clothes you just washed, or be glad that you have such nifty devices that allows you to wash an entire comforter and a couple towels at one go and dry them to a warm softness after.

To find that your Kindle Fire no longer will charge and when the battery runs out, it will be dead forever, or be grateful that you won it two years before and it didn't cost you a dime to use it all that time.

To feel stressed about having to pick up your children's clothing, schoolwork, toiletries, bikes/scooters and soccer gear from their grandparent's house, or reflect on how amazing it is that they would care for your children for 12 days so you could leave the country to love on other children.

It's your choice. It's my choice.

And, I unequivocally, whole-heartedly choose joy.


Post-script: After posting this blog, my cousin from Texas (the daughter of the founder of Character 101 we traveled with) shared this comment on my Facebook post and it literally gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes:

Funny that you wrote about joy vs. happiness. When I was on my first trip to Tanzania in December of 1993, the pastor of the little church in Moshi gave me a Kiswahili name: Furaha. He said it mean Joy. He said he gave me that name because he could see the joy from within. 
He also knew I was Mzee Bruton's granddaughter and that I felt at home and at peace there. I think it's filling that you and I now share it: Furaha.

I love you and am so grateful we all share the legacy and the memories (and know exactly what we men when we talk about "that scent") and understand, without words, this love, this joy, this passion for Tanzania!

A legacy of joy indeed...

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