Skip to main content
Choosing Joy When Life Doesn’t Feel Like “Happily Ever After” featured img
Category: Family Capital

Choosing Joy When Life Doesn’t Feel Like “Happily Ever After”

July 29, 2023

Lead Photo Credit: Yuri via Pixaby

Tonight the warm summer evening embraced me as I sat alone outside watching for fireflies. Delightfully startled by the first yellow blink, I watched vigilantly until another appeared, this time lighting up at the edge of the bushes and then blinking out of sight. I waited patiently and watched for another. In time I saw eight of them before other evening responsibilities called me back inside. Eight precious drops of magic to carry me through until next time.

Last year was different. We lived in a large home with a beautiful yard that was a firefly haven, it seemed. As dusk would descend, we would run outside as a family and set the timer to see how long it would take that night to see 100 firefly blinks.  It was a joyful family tradition to count those same drops of magic. Sometimes it only took 30 seconds, or less. 30 seconds to see a hundred! That’s magic! So much magic that we eventually got all filled up and went back inside to our popcorn or board games.

Reflecting back on that memory tonight, I realized part of the magic was the fireflies, but part of it was the magic of family. Those were the moments in the narrative of life where sometimes the story book says, “and they all lived happily ever after.” Some moments really do feel that magical.

But the “all” and the “ever after” sometimes become elusive. I laugh when I see this adage about healthy thinking skills: “Always avoid using absolutes!”

In a year, so many changes came in our family system. Some celebrated and some not. So what do you do when changes in life seasons, moving, death, or divorce alter the happily ever after you thought would be there again next summer? The reality is, change is an integral part of the development of family life.

Author Nicholas Sparks wisely said, “There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well.”

What made the summer moments counting 100 firefly blinks with my children magical was not the guarantee that it would last forever. It was the sheer joy of the moment. Yes, we repeated that moment many nights each week, but really the joy just got to be experienced one night at a time.

Photo Credit: Willgard Krause via Pixabay

That’s why I could still feel JOY tonight. I was alone and not surrounded by giddy children and squealing voices. There were only eight firefly blinks, and not 100. But I still felt the joy. I still chose the joy. I was filled by those eight drops of magic. This new season of family life is different, but joy is for the choosing.

This morning a dear friend from Ohio was on a family vacation in Idaho. While hiking in the Tetons, she happened to pass my daughter and her college roommate on the very same hiking trail and sent me the picture of them all together. It was a drop of joy!

This afternoon I saw a picture of my youngest son at a significant destination for him, evidence of him enjoying a road trip with his dad. Another drop of joy!

Tonight I didn’t count fireflies with my children, but I talked to a son over 2,000 miles away as he told me about the magic of watching fireworks with his baby daughter for the first time. He shared how she leaned in and squeezed him so tightly to be sure she was safe, while she peeked up occasionally at the sound of the booms to see the magic glitter descend from the sky. It was magical for him as a father–his own flesh and blood looking to him for comfort and security. It was magical for me to hear the pride and joy in his voice and to celebrate how grateful I am that my baby is having those precious experiences with his baby. So many exponential drops of joy.

Whatever family life holds for you this month, may you see the drops of magic. Choose to embrace the joy!