Choose Joy

It’s that time of year when there are countless graduations, important finals and big tests, and everyone is anxiously awaiting the arrival of summertime. With all the things going on we feel a mix of emotions. We are happy, anxious, and maybe even worried, but through the midst of things we are facing, are we still filled with joy?

Joy is an emotion that gives us the power to see God’s beauty throughout our family, community, school, and world. The truths behind this remarkable fruit of the Holy Spirit can sometimes be blurred like anything can, but joy can be found in anything. Even when you are having what seems like the worst day and everything is going wrong, there is still joy. Do you know why there’s still joy? It’s because there’s God, and in Him there’s always joy to be discovered.

I heard this quote once and it said, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” That quote is so amazing. Truly, it all depends on our focus. We can choose to focus on so many things in this world. Some things are good, but others are not good and lead us further away from the Kingdom. If we trust in God though, and focus our life on Him and what He has planned, we will find true joy. We will only find this true joy though if we are committed to it everyday. We need to wake up everyday and say hey, I am choosing joy today in all my actions no matter what. I am going to find God in everything I do, and praise Him through my actions. Waiting for that joy to come is one thing, but choosing to find the joy in everyday is another.

Today, is the 45th birthday of my aunt (well, she wasn’t really my aunt; she was my mom’s college roommate, but was so close to us so we always referred to her as our aunt), Sara Frankl. Sara was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She loved green apple jolly ranchers, Sonic slushes, blogging, writing, laughing, talking to you for hours, her dog Riley, her friends and family, and most importantly she loved our Lord more than anyone I’ve ever known.

In Sara’s junior year of college, she was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis and leukopenia. She was a very active person in her church and community and loved serving others, but because of the disease she had, she became confined to the walls of her condo for the rest of her life.

I accurately remember going to visit her with my sister and mom in Cedar Falls, Iowa a couple of times. Outside of her place was hand sanitizer that we had to put on before entering to get rid of any germs we would be bringing in from the outside. Also, we could only have her door open for a few seconds otherwise an alarm would go off because it had been open to long. I remember being there around this time eight years ago, and making her a birthday cake. We brought it in to her to and then the smoke alarms went off! That was not the greatest thing to happen, but there was no fire so it was okay, just a little smoky. 🙂 Sara was always in her bed, and occasionally in her chair with her walker “George” and dog, Riley, nearby. We spent so much time just talking with her. She loved talking to us and we loved talking to her. Sara was obsessed with Sonic slushes so we always brought one. She also had a big love for green apple and purple jolly ranchers, which she had a huge bowl of next to her bed. I think I ate too many of those when I was with her. 🙂 Sara was super fun to be around, and we had a great time with her the few times we had a chance too.

I will never forget that day in September when my mom had gotten a phone call from one of her friends up there. Sara had really taken a turn for the worst, and only had a couple more days to live. My mom went up there to be with her for the last days of her life, and that was a really emotional time for her.

On September 24, 2011, Sara passed on from this life. At the age of 38, she had lived a life that would never be forgotten. Sara had a huge impact on many people. She impacted the (in)courage blogger world, friends, family, and me. Some of the people who had read her blog never met her, but they read 1,000’s of her posts. Reading all about someone could definitely make you feel changed and like you know them, but it’s not the same as truly knowing someone. Someone you get the chance to talk to face to face and truly connect with. Sara was that kind of person to everyone she met. I can guarantee you that there isn’t one thing that you wouldn’t agree with or live about a woman like her. She was just a lovable soul with such a deep fire for Jesus.

My aunt has truly been such an inspiration to me. Her love for the Lord was so deep and wide that anyone who ever spoke with her would know who the most important One was. It was Him, and that’s what was true. Also, she loved to write and paint. She wrote and painted the most beautiful pictures with such incredible quotes on them. Back at her small home she had a little closet filled with writing tools. She wrote her goals and faith quotes on the wall inside of it. She also had this little space where she let me draw something. Being eight years old, I thought it was so cool, but honestly, it was so cool though. I don’t remember exactly what I ended up drawing, but I’m pretty sure it was a rainbow. You know, every little kids favorite thing to make. 🙂

Ever since her passing, I have felt this calling to spread her motto, which was choose joy. Her definition of joy was, “The unwavering trust that God knows what he is doing and blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of it. Not despite what is happening in my life, but because of it. When everything earthly feels heavy, He gives me an internal lightness that can’t be touched.” Now isn’t that the most beautiful definitions of joy you have heard? Those words of Sara’s are so true. Everyday, I try my best to show joy through everything I do. Yes, my life is hard like anyone else’s and sometimes I think why try if it won’t even work, but the truth is it always works out. Even in the hardest times in our life, we find the good, the joy that God is there 24/7 and always cares for us. When my life seems hard, I think of Sara. Her life was way harder than mine was, but yet she still exceeded in showing joy every second of everyday she walked this earth. That is so encouraging to us that through even the toughest times, there’s always a joy to be found the midst of good and sorrow.

I have no doubt that someday Sara Frankl will become a saint. She was such a good and faithful servant, and lived all the days on this earth to the fullest and for His glory. Knowing Sara has helped to shape who I am today. She has pushed me to become a better person, and strive to choose joy everyday. If she were still here today, who knows what we would do together. I can totally see us talking all day and night about our lives and how we relate so much because we honestly did.

I sit here and type thousands more pages about Sara, but that’s not what she would want for me to do. She would want me to go out and spread His love because just as she said, “Make it about Him, not you. Enjoy every second. Choose joy.”

Dear God,

Please help us to show joy in everything we do. Help us to spread your love through our words and actions for your glory. Lead us to be good and faithful servants of yours just as Sara and so many others were and are. Thank you for being the joy in our lives and making our hearts full of your reckless and never ending love. Amen.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Pray for Us.

-Anna Zacharias

Sara’s blog: Gitzen Girl//

Sara’s book: Choose Joy By: Sara Frankl and Mary Carver

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