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When Life Gets Messy :: Vol. 2 :: Where is my Joy?

Finding my joy amidst pain and discomfort.

On my journey as a cake & cookie artist, I felt happy. I was creating desserts that where delicious to the pallet and devoured by the eye. I enjoyed hand making edibles for my clients. I was using my God given talent to cultivate relationships with people and sustaining my income.

R and flower sugar cookies by Karen Piehl

After the debilitating pain came, I no longer had the happiness that I once carried. The pain consumed me. I focused on how miserable I felt. I had no desire to serve anyone else. The medicine to help with the pain made me unsteady, sleepy, and foggy. I dread waking up every morning and feeling pain.

If you’ve read my post “Facing the Pain” I referenced the diagnosis and feeling I had lost my joy. I began searching for joy. Why I lost it? Why wasn’t I happy any longer? I needed to find a way to make this pain go away, so I could be happy.

I tried secular counseling to learn coping skills to train my retrain my brain to focus in a different manor. I began using sensory tricks to make my brain think what it feels is supposed to be that way in turn giving it a rest from the pain.

Let me give you an example. I tried altered focus. I focused on a part of my body that didn’t hurt and meditated on the normal sensation.

I tried sensory diversion. Since the left side of my tongue, mouth, and throat all tingled, I would eat strong mints that made my whole mouth feel that way. In turn, my brain recognizes that mints were enjoyable, they cause the entire mouth to feel like this. My brain would think this is normal when eating mints. It was supposed to break the thought cycle of constant pain.

I tried mindfulness. I would try to immerse myself in a book that would take my mind away into another place.

I thought maybe I just need change to be joyful. I began getting restless from not being my creative self and working on cookies. I wasn’t used to such a slower lifestyle that allowed my mind to constantly be aware of the pain in my head and face. Thinking that I needed a physical change of space to be at peace and find joy in my every day life, I tore apart my office.

My office before makeover
Crafting area after makeover
Office after makeover

I spend a lot of time working in that room on a daily basis. To feel lighter and clean, I purged everything that I didn’t use in the past year or things that didn’t bring me happiness. I took out 10 bags of trash. Repainting walls, choosing a refreshing color scheme, refurbishing furniture, changing the arrangement, It felt good to be in a clean organized space. I was still not joyful.

No medicine or mind tricks made an internal difference in my soul. Nothing I tried outwardly fixed my emotional state. I was happy for a moment. Then, my mind would be back to thinking about the pain. Through prayer and focusing on hearing God, he used other people to minister to my heart. I learned through this process there is a difference between joy and happiness.

Joy and happiness can be felt at the same time, yet are two different things. Joy is eternal; while happiness is temporary. Joy is not based on outside circumstances like happiness. I was looking outwardly for joy, a feeling of internal satisfaction, no matter the pain I was in. After whatever I tried was over, I was back to feeling miserable.

I began to search for God’s wisdom through His Word. When pain is all I feel on a daily basis, how can I focus on heaven? It’s always so ever present. The Bible asks of me things I can not do on my own strength. I am human and a fallen being. I am not perfect and can not do this on my own. I am still learning these things today.

Philippians 3:1

I have been a Christian my whole life, but started doubting if I even knew the Lord because I didn’t feel joy present.

There is no light switch that God just flips on or off when we accept salvation. I found I must give Him my will and consent. He is ever present, but I have to do my due diligence in seeking him. When I dove deeper into reading the Bible and meditating on scripture, I started seeing it’s wisdom to be applied to my circumstances. It opened the eyes of my heart allowing me to see the things he was doing in my life. In turn, I inwardly was giving up control.

I don’t really love roller coasters, but I ride them. I am scared of heights. All the pent up anxiety waiting in line, my legs feel like gelatin when I sit down a strap in. Once on the ride being jerked, slowly rising to the top, and at the peak of the first drop, I see how beautiful everything looks from way up there. Then, knowing I can’t get out, have nowhere to go, can’t give in, I give up control. I let the ride take over. The feeling of freedom consumes me. I begin to feel the wind rushing through my hair. I hear laughter and excited yells. I smell deliciously greasy amusement park food. I experience rushing landscape of beautiful colors going by at high speeds—something I can’t do on my own. Before I know it, the ride is over and I really enjoyed it.

I have learned I want to be in control. I want to know what is coming up. I want to prepare. If I white knuckled the whole ride with my eyes squeezed tight, fighting against the inevitable, I would miss the other delightful sensory experiences. When I learned to give up control on the roller coaster, I felt freedom.

Life is a roller coaster

Life is like a roller coaster track with peaks and valleys, twists and turns. Sometimes you’re on a loop, upside down; Sometimes you’re scared to death. God is the coaster car. If I allow him to take control and trust him, he gives me the freedom to enjoy and experience new things I can’t do on my own.

James 1:2

Even though my pain is tough and I am not happy about it, Joy is finding peace in God’s sovereignty and resting in his plan for me. Joy is knowing that even though I have pain on this earth a better life awaits me in heaven.

I have found that God is my joy. Complete rest in his sovereignty, strapping in tight to the security of his promises. No matter what life brings my way, he will keep me on track.

James writes to count it as joy when we are in trials. Why? He goes on to say that it is because testing of faith brings perseverance and that produces maturity.

Why do I have joy when I am constantly in pain? It means that I am personally growing. Through this, I am learning how to train my brain to react positively and live a more Godly life. I am resting in the security of his grace. He will sustain me and comfort me in my time of need.

Romans 5:3-4

Suffering allows me to draw a closer perspective on Jesus’s suffering and death for my sins on the cross. It also is teaching me to die to myself. God is more concerned with my character than being comfortable. My outer circumstances are teaching me about my inward character.

Philippians 3:8

When I had my son, I decided I wasn’t going to be one of those parents that gives him everything he wants when he wants. That cultivates a spoiled, entitled character. When he faces harder trials in life, he wouldn’t have cultivated the maturity to handle it properly.

Especially now as he’s getting older, I want him to understand the hardship it takes to work for something he desires. If he wants a new video game, he has to work for it. He does chores and even works for neighbors doing small jobs to gain income. He learns that it takes sacrificing something he wants (giving up his free time) to gain something he (thinks) he needs (the video game).

I compare this with how God teaches me. He is my Heavenly Father. He allows hardships of many kinds in my life to teach me. When a harder lesson in life comes, I will have a solid foundation through experience with how I am to handle it.

Psalms 119:67-68

My heart was broken. I have a disorder that no human remedy can fix. Sure medication makes it bearable, but the pain is always there. God has allowed my spirit to be broken and humbled. Through humility, I allow him to fill me back up. He pours into me a point of view and wisdom I may never have found otherwise. My obedience in hardship helps me see things from God’s holy perspective.

Since my pain occurred, I have taken a step back from being super busy and realized sin in my life that enslaved me. I didn’t even realize it had a foot hold in my soul. I was too busy, making money, and people pleasing that I didn’t have time for God or myself. I let outward circumstances control me when I should have humility and freedom.

Hebrew 6:12

My life’s experiences have molded me into who I am and how I deal with situations. Since being vulnerable about my disorder, it has opened doors for many people to talk to me about their struggles with happiness and joy amidst pain. My perspective with people around me has changed. Wether it be a diagnosis of a physical pain or a new season of life, I have learned I am not alone. The human condition is all the same.

We are searching for lasting joy in our everyday life. My experience has taught me to share and help. I have a unique story and no one can tell it in my voice. My journey allows me to walk along side others and encourage them to run their race well. Sometimes I am called to give advice and other times, listen with a broken heart and attentive ear.

My diagnosis has cultivated my faith and brought me into a stronger relationship knowing my creator. I am still working on many, many struggles; however, this journey is teaching me amazing lessons about who I am in God.

I am learning the strength I have to persevere and grow. I have found deep rooted joy in my life being able to impart knowledge on the things I love and the things I learn. I will continue to rely on God to keep changing me for the better.

Keep preserving and feed yourself!

Much Love,

Karen signature

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Published by Karen Piehl

I am a wife, mother, friend, artist, baker, decorator, risk taker, mess maker, coffee lover, quirky, creative, and a wonderfully made child of God. I wear a lot of hats in the creative world, but my love and passion is baking and decorating cookies & cakes.

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