Choose Joy

Dawn and her husband have 6 children ages 2-14. Just after their 6th child was born, their daughter became sick and unable to walk. During hospitalization Dawn pushed for genetic testing. For years they had been seeking answers as to why Marissa was becoming more clumsy; why her speech was becoming progressively more slurred. After a 6 week wait they had their answer: Friedreichs Ataxia (FA). Because FA is life shortening and genetic, this was a huge blow.  They decided to have all 5 siblings tested and learned that Marissa’s brother, Josiah, also has FA. Marissa underwent spinal fusion this year and is wheelchair dependent. Josiah is being fitted for his first wheelchair. Life is busy keeping up with medical care for Marissa and Josiah and also caring for their siblings. 

Dawn wrote some very powerful words for us all to consider.

“We have choice over so many things that I didn’t think we did. But these things are also not what I thought they were. For instance, it’s become rather catchy to say, “Choose joy.” It’s on coffee mugs, t-shirts, memes…But did you ever consider what it truly meant?

I’m convinced many of these things are not actually feelings. Or at least not feelings in our sense of the word. For example when I choose to step out in faith and rejoice that Christ is waiting for me in eternity, I am making a choice for joy. Now sometimes I claim that belief and hold tight to that promise AND DO NOT “FEEL” JOY. My joy is a state of mind. It doesn’t always agree with my heart. I can choose joy while I am crying or screaming or wrestling through hard times. And it might not look “joyful” to those around me.

Bravery is not a feeling. Being brave means moving forward when everything tells you to stop and run away. There have been moments, some as of late, when the very idea of getting out of bed took bravery in the sense that every part of me screamed to curl up under the covers and hide. This also highlights the importance of being brave enough to seek mental health care for OURSELVES and not run and hide behind false premises of “happiness” in an effort to convince those around us we have “joy”.

Faith…not a feeling. A choice. Bravery…a command and a choice. Joy…choice. I have all of these things, even when I feel anything but.

And loving others…oh how we have been fooled! Love is not a feeling! It’s an action and a choice! I don’t need to feel love to show love! I don’t need to understand to show love! I don’t even need to “feel” compassionate toward a person to follow the example Christ set and DO COMPASSIONATE DEEDS. It’s a willful choice. I find that in this instance the feelings often follow, but it can take time. Especially toward those who are not kind to us.

And remember…you never know what is going on underneath. You don’t know how hard a person is fighting to CHOOSE joy, faith, bravery, love…sometimes just being THERE in that moment has taken a great act of courage.”

May we all be inspired by Dawn’s words. As we head into 2019 let’s choose joy, faith, bravery and love. We are thankful for our sunshine community filled with brave families, dedicated volunteers and generous donors who CHOOSE TO SHINE God’s light in the midst of dark and difficult circumstances.

Pray for Dawn and her family. There is currently no treatment or cure for FA, but researchers are working hard. We know whether on earth or in the arms of Christ, one day, all will be healed. You can learn more at

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