words: Jessica Sowards
images: Jeremiah Sowards and Mikela Sowards
This morning I woke up to a to-do list that weighs 9,000 pounds. I feel the weight of it resting on my shoulders, and when I think too hard about it, my mind starts feeling like it’s being crushed. To be honest, a lot of mornings start this way. It is a regular thing for me to have to take the responsibilities of my life and hand them over to Jesus or else I will fall about trying to figure out how to make it work.
The funny thing is, this is not a new feeling. I still felt the pressure of juggling before I had six kids, a homeschool planner chock full of plans, a huge garden full of tasks to accomplish, and a small farm that wakes up every morning and waits for me to meet its needs. I remember waking up in my suburban bedroom feeling the same feeling, which leads me to believe maybe we are all posed with the opportunity to get overwhelmed by our lives, no matter what our lives actually look like.
It still gets the best of me occasionally. Every once in a while, I nearly come undone, and I have to take the time to put myself together again. But those episodes are few and far between, and that comes down to the conscious choice, an intentional mindset. It comes down to the choice to delight.
I love words, and I’m pretty sure I always have. Language is a gift, and I don’t take for granted the lovely opportunity to truly express our hearts and our dreams and even our fears through words. I look up definitions a lot. I reference the thesaurus. I always want to make sure I am saying exactly what I mean.
A little while ago, the word “delight” kept rolling around in my mind. That happens sometimes. Like a loose marble, a single word or phrase gets caught somewhere in the vicinity of that space between my thoughts and my feelings, and it just lingers there until I ponder it a little more deeply.
Delight. It was there, demanding my attention. I thought about that word for a while, about what it evoked in me. Delight felt like a fluffy word. It reminded me of whipped cream or a dusting of powdered sugar. It didn’t feel particularly substantial, and I wasn’t sure why. Normally it would be a word I would dismiss, as it didn’t evoke any particular deep feeling or thought, but on this particular day when it rolled around in my mind, I could not dismiss it.
I ended up doing a quick internet search for “scripture about delight.” And there it was. A list that just kept going. God had so much to say about delight. Over and over, verse after verse, the Word instructs us to delight in Him and that He delights in us.
Honestly, I still felt a disconnect. After all, delight has always been a word that I imagined to be lighthearted. The trill of “Delightful!” seemed only to fit the laughter of infants and simple pleasure. But if it is a repeated command of God, surely it is no simple and shallow thing.
I was sitting in my garden when I did that internet search. Perched on a brown metal folding chair in the middle of the weedy melon patch with my phone in my hand. Reading verse after verse and recognizing that I wasn’t being deeply impacted, I reasoned that there must be some disconnect in language. What was I missing? Then I searched the definition of delight.
There it was. Delight, verb, to take great pleasure in.
My wheels started turning, and for the first time since I began pondering that little word, my heart began to leap. He delights in me. He takes great pleasure in me. He delights in me and therefore He is pleased by me—but it isn’t because of me. Delight is not always a reaction. God does not delight in me because I am always delightful.
I have very bad days. Days when frustration and fear get the best of me. I want to give up sometimes, and sometimes I feel in over my head. On those days, He makes the choice to delight in me, and He finds me pleasing. Because that is who He is. He delights.
My garden is my favorite place, but it is so much work. My kids scream and fight. They fall apart over minor things, and they look to me to bring calm to their chaos. Sometimes I just want to scream with them. The chores on a farm come in waves, morning and night, and they literally never stop. You do them, or you fall behind, period. The bottom line is, my life becomes overwhelming when I start expecting it to be delightful instead of staying in the mindset that I can be delighted in imperfection, just like God is delighted in me. I have to be a person who actively delights.
I tend to think we could change the course of our lives if only we started with our thoughts. I don’t mean that in some New Age way. I just mean in a great big world that is so completely out of my control, if I can’t take control of my mind, how can I expect to influence change anywhere else?
So, on the mornings when the responsibility feels crushing, and I could easily view the great blessings of my life as negative things because of how intensely demanding they are, I have found one thing that changes everything. I make the choice to actively (not reactively) delight.
I wake up and marvel at the preciousness of my sons’ smiles. I have conversations with them and ask about their dreams. I choose to take pleasure in them so that when the tantrums come, I am able to handle them with the same heart that God handles my tantrums. I am able to bring calm to the chaos. I walk through the garden and note the way the pollinators hover around the zinnias. I study the details and choose to actively delight before I face the weeds and the pruning.
Life has no shortage of wonder and beauty. In a world where the days are lit by the sun and the night sky is dotted with stars, surely, we can delight in the details. But we have to make a choice. We have to realize that delight is a verb. I have found the great alleviation to being overwhelmed in this one simple stance. I delight. Do you?