Thief of Joy.

I noticed it the other day as the flames of anger in my eyes squelched the spark in hers. I saw it again as I stared at a screen while two beautiful blue eyes sought to converse with mine, only to be left searching. I stole it when I went about my tasks before stopping to listen to him tell me about his latest project or invention idea. I felt it as someone I love dearly spoke hurtful words, squelching my desire to write and express for weeks.  

I became the thief. Not comparison. Not greed. Not the circumstance. I, in my own choosing, stole their joy, and then I felt the sharp, burning pain of someone stealing mine too.

As I stared back in her eyes, I prayed I hadn't taken her spark forever. She is only two, it was a moment that happened way too fast, and my voice spoke before my heart said slow down.

When my eyes finally met up with hers, they were closed. She had gone to sleep looking to tell me she loved me in her own special way, and I ignored her.

By the time I looked up, ready to listen, he was done. Feeling lonely in the midst of our family sanctuary, while I busily worked around him, as if he wasn't there.

Their joy stolen by me. And for what? For a moment of frustration over her taking her shoes off as I prepared to walk out the door? To catch up on the latest news, to feel important by the amount of notifications, to escape because I'd done that same thing four other times already that day? For a perfect home that can never seem tidy enough, yet I am always working on?

For nothing. Nothing of worth or value. Nothing.

I stole their joy for nothing. And for a moment, my anger, distraction, and selfishness left behind a desert of isolation in their hearts and eyes.

In Hands Free Life, Rachel Macy Stafford writes, " All at once, I could no longer deny the damage my negative approach to life was having on my family. All the excuses I'd made for being harsh and direct, for constant faultfinding, and for being in a foul mood suddenly held no credibility. While choosing to emphasize every "problem" of my blessed life, I'd funneled my discontent straight into my daughter's once joyful heart and spirit. The pain on her face was a direct reflection of the expression I wore on mine. I said a tearful prayer right then and there, asking God to show me one small step I could take to bring back our lost joy."

As I read those words last week, tears filled my eyes. She described me, the thief. But just as she prayed for one small step, I did too.

As the words, "I'm sorry. You are important to me. You are of value to me. What you do matters to me. I love you.", flowed from my mouth, God made it rain in the desert of my girls' eyes, and that spark came back. As I sat and brainstormed with my husband, more rains came and washed away his isolation. And as it continued to rain, the film of perfection, negativity, distraction, and discontent washed away from my eyes, bringing back their spark. In one small step of humility and ownership, the cleansing floods poured down, and the thief of joy washed away.

I am thankful for cleansing rain. I am thankful for wake-up moments. Moments burned into my memory and my heart, reminding me to keep that thief locked up and away from my precious ones. And I am thankful for a God who guides our hearts towards small steps, leading to moments of great redemption.

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least."        -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"I love as well as I am willing to be inconvenienced."  -Ann Voskamp