Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts

by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver

Books always come to me right when they should.

“Choose Joy” is co-authored by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver. Katie Connors from FaithWords at Hachette Book Group offered me the memoir in January 2016 in exchange for an honest review.

"Choose Joy" by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver

Free book from Hachette? You bet.

It arrived, I read the book jacket and shelved it. What was I thinking that I could review a book about a woman with a terminal disease after losing dad to ALS and mom to lung cancer?

I’d pick the book up occasionally, read a paragraph or two of the introduction by Mary Carver and put it back.

Just. Not. Ready.

I read “Life’s That Way,” in May and thought, okay, I survived Jim Beaver’s eloquent chronicle of the passing of his wife and thought, now I’m ready.

In I dove and I think I will never be the same. This book was a hard slap in the face, saying to me, you think you have faith? Check out this faith.

Ms. Carver’s interweaving of introductory paragraphs followed by excerpts of Sara’s blogs works to tune you into a life of choosing joy despite what life has tossed your way.

The choice to be joyful comes directly from a complete openness to God’s presence, will, and action in your life. He has a plan.

Being in my late 50s, I’m facing the question so many of my contemporaries are—is this my life? Am I doing the right things? The ponderings echo and are hard taken on their own. When you add in Christian faith, they become compounded by realizing that it’s not what I want, it’s what God wants of me. A point that Sara clearly conveys.

I’m in the midst of Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” Bible study and he asks these questions as well. Are we living a life centered on Jesus? If not, do we want to and do we realize what is involved in living in accordance with that?

I’m learning that it means Choosing Joy in my every day.

Here are excerpts that particularly impacted me:

Page 63: Sara’s life goals after her illness are good for anyone, anytime:

1. To not be ashamed to stand before God.

2. To fulfill God’s plan by living the best life I can with what I am given.

3. To be aware and present in every moment.

4. To spread the joy, not the pain.

5. To be intentional in all things.

Page 78: Sara discusses what makes her life full and that it is full because of her faith in Christ. “God has given me everything I needed as I’ve needed it.”

Page 107: “I ask God to help me make the choice.”

Page 108: “In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says, ‘Prayer without ceasing is only possible in a life of continual thanks.’ Sara said, ‘I don’t have a lot of distractions between me and God. I don’t have a hurried existence. I don’t have a job and husband and children and errands or just plain old life to distract me.’” This is a perspective that made me truly question where and how I spend my time each day. Am I putting God first?

Page 125: “I have to focus. Life made me focus. And I realize now I should have spent more time focusing as a choice instead of what it is now: a necessity.”

Page 145: On being the childless friend: “Actually, I think motherhood should come with a friend who is childless. I think what a mom sometimes wants is for another person to love her child with extreme abandon. A person who doesn’t put another child in front of her own as a measuring stick.” As a woman whose niece and nephew are now in their 30s, I can attest to loving them from a point of unconditional love that taught me how to love others just as deeply.

If I had the funds, I would buy fifty copies of this book and gift it to treasured friends in the hopes that it would help them choose a life full of joy. How do you mindfully choose joy?