The first time I met Joy Enyinnaya, my girls and I were playing in the courtyard of our apartment complex. She walked past us on her way to campus. She looked gorgeous and walked with so much confidence and purpose—she radiated light! When she told me her name was Joy, I said, “Of course it is!! That is the perfect name for you!” Joy is one of those people who changes your life for the best. When we lived next door to each other (well, there was an apartment in between us that we always joked about knocking down the walls of so we could combine our apartments into one big house), we would talk on our “porch” about everything. She was there to give me the biggest hug when my grandma passed away and she was there to congratulate me when we brought our new baby home. In fact, when I was pregnant, she washed and massaged my feet AND cleaned my carpets! I always tell her she is Superwoman because I do not know how she does it all! Joy is from Nigeria and came to the United States for school six years ago. Since coming to the USA, she got her master’s degree, and now she is working on her PhD at Colorado State University. Amazing, right? Well, let’s add in the fact that she is a fantastic mom of two kids, a mentor and a friend to all, and an angel in my life (and in the lives of so many others).
Joy has found that while this adventure of moving her family to a different country for school has been so incredibly rewarding, it can sometimes be draining and frustrating. Throughout her time as a student, she has had colleagues who depend on drinking and partying to unwind and relax. She doesn’t do those things, but she has her own secret weapon: the power of Jesus Christ.
“What keeps me grounded and focused on staying motivated is Christ,” Joy said. “That has been my power juice.”
Joy relies on the peace that can only come from Jesus Christ. She found the healing she needed by immersing herself in her church community. She sings (like an angel, I might add!) and helps with worship services. She also helps with the kids’ ministry. After this service she always comes away feeling peaceful, empowered, and healed.
Focusing on Jesus Christ helps her keep doing what she does.
How Family and Motherhood Can Help You Unplug
Joy also finds peace and joy in having a family of her own.
“I’m grateful for my kids and my husband. They help me really unplug,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to take a break from everything. You find yourself still thinking about it all (once you get home), but I’m grateful for my kids and my family. They help me really unplug and get out of that. There are people who do not have families on this journey. I see (my family) as a gift that I get; some see it as a burden, but it brings me more joy and benefits.”
At this point in the interview, we started talking about motherhood and how we had both “felt it today.” (Isn’t that such a universal mom feeling? Haha.) Joy shared that earlier she was trying to read and focus on her work when her daughter needed help with some schoolwork. She thought to herself, “wouldn’t it be nice to just focus on myself and get stuff done?” Of course, it would! But she has been able to grow so much by staying close to the Lord to know what she should be focusing on.
“Be Intentional With Your Peace”
This conversation led me to ask: “What advice would you give to other moms? How has your faith in Christ helped you to continue to be a good person/mom while also keeping all those balls juggling in the air?”
Joy gave me a huge smile and said, “I’m glad you asked!”
She had been listening to a series of teachings focused on the importance of slowing down and being patient. The man teaching used Jesus as an example. She said that even though people would call Jesus to perform miracles or inform him of sad events in His life, Jesus never ran. Jesus was never in a hurry. He walked from place to place, and he had peace.
“He maintained that peace all the time, and that is something I’ve been learning to do,” Joy continued. “I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to ask for more time with things. It’s okay to cancel things. It’s okay if you need space. If you feel you are going, going, going, and you need a break, ask for it! Take it when you can—that’s how you fill your cup. I believe that’s how Jesus filled his cup. You cannot pour from an empty cup.”
It is so important to take those breaks when you can. I will probably refer to Brené Brown in every single blog post, just a heads up. In her book “Braving the Wilderness,” Brené Brown quotes Dr. Joan Halifax, a Buddist teacher who said, “The inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.” I think about that quote almost daily. We need to show down and take the time to inhale if we want to be as effective when we exhale.
“You need to be intentional with your peace,” Joy said. “It comes from the Holy Spirit. He is still. He is a still small voice. Learning to embrace the quietness sometimes when you can get it. Look for it.”
How does Joy look for it? Here are some things she does when she feels like she is going a million miles an hour:
1. Slow down and take a deep breath. (I usually talk to myself and say something crazy sounding like, “Okay! You got this. Come on, get it together, Kelsey!” But that’s just me.)
2. Ask to move things. Be vulnerable and up front with others if you are overwhelmed.
3. Listen to music, especially worship music.
4. Read. Joy tries to read the Bible every night right before bed.
5. Pray! (And I’ll add… then take time to listen!)
“It’s interesting because the moment I started being intentional with this, God started bringing people my way that have been instrumental to helping me on this journey but have also needed me in ways that I feel like I can actually (help),” she said.
I just need to add that at this point of our conversation (we were just walking around our courtyard through the crunchy leaves) her cute girls ran up to talk and walk with us. Naturally her younger daughter needed to find her shoes and they both asked if they could have a Laffy Taffy. The role of a mother is constant!
Good, Better, Best
Once the girls left, we continued where we left off. Joy continued to tell me about a friend she has whom the Lord brought her way. She was suicidal and was going through a lot. Joy was honored she asked her to be her mentor, but she was also wondering how she was going to do that when she felt like she was the one who needed a mentor. She was so grateful God was walking her through the process.
“He is helping me and mentoring me,” she said. “It has been profound to see how doing that has opened me up. There’s a song we sing a lot that I love. It goes, ‘I’ll make room for you, to do whatever you want to.’ It feels like I’m finally walking in that song. I want to make space for God.”
However, sometimes that is easier said than done because there are so many good things we can do as followers of Christ. As Joy said, “it’s hard when they are all things you want to do, and you are trying and it’s not working. It sucks when it gets to that point when you actually have to struggle.”
It can be tricky to discern what is good, what is better and what is best in each situation, and those might change from day to day. For example, last winter it was snowing outside on a busy week of the semester. I looked out my window and saw Joy outside building a snowman with her girls. In that situation, that was the “best” option. Other days, the best option might be to finish an important project by a certain deadline. We must work hard to follow the Spirit every day because every day is different.
I asked Joy if there was anything that has been on her mind lately, and she proceeded to tell me some awesome wisdom that I’m excited to share next.
Fill Your Cup to Better Show Up in Your Roles
“This is something for the longest time moms have felt: if you ask a woman who is a mom or a wife who they are, all of their identity is wrapped in their roles as moms and wives,” Joy said. “They don’t know who they are or what they enjoy outside of that. Sometimes even when they try to do things that are (outside of those capacities), they are guilty and they feel like they shouldn’t be doing that, but it is important that you do!”
Joy continued to say that it is important to find something that you enjoy that doesn’t necessarily have to involve your husband or your kids. Obviously, the roles of mother and wife are so incredibly important and divine, but it’s important to take time to develop YOU personally. When you can identify those things that fill your cup—regardless of your marital or family status—you “show up in your roles as a better person.”
“Remember those things you liked before you got married,” Joy said. “Did you like to go to the movies? What did you like to do? Find time to do that and enjoy it!”
Who has God put you here to BECOME?
Personalized Burdens and Struggles
Joy’s life is full of so much beauty and grace, but she hasn’t become the person she is today without experiencing hardships and burdens. I love what she had to say about burdens:
“The grass is always greener on the other side. If we were all asked to bring our burdens and our issues out to the courtyard (for everyone to see), you would humbly go pick up your own,” she said. “God gave you them for a reason because you can carry yours. You might not be able to carry theirs (and vice versa). Everyone is dealing with stuff you can’t see. Since I heard that, no matter how wonderful any other person looks, I remember at least I’m used to my struggles.”
God gave you the life that you have for a reason.
“You’ve been in your life for such a long time, you have developed skills you don’t even realize, grace you don’t realize, to power through it,” Joy said. “It ends up looking smaller to you, but to another person it looks ginormous. When you have been through that over and over by the grace of God, you realize oh okay I can do this.”
“It’s All God!”
Something I’ve noticed about Joy is that she is constantly responding to praise and compliments with, “it’s all God! It’s all because of Him!” and that has made such a huge impact on me. It is so profound how quick she is to give the glory to God. Everything good does come from Him, and I’m trying to apply that more in my own life.
Before we parted ways to get back to the grind, we both decided we are so grateful for a loving God who gives us new beginnings. God gives us new years, new days, and even new hours! If you have a bad morning, you can have a better afternoon. This is exactly why Jesus Christ died for us—to free us from guilt, sin, and mistakes. He gives us new beginnings through repentance so we can become the people God intended us to become.
“He knows us, and He takes us where we are,” Joy said.