On choosing joy and unexpected laughter – 9

Dolly Lee Joy Series, Spiritual Formation 0 Comments

Although this incident happened a few months ago, it reminds me: I can choose joy when I release my expectations of how life should be and instead embrace what is.


Saturday sun beckoned like a beacon inviting us outside to play.

To hurry us to the beach, I poured coffee into travel mugs. Mine wasn’t as well-made as my husband’s mug because I replaced my lost mug with a cheap one.

My mug contained mostly almond milk, a little coffee, and a little pecan-caramel creamer for sweetness.

Once my husband turned onto the freeway, I gingerly lifted a black plastic tab and tilted the mug toward my lips. I anticipated the slightly sweet caramel flavor with a hint of coffee.

My taste buds leaned forward: ready to savor each drop.

I wanted a gulp of flavor instead it tasted like a drop full. But then I felt an unsettling sensation: warm liquid on my abdomen.

My eyes widened as I saw more coffee on me than in me.


Photo by Flickr Creative Commons User: Christopher Michel

My white and navy scarf, striped shirt, and jacket were stained light brown—the coffee had dripped through my shirt and my white camisole. My skin felt warm and damp.

Arrgh! I grabbed kleenex and sopped up as much of the coffee as I could.

Since my desire for a little caffeine and sugar wasn’t quenched, I tried again because I had used the mug before without spilling. Same thing. More coffee on me than in me.

As I grabbed kleenex and groused about how cheap my travel mug was, my husband tried not to laugh.

After I cleaned myself up as best as I could, I sighed: “I really wanted some coffee.”

I eyed my treacherous coffee mug, weighed the odds, and said, “Maybe if I…” To which my husband chuckled and warned, “Don’t.”

“But I really want some coffee…”

“Drink out of my mug,” he offered.

“But yours is mainly coffee with only a little bit of creamer.”

He laughed and when I saw the twinkle in his eyes, I laughed, too.

From the back seat, our teenage daughter questioned, “Why are you laughing?” 

“It’s better to laugh than to keep complaining about spilled coffee and wet clothes,” I replied. (Yes, I know, the world has much bigger problems but this was my life at the moment.)

Our daughter snorted, unconvinced.

My husband caught me fixated on my coffee and teased, “Don’t,” which only made me laugh again.

By now my abdomen felt chilled and clammy.


Slowly, I picked up his stainless steel mug, slid the tab back and drank. No spill.

I smiled and sipped again.

My husband chuckled when he saw me gazing at my drink.

I looked at my wet clothes, felt my clammy skin, and yielded to joy as I recalled my husband’s face as he laughed.

As I reflected, I felt gratitude for the unexpected shared laughter.

I also thanked Sara Frankl for asking God to help her to see and choose joy so she became my joy mentor through her book, Choose Joy.

(What has also surprised me recently is the importance of carving time out to have fun as a way to stoke the fires of endurance through life’s inevitable hard times. It has taken me years to see the wisdom of this view.)

What helps you to choose joy when the unexpected little annoyances of life happen?

Has anything happened recently or in the past to bring unexpected laughter?

What is one thing you can do for fun or to create fun for someone else? Shared fun?


This is the ninth post in our exploring Joy Series. Sara Frankl gives a master class on choosing joy in her book Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts. I  believe in learning to choose joy in the small so our joy-muscles are strengthened for life’s bigger challenges.

Thanks for being with me as we explored joy together. I thought we would end soon but there is still so much I’d like to explore. What do you think of continuing?

Thanks for being here. I always appreciate your comments and insights.