Alyssa - Bucharest, Romania
Entered on March 10, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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“God would like us to be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor. How much more can we be joyful when there’s really something to be joyful for?” Tevye’s toast “to Life” from “Fiddler on the Roof” has never failed to bring a smile to my face; however, I believe that there is always something to be joyful for.

This is evident in the way I laugh with abandon. I explode into unpredictable varieties of cackles, giggles, bellows and chuckles. These can be brought on by anything from a witty remark to my own stupidity; from the memory of an incident three years old to the prospect of what might still happen. Sometimes my friends realize that it’s best not to ask the reason for my spontaneous outbursts.

When I was 12 my family moved to Romania. I had been there only once for one month three years before and stayed in a city we were not going to live in again. I honestly had no expectations in mind—only optimism. While other pre-teens about to enter middle school may have despaired or gotten angry, I felt only blind excitement.

When we returned “home” three years later, that was not what I felt. I dwelled on events and people I would miss in Romania while being in the States for six months. I expected to feel victimized because I called fast food meals “menus” and would not automatically think to buckle my seatbelt. But I made friends there again. Some old, some new, some surprisingly close. Even when my stay turned from six months to 13½ I rejoiced that I had friends who sympathized with my impatience to go home.

I realized that when I started counting my blessings and not just my days till departure, they were actually overwhelming. The empathy, jokes, and encouragement I shared with my friends had illuminated drastically what I had been certain would be dismal days. My glass had been half full all along.

I see now that there is always cause for joy in my life. When a good friend leaves, I rejoice that I knew them; when a day is going badly, I cling to one funny moment. Most of all I am glad to be alive. I trust God has a purpose for everything and that, like a little child, I don’t always need to know why. I can carry on when I count my blessings. I can still laugh with abandon. This enduring joy of the Lord is my strength.