This guest post is by Kristy Harrang, an active ambassador and team member of Thrivetoday. Kristy actively utilizes the 19 relational brain skills as she parents her 4 kids.

Joy – we all know it is a good thing, right? But when I learned that brain scientists have discovered our brains run on the fuel of joy, and that joy actually means someone is glad to be with us, it all deeply resonated with what God has been teaching me years before I even became aware of THRIVEtoday… A lot of it goes back to a journey I have walked with one of my children.
I have four beautiful and amazing children. They have always brought me so much joy. However, one child and I experienced a fair amount of trauma the first year of his life. Life felt incredibly stressful, and I was just thankful we made it through! Looking back, this resulted in a huge gap in our connection as mother and son. When he was somewhere around the age of 2 or 3, I remember sitting on his bed with him one night. As I looked into his precious eyes, my heart broke with grief because I felt like I barely knew him. I loved him, but we were not connected the way a parent and child should be, and I knew that he was not being enjoyed by me the way I wanted him to. Something very essential was missing, and the pain was excruciating – I longed for him (and me) to have more. 
I began to cry out to God to do something. I asked Him to help me see my son and to feel a love for him beyond where I was at. This was not an optional prayer in my mind – God had to answer because I was unwilling for things to stay this way. 
I love the story in Mark 4 about the farmer who scatters seeds on the ground. As the days pass, the seeds sprout and grow, though the farmer does not know how. This is so often how I feel. I scatter the seeds of my prayers to Him, and over time He does His beautiful work. In this situation, those seeds of prayers began to grow, and I can’t quite tell you how. But maybe a few months after my initial prayer, I sat in that same bed, looking at that same son, and everything was different. I saw him. I knew him. And I loved and enjoyed him in a deep and profound way that was entirely new to me. 
As I looked into this boys’ eyes and smiled at him with absolute delight, I could feel my love saturate every fiber of his being just like water would saturate dry land. Peace washed over his face. Something had forever changed in his life and in our relationship all because joy had grown. 
When you look at how the brain processes information, one of the biggest questions it asks is – “Is someone with me?” And what we want to know is not just if someone is physically by our side, but if they enjoy us and are glad to be with us. I think we have all faced times where we are in relationship with someone who sincerely “loves” us, but yet we aren’t sure if they like us and delight in being with us. When we find people who see the good and the and the not so good in our lives (aka our “stuff”), and yet make us feel sincerely enjoyed, a security is forged that cannot be underestimated. This is the very thing Jesus died for. He took our sin so that we could enter into the presence of the Father and feel His delight and joy over us, even on our crummiest of days. 
As a mom, one of my highest priorities is that when my children look into my eyes, they would see the love of God and feel safe and treasured. I didn’t grow up knowing how to love people like this. I have had to learn, first to receive this kind of love from God, and then to give it away. I am still learning. This is why I am so thankful for THRIVEtoday and the ways they teach us how to grow in both receiving and giving true joy. I didn’t have these skills available to me when I went through this situation with my son. God graciously provided them to me and brought transformation like only He can. But now that I do have the skills, I can look back on the situation with my son with so much clarity. And as a result, I have grown even more in my ability to form healthy bonds with my children, and I feel better equipped to help others do the same.
Have you struggled with not feeling enjoyed or not feeling able to enjoy others the way you want to? If so, the good news is that there is so much hope! To learn more about building joy and creating healthy bonds, check out some of our online practice community events which dive deeper into these topics.

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