To Do with Joy

I have a joy issue.

I know Joy, true Joy, with a capital J, is not of me or anything I do. Happiness is one thing. That I can control, to a certain extent. I can choose to be happy or I can choose to be grumpy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and goes with the swirls of life. 

Joy, though, that just is. I have it in Christ. He shines His light down on me and through the death and resurrection of Christ I have Joy. Joy in knowing my Savior. Joy in my salvation. Joy in forgiveness and real freedom. Joy in being a Child of God. Heir to the Promise, heir to His many promises. 

Joy is not dependent on me. But a lot of time it “feels” like it is.

I know the floor needs to be swept and mopped, but I’m not seeing the joy there. I have 8 emails to return, and a messed up email server, not seeing the joy. School work to check and help with, which might be joyful, but math makes two out of four children cry. Why does joy seem to evade us in the daily of life? Why can’t I recognize the resurrection joy I have, in those moments?

These moments may seem silly, but they are the stuff of life. Your stuff of life looks different, we’re all at different life stages and seasons, and places. But all of it, from the diapers to be changed to the funerals to be attended, are pieces fit together that gives meaning and purpose. Even my dish scrubbing or my phone-call returning is for Christ and I can see joy in it because it is for Him. He promises to use the everything of life in His Kingdom. 

So, how to solve my joy problem. How to move Joy from knowledge in my head to practice in my life?

Truth. I need people to speak Truth in my life and I need to speak truth to myself through His Word. When I step away from that truth, then joy starts to be about happiness for me. I’m looking for joy to look like this welling up spring of excitement and ecstatic energy. 

So I created a gentle reminders for myself. Sometimes it looks like scripture on the bathroom mirror or the fridge. Sometimes it looks like Portals of Prayer in the bathroom for 5 minutes of quiet peace. Sometimes it looks like texting a friend to share my struggles, whether large or small. Sometimes it looks like this…

I created this notebook at the beginning of the school year. When I went to write my “name” on it – Mom, of course – so no one would steel it, my pen just kept writing. A gentle reminder that when I open this notebook to find my lists and plans and schedules, that my Joy does not change with the tides. It doesn’t change by Heidi’s excitement rating scale of the task at hand. It just is in Christ. I have Joy. No one and no thing can take it. And my little prayer goes up…“Thank you, Lord, for Joy. Keep me ever mindful of my Joy found in you and help me to live in that Joy as I go about the tasks ahead. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Called to be Free – Ministry life at its best

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Galatians 5:1 speaks truth to our hearts.

God created each of us as unique  individuals. He formed us with His own two hands, and knit us in the womb. He has big plans for us. He calls us worthy and loved. But, He also calls us Free, by the death and resurrection of His Son. He doesn’t just call our husband’s free, or our children free, or those sitting around us free. He calls each of us Free. We are free to choose, and to do, and to be, ourselves.

This can be an especially important message in ministry –

You don’t need to fulfill any church member’s expectation of what a  ministry wife or woman in ministry should look like.

We don’t  even need to fulfill our own expectation of what we need to look like.

We only need to fill God’s and He calls us Free.

Pastor’s wives, ministry wives, and women in ministry everywhere come from a wide variety of background, from all corners of the earth, with various types of education, different passions, different skills, and different weaknesses. This passage reminds us that we are free to live and breathe our very own testimony that God is writing in our lives. We are free to rejoice in who He made us, even when that doesn’t look quite like someone expected.

This is a verse I recommend women everywhere paste to their refrigerator, their bathroom mirror, or their day planner- or all of the above! We daily need the reminder that God’s invitation to live what He has already given us, is new every morning. Live free!

Be you.

Let Him perfect you in this race, not the image someone else thinks you need to be.

May He complete this good work, which He has already began – Freedom!

Caves and Stables

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and place him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

At our house every year, we watch the movie “The Nativity Story” during the advent season. It’s a fun tradition we keep with some friends and their children on a Sunday afternoon, for a little advent respite from the busyness of the season. There is a scene in this movie that strikes me every time I watch it, right to the heart. Joseph and Mark make the long trek to Bethlehem, arriving in the dusk, the beginning of night. Mary simply says, “Joseph, the child is pressing.” The next thing you see is Mary, a woman very much in labor, breathing and struggling through. Joseph is running through the street of this tiny town yelling “Please, is there a place for us.” He knocks no doors, he lifts up Mary and carries her, as if to try to carry her very burden. He’s still knocking and yelling, “Please is there no place for us!”

There is no place for them.

And in my heart every year I think, when I see this scene-
This should not be! Someone, find them a place! Someone, give them a room, sleep on a different pallet for the night for pity’s sake! Jesus needs a place to be born!

And I wonder, is this the way it had to be?

Did God have a specific prophecy about Jesus needing to be born in a cave, in a stable, in a dank, dark place? Did God have a not directly prophesied big picture plan here for us to see Christ’s humility so very early on?  Maybe, obviously it is useful for that. But is it necessary? Or is it just one more thing in this world that is just not as it should be…

There are so many things like the stable in our lives.

So many things that just don’t seem right. They may not be deep injustices that need to be resolved and conflicted over and struggled through, but they are the smaller issues- the small slight from someone at church, the hurried words of someone just not thinking, or being in charge of the Christmas play for the thousandth time because no one else wants to do it, or calling someone in our family because evidentially it is just too much trouble for someone to be the person picking up the telephone first. I’m not sure what little things are in your life, but there are the things that yell – “This isn’t right! Does anyone have a place for me! Does anyone notice I’m trying so hard?!”

A few chapters later in Luke 9, Jesus himself tells us, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Things are not has they should be still, for Jesus. Born in a manger, sojourning with us for 33 years, to walk the path to the cross. Nothing with beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, no place for Him.

So, how do we respond when we get the slight or the frustration or all the small issues that just should not be? We pick up, we move on, we give new birth and new life to the situation by God’s grace and power and mercy.

Because our caves, our stables, are to God still a thing of beauty, because they contain our Savior shining brightly in the midst of the darkness, in the dankness of every situation.

What are you struggling with this advent season? Bring it to the Lord. He always has a place for us. Let’s share the small burdens together. He makes room in our hearts for each one of us to share the journey together.