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.”

Defying Shame

Shame.

It’s often described as a blanket. It kind of wraps around you. The devil fools you thinking it’s comfortable, it’s where you belong.

We experience shame in any number of things. Our past haunts us, our marriages feel like they’re failing, we never measure up. Sometimes we put shame on ourselves. The guilt sits long enough and we don’t even notice it’s there. The devil tricks us into believing that it’s part of who we are, what we deserve. That it may be, what we deserve. But that’s not grace and it’s not the way we were intended to live.

Shame is all around us. It’s so much a part of our culture that we normalize it. We judge ourselves in accordance with what the person next to us is doing. We’re either “not as bad as all that” or “I’ll never measure up to that.” We turn on the tv and judge our bodies based on false images, and feel the shame creep in. We hide our whole selves, only letting pieces out, because we know that judgement eventually looms with each person we meet.

Shame is at its worst when it comes from a brother. How often do we give someone the benefit of the doubt? How often do we fail to see the story behind the pain? People everywhere are afraid to walk into churches (including Jesus-loving, church girls…even pastor’s wives), because shame waits.

Half of it is a lie of the devil, and half of it is a lie of our culture.

Church isn’t for looking a certain way or getting it together so we can meet with God. Church is for the abused and the abuser. Church is for the faith-filled and the faithless. Church is for the hurting and those who have hurt.

It’s time to throw off the shame.

It’s time to defy it.

As a person, as a church, as a culture.

As a woman, I have particular battles with shame I can name and by naming, I can begin to take some power from it. I don’t feel beautiful enough, smart enough, good enough, or just plain enough. So, I get up each morning and defy shame. You are not a part of me, shame. You are not invited to this party. Christ promises me in John 8 and Romans 8 that he doesn’t condemn me and who else should? No one. I’m throwing off the blanket and letting my whole self out. I’ll mess up, as I have in the past. I’ll say words that should have been more careful, but relationships will be healed because I will be real. I’m not enough, but Christ in me is.

He looks on me and I am radiant. He tells me I will never be in shame.

I’m going to believe His promises, place them on repeat and believe them again.

Those who look to Him are radiant; and their faces are never covered in shame. Psalm 34:5

* This is my good friend, Erin. Who lovingly reminds me everyday that shame has no place in my life. We all need an Erin.

My New Year’s “Things I Don’t Do” List

My friend gave me one of Shauna Niequist’s books recently,

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way.

It’s worth a read! The book was really helpful to me during a really difficult period of my life. But…this isn’t a book review. 🙂

One idea the author shared was that she started a “Things I Don’t Do List.”

She talks about her struggle with comparing herself to everyone around her, trying to “measure up”, and do all things well.

Oh boy, did this strike a cord with me.

I have perfectionist tendencies to say the least, that have gotten better (I think!) with 4 kids, graduate school, and life happenings that leave me well aware of the complete lack of control I have in most things. Surrounded by expectations, mostly of my own making, most days I felt a bit harried, under appreciated, and outside the community, of friends and the church, God intended me to be in.

All that said, the “Things I Don’t Do List” sounded just like a good idea of celebrating doing what I do well, and leaving some stuff out that just isn’t me, and that’s O.K.

Things I Don’t Do:

1) Make delectable potluck dishes… It’s a fact. I can cook, I love having people at my table. I just can’t get it together for a potluck. I bring chips, multigrain. Yum.

2) Act as my husband’s secretary… I don’t take messages. I know it may seem easier, but I will forget because a baby will need their diaper changed or someone will hit their sister or a youth group member will share about a life changing event. I just am no good with messages.

3) Ask my children to be completely quiet in worship… I don’t believe in this. They are loud children. Sometimes I wish we were quiet people, but that’s not our strength. I will ask them to be respectful of others, participate fully, and give their whole heart to worship. They will not always sit and stand at just the right time, they will ask lots of questions and I will remind them to ask more quietly, and they will belt out “This is the Feast” even when they don’t know all the words.

4) Read less… I love books. I love them like no one’s business. I carry a book around for stolen moments of quietness. I’m not going to judge myself for spending time reading.

5) Debate financial, educational, and relational choices with strangers…we make the best decisions we can for our children and our family, regardless of other people’s opinions. We take the church into account and society’s general opinions, but beyond that, it’s us and God, and moving in the direction we feel He points us.

6) Eat mediocre chocolate…I need to stop wasting my calories. I love dark chocolate, good wine, yummy food, and good friends to share it with.

7) Hide my testimony… I come from a lot of dark and difficult places. God has brought me from the pit. Redeemed it. Made it Holy. Given it purpose. It’s meant to glorify Him, nothing more, nothing less. May it be so.

What would be on your “Things I Don’t Do List”?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, silly, serious, or anywhere in between!