Surprised by JOY!
I used to believe joy would find me when I reached a certain goal. I had my life pretty much figured out when I was ten years of age. I would get married at 22, have five kids before I turned 30, & be living a blissful life with a wonderful & amazing husband. At 18, things changed a bit. I decided I also wanted to be a successful producer & director of quality family television & have the kids, the husband - all that stuff.
When 25 came & went & I was no nearer my goal than when I was ten I had some years of resentment toward God. You see, I thought He owed me “my idea of happiness”. If He didn’t answer the prayers I had been faithfully praying since I was a little girl then where did that leave our relationship? How could He love me?
I made a painful mistake in that moment of brokenness. I chose to try & mend the hurt on my own without truly giving it to God. This has led to some really unhealthy choices that have lingered into my present day. I still choose to fix my brokenness with food, putting up walls, & giving into the feeling of desolation as I roll around in my little stagnant lake on my pity party boat.
You see, as hard & painful as it might be to hear this, God doesn’t owe me anything. There is nothing in the Word of God that says, “He shows favor by giving us our way.” In fact much of scripture discusses dying to self & choosing to take up our cross & follow Him.
While His burden may be light & His yoke easy, the words “burden” & “yoke” are not easy things to hear. In fact, I would say, most of us look over these words in this part of scripture found in the book of Matthew.
This last month has been a sort of weathering time for me. My sails have been tested against the gale; much of which I have placed on myself due to sailing my ship in the wrong direction. I love how God never gives up on us. Just when we feel we have overcome a hurdle & conquered that fear, uncertainty, or sin; He will send something that crosses our path to remind us we are still chained to it. We have merely filed it away for safe keeping. He wants it consumed in refiner’s fire.
This morning I walked outside my house into a breathtaking view. The sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue, & there wasn’t even a trace of humidity. I was overwhelmed in the moment, completely awestruck of God’s creation. He gently reminded me that He did this for me. He delights in giving me, “His good”! While I know many of you experienced this day as well; I truly felt God had caused the sun to shine, the birds to sing, & the weather to be cool & lovely just for me. It was joy unmeasured. There was no reason for it. If anything I didn’t deserve it. Yet, here was His unmerited favor displayed before my eyes.
This mysterious & wondrous life He sets before us. One moment I was mired up in self. The next I was filled with joy that could have never come from the work of my hands.
I am clearly learning to strive less & abide. It is a constant theme in my life of late. I had a new guest check into the Hope Lodge. I was just going about the motions. I was telling this person where things were, etc… Until, I heard the still small voice, “look & listen”. I stopped & looked at this person & they were visibly shaking. They were so scared, so uncertain, & alone. I had been so careless. I stopped & just took a moment to listen to the narrative.
When I took the time to listen I was able to share an encouraging word & set this person’s mind at ease. I also had the pleasure of simply listening to two other guests, their stresses & concerns pouring out. I was extremely present for these moments. I was aware that they were bigger than me. Suddenly, all the little dreams, hopes, & wishes seemed so inconsequential. I was abiding in God’s will. I knew without a doubt He had me here for a divine purpose.
At 28 I had the wonderful joy of beginning my “nanny” career. I don’t think I can fully put into words what it was like. There were many ups & downs, trial by fires, & “what the heck am I doing here”! As the family has grown each child has found a unique & precious place in my heart. How does that happen? How does love keep growing like that?
About six months ago God gave me a very real picture of what answered prayer looks like. I had asked for five kids. He chose to give me six. They don’t call me Mom, but Ms. Melissa. Yet, I love each of those kids as if they were my own. I cannot share this with everybody because, frankly, they just wouldn’t understand.
Joy is not found when we get what we want. Joy is found in the abiding knowledge that we are right where we are supposed to be. I could waste my entire life for that one moment where I start living OR I can just live! I choose to live an openhanded life. If you need help, I have two able hands & willing feet. I will make time.
In closing I would like to share some lyrics to two songs & a bit of scripture:
“And we’re dancing in the minefield
We’re sailing in the storm
This is harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for…”
-Dancing in the Minefields, Andrew Peterson; Counting Stars
“I’m tired of blaming everybody else
I’m sorry if I blamed you.
I have everything I need to be myself
I have what I need to love you.
There’s no way to brace myself
There’s no way to sort it all out
What you need from me
I can do it right now…”
- Right Now, Sara Groves; Invisible Empires
10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
- John 15: 10-12