This morning I awoke to an old song:
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!
Until Next Time,
This morning I awoke to an old song:
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!
Until Next Time,
To Re-Joy or find joy again
To feel or show great joy or delight
To cause joy to
To be well or thrive
These are the thoughts that jumped out at me as I nosed around the Internet this morning, checking dictionaries, commentaries, and blogs. But here’s my favorite:
To experience God’s favor and be conscious (glad) for His grace.
I found that one on a blog. It said, “In the Greek text, the word is chairete which comes from the word chairo which comes from the root char meaning “favorably disposed, leaning toward . . . [It] is also a cognate of charis which means “grace.” Thus, we are not favorably disposed and leaning toward our circumstances; we are favorably disposed and leaning toward God’s grace.
So here’s the Paula version:
Rejoice – To thrive in God’s grace and live in joy by leaning toward relationship with God and not toward my circumstances. To “Re-joy” when joy feels distant by stopping to remember who God is and who I am in Him.
Loved your comments yesterday about YOUR rejoicing. I hope to hear from more of your today–and another rejoicing from those already participating! They encourage me–and I believe it encourages us to write these out. Here’s my rejoicing today.
I rejoice that Jesus made a way for us to live in constant, intimate relationship with our Creator. I rejoice that we can know He is there for us every single moment of our lives. I rejoice that sometimes He lets us actually feel His presence. And that when He doesn’t, ww have the promise of God’s own Word that He is there. I rejoice that because of Jesus the Holy Spirit dwells with us. Since we have leaned our hope upon Jesus and His saving grace, we are always, every second, day in and out, connected to all the love, hope, and power of the King of Kings. I rejoice that that we are never alone. When we feel loneliness, we can stop and thank God that He will never leave us by ourselves. I rejoice that Jesus made us ONE with God and that for the rest of our lives we can live in the perfection of community that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rejoice in.
I am also grateful for His earthly gifts–which though I experience them here feel like a taste of heaven. Today I rejoice in precious relationships with His people here on earth. I’m rejoice that He has given me a loving husband, beautiful children, a joy-giving granddaughter, and good friends. I rejoice that He gives moments of fun, peace, and refueling. Like spending time with those I love. Reading a good book. Watching a good movie.
What do you rejoice in today?
Will you rejoice with me?
Here’s the thing. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I’m in a time of questioning. Not God. Not faith. Just how to navigate the recent challenges of life. It’s been hard for me to be consistent posting here while I’m processing–and balancing the joys and demands (there are both) of life change. But yesterday I was challenged to one simple thing. To rejoice.
Will you help me? Can we do this together? Over the next week, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment here that is focused on rejoicing in our God. We can always rejoice in Him, no matter our circumstance, right?
So here’s my rejoicing:
I rejoice that our God is a good God. A loving God. A God who never leaves us. I rejoice that God is personal. That Holy Spirit is always working within us and also in our life situation to shape us and grow us and make us more like Jesus. I rejoice that Jesus is good and that He offers us His goodness to replace the darkness that once dwelt in us. I rejoice in God’s many good gifts. Right now one of the most healing of His gifts is time spent with my baby granddaughter. I am very grateful. But there are other gifts, too. Like the crisp autumn air. Like cobalt blue skies. Like yellow leaves. I rejoice in the cheerful color of sunflowers and the fact that I could buy a small bouquet of them at the grocery store. A little splurge that lights up my kitchen.
Until Next Time,
(BTW, this post is also on my author/speaker page on facebook)
Sometimes you don’t want advice. Perhaps that’s why I’ve pulled back the last couple of years. This blog has been barely touched. No new books written. I’ve even been more quiet in “real” life–with most of my face-to-face community.
I’m trying to figure things out. And well, frankly that’s exhausting. The thing is, I really don’t want a plethora of other voices adding to my confusion in a particular area of my life. I want to learn to rest in the hope of the One Voice who leads. Trust in the One who knows the end from the beginning. But it’s been a long two years around this issue–and I do need prayer support. But I’m not ready to talk about that yet–I promise I will. At the end of this post.
The whole fear of advice thing is not all that’s going on. Life has simply taken a lot of energy and left little for blogging. After Jerry’s heart attack almost two years ago, we began a health journey that required our focus. Much of the last two years was about doctor’s appointments, diet change, and adjusting. (I talked a little about that here.) The exciting update is that Jerry is healing!!
But even though I think of the last two years as hard, not all has been hard. Some of it has been incredibly good, wondrously good, gloriously good!
My son Sam married the beautiful Ariel!
I spoke at retreats and a writer’s conference and gave a keynote at the Whole and Free Women’s Conference.
I traveled to NYC (which I actually told you about) and then to Afghanistan to serve with an NGO (non-governmental agency). Maybe someday I can dig deep enough to write of the great impact of that experience. Today I’ll share only one quote from a brave, female health care worker in Afghanistan. Through an interpreter she thanked me and said, “We know that you come from a place that is safe and traveled to a place that is not safe to encourage us.”
Yes, I cried.
A bonus for this huge life event was that I was part of an all-women’s service team–and my daughter was one of the team leaders! So I got to experience this humbling, beautiful, painful place with her.
I came home from these trips and couldn’t rest until I found a way to connect with an Afghan woman nearby. I’d simply fallen in love with these beautiful, courageous, resilient women. I found my place as an in-home English tutor for an Afghan refugee. What precious, precious moments this woman and I have shared! We don’t know much of each other’s story–we don’t have enough words in common to tell our stories. But we share each other’s hearts. We are women. We are mothers. We want to love, grow, and expand.
Back to the home front–Jerry and I celebrated 30 years of marriage with a week in the mountains!
And . . . Drum roll please . . .
Jerry and I became grandparents! Oh the joy!
There’s more. So much more I could write of God’s blessings. Our small group. The women’s Bible study. Faithful friends. It’s good to stop and remember. Any time. But maybe especially when you start a post with the words, “sometimes I don’t want advice” and admit that you’ve pulled in.
So let’s loop back to my “more on that later” promise.
The thing that has been the most draining for me (except of course for the emotion you feel when you almost lose a spouse and then watch them fight their way back to living over a two-year period) is that I was totally unprepared to be the primary wage earner for our family.
Jerry and I have always lived on a small, one-income (his!) budget. It wasn’t easy raising four children this way. But we believed I was called to some primary things–being a writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother (not necessarily in that order). So we limped along to allow me to do the things I’m passionate about. Making an income through books, speaking, and the occasional article was/is feast or famine. (Well, to be honest it’s more like a normal meal or famine. Never really a feast.)
God was incredibly gracious to me right after Jerry had his heart attack and was unable to work. Our Lord miraculously paid every single bill for six months. I’m so thankful. I really didn’t have it in me to figure out how to make more money on top of all we were dealing with. God is good. Faithful. Steady.
Next God provided me with a ghost writing job with the potential to support us for a while. The work started more slowly than expected, which freaked me out. (You can think you’ve been tried and tested and grown in faith–and I had–but then comes something that draws your faith in a whole new way and though you truly thought you were done with freaking out (because you know your God is good) you find yourself there again.)
Eventually the work became somewhat steady. I loved being able to bring in more consistent income while holding onto the flexible schedule that allowed me to drive Jerry to the doctor, occasionally babysit my granddaughter, and continue tutoring my friend. (And take the occasional speaking engagement, service trip, etc.)
But it was a huge learning curve. This trying to become the primary provider.
(Okay, not was. Is.)
For too many months I stressed over every penny I thought I needed to make. It was hard to balance my schedule, much less my checkbook. Finally, I learned to trust, to believe God was providing, and lean into the work without freaking out. (To date I’ve sold 78 stories to this company.)
But not long after I was able to wrestle my fears, questions, and stress to the ground–Not long after I was doing better at leaning on God–Not long after I could work without freaking, the project began winding down. Which meant the work slowed down. Which meant the paychecks did too.
The project is almost completed. I may have enough work to get us through October.
(I know I just asked, but . . . um . . . please don’t give me advice.)
Last night I lay awake freaking again.
It’s so not how I thought I’d learned to live with Him. It’s so not how God wants me to live. It so not how I want to live.
I know I am a capable, educated, talented woman. I have skills. Marketable skills. I also have dreams. Whether or not they are marketable remains to be seen. And then there are the hopes I treasure . . . .
I’m not sure where all of those intersect. I’m not sure if they will anymore. I’m not sure how to move forward.
And I am so very sad. And tired. And afraid.
Please pray for me.
Earlier today I did part of what I love. I wrestled with a new spiritual truth that excited me. And I wrote it out to share with others. (I’ll post it here tomorrow–and on my author/speaker page on Facebook.) I have a feeling this new understanding of a Bible passage I’ve previously misunderstood relates to the struggle. Not because it is a direct correlation, but because–as you can read tomorrow–what we see in the mirror matters. (What I wrote talks about what we can see.) But I have a feeling I’m barely beginning to understand the vast applications of that view. Maybe instead of worrying as I climb into bed tonight, I’ll ponder that.
Meanwhile, here in Colorado, I’m just a grandma looking for Jesus. Believing He’s hanging onto me and being grateful for that, because my hang-er-on-er strength feels faint. Sometimes I don’t get that. How God can be so good, so faithful, so kind–and still I feel things that don’t match who I know Him to be. Tonight I may feel overwhelmed, scared, a bunch of things that don’t speak to the truth of the power of my God, but I promise you this. I still seek Him. I still love Him. I still reach for Him.
He IS my all in all.
Until next time,
So yesterday I posted about how unhappy I was with my color choices as I started a new page in Lisa Joy Samson’s Colors of Hope (on sale today on CBD). I mentioned that as I colored the Lord revealed to me thoughts about being creative and brave and willing to try new things in life.
Following is what I pondered as I continued coloring that particular page:
I’m still not done with this coloring page or its accompanying verse (When you call out to me and come to me and pray to me, I’ll hear you), but I gotta say, I’m loving how this is coming together–even the yellow and blue I didn’t like at first.
Today three things went through my head as I colored and chatted with Jesus. The first was simply joy. I think the happy colors brought that out! I worshiped, with little praise songs freely bouncing around in my head. I wanted to celebrate His creativity, love, power, and beauty. This mixed with the ponderings I posted yesterday led me to think about what it looks like to be a follower who surrenders fully, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, without forgetting that life has other gardens, too. Beautiful Eden gardens where we enjoy bounty and beauty and walk in intimacy with our creator.
I want to understand how to live as one who walks in surrender when called to hardship or a season of sacrifice–or even to live without getting angry at God when life sends me a curve ball.
AND I want to be a joyful woman who is adventurous and lifts her face to the breeze. Free. Focused on the glory of the life God desires for us. Believing in His goodness.
The second line of thought was about perspective. As I worked around the edges of my coloring page, I saw previous work differently. I was able to see little flaws I hadn’t noticed and fix them. They didn’t bother me. At this stage of the process I was far enough along to simply handle them. No stress. And as more spaces were colored I started getting a sense of the joy of the whole picture and how it fit together, not just the unfinished parts that made no sense at first. I don’t think I have to explain either of the metaphors popping out there!
The third pondering was simple joy in God’s provision for play and refreshment as I color. In this season of my son’s upcoming wedding, my other son’s graduation, and my efforts to meet a May 1st book deadline, I’m incredibly grateful to the Lord for leading me to play through this devotional coloring book. What delight to see the happy colors, to be creative without need for perfection or plan, to just hang out with him.
The last many years He’s often pulled me out of my more serious approach to time with just the two of us. I’m learning to rest in His wisdom in leading our relationship. There are seasons for all kinds of relating with the Lord, and I love the deeper study times as well as the intensive prayer and journaling times, but He knows I can be too serious, too responsible, so He pulls me out for long walks or gives me a coloring book and asks me just to be in His presence.
To chat or not.
Isn’t our God good?!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this three blog series about the joys of coloring and the things Lisa and I learned while interacting with Colors of Hope. Next week I’ll be talking about navigating empty nest as I interview Vicki Caruana, who wrote, “The Joy of Letting Go.” This book releases April 1, no foolin’! Receiving an advanced copy of her book in the mail the week my oldest son married his beautiful bride was quite timely. (I hope to also blog about the wedding soon. It was a glorious day full of joy and peace! There is joy in letting go. 😉 )
PS If you’re interested in hearing more about my journey out of the “quiet time” box of my past and into more freedom to be playful with the LORD, you can read about it at the end of my book, Soul Scents: Bloom, available now on Amazon.
No disrespect intended to those couples who say the best years of marriage were when they had nothing but love, staring into each others eyes in that first, tiny apartment, only peanut butter and jelly in the cupboard, but as I celebrate 26 years of marriage I’m thinkin’ the best years are yet to come.
After all, as love grows so does joy. And if those bare cabinet days don’t separate, they bind. Tight.
Reflections are strange sometimes. There is much good to celebrate today–and I do–but I find my musings today have taken an unexpected twist.
I’m thinking of what we DIDN’T do instead of what we did.
In those years of lack and hardship we didn’t blame each other.
When one of us struggled–with life, faith, forward movement–we didn’t give up on each other.
When people came against us, throwing conflict and discontent into relationships we didn’t allow them to divide us.
When grief sometimes silenced one of us, even immobilized for a time, we didn’t push each other to get over it.
When there were problems we didn’t ignore them. We also didn’t rush the fixing process.
When one of us succeeded we didn’t get jealous.
When life grew hard we didn’t look for greener pastures.
When opportunities came for a spouse we didn’t hold them back. We also didn’t let opportunities rob us of our priorities for each other and the children.
We didn’t compare our jobs or roles or claim we worked harder than the other.
We didn’t expect the other person to be our only person. We also didn’t expect love to grow between us without giving it a lot of attention.
We didn’t assume the other person made hurtful choices out of a desire to hurt.
We didn’t set unrealistic expectations of each other.
We didn’t do any of the above perfectly. And, perhaps most important, we didn’t expect each other to.
Early on my sweet Jerry taught me the value of trusting each other’s heart. When I was (much) less than perfect in my efforts to love him, or when I struggled with choices he often told me, “Honey, I trust your heart.”
Over the years I learned that if we had that core belief–that the other person always, at the heart level, wanted the best, we could weather a lot of stuff. Mistakes became simply mistakes instead of a premeditated attempt to wound. Conversations became about understanding perspective instead of assuming conflict and duking it out.
I (eventually) discovered that I often let my anger grow toward my husband not because I was truly upset but because once I got hurt I imagined what he was thinking or feeling toward me. As I made assumptions my anger and self-justification escalated. Soon a full-blown battle was raging inside of my head. When I learned to ask Jerry if he was actually thinking those things his look of shock taught me that I could imagine far more conflict and condemnation than he came up with on his own.
So, as I grew, I didn’t make assumptions about what he thought or felt. Instead, I trusted his heart and asked questions to clarify.
We’ve weathered a lot of stuff, my man and me. We’ve seen more joy than any couple deserves, and we’ve had more disappointment and pain than we ever wanted to experience or would invite again. But when I think back to early days I don’t long for something we’ve lost. What we had then has only grown and reshaped itself, not disappeared.
I’m sure there are things we DID do that helped our love mature, but I can’t help but believe it was the things we didn’t do that kept our marriage from self-sabotage.
And so it is maybe largely in part to the “didn’ts” that I can’t wait for the next year of marriage and the next and the next. I think since we didn’t give into blame on those empty cupboard days (and I’m not just talking finances here) that as our days are rich they will be richer. We won’t take the good for granted because we know the bad. And (I hope) we won’t let the bad send us as quickly to despair because we have walked hard days and come out on the other side together. Stronger.
So it is with great gratitude I celebrate 26 years of NOT doing and wait in eager anticipation for the love and joy to come.
For many years I prayed for joy. What seemed to happen in response to those prayers was hardship upon hardship. But looking back I think I learned some of the same truths in this blog, especially the part about intentionally cultivating a capacity for joy. I believe you’ll appreciate these thoughts as much as I did.
Was Pastor Ashley out of her mind? How could she say that we can have joy no matter what the circumstances surrounding us? Wasn’t I sitting in this chair just a few weeks after a car accident that left me with two swollen, bruised kneecaps and five displaced ribs? Wasn’t I cringing under a load of guilt behind the fact that it was my fault? I totaled two cars, hurt another driver and if my knees could bend, I would be attempting to kick my own rear end. Bring on the joy.
Hadn’t I just received news of a devastating tragedy that befell a family I adore? Hadn’t I just been made aware, again, of a family relationship that no matter what I do will never be healed to the point of reunion? How do you find joy in the face of stories about one family member being seriously mistreated at the hands of another? Right, let’s join in the happy dance.
But there stood my pastor saying it really is possible to have joy no matter what trials we are facing and what questions loom over us. I love my pastor and never leave one of her messages without a nugget of truth and comfort. That day I chose to rage against the stubborn silence that fell like an impermeable granite wall in front of my questions.
I spent the next several mornings on my back porch meditating and watching it rain. It seemed to me it was going to rain forever. Worse, yet, it seemed like it had been raining forever. I wondered if we would be in for a dreary season from April until November. There was another question. There was more silence.
One particularly wet and bleak morning, I stared into the faces of my twin enemies -anger and confusion. They were collaborating to mask the deep pain gnawing at me and the authentic feelings that could set me free if I would allow them out from behind the silent screaming. I couldn’t believe all this had happened within a month. I fought, I reasoned, and I demanded answers. All that came was the flood of water from clouds that mirrored darkness in the depths of my despair.
I realized verbal fighting was not working. So, I chose to throw myself onto a couch and beat my fists into pillows as if I could extract a truth that would take away the grief, guilt and helplessness. My ribs groaned, and my knees sent sharp, protesting throbs all the way to my toes. Finally, out of physical and mental exhaustion, I plummeted downward into a place I feared would be my emotional home for many days. I made a conscious decision to submit, lay down the tools of battle, and let go. It continued to rain. I continued to pour my heart out to God. Was Pastor Ashley out of her mind?
Then I heard it. It was faint at first but grew louder as my sobs subsided. It was the song of children at play in the neighbor’s backyard. I pulled my tear-soaked, limping self to the patio door and opened it to determine if my ears were playing tricks on me.
How could the wee ones be playing, laughing and even squabbling on this dark day? Didn’t they know that many worlds had been rocked by unspeakable sadness? Didn’t they know my heart was breaking for all that was broken in my world and the worlds of many I love? Didn’t they know it was cold and raining?
No, they knew nothing of the events or weather patterns. All they knew was they were going to live and laugh today, no matter what nature or the world presented. In their pure child wisdom they rejected the preset template of a day defined by externals.
I stepped outside and stood in the rain, listening to their little squeals, as I looked over the hedge separating our yards. I saw them jumping in puddles and delighting in this, even this – a downpour of chilly water. They danced in pools among patches of grass made green by relentless moisture.
The joyful chorus of song and dance was joined by robins flitting around them. No doubt the robins were looking for food. The gorgeous little birds took time to lend voices to the symphony of a fresh day. I smiled, breathed in the smell of clean air and thanked God for the laughter of children. I thanked Him for the robins and rain. I walked closer to the fence, “Hi Miss Laura,” they called in unison between giggles. I blew a kiss to two of my favorite wee people.
It wasn’t long before the guilt came back. How could I allow myself to be drafted into their little world? I should not feel joy on any level at this time. It wasn’t time yet. No I should not find joy right now.
But I did. For a brief moment my heart lifted, I saw parting of mental clouds, if not physical ones. And I remembered a quote I had heard by Berne Brown, “Joy is a spiritual discipline.” New questions surfaced. How does one get their joy back? What does it mean to be disciplined? Was my heart so heavy because I am undisciplined, unintelligent, and unable to make sense of a world that can be senseless?
“You want some lunch? Honey, please come in now. It’s cold and you’re dressed like it’s 85 degrees. Please come in now,” my husband called from inside the patio doors.
“In a minute,” I answered, not wanting to leave this moment just yet. There were still questions and guilt to deal with. I thought maybe, just maybe, answers were in the sights, sounds and smells of this early May scene playing out before and around me. I opened my right hand, allowing rain drops to hit my palm and stared at each while praying one drop would hold a key to unlock the door to my prison of pain. I was not willing to trade my miniscule slice of peace for a retro reach into the past several weeks of hell on earth.
When I did come in, I ate in silence. I was soaking wet and Keith cast a worried eye over me all through lunch as he attempted to make small talk.
After lunch, I went to my special prayer room where I could be alone, in my secret space, with God. As I started my little water fountain and lit a candle, I heard a small voice say, “Joy is a spiritual discipline. Like all things it takes practice, patience and persistence.”
I blew out the match, dropped my head and said, “Okay, Lord. I get it.” I finally heard what Berne Brown and Pastor Ashley were trying to tell me. The discipline is not in owning joy but in intentionally seeking it. It is in the awareness of children’s voices, new spring growth, tiny birds, and even the cleansing heavenly waters. It is in looking for, enjoying and not allowing guilt to overshadow the joys of this day we are given to live.
The work of finding joy is sometimes found while standing in pain with others while waiting and believing there will be a sliver of sunlight through the blinding darkness. The hard work of spiritual discipline is found in an obedient posture of seeking but not demanding answers. Finding joy is about resting in the one who has the answers, and still trusting Him when the answers are never revealed.
I resolved to not dishonor myself by shoving aside questions and grief under a pillow of anger. Instead I chose to allow time needed to process that which may not ever be processed thoroughly. I openly gave myself permission to heal. And I resolved to find the laughter, singing birds and love that are all around if I practice the discipline of active pursuit, even in the darkest days.
When I turned off the fountain, blew out the candle and returned to a day that held a long to-do list, I came away with a new belief. Eventually the joyful moments will stay longer and crowd out, or minimize, the moments where hopelessness and helplessness reign supreme.
I moved slowly (very slowly) out of my special space, kissed my concerned husband and said, “Maybe Pastor Ashley isn’t out of her mind after all.”