Count it all Joy

Count it all Joy

Mike and I were talk­ing the other night as we drove home from some­where with the kids. We were talk­ing about joy, and how we feel so blessed that we see that joy abound­ing in our home with our chil­dren. We tried to fig­ure out what it is that brings that joy to such a level that we feel it most of the time in our home. It’s not like we have a rule that we have to be joy­ful or any­thing. We just feel it within our­selves, and we see it in our kids.

I mean, we know that Christ is the cen­ter of it all. We know that our joy comes from Him alone. We get that. But, we know other Chris­tians who love the Lord and have a faith­ful walk who seem to strug­gle in this area. We all have strug­gles, to be sure. But the joy seems like it should be cen­tral. We have been saved from death (in the eter­nal sense of the word)! That’s no small thing. How is it that we get bogged down by the insignif­i­cant daily events of life enough for it to steal joy from us? I sup­pose they daily events don’t seem insignif­i­cant at the time. Flood­ing bath­rooms (I should tell you that story some­time…), lay­offs, can­cer, dis­obe­di­ent chil­dren seem pretty insur­mount­able when you’re liv­ing in that moment. But, when we look at the big pic­ture, per­haps we can step back and look at Christ, at His amaz­ing gift to us in His per­fect sac­ri­fice on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins…then just maybe we can look past our fears and pains and headaches and see joy.

One of the things that came out in our con­ver­sa­tion is the con­cept of con­tent­ment. I sug­gested that maybe peo­ple are not con­tent with their lot in life. Moth­ers who stay home with their chil­dren to school them have signed up for a very dif­fi­cult and often thank­less task. We joke that I don’t get “employee of the month” or a spe­cial park­ing spot. I don’t get raises or bonuses or any other acco­lades to put on my resume. I get dirty dishes, piles of laun­dry, squab­bling sib­lings, and no-notice din­ner guests.

But I LOVE what I do. The Lord has been mer­ci­ful to open my eyes to the bless­ing that it is to be able to do what I do. I don’t always do it well. I have days that are real chal­lenges to me. I’ve sure you’ve heard the adage that the dirty dishes mean that you’ve had food to eat, the piles of laun­dry mean you have ample cloth­ing to wear, the squab­bling sib­lings mean that the Lord has seen fit to give you blessed chil­dren, and din­ner guests mean that you get to show the love of Christ to a stranger (and that you have a home to wel­come them into). So, what do we do with that understanding?

I remem­ber years ago when we had babies, I used to men­tally keep score over who changed more dia­pers than the other. I actu­ally said things like, “I changed 5 dia­pers in a row. It is *your* turn.” Or, when my hus­band came home from his very demand­ing job, I would hand him the baby and say that I was tired and tag, you’re it! I shud­der at that today! What was I think­ing? Who would want to come home to that? {He still came home faith­fully every­day and jumped right in to relieve me, in spite of my thank­less atti­tude.} I was not con­tent in my role as wife and mother. Don’t get me wrong. I loved being a wife and mother. But, I wanted the sto­ry­book edi­tion, not the real life, get your hands dirty edi­tion. When Emma was a baby, I decided that I was going to be the dia­per changer. Small thing, really, but to me at the time, it was pretty huge. From then on, I just took her and changed her. You know what? I ended up lov­ing that time with her. It became a very spe­cial time of bond­ing with her. I had joy in that task which I had kept score on  for 4 babies prior to her. I wish I had known this before I had my first child. I was miss­ing the gift! And the joy. I’m so thank­ful that the Lord opened my eyes.

Thank­ful­ness leads to con­tent­ment, which I believe leads to joy. When we strug­gle in this area, we ought to look around and remem­ber that God doesn’t have to give us any­thing. Christ Him­self most likely had way less mate­ri­ally when He walked the earth than most of us have. Yet, we think we need more: More time, more chil­dren, more help around the house, more clothes, more some­thing. We need to look around us at what God has given to us and count our bless­ings. Have you noticed how many stor­age units are out there? Peo­ple have so much junk that they have to pay a monthly fee to house it all some­where other than their house. The junk doesn’t bring con­tent­ment. It doesn’t feed the joy. It feeds more cov­et­ing and greed. It’s bondage.

I had the blessed priv­i­lege to chat with a friend today. We were dis­cussing the feel­ing of los­ing our joy. She is going through some pretty hard things, and she needed a friend to talk and pray with her. I gen­tly reminded her that God is not unaware of her heart’s desire for her future, her strug­gles of today, and her heartaches. God is sov­er­eign over her today and over her tomor­row. He is uniquely prepar­ing her for her future. The things she is bat­tling today are for her sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, to make her ready for what lies ahead. To teach con­tent­ment, to help her remem­ber that joy is from God alone. It’s one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. And I reminded her that she is loved. Not only by me, her fam­ily, and her church, but mostly by God. And so it is with all of us. We will be sifted, put through the Refiner’s fire, and sanc­ti­fied. Those are not easy processes. They hurt. They bring heartache for a time. But they pro­duce beauty. The dross is skimmed out. We are left more puri­fied, able to love more, serve more, radi­ate joy more.

We ought not be afraid of the tri­als that come to us. We need to walk in faith, not by sight. We can embrace what God has for us because He is per­fect, lov­ing, and all wise. He holds us in His gen­tle hand, those who call upon His name for sal­va­tion. Run to Him. Hold onto Him. He doesn’t judge you based on what you can do for Him. It isn’t about that. He judges us based on what His Son already did. We *do*because we love, not because we want to be loved. There is a huge dif­fer­ence in that. We can’t earn that love.

If you are read­ing this, and you have lost your joy, turn to Christ. I want to encour­age you to count your bless­ings, name them one by one, thank God for them (sounds oddly familiar…are you hum­ming along?). Be con­tent in what­ever state you are in. Pray that the Lord will restore your joy. Are you bur­dened by the very demand­ing job of rais­ing chil­dren? Tackle today. Don’t con­cern your­self with tomor­row or next week. Just do today the best you can. Light some sweet smelling can­dles, play some beau­ti­ful or fun music, smile at your chil­dren. And do today. Kiss your hus­band good­bye if he leaves for work, and greet him with another when he returns. Be thank­ful for this man you have covenanted with, even though he most likely isn’t per­fect. And mostly, pray that the Lord will get you through today with joy.

If you are read­ing this and you don’t know Christ, but are look­ing for joy and con­tent­ment and peace. I’d like to intro­duce you to the One who cre­ated all things, includ­ing you. He is the only place you will find peace, joy, con­tent­ment. For eternity.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

Feel free to email me or even leave a com­ment if you are strug­gling with any of this. I don’t believe any­one can force Chris­tian­ity on any­one. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit. But, I am happy to dis­cuss it with you, to show you where to find hope. As they say, “I’m a beg­gar show­ing another beg­gar where to find bread.”

I have a friend who is fight­ing a hor­ri­ble can­cer. The prog­no­sis doesn’t look good. It grieves me so incred­i­bly to watch her, mostly via Face­book, going through her bat­tle. But the thing that is so over­whelm­ing to me is see­ing how her faith has grown to such an incred­i­ble level. Her trust, her faith, her love for the Lord over­flows in her words. We are pray­ing for heal­ing, daily, not know­ing what the Lord is going to do with her life. But, we have com­plete con­fi­dence that her life is in His ever capa­ble hands. He is walk­ing with her in her val­ley. He is bol­ster­ing her faith. She is teach­ing so many impor­tant lessons to her chil­dren about faith and hope and trust. Mostly she’s teach­ing them about the faith­ful­ness of Jesus.

Let us there­fore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

He is giv­ing her mercy and grace in her time of need. I love this verse. We often won­der how we could go through a trial that some­one else is going through so well. “I could never go through that! She is such a great exam­ple! She has such strength!” Yes. Per­haps. But, we don’t need that strength and that par­tic­u­lar faith today to go through her trial. We receive that mercy in our time of need. But, we get our faith bol­stered by watch­ing the Lord work in the lives of those who are hav­ing grace rained down on them. He is real, liv­ing, com­pas­sion­ate, lov­ing. And He is personal.

May your day be filled with joy today. May you be con­tent wher­ever it is that God has you in this sea­son of your life. Let’s all learn to take the gift of today and be thank­ful. We have no promises of tomorrow.

Bless­ings to you!


On Dust Bunnies and Decorating Blogs

On Dust Bunnies and Decorating Blogs

I’ve always dreamed of hav­ing a blog that show­cases my beau­ti­ful, per­fectly staged home. I so love look­ing at those stun­ning pic­tures with every­thing per­fectly in place. They are so serene, so gor­geous. They inspire me.

But then I look around and laugh.

The thing is, I love that sort of thing. I love dec­o­rat­ing, inte­rior design, mak­ing things beau­ti­ful. It’s just that my house is not the show­case I feel it would need to be in order to pull off some­thing like that.

How do you get a house­ful of chil­dren {Or their toys. Or laun­dry. Or what­ever else they are drag­ging around.} out of the camera’s eye long enough to take those stun­ning pictures?

I can get dis­cour­aged. I remem­ber a day when my house was spot­less. We even had a maid back then.

That was before chil­dren. We don’t have a maid any­more. I think I did the maid thing backwards.

I love to dream and imag­ine my house with just the right paint color, the coor­di­nat­ing fur­ni­ture in per­fect condition.

I have a beau­ti­ful leather sofa. With a flower gar­den painted on the back of it with a black Sharpie marker. It’s quite striking.

I really don’t see it any­more, but I know every­one else does. It’s actu­ally the first thing you see when you walk in my house. It’s right there after the entry­way, into the liv­ing room. All its glory star­ing right at you.

Faith did that when she was about 2. She wanted to make it pretty for me. I never got angry at her for it. I thought it was pre­cious. She drew that for me? Aw. I mean, I was shocked at first, but never upset. But it won’t make the gor­geous pho­tos I see in the blogosphere.

I have a mish­mash of things col­lected from around the world. Our home is warm and invit­ing, or so I like to think. But we live here. ALL of us. So that doesn’t make for gor­geous inte­rior design photos.

I think my strug­gle is more about being con­tent than it is with hav­ing a per­fect home.  I find that I can become dis­con­tent because I never seem to have time to get to those things. I long for sum­mer break so that I have at least a few hours freed up in my day. Not that those hours aren’t taken by some­thing else. In so many ways we have such beauty and delight. We have been blessed abun­dantly. Yet, we get bogged down with the stuff, the dust bun­nies, just the keep­ing up with the basics, sel­dom get­ting to the Martha Stew­art (or who­ever is the go-to per­son for design today…I’ve lost track) in us.

I decided years ago, after many tears and frus­tra­tions, that I needed to let the things give a bit in order to prop­erly take care of the more impor­tant things in my life: my fam­ily. I decided that lov­ing my chil­dren, bear­ing patiently with them, pour­ing out my life for them was way more impor­tant than per­fec­tion in my home. I’d rather have them under­stand the per­fec­tion of Christ in the imper­fec­tion of life. I want them to know that I value them way above hav­ing things just look that way.

I know some peo­ple seem to pull it off. I admire them. I don’t really know how things go in their home, if the chil­dren feel val­ued and loved. They seem to, so I don’t have rea­son to doubt that. These moms must be way more on top of their game than I ever will be.

Yes, we still like it tidy around here. It’s just that we don’t always achieve the “photo ready” stan­dard. Okay, not just always, often. I look at those pho­tos and can’t find a sin­gle dust bunny or cob­web. How do they do that? How do they find time to make every­thing always look so good? Maybe we are only get­ting a shot at the one room that they poured into for that photo. Maybe just on the other side of the cam­era is chaos.

But maybe not.

I feel like Mrs. Tit­tle­mouse. You know. From Beat­rix Potter’s book. She’s a tidy lit­tle mouse who has all these insects pop­ping by unex­pect­edly leav­ing lit­tle dirty foot­prints every­where. She’s con­stantly clean­ing up behind them. She’s adorable.

Mrs Tittlemouse 2

I feel her pain.

But the crea­tures mak­ing the dirty lit­tle foot­prints in her home are not her beloved chil­dren. They are unin­vited guests. Surely that makes a dif­fer­ence. Or maybe not. I sup­pose our hearts should be wel­com­ing of whomever the Lord puts into our homes to min­is­ter to, chil­dren or strangers. Some­times we are incon­ve­nienced by peo­ple we don’t actu­ally love.

But I sup­pose that’s another post for another day.

For now, I will con­tinue to move along in my life, min­is­ter­ing to my chil­dren {and beloved hus­band, of course}, enjoy­ing other peo­ples’ gor­geous dec­o­rat­ing blogs. Try­ing not to envy. But being refreshed by view­ing their beau­ti­ful photos.

And gig­gling at my leather sofa graced with the gift from Faith.

Mrs Tittlemouse

I sup­pose the tidi­ness will come again one day. Unfor­tu­nately, that will most likely come with a house empty of chil­dren with dirty feet. I’d rather fight the dust bun­nies than think of the days with­out them.

I linked over at Joy­ous Notions.

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