Step #11. Spread Joy

season

I want you to think of something that you really wanted for Christmas when you were a kid.  Make sure you choose something that you actually ended up receiving!  It should be the kind of gift that made it difficult for you to sleep on Christmas Eve.  You couldn’t wait for it.  When you discovered that very gift waiting for you in the morning you began hyperventilating and being terribly overdramatic.  (Wait, was that just me?)  Ok, have you picked something yet?  Did you choose your most-desired Christmas gift?  Good.

New question: Did you wake up thinking about that Christmas item this morning?

Isn’t it amazing that something that held so much JOY all those years ago is now lost and forgotten.  Maybe the memory of it put a smile on your face.  But the truth is that stuff (no matter how great in the moment) just doesn’t bring lasting joy.

christmas morning

But what about the huge trampoline that was waiting in the backyard in 4th grade?  I don’t think I even asked for it.  It was an AMAZING surprise that brought joy to my siblings and I (and let’s face it, the whole neighborhood) for years.  But like everything else, the trampoline wore out, fell apart, and eventually made it’s way to the trash.

Even if you enjoyed your favorite item for a few years, it doesn’t hold the same daily joy for you now.

So if we want joy like Christmas morning throughout the season, do we simply continue to replace the old stuff with the new stuff?

Rather than changing out our stuff, I think we need a change of heart and mindset.  God is always in the business of changing us from the inside out.  He desires for us to find real and lasting joy- something that’s done by spending time in His presence.  It’s totally contrary to the solution the world would give us.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2. 

I tend to lose joy when I put all the focus on me.  Joyless living is often wrapped up in self-focus and selfishness. So how do I break the cycle this season and stay tuned to sing God’s grace?

stepStep #11. Spread Joy

Buddy the Elf was headed in the general direction when he quips, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

I think our joy is multiplied when we look upward and outward. Too much time on MY list, MY expectations, MY gifts and suddenly worry, resentment, and stress can take over. Joy flows most often when we take a step back from ourselves and notice those around us. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is all about me, it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.

“The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not on the fears. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.” (Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift)

I long for my heart to remain tuned to the key of grace. I want my interactions at the post office, grocery store, and with my family to bring joy, so my prayer is that I will choose joy in spite of any challenging circumstances or unmet expectations. The Lord has come, what a reason to spread the joy!

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

Step #6. Practice Prayer

Step. #7. Give Grace

Step. #8. Prepare Him Room

Step. #9. Set Your Hope.

Step #10. Give Love.

Wait

 

Ten years ago I enrolled in one of my favorite college courses. Not only was the professor a personal hero and mentor, but the class itself was engaging, inspiring, and challenging. I was organizing my desk last month when I came across journal entries required as part of my grade for “Developing Faith in Children.”

It’s been so interesting to read back through the entries written by my 21 year-old self in the spring of 2003. Each entry in the book covered an assigned topic and the one I’m going to share stands out today more than the others- and not just for some poor grammar choices. It’s a letter I wrote to my child. I don’t have much to mention about it, I think the lesson I was learning in my own life is fairly apparent through these words.

To my child,

I am writing you a letter you might not expect to receive. If you are anything like I was around your age, you are starting to see a very interesting occurence. Maybe you saw it in the 5th grade, or maybe you will finish high school before you notice… but I doubt that. What I want you to remember over the years to come as everyone else seems to be “pairing up” is that relationships are meant to be cherished… BUT having a boyfriend or girlfriend cannot make you “complete”!

No other person can ever make you whole. I say this today, and I will say it over and over for the rest of your life.

Your fulfillment can only be found in a solid, intimate, growing relationship with _______. Care to guess? With your Creator! Another person can enhance your fulfillment, but they cannot be your fulfillment. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. It took me years before I realized that when my security, self-image, and wholeness were based truly on God, it didn’t matter who was or wasn’t in my life.

It’s the only way to go! Your purpose and self-esteem won’t fluctuate because they’ll be grounded in God. It’s an amazing thing. Will you trust Him to bring the right relationships into your life at just the right time? I hope and pray daily that you will.

Dear one, God wants your fulfillment even more than you do. His timing is perfect. Trust Him. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son.” So often we make this verse seem like a Christmas list – everything will be GOOD. But the promise is that this “good” is our conformity into the likeness of Christ – an event BETTER good! I love the way that Beth Moore puts it when she says that “God is faithfully putting a puzzle together in each life so that the final picture will resemble Christ.”

Again, I know this is not the “letter” you expected – but it was on my heart to tell you. I love you so very much… but He loves you even more!

“But these things I plan won’t happen right away… slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” Habakkuk 2:3 (The Message)

He’s never early! He’s never late!

Lifting you up,
Mom

Reblogged from Beauty4Ashes

Reblogged from Beauty4Ashes

 

I’m not sure what you are waiting for today, but my hope is that Habakkuk 2:3 encourages you in your own journey. I likely wouldn’t have chosen my own story from the front end of things, but I am so thankful for the One who is never early and never late. His timing is perfect and thankfully, He does strengthen us as we wait.

Following,
Ginger

Learning to Wait

 strong

 

Journal Entry – April 2, 2008

Waiting is the worst.

The first day of school, Christmas Eve, movie theater slides, long lights with censors that don’t pick up your car so you back up and pull forward repeatedly in hopes that you will trip the sensor. I’m sure there are many other things that come to mind. I know much of it has to do with our culture. I need my microwave lunch faster and I find myself frustrated when the internet takes too long to load. Sometimes I scream loudly on my insides about having to wait, and often times in my car, I scream on the outside.

I think I’ve been doing some screaming lately. I’m generally quite content and have been for a good period of time. I’ve tried to tell myself that wishing time away will result in a life not fully lived, and who wants that? I’m in a little bit of a holding pattern for the minute. I’m hoping that I’m not missing out on anything, but I really feel as if I have been holding my breath for too long and fear that I may just faint before I’m giving the ok to come up for some water. Breathe.

Can you identify?

Although I definitely don’t feel like I’m holding my breath anymore, I do know how tempting it can be to want to fast-forward through any waiting period. This is a lesson I want to learn and live.

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.” -Elisabeth Elliot

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Cultivate

It feels as if I’m constantly moving from one awaited event in life to the next. I wait for vacations, visitors, treats, appointments… and most of the time I’m somwhere between irritated and excitedly anxious. But I so want to enjoy the present without living in impatience all of the time!

So how do you and I bridge the gap from impatience to patience?

Grow

1. Ask for it! 

God loves to give good gifts to His children. Asking Him to grow the Fruit of the Spirit in you is request He is thrilled to answer.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with an entire list. “God… I want love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness… oh, and goodness, faithfulness, answers, help, health… Wait, just give me a 9 for 1 deal.  I want the whole fruit basket.” I’ve begun lifting up one quality per week.  You could try this per day, per month, or even year.  But know that answer won’tjust come in an extra dollop of patience.  I’m not saying He can’t or won’t work a miracle, but more than likely… it’s going to take some work.

Remember strength training from yesterday? Ever seen someone bench pressing heavy weights at a gym?  Once you reach a certain weight you need a spotter.  Ask that God would be your spotter as you cultivate good fruit in your life.  “God, I want patience, but I cannot do it without you.  Help me!”

His promise is that He won’t give us more than we can handle… but just enough to make us utterly dependent upon Him!  (“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13, MSG)

2. Root yourself in good soil.

I can’t say it enough: eat the Word!  When we are struggling to exhibit certain fruit we should check our nourishment level and source.  Look, if I’m starting to notice jealousy and envy creeping into my life it’s usually an indication that I haven’t been filling up on good stuff.  I’m going to be really honest with you.  I stopped reading popular fashion and celebrity magazines years ago because I just can’t handle it.  I begin to want different clothes, a different body, and sometimes even a different life.  I had to do a lot of damage control by retraining my thought patterns to dwell on good things… aka memorizing!

Struggling with impatience?  Try memorizing some of these verses:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12

That’s just a start, but you’d be surprise how having just one ammo verse can help shoot down the start of an impatience rant.  (Anyone else familiar with the screaming that goes on inside of your head, much less what gets verbalized?  Yeesh!)

3. Soak up the accountability.

Obviously your main dependence should always be on the Lord, but thankfully He didn’t put us here all by ourselves!  Be willing to share this desire or struggle with someone and ask for prayer.  If you are really brave, ask them to point out your blind spots.  If patience is what you desire, ask a select friend or mentor to (gently) remind you of instances when this hasn’t been your strong suit.  (Sometimes this calls for a not so gentle kick in the pants.)  Hopefully they will be the kind of friend who will also encourage the good fruit they see in your life!

Remember: growing good fruit isn’t instantaneous. You will have good days and bad days, but thankfully we have One who will never leave us.  Philippians 1:6 says, “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Amen!

Happy Thursday!
Ginger