A joyful heart is good medicine.
Today, I sent my sweet Joy and Joel off to Scotland, back to their studies. A few tears have been shed as we spend our days between hours of work, going on long walks in the sunset hours in the wake of snow covered Pike's Peak. We drink gallons of tea and coffee in our candlelit living room talking about all that is on our hearts, which is a lot! :) We watch favorite shows together. We take long walks several times a week, have meals in and out and ooh and ahh over them together. We sit up late scrunched on the couch shoulders touching and enjoy one another's company. Yes, I will miss my dear, inner heart friends.
One thing that I have realized, though, is that they want their mama to be happy and cared for. They worry about me at times when they leave. But, I want them to feel deep in their hearts the stability that a mama can provide in friendship so I seek to find the joy in my life. That means I practice celebrating the beauty and engaging in cultivating a thankful heart. Then I can tell them that is what I am doing because they want to know their mama is happy and healthy. One of the best gifts you give to your children is to cultivate a joyful heart--all kids want their mamas to be ok. But joy doesn't always come naturally--it must be cultivated.
Joy is a seed that must be intentionally planted in the soil of life and all the circumstances life brings. It must be watered with faith and fertilized with obedience at every choice in life and protected at every juncture. The weeds of selfishness and cynicism must be plucked at first growth. The storms of bitterness must not be allowed to damage the fragile crop that is growing. Joy is a gift of the Spirit that must be celebrated, practiced by the caring of it, cultivating it and the choosing of it every day, every moment, so that is may grow into a lovely heart that gives forth fruit of His love and joy in every small and large interchange in life.
I began to pursue joy--Biblical joy--as a goal of my life several years ago. Seeing so much sadness, brokenness and grief and discouragement, I realized that all believers could be overcome by the wearying of living in a fallen world. I did not want to go into heaven gasping, tense, weak of heart--making it, but just barely.
Seemed to me that if joy was a fruit of His spirit in my life, I wanted to understand more how to live in that place in my heart, regardless of what was whirling about me in the storms of life outside my soul's walls. Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation--He didn't cover it up or pretend or sugar coat it--This is the broken place, the place where ideals are compromised by those in high places, and those close at hand.
Yet, the miraculous truth is that normal people like me, can live a supernatural life and have eternal results in this world and bring His light to bear in very strategic, poignant ways. He is here with me, with you. He is all powerful to conquer kingdoms of darkness and to bring down thresholds. He lives to love, redeem, restore, give hope and grace. But we must seek Him and love Him and cultivate our heart as our life's treasure every and every day.
But how? First, by hearing His voice and understanding His counsel and teaching. There is no substitute for investing in reading and studying the word. He has left us His heart by giving us His word and His life, by allowing us to have the Bible. Jesus is the perfect representation of God--we must ponder Him, His life and words, love Him, emulate Him.
No busy, good works and good intentions can ever "make" you holy, if you are not regularly in the presence of the Holy one.
No gift you give to your children or loved ones can make up for what they long for--a loving, joy-filled, grace-filled relationship with someone who is devoted every day to their best and has the time to invest love, a listening ear, and grace giving words.
I have had to learn this slowly, over many years. And when it comes to this busy season of feeling the pressure to give the "perfect" gifts to our beloved ones, friends and family, I can feel stressed and pushed and a need to live up to expectations surrounding me in this materialistic culture. But, long after this year's gifts have been forgotten, if we give to our loved ones, a joyful heart, we will give them a gift that will be with them their whole lives. They will come to us again and again for the "Life" they need to feel, hear and be comforted by!
A joyful heart is one that seeks to encourage them every day--a heart that intentionally gives words of life and encouragement to those who so need to hear words of love.
"I appreciate you; you are a gift of God's love to me; you are faithful, funny, fun, creative, or whatever is the key need of the person God has strategically placed in your life."
A heart that says, "I receive you into my life as a gift from God."
"I believe in you and know God is going to use you in a special way."
"I have made so many mistakes in my life, but God has forgiven me and given me grace. He has already forgiven you and wants you to know His love."
A joyful heart is one that plans surprises--
lighting candles, putting on beautiful music often and serving a cup of tea, hot chocolate or coffee--even in the midst of a busy day-- with a little treat--and says, "Let's make a memory together right now--you are special to me."
Bringing a single rose to a friend or leaving a love note on a pillow or on an email-- to a weary husband; a struggling friend; one you appreciate; a far off child--
making time to play a game, giggle at stories, laying in bed with a toddler or teen even when we are tempted to be weary, we still make the habit of stretching ourselves--to extend ourselves as purveyors of His joy and grace and He shows up and gives us the strength.
A joyful heart says, where can I leave a spirit of Christ's fragrance today--where can I dance the dance of life in the midst of darkness? And then practicing the dance steps as He gives them every day.
May God grant you a season where joy is planted in hearts, cultivated with the presence of God overflowing and giving a memory to your loved ones that they have been in the presence of God, because they have spent time with you.
I hope you enjoy the beautiful music at the end of our podcast today that Joel mentioned in the podcast. It is Joel's arrangement of For the Beauty of the Earth! I just love this album and put it on so often to encourage my spirit. Information about where you can find it is below. Thanks for sharing, Joel!
You can find Joel's album, Hymn's for the Lifegiving Home wherever music is sold. (Itunes, Amazon, etc.)