Joy's garden " 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."
Many of you know that 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--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! I know this by experience--I just had Nathan home from LA for 10 days and to see His appreciative heart--to know we are who he would rather be with--shows me again, that the investment was worth the effort and time.
Nate, 20, and me--home for a break from the real world.
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 Christmas 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.
I have been so blessed by the writing of my book, "Dancing with my Father" because in the pursuing of it, my heart has learned so much more about how to be joyful. Whatever you pursue, you will become more like.
May God grant you a December 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.
Don't forget that if you sign up for the Mom's conferences before the end of Monday, November 30, you will get a $20 discount. You can go here to find out more. Our theme this year is to renew moms, renew and restore them to vision, joy and a closer walk with the Lord in the midst of their very demanding lives. I hope many, many of you will be able to come and be encouraged! Ask for the conference registration as a Christmas gift as so many moms do!
Tomorrow is the last day to announce our conferences this month in order to be entered into the drawing for 2 free conferences or 2 $50 certificates to our bookstore. If you advertise it on your blog, or in your group newsletter, please send Jennice an email and she will enter you in the drawing. This will start all over again on December 1.
Be sure to get your copy of Sarah's new book as a gift for yourself or someone else for Christmas. She will receive them on December 6 and send out a signed copy with your friend's name, and a Christmas card to all who order in the next week. (larger format--360 pages, $17, 1500+ book recommendations she was raised on!) You can read more about it at itinerantidealist.com and at storyformed.com