In addition to the theme of “joy” I’ve been intrigued lately by the concept of “glory”. While reading through Romans 8 two weeks in a row for some grad school assignments I noticed this word a few times. There are a ton of great things in this chapter of scripture that I come back to again and again, but I had never noticed the concept of glory. For the couple weeks that followed I’ve been alert to where else I see glory in scripture. Earlier this week a friend was also sharing about what God had been teaching her about bringing God glory in our lives.
As I spent some time in prayer this morning I found myself praying over a specific situation in life using both the concepts of joy and glory. I was asking God to act in this situation in ways that bring him glory but also bring me joy. I’ve heard and prayed something similar before “for His glory and our good”, but this was the first time I had altered it slightly to involve joy.
You can imagine my shock this evening when I was listening to a podcast as I wandered around town and this was the speaker’s main point:
“So the question is: how do you craft a life that brings God glory and brings you joy even if He never answers your deepest heart prayers?” – Annie F Downs
The more I’ve pondered this throughout the day the more I think those two things… God’s glory and my joy… are intertwined. When God gets the glory, that is often a joyful moment for me. And when I am filled with the deep joy of Jesus, God delights in that and is glorified.
I’m not sure where to land with this. There’s not a nice neat blog post “bow” to end with. But maybe we can just spend some time this weekend asking God to bring us joy and him glory through our lives.
In favorite tea, and getting some loose leaf to enjoy another day as well
In friends to share life with, even if it’s one text message at a time
In taco salad on a Thursday night
In the smile of a 1 year old
In a favorite outfit
In making music in a dark sanctuary
In sharing truth and inviting others in
In deep peace and steady hope
In all this and more… there is…
It’s not always loud. It’s not always “happy”. I’m finding the “quiet” joy is perhaps my favorite kind. A confident trust at the end of the day, that no matter what that day held, in the end it’s all going to be okay.
In a conversation tonight with a friend, she recounted the seasons we often live in. When something new begins it’s like Spring. There is excitement, bright colors, and what seems like great joy.
Then, Summer. She mentioned the concept of farmers work plowing, preparing, planting. It’s hard, intentional work.
The harvest of Autumn is hard work as well, but there is also perhaps a sense of relief in that what was hoped for has come, the work that was put in produced something.
She was relating this to some seasons in our own lives where we’ve been able to see the reward of hard work, or gain courage to keep putting in for the hope of harvest.
All of this reminded me of a verse I read a couple days ago. It is such a clear picture of this and also ties in my month-long focus of joy:
“Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” Psalms 126:4-6
Planting in tears…
Leads to harvesting in joy.
That seemed like a helpful reminder today. In some areas of my life I am seeing this from the end result. There is some great joy right now in some situations where hard work was literally watered with SO many tears. What a blessing to share great joy, proclaiming it loudly as I see what God has caused to grow.
At the same time, in my life and my friend’s there are other situations where the drudgery of planting still continues on. The tears continue to flow. The hard work is exhausting and we’re tempted to give in.
But this promise revives hope.
Planting in tears
Leads to harvesting in joy.
And so … “we run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this keeping our eyes on Jesus… who, because of the joy awaiting him, endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:1-3
Maybe you’ve heard it in your circles, seen it posted on social media you follow, or even complained about this year yourself. It feels like this year has just beat everyone up.
I have to admit, it really has been a rough one, though one social media post I saw recently reframed it a bit for me.
I wish I could find it or remember more of what it said, but one piece mentioned that there were 100 days left in this year. The premise was something to the effect of: what if we found ways to use those days well instead of just writing them off? What if we believed good could be found in them? What if we invested them well?
Around the same time I saw this post I was battling some self-criticism and doubt about a few things. Comparison was keeping me from doing some things I love simply because I didn’t feel as talented in that as people I see around me.
Suddenly the thought crossed my mind: what if I spent 5 minutes a day for the next 100 days investing in working on that skill. What if I took the final 100 days to grow instead of writing myself off because I’m not already perfect? What if I allowed myself to be a beginner and enjoyed the process of exploring and growth?
To commit 500 minutes to a task means over 8 hours working on this skill. Instead of complaining that I’m not good enough, why not actually work on growing? And, as is often the case, a five minute daily commitment often ends up being 15 or 20 or even an hour of practice.
So the journey began. I’m excited to see how I grow.
But it wasn’t just a journey to grow in this one skill, this 5 minute a day commitment became a fight for a joy. A fight to reclaim some of what “this year” stole from me in the middle months. A fight, determined to not let this year end in a place of defeat and struggle.
While at the time of this writing we only have 87 days left now in the year, I want to challenge you to consider: how do you want this year to end? There are SO many things outside of our control, but there are so many things we do have control over as well. What’s something you could invest 5 minutes a day in to bring joy to your life?
5 minutes to play a musical instrument
5 minutes to write a quick note to a friend
5 minutes to clean up your workspace at the end of a day
5 minutes to laugh
5 minutes to exercise
5 minutes to practice a skill
5 minutes to simply be present with a friend or family member
5 minutes to read Scripture or pray
5 minutes to sit outside
5 minutes to put down the phone
5 minutes to list things you’re thankful for
5 minutes to grieve losses
5 minutes to snuggle a kid
5 minutes to hope
What would your 5 minutes hold? Now commit to that every day until the calendar flips to 2021… and maybe, just maybe, we can look back on 2020 and see more than just the hard. Maybe, just maybe, we can remember joy.
Day 2 of this month long challenge writing about joy and I’m already struggling a bit.
I thought back through my day to see what I could write about and while there were little moments of joy (like getting a piece of mail from my awesome goddaughter!) that was summed up in a nice Instagram post, not really blog-worthy.
Yet, looking a little deeper at my day I realized a type of joy that’s hard to describe. I don’t know if I’ve very noticed it before. The best word I seem to find to explain it is “unexciting” joy.
Let me guess some of the things you may be thinking right now: 1. Why?!? 2. What daughter? 3. No really, why?
Let’s clear up number 2 first since that’s the quick answer: While I don’t yet have biological children of my own, I did get the opportunity to host a 17-year old exchange student from the Faroe Islands a few years ago. She’s beautiful. Her country is beautiful. I love her so much! (You can read about it, and her, in one of my previous October Write 31 Day Challenges: 31 Days on Instant Motherhood).
Now back to the other question at hand… why did I wear her prom dress that I found unexpectedly in a dress bag with some bridesmaid apparel that I thought had been donated to the local prom dress collection long ago?
The simple, surface level answer is that it’s Spirit week at the university where I work and today was “Dress Your Best” day. But the truth is I have many options of (slightly less bold) options of dress clothes I could have picked. So here are a few of the many little things that piece together to do something kind of ridiculous today… When I saw it in the closet it made me laugh and smile. Who wouldn’t? It’s super sparkly and fun. Also, it just seemed just ridiculous enough that I might actually fit into it that it was worth a shot.
It also brought back so many great memories of my year with Elisa. While there were challenges for sure in taking a 17-year old and a 28-year old from two cultures and countries, with 2 different first languages, and throwing them into this weird “mom/daughter/single first time parenting/exploring a new culture/awkward age gap” kind of situation for 10 months, there were also incredible moments as well. This dress made me think of many of them like the night she picked it out, both of us knowing it was perfect. I even remember us getting the family size container of Panera’s tomato soup on the way home because she wasn’t feeling good and it was one of her favorites.
Then there’s actual prom night where I treasure the memory of me and Elisa’s real mom both standing behind her in the bathroom both working together to do her hair before sending her off. Also, the idea that I would potential wear it for homecoming week made me think of her first and only experience with an American homecoming week. Oh the “blood sweat and tears” some evenings as we tried to piece together a wardrobe for the next day’s adventure. (I’m still pretty proud of our Dora the Explorer backpack!)
Reason 3#: Simply put, why not? 🙂
And on to #4: Defiance. Yes, this was perhaps the biggest reason I threw on the silver sparkly dress and walked across a college campus this morning. One of Satan’s most annoying tactics is to make us believe that what other people think of us is what matters most in this world. I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes to battle with him in this area regularly. The fearful, self-conscious Bekah wanted to play it safe. She wanted to participate in the day, but not stand out at all.
I hesitated, afraid of how others would respond. To wear the dress was a practical step toward not really caring if other participated or not, to not caring if they thought I was crazy, to doing something simply because it sounded fun.
And all of that leads to my final reason, and also the reason I’m blogging about the whole experience now:
Wearing this dress brought joy to my day, and I think other people too. (Even if they were just laughing at how ridiculous it was.)
I wanted to participate again in the annual Write 31 Day blogging challenge that occurs each October. I’ve jumped in a few years in the past and never regretted the accountability that comes with having to show up every single day to write. It randomly came to mind Tuesday and last night as I considered what I wanted this year’s theme to be, I pondered what I needed and what the world needed right now.
First, I thought about peace. In anxious uncertain times, peace definitely applies.
Then I thought maybe I’d just copy what I did in 2015 where I didn’t really pick a specific theme but focused on the concept of taking “31 Days to Just Write“. Write about anything and everything, just show up.
But then it struck me. What we all could use a little more of right now is JOY. We need fun and spontaneity, hard-fought joy and small delights. This season is universally just so hard. We need… I need… to notice joy, watch for joy, celebrate joy, choose joy. Day in and day out. Moment after moment.
So here we are.
A whole month ahead of us, focused on joy.
And it all started with a sparkly dress on a random Thursday.
What brought you joy today? Share in the comments below!
When I wake up with a worship song or Scripture already in my mind as my first waking thought, I pay attention. A few days ago, these lyrics were on repeat as I transitioned into my day:
“You write a beautiful story. You write a beautiful story. From glory to glory. I believe. You write a beautiful story. You write a beautiful story. Beginning to ending and in between.” ~ Beautiful Story by Andrew Holt, Mia Fieldes, Robert Marvin
To be honest, I wanted to joyfully believe these words but in the moment it felt more a mantra I needed to repeat over and over to convince myself of. All the same, I was thankful my day was starting with this reminder.
As I pondered this concept more, I considered God’s Word and realized: it’s true. Looking back I can see it clearly that our God does write an insanely beautiful story. The day to day moments often don’t seem so sweet but when you see both the beginning and the end, and the redemption that happens along the way, it becomes clear.
The hard part that we’re living right now is not the end of the story, but it still can be beautiful. Or perhaps how we TELL the story is what really shapes this view.
We can walk through a challenging season of life (like the one we’re all currently living) and have it be all about how hard it was, how tired we were, all the ways people didn’t treat us well or we hurt them, all the ways we messed up, etc.
The narrative I tell can be about how day after day God showed up, how faithful and constant He was when everything was changing, how He provided strength when we had none.
It’s not that the first reality isn’t true, but it doesn’t really capture the beauty of the real story God is writing.
My tendency is to stay focused on the first half. I don’t think I’m the only human who does this. But to do that without also shifting my heart and my words to God’s role and action leaves the story incomplete. If that’s how a movie or book was written we’d label it “boring”. It’s not what people would want to take in.
But Jesus, He writes beautiful stories, stories filled with redemption, with restoration, with faithfulness.
May that be the story I tell this day, this week, with my life.
Which leads me to another recent favorite song called “The Story I’ll Tell” by Alton Eugene, Benji Cowart, Naomi Raine which include these lyrics:
“And I’ll testify of the battles you’ve won How you were my portion when there wasn’t enough I’ll sing a song of the seas that we crossed The waters you parted The waves that I walked
Oh, oh, oh, My God did not fail Oh, oh, oh, it’s the story I’ll tell Oh, oh, oh, I know it is well Oh, oh, oh, is the story I’ll tell”
That is the story I want to be telling through my life, the song I want to come out of my mouth. Just like I described above, this song, especially in it’s verses, doesn’t ignore the hard and painful aspects of life. It names them all, but it doesn’t stop there. It continues declaring truth that we can trust the pain is not the only part of the story. Rather, because of the faithfulness of God, we know that on the other side we’ll have a water parting, wave-walking, victorious story of provision. It may not happen in this life, but we will some day look back on this moment, yes even a moment in 2020, and see God’s hand on it and in it.
The song ends:
“All that is left is highest praises So sing hallelujah to the Rock of Ages”
My prayer is that I’d see and pay attention to God’s hand day by day. May we not have to wait until we look back on this time to be able to tell the beautiful story God’s writing. I want God to get the praise, even today.