31 Days of Joy

Joy in Vulnerability

As I got off the phone with a friend tonight at the end of two hour long conversation, “joy” was the word that came to mind.

It seemed like a weird word since many of the things we talked about were not things I would tend to put in the category of “joyful.” But joy is often the emotion I feel after our conversations.

We get to talk about once a week and end up often sharing some of the hardest parts of life. We share good things about life and celebrate well together when those come along, but we’re also not afraid to go deep.

When we ask “how was your day” we expect to hear “horrible” if that was the truth. We confess the areas where sin and Satan trip us up. We cry and laugh together. We’re not afraid to call each other out and even have learned the value of bringing it up when one of us has done something that hurt the other.

Again, I was trying to process why “joy” is the word that comes to mind even when conversation topics are often so deep and hard. But I think it’s because of safety in that vulnerable place.

It is a true gift to be deeply known by someone and loved and valued in that space. For someone to see ALL your mess and mistakes and yet desire your good and cheer for you as you sort through it all, is a blessing.

Joy comes when we are known and loved.

Joy overwhelms when a friend draws near.

Joy brings peace and contentment when one we love can remind us things about ourselves that we have forgotten.

Vulnerability is hard and in many places it can be risky. But if we can find safe places to be our truest selves I think we may also be our most joyful selves.

31 Days of Joy

Sabbath Joy

Joy is…

Noticing what looked like it would be a gorgeous sunrise and taking time for a morning walk to watch it.

Joy is…

a blanket of fall covering a street with gorgeous colors that matched the sunrise.

Joy is …

time social distanced on a porch with my discipleship group in the morning and spontaneous afternoon walk around a lake with a friend.

Joy is…

laying under a tree, by the lake, on a Sunday afternoon, in the sun with the breeze blowing.

Joy is…

an evening of music and worship in this little church with a handful of people who are becoming so dear.

What did joy look like for you today?

31 Days of Joy

Joy and Glory

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.

31 Days of Joy

Quiet Joy

In sleeveless weather in October

In glorious fall colors lining the road

In walking out of a counseling session laughing

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…

joy.

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.

31 Days of Joy

Harvesting Joy

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

Joy is coming, friends. Joy is coming.

31 Days of Joy

Serious Joy

A short post today, but this quote happened to come up in my Facebook memories and I’ve just had it on my mind a lot.

“We realized that ‘seriousness’ actually isn’t a fruit of the spirit… but JOY is! ” – Rend Collective

What fruits do you see growing in your life that aren’t actually fruits the Spirit promises to grow in you? Where have you seen him producing some joy lately?

31 Days of Joy

Final 100 Days of 2020

“Just blame it on 2020.”

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.

31 Days of Joy

Weekend Moments of Joy {31 Days of Joy}

Video chat with my godsons so they could show me their rock and dinosaur

A slow-start Saturday

A gorgeous day for a homecoming football game

Kicking off Sabbath with Mexican takeout (with leftovers to enjoy for Sunday lunch as well!)

FaceTiming with the whole fam

A couple hours in the hammock in the sun on a Sunday afternoon

A new month of dwelldifferently.com keychains, cards, and tattoos to memorize a new verse with my godkids and friends

Making music in worship

Another attempt at perfecting an apple cider donut recipe

Texting and FaceTiming some Buffalo connections

Sunday mornings in God’s word with 3 beautiful friends

A hard conversation with a friend

Home Reno TV shows

Sunshine

Not setting an alarm

Flowers for my dining room table

A Sunday afternoon walk around the neighborhood while listening to a favorite podcast

A new pillow

Some new songs to blast really loud in the car on the way to/from a Lincoln

Remembering joy in some hard moments too

Fuzzy blankets and tea

So many awesome pastors in my life

Tortilla chips

A project to get excited about

A cozy sweater

Feeling refreshed and ready for another work week

31 Days of Joy

She considered Him. {31 Days of Joy}

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:11‬

She considered Him faithful.

She considered Him good.

The One who made a promise, she considered Him.

In her longing, hoping, waiting, she considered Him.

In her giving up of dreams, in letting go of hope, in waiting no more, she considered Him.

She believed despite doubt.

She laughed, and named her son, “he laughs”. Joy returns.

She held on. He held her.

She saw the impossible before her, and considered Him.

She considered Him faithful.

She considered Him good.

She considered Him.

31 Days of Joy

Unexciting Joy {31 Days of 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.

Often the first thought of joy is happy, exciting, smiles, and laughter. It’s the “wear a sparkly prom dress to work” kind of situation.

Today didn’t include much laughter or sparkles. It was actually kind of a busy, boring day.

But it wasn’t a joyless.

The joy was present in feeling understood and listened to by a colleague, in time praying with one of my RCs, in digging into some data that I hope tells me more about my students.

I cherished the joy in being proud of myself for forcing my body out the door to go for a walk when I would have rather crashed on the couch.

I experienced the contentment aspect of joy when God provided wisdom and discernment in a difficult conversation.

I uncovered other people’s reasons for joy mentioned in my daily Bible readings.

I fought hard for joy when something didn’t go my way.

I shared joy with a friend when she sent me a picture of a rainbow.

I’ve never really thought about it before but “unexciting” joy is the sustaining kind. It steadies us. It goes unnoticed, yet is vital.

It can’t always be prom dresses and confetti poppers. Sometimes it’s a simple caring act from a stranger or a knowing glance from a friend.

We get to the end of a day and our shoulders settle, the corners of our lips curl up ever so slightly, we close our eyes, and exhale.

This too is joy.