Today marks the beginning of Week 3 of Advent - Joy.
We've walked through Hope.... and as I've come to define it, my faith, anchored in a God that keeps His promises and in the working out of my faith because I believe those promises will come to pass. I can both work and rest because I believe Him - that all things will be restored, that He desires reconciliation, justice, and mercy. I can live those things out, even when it doesn't look hopeful in the moment.
We've walked through Peace... I can have peace in a seasons of turmoil, in season of grief, in seasons of confusion. Peace does not come from an absence of any of those things - it comes from what is within me - God With Us. Emmanuel.
And now we walk through Joy. When I have a firm understanding of where my hope lies, of where my peace comes from, then Joy flows out of that. Once again, Joy does not come from the superficial things happening to or around me. Joy does not rest in who sits in seats of power, how my children are behaving, if I am healthy, how much money I have in the bank, or how much I love my job. My Joy is in Christ. Because He is my anchor (my Hope), because He is my Peace, I can have Joy. So, as I've mused on Joy, I've tried to think of ways I've been able to find Joy in the difficulties, in the grief, in the confusion, in the doubt, in the turmoil. It's pretty easy to find Joy in the good times...this week, let's look for it in the heavy times.
Here are some of mine:
- In the pain and loss of leaving Cornerstone. This pain is not gone - let me be clear on that. But in the midst of, I've been brought to times of remembrance - once again, to relationships. This is what matters. Our relationship with God and with others. The structures will morph and change. We find Joy in relationship. We had lunch this week with a group of people we know because of our years at Cornerstone. Everyone now lives in different towns, attends different churches, has different jobs than the years we were all together...yet, the love is still there. We love, we remember, we grow and we move forward - yet relationship remains. There has been great pain in the growing, but yet, Joy is in this.
- In the pain of raising children. If you're a parent, you're familiar. Along with the "normal" (whatever the heck that is) drama, pain and frustration of raising kids, we've dealt with heartbreak, clinical depression, widely diverging beliefs, many nights' sleep lost in worry and fear, and at times, rebellion and estrangement. Yet, in the midst of that, we are family. I have beautiful relationships with all four of my children, even in the midst of the struggles. They've taught me, even when I've wanted to choke them. I've learned from them, even as I was frustrated that they didn't seem to be learning from us. Erin teaches me steadfastness and pursuit of excellence. Luke teaches me independence, uniqueness and loyalty. Dylan teaches me perseverance and hope in the midst of overwhelming sadness. Thomas teaches me forgiveness, new starts and the love of our Father for His kids. They all teach me of God's infinite capacity to love all of us - no matter what. So much Joy here.
- Joy in the simple and mundane. These things are true no matter how tumultuous life becomes: a hot cup of cinnamon tea; sharing a bowl of popcorn with my husband at the end of a long day; weekend meals with our extended families - the laughter and love there; sharing the Lord's Table each Sunday with others that follow Christ along with us; running with my dog; holding Brian's hand, in the dark, as we fall asleep each night; a glass of wine and fellowship around our fire pit; decorating the Christmas tree with my kids; reading a good book; work that sharpens my mind and fulfills me; a place to call home when I'm working in the city, where I'm always loved and treated like family; taking my kids out to eat, one-on-one (that they are all my friend is one of the the greatest of Joys).
This list is endless, when I'm willing to look up from the chaos and see the Joy.
Christ is come. This is past, present and future.
This is Joy.
I am certain that your list of Joys are different from mine. I would love to hear yours. What brings you Joy, even in the midst of turmoil? What quickens your heart toward God, even in seasons of doubt? Tell me...