An Ode to Joy

The word Joy keeps resurfacing in my life. All throughout the month of February, that pesky little word kept invading my grief as if to say, “Get up, get up and keep moving forward.”

You see, Joy took a little vacation from my life starting back in November. I checked out of Thanksgiving. I cried through Christmas. And for the entire month of January I just sort of existed in a perpetual state of sadness.

Then along comes February, singing its infuriating little song: “Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy…”

Where? I wonder.

“Down in your heart, silly,” Joy says with a giggle.

If I have any trace of that Sunday School Joy remaining deep down in my heart, I think it’s safe to say it’s buried beneath quite the pile of rubble right now. Yet the words that keep haunting me at every turn are those of James:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

I don’t know about you, but Joy isn’t exactly my natural response to troubling situations. I prefer to wallow in my misery, mourning deeply and artistically. I like to give Grief time to do its work and devastate me properly. I don’t want to think about how the testing of my faith produces perseverance; I just want to cry, dang it.

But this verse just kept on playing peekaboo with my heart. So I read the entire book of James and followed that up with the more sensible solution of searching my Bible’s concordance for other references to Joy, and that’s when I found this little gem tucked within the pages of Ecclesiastes 7:

“Consider the work of God; For who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other…”

I love how well those words parallel the words of James (while leaving room for deep, artistic grieving).

Consider it pure joy…

Be joyful… consider…

Prosperity and Adversity both have stories to tell. And while Joy may come as a result of the trial, it doesn’t actually show up until later. Sometimes much later.

I’m learning that Joy is cyclical, like everything else under the sun. Adversity will always take a swing at it, Trials will often tackle it to the mat, and Grief may sometimes hold it down for the count. And that’s okay.

Maybe I don’t have to feel guilty that Joy isn’t currently the reigning champion in my heart, so long as I’m willing to let her back in the ring.

The blows just keep on coming, but Peace is surprisingly holding her own, and Joy? Well, I think she has a fighting chance. That’s all that I can give her right now. I hope it’s enough.

Learning to Share Joy

While reading Han’s Christian Andersen’s The Old Street Lamp, I stumbled across this quote: “Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

Perhaps the reason it jumped out at me is because I’ve been focusing on community and the importance of sharing our lives with others and I just forced out the most difficult post for Devotional Diva on living together (which you’ll be able to read in a couple of weeks).

And there are those words. Mocking me. Haunting me.

“Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

I once had a co-worker ask me, “Don’t you get excited about anything?”

My initial thought was, “Well, of course I get excited.” And I do. On the inside. But it takes a pretty big event to get me jumping up and down.

Maybe I don’t share joy very well. And while this frustrated my co-worker to no end, I was never really bothered by this fact until I read that quote.

“Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

What if I’ve only been half enjoying my life? What if I’ve only been half enjoying yours? And what would happen if I learned to finally, fully share my joy?

Because I’m pretty sure I have friends who get more (outwardly) excited about events in my life than I do. Just yesterday I had a friend ask me what the current word count on my novel is and when I answered him, he smiled real big and said, “Whoa, that’s a novel.”

And I casually responded, “Yeah, it’s coming along,” when the proper response was probably something more like, “OH MY GOSH, I KNOW! Isn’t it awesome?”

Because I have a right to get excited. I have a right to express that excitement.

I have a right to experience joy to the fullest by daring to share it with others.

My joy. Your joy. I’m ready to “enjoy” it.

So please, share your joy with me in the comments so we can both experience the full measure of joy.

"Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed."

Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy (Say it One More Time)

Last week I shared a verse with you because I found that it really spoke to me. Judging by some of your responses, I’m not the only one who misplaced that joy God offers in Psalm 16. It’s not the first time I misplaced it. And it won’t be the last.

See, I lost sight of it again—mere days later. I’ve been all go, go, go; busy, busy, busy; just trying to get everything done before Christmas vacation and I’ve lost some of that Joy to the World they sing about this time of year. And again, I didn’t even realize what I was missing.

So wouldn’t you know that I picked up my Bible and opened it up to Acts 2—that familiar passage where the Holy Spirit falls upon the believers, and they start speaking in basically every language known to man, and Peter stands up to say, “These men are not drunk!” (Thanks for clarifying, Pete.)

It’s the sermon where Peter quotes that awesome passage from Joel about how God will pour out His Spirit on all people and their sons and daughters will prophesy. I’ve always loved that scripture. It reminds me of how amazing the transformation that takes place in the hearts of believers is.

But Joel isn’t the only passage Peter quotes in that famous sermon that drew 3,000 people to repentance, and I didn’t need to read the footnote to know the reference for the second chunk of scripture He shared.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Psalm 16. He quoted Psalm 16. And I said, “Okay, God, I get it.” But I didn’t. Not really. Because I’m still having a hard time recovering that joy in the midst of the busyness that has overwhelmed my heart these last few weeks. So I say it again and again: Joy. Unspeakable Joy. Joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Because maybe if I say it enough times—maybe if I think it over and over and over again—it will finally be down in my heart to stay.

Choose Joy

Joy in Your Presence

My life has been so busy lately. That’s been my answer for everyone who asks how I’ve been.

Busy. Busy, busy, busy.

Maybe that’s why Psalm 16:11 hit me like a slap in the face:SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s the kind of verse that makes me realize how far off track I’ve been here of late. Caught up in the mundane. Just pushing to get through another moment. Another day.

In the hustle and bustle of everything happening in my life—the tasks I have to complete and the dreams I yearn to see fulfilled—I’ve forgotten an essential thing.

There is joy to be found in the journey. Joy to be found in the One who gives life to those as undeserving as I.

And I find that what I’ve been missing these last few weeks is joy. The joy I used to find in His presence. The joy that unveils itself with every step God leads me through.

The path of life is just that: life. It’s not meant to be routine. It’s not intended to become mundane. It is meant to be lived. Fully. With joy in His presence and eternal pleasures at His right hand.

And for too long I’ve been forgetting to live so fully.

Today I come to find joy in His presence again.

The Should-do Would-do Life

The other day, I came upon what I thought was the best writing advice I ever received. Then I realized that Victoria Schwab’s advice on the “should-do would-do” book dilemma can be applied to far more than just writing. I believe it’s something we all need to hear – permission we all need to be given. I’d highly recommend hopping over to Victoria’s website and reading the full article. (I’d also recommend getting your hands on her debut novel The Near Witch because it’s a literary work of art.) But here’s the life-encompassing twist I’ve put on Miss Schwab’s writing advice:

Throughout the course of your life, you’ll find a whole let of people who know just what you “should” do. And a lot of them are probably right. See, the should-do life is the one that makes sense. It’s the one that pays the bills and keeps you living in comfort. It’s the one that protects you from the risk of rejection. It’s the ordinary, logical, everyone-is-living it life – the one that ensures your survival.

…Then there’s the would-do life. The one that exists only in the back of your mind and your wildest dreams. The one that lingers on the fringes of your reality, begging to be realized. It’s the life you would choose if only you didn’t have all those should-do dilemmas weighing you down.

So what do you do when you come to the crossroads between what you should do and what you would do? Yes, it’s hard because it defies all logic, but Victoria Schwab and I both beg you to always, always, ALWAYS choose the would-do life. Why? Here’s Victoria’s response to that question:

“Because I picked the SHOULD DO path. I did it willingly. And now I’m changing course. I’m setting down the SHOULD DO and picking up the WOULD DO, and it is terrifying and maybe a bad idea (and that’s my writer brain begging, pleading) but the moment I opened THAT document, the WOULD DO one, I smiled. The moment I started typing, I lost myself. There was joy in the journey again.”

My friend, I can guarantee you that life is too short to live the should-do life. That joy in the journey is worth it. Your passions were given to you for a purpose and, by all means, you were meant to embrace them. So release your hesitations. Let go of all your fears. Close your eyes for just one minute and dream the would-do dream.

At the beginning of this year, I finally chose the would-do path. And I know I’m not a math person, but three months later, I’m crunching numbers that don’t make sense and realizing that, somehow, God is taking care of me (just like He said He would).

And I know with most certainty that there is joy – such a wondrous, freeing, beautiful joy – in choosing the would-do life.

Do You Know the Moped Man?

There’s a guy who drives up and down my street on a yellow moped. I first encountered him when I was out walking last year. He beeped and waved, shouted something unintelligible and swerved back and forth. Needless to say, it was a little unnerving.

The moped man knows where I live. He recognizes my car. At first, I was frightened that he was privy to such details, but considering he’s known for over a year and has yet to abuse that privilege, he doesn’t scare me anymore. In fact, he’s one of those people who never fails to make my day. And all he has to do is drive past my house on his yellow moped.

He always wears a helmet, but I saw his face for the first time the other day. He was driving a suburban, but I knew it was him from the beep and the wave. And I thought to myself, “I could die happy now.” That’s how much joy I get from this guy I really don’t even know.

And I think that’s why God put the moped man on the fringes of my life: to bring joy in the midst of the mundane.

Sunday afternoon, I was driving home from church when I spotted three teenage boys on the sidewalk. They were waving at a car up ahead and, at first, I thought they knew the driver. But then they waved at the next car and the next, and I realized that they were simply searching for a response. I thought of the moped man – of the simplest things that bring pleasure – and I waved back. The boys erupted in smiles, fists raised high in victory.

And that’s when I realized it… Though I was probably the fifth car that passed, I was the first that evoked the victory fists. Meaning I was the first to wave back. I wonder if I was the only one who ever waved back.

And to think that my one, simple gesture could have been the thing that made those boys’ day like the moped man makes mine.

So go ahead and smile at the people around you. Wave at those passing by. You never know how much joy the simplest gesture can bring.

“Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”

Dance With the Joyful

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.” -Jeremiah 31:3-4

I love the last four words of that verse. Dance with the joyful. God’s love is so deep, so true, so wonderful that I cannot help but dance. Sometimes I get so excited about something God is stirring in me that I literally have to twirl in a circle. The joy of the Lord can be overwhelming at times. I feel like this verse is God’s permission for me to allow the emotions He stirs in my heart to flow out in the form of dancing. If King David (who was considered a man after God’s own heart) worshiped God by dancing around the streets in his underwear… Well, I’ll keep my clothes on, but I may get a little wild at times.

I mean, just look at that verse again. “I have loved you with an everlasting love…” Am I the only one who gets excited about that? Just think of the excitement and romance of dance. It’s intimate, enticing and beautiful. Something that evokes that much passion is surely meant for the glory of God. The promise this scripture contains should evoke enough emotion to make anyone dance – even those who may not be naturally graceful, namely me. Though I’ve developed a little grace over the passing years, I’m not meant for the spotlight. All I know is that God has placed a song in my heart to which my feet cannot help but move.  Don’t suppress the song that is playing deep within the recesses of your soul. Don’t be afraid to let it loose and get a little wild. Even if it is only behind closed doors, don’t be afraid to release a little shout. Dance with the joyful for the glory of your King.