“What Does It Mean?” Week 3: Joy.

Joy

A source or cause of delight –Merriam-Websterjoy-image-1

Joy differs from happiness in that it is an emotion.  -Wikipedia

Is there greater delight than the wonder of Santa, or the glee witnessed as a child unwraps the present they wished for? Can there be a sweeter tear than the touch of a Christmas memory?

 Yes.

Set a part from the fleeting feeling of happiness, joy defines what Jesus came to give.  It’s constancy flows through the entirety of our days, and allows us to laugh our way back to right. Joy is accepting who we are in confidence that we are cared for.

Acceptance & The ‘Damn’ Centers

Joy is the acceptance for who we are by the One who made us.

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.'” Genesis 21:6

joy-tweet-1She was ninety …of course she laughed at the thought of giving birth. (Genesis  18)  Yet as God promised, she and her 100-year old husband Abraham had a son named Isaac …which means “he laughs.”

We often place God far off in the distance or high in the sky. But one of the endearing qualities of the Lord is that He is funny. I believe, in reverence, that Biblical conversations reflect the humor of a God for whom nothing is impossible. How often are we able to make light of our circumstances? Life isn’t always funny, but it is overflowing with joy …if we choose to accept it.

joy image 3.jpgMy six-year-old daughter exudes joy. It’s hard to discipline her with a straight face. When I asked her one afternoon why she had to stay in for recess, she said:

“I had to finish my damn centers,”  and rolled her eyes.

What else could I do but excuse myself to die of laughter?  She’s six! #longroad It further confirmed the spitfire personality that I love, along with the list of reasons she’ll never be allowed to go on spring break…

“Lo” doesn’t fall in line or take adults too seriously. Her laugh is loud and ever-present. I may joke about her tendency to test the rules, but embrace the tender heart behind those twinkling blue eyes. My love for her allows me to witness the brightness of her light.

God is not surprised by us. He loves the complete creation, and we are made to journey in joy! His love doesn’t lessen when we fall down. In fact, He seeks to share a laugh with us and reveal joy in hard moments. He’s accepted us. That’s why Jesus was born.

Christmas is closeness with God.

Confidence …For the Birds

Joy is the attitude of gratitude.

joy-tweet-3In the North where I live, Christmastime signals every bird that can’t bear the winter’s cold to start flocking together.  Millions of birds dance together in the sky, instinctively gathering and swooping and soaring until they’ve accumulated enough of a mass to drift as a dark “bird cloud” away with the warm air.

“…Look at them fly. It looks like God is taking pretty good care of them, doesn’t it? Remember that you are more precious to God than birds!” Luke 12:24

Birds are not even in my top 100 of favorite …or even likable creatures. Yet, over the years, I’ve come to admire the way they just know what to do.

“…God cares for every little sparrow …Since you are so much more precious to God than a thousand flocks of sparrows, and since God knows you in every detail—down to the number of hairs on your head at this moment—you can be secure and unafraid…” Luke 12:6-7

Birds don’t realize they are small or incapable. They operate confidently on carefully designed instinct.

“My little flock, don’t be afraid. God is your Father, and your Father’s great joy is to give you His kingdom.”Luke 12:32

Humans seek to be loved because deep within the design of our nature is a Creator who is love. Our confidence is found in Him, through Jesus.

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He came into this world a small baby in a manger. His light caused others to flock to Him and follow Him, shifting and moving and gathering and cackling and spreading the Word. Long after Christ gave His human life on the cross, the birds continued to fly and stories of Jesus spread. His Word still flutters and gathers. Christian faith is moving and shifting. God’s not surprised. We all instinctively seek the joy of Jesus.

    He is the light who reveals Your message to the other nations,
        and He is the shining glory of Your covenant people, Israel.” Luke 2:32 (The Voice)

Joy to the world, indeed. The greatest gift. #yulesee 

Happy Christmas,

Meg

The Audience

“Sorry!” My oldest called out as she sent her Daddy’s peg flying off the game-board.

“What?!?” he retorted, “You just broke your own rule!”

imageMy little one lined up a teeny tiny animal audience as they argued. The table melted down into assigning blame, hurt feelings, and an unfinished game. It’s impossible to declare the winner of a game with no rules, and I was not going to take sides…

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Life’s a lot more complicated than the game of “Sorry.” It’s easy to forgive someone for knocking your game peg off the board, but not so easy to swim through the hurt of being bumped. There are times I feel unqualified to wipe away my daughters’ tears as I choke back my own. Praying for the right way to raise them, I discovered two words to help me piece together a plan.

Though they appear synonymous, “favor” and “favoritism” communicate opposite messages in fostering a healthy community. These three steps will help you land on the right side of the coin.

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1. Say something.

“Favoritism: the practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.” Google.com

Life can be a lot about choosing sides and shifting circles, causing hurt feelings to be hidden in fear of being cut out. But it’s important to put a voice to hurt in a non-accusatory or defensively dramatic fashion. I try to guide my daughters (and repeat to myself) to talk directly to the one who hurt them, not around them in circles. For example:

“When you said that, it hurt my feelings.”

When we align with the audience of favoritism, we fail to notice God’s favor; when true hurts of the heart are spoken out loud, we allow God’s favor to defend us.

“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart…he who does these things will never be shaken.” Psalms 15:2,5

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How is one to know they’ve hurt me if they have no idea they’ve wounded me? God doesn’t care about the clamor to click and the clack to belong. Speaking up when my feelings are hurt without putting my foot in my mouth is an impossibly difficult task, but it’s more conducive to community than seething to attain sympathy out of thin air.

“We hide pain in the weirdest places…broken souls with smiling faces…Just look around and you see that people …are scared to say how they really feel …we all need …a little honesty.” ‘You are Loved,’ by Stars Go Dim.

#saysomething

2. Voluntarily forgive.

“Favor: an attitude of approval or liking…an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.” Google.com

Forgiveness is an important extension of the grace Jesus died to give us. It is something a human to human relationship is not 100% capable of without His presence. We consult our circle, but Christ didn’t have a clique. (Luke 4:19)

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Cliques offer protection, status, guaranteed friendship, trust, and acceptance. Though we look to each other for these things, only Christ is capable of fulfilling a lifetime of love and belonging. God wired our desire to seek His Son.

“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34-35image

Christ loves beyond faults, and gifts grace without regard to requirement. Extend grace.

#forgiveaboutit

3. Let it go.

The puzzling and powerless feeling of injustice is agonizing, but I survive by crying out to God. The ugly cry. The uncontrollable, shoulders shaking in sobs and nose running down my face …desperate to understand “why?” cry.

Sometimes, life hurts more than we can comprehend because we’re not built to lean on other people …we’re meant to lean on God. He will fight our battles for us if we will faithfully hand them over.

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Before I drop them off at school, in sibling mediation, at bedtime …I’m constantly trumping my daughters’ excuses with my favorite soapbox.

“and we are…” I’ll bait.
“Kind,” they comply. Life’s most important rule.

“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James 2:1

It’s hard to be kind in the face of calamity when I have a ferociously strong feeling about what is fair. But I believe God. Speaking the truth of our hearts, and forgiving without requiring apology …that’s our part. The rest is His area of expertise.

“There were three options for citizens under Roman rule: sell out, get out, or fight back… Jesus introduced a fourth option: serve…” Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (James 2:1-26 commentary)

I pray to mimic Jesus’ justice and fake it till I make it all the way into His arms; letting Him fill the gap of what I cannot accomplish alone, and fight what I was never equipped to battle.

#letitgo

imageLife is too risky to run without rules, yelling “sorry!” over shoulders when feelings flip and hearts are hurt. Reactions CAN land on the right side of the coin by determining which audience is driving our decisions. The audience of favoritism caters to cliques; the audience of God’s favor fosters community.

Speak. Forgive. Let go.

We say, “Sorry!!” Jesus says, “Grace!!”
#Whoseyouraudience

Happy Card Drawing!
Megs

The Auto-Correct 

“I DIDN’T SAY THAT!!!!” One sister yelled.

“YESSSSSSS YOUUUUUUU DIIIIIIIID-AAAAAAAA,” the other retorted.

“WELL THEN YOU HEARD ME WRRRRROOOONNNGGGG-AAAAAA,” she snapped back.

“Ugh,” I sighed, listening to them pile frustrated syllables on top of simple words, “they’ve BOTH gotten that from me.”

Faces twisted into eccentric versions of craziness, both seethingly glared into the review mirror. Apparently, that was my cue to magically apply logic to what had “actually” been said. Ironic, how they burst into laughter at Siri’s mistakes …or Mom’s …that’s always hysterical. But they take sisterly “corrections” very seriously.

imageGrown-up or not, we all fall victim to our own stubbornness. Right or wrong, few people have the ability to apologize on the spot for the effect irrelevant to the cause. Except Siri, she’s pretty quick to tell you, “I’m sorry, I did not understand.”

If you join me in the struggle to handle hot-tempered moments of kids quarreling in the backseat, I can offer a couple of tips that have kept me on the road. But don’t judge me if you hear me screaming “SHUT UP!” as I drive around town with the windows down. #trying #inthefield

1. Load up and line up your corrections. 

When we rely on the seat of our pants to apply sage wisdom, we conjure a stink full of bad advice. image

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Leviticus 20:7-8 (NIV)

Tense moments flare tempers, and words seem to fail us. No matter how many, or at what volume, they spill into the car … mistranslated like a text message surrendered to auto-correct.

God seeks to steer us, and applauds efforts to guide our children through tedious moments. Seek His wisdom. Set aside some space to clear the clutter and read the Bible. Everyday has five free minutes. The time I spend in His Word allows me to relay the motherly messages He always intended for my daughters to hear. image

2. Embrace The Correction

Imagine God watching from Heaven while we blow right by misinterpretations and hit “send” anyway …EVEN WHEN He’s waving both hands in front of our face?!?! Instead of ridiculing us for missteps and side-trails, He sent His only Son to die for us. The love demonstrated in sacrifice forever forgives our failed efforts. Through Jesus, God replaces every “fallen short,” with “grace and love.” image

What missteps have lent us the opportunity to spread Christ’s love? The story of Jesus naming Peter yields immense hope.

“And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter.)” John 1:42 (NIV)

Peter was a fisherman that doubted Jesus at the rooster’s crow. But he was also known for having solid faith in Jesus, and for his leadership in the early church. The NIV Study Bible further notes that, although his name is literally translated, “Rock,”

“Peter was anything but a rock; he was impulsive and unstable…Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.”

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My daughters’ bickering in the backseat brings to light the natural struggle to be right …to be the best …the favorite … independent… No winner emerges from unjust conflict.  There’s no reason to put our individual mission on earth to death by comparison. Our kids need us to be who Jesus says we are.

“Peter was best know for his impetuous nature and fierce devotion to Christ.” -NIV Study Bible Text Note 

Impetuous means, “acting or done quickly and without thought or care.” (Google.com) It also can mean, “moving forcefully or rapidly.” (Google.com) 

Fierce means, “having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.”(Google.com) It can also mean, “(of a feeling, emotion, or action) showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.”(Google.com)

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So by one definition we can choose to see Peter as a flip-flopping doubter with a temper. Or, we can choose to look a little bit deeper into the heart Jesus identified long before Peter knew his name. The “Rock,” who spread the gospel with force and speed throughout the early church, and loved Jesus with heartfelt and powerfully intense faith.

Embrace the correction.

Parents are glaringly aware of faults and annoying attributes, but our love blows any negative ducks out of the water. We’ve embraced the imagecorrection before it’s corrected.

“Girls…” I warmed up, as I prayed that a nugget of Spirit-led wisdom would fall out of my mouth, “…it doesn’t matter who started it or who’s fault it is …you both need to apologize and hug it out.”

Insert insane amount of eye-rolling and last ditch efforts to pinch each other…

“Love you,” I added with a smile.

The correction is love.

imageWe don’t have to fight to be fierce. Most of us haven’t even grown into our true “names” yet. When we’re scrunched up and mangled into frustrated faces, Jesus sees our hearts and knows our names. His gift of death in exchange for grace grants us new life …for life …for forever.

Fight with the fierce and ferocious power of the love that conquered it all. And if you let a hot-tempered phrase slip, apologize. It works for Siri …my kids think she’s hilarious when she admits she’s at a complete loss…

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When I want to quit, prayer is there to pull me through. I hope you know He’s there for you, too.

Happy Corrections!

Megs

The Preview of “The Space…”

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God gave us grace to enjoy this place.

The space He creates to replace our race

…just for a little while.

Life’s rip current can relentlessly grip and pull…

It’s essential to bask in the space of blessings.

Where time stops …and minutes stretch.

Joy’s beach.

Waves of emotion may ebb and flow, and even erode …

but when the tide subsides,

it’s unchanged.

Christ is constant.

He’s my constant.

I may weep but only for a moment …

Anger will break like the surf but then foam back into the sea.

For me, Jesus is joy

…and I cling to His hold on my hand.

Between this post and the last, I have been hanging out in the space…

I can’t wait to tell you about it…

Stay tuned…

Happy Tidings…

Megs

“Be joyful always.” 1Thes.5:16

The Over-Answerer

Solutions are revealed through noise, and hidden in the slow silence of subtlety.

“Lo, you can’t cheer in flats.” I harped.

“UUUGGGHHHH!!!!” She exasperated as she stomped off to change her shoes.

“Mom…” My oldest began…and then I really can’t tell you what she said after that. It was too long and drawn out, and I didn’t have the capacity to digest it as I popped my coffee out of the microwave and corralled her little sister to the door.

“Brianne, honey,” I quipped,”get in the car.”

Poor thing, she’s just me.

I’m an excessive talker, over-answerer, and I’m missing that “stop talking no one is listening anymore” radar. God has encouraged me so much, it in turn just oozes out of me. Let the encouraged, encourage. However, I get so excited that I’m not always the best at slowing my thought train down to tune in to other voices.

Face freezing and my girls yelling, “C’MON MOM! YOU’RE TOO SLOW,” I checked them in at mini-cheer and then parked by the lake to walk the pier. Ear buds in to drown out the peace, I forced myself to walk at an uncomfortable pace against a brutal north wind.

Somehow the stillness of the sun sparkling off the ice, devoid of other living things out to brave the chill, breaks through the tingling of my itchy hat to uncover a secret space where I can hear God. I’m obedient in my rush to meet with Him everyday because I’m very aware of my need to stop talking. And even if your struggle to be silent isn’t as intense as mine, He waits in the stillness of the dawn to over-answer the day’s quandaries. Who doesn’t want a head start before the gun goes off?

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3 Revelations I’ve gained by letting God’s Word drown out mine in the secret space.

1. It’s not by chance. Do you ever feel like you’re being followed around by a reality TV crew? All of the sudden, you seem to be tuned into different people that are saying and writing and speaking and singing about the same things, at the same time in your life when you are looking for answers to that very notion. That collaborative coincidence is evidence of our very personal God. I don’t put YAX on my boots and trek out onto the ice because it’s boring out there…

Give Him the first part of your day, and you’ll see what I mean. Even if it’s only 5 minutes..and there’s an app for that, too.

 But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.“-Romans 3:26(MSG)

image2. Perfection is overrated and already reserved.  Since it can never be attained by anyone else, let it be the first thing you cross off your daily to-do list and start seeking attainable joy.

A struggle lies behind every smiling selfie and perfectly posed portrait. I don’t want my funky faces rolling through the facebook newsfeed any more than my kids want me circulating theirs to their Dad and the rest of the family and all of their friends’ parents.  I’m too aggravated to fumble with my phone in the heat of those moments, and the kids run away in a blur.

Every joyful moment is the product of a struggle. The answer to prayer…blessing from God. I cry out in angst beyond the lens, and He never fails to over-answer.

 “But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:21-24(MSG)

My life is not the only testimony to those verses. Flip through the album, but ask me for the story. My college degree looks awesome in my bookcase now, but it was absent the day of graduation. My family is amazing, but this isn’t my first marriage and my kids are not perfect. I gossip and envy and lose my cool with the people that love me, and way too often add Cabernet and dark chocolate to aid the indigestion.

The struggle with self-doubt is real…but my heart is His.

Maybe I should try posting pictures of blurred children running away from me so that we can all bond together. #blessedmess  

3. Look up and Look out.

I am living proof that God aggressively pursues those whom He has called.

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“Who is like you?” Moses stated in Exodus 15:11. Can’t you just picture the awe and hear the whisper of hope and faith in his voice? “Who is like you?” That’s how I feel about Jesus.
Every day a faithful friend, He pulls me out of my coffee coma and through my mess to the feet of His Father. God left a reminder to the Israelites of the Manna He faithfully fed to them every day for 40 years. (Exodus 16:32)

Jesus is ours.

“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.“-Romans 3:25-26(MSG)

 He supply’s my whole portion in the first few minutes of the day, speaking through my child’s ramblings and the still of frozen water. Through an Elevation sermon in my ear buds or an eagle on the ice. But I won’t hear or see anything if I don’t tune in and look up. I am joyful because I seek to be.

Walking with the wind pushing me back, the snow wisping across the iced over River, I felt my pace quickening. I felt like I was walking pretty fast until the snow blasted by alongside me with a gusty blow. I heard God say to me clearly, “YOU’RE TOO SLOW.”

“OK, OK” I laughed.

imageWhen my daughters go through spurts of arguing about every thing all of the time, I’m quick to remind them that family comes first and sisters are forever friends.  They typically glare at each other, disgusted mid-argument that they are stuck together for life without choice. But, the seed inevitably always sprouts a root, and the moments bursting with sisterly love triumph over the squabbles.

Many mornings, I attempt rush by my Father at full speed with my own agenda in tow. Perhaps that’s why He reveals the wind. Or, leaves a rock balanced a-top the ice in one season and sunk to the bottom in the next. He certainly knows how yank me out of my whirring thoughts. Walking with the wind reminded me Who was at my side …right now  …and one day at a time. Family first.

  “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

He will aggressively pursue you…more than you ask.image

Happy First Five Morning Minutes…

Megs

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5