A few nights ago I had the priviledge of speaking to nearly 250 women at my home church--the place I found Jesus. Not some cardboard cutout that someone told me about, but real flesh and blood, both man and God, Jesus. This church is sacred to my heart. These people are too.
I'm a behind the scenes kind of gal--the person who likes hanging out around the walls of the room, the one who gets nervous when she talks to someone important, and who prefers to work quietly and discreetly. So when I was asked to write and give the devotional at our Christmas party, my heart nearly stopped. I'm not even kidding. Yes, I adore these people. They are my people. But I am a writer, not a speaker. The two rarely go in one, and my past experiences with public speaking have ranged from breaking out in hives to forgetting entire sentences. So yeah, I knew I was in way over my head, but I pondered it on my heart. (Thank you Mary for teaching us all how to do that in overwhelming moments - Luke 2:19.) JOY chased me around in those coming weeks, and I knew she had something to say. Let me be perfectly clear here, I am not capable of speaking in front of 25 people let alone 250, but God somehow equips us for what He calls us to. For whatever reason, He chose me to share about JOY, and I'm grateful. Below is a transcript of the message.
For everyone who encouraged, prayed for, and spoke such kindness over me, I thank you. I'm truly humbled to be walking on this JOY journey alongside you. May we never forget WHO WE ARE. ♥
A Few of My Favorite Things, Christmas 2017
I can’t very well celebrate a few of my favorite things without mentioning how much I love words. And sometimes, as a writer, words love me back. JOY has been a word that I’ve been dwelling on a lot in these last few months. Mostly because it isn’t always easy to surrender and live in JOY every day, but it’s something I want to be a part of my everything. I want to live it and exude it to those around me. So I searched JOY out, and I couldn’t help but imagine her as a person. And if she were one, what would she be like? Here’s what I came up with:
I have a friend who can walk carelessly in the street while a storm brews around her. She picks up a wayward penny and beams at me. A life lived perpetually on heads. She is someone you want to be around, to ask questions. She is someone you want to believe in. She doesn’t worry that a siren is going off in the distance or that a dog snarls when she gets too close. Instead, her eyes are wandering from house, to car, to cloud, to flower, to words written in chalk on the sidewalk. She takes notice of the tiny sunshine bursting with yellow on the pavement. She notices everything, acknowledges it, and allows it to add value to her day. To her life.
She is the one who collects dandelions like wishes and carefully caresses the roses as she smells them. She enjoys an afternoon coffee at a quaint café and watches the people as they flow in and out of her life. She doesn’t need to hang on too tight. She merely cups life in the palms of her hands—surrendering her relationships, circumstances, and future to a loving Father.
She is free like the wind, tossed as He moves her.
Her name is JOY.
I wrote this for the editorial note of the small magazine I run. Our latest issue, aptly themed JOY, is full of articles on how to live in JOY, the struggles we all face, and the choice we must make to live above our circumstances. Something one of the contributors--Amye Still—said really struck me. In Galatians 5:22-23, the Word says:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
She said it is no accident that JOY is in the middle of love and peace. I’ve never thought about the order of the fruits, but it really was no accident. Everything He does and says has a meaning and purpose. In light of this, we can’t very well talk about JOY without first discussing love.
During the Christmas season, it’s really easy for the days to blur and the moments to pass without us capturing them. Our to-do list is something to be survived, a constant checking of the empty boxes beside each task that must be done to accomplish a picturesque Christmas. One that will show up nicely on camera and fill the highlight reel of our Facebooks. We are constantly striving, bargaining, and making deals with ourselves in this season. We will do things differently this year. This year I will:
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matthew 6:34
It’s easy to find ourselves stressed over what we need to do, ought to do, and we often worry about what we can and cannot afford because we’re so caught up in making the people around us happy. The truth is, though, we could never give enough to people to show them the extent of our love because our love is not a reflection of the gifts we give. It’s a reflection of the time we give. It’s the time it takes to send a random text to tell a friend we’re thinking about and praying for them today, or actually using the phone to call and check in. It’s the kind word we speak when we stop and type “Beautiful” in a comment on our friend’s Instagram picture. Throw kindness like glitter, and the whole world will sparkle.
In all of our efforts to give the very best of ourselves and meet the demands of the season, we sometimes forget to love ourselves. We beat ourselves up for what we don’t get accomplished instead of recognizing and being grateful for everything we do. We neglect our own hearts and needs as we busily try to care for the needs of everyone around us. But in this hustle and neglect, we forget about the meaning of the season. In all of our sacrificing, we forget the only real sacrifice. Maybe we should stop trying to be martyrs to the demands we place on ourselves and scalding ourselves when we fail, and instead focus on God’s truth about who we are.
Friend, let me remind you who are right now. Let’s get our self-talk right this Christmas. Let’s start speaking life into our own hearts for once.
Do you get it now? These words are His, not mine. Do you see how much you are loved and adored? Doesn’t that truth send JOY running through every part of you? It is His love that gives us JOY. He doesn’t care about the baking that doesn’t get done, or that you haven’t had time to hang the Christmas lights. He loves you, and all he wants is for you to live in thanksgiving for what he’s done to prove His unending love for you.
How to Live in Joy
I can’t leave tonight without giving you some application. What does JOY look like in our everyday lives? I searched and prayed for this very answer. One afternoon, I felt God say, “I’ve given you lots of things that you enjoy, and you don’t do them. Yet you still ask me for joy.” It was true, so I made a list of things that I love doing.
For a lot of us, we have to retrain our thinking and let His truth reign in our self-talk, and we must remember to take time to seek His beauty every day. This is the key to everyday JOY.
Meet Others in their Joy
When we fully understand His love for us, it’s easy to recognize His love for others. This makes us want to experience JOY with those around us. We need to set time to meet others in their JOY. This can be as simple as:
Pastor Ralph gave a great message on peace last Sunday, which again, was no accident. This week alone, you’ve already been on a journey of love, joy, and peace, but perhaps, you’re also craving patience, faith, self-control, or any or ALL of the other fruits of the spirit. I’m on that journey with you. I may be so bold as to say we all are. Let’s start with love, let it fill us with joy, and may we respond with peace. The others will follow suit. They’re the chain of God’s goodness and glory.
JOY is living in great expectation and thanksgiving for what’s been done for you. Life is hard and messy, and sometimes we don’t see how JOY could ever meet us in our chaos, but I heard it said recently that Jesus could have stepped off that cross. He could have given up when things got unbearable, but instead, His love prevailed.
He is the JOY of the world.
He is JOY in us.
Why joy? In the hustle of this busy life, we can sometimes forget to take time to enjoy a cup of coffee on our back porch, watch the birds in the trees, and simply lean into the quiet. It’s in the silent moments of life that we reconnect with joy. In this issue, our contributors have written how they find joy in their everyday lives. Being fully present is the key. Look for Joy, and you’ll find her.
Contributors: Amye Still, Katie Coughran, Christina Dwivedi, Kathy Maggart, Maude Washington, and Robert Krantz. Cover art + interior photography by Vanessa K. Eccles.
The Faithful Creative is a blog, community, and magazine for believers who create. Our hope is to bring you encouraging and inspirational articles that enrich your life, art, and faith.