Friday, December 21, 2012

Embracing Advent: JOY

During the last few weeks of Advent, 
sickness and sadness,
 along with difficulty have filled not only our home, 
but many we know and love
 and many whom we don't know, but feel for them just the same.
Oh, there has been plenty of love and laughter here,
 as there always is when small children are present,
 but finding joy has been less than easy, 
in fact, it has only come by making a deliberate choice.

 Joy doesn't always come in laughter and mirth. 
 Joy isn't always dependent upon our circumstances. 
 The deep joy that comes from what Christ has done for us constantly fills our hearts, 
and sustains us through trials and difficulty. 
 I have been thinking that it was this kind of joy that upheld Mary 
through what must have been a very difficult time for her socially 
when she was carrying the baby Jesus. 
 Knowing the effusiveness that usually ascends upon women when they are pregnant, 
I can only imagine how alone, hormonal, and weary she must have been....
yet, if she kept her mind set on WHO she was about to give birth to-
 the deep joy of the Lord would have given her great comfort and strength.

  My heart breaks for those who don't know this kind of joy because they don't know
 the One
 whose presence fills one with joy.  
There are many who are hurting and alone, dealing with pain and tragedy,
 and my prayer is that they would come to KNOW 
and find their souls delight in Him,
 even when times are rough.

These are the things we have been discussing in our home these last few weeks as we celebrate the season.
It has been a bitter sweet time:
 knowing so many are hurting and lonely,
missing our own family far and away, 
dealing with sickness and difficulty ourselves...

When I drove the van off the road into the ditch and had to be pulled out, 
I found it difficult to be joyful. 

 A brother challenged me as to whether the joy of the Lord was my strength.
At that moment, I felt pretty weak and sick to my stomach for the near miss of a tree,
 but later, as I am sometimes a rather slow learner,
I came to see the good in it. 
 Instead of it getting me down,
 I could choose to be joyful, 
by an act of my will. 
 By focusing on Christ instead of the situation. 
 By seeing the good the fact that we didn't hit the tree.

We choose joy. 
 We choose what we think about and focus on. 
 Giving thanks, and... well, giving.. 
are ways we can focus our minds into activities to lift the spirits.

Each day at dinner, we each give thanks for something as we begin our dinner.
Even during hard times there are always multiple things we can be thankful for
 if we only take time to think of them.
This has been really helpful to me, and good for the children as well.

This is the season for giving, 
and that may not always be gifts, but the best of gifts, which is, ones self.
Contrary to what comes naturally,
 putting others first and GIVING of ourselves is a most delightful and joy-filling thing to do,
 or, way to live.
Wanting to get this across to our children, and practice it ourselves,
yesterday, we spent the afternoon baking up goodies to send to loved ones
 and goody plates to give to neighbors.
Jim and I tag teamed 5 kinds of cookies, Rose helping too.
It was fun
and the thought of our neighbors sinking their teeth into 
some of the best cookies we make
 filled my heart with delight.
(feeding people is my spiritual gift...
or love language---
perhaps both.)

This holiday season, may we all take to heart 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Be joyful always; 
pray continually; 
 give thanks in all circumstances, 
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Why?  Because God knows it is good for us, for our hearts.
  A joyful heart is good medicine.
Maybe  that is why we are all well and healthy now...
and carrying on with the fun and adventure of Advent celebrations with new gusto.

So this is my prayer,
That we, 
and all you dear readers,
have eyes to see the bountiful blessings that are all around us this Christmas season,
 that we then, like unwrapping the gift, 
give thanks for each one of them,
 and therefore,
 are filled with JOY and good cheer.
Then, it will truly be a very Merry Christmas indeed!

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