Joy Surrendered. An Easter Recap.

“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.”  – Philippians 3:1

Two weeks ago on Thursday the first of my kids went down with what I thought was a nasty cold.  For five days she had a fever and as she calls it a “seal cough” along with sinus congestion, watery eyes, and a headache.  Finally, on Tuesday afternoon when I took her baby brother in for his physical therapy it looked as if she was through the worst of it.  She still had a little bit of a cough but her fever was down and her eyes looked clearer and brighter.  Then on Wednesday my other son began to cough and my oldest began to get a stuffy nose.  The next morning my oldest woke up with a fever.  Thankfully my son never got anything worse than big green boogers but after 5 days of a 100 degree temp my oldest fever finally broke last night but baby woke up yesterday morning with a fever as well.  So today we went to the doctor and… (drumroll please) my youngest tested positive for influenza A.

This weekend was rough.  Easter, holy week, Resurrection Sunday, which ever you prefer to call it usually conjures up images of daffodils, lilies, sweet little girls and boys in bow ties and hats, egg hunts, and baskets brimming over with candies.  With the exception of the daffodils which randomly sprung up next to our front door that I thought I’d taken care of last fall, and the bag of fun size candy bars my husband brought home Saturday night from the grocery store, our Easter festivities were lack luster this year.  There were no new beautiful Easter outfits, no baskets with chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, and no family pictures (because it never fails EVERY year I forget to take pictures).

It was on Saturday night when my oldest daughter still wasn’t feeling well and probably wasn’t going to feel well the next morning either I realized that we were going to have a problem.  My husband and I were in charge of the Kid’s Easter Program.  We had no back up, no one who knew what was going on if we couldn’t be there.  My husband had picked up groceries for us that afternoon while I took care of all the snotty noses and at about 10 after finishing up the last of our last minute Easter Program preparations I looked at him and asked “OK, where is all the stuff you got for the baskets?”  He looked at me, smiled, then proceeded to throw a small bag of fun sized candy on the table.  “Here.”  I looked at him baffled.  Where was the rest of it.  Where were the chocolate bunnies or crosses, the grass, the sidewalk chalk, crayons, coloring books, or anything that would make these baskets seem special?  Things to make it seem like Mommy and Daddy had put thoughtful love into each one.  Where were the baskets, we didn’t have baskets!  He could tell I was silently freaking out.  “What?” He asked.  I broke the silence and all the inner freak out was unleashed.  Which, unsurprisingly, led into an argument, which ended up leaving both of us angry with each other.  Me, for having a husband who couldn’t possibly understand the importance of the perfect thoughtful more than just candy basket and Him, for having a wife so wrapped up in the materialistic portion of Easter that she was neglecting to focus on what was most important.    I had no baskets, no grass, no sidewalk chalk, or chocolate bunnies.  So I did the only think I could.  I took paper grocery bags folded the sides down to look like baskets and found some left over tissue paper, then I dumped 1/3 of the bag in each “basket.” It was a proud mom moment. I can’t remember where I first heard the saying  “Gratitude turns what we have into enough” but I remember seeing it all over social media a few years ago and as I divvied up the candy I could almost hear the Holy Spirit whispering those words to my heart.  So then, guilt ridden, I begrudgingly apologized to my husband for unleashing the crazy.  After all what I had was enough wasn’t it?

A couple weeks ago I posted on Instagram about a John MacArthur quote I had read that week.  In the quote he talked about surrendering joy.  Up until that point I always thought of things or people stealing my joy.  I hadn’t ever actually considered that I gave up my joy willfully to lesser things.  But that was the truth of it.  Every day I willfully trade my joy in the Lord for things that are unworthy.  Saturday night was no exception.  Having perfect baskets for the kids as they woke up in the morning may be nice but the truths behind Easter were changeless.  Regardless of whether or not our kids had Easter baskets or grocery bags, Christ died, the final atonement for our sins, and then three days later He rose again, defeating death and therefore giving us eternal life through Him.

It’s funny how we cling to the trivial things and end up surrendering what is most precious.

At approximately 3:30 am my oldest threw up in the toilet and in my sleepy haze all I could think was “Seriously, I have things to do today.”  Not my most spiritual thought for Resurrection Sunday.  In fact, to be honest, I didn’t have many super spiritual moments over Easter this year.  I finished cleaning my daughter up, gave her more medicine, and sent her to bed.  Then I fell asleep trying to figure out all the logistics of that morning with a sick child.

I had signed up for biscuits and gravy and juice for the breakfast our church was serving.  I made those the day before so that was taken care of.  As long as one of us could bring them to the church on time.  But what about the program, my husband was playing guitar, I was leading the kids and had a video presentation I’d designed to go along with the program.  In hindsight I probably could have stayed home and showed him how to show someone to do the presentation.  But the control freak in me wouldn’t allow someone else to handle that.  So we decided to bring my phone, sequester my daughter to solitary confinement somewhere in the church, and let her watch movies.  Because I wasn’t about to be ‘one of those people’ who bring their sick child to church and infects the whole congregation (insert eye roll here).  I may or may not have ranted the previous week about a family who did this and now here I was not only contemplating doing the same thing but actually following through with it.

My focus was on so many of the wrong things that day.  I was sad picking out their Easter outfits the night before because they didn’t have anything new.  They all looked adorable Easter morning and I wish I could say it was me intentionally letting go of unimportant extra’s in order to embrace what is right and good but it wasn’t.  So we all got up late rushed to get ready forgetting the juice in our fridge and bringing our tiny germ factory and my bad attitude into church that morning.   Then not five minutes after we step through the door someone complements my daughter on how cute she was and the first thing she says is “Yeah, I threw up this morning.”  I needed to find a hole to crawl into fast.

The rest of the day was uneventful.  After church we all came home and fell asleep for three hours then my husband took our 3 and 4 year old to Grandma’s for an Easter egg hunt and dinner.  All through service and that afternoon as a perused social media I tried to figure out what was going on in my heart.  This past week was Holy week, we usually observe a Passover meal as a family, we usually have communion at church, it usually felt special.  This week is different, it’s supposed to be different than other weeks.  I’m not supposed to be distracted by my to do list I’m supposed to be reflecting with wonder on the mystery of the gospel, the beauty of redemption.  But instead I was stuck on the couch perusing social media, reading everyone else’s profound posts on Easter.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalms 51.  David had just been called out by the Prophet Nathan for his sins with Bathsheba.  It is a psalm of contrition.  In it he cries out to the Lord to not only purify his heart but restore the joy of his salvation.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
-Psalms 51:10-12

Over and over on Sunday I asked myself the question “Where is my joy in Your salvation?”  Why do all of these other people have it?  Why don’t I feel like I’m supposed to feel?  Then on Monday I began listening to Trillia Newbell’s book enjoy (which I love so far) and I was immediately confronted with the truth behind my problem.  Discontentment and unmet expectations.  Not just in how the whole weekend played out but even in my expectations of how I should feel this weekend.  Friends, let’s just be honest we don’t always feel like we have “the joy of His salvation”  In truth there is nowhere in the Bible that we are told we will always feel like anything.  Joy is commanded not because God wants us to be happy but because it is as Paul says in Philippians “a safeguard for us.”

Joy stands guard over our hearts.  When we choose joy we choose to believe God’s truth over the lies we are fed by our desires, the world, and the enemy of our hearts.   Choosing joy when life gets hard or maybe just exhausting doesn’t mean we slap on smiles and go around acting like everything’s wonderful.  Enjoying life and delighting in the perfect gifts we are given from heaven doesn’t mean life is always delightful.  It just means we live in the reality that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)  and that like Trillia Newbell says  “There’s much to lament about but we can and should enjoy, delight, and rejoice.”

So friends, I hope you all had a blessed Holy week.  There are so many things I’m finding now that I can rejoice in.  Once I got past my desires for a perfect week I’ve found that I’m thankful for warm weather where I can open the windows and Tamiflu.  The beauty of the gospel is that God reached down and pursued our souls while we were still enemies of Him.  I’m incredibly thankful that even in my weakness He pursues me still.

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