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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This year I’m Not Studying the Bible

“Every word of God is tested;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”
Psalm 30:5

Like that title?  Yep, you read it right.  This year I’m not going to do devotionals or bible study.  I had planned on reading through the bible in a year but I am tired of reading through passages of scripture superficially.  I no longer want to just read my devotional each day and forget what I read after I close my bible so this year I’m going to do something a little bit different.  Each year in January we all make resolutions, choose words, make goals.  Last year my goal was to keep a bible journal for one year.  It’s one of the few resolutions I made that I actually kept and it changed the way I studied the bible. It forced me to reflect on the words I was reading.  This year I’m going to do something else and I’m asking you to join me if you like.

Late in December I was thinking about words, one word specifically, I was trying to think of a word I would use for 2015.  The holidays are always crazy and when you are a homeschooling mom trying to run a small business sometimes life feels like absolute chaos.  So, after a month of craziness I decided that it was necessary to slow down and see what God wanted for me in 2015.  After trying to think of something profound like all the other people I follow in the social media scene I decided that I would forfeit my own self righteousness and pride and just pray, read my bible, and see what the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart.  After lots of thought the word I came up with was listen, real profound right?  It’s something I’m terrible at, really good at talking, not so good at listening.  This year I’ve decided to commit my time to really listen to God and His Word.  Then last week I was listening to Janet Pope on Revive our Hearts with Nancy Leigh Demoss, find the programs here (I highly recommend listening to all three).  I was sitting in the car running errands, like a chicken with my head cut off per the usual, and I was stopped dead in my tracks by these words:

Janet: Well, if I might share this story. I want to share it in the most loving way that I possibly can. Recently, I was teaching a conference to a small group of women, a group of friends. They actually call themselves “The Bible Girls.” I’ve been speaking to them for the last three years.

On the final night of the conference, one of the girls said in front of the group, “My problem is, I’m just not disciplined.”

And I said, “Penny, can I say this to you in the most loving way? And I mean it with all my heart. What if I said to you, ‘You’re so disciplined in eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. You rarely miss a day.'”

Nancy: Most of us could say that.

Janet: But you would say, “No, it’s not discipline. I’m hungry.” And so I would say to you, it’s not that you are lacking discipline. It’s that you are not hungry.

And in that moment God gave her a teachable heart, and she said, “You’re right. Thank you.” And so what we all decided as a group was that our prayer would not be “God make me disciplined,” it would be “God make me hungry. Make me so hungry for God’s Word that discipline is not the issue.” 

-Courtesy of Revive Our Hearts

That was me, not undisciplined, just not hungry.  So I decided that I was going to change that.  For the last few weeks I’ve had a verse from James running through my head.  I’m not sure why but it just kept popping into my head;

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  -James 1:22

So I read through the book of James and it resonated with my heart so deeply I decided this was it.  This was what I was going to do this year.  I’m going to let scripture permeate my life and memorize a whole book of the bible!  I’ve done chapters and verses but I have yet to do anything like this and at first It was daunting and then I broke it down.  There are one hundred and eight verses in the book of James if I started today and memorized one verse a day I could have the whole book memorized by May 5th.  Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen.  It might take longer (it probably will) but if I want to live out God’s word in my life what better way than to fill my heart with His words.  Not the voices of great christian authors (even though I like those) but the real words of the living God.  His truth.

So far I’ve memorized the first 8 verses.  It has been a challenge but a blessing.  What has worked for me is as soon as I wake up I either look up the verse on my phone or in my bible then I write it in my bible journal.  Writing things down always seems to help impress it in my mind.  Then I just repeat that verse throughout the day, alone and in context with the other verses I’ve memorized.  Whatever I’m doing whether it brushing my teeth, doing the dishes, driving around, it only takes a minute to repeat a couple words and if I don’t remember I just check my journal.  01ac071d9ca01b40f3bc9cf844d34aa22d1eee3313

This practice over the last week has really changed my heart.  Instead of just spending 10,15, or even 30 minutes in God’s word each day I am thinking about it all day.  I would love to have a group of people come alongside and memorize with me so at the bottom of this post is a downloadable .pdf with instructions and a checklist of verses.  So you can keep track of your progress.  There are two tracks on the sheet.  The fast track is one verse a day for those of us who really want to just focus on memorizing James but if you would like to continue your normal bible study routine and memorize you can do one verse every three days.  This way the memorization doesn’t interfere with your studying.  I can’t wait for you to join in this journey with me!

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Abiding Day 16

1Peter4:22

I was struck by the truth yesterday that abiding in love is abiding in God because God is love.  So I wish I would have thought of this earlier in the month but there will be days (like today) that I simply have a verse.  Something to meditate on because meditating on God’s truth is part of daily abiding.

Today’s verse is from 1 Peter.

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren,
fervently love one another from the heart.”
1 Peter 1:22

So spend some time with your Savior today.  Dig deep into scripture and find out what it means to purify your soul and be obedient to the truth.

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