There are things in life that bring us much joy, but sometimes joy can be elusive and there is little to no joy. You would not think that joy is something that needs to be found, but I've discovered this year, more than other years, that it is often something that we need to seek.
Towards the end of last year I was searching and thinking about my 'one word' for the year. I do this every year. Some words I quickly forget, others are a reminder for me to focus on throughout the year, but this year it has been a word that I have had to find. My word, as you may have already guessed is “JOY”.
Last year was a difficult year. I started having double vision and was quite concerned about it. That led me to a trip to my doctor which in turn led me to more doctors and countless tests and procedures to figure out why. This process led to the discovery of a large hiatal hernia and intermittent bleeding ulcers, which led to an emergency trip to the hospital and 4 blood transfusions. Eventually the search led me to the top eye clinic in my area and a visit with an eye specialist who was able to diagnose my problem.
By the time the year ended I was exhausted with fatigue (from anemia caused by the ulcers) and the struggle to do basic tasks due to my eye sight. So I wanted a very special word for 2018. Something that had meaning to me. I prayed for a week about my word. By New Years eve I still had not settled on a word. I went to bed that night and prayed once again for my word. And that was when the Lord answered my prayer. It was as big and obvious to me as no other word had been. My word was to be, JOY.
Little did I know that 2018 would present to me more challenges than 2017 had. If you read this blog regularly then you know of my surgery and the complications that came from this as well as the difficult recovery.
Not much to be joyful about in any of that is there? But wait, this is where “finding joy” began for me. I asked myself where was 'joy' in the midst of my struggles. And surprisingly I found it.
My children were my first joy. While I was in ICU for 6 days my children and their families descended on that hospital and took over the waiting room (several made the trip from out of state). They prayed, they cried, they worried for their mama. They took turns staying at the hospital so others could go home, so Dad could go home and take a shower and get some sleep knowing that if anything came up they would call him immediately. What a joy that was for me to hear about as I was recovering in the hospital. It literally brought me to tears.
My best and most cherished friend, Sarah, dropped everything in her busy life and drove 3 hours to the hospital and was there not only for me, but ministering to my children and giving them all needed hope and encouragement. What joy I found in true and honest friendship that went above and beyond in my time of need.
But wait, there's more. Joy is not only found in dramatic circumstances. Joy is also found in the ordinary and the everyday and dare I say the mundane.
After I got home from the hospital and could do nothing for myself I desperately wanted to get my life back to where it had been such a short time before. As my husband took over all of my household chores and took care of me I determined that first, I had to be able to care for myself and after that I wanted nothing more then to be able to do simple things. I wanted to do a load of laundry, to load and unload the dishwasher, to sweep the floor, to make the bed. All of these things signaled to me that all was normal in my life again. What I found surprising is that as I began to do these things I found .. JOY.. Who knew there could be joy in the everyday tasks of life. It should not take something dramatic to happen to a person to see this, but often it does and it's very eye opening. If I can do the dishes, sweep a floor, fold laundry, and make a bed it means I have strength, I am alive and I am blessed. Thank you Lord for the joy of being able to care for my home and husband, thank You.
As I started to get out and walk and was regaining strength I was pushing myself to walk a little more each time I ventured out. It's the perfect time of year for walking. Spring time is the start of so much new life. As I walked with the mindset to find joy, I found it. I started something that I do often now, I listened. The sounds I heard were amazing, my neighbors baby calves, birds and more birds singing their little hearts out, the voice of school children playing outside at the nearby school, creeks gushing due to all the rain we've had, geese honking loudly in a nearby lake. All sounds of life and all sounds of joy. How easy it would be to not even hear these things. The mind can fill all to quickly with the cares of the day, with thoughts of worries and concerns, with plans yet to be made, with appointments that need attention. But for that time I was outside my goal became to listen and to be joyful. That is still my goal when I head out. I take some of the time to just hear what the world around me is “saying” today. And I let this be a reminder to me to always be searching and experiencing a bit of joy in all that I do.
As my friend Sarah has reminded me often, God has so much more He wants to accomplish in any situation than what we can see. And I believe this completely! When something difficult comes up we pray about that situation, but in the background God is working on more. He is restoring hearts and minds, He is working out issues, He is showing His glory at every turn. One more joy, a loving God who is there for us, cares for us, and wants more for us than we even know we need.
In my journey of finding joy this year I have a few Scripture verses that I repeat often to myself..
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones
This is the day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
And the most often thought of verse:
…... for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
And that's just barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Scriptures on joy, but they are ones I reflect on when I think of my word.
If you are not feeling the joy of the Lord in your life, I hope what I have written will give you some encouragement to start seeking out and finding joy in what the Lord has right where you are at the moment. Thankfulness and joy seem to go hand in hand. My first step in finding joy is to stop and be thankful. Be thankful for the simple things in life, be thankful for the obvious, be thankful for all the ways you see God in your life. The joy will follow as you see Him present in your life day by day, hour by hour.