Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Joy of The Lord is My Strength

Today I read the words:

"the Joy of the Lord is my strength." -Nehemiah 8:10


and I find myself making excuses for lacking Joy in my life.

Everywhere I look I see pain.  I watch four of my five children dance in a circle chanting nursery rhymes while one child sits in my lap watching, and each time Audrey watches the video on my phone all I can think is one child is missing from the circle.... one child who can't dance, or run, and never will.  I clean up cat puke all over bed sheets, and I endlessly vacuum hairball monsters from two big shedding dogs.  I wake up and look in the mirror each morning and see wrinkles and tired eyes, and my dad tells me I drink too much coffee, that it's not good for me.  The kitchen floor is spattered with apple juice and dirty footprints, sticky reminders of the work I've yet to complete.  One child struggles, struggles to just remember his name.  Dogs bark when kids are napping.  Streams of mud run through the yard where we've yet to get seeds planted.  I am tired.  Kenney is tired.  Our cars are old and make noises we know mean their end is near. Job opportunities don't happen.  I make phone call after phone call, just to make things work that should already work.  I hear the stories, the pain in the voices of my friends.  A mommy who doesn't know why their daughter doesn't want to live anymore.  A friend an ocean away who holds another baby in her arms that will never have a chance to have a mommy or daddy.  An email telling me the painful loss of child after child.  A dad who can't find work.  A little girl whose heart may one day soon stop beating.  I see it everywhere, in my house, in my children, in myself, in the world.  The pain, the disability, the loss, the tears, sobbing wailing hurts that don't go away. 


"the Joy of the Lord is my strength." -Nehemiah 8:10

And I want to search for joy.  How?  How do I get this Joy? 

I've read and re-read this verse for years, years, almost my entire life.

"for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. " Philippians 4:12-13

I sit with my oldest in the morning. We review the letters and their sounds, and we write the little "b" and little "d" and each and every day we say their sounds and we say "first the bat and then the ball, and first the doorknob then the door"  and we sound out every letter in every sentence, over and over again, and when we've sounded all the words out we put it together and say the sentence, and we do it over and over again, sound by sound, word by word, sentence by sentence. 

It is no miracle he is reading.  He reviews each and every day the sounds the letters make, the long sounds and short sounds, the consonants and vowels.  We put letter tiles together, we play games, we write the letter and repeat their sounds, we sing songs, over and over again, we say it, do it, repeat it.

Tonight I watch him sit with Grandma on the couch and read her a story.  She kisses his forehead and tells him how proud she is of him, and what a great job he is doing.  He gets up and plays with his new cars, as if it's no big deal, as if reading was so easy, so simple.  But, I have worked with him and watched him, and practiced with him, I know the whole story.

"for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. " Philippians 4:12-13

and again I read it, this time in the book One Thousand Gifts

and this time one word hit me.


It clicks, it's such a fault of mine, listening to the orchestra play Chorus 21 in Handel's Messiah.  The violins dancing, together, perfectly creating beautiful music.  I want to sit here forever and listen and have the waves of joy and peace and great meditative words crash over me, like "His burden is easy and His yoke is light"  How can I keep this Joy forever?  I didn't see the hours the orchestra put into practice, the time each member spent at home.  Hours of listening to every note, holding their bow to get just the right sound, each eighth note, sixteenth note, over and over again.  Fingers chapped.  Necks with kinks.  Dreams filled with note after note, sound after sound. The bow to the strings, cradling the instrument to her neck, holding the bow, moving the bow, work, learning, practice, it creates the beautiful music, over and over again.

I see it in the violinist.  I see it in my son.  Learning.  Beauty.  Joy.

I read more pages from her book.  I wonder if I believe this.  I think my actions would say that I do.

"That I believe Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way? Why else get angry?
So when I, I Laura choose (and it is a choice, always is... thanks dad!) I do it. I crush my joy with bitterness and I purposefully choose to take the way of the Prince of Darkness.

Cynicism isn’t strength and ranting doesn’t rejuvenate and frustration can never accomplish what Faith can.

Does my life testify to my belief in the power of complaint — or the power of Christ? "

I want to learn.  I desperately want to learn.  I want the JOY of the Lord as my strength. 

I will do something. 

I read more:

"The thing is: The cynics, they can only speak of the dark, of the obvious, and this is not hard. For all it’s supposed sophistication, it’s cynicism that’s simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is it to see the cracks?"

This is me.  I see my daughter who can not walk, and my son who can't talk, the friends with hurts, and the mess and the dirt and the suffering, and each day I point it out.  I see it.  I drink it in.  I go to sleep with it in my heart.  I see the cracks each and every day.  In this fallen world I stare at the cracks.

I don't want to be that.  I want the JOY of the Lord.

It is coming together, I see more, I get more, I begin to understand.

The sages and prophets, the disciples and revolutionaries, they are the ones up on the ramparts, up on the wall pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and to the Blazing God who never sleeps.

The brilliant don’t deny the dark but they are the ones who always seek the light in everything.

I want to be THAT kind of girl.  I want to see the light of redemption.  His grace in my life, His grace over the earth.

I will learn.  I commit myself to learn.

I will write it down.  I will look for it.  Look for grace.  I will memorize the sounds. Repeat them over and over again.  Sing the songs over and over again.  I will put my pen to the paper of my little book, my learning to find JOY.  I have spent too much time DOING nothing, and wondering why I haven't learned. I need calloused fingers and kinks in my neck.  I need flash cards and a mentor.  I need to see His grace daily and remember, repeat, memorize, apply.  I want to come to the place, where I like Paul can say "I have learned"

the hum of my furnace fan
Bella's soft puppy dog ears
reading in the sunshine
the comfort of a freezer pizza in the oven
coloring with my kids
the chattering of my first child up
MY farmer's toes cracking down the hall
a dinosaur like blue heron gliding over the pond
my babies buried in leaf piles

His grace poured out on me... daily... each and every moment.... I will learn.

I am writing it down to learn.

Numbers on the page to remind me, teach me.

Scriptures in my memory to remind me, teach me.

I begin my joy journey, with a notebook and flashcards, a good book and THE Good Book.  Friends to help me- spur me on. 

I pray for calloused fingers and a kink in my neck, as I know it will produce the most beautiful symphony in my heart.

"the Joy of the Lord is my strength." -Nehemiah 8:10

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