If during this recent life chapter, the message I have most received is “Witness Me,” then the message my husband has most received is “Count it All Joy.” He started noticing a stream of such reminders over a week ago, and although that divine conversation has been his and it’s really his story to tell, I want to share some thoughts with you guys. It’s almost Christmas, after all, a season for seeking and sharing both comfort and joy.
Joy on bright days and joy on dark days.
Joy when it’s easy to be joyful and joy when it takes all of your strength and concentration.
Joy when it’s natural and joy when it’s a deliberate choice.
Chalk stuff up to joy, even the pain.
Count all the joys. Number them. Make an inventory of joys, big and small.
And when your joy falters, recharge it. Re-joy yourself. Rejoice.
Of course, I recall the Joy Dare by Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts. That act of listing all the things you can articulate that bring you joy until you reach a thousand. I did that a few years and filled several notebooks (way more than 1,000 entries) with handwritten phrases and sentences. The activity has a way of building momentum, sparking a gentle heat at first then flames and then a roaring fire. Lots of good, warm power.
Speaking of good writing by Voskamp, I have been sneaking downstairs early most mornings to read in the quiet her book of Advent devotionals titled The Greatest Gift. Every bit of it is just wonderful, but look at this, from the December 19th pages:
Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other. As the cold can move you deeper toward the fire, struggling can move you deeper toward God, who warms you with joy. Struggling can deepen joy.
Isn’t that beautiful? Struggling can deepen joy. And the whole notion that the two are (or can be) concurrent… It releases my guilt for having struggled in the first place.
Just a few paragraphs later, she writes:
The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not on the fears. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.
Oh man, you guys. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends. It never ends, we know that. So nothing in life is outside of His reach. I can’t help but think of The Shack and that grieving dad’s need for the Father’s comfort, and how endless that Love proved to be. And I can’t help but notice the tweak in language here, from my own anthems about “positive thinking,” etcetera… I talk and write a lot about choosing joy and deliberately focusing on the positives in life, which is fine, but this heats it up a bit. This reminds me that there is more to it than just being positive; there is the Father, always and forever. Maybe I meant that in my heart all along, but maybe I should have been saying so too.
We can either count our problems or count our joys. We can let ourselves feel overwhelmed by either, too. I’d much rather be overwhelmed by joy. It gives me the strength to deal with real problems, and it helps the phantom worries disappear.
Fear is always this wild flee ahead.
Another quote from the same Advent devotional. This wild flee ahead. Like imaginations that have run wild. That ugly broken record of what ifs. My husband’s grandmother once said of a worried family member, “She’s just borrowing grief from the future.” As if grieving ahead of time will somehow lessen the pain? It doesn’t.
Handsome has taken some hard-earned time off from the Commish, just in time for Christmas. With our family’s recent trauma, we could easily have surrendered to heartbreak and neglected all the joy available to us. But that message reverberates: Count it all Joy. So we give each other a pep talk now and then, and we cry sometimes, but day to day we are clinging to healthy routines. Looking for the good stuff, which by the way is abundant. We first tiptoed into Christmas; now we have relaxed and sunk in.
Counting it all joy and surrendering, instead of to heartbreak, to mercy and Love and all the miracle-working power that Christmas actually, truly, always brings, when we allow it.
Merry Christmas weekend, friends! I will check in again soon. I really want to talk more about how to actively count the hard stuff as joy. Until then, everyone from the Lazy W wishes you lots of warmth and Love, some surprises big enough to be called miracles, and ample time to count your joys. It matters.
“The answer to deep anxiety
is the deep adoration of God.”