Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Joy Project- Joy comes in the...?

I heard on a podcast that Facebook receives some of its heaviest traffic on Christmas Day. Yesterday evening, I scrolled through to see what other people had been up to through the course of the day, and I think that the podcast was telling the truth. Christmas cheer was posted everywhere. Families in front of Christmas trees, moms and dads putting together toys, babies in Christmas pj's, mine among them.

Christmas is a beautiful day. A day filled with joy. There are presents, there is food, there's time to think about the "reason for the season." I think the majority of people, no matter their location or their circumstances, seem to be thankful on Christmas day... or at least, that's the story that my Facebook told me.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate on this day, isn't it? But will the anxieties wake up with us on December 26th? Mine did. I didn't even make it until morning. I have a bad cold (so does Story, and Andy's not far behind, either) and the need to breath woke me up in the middle of the night. I prayed some, but sleep wouldn't come. Some wounds and worries are not so easily placated, even when life is at its happiest.

That's the thing about joy, though. It's not circumstantial the way that happiness is. Yesterday was an incredibly happy day. I give God thanks for that. But, as I am learning, joy is not happiness's side-kick. It comes on its own terms. The advent of the Christ-child is a perfect reminder of this. He is the ultimate reason for joy. But think about it... baby boys are born all the time. And I figure that more than one might have even been born in a stable in Judea. So why all the fuss over this one? Because He was born to die. The joy of His birth is nothing without the reality of His death on my behalf.

So joy is so often accompanied by hardship. And today, or rather, this middle of the night, is no different. Some of the sad things from the past, some of the anxieties over the future, they have kept me up. I confess, I started out feeling guilty about that. I wrote in my journal... "Is it me, Lord? What have I done or not done that's keeping me awake?" I'm still struggling to learn that it is okay, as a Christian, to have anxiety, to experience sadness, or to feel disappointment deep down. It's okay to ask, "Why?" or "How long, oh Lord?" As it turns out, God doesn't deny me joy when I feel this way or say these things. I guess this is why so many of David's words made it into the Bible. How comforting it is to know that God cherishes David's anxieties so much that He makes them a part of His holy word. God doesn't say that I'm never going to experience any of the keep-you-up-at-night hard stuff. In fact, in some ways, I think He wants it for me. But, what He does say is, "When you're up all night, I'll be right there with you."

Psalm 30:5 says that weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. I wonder, can you really experience the same measure of joy if you weren't weeping during the night? I don't know, but it's good to think that God apportions a special measure of joy to His up-all-nighters.

Let me clarify before I close. My circumstances aren't any different than they were when I woke up at 3AM. In fact, some of them aren't different than they were a year ago. As I spent some time with God this morning, I went back to old journal entries, and found prayers from over a year ago that are almost exactly the same as ones I prayed tonight. I am still waiting on the Lord. But the Lord, He is the same- yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But there is joy in knowing that I am free to come to Him any time, free to wrap myself up in His Word, free to cast every anxiety upon Him, because He cares for me. I'd love to look back on tonight's journal entries a year from now and see that God has caused the circumstances to change. But, if I sit here and say the same prayer one year from now, at least I know that I'll be able to rejoice, and I won't even have to wait for the morning.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Joy Project- Finding Joy... even if I can't find anything else

A week has past since having my family here for a fun-filled Thanksgiving week. And after a week of eating leftovers, it was time to go to the grocery store this morning. Story and I were both up a little after 7, and I had this vision of us getting the grocery journey done in time for nap. It was going to be great. We'd put on some comfy clothes, swing by the Starbucks and be in and out of the HEB in an hour's time.

Three hours later, here's what actually went down:

Starbucks was out of the salt that goes on the salted caramel mocha. Seriously, Starbucks, no reindeer on the cups AND you're out of the salt that makes that beverage worth purchasing?

Story spit up on me as we walked across the parking lot from Starbucks to HEB. Good-bye to my vision of looking like one of those with-it moms who totes baby on hip, Starbucks in one hand and looks cute in leggings. True, my baby was on my hip, and I did have on leggings, but they were saggy and covered with spit-up. And, of course, I somehow managed to spill some of that mocha down the sides of the red cup... how can I spill things when they have lids on them?

I did my usual maneuvers down the aisles of HEB, pushing the cart with one hand, and kicking it occasionally, because Story was getting fussy and ready for morning nap, so she didn't want to ride in her carrier in the cart. I went so early in the morning so that I could minimize the number of dirty looks I receive for taking up way too much space in the aisles. I'd say I only received four or five, as opposed to the dozens that I would have gotten if I'd gone later in the afternoon, so... winning.

I needed to make a pit-stop to the bathroom half-way through, and someone was taking forever in the family bathroom, so that meant that Story had to journey with me into the women's restroom and sit on my lap while I was in the stall. Pretty sure she's going to be exposed to all the major diseases. Go Story's immune system. Also, she is TERRIFIED by auto-flush toilets, and clings to me with little cat-claw hands when she has to go to accompany me on these escapades to the loo.

By the time we finally made it to the check-out line, she had been asleep for at least ten minutes. So much for making it home by nap time.

When I got home, unpacking the groceries turned into cleaning out my refrigerator, and some of my kitchen shelves. So the kitchen is now pretty much a wreck.

And, maybe best of all... somehow I managed to forget three things. Two of them were actually on my grocery list. So, score for me for making it home with four tiny bottles of Asti (not on the list), but no toilet paper (on the list and kind of important, know what I'm saying?)

But you know what? It's okay. As I've been putting away the groceries, I've been listening to our Christmas records. There's something great about hearing Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole crone away about the tiny baby in Bethlehem and the friends and family that gather to celebrate Him. So, somehow, even with spit-up on my  leggings, and a torn apart kitchen, I'm finding joy this morning. I'm also wondering if I'll ever be able to remember all the things on my grocery list ever again? Maybe, next time, I'll make that mocha a grande and see what happens. ;)