A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
My son thinks our dog is hilarious. Dayton's first true giggle was at Bode jumping around the yard and barking. And this Indian summer when we would walk around and around the pond, just to escape the claustrophobia of our house, we would watch Bode chase butterflies. I'd never actually seen a dog chase butterflies before but leave it to our dog to do it. And then Dayton wasn't the only one giggling. It was hilarious. Our enthusiastic border collie would bound and leap after the butterflies leading him on an erratic chase around the pond. But eventually Bode would lose sight of the butterfly...or interest. Something else interesting would catch his attention or it just wasn't that much fun anymore to chase something so elusive as a butterfly.
I chase joy in the same way. Around and around in circles, bounding and leaping with no methodology to straighten my course, no plan to ensure success. And always, inevitably, I lose interest. Something more interesting and easier to catch steals my attention. Or I just give up all together. It's too hard, this joy thing. It's a nice idea but it's just not me. I wasn't made that way. Some people just can't be joyous...or joyful...whichever.
But that just isn't so. It can't be so.
First, because the Bible says otherwise. And second, because if that's true then I'm doomed. I'm stuck in my Eeyore to Tigger to Eeyore cycle of my own nature.
A drama queen since birth, I see the world through a dramatic lens. Gloom! Doom! Stress! Worry! Anxiety!!
But I'm the only one squawking. My mother once said my brother is a duck, the rain waters just roll off his feathers, it doesn't rattle him. I, however, am a trumpeter swan...graceful and peaceful when the weather's just right, but when the rain starts to fall it's time to panic. A swan having a cow. A lovely sight.
And while Christmas is supposed to be all peace on Earth, good will to men, and joy to the world...I'm over here wringing my hands and biting my fingernails. I'm a Scrooge in Nephew Fred's clothing. I seem to embrace Christmas but underneath I'm really fretting and fussing and bah-humbugging about plans and people and people who get in the way of my plans. My plans, my plans, my precious plans. Like Scrooge and his gold, no one better interfere with my plans. Or else the squawking begins. This is not joy. This is not Christmas.
I could list you a thousand
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
So recently convicted of this ridiculous, self-centered behavior I've started chasing joy again.. But not in an erratic chase of circles where I'll eventually just get bored or tired or both and give up. This time I have a plan. And I have some tools.
1) I'm reading Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. It's a book I've been avoiding for almost two years because I knew it would blast me from my comfort zone. And while I hate my comfort zone because it's stinks...I'm comfortable there. But I'm embracing the uncomfortable to move toward God and His joy.
2) I'm starting my own list of one thousand gifts. One thousand blessings from God, one thousand things I'm thankful for, one thousand things to celebrate. And the thing is...now that I've started counting, I see them everywhere. I would like to share this list on here because it may inspire somebody else, but I just can't commit to that. I don't have time to log into this blog as often as I'd like and I'm afraid that I will use that ask an excuse. Can't write in the blog, not worth writing down at all! (I know, because I did that before two years ago...)
3) Instead of asking God for things, even the right/rightoues things, I am choosing to only thank Him instead for the next two weeks. A friend of mine did this and she said it changed her life. I believe her. Because it's been a mere 24 hours and I already feel a change. I think this must be what detoxing feels like.
4) In a similar vein, when my instinct is to complain, grumble, nag, or otherwise squawk, I'm choosing to thank God for that very circumstance instead. This is hard but it is the very re-training and re-shaping that I need. It is taking every thought captive and making it submit. It is choosing to be thankful in all situations. Because the fact of the matter is, I am one of those people who will cry (ah-hem, flip my lid) over spilled milk. And that doesn't honor God, draw me nearer to God, or bringing me any closer to catching that butterfly.
5) Last, I have community and this means some accountability. I've always shied away from accountability because I like to hide. But I won't succeed and I'll never change unless I bare my soul and all my ugly and ask for some help. We are communal creatures, especially women, especially me. So here I am, ready to accept some love and help and prayers from my own community. And my community is pieced together through Facebook and emails and blogs and text and face-to-face friendships. This is community for a postmodern mom chasing joy.
And this time I'm not just chasing joy, but choosing joy. It goes hand in hand. When we choose joy, we catch it and then we give it away. I must choose to be thankful, to celebrate, to wear joy on my lips and harbor it in my heart. And then I will have caught it. It will be mine, no longer an elusive butterfly.
This blog started out being my journey towards a merry heart. And if you've followed me from the beginning, despite my long periods of silence, you know that I've wrestled with this. One minute I'm chasing the butterfly and the next I've seemingly given up and moved on with life. And I have no delusions of conquering this once and for all, I will always struggle. But this feels more like a real change. The real re-wiring of my heart that I have craved for so, so long. And what better time than Christmas?
I imagine that the shepherds, feeling a bit foolish, were chasing joy when they went from stable to stable in search of a babe in swaddling clothes. The wise men were chasing joy as they followed that mysterious star toward the child savior. Mary and Joseph must've been chasing joy as her belly grew swollen with the life of the King inside her. They couldn't have been the type to fuss and fret and squawk so they must've been chasing joy. Anna and Simeon caught their joy at the temple when Jesus came to be dedicated to God. Elizabeth and Zechaeriah caught their joy with the birth of their son, the prelude of the Messiah. These people didn't only chase joy but they chose it in their obedience. Joy is everywhere in the Christmas story, from the lips of Mary in her magnificat, to the returning of Zechariah's voice, to the alleulia of angels. Joy abounds at Christmas time.
And this Christmas, I am choosing joy.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.