When mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy!

Well that’s a lot of responsibility now isn’t it?  Can the same be said for joy?  If mama ain’t full of joy, ain’t nobody full of joy.

We’ve all heard this analogy before; when you’re on an airplane the flight attendant lets you know that in case of an emergency you’re to put your own air mask on before you help children, elderly or anyone else needing assistance.  The whole point is if you stop breathing you’re not going to be any good to those around you.

How does that relate to joy?  If we don’t grasp ahold of true joy (not happiness or pleasure) we aren’t going to be able to pass that along to our kids or share it with those around us.

In the last part of Nehemiah 8:10; Nehemiah was telling the Israelites to stop their weeping because the joy of the Lord would be their strength.  You see, the nation had been celebrating the Feast of the Trumpets.  It was supposed to be a party atmosphere, kind of like our upcoming New Year’s Celebration.  It marked the clean slate and fresh start for a new year.  So why were the people weeping?  The priest had been reading to them from God’s word and they were upset because they knew they had fallen short when it came to following God’s law.  Don’t we all?

Nehemiah noticed the weeping and told the people to stop crying and celebrate.  There’s a time to evaluate where you are in life and make necessary changes, but this was not the time.  This was a celebration!  It was a time to remember all the Lord had done for them.  It was time to jump for joy!

Photo Credit: rAmmoRRison via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: rAmmoRRison via Compfight cc

So where do we get our strength; same place, it’s the joy of the Lord.  It’s sitting and remembering times, people, places and events in our lives where we could see God’s hand.  The joy in knowing He’s been there through it all and will continue to be.  The knowledge that He wants a relationship with us and isn’t turning His back on us.

As women I know sometimes we feel selfish taking time for ourselves.  After all, if we take a break who is going to do all the work that needs done?  Well guess what mama; there’s always going to be work that needs done.   Taking a few moments to remember what the Lord has done in your life could mean the difference between you having a lousy day, working in your own strength, or a great day, because you are relying on the Lord the way you have in the past.  Remembering what He’s brought us through builds our joy in current difficult situations because we have a history with Him.  He’s carried us before and yes, He’ll do it again!

While we’re approaching the end of a year and looking ahead to 2014, it’s a good time to celebrate!  Take a few minutes and write down a list of things the Lord has done for you.  Better yet; start a gratitude journal that you can look through this time next year and remind yourself of a year worth of God’s blessings.  Then share it!  Tell your kids and your spouse.  Let them read the journal; pass on the goodness of God to those around you.

Don’t keep it all to yourself!  Spread the joy mama!

WHY I AM NOT CHOOSING TO HAVE JOY IN MY LIFE

I know what you’re thinking. “Really? Isn’t this what this blog is all about; finding joy.”

I certainly thought I was searching for the illusive. To be honest, most of us want some magic pill or glorious epiphany. We desperately search for the new job, house, perfect marriage, group of friends, or life purpose, thinking that once we find it our eyes and hearts will be opened to joy. (Queue the spotlight and orchestra as angels jump on the stage and present “JOY”.) It will never leave us and will stop any negativity from getting back into our lives.

Well I’m certainly disappointed here, but I have found out through my research,  joy is a choice. I know, let’s just throw in the towel now, right? If we’re going to believe it’s a choice, and we don’t feel joyful, we didn’t choose joy.

Could it be that simple?

No. Knowing it’s a choice is not simple at all! It means each day, multiple times each day, we have to decide to rise above our circumstances and draw from this internal spring of joy we possess as believers.

Think about it this way. You’re dying of thirst. You walk into the kitchen and God is standing there with a sparkling glass of refreshment and tells you that drinking from it will quench your thirst. You decide the bottle of Coke in the fridge is the better alternative. So, chug, chug, chug, and the Coke is gone and you feel refreshed. For a while. Soon you’re thirsty again. You’re family and friends are all gathered sharing sweet tea in the backyard and you head out there, passing right by God extending His glass. Surely tea shared with friends and loved ones, is going to be just the ticket to quenching your thirst. You definitely enjoy the time together, and the tea. Now you’re refreshed and this time it’s for good! Nope, again it’s fleeting. Now you’re out shopping. You go to the food court at the mall and there is God, again with His glass. Nice, but you see Orange Julius is right behind Him and that’s looking mighty tasty. Now you’re actually paying for something you think will refresh you more than the free drink God offered. The cycle repeats. Will you ever chose the glass from God?

The choice for joy works that way and God is the only source of true, lasting joy.

So how did I get so lost in life, searching for joy, when it’s been right there all along? It’s wasn’t my choice. Daily, and often multiple times each day, we have to reach out for that deep, centering joy from God. In the midst of family feuds, work stress, financial problems, loneliness, etc.; we have to turn to God time and again. He’s the only one that can provide true joy.

In her book Choose Joy, Kay Warren defines it like this…

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

In Galatians 5:22-23 we read about the fruits of the Spirit; the actual character traits that can be cultivated in our lives as Christians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

As believers, those fruits are in us as a deep resource to rely upon. Did you notice joy is the second one listed? But did you also notice the word fruit? Have you ever planted a fruit tree? In order to get the most appetizing fruit it takes some work. It takes returning to the tree often to keep the weeds and bugs away. It takes watering and fertilizing. It takes care; repeated care. It’s not a “one-time grow the joy-apple and you’re set for life” thing.

So why am I not choosing joy in my life? Because I’ve looked for other things to give it to me instead of looking to the Lord. I’ve tried changing careers, having toys, relying on family; all which gave a temporary sense of joy but not the true lasting joy I desire.

What am I going to do about it? The same thing I hope you’ll do. Before we try to produce it ourselves, purchase something we think will give it to us, or rely on someone else for it, we need to turn to God; take the glass and feel refreshed. Don’t worry that you’ll ever reach out and He won’t have a full glass. He will. He always will. You just need to reach out and take it. Again and Again.

What do you think?  Are you ready to accept God’s refreshing gift of joy?

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A Selfless Adventure – Meet the Cooke Family

Have you every packed up your house and kids and moved to a foreign place away from all family and friends?   Boy we sure did!  Twice!

I remember the first time I moved away from “home”.  My husband got a job three hours north of our parents and we loaded up the U-haul and our two year old daughter and headed off on a grand adventure.  We already had friends in the area and a church to attend so despite it being my first time so far from family it wasn’t a lonely experience by any means.

Fast forward five years and we left on another adventure.  This time we moved from Michigan to Virginia for my husband to attend Liberty University.  We didn’t know anyone except for one first year college student who actually started at the college the same time we did.  This proved to be a more difficult transition.  Pretty lonely.  Financially strapped.  Mountains.  No snow.  Cancelling school if you had to scrape frost off your car windows.  Very foreign!

On both of my life changing adventures I was still only a few minutes away from a McDonalds, K-Mart, Wal-mart, mall, etc.  The people in the communities all spoke English and had the same culture I was used to.

Think for a moment of leaving home and going where you weren’t separated from family by miles of  land connected by highways but by miles of ocean.   A distance marked by a 47 hour flight consisting of 5 layovers.   Now think about doing this for the sole purpose of telling others about Jesus and meeting their medical needs.  Oh yeah, and the fact that there’s no money involved – you’re going to be living on a tremendously tight budget of funds you have to raise yourself.  So….  Are ya packing yet?

Meet the Cooke Family!  Chris is an RN and Sarah is a stay-at-home mom with four beautiful girls (Riley, McKenna, Amelia and Lucy) between the ages of 11 and 6. This summer they packed up their belongings and moved to Papua New Guinea; an island just above Australia.  They are there serving the people of PNG along with 300 missionary families in the medical clinic.  Their first term with the Mission will be for four years.

cookes

A few years ago the Cookes began to feel God was leading them to international missions.  Chris heard about the need for an RN at the clinic in PNG.  Their medical care is very limited and most of the tribal people still believe in using witchcraft as a method of healing.  Believing God had led them to hear about this position the couple started searching for a mission organization to work with.  It took 2 ½ years of planning and preparation before they were able to get on a plane.  Chris needed to obtain his PNG nursing license (which took a year itself) and everyone needed passports and immunizations.  They had to sell their house and they also sold most of their belongings.

Chris doesn’t receive a pay check at the clinic; like a lot of missionaries they had to raise their own support.  Once all the preparations were completed they purchased their airline tickets and were ready to go.  Even though they were only at 45% of their needed support they were heading out on faith.

The Cooke girls catching a nap during their 47 hour trip!

The Cooke girls catching a nap during their 47 hour trip!

When they finally landed in PNG they were off on an adventure of their own.  Simple things like hot water we take so much for granted here in the states; in the Cooke’s new surroundings they have solar hot water heaters which means a shower taken in the morning or on a cloudy day are going to be quite chilly!  What about learning the cultural differences – over there raising your eyebrows at someone is similar to us whistling at someone with a bit more connotation.  Can you imagine gestures you’ve grown up with now mean entirely different things due to the cultural changes?  Not only getting use to new foods and having to cook entirely from scratch, but also spending your mornings trying to learn new languages so you can function in this new culture that has 850 languages.  The cost of living differences are huge as well; their produce is really cheap since the climate is great for agriculture however their prepackaged foods are horrible expensive since it all has to be flown in.  A single box of cereal cost $12 U.S. dollars!MARKET

Chris has been able to help meet the needs of the clinic as he serves as the RN.  Outside of routine illnesses he helps prepare medical supplies daily to be sent out to missionaries living out among the tribes.  Since there are no road systems the medical supplies are often delivered via airplane.

neighborhood

The family has also been able to minister to a mother and her newborn that are staying with them who arrived with a serious life threatening virus.  Sarah has been teaching the mother about infant care and hygiene and the baby is finally gaining weight!nasha

Currently they are looking into purchasing a home so they don’t have to move around from rental to rental for four years and also it will help lower their taxable income.  They will need to raise $10,000 for a down payment in order to purchase.

If you’d like to learn more about the Cookes or support their ministry to the people of PNG you can check out their blog page through New Tribes Mission.

31 days

This post is part of the Nester’s 31 Day Challenge; Writing on the same topic each day of the month of October.  Click on over to the Challenge to find a number of topics and authors ranging from Simplicity & Organizing to Personal Endeavors. You can head back here and scroll to the bottom of this post for a listing of all 31 days of Good News & Good People Doing Good Things.

Don’t forget your umbrella!

It was raining when I left for work Thursday.  Not just a drizzle, or the kind of light, steady rain you’re thankful for so that you don’t have to water your lawn.  No, this was a downpour.  As I headed in the mudroom to the hanging rack I noticed my umbrella was not in its normal spot.  Yep, it was in the car.  I was about to be exposed to the elements without its protection.  I took it the last time the weather man called for rain and that rain never came.  So the umbrella sat on the floor of my car dry as a desert.

Due to the fact that we don’t have a garage and I was going to have to hurry along the side walk and around the side of the house to my car, I wasn’t in a rush to leave so I paused at the backdoor.  As I stood there and looked at the rain I thought about how I’d love to have the covering of my pink striped umbrella on my way to my vehicle.  I thought of how uncomfortable I was going to be in the wet clothes for the first hour or so at work until they dried out.  I thought about my naturally curly hair that was going to get wet and frizz and twist in all the wrong directions now.  In that brief pause, it occurred to me how important it is to have the protection from the elements when you need them. 

Isn’t that how our lives are with Christ too?  In Ephesians 6 we are told about the armor of the Lord and how we are to put on each piece to protect us in our daily lives.  Starting our day with prayer and bible study is crucial to helping us get through the drudgery, stress, conflict, temptation and personalities we’ll encounter during our waking hours. 

I’m not a morning person, so adding one more thing that’s going to cut down the number of times I hit the snooze button isn’t something I find too appealing.  But looking at it in this light, I can see how using my first quiet moments of the morning to suit up in my armor could make the difference in how my day turns out.

God is already aware of my weaknesses and He’s already aware of what I’m about to encounter throughout my day.  A number of times I’ve read something in His Word in the evening or right before bed and I’ve thought, “Boy, I could’ve used that around two o’clock today.”  Hmmm? Maybe if I had read that in the morning, when two o’clock rolled around I would have been armed and ready to take my stand.  Standing firm; and conducting myself in a way that was pleasing to God and a witness for his Spirit in my life. 

I guess it’s time to change my routine.  The extra minutes I use in the word in the morning could make all the difference in how my day turns out.  How my responses are.  How my testimony stands. 

Here we go!  Setting the alarm to go off a little earlier tomorrow!