I Choose Joy

It’s hard to describe joy accurately. Some people may believe that joy means jumping up and down, gleefully clapping their hands. Others may think joy is raucous laughter. Still others may describe it as a calm, peaceful feeling with your lips gently turned up in a small smile. Personally, I think they are all correct.

Some days, finding the joy in the day is as simple as waking up and stepping into the sunshine. Other days, you may really have to search to find joy. Life is nothing if not unpredictable.

We stand on a shaking foundation when we focus on the things of this world. The challenge we face daily is to fix our eyes upon God before we allow the world to divert our gaze back to temporary worldly issues. This struggle persists throughout the day and we have to continually refocus on our purpose.

We must take every thought captive. Believe in the unseen. Remember God’s promises. Focus on what is true, good, and pure. Choose joy – whatever that looks like at the moment.

Every. Single. Minute.

Every. Single. Day.

When we allow the enemy access to our minds, we tend to get lost in the midst of the untruths he has planted. We wander around flipping through that collection of catalogued lies like they are old records in a vintage album store. When we fill our minds with God’s truth, however, we squeeze the enemy right out of our heads. Those lies become irrelevant and ineffective.

Today, I will choose joy – in all of its forms, no matter what it looks like today. I choose to stand on my faith and believe that I am who my faithful Creator says I am. I will focus on being grateful for all that I have, including my struggles. Without the challenges, I would miss the opportunities for growth.

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“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:3-5‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Off Balance

When I get overwhelmed, my mind splinters in a million directions and I struggle to find my mental footing. Every thought I manage to touch seems to shift and fall away as soon as I reach out, leaving me desperate for just one tiny iota of consistency to cling to.

Being off balance is not a feeling I enjoy, to say the least. Honestly? It freaks me out. Stability is a basic need in life and, amidst uncontrolled chaos, stability is nonexistent. Chaos breeds more chaos.

I’m an odd individual because I actually thrive in some chaos and enjoy change (mostly). I like the idea of making something good from an uncertain situation and constantly trying to improve for the future.

However, I definitely have my limits. When nothing is set and I have to chase after everything to try and make sense, it completely exhausts me. Brain disconnect. Fried. Burned out. Toast. This is the epitome of unhealthy chaos.

When I’m stuck in a situation where I cannot wrangle some sense of order from the overwhelming insanity around me, I withdraw and just try to get my brain to shut off. This is not an easy task because I’m wired to try and make things better. When I cannot fix the issue, I consider myself a failure.

I become hypersensitive to every noise around me. I read things into conversations so that everyone is angry with me. I become a total wreck. I become so preoccupied with trying to fix things myself that I forget to call out to the One who can restore order to the mess.

God should be the first person I call out to for help, but my brain is in such turmoil that my thought processes do not make any sense. It takes me a while to recognize that I’m holding myself accountable for fixing the issues because I’m not thinking clearly.

As I walked tonight, I spent the first six minutes of my walk with eyes closed, feeling the crushing weight of this day, and trying to hold back tears while I handed my troubles over to Him. However, I kept taking the issues back, so I had to hand them over again. And again. And again.

Finally, after talking to a friend about my day, my brain decided to cooperate and finally let go. I handed the day back over to God and moved on.

My concern is this: how much time did I waste with anger, sadness, and frustration trying to resolve issues that were not mine to resolve? How much of what I was holding in a death grip wasn’t mine to even hold? How much turmoil did I allow into my life for things that have already been cleansed by His grace?

God is a gentleman. He stands ready and eager to help us, but we need to call out to Him. He is the only one able to restore our footing. He is our rock and foundation. His grace is sufficient and His mercy is unfathomable and unending. He promises us rest when we lay our troubles at His feet, but we must learn to leave them there for Him to solve rather than pick them back up and try to fix things ourselves.

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“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Matthew 7:24‭-‬27 NLT

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 NLT

Guarding Our Hearts

I’ve been told to “guard my heart” more times than I can count in my life. I’ve been burned, hurt, taken advantage of, disregarded, and so on….

Each time I was wounded, I added another barrier around my heart.Over the years, the barrier became quite, um, fortified. I justified building the barrier by saying, “Well, the Bible says to guard my heart, so I am!” Yeah. Clearly God’s work here. #nope

As the barrier grew, I became more isolated. More guarded. More fearful. After all, when you let people in, you grant them access to exploit your deepest fears. To put it bluntly, you give them everything they need to destroy you.

When I began my journey to vulnerability, I took down the walls. Well, most walls. Some walls. Fine! A few walls.

Now, four months into my journey, I realize that not nearly as many walls have been removed as I had thought.As I drove home from a women’s event this week, I prayed that God would show me how to be completely vulnerable. I asked Him to smash down walls and remove the rubble so that I would be free of fear. Free of shame. Free of hurt. Free to be raw, open, transparent, and authentic in a way I never was before.

As I drove, I heard that we are told to guard our hearts. Yeah. Duh. I’m on it! I’ve got the basecamp surrounded with barbed wire already, God. As I continued talking to God, He spoke to me as well. The outcome? We are supposed to guard our hearts, not block our hearts.

Think of a coffee filter. The water flows through the filter and over the grounds, but the grounds remain in the filter. The filter stops the bad stuff from getting into the coffee, but allows the water to flow through it to create the coffee. If the water could not pass through the filter, there would be no coffee.

When we guard our hearts, we are not supposed to block them off. We are supposed to let the good stuff (God, people, love) pass through, but filter out the bad things (lies, fear, hate).

We are called to guard our hearts, but we are also called to be vulnerable so that others can see the glory of God through our stories of redemption and healing. We are called to share our testimonies so that we can show others His grace. Forgiveness in action.

You cannot block your heart and still allow these things to happen. You can, however, guard your heart and allow others to be impacted by your story.

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“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Proverbs 4:23 NIV

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
Revelation 12:11 KJV