Advent Joy

It’s the start to the third week of Advent, where we look at JOY. But I have to say I am just not feeling joyful. I’m not.

I anticipate and look forward to this time of year so much and yet I find myself sitting in this time of shear unjoyfulness. There’s just this immense lack of it in my heart and mind. All around me I see it, and I desperately want it, but it’s just not there. It’s as if this overwhelming grief and sadness has just enveloped life for me.

It’s jarring to even admit because I have been trying to cover it up, put on a mask and smile and be joyful when deep within I ache and want to shut off everything and every one. It’s the glimpses of a seeping depression coming through cracks in my life that I have attempted all too poorly to patch up with manufactured things, stuff that doesn’t fill those cracks.

The opposite of joy is fear, it’s the basis and the origination of sin from the very beginning. Fear of missing out, fear of being alone, fear of not being enough, fear of being too much. It compounds and mounts, leading to more of me trying to figure out or patch it up. To overcome the fear with confidence and gusto. But the more I tried in my own might I kept finding the grasp I was holding onto was slipping.

While the world looks at joy as emotion evoked by success or well-being, Biblical joy is a fruit of the Spirit, born out through labor and toiling, by pruning and stripping back. James tell us that we are to count it all joy when we are face to face with trials. It’s hard, it’s difficult and we often feel guilty for not feeling this exuberant joy all the time when it looks as though things are great on the outside.

This morning as I struggled to face the week of Joy in Advent I pulled open His Word to Zephaniah 3. (Yes, it’s a book in the Bible, but I did have to look in my index to find it too) These words cut deep to a heart struggling in fear and searching to make joy on it’s own.

“Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst, the Might One, will save,
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

We’re not to fear, to not resign ourselves to hopelessness. He is with us, the Warrior God fighting for us. He rejoices over us. He quiets our hearts with His unending love. He sings over us. Words of love, beauty, mercy, grace and JOY. He joys in us when we can’t find joy for ourselves. HE is our JOY. He is MY JOY, when fear tries to take hold and pull me under. When fear thinks it has won the battle in my mind and heart. He brings JOY to fight, songs of redemption is His battle cry, His strength in my hands for taking up the fight.

Joy may not look like a smiling, successful, fortunate turn of life. It may be the cries of the heart in battle, with God singing over us as He is with us. But JOY has come for us. To be with us. And for today, for now, we cling to a joy in Christ’s coming that brought hope, peace and love with the joy of today.

 

Mossy Trees, Creation, and Tuesdays

Recently I have been enamored with the bigness of the world, of everything around me. One of my absolute favorite things is to look up under a tree, sometimes catching the sun peaking through the leaves and branches. I caught myself yesterday just standing on this beautiful plantation enveloped in the absolute bigness of this world. I probably looked crazy standing with eyes closed underneath hanging moss breathing deep, but honestly the older I get the more I really don’t care the perceptions of strangers. Their dialogue on my life isn’t affecting me breathing in the goodness of the creation before me. 

It’s the created reveling in the Creator’s work. 

No other part of creation, from His Hands, were created to enjoy this creation, to look at it with eyes of wonder and joy, to be content in giving Him the glory for all that is. When we look at Genesis 1:31 we see this same affirmation by God, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (HCSB, emphasis mine) Even as I type Bryan and Katie Torwalt are filling the still of my room with the words “let us experience the glory of Your goodness,” (from Holy Spirit, which makes me weep with joy) and that is a prayer worth singing out each and every day.

My hangup comes though when I want that bigness in every moment, grandeur and flooding visions of beauty and praise. Often the bigness of His creation is brought small in my life. It’s in the glimpse from a rear view, the quick word of encouragement, the found note from a memory long ago, or even the breath filling deep in a moment when the world may be coming in quick and hard. 

I sometimes forego the creation joy to push for the grander reveling, big moments held out for instead of sitting in the beauty of a Tuesday as Emily P. Freeman writes about so perfectly in Simply Tuesday. The small matters, the quiet stillness of a moment or a task completed is worthy of acknowledgement and we alone are created for that. The small leads and grows us day in and day out, walking us to the big to cherish and know of the Creator deeper. We run after big, wanting that in everything and every day when the small is with us in the moment.

Honestly it’s like saying we want Christ in His table-turning, miracle-performing  rather than the whispers of the Holy Spirit in moments. Both worthy and things worth desiring, but y’all we get both. We get the big and the small alike. It’s our choice to see the small as a means of revelry and praising. The bigness of creation is brought small by the Creator each day, it’s our choice as the created to recognize it for the very good that it is before us. 

Even when it means stopping in the midst, eyes closed, allowing Creator to meet with me the created under a mossy tree in the middle of Mississippi. 

wading in joy

So if you follow me over on IG then you saw my photo late yesterday afternoon. The last two days have been a bit rough around these parts, with presentations crashing to a busted water heater to server switches and grocery bags falling apart in the parking lot.

Yes, all the things in under a 24 hours happened. To me.

Currently I am watching $1200 worth of pipes and a brand spankin’ new water heater get installed into my home. (insert nervous laughter and increased stress) There have been some tense moments, tears of frustration and worried speech. As the grocery bag broke yesterday I just started laughing.

You see, God and I have been having some amazing times together over the last month. Just good stuff, centered on Him and not me, and a whole lot of getting to know Him more and how He is pushing stuff through my life. I have seen blessing after blessing flow out from Him in the form of friends, work, and even writing.

So the reason I am laughing still, staring at this bill, is because my heart started to worry. It started to question and become frantic over this situation, and then I remembered.  I remembered how He’s provided before, over and over. He has blessed and given in such huge ways, and such small ways, that I can only laugh. Because I feel like the devil saw an “in” with me in these situations, reminding me of the old me who would freak out and get wound up so tightly that I was lashing out on others. It wasn’t that long ago, in fact this time last year, where I would be a bundle of nerves and frustration.

Is the situation ideal? Absolutely not.

But what it is a reminder, a physical manifestation, that I get to lean into Him and be dependent upon Him in everything. That in all circumstances, I get to count it all joy.

My brothers and sisters, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

That verse right there used to rub me the wrong way constantly, until I took time to really look at it in the midst of a circumstance, that I get to choose joy in it. I get to count it that way instead of in the frustration column. Out of it comes patience, perfected work in me in fact, if I but choose to be joyous in it, choose to be in Him and not in my self.

Now I may not be joyous at the bill for this new water heater, I am joyful that I get to see this as an opportunity to enjoy the moment, to be with Him in the midst and see this as a perfecting work of patience in my life.

Because my joy, my peace, every bit of it? It’s found in Him and not in me. That’s a choice worth making today, and every day.

Dear 2016

Dear 2016,

You are fresh and new, like warm laundry out of the dryer. Yes, that’s how I see you…full of warmth and goodness. Your predecessor had a rough time with me, we didn’t mesh all that well and it was evident from the outset. Try as I might, we really just never got on with one another. I was happy to part ways just 30+ hours ago.

But you, oh you 2016 I am happy to greet you-with smiles, high-fives, hugs and cheer. I welcomed you with loving arms to embrace fully and completely. No more will the years be marked with dates of the past but with stones of the present.

For you 2016 I tried to set expectations, assumptions made on what you would be like before I even knew you. Aren’t we like that though as humans? We make judgements, crafting our own expectations in a way to control the outcomes, others. You are different though. You exploded with joy and gratitude in my life already. You are bright and you are big. You are also in the small, in the comforts and in the quiet.

For you 2016 I wanted to gift a renewed spirit, but I think instead I am finding a complete different one within me. One that has long since gone forgotten, ignored and flat-out disrespected. You don’t want that refurbished me, no you want a new creation in me. One that holds excitement, joy and gratitude. One that isn’t defined by what isn’t, but by all that simply is. No one likes a regifted item, so why would you want me with all those resolutions and failed fixes?

For you are worthy of more 2016…but no expectations or assumptions are attached. You just simply are present and here. I won’t try to make you into something you are not, nor attempt to mold you into something of my own desires. Nope, you simply are what you are for the next 364 days. I welcome that and you. And yes, as you can see I still have the tree from Christmas up today when so many others have come down. But I am not rushing this year…I am taking time to relish in the beauty and simplicity of time. The quiet of presence and awareness is what is drawing me to leave it up just a few more hours. To be still and know…

You are new 2016 and it is my sincere desire to relish you each and every day fully present and aware, a heart full of gratitude and joy. I will fail on days-probably more often than not, but I know there’s always a new day just around the corner awaiting me with delight. You have gifted me 366 days this year, an extra to enjoy fully and presently. I will savor each of them for what they are-gifts. Here’s to not binding you up for storage but giving you away each and every day.

With unending gratefulness and joy,

S2

27 Thought Dresses

Over the years I have been graced with ample closet space. Living in a residence hall for four years as a professional, even then I had several closets for storage and clothing. When I moved to Nashville the first place I lived had seven closets. Seven. One was like a nesting doll, you kept finding additional closets within it.

For many that would have been a dream come true. But for me, it was wasted space. I am a purger of things. I don’t like to keep them around much if I haven’t worn it or used it within the last year. I have talked about this before on here, but I circle back around on it today because I have been dwelling on the idea of purging thoughts.

19dressesMuch like Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses I cling to the past in a way, just in case I might need it for later. My thoughts are stuffed full of moments and words, things I think about myself more than anything else, storing up mistakes and bad choices with the words I call myself.

I encourage and speak support into other lives, but myself? Not so much. I pull out the dress of dumb when I am just not getting something at work. I wrap up in the fabric of not good enough when I think about my singleness. I zip up in ugliness as I look around me at my beautiful friends. I pull the hood up on not qualified as I attempt to write.

Over and over again I run to this closet full of the garments of thoughts to clothe myself in, these invisible dresses and shirts of my own design that I can wear which no one sees. But they do. People can see how we talk to ourselves, because out of the overflow of our hearts come our words. We self-shame, and one of my go-to shamings (because this is a time to be raw with you all) is “big girl.” I call myself that pretty often around others, in attempt at humor but it’s also a defense mechanism…call yourself that first before someone gets the opportunity to think it, get the upper hand and let them know you are confidence in your looks.

Let me just tell y’all right now, this isn’t confidence. Identifying and dwelling in the untrue words of our thoughts is a lie. A lie we believe and cling to, hoping for comfort in whatever we are in. But the truth is it’s a mess and something we need to stop. Our thoughts lead to actions, lead to words and the building (or tearing down most likely) of ourselves and others.

I have had to take a good long look at my thoughts recently, and how they spill out in words. When I look at all those dresses of names and identities I have chosen for myself over the years within my thoughts, I recognize the ugliness and ridiculousness of them all. With all that Christ says I am, I have chosen to put on the robe of “not good enough” for far too long.

Now I choose to purge. To relinquish that which isn’t flattering. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t in season and it most certainly should never come back in style. Today I pull out all the thoughts I have been clothing myself in and make room for the thoughts He thinks towards me.

Daughter. Chosen. Beloved. Beautiful. Mine.

“Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. ” Proverbs 31:25

I go back to these words which hang in my bathroom and are slowly being etched in my heart…ladies, (and gentlemen too) I hope you too clean out the thoughts of your mind if you are choosing the wrong things to clothe yourself with. It’s an every day choice, and sometimes that old sweatshirt of your former thoughts can look mighty appealing in the hard times, but trust that He gives you a crown, a robe of white….and those are far greater things than some dingy hoodie.

Seashells by the Seashore

When I was a kid my mom would get up extra early while we were on vacation. It would baffle this kid who would sleep until she was dragged out of bed screaming. She would tell me about her seashell hunting early, before others were able to snatch the all up. She even asked me each year if I would join her. 

Slowly over the years I have found myself collecting them each time we vacation. Getting a handful as I walk in the mornings, another handful as I play in the water with my nephews. I’ve got a rather large quantity now that I sit out each summer in a vase. 

Seashell picking is a rather unique and very individualized affair as each person chooses often a particular type or color, some seeking whole shells in their full form. I watched as my youngest nephew picked them the other night while we were out for a walk on the beach. He was picking based solely on what his perspective granted him in defining beauty. He would get so excited finding one that was “perfect” in his mind. He had two pocketfuls of the perfect shells to bring back by the time we were done. 

As I have found shells, I am realizing I gravitate toward the broken, the imperfect and the strewn about. I like the ones with rough edges and are mostly just pieces of a bigger shell long destroyed by the waves, people, things… Those pieces have survived, they’ve born out their duty and now lay on the sands of a beach on display. Showing the world they have arrived at a destination, beaten up and broken but still present. They’ve learned to grow ridges to protect what is carried inside, to weather the conditions of their environment and still be a piece of beauty to behold. 

The shells tell a story that I find myself drawn to as they bring hope and joy that even in the sea, you can emerge in pieces but at your landing spot. For someone to discover, to find beauty in, to see hope, and to bring joy. That someone is out there early today on the hunt specifically for you and what you have to bring to their life. Someone is seeking you for the perfectness that you are to them, so they can carry you close and carry you home. There’s even someone who is looking for you today that sees the broken state, the pieces this life has cast you into and desires your story and what you bring to this life. 

The No H Summer

For a very long time there has been a very real stigma attached to singles. We have to have someone in order to enjoy life. You have to have someone in order to own a home, to choose a life of fulfillment, to be content. It’s about the outward presence of another in order to be living life. 

I have come to realize in the last year to find contentment is to be joyful in spite of circumstance, to choose a perspective that is not my own but one in which God colors my life. It’s to surround yourself with women and men who are the picture of life and love. It’s to fall in love with a contented life that isn’t bound by a boyfriend or spouse. It’s loving fully this glory which is set before me, walking confidently and with dignity through it in every moment. 

As I referred to in a post just days ago, a life isn’t defined by a marital status. I do believe you must be an example though for others, in coming out of something you have endured with heartache and hurt, in joy and triumph. So this summer I am choosing the theme of the #noHsummer for my life.  (My name is also spelled without an h and something I throughout my days as well)  

Follow along this summer on my social media and right here on the blog as I share the adventures of being a no H Sara that has no H (husband) and what life looks like in that. What joy and fun and adventure awaits if we stop waiting for Him to send us someone and instead we live this life He has gifted us with abandon.