Christmas isn’t usually my favorite time of year. I took down the decorations first thing on December 26. I was glad to see them go! I enjoy surprises and gift-giving, but the confusing history of the holiday and mishmash of traditions tend to bother me. I’ve always been a bit grinchy.
But there was something special about this Christmas. It’s great to be near family with no pressure to travel for the second year in a row, but beyond that, I think I understand more about JOY than ever before. In Luke 2:10 an angel says to shepherds, “I bring you good news that will bring GREAT JOY to all people.”
One evening, I went to church with Ezekiel, Eden and Isaiah. It was Mason’s last weekend of Perspectives, and during that 15-week course he made sure I had the chance every weekend to attend church while he kept Kami. (Sitting with her in church is more of an intense training session than a time of worship!) These three sat quietly, coloring and listening – a Christmas miracle! – and I was actually able to relax and listen. Our pastor spoke about the GREAT JOY of Christ’s coming. I couldn’t write notes fast enough because I wanted to remember everything he was saying. The New Testament, he said, is the most JOYful book in existence. There are 326 words for JOY used in it. JOY flows from close union with the Holy Spirit. Listening to all of this solid teaching, my mind went back to the moment in time when the Lord told me we needed to give Kami the middle name “Joy.” At the time, it seemed like a good fit; surely she’d be joyful to join our family, right?!?! Yay, we were bringing JOY to someone! WELL. It turned out that adoption wrecked her world, and the old Kami has had to die a slow and painful death every day for 2 years to give way to the new Kami, who is still a work in progress (aren’t we all?). This girl, Kami JOY, sure complains, fusses and cries alot. God, what were you thinking in telling us to give her that name?! It has seemed ironic at best, if not a cruel joke. But…
JOY has to be cultivated. The God of JOY is present in our pain and sin. And as it turns out, that is where my greatest JOY is found! Even though the past 2 years have been the hardest of my life, and I’m currently getting treatment for health problems caused by out-of-this-world, way-beyond-stressed-kind-of-stress, I have more JOY now than ever before.
Our pastor went on to outline the source of JOY: God. And the focus of JOY: God’s character and works. With all of the complaining that airs in our home (mostly from Kami JOY), I especially appreciated him touching on this subject! Complaining, he said, is always wrong and foolish, but even more so when:
1) We complain while we are greatly blessed.
2) We complain about trivial things.
3) The complaining is done by those to whom God has been especially gracious.
4)We complain about something that is part of God’s plan to humble us. (Ouch…)
5) We complain while He goes on blessing us.
I’m reminded to turn my attention to the good news and stop complaining, even as I prayerfully and patiently cultivate JOY in our home.
All this talk of JOY reminded me of a discussion with a friend who visited from India in the fall. During his brief stay with us, we asked him all about life in India, wondering if his accounts would corroborate with the Gospel for Asia newsletters we receive. We’ve read about people turning to Christ in India through miraculous healings, and the stories are very exciting. We asked our friend if this is the main way that people are coming to Christ in India. He informed us that it’s not miraculous healings that are making the biggest impact on India for Christ: it’s the JOY of the believers. I don’t know why we were surprised, because the same is true here.
I received another fun lesson in JOY (do you think God is trying to tell me something?) at a Mom-to-Mom meeting. Melanie Dale shared about her new book, It’s Not Fair, and gave us moms a handy acronym to remember when we find ourselves in unexpected places (like the edge of a cliff):
C ount the wins
L earn to laugh
I dentify your grace-bearers
F ind professional help
F all apart with Jesus
I’ve been hitting all 5 of those points in one day lately! And boy, was it a fun, freeing time as she shared about how God has met her on every cliff. He’s met me on every one of mine, too.
So as we enter 2017, my word for the year is JOY, and I am determined to laugh more than ever before. I’m already utilizing professional help, I’m getting better at counting the wins, I see grace-bearers all around me, and every time I fall apart with Jesus, He always puts me back together.
Happy new year!