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Posts tagged ‘joy’

Following Joy

Liz Gilbert (my hero :)) recently posted a beautiful, moving piece on Facebook about joy. You can read the full post here.

She explains that joy is the light that guides us on the path of our destiny, showing us when we’re on track, and warning us by its absence when we’ve veered off course:

Martha Beck always says that the universe is constantly trying to use your JOY as a way of communicating your destiny to you. If you feel a hint of joy, that means you’re on the right track. If not, you’re going in the wrong direction. The scattered moments of joy that you feel in your life are meant to be clues: THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING; THIS IS THE KIND OF PERSON YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE WITH; THIS IS HOW YOU ARE MEANT TO FEEL.

Martha says that — if we refuse to seek joy, believe in joy, trust joy, and follow our JOY — then the universe will resort to using suffering and pain to try to get our attention … but God would really rather communicate your destiny to you through joy. So try that first.

Look for crumbs of joy, and trust them.

Yes indeed. Look for the crumbs of joy. They are effervescent bubbles of glowing hope in what can be a dark and scary forest of pain and distraction.

oy is the light that guides us on the path of our destiny, showing us when we're on track, and warning us by its absence when we've veered off course

Joy

joyWe need to enjoy our lives. We need to rejoice: rejoice in every breath, which is always there when we need it, yet taken utterly for granted. We couldn’t exist for three minutes without breath, yet it never crosses our minds to utterly revel in the miraculousness of it.

Each moment is a gift. Each moment, BE in the moment. Notice things. The birds. Traffic. Dogs barking. Sun rising. Sun setting. Daylight streaming through the windows. Stars glittering though the heavens. Artificial light which literally gives us the gift of MORE TIME. Just think about that for a minute: a light switch is a GIFT, giving you more time – to work, play, share time with family and friends – BE.

We can rejoice in the good things that happen to those we love, too. True joy is absolutely absent of jealousy. There’s no comparison to be made. Ever. Each person has their own trials, and we surely wouldn’t want those. And just so, each person deserves their own happinesses, and it behooves us to delight in those with them. We can revel in their blessings in pure, untainted bliss and truly enjoy their success.

bitternessRecently author Elizabeth Gilbert shared a beautiful post on Facebook. She was quoting from the book “Women Who Run With Wolves”, and talking about the point most women reach in their middle years when they face a choice: to be bitter, or to be better. Her choice was to be better. To let the bitterness go. And her advice, so poignant and perfect and beautiful, was that we should actively, passionately, desperately seek out the joy in our lives. Every ounce of it – every moment, even the tiniest speck of bliss, should be tweezed out of our memories and collected in jars of living ecstasy, gazed on often, relished … we can immerse ourselves utterly in the happiness of living, and become so full of joy (which is both self-perpetuating and contagious) that it becomes the key defining attribute of our lives.

Surely each of us can point to a happy moment in our past? Even just the one? Find it. Hoard it. Cling to it. And share it ABUNDANTLY, because that is how to make it grow.

Enjoy!

By the bootstraps

Alright. Today’s the day. I have decided to be well, as of now. I made lists and asked pointed questions and devised schemes, and I think I have a solution. Even if what I think will work turns out to be wrong, at least I am doing something, on the pathway to getting it right.

And that’s good.

My first question was:

What five things about my life right now do I wish were different?

  1. I wish that, every month, we had enough. I wish I never had to lose another moment of sleep or joy worrying about whether there is enough in the fridge for my family for the day, or enough in the bank account for the rent and bills. (Don’t we all?)
  2. I wish my kids could get all the input and stimulation they need: music lessons, art lessons, dance classes and horse riding and swimming. Or even just one of these.
  3. I wish I spent more time with the girls.
  4. I wish we had insurance.
  5. I wish I was happy.

So, I can start with number five and just be happy. I know it’s not as easy as all that. But I also know that it is. I know I can pull up my boots, focus on my faith, count my blessings and choose joy. So I choose joy.

Just for today.

Tomorrow can take care of itself.

I have enough food to feed my family and myself. We all have warm, comfy clothes on, and the clothes are clean. And they (kinda) fit. I have the sound roof of a lovely home over my head. I have a computer with internet access. I even have coffee. Just for today, I have enough.

Tomorrow I will think about what I have then. And it will probably be at least as good.

I choose joy

ACTION STEPS:

  1. Thank God for my blessings
  2. Make a realistic To Do list and accomplish at lest five things on it.

VERSES:

How to be HAPPY this New Year

The Pursuit of Happiness

Text:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives examples of the various “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says all human beings have been given by their Creator and for the protection of which they institute governments.

We as humans have latched on to and taken hold of this idea to such an extent that we now believe the pursuit of happiness to be our primary reason for being. We have convinced ourselves that it is our right and, in fact, our duty, to devote our time and energy to those things which make us happiest. Achieving happiness, whether we measure it by our own emotions, the praise of others, or the number of things we amass, is the mark of success in the race of life.

The Latest Fad

Dozens – even hundreds – of books are devoted to the subject. Newspapers, magazines and blogs devote swathes of rainforest to sharing the secrets of happiness. Everything from diet to habits to attitudes to vocation comes under the microscope, ready to be analysed and assessed for its ability to increase or diminish our perceived happiness. Anything less than bliss must be cast aside as rubbish, discarded for its obvious lack of value in the quest for personal pleasure.

A Fad with Flaws

A rational observer will soon see some key flaws in this approach.

From a secular point of view, hard work and easy amusement tend to be at odds with one another. If easy amusement is the ultimate goal in life, it stands to reason that hard work has no value, and in fact detracts from this goal. As such, it ought to be eschewed.

From a spiritual point of view, not only are the quiet disciplines of a life ordered after God’s precepts not immediately obvious as pathways to plain pleasure; the reminders of our sinful nature throughout God’s Word and godly teaching are sure-fire mood killers, and add no profit to a life focused on so-called happiness. Thus, glorifying God and pursuing pleasure are at odds.

Modern Science Shows the Way – or Does It?

A recent edition of the popular modern magazine, Psychologies, draws attention to this phenomenon only too well. This magazine specialises in bringing the very latest advances and discoveries in the world of mental health research to the public, to enable us to benefit from the fast-growing body of knowledge on the subject, and essentially begin to heal ourselves.

This particular issue dedicated three separate articles to the subject of finding happiness, and offered practical advice on how to achieve this goal.

Think Happy Thoughts

The first article related current research showing that, typically, lottery winners find that their happiness peaks briefly after their win, then dips to pre-winning levels, if not lower. In fact, many lottery winners become so depressed, they need to be hospitalised, and some even commit (or attempt) suicide. Giant windfalls provide short-lived mood enhancers, the writer explained. However, the simple act of actively noticing and enjoying the beauty available everywhere, in a focused and intentional way every day, would gradually provide a sustained lift in mood that would not only lead to elevated levels of personal happiness, but would also furnish the person with a reserve of inner strength which would help him through the harder times when they arise (as they will). The writer suggested the company of good friends, stimulating conversation, excellent literature, beautiful sunsets, scenic walks and so forth as potential subjects to enjoy and ponder.

Find Your Happy Place

Another article explained that regular reflection was the pathway to happiness. Taking time every day, the  writer said, to “get away from it all”, and to calm and order your thoughts, would make you more disciplined, more focused, calmer on the inside, and, as a result, happier. Suggestions included yoga and meditation, among others, as ways to take your mind to a more peaceful place.

An Attitude of Gratitude

A third article was in fact a letter of appreciation written to the letter. The writer explained that she had become very discontent with her life, particularly her work. She said that she’d been battling bitterness and depression for some time, when her niece gave her a copy of Psychologies to help her get perspective. One of the articles she’d read reported a study that showed that people who spent their days actively finding things to be genuinely grateful for reported increased happiness, better health, and faster career growth. They tended to be more well-liked by colleagues, superiors and their families, and found that, over time, the quality of their lives improved. The writer of the letter said that she had decided to give this approach “a go”, and had found that it had already begun to have the desirable effects described in the article.

God’s Had the Answers All Along

In each case, the magazine was reporting the most current research on the subject, sharing with us the most-recently discovered ways to pursue personal happiness.

The funny thing is that God has been saying these things for thousands of years.

In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul exhorts us with the following:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In other words: actively seek the good, true, pure things God has put in your life, and use your brain to consider those, instead of miring it in the bog of worry and stress we seem determined to infest.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul makes it very simple indeed:

Pray without ceasing.

In other words: don’t give up. Take the time all the time to get your mind quiet and focused. Give your problems to God and await His answers in faith.

This chapter goes on to say, in verse 18,

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

In other words: be thankful. As the writer in Psychologies pointed out, an attitude of gratitude takes you places. Paul is not saying for everything give thanks, although we can give thanks for every trial when we choose to see God using that trial to mould us into something useful for Him. But Paul says in everything give thanks. Perhaps your trial is too hard to allow you to be thankful for it. But there are thousands of things in each life for which we can be thankful. And we should.

And to make it abundantly clear, in verse 16 Paul says this potent phrase:

Rejoice evermore.

Now we get to the heart of the matter – and it is a heart matter. He says “rejoice ever more”, then goes on to say, “pray, give thanks, stay away from bad things and focus on the good.” And the result surpasses temporary happiness. The result is joy – sustained, deep, unshakeable joy not dependant on circumstances, relationships, events, health or anything other than the faithfulness of our Saviour.

God knows the recipe, and He graciously shared it with us over 2000 years ago. Scientists think they have finally unlocked the secrets of the highest purpose in man’s life. But they are wrong on two counts:

One is that happiness is not the result of happy thoughts, an attitude of gratitude, or a regular brain drain in meditation. These are second hand substitutes that lack depth, effectiveness and long-term power. The real path to what we believe we want, happiness, is prayer, focusing on the good God has given us, and thanking Him in every circumstance.

More important, however, is that the pursuit of happiness is NOT the point of our existence. The glory of God is. We cannot glorify God, pray without ceasing, thank God even in the face of trials, or reflect on His goodness, if we don’t know Him personally, and experience His grace at work in us regularly. Have you met this Jesus, and do you know Him as your Saviour?

I choose joy

A couple of days ago I wrote about the way the Lord has quietly, gently and with infinite grace and mercy shown me His care and presence. That post led me to find a bunch of other really fantastic and uplifting posts and articles on the same subject, and I advise reading them all.They’re listed below.

But the one in particular that really spoke to me and rejuvenated my flagging spirits was this one: why I choose joy. It is a vital reminder that complaining is toxic to your family.

The author makes the very clear and concise statement that

Complaints are poison.

Unthankfulness is cancerous.

Criticism is corrosive.

The lives described in this post are saturated with joy – but not without hardships and trials. Some of these people have faced some of the most difficult things we ever have to deal with in our lives, and yet they still speak of the pervading joy they have in every facet of their lives. That is what I want. That is what I choose. That is why I will be resilient.

  • This post is an honest assessment of living with depression.
  • A genius compilation of brilliant quotes on the disciplines of being a Godly woman.
  • Here’s a post about the wisdom and necessity of praying for our children

 

– By Vanessa Davies – daily discovering Joy on a Shoestring.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you think we can choose our outlook on life every day, or are we adrift at the whim of our circumstances? Id’ love to hear your thoughts (but please be nice).

Showers of Blessing

Yesterday at Church, our pastor preached an encouraging and uplifting message on the nature or trials and temptations. It was like a soothing balm to my soul, and I will definitely post my notes here tomorrow.

Something else happened this weekend, though, and I need to share that first. Recently my faith has been waning. The trials of recent times, coupled with my selfishness and poor attitude, have festered inside me until I had a great big wodge of bitterness in my gut. Not pretty. It had been one of those dry times where it felt like my prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling, not achieving much of anything.

Then, there was the refreshing sermon, reminding me of basic truths, and shining some perspective on recent events. I’ll link this post to that once it’s live.

Secondly, (and I really think this is what reassured me of God’s presence in my life, even when it feels like He’s far away), a good friend came up to me, gave me a hug, and said, “I want you to know I pray for you every single day. I pray for wisdom as you work and teach and keep house. I pray that you’ll have the time you need to do everything you need to do. I pray for your testimony, and that those around you all the time will understand that you’re human. And I pray for your health. I worry that you work so hard and don’t get enough sleep.”

Her words touched me so deeply, and stayed with me for ages. Even now, I feel their comfort and kindness. I was struck by her awareness of what I was going through, when I had (unreasonably) felt so very alone. And I was made palpably aware of how much we need to be reminded that we’re being lifted up in prayer, and the need to tell others the same. (Of course, it needs to be true!)

When you've lost your joy | Women Living Well

When you’ve lost your joy | Women Living Well

And finally, today, I stumbled across a book filled with wisdom, comfort and direction. And it’s free! It’s called “When I don’t Desire God“, written by John Piper. I subscribe to the Women Living Well blog, and this book was referred to in today’s post. Frankly, the picture on the blog post spoke to me, and I just had to read the rest.

The fabulous Courtney quotes the following from this well-timed book:

HOW LONG, O LORD, HOW LONG!

Then after the cry you wait. “I waited patiently for the LORD.” This is crucial to know: Saints who cry to the Lord for deliverance from pits of darkness must learn to wait patiently for the Lord. There is no statement about how long David waited. I have known saints who walked through eight years of debilitating depression and came out into glorious light. Only God knows how long we must wait. We saw this in Micah’s experience in Chapter Six. “I sit in darkness . . . until [the Lord] pleads my cause and . . . will bring me out to the light” (see Micah 7:8- 9). We can draw no deadlines for God. He hastens or he delays as he sees fit. And his timing is all-loving toward his children. Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness. I don’t mean that we make peace with darkness. We fight for joy. But we fight as those who are saved by grace and held by Christ.

When I saw that, I just had to read the rest, so I’ve downloaded the rest and I’ll dive into it tonight.

How good is our God, to take the time in the midst of my drawn out, slow-motion temper tantrum, to remind me that He is good. He is faithful.

He is there.

True Love

“And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” – John 4:21

If I say I love God, but I don’t love my family and friends, I am a liar, and God’s love isn’t in me. God is love. A relationship with Him is characterised by perfect love and indescribable peace. It is is not a relationship filled with judgment, hate, persecution and guilt. It is free of fear or retribution.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – John 4:18

Freedom from fear

The truth is that I am not perfect. While I certainly don’t fear for my soul, I do get fearful here on earth. Will we make the ends meet this month? Will bad guys break into my house? Will the economy collapse? These are fears that have plagued nations and individuals almost as long as there have been nations and individuals. But that waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night, gut-wrenching terror about the future of my soul if there should happen to be a forever? Nope. I’m sorted. I have peace.

What, then, is love?

How does this perfect love play out in one’s life? Being imperfect, I certainly don’t see people the way God does. But I do know that I can model my actions on His, and develop a worldview that mirrors God’s devotion to us. When we’re learning a new skill, who better to learn from than someone who’s mastered it? And when we learn to love, who better to learn from than The Master?

Let’s review, then. How has He shown His love for us?

  1. He made us. That’s pretty big. He gave us life – arguably the greatest gift this side of forever.
  2. He gave us choice. He could have made us all love Him automatically. Instead, He lets us choose our own path through life.
  3. He gave us His Word. Even though we have the option of going any way we like, He gave us the manual, and shows us how to get the most out of what He’s given us.
  4. He gave us Jesus. To make it easier to understand His Word and His will, he sent us His Son. A gentle and humble teacher, overflowing with love for each of us, Jesus lived out the Way, and taught us how to do so, too.
  5. He gave His life. What greater gift could anyone ask for, ever? He gave everything; He took our place.
  6. He conquered death. Not only did He take our place in paying for our sin, He took away death and gave us everlasting life.
  7. He did all that – and we did not deserve a bit of it. Before we were created, He’d saved us (if we want to be saved – He’s even left that choice up to us). We certainly couldn’t have earned a single one of these demonstrations of love before we even existed. He loved us first.

That’s pretty awesome, right? So how should I love, if this is my model?

  • I should love first. I shouldn’t wait for the person to earn it, ask for it, or deserve it.
  • I should love sacrificially. Love doesn’t always cost something. But I should love even if it does cost me something. I should love even if it costs me everything.
  • Loving is giving. Do I have what you need? Here ya go, then. It’s yours. You don’t have to pa me back. I ask for nothing in return.
  • Loving is forgiving. Whether you meant to hurt me or not, whether you want my forgiveness or not, whether you know I exist or not, I forgive you, and won’t hold it against you.
  • Loving is taking action. Saying, “I love you” is not enough. I show my love for you by meeting your physical and emotional needs to the very best of my ability. Whether you need warm clothes, a plate of food, a place to stay, a hug, or any other practical, real demonstration of my love, I need to be willing to do it.
  • Love gives life. Our words and actions have power. Every day we impact lives in ways too numerous to mention. We can use that power for good if we choose to. We can breathe energy and encouragement and joy into the lives of others. Love chooses life.

Perfect Love requires no payment.

I love imperfectly. I want a reward for my sacrifice, and I withhold good from those to whom it is due (Prov. 3:27), even if I have it by me, because I have harboured some root of bitterness in my heart against that person (Heb. 12:15). I may be justified in my pain and disillusionment, but that doesn’t make me right. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I’m walking in God’s love. If I can harbour a root of bitterness and not forgive, then I’ve lost sight of what really matters in life. I’m focusing on me. And having walked that way, I can testify that it is not the way to happiness.

Imagine.

Imagine a world without conflict or hatred. A world of peace and self-sacrifice, where everyone has what they need and no one goes without. Imagine a world in which no one judges anyone, no one keeps score, no one is selfish. That’s the world I’m living for, and I’m going to start today by loving in deed, not just in words.

How about you?

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