Joy Is A Flame

Yesterday I was reading through One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, the chapter titled, "go lower". I nearly highlighted the whole chapter and just wanted to share some pieces of my heart (and Ann's) here. I'm willing to bet some of you can relate. ;) I am my own worst enemy. In trying to be a joyful mother, and all around woman, I have in fact snuffed it out. I have been holding on so tightly to my own control, that it has quenched the flame that is joy. I have been trying to control my environment in order to produce joy, yet in doing so I've only become frustrated when things don't go my way.

Ann said,

Joy is a flame that glimmers only in the palm of the open and humble hand.

The open hand represents a surrendered life--one not tightly closed on to control and self. But that is just what my hand has been doing; closing out all possibilities for real joy because I've been trying to create a false version through my own strength--my own stage of life.  I thought that if I added things that made me happy, I would find joy. Well, things don't make anyone happy for very long. Whether it is material items, knowledge, a hobby, girlfriends or anything else. None of these brings lasting joy when they are not preceded by Joy Himself.

The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy, writes Ann.

Could this be any more true for me? I have been clinging to my own agenda, my own needs, my own "rights", my own wants. But the truth is, I don't own anything. None of it is mine to begin with. This takes me right back to gratitude. I can be thankful for God's agenda, and that He provides for my every need, but I can't be the creator of it.

Ann goes on to say,

God does not give rights but imparts responsibilities----response-abilities----inviting us to respond to His love-gifts. ... Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control...let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. {Bold print mine} ... Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of the will.

-One Thousand Gifts

God gives us abilities--how are we responding to them? He gave me the ability to mother 5 children. Am I living the life He has called me to? Even more, He gave me the ability to worship Him, am I? It is not for me to do only what God can. It is only for me to obey--He does the doing. I want to open up my hand, the one carrying the flame [of joy] I am trying to protect, but am in fact suffocating--I want to open it so God's breath can fuel it. I must surrender---everything.

Question: Friend, what are you holding onto today?

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