Joy of My Heart

 

West Roseville Sunset HDR by dhworth, on Pix-O-Sphere

I have been given a place; a role in this home. Each morning I awake, I try to prepare for the coming of the day. Self fights me hard. Constantly wanting it's own way. There is so much unrest in an undisciplined life. So much frustration that comes when I am outside the place I have been given.

But when I remain inside that heart-place; when I weave my heart steadfast into the work God has placed before me, joy finds me. I don't create it and I don't will it. When I focus that which He has laid out for me and serve as a gift back to Him, joy finds me there. Joy isn't found in the "doing", it is found in the "being". I don't need to seek out the doing--as the Spirit leads me, He becomes me. That's where joy is--in His leading and the reality that I just can't help but follow Him.

Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111

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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Have I Become So Distracted?

candle at night by ashley, on Pix-O-SphereThe constant pull of life. The urgent beckons my attention. And at the end of the day? My flesh screams to be entertained: by television, by computer, by books. I have so much around here to keep me busy and entertained, it's easy to make excuses for why I can't get alone with God.

I go about my days, living my own life---as if it were mine to live. And maybe, just maybe, if I squeeze some time in, I can get alone with God.

Has life distracted me so much that I can't make time for the One who gives me life? Am I hiding behind the excuses that "God knows my heart"? Yes, He does know my heart.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Yes, God knows my heart all right.

This is precisely why I need to set everything aside to take time to be with Him. Not spare time but specific time.  Time set aside just for Him.

Oh it's so easy to turn on the television or click through the computer! It's so appealing. It draws me in. Just for a minute. Just one show. But that one minute leads to 60. And that one show leads to 3. By the end I am too tired and sleep calls me.

I go to bed, regretful. I wish I had spent more time with God today.

New Moon by hskubes, on Pix-O-Sphere

I wake up to begin the whole day over again. But I change nothing, and so the days go. And God is left in the background, watching me, but never invited to join in.

Do I mistake myself with the belief that He is pleased with me because He knows my heart? {And this heart has much to learn, I assure you}. Because, I really wanted to read His word and pray but just didn't get around to it? Are my excuses really acceptable? Did I really want to be with Him? Or was I clinging to grace's abundance? (Romans 6:1)

1 John 2:4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

For several weeks I have been reevaluating my heart and my walk with Him. I have not liked what I've been shown. In fact, my heart burns with ache and sorrow. It yearns for more of Him.

Is it really so hard to say no to the things that empty me of life? Life in Him?

All He wants is for me to seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6 ... He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Psalms 119:2 2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart!

Proverbs 8:17 17 I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.

Everyday I say tomorrow's the day. Tomorrow I'll do it right. Yet, I'm not even promised tomorrow.  I need Him so much today. Now.

Today is the day. Now is the time.

Nothing, not a thing, is more important than God.

This is where the flesh meets crucifixion. Where selfish desires are starved out. Where distractions are removed. All the things I thought I was capable of doing and have failed at as a result. Capable, as if it were my job to do.

Slowly, God is purging my heart. One thing at a time, thrown out to make more room for Him.

What are some things you need to throw out? Care to purge together?

Real Devotion to God

Bible

As a follower of Jesus, there are certain things required of me.  Love and obedience to God are but a beginning.  There have been some serious stirrings which are leading to painful awakenings in my spiritual life {which  really should be my whole life}. I love God. I love Him with a very imperfect love. And I love Him more in word than I do in deed.

And...

I have been challenged in a serious way with regards to my devotion to God.

You see, it's easy to listen to all the wonderful things God can do for me, and hold Him to all the promises He makes. It's easy to keep God in the background of my life--playing worship in the background, praying throughout the day, in the background, hanging scripture in the background. I go about my life with God hanging in the background.

None of those things are bad, but they are not enough. They cannot replace real devotion to God. Being devoted means you have a profound dedication to something [or someone], or are earnestly attached.  (dictionary.com) Am I truly dedicated to God? Does He penetrate the depths of my being? Do I seek and chase after Him as if I truly need Him?

I don't think I totally fathom just how much I need Him. Instead, I cling to my comfort and security. I cling to my things as if I need them.  When I have all this other stuff to run to, where does that leave God? Yes, I recognize that He has provided all these things, but could I leave them all behind and be perfectly content with only God?

I want to run after God with the awareness that He is all there is, and He is all that matters.

A few weeks ago, I was living with the belief that my relationship with God was OK. Not perfect and not even great, but stable. No, I wasn't necessarily happy with that position either--but now? Now, I see my relationship with God in a dangerous place. My eyes have been opened to my complacency.

Living in all this comfort, I have lost sight of devotion to God. I've indulged in the flesh and have allowed that to be a poor substitute for living in the Spirit. And I do mean poor. Because the flesh is never satisfied and it constantly craves more and more of what it's after. After a while, I've become so immersed in satisfying it, I can't even pull away to nurture my spiritual life.

Distractions are such a big problem. It's unbelievable how many things distract us and literally pull us away from God. I'm learning something seriously hard. There is no excuse, NO EXCUSE, not to make time for God. He should be second to NOTHING. He has given me all that I have: my family, my home, my stuff, my LIFE. I have no excuses for putting any of it in front of Him. If I find myself too busy, then something needs to go. Or everything need to go. Nothing should take up my time with Him.

The basic foundations of the life of a follower of Christ are reading His word and prayer. It doesn't stop there, but often, we don't even begin there. Somehow we think we can get by without making time for these very important aspects of our faith. Let's be painfully honest with ourselves. We make excuses as to why we do not make time for God. There are so many reasons but the bottom line is that we need Him.

Does our life show our devotion to Him? Not our idea of devotion, but His.

Luke 9:23 (NLT) 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.

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