Steady joy: A joy that cannot be tainted by circumstance. A joy that persists on our darkest of days. This is what God offers.
Over the past five weeks I felt both more joy and more stress than I have ever experienced before. Who knew they could co-exist? If having a new baby for the first time was not stressful enough, we decided to add in traveling across the country when Rebekah was just over two weeks old, a job tryout, and now a cross-country move and another trip to see my family in Nebraska. Call us crazy, but I do believe these are all good things. They are just hard to do with an infant . . .
I find myself fighting worry and fear more:
Is traveling with a newborn safe?
How are we going to do a 2-3 day move with a baby and dog?
Ugh. We have to pack up the house!
Where will we live?
Do we rent or buy?
Do we give Rebekah all her shots at once or spread them out?
How will flying alone with her go this next week?
I won’t lie. This is not how I envisioned the first three months of Rebekah’s life going. After all, isn’t having a baby for the first time transition enough without traveling and moving?
There have been moments that Satan has tempted me toward resentment. Not because our decision to move is a bad thing–we feel God leading us and believe it is the healthy choice for our family. Rather, I’ve felt resentment that I have to worry about these external details, when I want to focus on is being a mother to Rebekah.
Fortunately, every day I have the opportunity to step back, put the demands of laundry, packing, and insurance issues on hold and cherish every moment I can with our sweet girl. I don’t want to miss a thing. And maybe that means our clothes are wrinkled because it took me two days to fold them. Or maybe I haven’t posted on the blog in a week (or 3). In place of fear and regret, I have decided to connect myself to the steady joy that only God can provide. I am also trying to count my blessings when stress tempts me to despair. These past couple months God has poured more blessings into our lives than I think my heart can contain:
Our Rebekah was born healthy and strong after a peaceful labor. She has stolen my heart completely. I cherish every time she nuzzles her fuzzy head under my chin and over my heart for sweet cuddles. Her smile makes my day no matter how tired or stressed I may be feeling. I could (and sometimes do) sit for hours and just rock her, reading to her or simply cuddling.
In addition to the life-changing blessing of our daughter, our prayers have been answered over our ministry. My husband, Mitch, recently accepted a position as the new Youth and Family Minister at the Fairview Road church of Christ in Columbia, MO (If you find yourself in the area, come join us on a Sunday and Wednesday night at church–we would love to meet you!). We begin work there in mid-July. This move will be a blessing in more than one way:
- We will be working with a wonderful church family. During our visit there they took us in and treated us like family. They seem to place great value on genuine relationships and vulnerability, which is refreshing. The teenagers we will be blessed to work with are amazing! We cannot wait to begin ministering to them and working alongside their parents. Plus, their vision of ministry lined up closely with the vision of family ministry that God placed on our hearts over a year ago. In fact, when Mitch first read their job description, he was so moved that he cried.
- We will be back in the Midwest. And, not just the Midwest–the foothills of the Ozarks! My husband considers it the most beautiful place on earth. Seriously, come visit us if you are in the area and enjoy rolling green hills, tall trees, hike and bike trails, and rivers.
- Rebekah will be able to grow up close to her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Living so far away from our families has made us realize how important family is to us. We decided that if it was God’s will, we really wanted to move back closer. 🙂
As you can tell, I have A LOT to be thankful for right now. Focusing on joy over past couple months has been pretty easy. Nonetheless, Satan weaves in the stress of travel, transitioning, and sleep-deprivation to try and distract me. (Praise God that distracting us is all he can do because he can never really steal our joy.)
Last week, I sensed myself growing cranky and resentful. I would snap at Mitch for no reason. I felt utterly exhausted, and I hadn’t even packed a single box yet! I knew that I really needed to take time with God each day to refresh my spirit. After all, spending time with the source of joy is never a bad thing! Plus, I want to let Christ’s love, joy, and peace shine through me to others, especially our little Rebekah. Even at this young age, she is listening closely and learning to mirror our emotions. Babies are so in tune to the moods of their mothers, it makes me think a lot more about my words and tone. But in order to offer her true joy and peace, I need to pursue it through a genuine relationship with Jesus.
Last week, I remembered there was a book by one of my favorite authors, Alicia Britt Chole, that I really wanted to read: Pure Joy. It is a daily devotional book. Since the main focus of the book is joy–it was a timely choice. Every day, I sit down with it for a few minutes and Chole offers me a verse to focus on, a prayer, and a short thought. She has such a unique and insightful way of looking at the world around her and God’s word, that every time I read it, I walk away feeling more joy in my relationship with Christ.
In each section of the book she focuses on a different type of joy:
Section One: The Joy of God’s Love
Section Two: The Joy of God’s Guidance
Section Three: Joy in Following God
Section Four: Joy in Trusting God
Section Five: Joy in Loving God
Another book I love by Alicia Britt Chole is Anonymous: Jesus’ hidden years…and yours. It is a beautifully composed book that challenged and moved me to examine what season of faith and life I was in and how that season would prepare me for what life had in store. Poetic, powerful, and introspective. Seriously, one of my top 5 favorite books. If you know me at all, you know that is a BIG DEAL!
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If, like me, you find yourself battling Satan’s ploys to distract you from joy, find a way to daily focus on and remind yourself of why you have the joy that you do. Satan likes us to focus on the stress, fear, and worry in our lives. But God beckons us to look beyond our daily struggles and see that He has a made way: A way to salvation, a way out of fear and worry, a way to escape temptation, a way to approach His throne of grace for forgiveness, a way to endure any trial that comes our way, a way to the true source of love, and a way to commune with the Creator of the universe!
Fairview Road church of Christ has motto that sums up one our greatest reasons to have joy:
New Life. Every day. Because of Jesus.
When life if busy, stressful, or simply hard, how do you stay plugged into God as your source of joy?
P.S. Up next on my “Journey to Joy” reading list is C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. I have wanted to read this for quite some time. I am excited to finally get to it! But expect it to take me awhile . . . I have not had much time to read. I am still reading a novel I started before Rebekah was born. Yep. I’m a bit behind. But it can wait. 😉