November 6, 2011

Joy in the Rain

I sat down tonight to drink my sleepy tea and let my mind unwind from the events of the day. I have to sigh and laugh a little as I pick up my joy journal... the one that happened to be the only paper I had to record the name, number and license of the driver I "bumped" into in the parking lot earlier this evening. That one when in the rainy dark night I looked left, right, and left again and CRASH.

I have to chuckle to myself. God's sense of humor. I've been extra challenged to find the blessings in all circumstances lately. When my family hit an unexpected  and giant hurdle this spring, God kept gently reminding me of the call to give thanks... in all circumstances. Paul gave the challenge in his first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica - "Be joyful always; pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes. 5:16-18) But when the unexpected crashes into your life and leaves a dent... even then?

I gave myself the pep talk... I can do it. I can find the beauty in the midst of rain. I can give thanks even in the midst of pain, despite the pain. I can find other things around it. Like the fresh mangos, special students, treasured friends and even scooter rides at lunch at the Herb Garden! They are all still there surrounding the hurdle. The hurdle doesn't take these beautiful things away.

It seems God has uped the anti. There it is, staring back at me. Ephesians 5:20 Paul's call to be "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything..." (my emphasis) What? How can this be? Finding good surrounding the bad i can do. But this? Can I  give thanks for all circumstances? Not just for the happy new job, warm house, plenty to eat good circumstances. Could I do that? Can I do that? Can I trust that God has something good for me in it, even though all I see is pain?

Just a page before this challenge Paul passionately writes to the Ephesians pouring out his longing for them to "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love... that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God..." (Ephesians 3:18-19) Is this what it takes? To be filled up full by God do I have to give thanks for all circumstances?

It sounds backwards. It FEELS backwards. How is pain going to lead me to hope and fullness? All of my being wants to stop pain, prevent pain, wear the 'helmet' that will keep me... and my Chicklets... safe.

In the midst of this challenge I've been reminded to start a Joy Journal again. Years ago I sat daily and stopped to see the sunlight, the roses, the smell pleasures of a backyard swing. And then I stopped. This month author Ann Voskamp and her book "One Thousand Gifts" have challenged me to start again. To stop and see the beauty and blessings of life, whether in a day of mess or bliss. 1,000 gifts of blessing. Can I find them? Will I find them?  Can I find the beautiful in the midst of the rain?

Like I said, the very core of me does not like the sound of this. I want to protect, prevent, make the right choice so I don't have the bad consequence.

But God has a sense of humor. And sometimes no matter how careful I am, the crashes still come. Tonight it came right out of my blind spot and left a nice dent and broken fog light on the front of my car.  And there in the back of my new Joy Journal are all the details... can I turn them around and find a blessing? I can't "protect". I messed up. In the split second of darkness, rain, and blind spots my best intentions couldn't stop it. So now what?

Now what?
What joy, what thanks?

#16 we are all safe - no injuries
#17 doing the right thing in front of my kids - I don't always do as I say... but tonight I did as we waited for the other driver and helped her get a tow truck, when we legally didn't have to. I pray it will stick with my kids... more than a lecture. More than a school assembly. How we waited, and waited, 'till the one we bumped was safely on her way home.

#18 bedtime snuggles - because they are so sweet... any day. especially on messy days.

I love how God gently nudges me, patiently waits for me, teaches me one step at a time to not just make it through a challenge but find a blessing in it. It may not be much, but it's a start. It's a step toward the beautiful and away from the ugly,  angry, picking at the scratch that could choke me down.

I can't say I've found my blessing the big hurdle yet. I'm not quite there. But one step at a time.

Today, I found something to be thankful for, joyful for, in a mess.
Today I danced in the rain.
One more splash of joy...

(Photos... my Chickadee and me dancing in the pouring spring rain in Taiwan.)

(Discover the challenge for 1,000 gifts yourself. Visit Ann Voskamp's blog: )