(Preamble for the series repeated here for the first bit….) A joyful heart – a satisfied confidence and/or an unrestrained expression of enthusiasm or delight!
We strive for it, cultivate it, anticipate it, benefit from it, laugh with it, cry with it, have fun with it, radiate it, simply enjoy it – joyfulness is God’s design for us!
As I was preparing for this year of writing, I looked up some Bible verses which have (or could be translated) the word “joyful” in them. That little study, while scrawled on a couple of papers at my desk, is to be shared on this post or ones that follow through this year.
April – When my soul is satisfied in God’s character, that results in bringing me joy and in radiating it to others.
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.
Psalm 5:11 NKJV
And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; It shall rejoice in His salvation.
Psalm 35:9 NKJV
In the previous devotional (part 1 of this “A Joyful Heart” series here), I mentioned that we can’t always rejoice at the things around us (nor do we need to). But those who put their trust in the all-sufficient God can remain joyful IN HIM – Who He is. Think of the characteristics of God – they are so many – love, gracious, strength, merciful, kindness, justice, perfect, holy, compassionate, His Spirit indwelling believers in Jesus Christ (never leaving us), etc.. We can be secure in His promises to be sovereignly all-powerful and all-knowing to allow or do what is best when we are surrendered to Him – when we trust Him (Ps. 5:11, above). We don’t see the whole picture but God does. And we can still remain reassured of His personal care for us as individuals. The Bible teaches these concepts in many verses. Here are a couple of them:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 NKJV
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
1 Peter 4:19 NKJV
When I was a student many years ago, one of my prayers was that God would give me “beautiful feet”. Now that prayer wasn’t about my physical toes but rather about letting God’s character shine through me so that others would notice a difference and ask about the hope I had in my life (e.g. 1 Peter 3:15). I so much wanted them to know the peace that God brings but it wasn’t like I talked about it constantly because there were other topics of conversation about our studies. (Can I say here that one doesn’t need to talk constantly about their faith in God? You can do a word search for the word “always” in the Bible and see phrases like being mindful always of God, praying always, being always thankful, etc. but when it comes to direct speech, God says to always be ready to give an answer, not that we’re expected to talk always. I think this topic can also apply to how we homeschool and integrate our faith into daily life as a Christian family too but that discussion is elsewhere on this website.)
“…As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Romans 10:15 NKJV
I took a sewing class as an elective one semester in a Catholic college which was part of the secular university I was attending. One day, when the professor had left the room briefly, us ladies were busily sewing at our machines and chatting as a group. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard my name as an older student spoke from the other side of the group of machines. She referred to my name saying that it “fit well” because I was “so joyful” but wanted to know WHY I was joyful and just “radiating/shining with joy”?! (She was sure it wasn’t just because of my name and the others agreed. There was something different and they wanted to know about it. Would I please tell them?) I looked up a bit surprised but was delighted to talk about how a personal relationship with Christ had made that difference in my life – He lived in me because I had asked Him to! (cf. Ephesians 3:17). I had come to Jesus directly, repented of my sins, and put my trust in Him for my salvation. There was a small discussion as I explained a bit more and then the ladies were quiet, pondering what I had said that they too could know God in a personal way and have His joy, peace, salvation, and then our professor returned. Think back to a time(s) in your own life when God has answered your prayers to radiate His joy – it’s encouraging to remember Him working through you and using you to be a blessing to others!
When we focus our overall lives on knowing Him and wanting Him to work in our lives, we don’t crave/hunger for as many fleeting and temporary things in this life. And the joyfulness that we express as a result, is God’s character shining through our lives. We are remembering Him more, getting to know Him more, thinking of Him more and what He might be doing, regardless of the happy or bleak circumstances we are facing. Our focus is off of the stuff that doesn’t matter as much now or in our future on this earth or in eternity. We still pay a good attention to life around us (e.g. sewing) but we don’t expect it to be as important in comparison to knowing and showing who our Lord is. Our world doesn’t have to fall apart when circumstances change because our foundation of joy isn’t resting on those circumstances. Truly knowing Him in a humble and faith relationship brings salvation; it satisfies our souls and brings joy!
May and June – We can be joyful because the LORD strengthens us and provides all that is needed to do the work that He wants us to do!
The children of Israel were absolutely delighted when they recognized that they really could do all that God intended for them to do, even though they were faced with challenges. They saw that their role was to trust God, lean into His strength, and consider what His work was for them to do, rather than being discouraged by opposition or overwhelmed with their own idea of how situations might turn out or fail.
And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful,
and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them,
to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
Ezra 6:22 NKJV
By the end of April this year, my eye issues were troubling me more than usual again and we were puzzled. I mean, here was the time when I had hoped to finalize one to three (1-3) “so-close-to-being-done” curriculum books, among straightening up the house and yard, getting a garden in, etc.. On top of this, just a bit earlier in April, I had been asked to be a speaker at an online homeschool conference and had prayerfully accepted to record a video workshop. Now, this twist was a little interesting since, back in January, I had talked with a friend of mine about what perhaps someday I’d love to do with “Peppermint Stick” beyond the e-books and the answer was “speaking” – I had really enjoyed that years ago but then had had to pull back from going to conferences and there was no hope with my known physical challenges now for me to do that again. I had tried to also record a bit of video in my kitchen years ago but that didn’t work out – I’ve not been very knowledgeable in that kind of thing and our equipment kept blurring almost every time I moved. (And I’m not the type of speaker who can just sit still. 😉 ) However, perhaps some year I might be able to think more about that again???
When Covid19 arrived with its restrictions, online homeschool conferences became more prevalent and I decided to try to learn some of the newer technology used in this sort of thing by attending a couple of them (over my wired computer so yes, that EMF part was fine). Then here was a sudden, unexpected invitation to speak, record, and on top of things, it would not require much background preparation for the content of it. I really don’t know yet if the leader who requested the specific topic of “Art” knew that I had actually given a seminar about “Art in Christian Ministry” many years ago after compiling some ideas from my own experiences at camp, etc. and from my aunt (who is very gifted in this area of ministry) and so ALREADY had the basic outline and handout prepared!
We figured our old camera would be sufficient to take short clips (without trying to change the settings like we had tried and failed to get right years ago) but I would need to fine tune some parts to be more related to homeschooling, unpack a few art things, etc.. HOWEVER, the biggest challenge was what to do with my increasingly painful and challenging eyesight. It hadn’t been this painful since a couple of years ago (when I had been exposed to lots of wireless/wifi stuff) and we thought we were managing that part of life reasonably well. My “better eye” was the main problem this time and was really stinging. Maybe I needed more drops – my husband arranged to meet with our optometrist to get those. But that didn’t solve the pain or my eye needing to be closed most of the days. How was I supposed to type stuff into a computer? How was I supposed to record a video both seeing and looking well enough? How was this project supposed to get done before the pesky black flies and mosquitoes arrive (since our plan was to record outdoors)? I contacted my optometrist again – could I be considered “emergency” enough for him to be allowed to check out what was going on again? Sure!
To summarize that situation, he first discovered that there was “something deeply embedded” in my eye. He would give it about a half-week more and if it hadn’t ripped off on its own, he’d have to “dig for it to pull it out”. Then I could estimate about another 12 days to fully recover from that. (This was now around our wedding anniversary and Mother’s Day; we took family photos during periods when both eyes decided to stay open.) Bugs usually arrive about a week later in huge, hungry crowds and if one is outdoors much with a mouth open to talk, one either ends up having them fly in, aiming to be some sort of extra protein and/or one ends up giving an involuntary blood donation – none of that I wanted on my video, of course! (BTW, bugs were delayed in their arrival although they were around at times during filming. Thankfully, I was able to get enough clips without bugs. 😀 ) Again, people prayed for my eye, etc.. When I went back to my optometrist as planned, he said the “thing” had moved to the surface so he could just “pick it off” (and thus, a shorter time to recover to more comfortable eyesight again)! He figured it was a tiny piece of plastic and gave me that to take home and see it under our microscope. (Apparently sometimes teeny bits of plastic “just happen” to get into people’s eyes from floating around in the air.)
So, did I accomplish “my” plans for the spring? Not all of them. But I did do what God wanted me to do because HE provided and strengthened me to do the work HE wanted me to do! 🙂 And as we watched Him providing exactly what was needed in the manner or time He wanted it, it brought us true joy!
The video was LOTS of fun to do as a family project and easy enough to learn to edit with a new program we chose. We couldn’t upload it though (kept crashing day after day) so “snail mailed” to the conference instead. However, with Covid19 protocols, it got stuck in a city post office for a long time (and might still be stuck there yet). The conference was already running and needed that video very soon. We asked for prayer from friends again and the first one this time, an elderly lady from our church, asked if we could try her internet connection to upload it and she would pray there’d be no more roadblocks too. It took Rob about 45 minutes to get it uploaded and available to the conference leaders. Then, a few short moments after that task was completed, the entire community (including a couple of communities) who use that internet service company went totally off for the remainder of the day!
We serve a Great God Who personally cares about the details of our lives, don’t we?! 🙂
(P.S. The blog for anything other than curriculum topics is taking a break for a few months but I’ll plan on coming back to this series and other topics later this year. 🙂 )