Sunday, November 27, 2011

Joy in THIS Season

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Pounds have been gained and are desperately desiring to be shed. (Although, I did quite well and didn't gain any from our turkey dinner!) :) Now, as we head into the Christmas season, shoppers are hitting the malls and stores. Christmas tree lots are sprouting up faster than ever. Putting up Christmas decorations and tree decorating have been the focus of the weekend for many homes. Christmas is a time of great pleasure and joy for me. I love Jack Frost nipping at my nose. I love putting on my heavy jacket and gloves just to walk across the street to 7 Eleven. I enjoy seeing my breath hang in the air as I leave the house at nine in the morning. Winter and Christmas, for me, is a joyful season. But that is not the Season I am referring to in my title.
The season I am referring to is the season of life you are in right now. Are you on cloud nine because everything is going your way? I pray you will find joy in that. Did you get that Christmas bonus you were hoping for? You did? Find joy in it. Did your kiddos make the honor roll or get the lead in the school program? Find joy in that! Did you get THE envelope saying the company needed to down size and had to let you go? Find joy in that. Did you get the mid-night call a family member has passed away? Find joy in that.
You see, I did. I received a phone call on Friday morning just a little after 4:30 a.m. My sister, nephews and I had just returned from Black Friday shopping. My head hit the pillow some time after 2:30 a.m. I awoke to the tear-stricken voice of my sister, Kim, telling me Vic, my step-dad, had passed away just a few hours beforehand. I was shocked, stunned, just as she was. We knew his time was getting closer because he was in the hospital with pneumonia while battling stage four lung cancer. We just didn't realize it would be a measley few hours later when he would take his last breath. My mom and sisters are heart broken. The loss for them seems to hard to bear at times, and rightly so. Vic is the first death we have had to face on my side of the family. I have walked down the path of death before in Chris' family, 4 times, to be exact. It's hard. It can be devastating when someone you love leaves this earth before their time, or so we think. So, where is the joy? Joy and happiness are two totally different things. Am I happy Vic died? Nope. Do I have joy, no matter what the circumstance? Yes. Why? Because I have Jesus. Please don't misunderstand me. I am in no way happy at the circumstances that have fallen upon my family. I have been doing Max Lucado's study, and this week, I am studying joy. He says this, "Jesus embodied a stubborn joy. A joy that refused to bend in the wind of hard times. A joy that held its ground against pain." So why is it that I can have joy? Just because Jesus did? Yes. Look at what John 15:11 says, "These things I have spoken to you that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be made full." Jesus wants His joy to be in me. I can have His joy. I am not happy, but I can have Jesus' "sacred delight" as Max Lucado describes it.
My family is walking through the shadow of death right now. I don't see that changing any time soon. My grandmother is often telling my sisters and myself she has nothing more to live for. She is 90 years old and tired. Her body is wearing down, and she says she is ready to go to heaven. She isn't sick or depressed. Just tired. The shadow of death may linger over my family. How long will my grandfather live without my grandmother? I don't know. God does, though. And I can rest in His ever capable hands because He tells me, "I will go nowhere toorrow that He hasn't already been. Truth will still triumph. Death will still die. The victory is mine. And joy is one decision away-seize it. The sacred summit. A place of permanence in a world of transition." (Max Lucado). Joy. It isn't hard to find, but it is sure hard to keep, isn't it? It doesn't have to be, though. Jesus is willing to give it if only we are willing to accept it. In this season of your life, may you experience the joy Jesus is giving to you. During this season of heartborkenness in my family, in the midst of sadness, I am choosing joy. Max and I will leave you with this, "Take a trip with the King to the mountain peak. It's pristine, uncrowded, and on top of the world. Stubborn joy begins by breathing deep up there before you go crazy down here." May you experience His joy during THIS season.

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