Category Archives: Joy

Sweet Simple Things


“It is the sweet simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”—Laura Ingalls Wilder

Yesterday, I read of a fellow blogger’s death after a long battle with cancer.

I had never read her  blog before, but as I perused what she had left behind, I was touched by her radiant smile, beautiful photography, courageous spirit, and deep love for her family.

She wrote about the immense joy she found in doing the “normal” things that cancer treatment had made impossible: taking a trip to the mall in search of the perfect prom dress for her daughter, making lunch and dinner,  seeing her kids off to school in the morning, doing everyday chores, etc. These simple, day-to-day things that can be a source of complaint for us at times were instead a rich source of  delight and satisfaction for her.

This lady knew well what Ann Voskamp has written: “Everything is a staggering gift.”

I try to remember that every single day.

There is joy to be found everywhere, if we only have eyes to see.

My prayer for today is that God will open my eyes to the fact that my life is bursting with gifts from above…that He will enable me to stay intensely focused on the present moment…that I will treat this day as if it is my last…so that when I go to bed this evening, there will be no regrets, no moments left un-lived or unobserved, no kind or encouraging word unspoken.

Please pray for Sarah’s husband and two daughters as they begin this new and difficult journey without her.

Hug your loved ones tight today  Treasure your moments. And celebrate the sweet simple things.

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Smile on Aisle Five


In light of this post and of course, this one, I no longer see any day as “ordinary.”

I have discovered that when I live a life of gratitude for even the smallest things, the world around me comes alive with a joy that shimmers…and dances…and celebrates…and beckons me to take one step further…because there is always more.

Joy can be found even at a Marshalls store on a Saturday afternoon.

My daughter was on a hunt for the perfect pair of jeans.

Two trips to two stores on Friday afternoon with me had yielded no results, so hopes were high on the ride to  the local Marshalls.

The ride itself is a beautiful one, courtesy of the majestic mountain views. I took it all in as the four of us joked, laughed, and discussed current events while eighties music played in the background.

Doug, Josh, and I finished our shopping well before Julia did, so we all met up in the ladies department. She had found the jeans fairly early so now the search was on for some cute tops.

I did not offer to help because when I had tried to do so the previous day, holding up what I thought was darling for her approval, I was met with such comments as:

“That is hideous!”

“NO!”

“You’re kidding, right?”

(All of these comments were made with copious eye rolling, followed by a plea to be allowed to shop in peace).

So, it was with great interest that I watched Doug walk over to Julia, stand beside her, and begin to go through the racks.

I called out, “What are you doing?”

Smiling, he looked over at me and said simply, “I’m helping.”

Julia’s face registered initial surprise, followed by a big smile as she allowed her dad to offer assistance.

I was so touched by that moment.

It was so small…but so significant.

I whispered a prayer of thanks to God for the gift that my husband is to our children. But especially for the gift that he was giving to our daughter in that moment.

I love that he cares…not just about the big things, but the little ones too.

I love that he– a soon-to-be 48 year old man who knows nothing of teenage fashion–was willing to try simply because if it was important to our daughter, it was important to him.

A tiny smile continued to play on Julia’s face as she and her dad searched side by side.

It was an endearing sight.

Eventually the perfect top was added to the perfect jeans, birthday money was spent…and a sweet memory was made.

Never underestimate the power of a small gesture…sometimes that speaks louder than a grand one.

(By the way, I did feel slightly better that nothing Doug chose made the cut either.) 🙂

Do not disdain the small. The whole of life…is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole.”–Ann Voskamp

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Simple Joys


I am going be honest and admit that when I woke up this morning–which happens to be the second day of spring–and discovered that five inches of snow had fallen overnight, my first reaction was not happiness.

I was slightly irritated.

This has been a long winter.

Lately, spring has seemed so close, tantalizing us with lots of sunshine, warm temperatures, and gentle breezes…only to disappear entirely this morning, leaving us with another day of gray skies, snow, and cold.

As I turned from the window to start my day, this verse immediately came to mind: “I have set before you today life…” (Deuteronomy 30:15)

Life is a precious gift to be treasured.

This is the day that the Lord has made and I am commanded to rejoice in it (Psalm 118:24).

Was I really going to complain about the weather???

A few minutes later, I read what my friend Margaret had posted on Facebook. While most of the status reports were filled with complaints about the snow, her status was a like a breath of fresh air: “I’m enjoying possibly our last glimpse of winter wonderland before spring fully arrives. Beautiful white flakes coating the trees. What a gift!”

Rather than enduring a gray day, she was enjoying it.

Instead of just seeing snow, she observed a winter wonderland.

She was fully embracing realityrather than wishing for what might have been.

I decided to follow her example and spend the day looking for all the simple joys I could find.

Among other things, I reveled in the following:

* snow coating the trees all along the roads, creating a canopy of dazzling white

*having a bowl of Lucky Charms for breakfast that made me feel like a kid again

*laughing with friends at lunch

*the sun breaking through the clouds, chasing away the gray

*patches of  bright blue sky that hint of summer

*the sound of melting snow, reminding me that spring really is here and winter’s tight grip is loosening

*the sprinkle of freckles across my son’s face

*embracing my husband in the middle of the kitchen and asking him to dance with me

*the clear, sweet sound of my daughter playing her flute

*the delightful taste of a chocolate chip cookie

*reading such a beautifully written  blog post that it moved me to tears

*having a long talk on the phone with my mom

*finishing a chapter of a good book

*singing praises to my beautiful God while listening to Third Day’s new album

*being grateful that I have eyes that see, ears that hear, and limbs that work

*getting an upbeat email from a dear friend who wrote to tell me that she loves me and is praying for me

My day was transformed by searching for the simple joys.

There are treasures everywhere.

Look for and celebrate the simple joys in your life this day…I would love to hear about them. 🙂

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Extreme Joy


The Lord your God is living among you; He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your  fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. —Zephaniah 3:17

This verse describes the  heart of Jesus bursting with divine celebration…over you, if you know Him as your Savior.

Of this verse, author Steve Fry explains in his book I Am: The Unveiling of God: “God’s joy knows no bounds…the word ‘joy’ here is a pretty animated word. In the Hebrew, it literally means: to become excited to the point of dancing in a whirlwind…He gets so excited about you and me that He exhibits the kind of joy that can only be captured in the imagery of a whirling dance.”

Does that not take your breath away? To know that you are the recipient of such divine passion and joy?  Jesus is your joy and, you are His joy!

If you are a Christ follower, Jude 1:24 assures us that there is coming a day when Jesus will “present you faultless before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exaltation (with unspeakable, ecstatic delight).

When you are finally in the physical presence of Jesus, He will be filled with ecstasy…rapturous delight, overpowering exaltation, intense feeling! Did you know that He longs for that day? In John 17, He expresses His heart to God the Father when He prayed, ” I desire that they…may be with Me where I am, to see My glory.”

In the original language, the word for this type of  joy means: “exceeding joy, exultation, extreme joy…to leap.”

This is joy getting physical. This is the joy that Jesus exhibits over you.

And He wants you to have and experience that very same joy!

Jesus Himself said that it is His desire “that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11). Jesus wants you to be filled to the brim with joy, to be thoroughly permeated and saturated with His very own joy! 

The closer you are to Him, the deeper your joy.

How do you get closer to Him? Read His love letter to you, which is the Bible. The more you know His Word, the easier it will be for you to recognize His Voice.  See His extraordinary artistic creativity in the beauty of the world around you. Observe His attentive care for your physical needs. Revel in the tender  healing touch He brings to your heart as you begin to apply His precious promises to the places that hurt the most. Live in gratitude for all the blessings you have been given, no matter how small.  Listen to the pure joy in the laughter of a child.

This day—and every day—you are invited into the joy of Jesus.

We see this clearly in Zephaniah 3.  In verse 14, we are encouraged to sing aloud and rejoice and exult with all our hearts to our God. Then in v. 17, we see Jesus doing the same over us! It is a beautiful give-and-take…you enjoying Jesus and Jesus enjoying you!   Bliss!

One morning last week, I awoke with worries threatening to overwhelm my mind.  As I opened my Bible for my devotions, I was led to verse after verse about Jesus’ exultant joy over us. Then, I read about that same  joy in the book I am currently reading. And finally, I heard Beth Moore speak about His joy for us as I listened to one of her DVDs. At that point, it finally dawned on me that Jesus was trying to get my attention! He was encouraging me to see past the cares of this world and take a concentrated look into His delightful heart where Peace and Joy reign.

He was inviting me to fully enter into His joy that was mine for the taking.

I accepted…and a day that had begun gray and cloudy became radiant with the bright colors of joy and hope.

And today, He extends that same invitation to you.

Will you accept?

“The threefold joy of the Lord (is): His joy in ransoming us, His joy dwelling within us as our Savior and His joy in possessing us, as His bride and His delight; it is the consciousness of this joy which is our real strength. Our joy in Him may be a flucuating thing; His joy in us knows no change.”–James Hudson Taylor

(If you are interested in checking out the Scripture references where this kind of joy (agalliao) is mentioned, you can find them at the following addresses: Matthew 5:12, Luke 1:47, Luke 10:21, John 5:35, John 8:56, Acts 2:26, Acts 16:34, I Peter 1:6,8, I Peter 4:13, Revelation 19:7)

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Fullness of Joy


You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand, there are pleasures evermore.–Ps. 16:11

One Sunday morning in January 2002, our small group leader posed a challenge to all of us in his class at our church: Ask Jesus to give you a verse for the new year so that by December, you will have lived that verse. The goal was that for the rest of our days, that Scripture would not just be words on a page to us;  but those words would be written forever on our hearts by the nail-scarred hand of our Savior.

That year was absolutely life-changing for me in so many ways. As a result, I have asked Jesus for the same gift every December. I then begin to keep my eyes and ears open and without fail, He begins to give me the same Scripture over and over again from a variety of sources. By December 31st, I have my verse and my theme for the upcoming year.

Imagine my delight when He disclosed the theme for 2009: JOY! My Scripture was Ps. 16:11 and I was ready for  what would surely be an amazing year! And it was.

However, not at all in the ways I had imagined.

I’ll never forget the day I excitedly told Doug that the theme Jesus had given to me for 2009 was joy. Rather than being as thrilled as I was—because he is a very wise man—he looked slightly green around the gills and tried to summon a faint smile. You see, he knew what I was conveniently overlooking: Jesus doesn’t have to teach you about joy when life is rosy.

Suffice it to say, life didn’t stay rosy for long; trials hit and they hit hard. Among other things, my husband’s job was cut and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  That was my invitation from Jesus to go deeper into relationship with Him…to take a journey into a joy that I had never known prior to that season.

Joy is NOT happiness. Happiness is dependent on favorable circumstances. Joy is a supernatural gift from heaven that can blaze strong and shine bright in spite of circumstances. “Joy (can) express itself in laughter and elation, yet it draws from a deep spring that keeps flowing long after the laughter has died and the tears have come.” —Sherwood Wirt.

Jesus is the personification of Joy. He IS joy. He is the Source of Joy.  Hebrews 1:9 boldly declares this about Jesus: “God has anointed You with the oil of exultant joy and gladness above and beyond Your companions.”

In his book, In The Footsteps of Jesus, author Bruce Marchiano writes: “Yes, Jesus smiled; yes, Jesus laughed. Jesus smiled wider and laughed heartier than any human being who has ever walked the planet. He was young. He radiated good cheer. The real Jesus was a man of such merriment, such gladness of heart, such freedom and openness, that He proved irresistable. He became known among Galilee for His genuine strength, the sparkle in His eyes, the spring in His gait, the heartiness in His laugh, the genuineness of His touch, His passion, playfulness, excitement and vitality: His JOY! He made a dazzling display of love. He set hearts on fire. He was an elated, triumphant young man with an incredible quality of life…so different from the solemn religious types He constantly encountered.”

Yet, Jesus Christ suffered more than anyone ever has or will on this planet. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah. 53:3). However, that immense suffering never affected his joy.  That blazing, divine joy remained abundant and overflowing, even as He went to the cross.

As the difficult season unfolded, I clung to Ps. 16:11. It said that He would show me the path of life.  He knows exactly what is on that path and where it leads. Sometimes that path has some painful detours, but my joy need not ever be affected. Why? Because 16:11 tells me that “in His Presence is fullness of joy.”  His Presence never leaves me;  so His joy is always available.

But I have to choose it.

As Henri Nouwen once said, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday.”

Choosing joy became my lifeline…especially when fear filled my heart and threatened to overwhelm me. I clung to the promises in God’s Word  with all my strength. I learned to live within today’s parameters and to focus on  my many blessings, rather than what I lacked. I learned to trust my Savior’s inexhaustible provision.  I learned that Jesus is ENOUGH.

Always.

The joy of the Lord truly became my strength…even when the storms grew in frightening intensity. Yet…to my great delight, I found that the joy of Jesus was…and is… always stronger than the storm.

At the end of 2009, my dear friend Penny made me a wonderful gift that I will always treasure:

This is the first thing I see when the day begins. It is a physical reminder of the intangible yet very real gift of joy.

Joy always triumphs.

Blessings,

Susan

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One Thousand Gifts


As much as I love to read (a quick glance at my “Books I Love” page will attest to that! :), there are few books that I would classify as life-changing.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp definitely qualifies as a life-changer. Ann is a beautiful, lyrical writer; one who paints breathtaking word-pictures across the hearts of her readers.  I did not want the book to end and the minute I read the last word, I turned right back to the first chapter and began reading all over again! Almost every page is highlighted, underlined, and starred. Simply put, this book powerfully stirred my soul and filled me with joy.

One day in  November a  couple of years ago, Ann received an email from a friend, daring her to make a list of one thousand blessings in her life. That simple exercise proved to be a journey into joy for Ann. She discovered that “thanks is what multiplies the joy and makes any life large…God gives the gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.” (pp. 48, 57).

Joy is a huge theme in my life (more on that subject in posts to come) and when I decided to accept the same challenge,  I was delighted to discover  that  immense joy filled my heart as my eyes were truly opened to all the gifts and beauty that surround me daily: a snow-covered backyard bathed in the light of a full moon;  my son playing a piece from “Fiddler on the Roof”; the sound of my daughter laughing with her friends;  the feel of my husband’s strong arms around me at the end of a long day; the smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven; the sun making the white snow glitter like a million diamonds; sharing childhood memories with my brother. To say nothing of eyes that see, legs that walk,  and ears that hear!  Gifts are everywhere!

As Ann so rightly declares: “…the heights of our joy are measured by the depths of our gratitude.” (p.166).

Life is such a precious gift, bestowed upon us by our Creator.

However, we so often take that gift for granted.

We live, but we are not fully alive.

We see, but we do not savor. (When is the last time you truly gazed at the  faces of the ones you love, rather than just taking a passing glance?)

We pass the time (and sometimes even waste it) , but we do not invest it.

We tend to focus on all that is wrong rather than celebrating what is right.

We rush through our moments  rather than treasuring them .

We worry rather than worship.

This day, choose to see–really see– the gifts that surround you, no matter how small. Begin to name them.

Choose gratitude…and you will find joy.

I do not write these words from an ivory tower. Life has been hard these past several months. Fears loom large, tears spill, and there are more questions than answers sometimes.

YETgratitude has a way of redeeming those fearful moments into a celebration of the goodness of my beautiful God in the midst of the pain.

Embark on a treasure hunt through your life. Celebrate the gift of today, right where you are.

This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. — Ps. 118:24

Blessings,

Susan

(You can find Ann Voskamp’s blog at: www.aholyexperience.com and the Amazon link to “One Thousand Gifts” is on my ‘Books I Love’ page).

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