"Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Faithful Friday: JOY

Joy wasn't something I thought we'd ever feel in December again, much less the other 11 months of the year.  When our world turned upside down, after the loss of our son, joy seemed impossible.

I remember seeing the scripture, "Joy comes in the morning," shortly after Austin's death and almost feeling anger at the thought.  In the depths of our grief, the idea of ever waking up to joy wasn't something I could comprehend.

But great loss doesn't always have to be the reason joy escapes our lives.  Sometimes, some seasons, joy just seems hard to find.  For whatever the reason, morning after morning, joy doesn't come.

As the days grow shorter and colder, finances tighter, and stresses increase, depression can peak.  If this sounds more like what you are facing now, friend, my prayer is that joy will find you this Christmas.

For me, it did come in the morning, just not right away.  Nearly two years after, in the wee hours, well before the sun arose, a stirring brought me out of bed.  God nudged me to the computer to write, my release, and told me I had to choose joy.

This blog, my life's challenge, began.

Has it always been easy?  Absolutely not.
Are there days joy is hard to find.  Sometimes.
Did it erase all the pain and hurt?  No, but it helped to soothe it.

With each day, each effort to search is out, the challenge became less and less.
Until eventually, joy was just there.  Here.  Everywhere.

Through this journey I've learned that joy is not the same as happiness.  Something doesn't need to happen, for joy to be.  It is more an internal radiance that, no matter what is going on around you, still exists.

"Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness -- happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes, 
when you're lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love."
Saint Adela Rogers Johns

Joy comes from gratitude.  Having a thankful heart increases joy.  It is a focus on what you have, not what you haven't.  There's a statistic that says those who track their gratitude are happier by 25%. More joy just from being thankful?  Yes, please.

And true joy, for me, comes from God.

A fruit of the spirit.  Joy is something that stirs and grows within us from Him.  As we walk closer with Him, our joy tank overflows and spills out to those around us.  Joy shared is joy doubled!

My challenge to you for the rest of this season, is to seek JOY.
Search it out.
Find it in the small, every day moments.
Live in gratitude.  Count your blessings.
Connect with God.  Pray.
And soon, one morning, joy will come.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Faithful Friday: Peace

Last Sunday, the candle of Peace was lit at our church.  Instantly, I was taken back to my greatest experience with true peace...the kind that only comes from God.

Peace from Above 
- originally posted on austinslegacy.blogspot.com

The night before Austin's visitation, I prayed for peace. Our emotions were so fragile and raw, I didn't know IF or How we would get through the services.

A simple phone call would set off a roller coaster of emotions, so much so that we gave our phones to family members to just take messages. We didn't want to seem rude but it was just too hard to live the horror over and over again with each new voice on the line.

We managed, for the most part, to do fairly well when visitors came to the house. I think it was a mixture of shock and the comforting distraction of being at home. I was worried though how we would handle the hours and overwhelming emotions that lay before us that week.

So I did the only thing I knew to do.  I prayed for peace.

At that point in our loss, we had no answers. When you lose a child, even with answers, it never seems right - or fair - or something you feel can completely wrap your mind around. It just doesn't make sense, life happens in a sequence and this type of loss is unexpected, unnatural. I didn't understand, certainly didn't agree, but I knew we needed God's help to get through.

Without realizing it, I began to pray from a scripture. Prior to that point, I don't know if I really even knew the true meaning. It wasn't until later, when I saw the scripture again in print, that I remembered it being my heart's prayer.

It always amazes me when the scriptures you've read over time come out in true form. That you not only understand them - but you live them.

People commented on how calm I was during visitation and at the funeral. I'm sure some thought I was medicated to get through it. But I didn't take so much as a Tylenol through that time - or since. Me "getting through" that difficult time was all God.

He gave me peace.

And it was a complete peace. I felt it wash over me as we entered the funeral home. It was incomprehensible. I still hurt and grieved for my child but I had peace. I knew where Austin was, I knew he was safe and happy and healthy and watching over us. It was a peace that passed all understanding. It was amazing and God is the only explanation.

That peace helped me get through the most difficult journey of burying my child. It is a journey no parent should ever have to make. The peace helped my family as well. They all looked to me and my emotions that week; I set the mood. My peace (His peace) carried over to them.

It didn't stay forever. There were deep, dark days of painful grieving. There still is sometimes. But that peace was there when I needed it most. For two complete days I had a glimpse of what Heaven must be like. That peace was amazing - there really are no words. That peace still helps me because I know someday we'll all have that,,,forever.

"Then God will give you peace, a peace which is too wonderful to understand. 
That peace will keep your hearts and minds safe as you trust in Christ Jesus."
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