We are in a community group at our church. We meet every Sunday evening with a group of 5 couples and 3 single moms, for dinner and to discuss what we're learning in church, and how we are applying it to our lives. This group of people has become like family to us, and I really look forward to Sunday nights. Our time together on Sunday was fantastic. All of the kids were at a different house with two babysitters, which provided peace for the adults. When I say all the kids, I mean ALL the kids: three 7-year-olds, two 5-year--olds, one 4-year-old, five 3-year-olds, two 2-year-olds, and two babies. Yikes!
Anyhoo, right now our pastor is doing a series on joy. He is teaching out of Philippians, and it has been really good. We discussed joy on Sunday night, specifically joy in the midst of trying circumstances. Every person in our group has gone through at least on major tragedy. Experiences include losing a child to drowning, 2 years of unemployment, divorce due to the spouse committing a major crime and landing in prison, the sudden loss of a young healthy husband, death of parents, a middle-aged mother with Alzheimer's, multiple miscarriages, etc. Some of these circumstances are still fresh and raw. The conversation turned from joy in circumstances, to the character of God. Joy and happieness are not the same thing. Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can have joy, even in the midst of pain, because we know God never changes, and God's promises always hold true. So even when I am unhappy...or miserable, the joy of the Lord that comes from knowing Him will uphold me. God is who He says He is.
We all shed a lot of tears on Sunday night, and it was good. I am so thankful for these wonderful people, with whom I can share my hurts, my doubts, my struggles, and my joys. They love me, encourage me, pray for me, and would do anything for me. I know that.
Yesterday I went to the funeral for the father of my dear friend Stephanie. I came home with a deep ache in my heart--not for her dad, but for Stephanie, her sisters, and their mother. I remember acutely the pain of losing a parent. I felt grumpy all evening. And I woke up grumpy this morning. The sky is heavy and gray, and it is cold out. So how does any of this relate to what I already wrote about? It all comes back to joy. I have a chance today to put into practice the things my group discussed on Sunday. I don't feel happy. At all. I feel as gloomy as the sky outside, especially when I start remembering that in a few months, I am moving away from my community group. Grrr! But here's what I am going to do, as agreed upon by those sweet friends on Sunday night. I am going to take my eyes off myself.
My pastor, in his message, gave us an easy acronym to help us maximize on God's joy in our lives.
I am going to put my focus on Jesus first, by spending some time with Him this morning. Then I am going to focus on Others, by going grocery shopping and getting a bucket of food to ship to Haiti (part of a project our church is doing). I will also get ingredients for the dinner I am making for a swim team teammate of Snapper's whose dad is in the hospital with a brain tumor. Then I will take another look at myself, and I imagine I'll be feeling a lot better.
There are three other sources of joy in my life: Matt, Snapper, and Pepper. I'll take a brief minute to brag on each of them.