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Lake & Mountain (4)“I don’t know what it means to have joy,” she said. “I’ve read all of the books, studied scripture, and prayed, but I don’t feel as though I have the joy we’re promised. I smile. I try to act cheerful, but it all feels like a lie.”

Does your heart break over the pain in these words? Are you, too, struggling to live a joy-filled life in a world saturated by painted on selfie-smiles and Pinterest-perfect photos?

After we talked, I stared blankly out the window. Did I know what it meant to live a life full of joy? Was I embracing the fullness of joy as God intended?

Jesus: Man of Sorrows, Man of Joy

Days later, I began studying the life of Christ-the “Man of sorrows…acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NKJ). Surely, the One who painted the sky at dawn and whispered creation into wakefulness must also have known joy.

Christ tasted the breadth and depth of feelings like no other before or since. Click To Tweet

Some may imagine Him as solemn or angry. As fully God and fully man, Christ tasted the breadth and depth of feelings like no other before or since. His capacity to experience life-and death-was both enriched and made even more horrible by perfection of spirit.

The pious held Christ’s joy as one of his most offensive characteristics. John 7: 34 (NIV) reads, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” At the same time, they accused his cousin John of being “a demon” because his life was stripped of celebration (John 7:33 NIV).

Who was Christ that he should be joyful?

He was from a no-count town and was neither appealing nor promising by human standards. He spoke about loving the unlovable and forgiving the unforgivable.  He associated with women-the worst of them. And His companions weren’t well-bred, educated men. They were fishermen and tax collectors-either under-appreciated workmen or greedy traitors.

Still, Christ knew joy like no other. Consider these verses.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

Jesus comforted his disciples with the promise of joy even though he'd already predicted his own death. Click To Tweet

The Greek word for joy is chara, which means calm delight. Fewer than twenty-four hours before his crucifixion, Jesus comforted his disciples with the promise of joy even though he’d already predicted his own death.

How could Jesus live with “calm delight” while death lurked nearby?

I believe it’s because He knew the end of the story.

Hebrews 12: 2 says, “…For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Instead of sorrow? Salvation.

Instead of ruin? Redemption.

Instead of tears? Triumph.

Instead of rejection? Rejoicing.

When Christ ascended to the throne, he embraced the glory from which he'd been absent. Click To Tweet

When Christ ascended to the throne, he embraced the glory from which he’d been absent and the Father from whose presence he’d been torn. Not only that, Friend. If you are Christ’s, then you were hand-delivered into heaven’s throne-room that day; your name is stamped in his palms.

There may be times we don’t feel happiness bubbling from us like a mountain brook that splashes its way down the mountain. I’d rather have the chara of Christ; the calm delight and peace of knowing “there is joy set before me”.

Peace and grace,

Tammy

Mondays   Mandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode, InstaEncouragements

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday WelcomWednesday /LetsHave Coffee

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network, Grace and Truth Linkup,

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The frustration ran deep and the journey was long. Decades of caring for anyone with a need left me collapsed on heaven’s doorstep. Lord, I’ve been serving a long time. When do I get to enjoy that abundant life I keep hearing about?

Don’t get me wrong. I saw glimpses and enjoyed seasons of fulfillment. Raising my daughters as a homeschool mom was a sacrifice rich in joyful memories. Befriending women in the church in various settings blessed me with delightful relationships. In spite of the good times, somehow along the way, I lost my bearings.

Why

Women are prone to that process. We tend to focus our empathy and compassion outward, doing our best to contribute to everyone else’s happily ever after. And there’s a reason for that. We live in a fallen world where mankind’s vertical connection with our Creator is broken, and horizontal relationships take precedent.

Eve may not have grasped the significance of God’s words when He explained the security of her divine friendship with Him was replaced with the uncertainty of a human bond. But she surely sensed the trauma triad of fear, shame, and panic when she and Adam were sent from the Garden, the only home she’d ever known.

 

What

Like Eve, the trauma triad grabbed hold of me. Violence and denial turned my childhood home into a fight-for-survival environment. Hypervigilance became my coping skill of choice as I worked to de-escalate the atmosphere. As a result, the people-pleasing habit plowed deep furrows across my path right into adulthood.

The people-pleasing habit plowed deep furrows across my path right into adulthood.#habits Click To Tweet

When I heard life would be grand if I trusted Jesus, I was ready for grand and walked the aisle. My immature reasoning latched on to what the Christian community taught. If I wanted to please Jesus, which I did, all I needed to do was become a servant. And everybody knows a good servant pleases the one they serve.

Family, friends, and fellow church members were already on my list of responsibilities when neighbors were added. Since God describes our neighbor as any needy soul with whom we interact, in order to please Him, I would need to please everyone around me. The vertical-horizontal effects of the Fall overwhelmed me.

 

Who

Collapse is a good description of the moment I realized I was twisted into a shape I didn’t recognize. My dedication to reach out to others to satisfy God led me to abandon the unique me He designed with a purpose. Worse still, my efforts to secure the Eden intimacy I craved with Him brought little more than a nodding acquaintance.

In mute despair, I looked to Jesus. His response was gentle and compassionate.

Jesus invited me to rest in His presence and His Word. As I responded, He reminded me how precious I am because I am His, that His promises of protection and provision are for me. He taught me that I need to set my focus on Him because what fills my thoughts becomes the object of my worship.

...What fills my thoughts becomes the object of my worship.#worship #rightthoughts Click To Tweet

In confession and repentance, by God’s mercy and grace, my view is clearing. His call to love others is based on our loving Him with complete abandon, to include a healthy dose of awareness and love for ourselves as His creation. With this relationship, we become divine conduits for His love to flow at His will.

Worship is my new weapon against trauma or anything that threatens my peace.#prayalways Click To Tweet

Worship is my new weapon against trauma or anything that threatens my peace. Scripture, prayer, music, change of scenery . . . whatever it takes to rip my focus away from the struggle and set it back on the One who made and cherishes me. The peace and joy that fill me are the best description of the abundant life I can imagine.

You turned my wailing into dancing;

you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Psalm 30:11-12 NIV

 

BIO

 

Sandra Allen Lovelace has been walking beside women cross-culturally for more than 40 years. She’s a popular speaker and biblical teacher known for her warm authenticity and practical approach. She’s also an author with an award-winning blog, two titles in print, and a third book in process.

By experience and training in the journey, Sandra informs, affirms, and inspires women as they heal from the impact of trauma. In her role as mentor and coach, she delights in watching fellow Wallflower Women step into and enjoy their God-given design and purpose. Sandra’s easy to reach.

SandraAllenLovelace@gmail.com

FB/SandraAllenLovelace

IG/SandraAllenLovelace

 

 

Thank you Sandra, for sharing part of your story with us. I see myself in what you’ve written and appreciate your wisdom and encouragement. Friends, please hop over to Sandra’s wonderful blog or meet up with her online. I know you’ll be blessed!

Peace and grace,

Tammy

I sometimes link-up with these wonderful bloggers:

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsAnita Ojeda, Mandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/Porch Stories

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Counting My Blessings, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network

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You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,

 

Grandpa smelled of comfort; the rich, warm scents of coffee and Aqua Velva. Quiet and witty, his brown eyes glinted when I’d beg him to play. Just one more time, pleeease. We’d construct palaces of red, yellow, and blue rectangles or clutch our stomachs as my words garbled together in earnest attempts to recite old-fashioned tongue twisters.

But, my favorite pastime with Grandpa was dancing.

Sliding my feet atop my grandfather’s, I’d gaze upward with confidence.  Whether my world was gliding by slowly or I was dizzied by the tilting and twirling of sudden dips and turns, I knew there was safety in Grandpa’s arms.

This sweet memory caused me to wonder…What if Jesus wants me to dance with him with the same sort of childlike faith?

There are human-rooted reasons for my not having been as trusting with Him as I once was with my earthly grandfather. But, Abba Father is patient and those tender, hurting places somehow grow light as I lean into Jesus. His all-encompassing strength calms my anxious heart and I gaze toward heaven.

This is what it means to be treasured and loved.

I can almost imagine a smile of pleasure splitting His face because I'm learning to follow His lead more and more.#dancingwithjesus#restoringhope#nomoreanxiety Click To Tweet

When laughter abounds and praise flows with ease, I slip into the presence of Christ. We dip and turn; I can almost imagine a smile of pleasure splitting His face because I’m learning to follow His lead more and more.

I Am the one who will guide you. 

During the dark times when I'm sure dancing is done? He wraps me in His arms and enfolds me in mercy.#theloveofjesus#mercylikethis#nomorefear. Click To Tweet

During the dark times when I’m sure dancing is done? I don’t slide my feet atop His. Instead, He wraps me in His arms and enfolds me in mercy. The frenetic whirling stills. The blur of decisions, fear, and circumstances grows small when my God–the King of the dance–is greater than any of it. 

He turns mourning into joy (Jeremiah. 31:13) and the dirge into dancing. 

Dancing with Jesus…it’s become a favorite new activity.

He’s there for you, too, friend. Slide your feet on top of His and let him lead you step by step through this life. The Father’s heart is to love and protect His beloved daughter and in the circle of His arms, you’ll discover a place of safety and security. Won’t you join the dance?

 

Peace and grace,

Tammy

I often link up with the following wonderful bloggers:

Mondays   InstaEncouragementsAnita Ojeda ,Mandy and MicheleKingdom Bloggers,

Tuesdays RaRa Linkup /GraceFull Tuesday / Tell His Story/Anchored Abode,

Wednesdays   Worth Beyond RubiesRecharge Wednesday Welcome Wednesday /LetsHave Coffee/Porch Stories

Thursdays Heart Encouragement  /  Tune In Thursday  /Salt and Light /  Five Minute Friday

Friday Counting My Blessings, Faith on Fire , Blogger Voices Network , Grace and Truth LinkupFresh Market Fridays

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We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

From the time we rise until the moment we exhale sleep’s first breath, nearly 50,000 thoughts will have tracked through our minds. Of those rapid-fire notions, 80% are negative. Repetitive. Even bordering on obsessive.

Our minds are landmines pockmarked with negativity and habitual skepticism–self-sabotaging sink holes that entrap us in an unhealthy, joy inhibiting mindset that blocks blessedness and hinders happiness.

We tumble into the black hole of comparison, worrying whether we’ll ever be as smart, put-together, or beautiful as the woman in the mini-sized yoga pants at the gym or the young mother whose makeup is as perfect as her smile.

Clambering from one hollow only to trip into the next, we desperately seek love and approval like a small child lost in a department store searches for her mother. Our efforts to earn the notice of others, though, fails to satisfy. Instead, they clutter our minds with silent recriminations.

If I’m successful she’ll tell me I’m important to her. Why doesn’t he love me? I must not be good enough.

I know. I’m a self-confessed-personal-critic and reforming people pleaser. You, too? Perhaps Martha was one of us. Consider these passages.

“As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”

 The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 MSG)

How many of us effectively set aside our plans, problems or performance? With 50,000 thoughts cluttering our minds with to-do's-and-haven't-done's, a woman like Mary is relatable. Understandable. Confined by her view of performance… Click To Tweet

While we may all wish to be the Mary in the story, how many of us effectively set aside our plans, problems or performance? With 50,000 thoughts cluttering our minds with to-do’s-and-haven’t-done’s, a woman like Mary is relatable. Understandable. Confined by her view of performance comparison, she’s overwhelmed by the day’s demands and longs to be worthy of love and approval.

Flustered and frustrated, Mary prods Christ, perhaps hoping for praise or recognition of her efforts to serve him. Yet Jesus reassured, “Only one thing is essential.”

Serving Christ and others? Important. Futile worry? Unnecessary. Embracing the Word? Essential. Click To Tweet

Serving Christ and others? Important. Futile worry? Unnecessary. Embracing the Word? Essential.

Our happiness, Friend, resides in Christ–the Word eternal who was present in the beginning and who has no end. We can forgo all of the non-essentials from the One thing–a relationship with Jesus.

 

Let's cleanse our negativity with his truth. Capture our thoughts and transform them to reflect his promises. Invite the joy of relationship with the risen God into our hearts . Click To Tweet

Let’s cleanse our negativity with his truth. Capture our thoughts and transform them to reflect his promises. Invite the joy of relationship with the risen God into our hearts that we might begin to grasp the happiness we can begin to experience even now–without concerns about comparison or earning love and approval.

We already know that when the Father rest his gaze upon us, He sees Jesus’ beauty and incomparable perfection. Because of him, we are loved and accepted into heavenly arms.

As Philippians 4:8 (MSG) exhorts, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me [Paul], what you heard and saw and realized.”

 

Mind Over Negative Chatter Challenge 

1. Record 3 positive occurrences, circumstances and thoughts you had each day this week. Consider sharing them in the comments section or on my Facebook page, Tammy L. Kennington.

2. Share 9-10 meaningful photos throughout the week. Photos could include anything that brings you joy–family, favorite places, mementos.

3. At the end of the week, reflect on the ways in which the positive, recorded thoughts and/or images impacted your happiness and life experience.

4. Share this challenge with friends and family!

 

 

 

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Happiness. Joy. Blessedness. It all begins and ends in our relationship with Jesus..pngIt’s the American dream. The subject of Time magazine’s recent expose’. And Hollywood’s driving force lived out loud in a string of movie star marriages, breakups, and over-the-top living.

We pine for it in the same way a widow longs to be reunited with her spouse. The here-and-then-gone-again feeling of happiness. We search for it like we might a treasure buried in the sand, hoping the next marriage, new house, or upgraded tax bracket will soothe the cry of our hearts for something more. Searching for a salve to soothe the realities of the divorce papers strewn across the countertop, the prescription medicines filling our cabinets, or the anxiety skulking in the corners of our minds. We yearn for it and hold out our cup of need, “Just a little bit of happiness please. Fill it up.”

...the joy we’re searching for isn’t discovered in the pursuit of more toys, more money, or more indulgence.  Click To Tweet

Friends, the joy we’re searching for isn’t discovered in the pursuit of more toys, more money, or more indulgence. It won’t be found at the bottom of an empty bottle, a scorched credit card and pretty things, or in promotions and accolades.

Happiness. Joy. Blessedness. It all begins and ends in our relationship with Jesus.  Click To Tweet

Happiness. Joy. Blessedness. It all begins and ends in our relationship with Jesus. We may walk through the fire, wander in the desert, or stumble around the darkest valley and still hold to an abiding sense of blessing regardless of circumstance.

I kind of feel like life is like that 'whack-a-mole' game. I think I can catch my breath after some life jag and then something else pops up. Click To Tweet

A woman once commented, “I kind of feel like life is like that ‘whack-a-mole’ game. I think I can catch my breath after some life jag and then something else pops up.”

Have you ever felt the same way; as though a reprieve from all of the challenges and set-backs lies just beyond the horizon only to realize another fear inducing obstacle is poised to pounce in the distance between here and there? Desperately attempting to manage, you aim wildly at the hurt or heartache, hazard or hardship.

Once in a while, your dodging and parrying succeeds. A nuisance is eliminated. A potential problem avoided. But, most of the time? The issues resurface or something new thrusts itself onto life’s landscape.

Where is happiness in these situations? Is happiness even possible?

During the next several weeks, we’ll explore several keys to fostering joy and discovering happiness that extends beyond circumstance. Will you join me, friend? In the meantime, may I pray for you?

Father, we live in a world that would steal all of our joy if it could. We long for a taste of hope and know that you are the answer. Would you fill my sisters’ cup of need today with your love and faithfulness? Prepare her heart for today’s challenges and open her eyes to the beautiful gifts that surround her. Help us to seek you above all else and to exchange our burdens for Christ’s blessings. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen

 

 

Faith_on_fire

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Scary tree in moonlight

I’ve grown tired and my throbbing head rests wearily on shoulders knotted by the week’s concerns.  Night begins to fill the sky with its inky fingerprint and I notice there aren’t any stars.  Even the smallest shaft of light has been snuffed out by the encroaching darkness.  My heart drums a muffled song of sorrow.  Where are the lights that once sparkled brilliantly?  How has the promise of the day faded so quickly?  Will night’s oppression be forced to stop its silent, creeping, Joy-Thievery?

I turn to the Word as a sanctuary from the fear that always comes in the dark.  Except now?  Instead of trembling because of the monster beneath my bed, I tremble at the reality of the spiritual battle being waged for those I love.  Words of encouragement speak to me as if they were breathed into my ear.  Cast your burdens upon the Lord.  

But, these concerns are heavier than any I’ve ever carried.  My body aches to be rid of them…my soul cries out for relief…and I pray.  Yet, I clutch the worries tightly to myself like an animal whose burden has been pressed close by the cinching of a strap to which it is bound.

Cast your burdens…cast your burdens…cast your burdens.  The words echo in my head as I reach awkwardly toward the invisible worries.  I pull one out–crushed beneath the layers–and lift it toward heaven.  Then, I throw it to the Only One able to take the weight of the darkness.  It belongs to Him.

I still don’t see the stars, but I know they exist.  And one day, the Light will blot the Darkness from the sky.  The promise for every day will be fulfilled and there will be no more Joy-Thievery–only Joy-Giving.  And the invisible Worry?  The one that rested on God’s shoulders?  Worry will be made new and transformed for His glory.  Amen.

 

Scripture for Reflection (selected verses from Psalm 55 MSG)

1-3 Open your ears, God, to my prayer;
don’t pretend you don’t hear me knocking.
Come close and whisper your answer.
I really need you.

4-8 My insides are turned inside out;
specters of death have me down.
I shake with fear,
I shudder from head to foot.
“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
“wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
from rage and stormy weather.

22-23 Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
topple into ruin.

 

 

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Image

The child clambers upon my bed,

“Wake up, wake up sleepyhead.”

I squeeze my eyes tight 

still wanting to rest.

But tiny arms wrap about my legs

 and in the child’s grasp

my weary thoughts are replaced.

I take on her smile as she throws her head back to laugh.  

 I can tell today will be a good one.

 

Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine.”

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