Thursday, February 23, 2012

Choosing JOY in 2012

Each year a few of my friends select a "theme word" to focus on. Last year a friend gifted me with the book, "Ten Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. I was challenged by the idea of eucharisteo (Greek for thanksgiving) all year long. I read through the book three times and found myself on a treasure hunt for gifts in my own life. I kept a journal and numbered all the things - big and small - I was thankful for in life.

When I opened the Bible, verses about thanksgiving, gratefulness and Jesus' practice of giving thanks before every miracle seemed to leap off the pages.

In 2012, I want to be intentional about choosing a theme. I know how valuable it was for my faith journey to focus on thanksgiving or gratitude in 2011. In the last days of December, I decided to pray for a word, a theme, a goal (not a resolution) to set my eyes, my heart on for this new season.

The word joy popped into my mind.

Joy? Too easy, I thought. Too sunshine, happy and cheesey. But the more I prayed about it, the more I realized that a journey choosing joy was perhaps exactly what I needed.

What is true joy?

That's a question I will continue to ask myself throughout 2012.

How can I experience the fullness of joy?

There were times last year when I felt life was just about survival. I was pregnant most of the year, living in Haiti for some of the time, facing struggles with finances, relationships, grasping to find my calling. I chose to thank God in some of those moments and it transformed me.

This year I long to move beyond simple thanks to a deeper level. I don't want to just survive; I want to thrive. I want to be more thankful in all circumstances. I want to chase negativity away. I want to walk this faith road with my Father. I want to be joy-full.

What does it mean to be "joyful in hope" or to "consider it all joy"?

I suspect it will mean embracing affliction and walking through more trials.

I hope to have enough margins in my life to truly experience joy with my three daughters, my husband. Sometimes I feel bogged down, heavy with the the weight of caring for a baby, training a 3-year-old and 5-year-old.  I'm often overwhelmed by all the needs in our ministry to Haiti. I'm frequently drained of energy when I stare down a too-long to-do list. My nature is to take myself and my life way too seriously.

What a perfect time to choose a pursuit of joy.

Ironically, a few days after the new year I found my way back to Ann Voskamp's blog. In 2012, she is challenging people to record 3 gifts a day, counting 1,000 joys. She calls it the "Joy Dare." A joy-smile bloomed in my heart when I realized God was already leading me down that path.

I will be continuing the practice of recognizing each gift.

I will share a few off my joy list here:

1. first baby smiles showing double dimples
2. Daddy flipping on trampoline
6. house full of relatives
7. redemption song
8. table dressed for a tea party
13. basket of yarn ripe for knitting
25. sisters sharing
30. Sunday nap with my love
36. car working after a prayer
40. full moon flushed against morning-blue backdrop
93. His heart for the nations
120. friend in Haiti starts to build a little house with money saved from jewelry
167. my 3-year-old's eyebrows dancing
288. chile chocolate bar - sweet heat in my mouth
310. the way she wraps around my finger when she falls asleep

What does joy mean to you?