“The times are bad! The times are troublesome!” This is what humans say. But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times. -Saint Augustine of Hippo
I spent more than three years being angry. I know, that sounds awful. If you know me in real life, you might be surprised by that. Then again, you might not.
Life had taken a turn that I did not ask for. The atmosphere of my home, as a result, completely changed and most days I struggled to find joy and be intentional with my family. They all suffered for it and I vacillated between denial and shame. I felt like I was stuck in the pity pit and, for the life of me, I could not get my feet out of the mud. Oh, I had several good days sprinkled throughout. I also had moments of clarity when I cried out to God for help, but it seemed like I was fighting a losing battle and I’d be very lucky if my kids ever came home for Christmas after they sprung this joint.
I obsessively looked for answers, almost always outside of myself. I refused to believe I was the source of much of our chaos but, looking back, I realize that is the painful truth. I battled anger and bitterness, reminding God often that “this” was not what I had signed up for. “This” was too hard and I was not equipped to deal with it. I lost the joy of cooking as we battled food interolerances and health issues. I lost the joy of mothering because I wasn’t getting the appreciation and rest I thought I deserved. I lost the joy of serving my family and of serving God because, frankly, I was mad at Him. You might call what I was feeling depression.
I call it sin.
I became self-centered and it only compounded the very normal problems our family was walking through.
Maybe you have felt this way. Maybe you have thought, “If only they would stop doing this, or acting like that I would be such a better wife/mom/sister/daughter/friend.” But, you know what? You are wrong. I was wrong. In order to have joy, true joy that is not dependent on my circumstances, I must tap into the source of all joy which is the person of Jesus Christ.
So here is what I did.
I started getting up early.
Let me back up. I am a homeschooling mama of 5 kids. Early mornings have never been my jam. I am a certified night owl and untintentionally trained my kids to be the same. Getting up before 7am was crazy early for me, so I just didn’t unless there was a really good reason. (Like leaving on a road trip.) But I read a book a few months ago called “Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Harrison Warren and it made me think hard and rethink everything I was…and wasn’t…doing.
Do you realize that making a sandwich for your kids can be a form of worship? That in arguing with your husband God is there, teaching and revealing who He is and refining you? Did you know that having a cup of hot tea in the evening can be a form of Sabbath rest which is fully enclosed in the will of God?
The next thing I did was order a new planner. I am generally an office supply junkie but I struggle with planners because they generally have too many things in them that I don’t need and I get bogged down and just ditch the whole thing for the calendar app on my phone. But this one is working beautifully. It is the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner (go to sacredordinarydays.com to find it) and it works perfectly for me! It is a liturgical day planner, meaning you are kept in the loop with the church calendar and made aware of the life of Christ as you move through the year. It is no frills but gives plenty of space for personal reflection and prayer as you live day-to-day and week-to-week.
Well, one thing leads to another, right? The next thing I did was order “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. Now, I am not part of a church that practices the Liturgy. I was not raised in that tradition, but had some exposure to it a few years ago at a family camp and it really resonated with my spirit. This book is so rich and makes morning devotionals so easy. It gives me words when I have none and inserts beautiful quotes and stories of believers from generations past that inspire and convict me to live today well. In praying the Lord’s prayer each morning, I am able to say with all sincerity, “May your kingdom come…in my home. May your will be done…in my family. On Earth as it is in Heaven.” The words of Jesus hold such power and, in really focusing in and praying them along with my prayers for others, God is doing what I needed the most. He is quieting my soul and freeing me from shame. He is meeting me in the early mornings when I light the candle on my desk and sip my coffee. His Word is coming alive in me as I slowly, meditatively read the Scriptures and journal what He teaches me.
And it is in this simple act of getting up early, a good, solid hour before any of my children awaken, that I am finding joy. It took years to find what would work for me. Decades, really. But God, in His faithfulness, has brought me here to this simple, quiet place and I am being changed little by little.
Have my circumstances changed? Somewhat, yes. But to say things are easy would be a lie. I still have some very hard days, days in which I would rather pull the sheets over my head and hide, but because I am keeping this habit…this unforced rhythm of grace…I am finding I have the inner strength to better handle difficulty. Sometimes I fail miserably and have to apologize to my husband or my children, but such is life. We are a work in progress and I am learning the journey is much more joyful (and simple) if I can be content with progress and not expect perfection.
So, my friend, if you take anything away from this I want it to be the realization that finding joy has to start with you. You have to be willing to admit your faults and turn your eyes upon Jesus, to draw from the Well that never runs dry. Then, and only then, can life begin to become a little more simple…and much more joyful.