Something Worthwhile

I once knew a man who I thought must personify joy.  In some ways he did.  He always had a smile on his face.  He seemed to always find delight in so many things that I took for granted.

Part of me really admired his attitude.  Then there was the other part.  There was part of me that was irked because I knew he didn’t always understand the situation as entirely as he thought he did.  I wasn’t sure if he was blessed in his ignorance or irksome because of it.

One day right before a long vacation, he came into my classroom to wish my students a happy break.  He also admonished them to do a few things that highlighted his ignorance of many of their situations, wished them a Merry Christmas, and made a few other remarks.  The students weren’t really in the mood to be admonished—rightfully or not.  I wasn’t in the mood to be interrupted.

I remember pasting a smile on my face, answering appropriately, and being glad he kept his remarks brief.  As he was walking out of Room 6 I prayed, “Lord, if that’s what joy looks like, I don’t think I want it.”

Thankfully I’ve matured a little since then.  I know a stoic face may belie a joyful heart.  I know that school administrator wasn’t just blithely walking through life.  He experienced severe trauma and heartache in his life, but now I believe he chose to focus on God’s goodness.

In the bit that I’ve matured, I’ve been reminded repeatedly that joy isn’t necessarily a matter of what’s happening to me or around me.  Neither is it always a choice I make–though sometimes it is.  I’ve learned joy is a work of the Holy Spirit.  It is evidence of his presence and work in my life (Galatians 5:22).

Sometimes I think joy is difficult for me to embody and appreciate.  When I’m tired and sick (which is distinctly different from being sick and tired—but then, too) . . . when my schedule runs my life instead of the other way around . . . when I’ve used up every drop of extroversion within me and find no time to recharge . . . these are the times when joy is hard.

Sometimes joy is much easier.  When I’m laughing with friends . . . when I have tickle fights with my nephews . . . when I walk into a room and am surrounded by people I love . . . when I read (and reread) an well crafted sentence . . . when I’m by the ocean without any immediate concerns . . . when I’ve slept well and spend time with God . . . when the combination of strong yet creamy coffee and rich chocolate mingle on my taste buds . . . these are times when I’m awash in joy.

When I was a senior in high school I was asked to choose a quote to express who I was and what I wanted.  I chose William James‘ words.  He said, “The greatest use of life is to spend if for something that will outlast it.”  I still believe that in light of eternity.

If I had to do that senior quote over today, I think I would choose Sir Wilfred Grenfell‘s words–“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.”  Perhaps I would combine Grenfell’s and James’ words.  They seem to fit together.

I am privileged to spend my life serving God by serving TCKs and their families.  And although my face may not always show it, there is joy.  It is deep and abiding because I am grafted into its source, what I do is worthwhile, and it will last for eternity.

What brings you joy?

photo courtesy of Martin Deutsch and although it is classroom 6, it is not my classroom 6.  We would have all suffocated in this classroom 6.

PS—I wrote a post on Joy last month here.

I’m participating in Faith Barista’s Faith Jam.  Every week she’s asking other bloggers to “jam like musicians” on a faith related topic.  Today’s post is my riff on “Joy: Is it easy or hard for you?.” If you’re interested in the notes others added to this Faith Jam, go check out her site and follow the links.)

20 responses to “Something Worthwhile”

  1. You forgot OUTDOOR SHOWERS! They bring you Joy too! 🙂 I am filled with Joy just at the thought of you, my sweet friend. I am so blessed to know that you are in my life and that you delight in me. I am finding joy in be blessing of time with people in this season, where I would not have had if i were somewhere else. I am determined to catch the joy He intends from this time also! The enemy will steal, kill and destroy it if He can, and often He doesn’t need my help. I love you friend… 🙂

  2. I did forget to mention outdoor showers! It has been quite a while since I’ve enjoyed one, but I do find joy in them. Thanks for the reminder, my friend. You are a good joy-giver, too. I’m glad you’re part of my life. I’m glad you’re choosing to blossom where you are. Love you, too!

  3. I’m finding lots of joy in my children these days. Also just finished a visit with good friends and Alongside leaders which brought me great joy. And studying John for the Bible study always gives me joy.
    I love you. Are you going to Hungary?

  4. Those are joyous things, Soul! No Hungary this year. 🙁 That’s going to be multiple joy missed. I just started walking and will be in the middle of physical therapy during the conference. It doesn’t seem wise. You should still go. You would find some kindred spirits.

    I’m glad you like it, Rikki! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. My joy comes in the form of a little girl named Sarah Jean who does the most silly, random, unexplainable things. Even when she drives me crazy she still brings more joy than I deserve : )

  6. My joy comes from the little everyday things in my family and our dog. Especially, when it’s not easy as you so wonderfully wrote.

    The way you shared the easy and hard really spoke to me.

    Thank You Lisa! God Bless 😀

  7. Tirzah—that Sarah Jean is a joyous little girl! I have no doubt she brings you joy. 🙂

    Jeri—HAHAHA! No problem. I can be Lisa for a moment. 🙂 Sometimes when I’m commenting I find my mind blanks out as to what name needs to be written. No worries! Thanks for stopping by and sharing some of your simple joys. I enjoy jamming with you!

  8. Sheryl, I like the way you wove the truth of joy being fruit of the Holy Spirit along with the James and Grenfell quotes. Joy comes when I dial back the intensity and enjoy the current moment.

    Great writing; wonderful insight.

  9. “I am privileged to spend my life serving God by serving TCKs and their families. And although my face may not always show it, there is joy. It is deep and abiding because I am grafted into its source, what I do is worthwhile, and it will last for eternity.”

    Yes yes YES! That is SO how I feel! I just returned to Beijing after two weeks in Cambodia working with TCKs and international churches there. This ministry makes me come ALIVE – it is so much bigger than anything I could be alone.

    I get moments of joy from sunshine, a call from “home”, a great taxi driver conversation – but the deepest and most lasting joy, the joy that keeps me going through bad days, is the joy of ministering in my sweet spot, being useful in building up others 🙂

  10. I am right there with you. I have met people that I say, they can’t be that happy all the time. It’s irritating to me. But then I think, maybe they are because maybe they have the constant joy of the Lord, or maybe they are using that “happiness” as a defense mechanism.
    Then I have to stop and think about the joy in my life, which can be lacking. This is a good post, thanks for sharing!

  11. Thanks, Donna! It’s nice to know someone flows with my thoughts, too. You know how it is with writing—it makes perfect sense in scope in flow with one reading and then with the next reading it seems like thoughts patched together. Thanks for the encouragement!

  12. Tanya! It’s so nice to meet a kindred spirit in TCK ministry! I’m looking forward to learning more about you and what you’re doing.

  13. Thanks, April! It’s good to know I’m not the only one with these thoughts. 🙂 I have to remind myself that I’m not responsible for the other person’s reality check—at least most of the time. I’m responsible for my own focus. Thanks for stopping by and for the encouragement!

  14. Sheryl. This was a beautiful post – I felt with each story you were dropping, you were writing your search for joy and then led us to the conclusion of joy in God – it’s a journey.

    Sir Wilfred Grenfell’s words–“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile…

    This was a gem for me and encouragement to my soul this week. Thank you!

  15. Bonnie, you are such an encouragement to me. I’m glad you could see the method to my “madness.” I love that quote, too! Grenfell was an amazing man of God. I can only imagine leaving a legacy like his. I’m thankful I could be a catalyst for some encouragement for you this week.

  16. It is hard sometimes to deal with people who are constantly happy. I mean that not in a demeaning way, but you do wonder if they understand difficult situations we all face. I’ve learned a lot as I’ve matured also though and you never know what a person has or is facing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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