When Your Tears Turn to Joy

joy gratitude

I was raised by parents who didn’t show much emotion.  It was many years later when I realized it was the older generation who grew the non-criers.  They saw it as a sign of weakness.  As a result I learned to be closed off about my feelings.   It hit me early one morning, as I was driving to work.  I was thinking about my brother-in-law’s suicide and it was if the tears I left unshed in those tension filled, grieving days were collected in a heavenly vessel.  I was overcome with so many tears from so many years at the thought of re-applying mascara was impossible.  In a span of about 45 minutes, regret hit and filled my mind with unexpressed love.  And my emotions spilled over into my lap.

I was a DJ on a Christian Radio Station, and people tuned in to hear a happy tone. Somehow I had to gather my happy voice and speak encouragement to listeners.  How could I put aside my regret-filled feelings one more time?  I tumbled out of my car and plodded into the studio.  It was like any other day on the inside of the building.  I greeted my co-worker with a normal “hello” and he immediately sensed something was wrong.  “Tears are a sign of weakness!” I scolded myself.  I braced myself for the kidding ahead about being a girl and crying about everything.

My friend and co-worker said something profound which I’ll won’t forget.  “Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.” Being a crier by nature, my tender heart sometimes gets the best of me.  Ever been there?  Do you apologize to others for showing emotions or for leaking your emotions down your face?  Sounds incredibly similar to a hormone imbalance doesn’t it?  I don’t know how many times I’ve apologized for crying in front of someone!

Crying is a human emotion which God has placed inside. It’s no different from anger, fear or even joy. We don’t apologize when we’re feeling happy. “Oh gee, I’m so sorry. I can’t seem to stop smiling. I’m SO embarrassed!”  You often see tears at the beginning of life with newborn babies, and at the end of life when saying good-bye to a loved one.  As a parent myself, I know there are buckets of tears shed in times of praying that are collected in a mother’s heart.  It was years later that I discovered the encouragement in this verse:

Psalm 126:5 “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.”

Having joy and tears on my mind a lot lately, I’ve been trying to understand the principle of reaping joyful heart from the tears that I have been sowing.  I realized when I had cried I usually associated my tears with sad emotions, extreme waves of shock, disappointment, grief, loss, etc.  That’s a natural expression of heartache and hurt.

Although grieving and letting go has a place in the death process, it’s difficult to find joy in that kind of hurt but I know that a supernatural joy exists in death.  After the reading the context behind the verse, I do know that this song was written after God’s people were delivered out of captivity.  I too, have cried some tears from a bound up place in my life and I’ve longed for freedom.  It was in that moment, I realized the tears I was expressing had come from a supernatural place where the Holy Spirit transformed my tears into joy, in freedom from a place of my heart’s gratitude.

My heart welled up again with a joyful expression.

Sowing takes a process and requires seeds, a small start.  Once planted or given over to the process of casting out, putting into the ground and fertilizing the seed, it takes time for the seed to develop and expand into the germination phase.  The outer shell of the seed is softened by the grounds moisture and the water given to the fertile soil.  In the softening of the seed, it sprouts with new growth.  It takes a seed time to burst out with the seedling, an expression of its own design.

That’s what tears are.  An expression of the heart, and some expressions just need to germinate and grow before expressing them.  I think that’s how joy in freedom comes, in the expression of our hearts when we are truly free.  When our hearts are truly express joy, it’s a sign of growth, from a sensitive and free place.  I don’t think it shows weakness at all.

Sometimes it takes the strongest person to be honest with their expressions.  What I have learned about joy and songs lately is that each time joy is sung over a battle it brings strength to the troops.  Tears can also express happiness, praise, and laughter.  I understand there’s a place for all our emotions.  I think joy is often misunderstood and represents the sensitive side of God, who wants us to have joy alongside all phases of life.  After all, it’s second to His love and a gift of the Spirit’s work in our lives.  Joy and tears are expression of Heaven too.  We have to remember God has blessed us with each emotion and we can always express our emotions of gratitude with freedom.  It’s the language of our hearts.

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Finding Joy in the Pruning

cherries

I have two rose bushes growing outside my front door.  Often, I take a little time to cut back the dead blooms.  Last week I cut them so thoroughly that not one bloom remained.  I took a step back to see if the bushes were evenly shaped.  Accomplishing my task and without another thought about them, I turned to enjoy the sunset.

It’s the process of pruning that is needed in the caring of the rose bushes.  If I didn’t cut back the spent blooms, the bushes would only bloom occassionally.  The more you cut the bush, the more the blooms.  It’s hard to cut back a perfectly green stem however, but it’s needed to help the bush thrive.

I’m learning how to abide in this season of resting and learning to have joy in the pruning. The fruit of the Spirit grows us best through the pruning process.  God wants to cut away our inflated view of self and expand the view of Him and protect us from falling into a blown up view of our own importance.  We are so easilty distracted with self-focus instead of releasing what God has put inside our souls.

Even the Holy Spirit does not glory Himself – Only Christ.  It says in John 16:14 “However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you.”

Pruning is part of the rest process and achieves what only God sees.  And this the part of the post where I tell you that it’s easy, and doesn’t hurt and you’re going to be okay, right?  What I can tell you is that you are going to be okay and there is joy found in pruning and letting go, to let the Holy Spirit bear His fruit in you.

From my experience with pruning is our Gardner knows best which branches need to go, which will bear the best fruit or blooms, and what He has designed for each of us.  And just like my cutting back the rose bushes, our Father prunes so that there will be even MORE fruit bearing.  When you are pruined you have an over-arching purpose which matches the vision God has for you.   John 15 digs into this truth down nicely.

Don’t forget the Gardner has a plan in the pruning – to give Him glory and to grow you into His good work and perfect you in the process.  Something we know about pruning is it cuts away the dead branches, and we are good with getting rid of the dead parts but what about the branches that are still thriving?  Sometimes it’s in the best interest of the plant to cut branches that aren’t dead) for the overall good of the plant.

And so it goes, there’s nothing easy about being cut or pruned.  And it hurts to experience a loss of a growing branch.  As His children, we grow in holiness.  Holiness means living set apart for God.  It’s the perfection process of our faith that sets us apart for Him.  Consider it like a spiritual exercise where God stretches you to the potential He sees in you.  Remember the focus isn’t on what we are losing or letting go of but instead for the real reason of our growth in Christ.  What I know about life so far is that we grow the most in adversity and difficulties.

It’s in the adversity, the calamities, the cancer, and the chaos where we seek God the most.  When we have to let go of our own strength and cling to His, that’s sharing His glory.  When we prosper and become the masterpiece He designed, that’s bearing fruit in our lives.

Colossians 1:10 “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”

It’s in the process that we grow.  Sometimes the pruning hurts, and we suffer setbacks but it’s for the overall beauty of the plant and the sweetness of the fruit.

 

What the World Needs Now

flag in barn

When bad incidents happen we ask the question “why?”.  We don’t understand the shocking events which have happened of late and we try to impose order. Humans want life to make sense.  After the initial shock, it leaves us wondering “What will happen next and will I be the next victim?”

Our nation is grieving. Webster’s dictionary defines grief as a “deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death.” For many families, and the public as a whole, the idea of security is once again threatened at every turn.  Many communities have lost leaders, fathers, grandfathers and those lives will never be heard from again.

And it’s left us confused, angry, and feeling threatened.

Grief is compounded when the death is violent, untimely, and sudden. When there is a willful or intentional taking of a human life by another individual, the sense of shock and disbelief is suffocating. Our world as we know it is shaken to its core, and our sense of safety and security vanish. Oftentimes, overwhelmed by grief, confusion, and in a vacuum of comfort, leaves us to fear.

Grief is amplified when the death is a highly publicized incident. The media gives a doom and gloom perspective pressurizing the nation’s voice to protect ourselves or take matters into our own hands.  We are barraged with blame and shame leaving us to choose sides questioning who “matters” thus dividing lines with hate.  Nothing makes sense. The results are impacting our hope and ebbs away at our faith.  Turmoil and anxiety builds with each look over the shoulder or behind each closed door.

The brute force of many layered and competing emotions mount.  Feelings of anger, fear, confusion, exhaustion, sadness, and depression is intensified by grief.  As onlookers, we shut down and feel numb.  We throw up our hands and don’t know who to trust or what to do to repair these death-laden and devastatingly dangerous situations.  I understand death alright but what do we do with all of the death and progression of evil around us?

Like most wounds it scars our souls and we stop talking about it.  It becomes the white elephant in the room and we are afraid to stand up for our beliefs as to not offend or start another heated argument.  It paralyzes our voices and keeps us quiet.  But the pain of loss is still there and we stuff it down deep.  It festers, boils and wreaks havoc with our sound minds.  We openly pray for healing but there’s no joy in covering hurt of this kind.  The world’s empty words of comfort and feelings of false security become a new normal along with a strategically-placed policy.

Pointing the finger at the obvious won’t heal the pain this nation is in.

Healing takes time and it needs to fall on everyone.  In my opinion there is only one way to win over evil.  We want the pain to cease but as a nation, it’s easier to turn our heads and hope someone quickly sweeps it under the political rug to make it go away like a bad nightmare.  This tug on our souls has to stop or fear will always be after our hearts.

If you have been affected by the recent events please know I too am grieving with you. Words only travel so far and words alone don’t cause change.  No, you don’t forget the sound of your loved one’s voice, or a touch, and you certainly can’t forget the love you shared.  There’s no way to repair a broken heart from a human standpoint.

I wish there were shortcuts to healing.  But the facts remain, the fast-track to evil advances around us.  There is the power to heal our nation within the nation if we could all work together to be the answer for change we only complain about.  How often do we find ourselves asking “What are we do with all this violence?”

The answer is profound and comforting when we respond with an outpouring of love and count it all joy.  Jesus was a man of controversy, stood for justice and showed love to all.  You might say, “Sure, He could because He was perfect.”  You’ve tried being kind in the face of evil and it wasn’t reciprocated.  You’ve tried to love the unlovable and got taken advantage of.  You’re afraid to give this love thing a try at all.  Have we loved and have you only tried?

Jesus is our example to heal this nation.  He didn’t judge – only touched with His grace.  He didn’t beat politics with the rules – but spoke life over the wayward.  He didn’t run away in fear but knew His Father’s voice.  He met the needs of the unloved, the forgotten, and went out of His way to reach the least.  And He counted it ALL joy in who He loved.  Joy was His reward on the way to the cross.  He suffered and knew death.

“Instead of what doing what Jesus did, let’s all do what Jesus is doing!”  Mike Maeshiro

Let time teach you to love and have joy again if you are suffering a loss.  Let the love of God overcome the evil around you.  Let the love of God change you.  Be Christ’s love to others around you.  Show love over evil.  Start counting everything in your life with a reward of joy, and set it before you.  Afraid to show love because you’ve been hurt?  Who isn’t???

God’s love heals in ways we don’t know and kindness progresses healing further than we could ever know.  Jesus led His disciples by the love of God and knew how to do in a ways which advance God’s goodness.  Jesus in it to win it and He has already won!  We can feel secure in our homes and lives of if we would all work together to be the together-strength of love spoken in truth and in love to our communities, cities, and nation.  The progression of LOVE always invites God’s goodness.  His Joy is our joy reward for the suffering even unto and through to death.

Count It All Joy Through Gratitude

joy swing

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

My last post was about joy, counting it ALL joy, and the gap in between our dreams and reality.  At least finding joy a habit was my intention.  I realize this week gratitude is directly connected to the golden thread of relationships, happiness, and abundance in life. If you’re like me, you can read a post about joy and think it’s all pink and rosy every day.  I hear you saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll be more grateful.  It might work for her but she doesn’t live out in my life.  It won’t work for me.”

Oh friends, it’s time to stop kicking the tires on this life and embrace it for all it’s worth.  Let’s all go bravely forward and count it all joy.

I like to go beyond a nice idea or a concept.  It’s one idea to live with joy but it’s a whole new way to live with God’s joy.  I’m all about application and gathering the tools of creativity, words of gratitude, love, applied discipline, to understand and get a hold of the way the concept works in your everyday life. Until you practice and witness your own shifts and awakenings, none of this makes much impact.  Have confidence by faith!  Joy is attainable and is a good idea.  Do you follow me so far?

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 (ESV)

The Bible is a great start to instructing us how to live and how to count everything for joy, but it’s not the whole letter of the law.  You also have to apply joy to your life.

What does living in joy look like?  It’s daily looking and adopting God’s ways into your life. I encourage everyone to keep a gratitude journal. Be grateful when God teaches you how to live.  It’s a way to bring His character into our weaknesses.  For me, when I feel left out or last in line, I go to my gratitude journal and make a list of all the ways I am blessed.  Believe me when I say this, if you think you aren’t blessed to live in the land of the free and home of the brave, travel internationally to suffering and oppressed nations.  You will notice the difference immediately.  Gratitude journals can turn whining and complaining into thankfulness and appreciation.

So, what is a gratitude journal?

A gratitude journal is a blank notebook where you write lists for which you are grateful. Every night, before you go to bed, you take about three minutes to write down a list of five things (or any do-able number).

Some days, you might be feeling particularly abundant, and those five things just fly onto the page.

Some days, it might feel like you can’t think of even two things. Then you remember how you have a roof over your head or food to eat. Next, you remember your cat (again) and you have hot water to get clean and drink.  No matter what you’re feeling, find time to write down at least five things every single night.  And they don’t have to be new and different.

My experience is when I write out what I’m grateful for, those items add joy to my day.  I become more in tune throughout the next day. It’s like turning on an inner-switch, and sets your awareness to look for joys to journal each night. So you might be driving out of your neighborhood in the morning, and catch the flash of a cardinal in the sunlight, and instead of blowing it off, you stop and notice it for a moment. You take it in. And you make a mental note to include the bird in your gratitude journal. Then, when you’re having lunch with a co-worker, she grabs the check and pays it. And not only do you thank her, but you make a mental note again (I carry a small notebook and pen in my purse). Your day becomes a basket where you collect things. The joy habit soon comes to life!  In essence, you become a joy and gratitude magnet. And oddly enough, cool things start to find you. But you have to learn to be grateful now for all what you already have.

When you really try this, you will see how your joy increases.  You see, Jesus is joy and anytime you notice the things He put in your path to bring joy or a smile to your face, His intentions change your intentions.  Now not everything in this world is joyful.  Believe me when I say, you can choose how you see the things of this world and how to respond to the world around you.  When you feel the smile of Heaven, it makes a difference in your soul.

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  John 15:11 (NLT)

(Notice I posted a joy verse in different ways to help you see how grateful I am for reward of seeking joy in all things.  Gratitude shapes your perspective!)