Finding the Joy in the Mess

Took the dog for a walk yesterday.

It’s been a while. He’s had to settle for chasing balls and frisbees in the front yard… what with the flu striking the house and now the water issues. Poor dear.

We circled the block near the school and ended at the park where he could go off-leash. The boy went nuts! He was free and literally jumping… every step had a bounce. And he stopped and turned and looked at me and there was a smile on that dog’s face. Joy, covered in shag. It was uninhibited freedom and joy with a big black nose and floppy ears.IMG_20130208_115154_813 IMG_20130823_105449_287 IMG_20131019_165045_397

And I thought there’s a story here, a message. Because that is the kind of joy I seek. Right here, in the middle of the mess, joy. Over the sound of the blowers and the air scrubber… joy.

There was joy beyond compare yesterday and today, too, for my son who found a pile of gravel left over at the park. Some really big sticks and rocks and this pile of gravel and he could play for hours. Imagination working overtime, joy in the physical labor of digging a cave, body heat and the sun’s warmth pinking his cheeks. The stick is a sword, a gun, a laser beam, a shovel, a tool depending on the moment. Sand in the shoes and the pockets, grime on the hands, grit in the hair… is there anything that announces the joy of a boy so loudly?IMG_20140110_143815_362 IMG_20140109_133617_039

I delight in their joy. It brings a smile to my face and lifts my spirits. But where do I find that same kind of joy? I’m envious of the freedom dog and boy have to feel intense joy. (And maybe non-dog lovers are tilting their heads asking do dogs really feel intense emotion. I have to argue that yes joy is in their sensory data.) Where do I go for that same kind of kick-in-the-pants frolic?

Really been feeling kind of blue today. I blame it on the sound of jet engines in my kitchen, the slow drying out of my house, the tedious calls with insurance, the waiting. Waiting is my personal pariah. Not good at it. Horrible actually. Just ask my husband about the time I couldn’t wait for him to help me paint the back door, or the time I enlisted the help of the children to help me move the sofa instead of waiting for him to return home. I want action, decision, answers, progress.

And yet, funny thing. God hasn’t been content with my moping. “Look for the blessings! At least this isn’t happening over Christmas,” quips a friend this morning. Another friend texts me Psalm 16:11, “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” During some quiet time this morning, my Bible study takes me to James 1: 2-4, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing…” and to Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ….”
He’s got my attention. I’m listening. And I’m asking. Is this wet kitchen a trial, a challenge that ranks with the biblical challenges faced by the heroes of the Bible? There seem to be categories of challenges… something like this… challenges to one’s ministry, challenges to one’s safety and security, challenges to one’s beliefs about self and/or standing in society, challenges to one’s health and comfort. There must be some variation in the intensity of the challenge too. Right? And don’t challenges to one’s ministry rank higher in biblical implications than say challenges to one’s comfort?

I’m confused. We are to count each challenge as joy. I can understand how the apostles felt joyful over a flogging because they felt like they were experiencing what Christ had suffered and there was testimony in coming through it well. Not that I personally want to experience this particular challenge. But I’m having trouble finding joy in the mess that is my kitchen. And I just can’t reconcile my challenge as necessarily bringing God glory. How? No, it just seems like a major inconvenience, a distraction sent to derail me… like the plethora of distractions this fall. Kind of sick of the derailments.

The Bible study went on to talk about how we are not citizens of this world, this is not our home, we are mere travelers, nomads on earth. This is Christianese, church talk. I like it, I get it. There was that time I heard Beth Moore talk about going out to a Mexican restaurant and ordering fajitas. After the meal, she smelled like fajitas. She equated it to our lives here on earth. We are to eat the fajitas but not smell like the fajitas, be a part of the earthly world, but not act like it, smell like it, or cling to it.

And really it’s not the kitchen itself that has me upset. I know that it will all get sorted and a kitchen is just a kitchen after all and at least I have a kitchen and hot water and electricity and food to prepare. So I don’t think I’m clinging to the world; I don’t think that is really creating the funk.

Really, I’m just not sure where to find the joy and … big AND… can I come through this without smelling like the world? Can I deal with the inconvenience and the disruption to plans and the kids telling me I’m not fair because I have to choose being home to meet a plumber over going to the park and claims agents who may or may not have our best interests at heart? How do I live in the world, because this is where God put me, for just such a time as this, how do I live in this with a soggy kitchen when I’m really seeking Heaven? I have to deal with the here and now. And do soggy kitchens really have eternal implications?

Is there a 12 step program out there on how to live in the world and not smell like it?

The answer is right in front of me… in the words of my friends, in Scripture. Count the blessings. Look for them, seek them out, open the eyes. Dig in the dirt to find them. Take off the leash and jump. Count God’s gifts. Because in God’s presence is fullness of joy… not in the kitchens or the other things of this world… in God’s presence.

So, counting the blessings of today:
1. Sunshine and a dirt pile
2. Making a new friend
3. A tree full of birds
4. 3 multi-colored chicken eggs in a freshly cleaned roosting box
5. Following 3 police cars rather than being followed by 3 police cars
6. A surprise gift arriving
7. Lemons hanging on a tree
8. The beauty of sharing faith with a friend
9. Quiet time… despite the fans
10. A dog’s nose resting on my arm in companionship

And each of these is a gift of God, a little treasure He tucked into my day, moments to stop and feel His presence.

Reveling in those moments, counting them, listing them, publicly announcing them for what they are, that is how one doesn’t smell like the world. It derails the funk, turns living into thanksgiving, ushers us into God’s presence, and makes us look different, smell different, less worldly. We can rejoice in our challenges, whatever they may be, when we count the blessings.

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  1. This was so beautiful to read. I hear the ache in your words to eek out the joy in the midst of the mundane, ordinary sometimes overwhelming moments of your day. Looks like you’ve figured out to tap into that joy thought. Gratitude is such a powerful practice. It centers us back to what matters most and helps us shift away from our human tendency to see only the bad stuff. Thanks for sharing. It encouraged me to embrace gratitude today and chase the joy. Found you through Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Friday link up. Blessings to you!


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