A new day. A new journal. My previous journal sported a brown cover with a solitary lighthouse gracing the cover – a picture of loneliness. I frowned a bit each time I reached for the repository of my inner thoughts and ideas. Sadly, I judged the book by its cover. And I judged it harshly. I was more than pleased to fill the final page and set it aside for something different.
Today I begin a new journal. This journal quips, “Joy Within” across a flower-bedecked cover. Flowers, joy, color . . . “Whatever is lovely, think on these things” These things of beauty delight me and bring a smile to my face each time I see the journal’s cheerful, or should I say joyful, cover. It’s a small thing to note, but worth noting. For, joy lies in small and unexpected places, in lowly places, in humble places.
I welcome any sense of joy these days. The world news reeks of sorrow, war, imperial pressure, and defeat. This Lenten path we call life wends through the Valley of the Shadow of Death . . . but wait! Death has been defeated! I know that full well. I cannot forget that the victory has been won for tomorrow. I live in a warring today, but I am destined for a peaceful place for all of my tomorrows throughout eternity. The lonely lighthouse on a brown journal will be replaced with an abundance of flowers and joy within.
A smile creeps ‘cross my face. I am surprised to be smiling. I set out to fill the journal and find joy within.
* * *
“Good morning,” chirps the first to ascend the stairs to greet me; following with another morning greeting, “What does your day hold?”
“Joy, I hope,” I respond brightly. “I hope I am surprised by joy.”
* * *
Of late, world issues, social pressures, and commonplace worries crowd into our daily arena with To Do Lists and expectations that trample the humble things beneath trudging feet. Joy resides in the dust – choked.
Our family has bowed in prayer regularly for those oppressed in Ukraine. We have watched anxiously for God’s fingerprints amidst the muscle flexes of bullies and the wagging jaws of man. I have wept as I pleaded for peace, respect, and freedom. At times, I wondered if God has heard. And then . . . SURPRISE! JOY! Natalie forwarded this photo of peaceful protesters kneeling in prayer as they endure humiliation through invasion.
A nation once ruled by Atheism has knelt in prayer in the main square of their endangered country as the whole world looks on. A nation once ruled by an iron fist behind an iron curtain has chosen to kneel as God’s child, trusting Him for the outcome. Surely He has heard.
God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
Matthew 5:5 NLT
My worries and anxieties melt when I kneel down and pray with these faithful Ukrainian sisters and brothers. I pray for peace alone. My thoughts and fears about “right,” “wrong,” “precedent,” and “war” have buried my joy in the dust beneath pacing feet. My prayers for peace bring me down to a humble place where joy lives. I scoop it up hungrily. I am starved for joy. I am empty and He fills me.
Instead of filling with expectations,
the joy-filled expect nothing – and are filled.
This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This world!
This sky! These people! This place!
This day! Surprise!
C. S. Lewis said he was “surprised by joy.”
Perhaps there is no way to discover joy but as surprise?
~~ Ann Voskamp ~~
One Thousand Gifts Devotional
* * *
So, what does my day hold, you may ask? Peace and prayer and lots of joy. I will be turning away from the global eye and the booming internet voice; I will be kneeling and resting in the quiet of God’s palm – right here, right now, this. I will kneel often and rise up with a fair dusting of joy to be found right here on earth this very day amidst the cries of war and the shouts for freedom. For, I have found joy within.
This is the day that the Lord hath made,
I will rejoice and be glad in it.