Monday, June 30, 2008

Unavailable at Any Retail Outlet

I have been thinking a lot about joy lately. If I were to pick an overwhelming characteristic of my littlest girl, Elaine Frances, it would be her joyful spirit. Before she was born, we picked this verse out for her: Psalm 16:11 "Thou wilt show me the path of Life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy. At Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." When we went for our last sonogram before she was born, I promise you--this little girl smiled at us (yeah, and we shelled out $10.00 for the special 3-D sonogram photo to prove it!). I have videotape of her in the bathtub at 4 months old, belly laughing. At 6 months old, while we were riding in the car, she made a funny noise with her mouth that made Lucy laugh. She did it again and again, the whole way home, just so Lucy would keep laughing.

Often when I think of her, the word "irrepressible" comes to mind. The other day, I was driving her home from my parents, and I put on one of her very favorite songs. She immediately began bouncing in her carseat and singing as loud as she could:

Oh, deep, way down, deep, way down
deep down in my heart
I've got the joy of Jesus
I've got the joy of Jesus
I've got the joy of Jesus
And it's deep down in my heart!

She yelled out at one point, "I like dis song!" and when it finished she kept saying, "You play dat one again, Mom."

I found a great working definition of what joy really is recently: it is a supernatural delight in the person, purposes, and people of God. It's not something you can manufacture on your own; it is given to you. It's supernatural. I will be honest and say that in the past several months, I have been very low on joy. And it's not like I've been able to run out to Target and pick myself up some. I've been baffled and uncertain of some of God's purposes. I've allowed people to take a major hammer to my joy. I've allowed some painful circumstances to rob me of the joy of who I am as a child of God. I went to a social function a few months ago and had a picture taken with both the girls beforehand. I can hardly look at the picture now because I know exactly what I was thinking about that day and what turmoil I was in. I'm smiling, but there's no joy there. Darren asked me when I got home, "How was it?" and I said, "Well, I sent 'fake Alice' so it was fine. 'Real Alice' stayed home in bed with the covers over my head."

So now I'm in the process of getting my joy back. I heard a man on the radio a couple of weeks ago say that most often we seek God's hand in things. We pray for circumstances and people and problems, and we seek God's hand. We rarely pray to see God's face. He went on to say that if we pray for God's hand, we will get it. But if we pray for His face, we'll get both His face and His hand. I realize that's what I've been doing for most of my life--praying to see His hand. And it's not that I've stopped doing that because we're supposed to bring all of our problems and worries and other people before Him. But now I've begun each morning, praying to see His face. I'm not even sure how to do it, so I tell Him that too.

Since I've been praying to see His face in the last couple weeks? The joy is starting to flow back. I got such a kick seeing my baby girl singing her heart out about the joy of Jesus. She has no idea. I want to teach my girls that besides everything else He is, God is so wonderful. Living for Him is a blast. It is such a joy to love Him, and know Him, and serve Him. In other words, ain't no high like the Most High! (Hey y'all. I didn't spend four years in a black church for nothing.)

On my birthday, I was reading Beth Moore's website and she posted about her 2 1/2-year-old grandson that day. It filled me with so much joy, and I have been thinking about it ever since. It makes me smile too that God has used two little two-year-olds to restart the joy work in me. Here's what Beth said. I hope you like it as much as I do:

"I just had to hop on and tell you something I thought was kinda fun. Yesterday Amanda [Beth's daughter] stopped by the ministry with Jackson. He's almost two and a half now and at the cutest age imaginable. I'd met AJ out in the parking lot because I love to surprise the boy by popping up at the window next to his car seat. He's always so glad to see Bibby and makes such a big deal out of it. Man, I'm so drunk on the little guy I can hardly stand it. Anyway, after the half hour it took me to unlatch him from that gosh-awful carseat, we brought him in and he immediately owned the place. Of course he did. He gets to. What I found so delightfully endearing was that, no matter where he went (and he went practically everywhere in the building), he patted things in that particular office and confidently, possessively chirped, "Daddy's work!" Mind you, Curtis has one office just like the rest of us and it is down on the first floor but to his son who thinks he is the END ALL, the whole building was Daddy's work. Even Sabrina's office was Daddy's work and she directs the whole shebang. I loved it. So did she.

"I just wanted to remind you today that no matter where you go, you can freely pat everything in the room or everything in sight, for crying out loud, every single thing on God's green earth, and say, "Daddy's work." Go right ahead. Be confident. Act possessive for His Name's sake. Sound a little sassy when you say it because it's the truth beneath all truths. It's all Daddy's work. He owns the place. For "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Psalm 24:1. He not only owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns the thousand hills under the tails of the cattle. "This is what the Lord says: 'Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.'" (Is. 66:1) If it's on Planet Earth, Darling Thing, it's under His feet. Don't sweat it so much. It's Daddy's work."


ARF said...

Teacher? Alice is copying off my paper.

Alice said...

That is hilarious because I went over to your blog shortly after I wrote this and was all, Ann's talkin' 'bout JOY!!!

Melanie said...

This was just what I needed to read (and the pic to see) today!Thanks, Alice!

Ann-Marie said...

I'm sorry your Joy tank has been leaning toward E lately! Just so you know, though, you've brought joy to me!

I love the Beth Moore story. Kids teach us SO much...when Christ used children as tanglible illustrations...just goes to show us!

Juliet said...

Elaine always brightens up my world when I see her. That grin...I just know that she's up to something. (At least I think she is.) That picture of her just makes you want to smile...big real big.

And I sang "I have the love of Jesus down in my heart" an all white church when I was an youngen.;)