I don't do joy well. I'm more proficient at expecting the worst. I began to pray, "God how do I do joy better? Show me what that means." He was quick to answer. Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California says, "God does not hide things from us; he hides things for us." Johnson states that this concept is like God hiding Easter eggs. He hides them according to our age and maturity. In other words, a two-year-old will need eggs to be in plain sight, as opposed to an eight-year-old who may derive more delight and challenge in finding Easter eggs hidden deep in folds of grass. Regarding the theory of joy, I'm more like the two-year-old. Here's what I found this week. Joy manifested in the creative places God chose to hide His directives.
In the mornings before work, I have a detailed routine that helps me to prepare for the day. One of the my last tasks is applying make up. I grow easily bored with eye make up in particular, so decided to break open a new box I'd just purchased. The palette contained four shades named: Be Grateful, Sure Thing, Brilliant and Citrus Twist. As I brushed the earth tones over my lids, I had to smile, God reminding me that his love is brilliant--a sure thing. Being grateful for my life is a good start on the road to joy, adding refreshment to my life, just like a twist of citrus adds a burst of flavor to water.
Sometimes after work, as a way to decompress, I like to watch a movie. I keep a stack of titles by the television. I slipped Fathers And Daughters into the DVD player. By the end of the movie, tears leaked down my cheeks. The protaganist had suffered during her life, yet learned that life worked best when she fully focused on "the now." She made a decision to step into the present and shrug off dwelling on the past. I smiled through my tears and thought, "God, I forgot that you so often speak to me through movies. Yes, joy is best discovered by living in the present. Help me, please, to make this choice more consistently. I'm not so good at that either." "You're getting better," he said.
Books. Oh, books. I love the scent of them, the feel of pages. I prefer the feel of paper, but will settle for a screen--just don't prevent me from reading. It is not surprising that God would lead me to the page to discover more about pursuing joy. I was finishing up my study of Julia Cameron's book, Walking In This World--The Practical Art of Creativity. In the last chapter Ms. Cameron speaks of two practices that help to pull the curtains back on cultivating joy. Cameron writes, "When our work is made only in the service of our hope for fame or recognition, it is hampered by our self-consciousness as we wonder, How am I doing? When we are able to work without such self-consciousness, we are able to work more freely and more fully. Our ego steps aside and is no longer a constrictive valve narrowing our creative flows and focus. We think less about 'us' and more about 'it,' the work itself." I've realized this truth of late. I've had a hyper-focus of wanting to be published, then languishing in disappointment with myriad rejections. I sensed God saying, "You'll find increased joy when you seek to encourage other artists and writers--that's what you love. That's what I love to do through you." Yes, yes, yes. This made sense. There is joy in service.
The last sentence in Ms. Cameron's book states, "Allow yourself to marvel." The exhortation reminded me to widen my recognition and appreciation in things I delight--good coffee, sitting in the sun on an unseasonably warm January day, my husband's embrace, a full moon, feeling comforted under the quilt sewn by my artisan sister.
By week's end, I was the two-year-old who'd gathered a collection of foil-wrapped chocolates in her skirt, found joy.