Thursday, February 11, 2010

Notes on Joy

For Bible study this week we did a word study on "joy." What does it mean to have joy? If I lack joy, am I missing the Holy Spirit, since a sign of having the Holy Spirit is joy?

I have always struggled with those questions, and with the guilt that came from not feeling joyful as I thought I should. But after meeting this morning and putting together everything we'd discovered and meditated on throughout the past two weeks (we didn't meet last week), I came to some incredible, freeing realizations:

1. Joy is not a feeling. It is from God; God's joy, not mine.

2. Joy is something God creates in us, not something we feel (Psalm 51).

3. In the Old Testament, joy is shown outwardly, as with the Holy Spirit (i.e. dancing, singing, the pillar of fire, the temple). Whereas in the New Testament joy is an inward manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and I become the outward symbol of Jesus (i.e. light, salt, temple).

How freeing to realize that joy isn't something that I have, it is something that God has and shares with me. This strips away all the guilt I have been feeling, and takes my focus off of me and places it back on God, where it rightfully should be.

Kindred Books

I love it when I start reading a new book, and know by page 4 that I need to own it, so I can underline and highlight to my touched heart's content. It's like meeting someone and realizing you are kindred spirits; I love when kindred books find me.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (he wrote Blue Like Jazz) is that way. I feel like the author has written what I couldn't find the right words to say. It resonates deep within me; he felt at that time what I am feeling now. How wonderful to identify. And how wonderful to find a beautiful/true sentence on nearly every single page. (For example, this just blew me away: "Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller." Amazing.)

Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen is another one that grabbed me right away. How could it not, with words like this: "When we are thrown up and down by the little waves on the surface of our existence, we become easy victims of our manipulative world, but, when we continue to hear the deep gentle voice that blesses us, we can walk through life with a stable sense of well-being and true bleonging."
Or this: "Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God's eyes, called the Beloved for all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace." Just... wow. Powerful, empowering stuff, that.

I also love when I am itching to dig into a stack of new books. I've been given and/or lent several books I can't wait to start on. (Redeeming Love from Mom; A Million Miles in a Thousand Years from S; Dog On It from A; Silky Dream Girl from Eric's mom; and I'm in the middle of World War Z from F.) I love that my closest friends and family know me so well they can recommend books they know I'll enjoy; I love when I can do the same for them.

So what about you? Any recommendations? What should I immediately add to my list?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oooh Man, Am I Sore

Aside from the fact that I'm coming down with the flu or another sinus infection, or something equally yucky, I. am. sore.

I've been taking a weekly modern dance class for over a year now, and have been absolutely loving it. It was one of the key things that helped bring me out of my post-partum depression, and into the light of a fulfilled, happy life. It challenges me to meet new people, something I am usually not thrilled to do, due to my on-going self-esteem issues. (Will they like me? Will they think I'm stupid? Annoying? Fat? etc.)

In short, it's been very, very good for me.

This week, I added a second dance class to my schedule: African dance. Oh my goodness, I cannot tell you just how much fun this class is. First of all, there are live drummers providing the music. It is so energizing and exciting. Also, the instructor is legit, having studied dance in Africa, as have most of the drummers. She teaches by example, not using many words at all. Everyone is smiling and sweating and loving it. It is so, so much fun.

But my goodness, my legs are so sore after two nights of dance in a row. My calves will be amazingly toned in no time though, for sure.

I love being able to be so involved in something I love so much. I love that Eric is so supportive of my desire to take these classes, and not resentful at all that I'll be spending one more evening out of our home. I love that he encourages me to do these things, and that he loves who I am and how happy it makes me to dance.

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to take these classes, to explore new ways of self-expression, and to (gasp) meet new people with similar interests. I am blessed, indeed.

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