"Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stop Trying to Steal My Joy, Please!

Have you ever had someone or something just try to rip the joy right out from under your feet?  Someone who begins the day with, "You don't look very good," on a day when you are feeling great and thinking you look  the same.  Someone who actually notices your new haircut, asks you if you have just gotten it cut, and when you say, "Yes," just says, "Oh!" Goodness.  Why do some people just have the need to steal someone else's happy?  I don't know.  I love my happy joy, and I want to keep it forever.

Geesh! Today seemed t o be going well until I came home from work.  Work was extremely busy. Did I just say 'extremely busy,' because I really meant to say, 'manic, excessively and intensively busy.' Then there was physical therapy and then home to my ever cheerful Lab/Husky/Shepherd mix and my Golden Retriever.  After all of the, "Mom's home. Let's go wild," stuff, I was in the process of letting them outside, when my Lab/Husky Shepherd, Domino, took off running.  Well, I started calling him.  I mean, whenever my daughter, Joy, lets him out, he runs for a few minutes and then dutifully returns to the back porch.  She even lets him out, unchained, and returns inside knowing that her pooch will return in a few.

And so I waited.  I decided to exude some confidence and go inside for a moment.  I wouldn't want him to think that I didn't trust him.  I got the Golden, Sam's, brush, and began brushing his long fur. Hmmm.  Joy's adorable pooch had not duly returned.  No.  My mongrel was out and about the neighborhood, carousing and doing God only knows what.  Geesh again!  Today's high was only 12 degrees, but that was when the sun was actually shining. I personally think that the Husky (another word for Snowdog or Eskimo) in Domino knew that it was about 5 degrees outside and wanted to just steal my joy.  Rip it right out from under my snow boots.  Well, guess what?  He just about did.

I eventually put on my gloves and hat, meandered outside and continued calling him.  With snow all over, you would think that I may have been able to follow his footprints.  This dog apparently had done a hot jiggity jig upon his escape from the yard because there were paw prints everywhere, in both directions.  I called my daughter, Bethany, whining and saying that I couldn't find Domino, and it had been quite some time and yes, I was getting worried.  I was letting this tail-wagger steal my joy, and I knew it.

Thank God, I happened to spot my mutt down the street. This was only after I pulled my car out of the garage, and of course, the garage door wouldn't shut.  So I left it open.  He was running in circles and tinkling on someone's bushes all the while a man was throwing things at him and yelling for him to go home.  Talk about Domino stealing someone's joy.  I doubt he had much to steal even before my mongrel arrived to, hmmmm, freshen his bushes.  Yes, please, go home, dog.  When Domino saw me, windows down, offering a treat, he started to run towards me.  I hopped out and opened the passenger door, motioning for him to 'jump in for a joy ride.' He put his two front paws on the edge of floorboard and decided, no, he would rather I chased him.

So....OK....my joy was getting pretty much depleted by now, as well as my energy, and any warm blood that had been circulating through my veins, was turning to ice about now.  I proceeded to back my car all the way down the street, with Domino constantly running in front of it, as if taunting me to go ahead and hit him.  Hmmm.  The mean girl in me was considering such, but that's another story.  Finally, we made it home and he ran inside the garage.  The door was already open because I couldn't close it earlier. If you read my blog, you'll know that I've been suffering from a desperate need of someone to fix things.  Well, with my joy nearing exhaustion, I pulled my car inside the garage, shut the door, and left him in the garage to think about what he had just done.

It totally served him right.  Or so I thought.  I mean dog's memories are just like mine.  They can't remember what they did ten minutes ago.  Literally, one minute after I locked him in the garage, my daughter, Bethany, came home, parked, and opened the automatic garage door.  It doesn't shut well, but it sure does open on command.  Grrr..  Well, that joy stealer just took right off again.  This time, he returned immediately.  Thank God.

I then pondered, did I pass this test or did I fail?  Did I succumb to throwing up my hands in the air and declaring my black and white mongrel the winner? Did I yell and scream at him in anger (or just to get him running back home)? The good girl side of me usually gives him a treat when he takes off on a neighborhood adventure and quickly returns home unscathed.  But, the bad girl side of me locks him in the garage, even if it's only for a moment.  The good girl side of me brushes him, and the bad girl side of me thinks, 'let him suffer.'  I actually passed this test, but just barely.

Why?  Because even though I was very frustrated, and my joy was virtually being taken from me, I didn't lose all of it. I kept the good girl side of me almost totally in tact.  Sure, I was frustrated and locked him in the garage, but I didn't yell at him; I didn't even scold him.  Whew! That doesn't mean that I will pass the test next time.  And believe me, there will inevitably be a next time.  Domino has a thing for a dog a few blocks away, and in the summer, he loves just being around her.  I know the 'escape artist' side of his otherwise passive personality will emerge time and time again next Spring and begin testing my good and bad girl sides.

The good girl side of me prays about it, while the bad girl inside me wants to fight him and just leave him outside--forget about looking for him altogether. But then, the Holy Spirit intervenes and whispers in my ear, "Shari, don't be frustrated. He'll return. Don't pitch a fit, yell and scream, threaten to kill him, run him over with the car (yes, that is an option, too, ya know), or return home without him and shut the door.  You'll regret it later."  And we all know that later comes more quickly as the years pass.

Spiritually and realistically, I know that situations cannot steal my joy if I don't let them.  People can't steal my joy unless I let them, and surely a dog cannot steal my joy unless I let him.  Even rude drivers, grumpy cashiers, sub zero temperatures, broken garage doors, broken promises, and long, exhausting days can't steal my joy.  No, they can steal my stuff, but not my joy.

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete."
John 15:11 (NIV)

The Bible is very clear about this joy thing.  God gave me joy, and He is NOT an Indian-giver.  Nope, He gave it to me for eternity, and it's most definitely a treasure.

I never realized just how much of a treasured gift it is until last year.  I, strong Christian woman of God, Armor bearer, Prayer warrior and overall happy person, allowed my joy to be temporarily disbanded. I can't say stolen, because it wasn't.  I allowed it to go into remission, a veritable hibernation.  Why? Because I was focusing on the circumstances instead of on the prize.  I took my eye off the prize, but only for a moment. Sure, the Lord allowed me time to grieve, but there was and is a difference between grieving and being in despair.  Once I began to remember God's promises to me, memorize them, internalize them and focus on them, my despair took a snooze, and my joy re-emerged.

For a time, it was scary, but only for a time.  The silver lining, hiding behind my joyless cloud, was there, I just had to find it.  Surprisingly enough, it was really right in front of my nose, right where I had left it.  It never left me; I had temporarily shelved it. Left it on a dusty bookshelf to be retrieved at a later date.  Thank God, He, the Giver of the gift, reminded me to dust off the shelf and retrieve my gift. Whew!

Yes, when the bad girl, the selfish girl wants to succumb, the good girl in me remembers one of God's greatest gifts to me, and is totally, unequivocally, immensely, and amazingly joyful.

May you remember to tap into your God given joy today.  May the good girl (or boy) in you consistently emerge amidst the chaos and frustrations of this world and when anyone and everyone is trying to steal your joy.

Be blessed, friend.

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