It's a Monday morning in December when I wake up weary.
There's a list of things that need doing and that list stretches clear around the corner, right past all hope of reaching an end, and I think I might just give up before I even get up.
It's two days after my 31st birthday and I've just done what I haven't done before in all my years--I've celebrated the life He's given me in six different ways, on six different days, all in the same week of December leading right up to my birthday.
And, oh, the joy that's found me in this one week of celebration?
There are no words for that.
But I'm sitting here in the wake of all these festive days and this broken body of mine's telling me what I've been afraid of from the start.
I'm not strong enough to live that kind of joy.
And there's this one piece of a heart that thinks it might just be true.
But I'm not convinced and I get out of bed regardless and I start to think maybe what's really true is this:
Maybe the joyful life doesn't come easy.
Maybe it comes at a cost.
And maybe that's exactly how it should be.
I think back to that day in January when I wholeheartedly took up the dare to find joy in 2012--to count another thousand pieces of His Grace and let Him fill up a whole life with joy. And I might've been foolish enough to believe the second thousand would be easier than the first, but oh, could I have ever been more wrong about anything at all?
This year, the one I named Home, it's named itself Loss and I've given up more times than I can count and I've grieved and I've wondered and maybe I've even shaken an angry fist at the sky.
And that journal meant for catching Grace, it's sat closed and silent for months without end.
But then there's a day in the middle of October when the Death Angel passes by and my dad nearly dies and I count gift number 1710 that night: My dad didn't die today.
And I'm more than a little paralyzed by that one enormous Mercy and nothing finds its way into the journal for long weeks after. But there comes a day in November when I realize there are only seven weeks left and I'm 407 gifts short and maybe there's no real hope of finishing what I've started but don't I want to give it everything I've got? Don't I want to find Joy after all, at the end of a year that's ripped me clean open and carved me right out and left me wounded and wondering what God's really doing in all this?
That day in November, it's the one on which I finally make the choice to find Joy. I make a permanent home for my journal on the dresser beside my bed and I lay it open and I leave the pen right there on the page and I start counting like I've never counted before.
Because I might've thought counting 1117 gifts in 2011 would've taught me how to really give thanks, how to find God in all the days of a life, how to live joy. But it's another 593 gifts before I figure it out that there isn't any figuring it out.
There's only the choice to keep living the daily thanksgiving and let God teach and change and grow us as He will.
And what He's teaching me through the second thousand gifts?
That Joy's this force of God and it doesn't settle for a place on the shelf. No, it requires the emptying out and the making way and the carving of a space in the soul and it doesn't come easy and it doesn't come cheap.
But our redemption's been paid for with the blood of a Son and why do I keep thinking that the abundant life in Christ can be bought with anything less than sacrifice and letting go and falling right into the mystery of God and His ways and all this crazy life we're struggling to understand?
It's a night in December when I'm in the backseat of a car and we're driving up one street and down another, just three women marveling over strings of lights adorning trees and houses and windows and fences. And we're just about to call it a night when there's this one house that catches my eye across the road. There are lights strung all across the eves but what I can't take my eyes off? Three giant letters emblazoned on the living room window.
J. O. Y.
I sit in my bed late that night and I count the thousandth gift for 2012 and I feel it deep, how Joy really has come and it's making a place in me. And I wonder, for just one moment, what happens now.
But I already know.
I pick up the pen and I keep counting.
And I let God figure out the rest.
All 512 gifts from the last few weeks are a bit too much to catch up on, so for today, on the eve of celebrating the birth of Joy Himself, just a whispered Thank You to the One Who has filled another year with Himself and taught me that Joy's a hard-fought battle that might just cost us everything we've got. But, oh, it's worth it, Friends! *He* is worth it!