Fullness of Joy

In God’s presence, there is fullness of joy. I reread those words and my heart did a little happy dance. As I pursue gratitude in my life everyday and in every situation, I am beginning to learn that joy is an important part of this pursuit. After all, as I mentioned previously the greek word for “give thanks” is eucharisteo, and chara, which means joy, is the root. Psalm 16:11 says, “You will make known to me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy, in your right hand there are pleasures forever.” So, in God’s presence there is fullness of joy, there is fullness of gratitude producing joy. When I researched what the hebrew word used for “fullness of” was, I found that it is the word soba, which means “satiety, abundance, fullness”. Abundance means “fullness to overflowing”, and satiety means, “the feeling or state of being satisfied to the full”. So in God’s presence is a joy that is deeply satisfying, and that fills to the point of overflow. That is the kind of joy I’m looking for.

I keep my little gold notebook on my desk all day at work. My pen holds the place, so that when a blessing pops in my head, I can quickly jot it down. I’m beginning to see that the more I count my blessings, the more joy I feel. And friends, this is no ordinary joy. This is the full kind of joy. The kind that satisfies. The kind that is slowly healing the deep hurts of my heart. The kind that is renewing my mind, and increasing my love for the people in my life.

The best way I can describe it, is that it’s like buying your first pair of glasses and being able to see clearly for the first time. I recently acquired my very first pair of spectacles. Up until this point I’ve been glasses free, but since I married a man who 1. is practically blind, he’s so near sighted and 2. has worked in eye care for the past year and a half, he eventually convinced me to go to get my eyes checked. The diagnosis was that I am nearsighted, and that it was time to bite the bullet and buy glasses. So when they finally arrived and I put them on my face, and looked around, I was in awe over how clear and bright everything looked. I was like a little kid, everything looked so new. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see before, I just wasn’t seeing as well I could. Things looked more crisp and I realized all this time I had been missing out. That’s how it is when you finally start seeing your life through the lens of gratitude and joy. Suddenly things just seem brighter. It wasn’t that you didn’t see your husband give you that morning kiss before, or that you didn’t enjoy the conversation you had with a friend. But perhaps, before you put on the glasses of gratitude, you just didn’t count them as grace in your life. You didn’t seem them as fullness of joy. But once you put those glasses on, and you see life clearly, and you begin to count, and name your blessing one by one, you’ll never want to take them off. You will be satisfied to the full on a daily basis.

I think that the reason gratitude brings such joy and clarity to our life is because when we are grateful it leads us into the presence of God, and what does Psalm 16:11 say? In His presence is fullness of joy. So, when I’m grateful, I’m in living my everyday moments in His presence, and it’s there that I experience joy. Not just a little bit, but a fullness of joy that is overflowing.

“I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefor my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will you allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. 
You will make known to me the path of life;
In you presence is fullness of joy;
In your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
Psalm 16:9-11

Grateful

This year I found One Word 365 through one of my favorite blogs, Love and Respect Now. The concept is that instead of making a list of new year resolutions, you pick one word to basically define your year. One word to define the area you want to grow and change in the most. I think this idea is GENIUS, because new years resolutions can be a tad overwhelming, so picking one word seems more manageable and more productive.

I mentioned in my last post that this year I want to be grateful, so that is my word. Grateful… or thankful. Another word that I’m using is the greek word for “to give thanks”, Eucharisteo. The root work charis, means grace, and it also has the derivative “chara” which means joy. As Ann Voscamp showed me, thanksgiving is finding grace and joy in all things. So this year, that is what I am determined to do. I have a little gold notebook that I carry around in my purse, and this is where I am counting my blessings. This is where eucharisteo becomes more than just a passing thought in my mind. It’s where it is written down, and lived out. It’s where I give thanks. It’s where I count the everyday graces, like a snow delay, so I am able to accomplish much in my home before I go to work. Like a good morning kiss from my favorite man. Like the first snow of the winter. Since I’ve started writing in my little book I’ve counted 200 blessings. Some overlap, but I thank God afresh for them each time I write them down.

It’s harder to find the graces in some things. To find joy in the things that seem so devoid of it. But I’m learning that if I’m willing to look a little harder, it’s there. It’s always there. If I’m willing to look, I’ll always find it.

So may this be the year of thanksgiving. Of grace. Of joy. Grateful is my word, and hopefully by the end of the year that will be an adjective used to describe my life.

The Trap of Control

Controlling. It was a word I never wanted to attribute to myself, but I’ve heard that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So here I go, putting one foot (or word) in front of the other, hoping each step will lead closer to freedom.

My name is Sarah Olinda Combs, and I am a control freak. Maybe not a full blown one… but I like to be in control. I think this tendency probably stems from a lot of different things, one of them being that I’m the oldest of 7 kids, which means I grew up being bossy. So now that I don’t live at home with my siblings anymore, I boss other people around. Or at least I did, or tried to. But then I met Steve. The man, who unbeknownst to me, would become my husband. He wouldn’t let me control him. If he thought I was he would (and still does) call me out. Before him I think didn’t even realize that I was doing was trying to control people and things. I think I thought I was being helpful, or that I knew best. Pretty arrogant, huh? When you are controlling, you become manipulative, and you create an environment where people aren’t free to be who they are. You become and unsafe person.

But I don’t want to be that anymore. I don’t want to try to tell people how to live their lives, or who they should be. They get to decide that, and I feel blessed to included in their journey. I want to be a safe person, who creates a safe environment where people can be themselves without fear of my judgement or “suggestions”. To be honest, trying to control it all is exhausting. So in 2014, I want to find replace that word with a new one. I want to be identified by something else.

This year I am replacing controlling with grateful. God has been showing me the power of thanksgiving in our lives. That giving thanks, no matter the circumstance, in the good bad and ugly, brings joy. Those two things go hand in hand. When we are grateful, and praise God for everything He brings our way, when we look to find the silver lining in every circumstance, there we find joy. There we find Him. So maybe part of the art of being still in His presence means mastering thanksgiving. Perhaps it’s in the place where our heart is thankful, that we really learn to be at peace and really learn how to be still. It’s a lesson I feel like I’m constantly learning. But I’m learning, and I think that’s the important part. I’m keeping a journal of thanksgiving, I am naming my blessings one by one, and as a result I’m feeling more blessed.

I think that it will take a miracle to free me from the trap of control… but I’m in luck, because as Ann Voscamp says, “thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.” So 2014 will be the year of a grateful heart expressed and freedom found, and I’m expecting to see a miracle.

 

 

 

 

You Will Find Rest For Your Soul

When I was in a highschool my family developed a friendship with an Orthodox Jewish family. They were wonderful people, and it was so interesting to learn about their culture and traditions. One that was intriguing to me was their practice of observing the sabbath. Don’t get me wrong, I think observing the Sabbath is important, and biblical. But in their culture they take it to a whole new extreme. From the time it begins until the day ends they are unable to exert any type of real effort or do any type of work. They classify unrolling toilet paper as doing work, so they will preunroll the paper the day before. They cannot drive anywhere, so they live close to their synagogue so they can walk. Little everyday things, that we don’t really see as work, are prohibited in their culture while observing the sabbath. They see rest as pretty much just doing nothing. At least that’s how it appears. But I think I’m learning that truly resting looks very different from that.

There will be nights where I decide that I’m just going to “rest”, and I’ll do nothing, and just putz around, but at the end of it all I don’t feel rested and I don’t feel refreshed. In fact, I think I feel more exhausted. And I think  now, I know why.

Doing nothing doesn’t refresh. Doing nothing doesn’t equal rest. Doing what God has called you to do, that brings rest. I never feel quite so refreshed as when I write, or sing with my husband, or work on our developing company. Being still doesn’t mean being still, it means resting in the Father. It means going to places He’s sending you, and doing the things He’s calling you to do. Resting happens when you are with Him. For me, I feel His presence the most when I am using the gifts He has given me to bring Him glory.

St Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” I am at rest when I am resting in my savior. When I am praising Him. When I am writing. When I am cultivating a dream. There I am at rest. My body needs sleep, but even more than that my body needs to be in His presence. To be with Him brings a holy refreshment that quenches every thirst and that rejuvenates my soul so I can fulfill the calling placed on my life.

Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The key words that stick out to me are “come to me”. Jesus didn’t say “when you are weary and heavy laden fix it yourself.” He said, “come to me” In other words, come spend time with me, and there you will find rest for your souls. In my character and in the calling I’ve given you, there you’ll find rest. Not in the latest trend, or in striving, or in doing nothing. You’ll find rest in ME. And I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. So seek and find and be filled with the refreshment that only I can give.

There are things on earth that will bring temporary rest. A day at the spa, a good night of sleep, a movie night. But the rest those things bring won’t last. But when you daily commune with the Father, walking in the steps He’s laid out for you, doing the things He’s called you to do, the rest you receive will be everlasting. That’s the kind of rest I want, and the kind of refreshment I need.