All the weeks of getting ready for Christmas, all the celebrations surrounding the end of the year and beginning of a new one can leave one kind of reeling and spinning… followed by the air wishing out of us in January. Today was the father person’s first day back at work after a couple of weeks off and our first day back in school after a a fortnight of solid fun. Honestly it was pretty disastrous… first days back at school tend to be just that and I have learnt to have no expectations of them. The miracle is that two children got their folders out and looked at the last work they did before our Summer break, and three children practiced their musical instruments.
The irony is that in our two weeks off we did mountains of science experiments, my writers finished up and edited books they had been working on, we spent hours playing fast-paced counting games and getting our maths minds into gear. In fact we did a whole lot of stuff that was “School” but it wasn’t called school, and it had that joyous feel of walks on the beach and late lazy meals… “Not noticing” as my children read as late as they liked by torch-light and powered their way through literally dozens of books… but it wasn’t school!!!
And isn’t that the truth with us as well… I enjoyed the two weeks off as much as they did!!! It was a great break – even the dishwasher stumbling to a permanent stop two days into it all and heaps of dinner guests and feasting over the fortnight did not in any way quell that joyful little feeling that we were celebrating. Celebrating the birth of Jesus. I understand the difference between happiness and joy: happiness is a fleeting thing that depends on a good movie, time with friends; Joy is a whole lot more. How often we pursue happiness… just one more fun activity and just one more epic adventure.
The question is why do we only consider ourselves to be joyful during the holidays, when we are called to rejoice always, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Shouldn’t we be rejoicing even on the first day back in school. Why if we spend fifty weeks of the year at work and two weeks “on vacation” is it that we just can’t bring ourselves to love the drudgery of everyday… I know as parents our actions speak so much louder than words and I have a feeling I need to be enjoying the mountain of laundry every morning a whole lot more…
Not to say that I am not grateful for it – I am!!! I am thrilled to have a mountain of laundry – it means there are little people happily provided with clothes; and endless meals to prepare and clean-up from, I am so thankful for them and that our children are well fed in a country where you just can’t take that for granted. All in all I am so grateful for the work involved in raising our bundle of kids… and I really can’t even stand the thought of alternatives and if that “work” were taken away from us. Clearly grateful and joyful are two very different things!!!
Grateful I most certainly am… but I think I need to be a whole lot more joyful!!! I think my kids need to know that we are joyful in all circumstances… the everyday stuff… the drudge of cleaning the bathroom again – it doesn’t have to be a fantastic game or be part of some elaborate reward system… day to day living is work and we need to rejoice in that a whole lot more than we have been… Our children and I need to understand that while happiness is fickle and depends on our circumstances at a given time, joy is a gift and unchanging, a fruit of the holy spirit Galations 5:22,23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
I think the key may be that we don’t actively seek out joy. The reason may be that it requires a bit of effort on our part… it requires us to face trials… James 1: 2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” It requires us to think just a little less about ourselves and a whole lot more about others, 2 Corinthians 8:2-3 “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
I think we are going to begin as we usually do, in a small way and my musicians will find the sheet music to the beautiful song: Rejoice in the Lord Always propped up in the music stand in the morning. Let them learn the music, let them practice and practice this new piece, and the music will thread its way into our hearts. When I send a child out to sweep leaves… I want to hear a triumphant shouting out “Rejoice in the Lord Always,… and again I say Rejoice.” When they sit at the table doing worksheets I want to hear them humming “Rejoice, Rejoice and again I say Rejoice.”
Here’s to finding joy in our everyday lives. Let’s grab onto the trials of life, as an opportunity to expand our hearts, not just during the holidays but everyday…