NOURISH // One Word for 2017

a nice healthy gluten, dairy and sugar free breakfast!

This time last year I began a journey seeking ‘joy’ as I chose that as my one word to focus on for the year ahead. It was a really helpful tool rather than choosing New Year’s Resolutions, to just let joy be a bigger part of my life, and not to let it be robbed away. I also have some wonderful guest bloggers to thank for helping me on my joy journey too, it was great to get different perspectives along the way, thank you all for sharing!

However as I reflected before Christmas on what my word for 2017 might be I realised that whilst I was thinking more about joy and trying to focus on it, the things that were robbing me of joy were still there: ongoing back pain, tiredness, not enough time to rest – they were still constants in my life. So, the challenge for 2017 is how to overcome those, or at least how to live with them in a more balanced way?

One thing I’ve started to do more of is really think about what I am eating and I’ll share more on that as the year goes on, but a word that has stuck with me out of that is ‘nourish’. How do I nourish myself? do I in fact? intentionally? Nourishment is all about sustenance, making sure we are fed with substances necessary for growth, health and good condition so the dictionary says. Feeding ourselves well – and not just with good food, but the dictionary definition also includes, holding a belief for a long time. We need to be nourished spiritually as well as physically.

It’s interesting that a passage I focussed on a lot last year was Jesus’ command to love your neighbour as yourself. But it really stuck me recently: AS YOURSELF. What does that even mean I began to wonder? I often rail against the cultural trend that seems to scream at us from every advert, window or poster that says we can all be perfect, we deserve it after all, focus on you, you, you; but here it is in holy print, love yourself. Not something I am all that good at as I am sure many of us aren’t, my recent post on feeling guilty at being a working mother was a testimony to that.

So I began to pray into that and explore it and I was struck by this passage from 2 Peter 1 –

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 

So, He has given us everything we need for a Godly life. How often do we whole heartedly accept that? or live that out? That line alone struck me like a shot of Tequila… And then. It goes on…

 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Might have been written for me in this moment, it’s all about being intentional – make every effort to add to your faith…

 

But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

I have to say I regularly question my calling to ministry, I mean I know it in as much as I know I have red hair, but at the same time I question how I am supposed to do it, how can I balance life, motherhood, being a wife? – which are equally callings on my life. All of this felt like a challenge to me. If I am going to be able to continue with these callings, keeping them in rhythm with each other and not falling apart, then I have to focus on me a bit more, and more importantly on me and God. As I reflected I realised that my joy is robbed away when I am not looking after myself, when I am in pain, when I don’t spend enough time with God. And in fact that last one should go first, because when I am completely focussed on God, then the pain is not as significant, my time is more balanced, and I am less grumpy! I don’t mean focussed on me in a selfish way, I mean that as a wife, Mum and minister most of my time is given over to others, but that’s the point, that it’s ok to make some time for ourselves too.

So what will ‘nourish’ look like? Well I’m not sure yet but there are definitely three strands to it: to be nourished physically, mentally and spiritually. And not just for me, but for my family too. I’m not setting myself any real goals, as I think this is going to be a journey over the whole year, seeking to live in a more nourished way, but I’m sure there will be plenty for me to post on here!

 

JOY // Guest post from Ben Hollebon

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from a friend of mine – Ben Hollebon.

 

 

I love making films. It’s one of those things I just enjoy in every part of the process. Capturing that clip that you know is going to solidify your story when it comes to the edit is so satisfying.

I love God. Spending time with Him gives me peace. I can’t describe in words the reassurance His everlasting faithfulness brings to my life.

I ask God for stuff in prayers. I know it’s a bit cheeky and they’re not always things that I necessarily need, but I ask anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it works that you ask God for something in a quick prayer, He snaps His fingers and suddenly there’s a fanfare outside as the National Lottery pitch up at your front door with a nice big cheque for a few million. I think God is cleverer than that. He is interested in our hearts desires and giving us gifts; but these gifts are not meant to be held tightly and relished by ourselves alone. Instead, they’re meant to be used to glorify His name, His grace, His mercy and His love.

God gave me a gift last year. It was pretty amazing and I can tell you now – it made me rather joyful. He gave me the gift of a brand new job; one that I didn’t know existed, one that I wasn’t looking for, and in fact one that wasn’t even advertised. My wife saw a job advertised on Twitter (she’s never on Twitter and what are the chances she was on just as this was tweeted?). I went for the interview and didn’t get the job; but they told me there was another job, that wasn’t being advertised yet that they thought I’d be perfect for. So I came back a month later and interviewed successfully for it.

What do I do now? I make films for The Church of England. I work up in Westminster and get to communicate stories of the God I love through the medium that I love. God wants us to be fulfilled through His provision.

This Remembrance video, used in many churches and across Social Media is one of those Ben made.
Pretty cool right? God knows my hearts desires and wants me to be fulfilled in life; but He also challenges me to use the good things He provides to make a difference in this world. This isn’t just a “nice gig” nor is it God giving me a break and moving on. I feel called to work here and with that comes the responsibility that what I am doing is for God’s Kingdom. 

My joy this Christmas is knowing that I have a God who not just knows my every need, but finds ways to meet those needs in ways I could never have imagined. My God can literally find the perfect job for me, where I can use the skills He has blessed me with to communicate His Gospel each and every day.

And my God is your God; is our God; is THE God who loves us all immeasurably more than we could ever imagine.

I wonder what gift He has waiting for you to unwrap…

 

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Ben Hollebon works for The Church of England Communications Team at Church House in Westminster. He makes films and loves all things digital. He even got shortlisted at the Jerusalem Awards this year. He is married to Pollyanna and together, they have a cat called Herbie.

 

JOY // Guest post by Amanda Robbie

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from Amanda Robbie, otherwise known as ‘The Vicar’s Wife’.

 

 

Where is joy when life is grey and dull, when life is hard, when life is just boring and feels like an uphill journey?

Last year I was given a beautiful Christmas decoration.  It’s made of twisted twigs and is decorated with tiny red seed-like beads. The twists and turns and clusters of beads spell out a word. The word is JOY.

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In difficulties and sorrows, when we are striving to live for God in a godless world, when we are battling against our own sinful nature and against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, that is when we sow tears. Often it’s just tiny tears of disappointment and discouragement. Although sometimes there are great buckets of pain and struggle.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

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Psalm 126 compares tears to seeds, sown by God’s people. And we see that those tear-seeds grow into sheaves of grain, and God’s people end up singing songs of joy, bringing in the harvest. I can’t say that’s how I usually see my difficulties and battles : that God is growing something with my tears that will start me singing.

So, as I face daily challenges, inside my heart and outside in my life, I want to remind myself that I will reap with songs of joy. And if I will sing songs of joy in the future, I can begin to sing them now. As the tiny seeds spell out JOY in my Christmas decoration, so tiny seeds of tears will grow into great songs of joy over the harvest that the Lord is gathering in.

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Amanda Robbie is a former designer of sewage works who is now a vicar’s wife in a multicultural urban parish in the West Midlands. She likes writing and baking. but not filing or clearing up. You can find her on Twitter @thevicarswife or (somewhat erratically) on her blog .

Joy Guest post from Ros Clarke // ‘The Enemies of Joy’

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from Ros Clarke, who I have chatted to in the online sphere for a while, and was delighted to finally meet her at last year’s Premier Digital Conference. I am also slightly jealous of her job ;)

 

 

Joy.

It comes, if we are lucky, in the moments. We find it in snapshots of smiling faces. We grab at it in snatched seconds of pure happiness.

It’s overwhelming, all-encompassing, saturating every part of our being. It fills us and overflows from us.

And then it’s gone, as the worries of the world press in on us again.

Because we are surrounded by the enemies of joy:

FEAR

FAILURE

WORRY

STRESS

COMPARISON

It’s a wonder that we ever feel joy at all. And yet it is only when we can forget all these and be free that we ever experience pure, all-consuming, childlike joy.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Paul considers joy to be something attainable for all Christians. Rejoice, he says! Rejoice in the Lord, always! Set aside your fears and failures, your anxiety and stress. Stop those destructive comparisons, and focus on the Lord.

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The Lord is near and we may present him with all our concerns, our worries, our problems. In return, his transcendent peace will guard our hearts and minds.

In that peace, we can rejoice. We can find the joy that lasts longer than a moment. The joy which can outlast our troubles. The joy which transforms our lives.

Rejoice in the Lord. Always.

Again I say, rejoice!

 

 

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Dr. Ros Clarke is the Online Pastor in the Diocese of Lichfield. She can usually be found hanging out on Twitter or Facebook, if she isn’t Instagramming her life or filming for Youtube…

 

 

JOY // Guest Post from Katie Stock

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have a post from Katie Stock. 

 

 

 

In my experience joy is an elusive state, something I observe in others, catch glimpses of in myself but can never quite grab a hold of.

Joy is mentioned 179 times in the Bible. Trees declare it. Men shout for it. Widow’s hearts sing for it. Joy permeates throughout Scripture.

The thing that all of the peoples, individuals and trees (!) experiencing joy have in common is that their joy comes from an experience of the presence of God.

Wherever God is there follows joy.

Then why do I not experience this? Do I not experience God’s presence? Do I not pray enough?

I certainly don’t pray enough. I experience God’s presence but not in a complete sense.

Joy is still elusive.

It is elusive because I am broken. I was broken at birth because of my fallen nature. I continued to be increasingly broken as I grew due to the sin of others around me. I continue to be broken due to my own sin now.

I struggle to experience joy. I know I’m not alone in that. But, rest assured, one day I will experience God’s presence in its unbridled entirety. Then we will all experience joy like never before. Then our broken bones will rejoice and we will be made glad with the joy of God’s presence.

 

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Psalm 51: 1-8

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Katie Stock

Katie is a fundraising copywriter at an international NGO, theology postgraduate, Mama to the delightful Miss F & Miss T and wife to the inexplicably handsome Boy (her words!). Katie also won ‘Young Blogger of the Year’ in last years Premier Digital Awards for her rather fantastic Theology Bee blog – do check it out.

Joy // Guest Post from Jacqueline Peart

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have a post from Jacqueline Peart who I met when we both did the Woman to Woman show on Premier Radio earlier this year.

 

 

 

What Joy Means to Me!

It’s a real joy (no pun intended :-) to be sharing a guest blog on Apples of Gold. Jules and I met at Premier Christian Radio where we were both guests on the Woman to Woman Show with Maria Rodrigues. Within a short time, it was clear that both Jules and I (and Maria of course :-) were real ‘joy carriers’. During the show, we discussed some sober topics and yet there was still room for laughter as genuine warmth filled the air.

So, the question I was asked to address today is, what does joy mean to me?

Joy is a fruit of the spirit, as found in Galatians 5:22, and if I could capture its essence, I would say it comes from within; it is a gladness and a warmth; joy is alive and I believe it is a strength and a choice.

I decided to start writing this blog right after unexpectedly receiving some sad news because I wanted to be sure that what I was getting ready to write was authentic and achievable.

Can I tell you? It is and it was!

You see, happiness is dependent on things that ‘happen’ to us or around us, but joy is resident, it doesn’t go and come depending on our emotions or circumstances. Joy is alive irrespective of life’s up’s or down’s; and despite receiving sad news – as I write – I still choose joy; and in choosing joy there is hope.

I write poetry and inspirational thoughts and several years ago I wrote a piece called, ‘Are you a joy carrier or a joy quencher?’

Joy carriers have the ability to transform an atmosphere or a situation. They can see the glass as half full and they transfer the joy they carry to those around them. Joy is and should be contagious. Those who come into your presence weighed down with the issues of life should be able to draw from that ‘joy-well’ and leave carrying their own joy.

However, ‘joy quenchers’ have the distinct ability to sap your energy and joy. They see only half empty glasses and, equally, they have the ability to change an atmosphere that was once joyful to one stifled by ‘sorrow’, the antonym of joy.

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Jules, Maria & Jacqueline at Premier Radio

The bible says in Nehemiah 8: 10 that, “The joy of the Lord is your strength”, and I can say I am living proof of this truth. The Joy that comes from the Lord continues to by my strength!

So, what does joy mean to me? In a nutshell it means carrying something that has the ability to ignite, lift, encourage and build up self first and then others.

If you’ve identified yourself as a ‘joy quencher’, get around some ‘joy carriers’ and allow their joy to impact you. Read books about joy, find scriptures on joy and find what makes you smile.

You’ll be glad you did!

 

About Jacqueline Peart

Jacqueline is the founder and CEO of Jacqueline Peart International Ministries a charity birthed with a mission to ‘transform lives through wholeness.’ She is an ordained minister, inspirational speaker, poet, mentor, entrepreneur and author, who is known, loved and respected for her honesty, openness and ability to ‘keep it real,’ as she teaches and ministers.

Jacqueline is the author of a number of books including the book series ‘Inspirations for…’ a collection of inspirational thoughts and poetry, ‘Will the Real Women of Destiny Please Stand UP? Study book on the life of Rahab and the ‘Wholeness Equation’.

As well as speaking nationally and internationally, she runs a training and development business, ‘Training With Purpose International Ltd’ (TWPI), offering high quality training and development solutions to church and secular organisations alike.

You can find her on Twitter @jacquelinepeart

 

What Coldplay taught me about joy // guest post on JOY by Sam Hailes

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month I am delighted that we have a post from Sam Hailes. Sam is a writer, deputy editor at Premier Christianity Magazine and an avid tweeter – follow him @samhailes or on his Facebook page.

 

 

Prior to 2009, you’d be forgiven for snorting at my decision to put the words ‘joy’ and ‘Coldplay’ in the same sentence. Up until fairly recently, the pop-rock band were known primarily for their ballads. Early in their career they penned ‘The Scientist’ which included the lyrics, ‘What if I got it wrong / And no poem or song / Could put right what I got wrong’. The somberness seemed to reach a peak with 2005’s ‘Fix You’ where lead singer Chris Martin croons ‘Tears stream down your face’.

Something seemed to change circa 2009. Off the back of their gloomily titled album Viva la Vida / Death and all his friends, the band released Mylo Xyloto and suddenly the 4 piece burst into life, dancing around stages singing about (para para para) Paradise. There was even a song on that album called ‘A Hopeful Transmission’. Things were looking up.

Earlier this week I found myself inside Wembley stadium with 75,000 other Coldplay fans. We sang, we danced and we celebrated. We belted out lyrics about ‘cathedrals in my heart’ and ‘oh thanks God, must have heard when I prayed cause now I always want to feel this way’. It was a party atmosphere. There were fireworks, balloons and lights. The latter shone everywhere – not just from the stage but also from our wrists.

lights_coldplayI believe that experiencing a Coldplay gig is in many ways a foretaste of the joys we will experience in heaven. Obviously there are differences (we won’t be worshipping Chris Martin, and there’ll be less drunk people). But when you’re standing in a stadium with thousands of other people, all singing the same songs, you do catch a glimpse of something beyond yourself. It’s almost a religious experience as you’re caught up in an atmosphere that’s bursting with joy and celebration.

All of this is to a large degree ineffable. But Chris Martin may well agree with some of my sentiment. He’s from a Christian background and once said, ‘I definitely believe in God. How can you look at anything and not be overwhelmed by the miraculousness of it’.

The miraculous of life is something most people don’t take time to consider. I was struck recently by a comment by American comedian Pete Holmes who said, ‘We live on a planet, and I’m sick of no one talking about it!’ It’s so easy to forget the miraculous nature of the world we live in.

But Coldplay seem to have grasped this. The miraculous comes through in their songs. At one point in the show, Martin sang, ‘I think I landed where there are miracles at work’. It reminded me of Martin Luther’s comment ‘The world is full of everyday miracles’. The world is a miraculous place to live. As human beings we need opportunities to marvel at the beauty of the world we live in.

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There were without doubt moments of joy in Wembley stadium this week. But whatever feel-good-feelings I may have encountered there are only a taste of something much greater. I’ve often heard it said that happiness is momentary and is dependent on (good) circumstances. Joy, on the other hand is everlasting and will run regardless of circumstances. I think there’s a lot of truth to this.

At one point in the evening, we sang, ‘under this pressure under this weight / we are diamonds taking shape’. As a Christian, I take great joy in knowing that when the brief moment of happiness contained in a 2 hour gig finishes and the pressures and weights of life come, God is shaping me. And he’s not shaping me despite these pressures and weights. He’s shaping me through them and because of them.

In the words of Coldplay’s ‘Kaleidoscope’…

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all!
Be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent as a guide

 

 

 

More Joy from God

Ok so as you must know by now ‘Joy’ is my one word for the year – read about why here.

I have seen reminders of joy everywhere and just feel God’s gentle nudging at times not to let his joy be robbed away from me (in what is a slightly stressful time!). So imagine my delight when I saw this poster…

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AND… not only that but it’s for an event in the town we are moving to, so the words I first saw are JOY and LEWES ! seemed like a little reminder from God that his plans for us are perfect.

But that’s not all, then I noticed the dates on the poster – 25th June is the day I get ordained and 26th our first official Sunday at Trinity! I was so excited when I saw that, it was like each time I saw the poster God showed me something more.

And then this morning I noticed that the posters (which we had only seen in Lewes) are now on the roads around where we live too!  I cannot fail to be reminded of Joy every day at the moment!

God is so good…. :)

Guest Post on Joy //

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have an anonymous post but you can find out more at the author’s blog here. I am so grateful to her for sharing some of her story, and for her absolute honesty and inspiring faith.

**trigger warning, this post contains some of the author’s story of abuse**

 

Roughly 2 years ago somebody approached me who’s now a very dear friend of mine and suggested I could find my joy in the Lord and that nothing was impossible in him, well at that time I just wanted to tell her where to get off, and what she could do with the Lord’s joy!

Now the reason I reacted like this was because all I could see in my life was utter hopelessness and I felt worthless in the world so there was no room for feeling joyful in my eyes.

The fact that I was severely depressed, had daily suicidal thoughts and rarely even got dressed out my pyjamas to even attempt a new day was a big problem to start with for me.

These problems started from birth as I was brought up in an abusive and violent home and as a young lady I was subject to sexual abuse and horrific rape so how on earth could I even contemplate joy or even know what it was?

The past two years have been a big turn around for me as my dear friend never gave up on me and kept gently dropping little things in about her Lord and saviour and I could see it beaming from her.

I started to find out about Jesus for myself, dared to trust, have faith and began the process of breaking my walls down and letting the Lord into my life in a big way.

I have learnt what joy is and my joy comes from Jesus every day

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My Joy comes from looking at how I have been healed in magnificent ways and that the horrors of past don’t define who I am anymore.

My Joy comes from seeing and helping others find Jesus for the first time and being set free from what’s holding them back.

My Joy comes from knowing that I’m a daughter of a king who lavishes his love over me.

My Joy comes from knowing I’m protected and can seek refuge in Jesus.

My Joy comes from seeing how I’ve changed so much and know it’s only because I have Jesus and have put my total dependency in him.

My Joy comes from knowing I have been saved from my tormenting thoughts of suicide and I now know I’m of worth.

I’ve learnt in a very big way that when you put your trust and dependency in Jesus there is so much to hope for, to be joyful about and most of all I can now smile…

Joy // Guest Post from James Prescott

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This is the first in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy, my word for the year. I am delighted to have James Prescott guesting today. You can check out his blog here.

 

Joy is such a loaded word. It’s one of those words which we say endless times, but often don’t fully understand. We often mistake happiness for joy – when they are, in fact, two very different concepts. Happiness comes from the word happen-stance, which is linked to circumstance. Happiness is about the present. Being happy is about a feeling about something which is happening.

Joy, however is something different. It’s not an emotion. It goes far deeper than that.

When my Mum died in 2000, it was the worst day, the most painful experience of my life. And as anyone who has experienced grief knows, you feel a tidal wave of conflicting emotions. Anger at the person leaving you. I had that for a short time. Then there’s the pain of knowing they aren’t coming back, that there is suddenly a space in your life which nothing else can fill. Eventually you have to come to an acceptance the person is gone, and move forward with your life.

This process took years for me. And all the while, I was feeling nothing good could ever come of losing my mum. What possible good could come from losing someone I was so close to, who loved me so much?

As time went on however, I noticed something. The anger, the hurt and the bitterness began to subside. As I received counselling and prayer, and time passed, I began to reflect on the good things my mum had brought to my life. How she had shaped who I was. The intimate experiences we had as mother and son. Her fun, her free spirit and her immense love and compassion.


Then I began to look at who I was, and the shape of my life. I’d become more independent. And because I’d been left a two bed maisonette, I’d been able to host a church acquaintance when they got back too late from football matches, have deep conversations with him, and ultimately become best friends. And he had introduced me to the church which changed my life and I’ve been part of for 11 years. Losing mum had caused me to question my faith and ultimately deepen it, discover a bigger, wider and more intimate view of God.

And the truth is, none of this would have occurred if my Mum had lived.

As I realised this, I felt a deep sense of what I can only call joy. I wasn’t happy – my Mum was still dead, still gone from my life, and I still miss her. The pain is still there. But there was this sense that God had redeemed this. That it wasn’t for nothing. And also a sense of gratitude for all my Mum was, that I’d had her for 23 years, which is longer than many do. And a joy that even in her death, she had shaped my life in ways I could never have imagined.

And that is joy for me. It’s acknowledging the reality of our lives, acknowledging all our experiences, and somehow trusting, or even knowing on a very deep level, that there is good even in that. Knowing that God will take care of us. That He’s been with us all the way through even the darkest times. And remembering and celebrating the good, even in the midst of our pain.

Kay Warren’s definition of joy sums this up perfectly:

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

Joy is laughing with tears in our eyes. Celebrating, but weeping. Trusting and worshipping when there seems no reason to. Seeing the thin grain of light in the darkness.

And joy is when walking the valley, seeing the sunlight piercing the mountains.

 

  

JamesP profile

James Prescott is a writer, author, coach & editor from Sutton, near London. He’s author of the e-book Unlocking Creativity’ & editor of ‘Christian Writer’ the magazine of the Association of Christian Writers. James is passionate about creativity, identity & spirituality, and blogs regularly at jamesprescott.co.uk & has a weekly podcast, ‘James Talks’ which you can follow on iTunes. James is a big movie buff & has a not-so-secret love of lip sync battles.