(I am linking up at (In)Couragers today. http://www.incourage.me/2014/06/the-joy-of-the-lord-is-our-strength-and-a-link-up.html)
As a little girl, I loved watching Little House on the Prairie. Maybe it is because I am a girl who grew up on the prairies of North Dakota. I have always loved watching it. And I still love watching their reruns. (If you haven't read Allison Arnigram's book Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. You must read it. I was rolling on the floor laughing. Allison played Nellie Oleson on the Little House series...but I digress). This afternoon as I was enjoying my day off, I came across the Hallmark channel as it was playing episodes of Little House. One of the episodes I watched was the one where Mary finds out she is blind, goes off to a blind school, and meets Adam. At the end of the episode, she is standing in the church during worship reading Psalm 15 from her Braille book. As her fingers danced across the braille book, I couldn't help but think about life and how God is with us in the midst of our struggles.
"The joy of the Lord is my strength."
My life has had its own struggles as well. My mom had a nervous breakdown after my little sister was born. I was only three years old. It has always been a difficult journey. I don't remember a time when my mom didn't end up in the hospital at least once a year. When I was a sophomore in high school, our parents divorced. The illness was too much. My senior year in college my mom ended up in the ICU which aged her a lot. She has been living in a nursing home ever since. The place Mom has lived at for about the last ten years has been an incredible blessing in our lives. My sister and I became legal guardians while I attended seminary. And as I look back on this journey, with all of its ups and downs, I simply know that
"The joy of the Lord is my strength."
Looking back over my own 35 years of life, I can see all of my ups and downs. I went to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp knowing that it was the worst interview in my life ( I spent the whole time looking at the floor not the interviewer), yet they took a chance on me. That next summer, I remember them telling me that they didn't think I would make it, but they would take me as long as I would make it and now they couldn't get rid of me. After camp I felt the call to attend seminary and it was not an easy journey. I struggled throughout that journey, but it also has made me into the woman of faith that I am today. After seminary, I waited a year before I received my first call. And after that first call, I was blessed to be called by a community of faith where I grew into the woman leader that I am today. And when I felt the Holy Spirit moving in my life to a new call, it was so very difficult to leave that place, yet I felt God leading me to this new adventure. It was a time that was filled with deep reflection and prayer. And those are just some of the stories of my ups and downs. As I look back, I completely and fully remember that
"The joy of the Lord is my strength"
Yep, that's right when I struggle because God hasn't brought Mr. Right into my life I cling to the fact that "the joy of the Lord is my strength." When I continually yearn to start a family, I am reminded again and again that "the joy of the Lord is my strength." When friends have failed at having more children, I have clung to the fact that "the joy of the Lord is my strength." When I hear those words, that a friend or family member is sick or divorcing or moving, my heart aches, yet I still cling to those dear words "the joy of the Lord is my strength!"
The Lord is my strength because I have been blessed by amazing communities and friendships that continually remind me of that fact. Without my seminary community and friends, I would have given up a long time ago. Without my camp friends, I wouldn't have first shared my family's story of mental illness. Camp was the first place I openly shared my family's journey with mental illness. And they wouldn't pray for me when they know we were struggling. Without my Diaconal brothers and sisters, I wouldn't have picked up my own basin and towel to wash the feet of all God's people. Without each of my friends, I don't know where I would be! They remind me of God's love each and every day! And without YOU, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I wouldn't know God's love, grace, and mercy because you remind that "The joy of the Lord is my strength."
And knowing that "the joy of the Lord is my strength," I know that God is always with me; with us. I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses; Psalm 30 (specifically verse 5) "For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning."