Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
I am stretching high on chairs and bending low with dustpan, putting away Christmas garland hanging in the dining room and brushing up piles of pine needles from the Christmas tree being taken out the front door. A disco ball, bright globe of whimsy given to me from a smiling Justin, scatters light over the walls of my dining room. I watch light dance and spread as the ball turns, polka-dotting hope upon dark corners. Specks of mercy, paint-brushed love-dots from God.
Oh, how He wants us to see--to bathe in--His light.
I tell friends how I can breathe a bit easier so far, this season. I feel like I am trying less to reach some goal just out of my reach. Rather, I am resting a little better, a little more. And I can't point to another season in recent memory when I have been able to tell you I am doing that, really, at all.
Rather, I can point you to year after year, month after month, of striving and stretching and longing. And the longing wasn't the kind of longing that is good--the kind of pure-hearted freedom when we stretch our hearts out to heaven and claim the beauty of truth we know is real but which we can't, otherwise, see. For too long, the longing has gotten twisted up a bit--twisted into something a little darker, a little more like bindings stretched tight across my lungs and less like the sweet, fresh breath of freedom from wide-open windows that stretch to hope that never ends.
I am realizing something now: I think I have been dying.
I think another part of my false self has died. I didn't begin seeing this happy truth until yesterday, when I verbalized it to friends. We sit in a circle, asking the tough questions with gentleness: how busy do you feel right now? Do you feel like you are stretched too thin? Are you filling your plate of to-do's too full? How are you resting in God? In what ways are you anxious? How are you choosing to see God in the moments of your day so you feel like His strength is what you lean on and not your own?
I am surprised by my own excitement to join in the discussion, and I can't help but jump in first (a bit uncharacteristic of me, by the way). But I was bubbling up with joy and thanksgiving as I realized I actually feel so filled up with God. I felt restored and jubilant, even. And it is simply because of two simple things that I am saying 'yes' to now. These are things which, for much of my life, I struggled to give myself permission to do: (1) get enough sleep; (2) do something fun and relaxing, regularly, that I love to do.
These past two weeks, during the holidays, something in me just let go. I stopped getting up early, never set an alarm, and slept in as long as I could (who knew my body actually wants eight hours of sleep, when it can get it?) We also, as a family, started turning off all electronics, all technology, all noise-making devices, at eight o-clock every night, and retreated to the front room of our house to sit together, our own separate books in our laps, and read. I think it has been since high school, when I would happily curl up on my bed and read novels that stirred my heart, just for fun. Not for work. Not because I had to. Not because it might be "good for me" to do. I did it because I found rest in doing it. I did it because it was fun.
And I think that my saying 'yes' to letting God restore me--by choosing to make changes in how I live, how I use my time--is restoring me, is creating space for God to fill me, is killing the pride in me that enslaved me to a life of doing and striving.
God wanted to kill another piece of the false self in me that was pulling me away from Him. And I didn't even know He was doing it.
But looking back, this makes sense. He wants our whole heart. He wants us to rest in Him. He knows what is best for us. He knows his presence fills us, and overflows onto others, when we trust how he has made us. We are made to get rest; we are made to love God; we are made to love to do things that help us to see him and worship him, with our whole lives.
God wants us to abide in his joy.
And we have to fight for it, sometimes, His girls.
So, I sit in my dining room and position the disco ball so that sunlight streaming through shutters reflects off the hundreds of little mirrors and shines light all over the walls, all over the dark room. The ball only shines, illuminating walls, when it is positioned to let the light hit it just right.
And, girl, remember this: that disco ball is made to shine.
Shall we stay here, in God's whimsical, beautiful, jubilant light? Shall we let God's light for us bring life to our hearts? Shall we let light dance all around us, covering us, filling us with bright, shining joy?
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
Is there a place in you where you think God wants to shine his light? What is one way God fills you with His love for you? What action are you taking (or you plan to take) to seek the light for you that he has? How is God inviting you to receive his joy?
Here is a book, just released January 5, that you don't want to miss: Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears, by Margaret Feinberg. I got to meet Margaret at her Writer's Bootcamp, in Colorado, in October, after reading all of her previous books and loving her heart for God. Fight Back With Joy is a powerful and beautiful encouragement from a woman who chooses to fight life's battles with joy, rather than succumbing to fear. She writes from the experience of knowing what it is like to stare death right in the face, but choosing God's hope and joy for her, while she battles cancer.
Don't wait to check it out and be blessed by Margaret's story, as well as her encouragement, faith, and wisdom. Here are two of the places where you can find the book Fight Back With Joy: Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And here, you can find the Fight Back With Joy, 6-Session Bible Study Kit.
This post appeared originally on youaremygirls.com.