Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fighting for Joy

The first six weeks of school were a breeze for me. None of my teachers were piling on assignments, and I was adjusting pretty well to working during the school year. But lately it seems like everyone got together and decided to throw everything at me all at once. I have major projects and tests in every single one of my classes due in less than two weeks, and my work schedule has gotten more hectic as well. Instead of scheduling me for longer shifts on weekends or easy days, lately I have been working shorter shifts almost every single weeknight. So, my days basically consist of classes, studying and working on projects, going to work, studying and working on projects some more, and sleeping. If I’m lucky I will stop by Ben’s place for a while, but recently the only days we have guaranteed together is Sunday. This is frustrating for both of us, because this is the time when we are supposed to be planning our wedding and preparing for marriage. Unfortunately, that often gets pushed to the back burner while both of us try to juggle working and school. It’s a good thing we got so much wedding stuff done in September and early October, because it doesn’t seem to be slowing down here anytime soon. Midterms are just around the corner, and before we know it, it will be finals. Stress. Full. (It’s also Holiday Season at Wal-Mart…which I am NOT looking forward to!)

I have been letting all of this pile up on me and get me down. I get frustrated that my nights are occupied with working, but I know it’s where I need to be right now to make sure school is paid for. I get frustrated that certain teachers pile on project after project and expect that their class be the center of my entire life. And I get frustrated that some nights I am just too tired to drive across town to spend the evening with my fiancĂ©. (Are you getting the sense that I’m frustrated??) Usually when I am feeling this way it quickly leaves. But right now, it’s not. I can tell because I don’t feel like myself. Most days I wake up and immediately think about all I need to get done. I overwhelm myself before the day even starts! And when I finally get done all I needed to, I sit and think about all I didn’t get to do because I was so busy doing everything else. Are there other things I really want to be doing right now? You bet. But I will always, always push those things aside to get done what needs to get done. It’s in my blood. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it! And people are noticing. It makes me sad that when I call my mom on the phone she always thinks I’m upset about something. Even when my day is going pretty well, she can still pick up that sense of frustration. And unfortunately for Ben, I take out aggression on him. I absolutely hate that. And yet, when I say snappy things to him or spend an entire evening unloading my frustrations onto him, I can always count on an “I love you more than anything in the world” text from him before I go to bed. I know I don’t deserve that.

I also know I don’t deserve how God consistently takes care of every single detail in my life. After I’ve stressed myself out and ruined an entire week before it even really gets started, God steps in. Yay God! This week I was scheduled to take four tests: Statistics, British Literature, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, and Domestic Violence. Yuck. I already took my statistics test, but the other tests have been hanging over my head for the past week. Working makes studying harder to squeeze in, and we’re also throwing in a trip to Yankton on Thursday to begin marriage counseling and to take engagement pictures if the weather cooperates. (Which looks highly unlikely!) I had no idea when I was going to make time for all this. Well, that’s where God stepped in. My British Literature mid-term got postponed! It’s a small blessing that completely changes my entire week, because now I can focus on the one test that needs the most attention and worry about the British Literature midterm later. Funny how one small thing changes everything. I am much more confident in my ability to get everything done that needs to get done. And to top it all off, I was asked to transfer to the jewelry department in Wal-Mart, which seems like a dream come true after getting hardcore chewed out by a customer last week. Being at the checkouts is very hard because people take out their anger on me a lot. Being away from all the craziness would be wonderful, and I know my stress level would go down quite a bit if I actually do transfer.

But even though God blessed me in these small ways and changed my attitude about this week, I know the coming weeks and months will bring more of the same frustration. I am glad I can recognize my bad attitude now so that I can work on it and stop dragging myself around. I don’t like living like that! I don’t want to do it anymore. So, I want to make the conscience effort to fight for joy. Sounds kind of contradictory, right? We shouldn’t have to fight for joy…should we? I think so.

You can’t always experience that spontaneous joy that we love so much. Some days you just wake up feeling sad. You can maybe throw yourself out of bed, but we all know that you can’t always force yourself to be joyful. Some people seem to have been born with a joyful attitude, and we look at them and cringe a little. (Anyone else get a teensy bit bothered by those perpetually happy people? How in the world are they happy every single day???) We start to think that something is wrong with us. If they experience joy every single day, why aren’t we? I want joy every day. So I will fight for it. Here’s an excerpt from John Piper’s book “When I don’t Desire God- How to Fight for Joy.” This book has put fighting for joy in perspective for me—
            “We are like farmers. They plow the field and plant the seed and cut away weeds and scare away crows, but they do not make the crops grow. God does. He sends the rain and sunshine and brings to maturity the hidden life of the seed. We have our part. But it is not coercive or controlling. And there will be times when the crops fail. Even then God has his ways of feeding the farmer and bringing him through a lean season…In obedience to God’s word we should fight to walk in the paths where he promised his blessings. But when and how they come is God’s to decide, not ours. If they delay, we trust the wisdom of our Father’s timing, and we wait. In this way joy remains a gift, while we wait patiently in the field of obedience and fight against the weeds and the crows and the rodents. Here is where joy will come. Here is where Christ will reveal himself (John 14:21). But that revelation and that joy will come when and how Christ chooses. It will be a gift.”

I don’t feel joyful every day. Certainly not this week. But I love when God steps in like he just did for me to remind me that even in times of difficulty, he is there. God’s timing is perfect, so I will continue walking by his side and fighting those weeds and crows and rodents every day, because in the end I know that gift will be worth it. When school and a wedding are all taken care of and paid for, I can take a step back, wipe the sweat from my brow, and thank the Lord above that he never left me and that he blessed me more than I know what to do with. I am so thankful I have a God who works for me when I fail in so many ways. For even when I work my hardest, I can accomplish nothing. God accomplishes it all, and that, my friends, is a huge reason to be joyful.

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