"It is always hard to remain joyful." That's what Mother Teresa said once. That's how I feel fairly often these days. There's been something stirring in my heart, a need for change. Not a change in environment or circumstance, though that was my first thought. That it would have to come from outside to really make a difference.
A couple of weeks ago, my girl Hannah texted me a link to this post from Ann Voskamp. I read it three times. I cried through nearly every read. I attempted reading it to my husband and had to stop because of the crying. It grabbed my heart and tore it up a bit. Ann wrote about Katie, a girl in her 20s who left home for Uganda, to serve short term in an orphanage, and didn't come back. Her heart wouldn't let her. "Jesus wrecked my life," Katie said. And on goes the story of her complete surrender to God and how she is now the mother of 13 beautiful girls in Uganda, living out His love.
When I was in college, and fresh out, I was ready and willing to go wherever, whenever. I spent three months in Ecuador, hanging out with missionaries, traveling down bumpy roads on beat up busses, visiting orphanages, seeking the face of Christ and what He wanted from me. I went to Ethiopia and South Africa, to drink in the culture, to see the need, to pray with the people there. I lived in DC for two years, working with inner city kids who still have a piece of my heart, even if they don't know it. Grubby little preschoolers who just wanted someone to play with, who wanted innocence and silliness and laughter in their lives that were more hardened than they should've been. In a way, it was easier then because I knew Whose work I was doing. In the gritty reality of all these different environments, the need was clear, I could bring them to the Lord in prayer, I knew to ask Him to fill me up with His love. There was a joy in the service, because I could see Him moving in my every day. Partly because I was looking for it, and partly because it was too hard to miss in those situations.
So I read stories like Katie's, and I remember those days. I remember dreaming of where God would take me in this big world, where every dusty corner in every unfamiliar place fascinated me and filled me with wonder. I wanted to drink it all in, let it all seep into my very being. I read Ann's post, and I think, how am I exploding with this Love that God has given me so undeservingly - this Love that should be pouring out of every part of me because it's so great and lavish, I can't possibly contain it?
The idea of going somewhere distant and foreign and fascinating is more appealing than I can put into words. I dream of taking my kids to Africa and India and all these places that have my heart. And maybe someday I will.
But what is God calling me to today? He has given ear to my prayers. For a family full of life, for children of all different shades, for a life that isn't my own. He answered those prayers and now: what am I doing with it? Because I can look around and dream of grand adventures that take me across oceans, to other cultures, to love and serve. But I think that what He is actually calling me to right now is to love and serve with joy right here. In my home. With my children. That I have my own house filled with grubby preschoolers who just want someone to play with, to be silly with, to laugh with. I've lost that somewhere in the piles of laundry and runny noses and ruined furniture. Most days it feels like I've lost the joy.
He has equipped me to serve with His Love right where I'm at. It will probably not be easy most of the time, but He promises that His grace is always accessible and always abundant. That if I need Him at that very moment, to help me, to bring the joy, I just have to ask Him. And I may have to ask 486 times a day. But the harder it is, I think the more worth it is in the long run. And the more clearly we can see that it isn't actually us doing the loving, it's Him.
That's all I want. More of Him and less of me. To surrender completely and let His joy flood my life. It is always hard to remain joyful, but it is always possible.