Tag Archives: Joy

I’ve just got back from a week in Portugal. I read a lot of books. I ate a lot of bread. I drank a lot of really good but really cheap wine. I went barefoot on the beach. I got ridiculous tanlines which will probs take until October to even out so I'm def not wearing a strapless dress to any weddings this summer. I saw a few stars - and even a planet! Every morning the breakfast buffet gave me a legit reason to eat double my body weight in pancakes, cereal, toast, apple danishes, pastel de nata, toast, eggs, cheese, bacon, pineapple, orange, melon, tea, orange juice, toast and sparkling wine (which is totally acceptable if you just call it Breakfast Wine). The gym is now my home.

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My first day back at work was BRUTAL. No sun. No beach. No Breakfast Wine. I’d tasted freedom and this whole 'need-to-set-an-alarm-in-order-to-get-to-work-on-time-and-then-actually-turn-up-and-do-work-and-handle-responsibility-and-be-nice-to-colleagues' thing was just too much. By the end of the day it took all my willpower to not quit my job and jump on the first plane out of Gatwick. Destination Unknown.

It turns out, despite spending the whole of 2019 learning about joy, I’d forgotten that choosing joy can be a spiritual practice too.

Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way – once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you’ve lost your way." Barbara Brown Taylor

Joy is a choice to adjust your attitude from “I can’t believe they expect me to be here” to “I get to do this.”

Joy is a choice to learn to love the liturgy of the everyday.

Joy is a choice to not focus on all the things that frustrate you but instead give thanks for the things which aren’t making you google ‘epic ways to Mic Drop hand in your resignation.'

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Given how much I LOVE sending cards this is me.

Joy is a choice to embrace the hard and holy things.

Joy is a choice to not batter the Roger at work to death with a hair straightener for talking to you about your hair AGAIN but instead take a deep breath and calmly explain that you really don't give a care about his opinion of your hair and so if he could keep his comments to himself that would be much appreciated (“but Rachel its fascinating, your hair is so versatile, it can be frizzy and then straight” – by the grace of God alone this man is still alive).

Joy is a choice to notice the wonder of sunrise from the train platform rather than lament being awake before the sun.

Joy is a choice to abide in the light and let its radiance illuminate the next right step.

Joy is choice to choose joy, even on the days you'd much rather wallow in being the Grumpiest of them all.

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks. Celebrate.

Are you ready? Are the Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Is Jack Frost nipping at your nose? Are yuletide carols being sung by a choir?

Confession: I am not feeling the Christmas vibes this year. Not at all.

I’ve tried. But mostly all I can think about is the 7 different types of vegetables that need preparing and then the turkey the size of a small child that needs roasting (sidenote - since when so we need to eat 7 TYPES OF VEG ALL IN ONE MEAL?!)

And so, please, be gone from my presence with your Christmas jumpers. No, I will not watch Love Actually. Stop talking about how many mince pies you’ve eaten. And for the love of mulled wine, stop singing Mariah and Bublé and the Fairytale of New York.

I am done. I do not care. Resting Grinch face has been activated. Take your Christmas filled joy far far away from me.

As the poet once said: Bah! Humbug!

And yet, I still stopped to listen to the brass band playing Christmas carols at Waterloo Station.

And I still bought a Poinsettia - because I am my mother's daughter afterall and is it even Christmas without one?! #plant-lady-is-the-new-cat-lady

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Because despite the fact it seems like most of the world is on fire and it's people crying out for liberation, there is hope enough for a weary world to rejoice.

Because actually, being a Grinch in the face of all the hype grounds me in reality that Christmas is a celebration of life-giving radiance breaking through the darkness in the unlikeliest of ways. Christmas is a celebration of pain and suffering and cries for liberation not going ignored. Christmas is a celebration of hope.

Celebration is not just a way to make people feel good for a while; it is the way in which faith in the God of life is lived out, through both laughter and tears. Thus celebration goes beyond ritual, custom, and tradition. It is the unceasing affirmation that underneath all the ups and downs of life there flows a solid current of joy." Henri Nouwen

Because Immanuel. God is with us.

God is with us in joy and sorrow and everything in-between. Some days that’s the very thing getting me through the day. Other days I'm not even sure what it means. And so, when all the world is an altar, and joy and sorrow are intermingled, we break bread, pour wine, feast and celebrate.

And then even my weary Grinch heart finds a glimpse of hope, and reasons to rejoice enough to shed a few tears in the middle of Waterloo Station when the brass band play O Holy Night – it gets me every time.

Immanuel. God is with us.

I hope you have a Christmas of joy and peace and laughter. And if your heart is weary, I hope you can somehow see your way through to find reasons to rejoice.

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From the archives of Christmas past and remixed for 2017:

I am loving this song right now. Repeat-repeat-repeat. And then repeat some more.

Isaiah 7v14-15

She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – ‘God is with us.’

Immanuel. It means God is with us. I return to this every Christmas. God is with us.

God is with us through colds, flu, cancer, broken bones, broken hearts, allergic reactions, depression and the everything in-between.

And God is with us in so healthy we tell absolutely everyone about how many days its been since we had a sick day and how much better life is now that we're meat free, gluten free and sugar free.

God is with us through the job that drains your life but doesn't fill your bank account, the job that you can't escape, your annoying colleagues and when we join the many and the humbled of the unemployed.

And God is with us through the much hoped for, much prayed for but now we've got it don't think we're equipped for promotion.

God is with us when we want nothing more than to find a valley, dig a giant hole, stock it full of good snacks and good books and then climb in and hide from the world forever.

And God is with us when we're standing on the mountaintop, basking in the sunlight, taking selfies for the 'gram and admiring the view.

God is with us when we’re o so can't-think-can't-speak-can't-remember-which-day-of-the-week-it-is tired.

And God is with us when we have so much energy we run around and around and around and around and around and around and still have enough energy left to power the most ridiculous pub Christmas lights you've ever seen:

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God is with us in grief, mourning and the breathless heart wrenching pain of making it through just the next second after hope died and all is lost.

And God is with us in joy and celebration so great you find ways to bring it into each and every single conversation regardless of the original topic - so great to hear about your work trip to an oil rig in Norway and how you monitored the levels of Salmon but have I shown you a picture of my baby cousin yet? Isn't he the absolute most cute baby you've ever seen in your whole life? (the correct answer is yes). Did I tell you he can hold his head up now? Did I tell you he can pull my hair now? Did I tell you he can read books? Did I tell you he can count to 105 even though he's only 6 months old? Did I tell you he learnt to walk at just 3 months? Did I tell you he's the youngest baby ever to pass his driving test? Did I tell you? Did I tell you? Did I tell you? Did I?!

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God is with us when we dread the day ahead more than being forced to watch yet another ridiculous Adam Sandler/Ben Stiller/Will Ferrell/other stupid boy film.

And God is with us when we're so excited for tomorrow that we can't even go to sleep and make the day come quicker.

God is with us through how on earth are we going to pay the rent this month.

And God is with us through we just won the lottery and we're taking everyone we know on a round the world adventure for two years, and then we're buying a yacht, and then we're buying a horse, and then we're buying a unicorn.

God is with us through "I said yes!" and the resulting admin.

God is with us through "It's over" and the resulting admin.

God is with us through (insert your situation here).

God is with us, even when it feels like he isn't, through every season and activity under heaven.

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even until the end of the age. Matthew 28v20

I was asked why its so important that God is with us. Its because it means that God cares. God is not aloof, watching the goings on of the world at an indifferent distance, but instead God is there in the midst of the mess with us, constantly cheering us on further in love and holiness, giving us strength to endure and hope, offering us comfort and an invitation to joy - a life and beyond in all its fullness.