Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Joy

Gratitude Cultivates Joy
A devotional by Paula Moldenhauer

“And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 
~ Ephesians 5:20 (NLT)

Grandpa and Grandma’s little brown house in the country boasted a big front porch and a big heart. On Thanksgiving, there wasn’t room for everyone at the table. This was not a fine china and crystal affair. Our extended family would spill all over the house and yard, our ample feast filling sturdy paper plates held on knees.

Grandma baked for days. Pies were her specialty. She also made homemade rolls, cornbread, and biscuits. She served at least three kinds of potatoes so everyone got his or her favorite—mashed, fried, stewed. The aunts and cousins brought more food. We never ran out of turkey. The family respected my dad’s status as preacher, so he usually gave the blessing.

My Grandpa and uncles were storytellers, and I loved to listen to them spin their tales of the old days. Our family had its issues, but this was family at its best. Good food and plenty of it, lots of teasing and laughter, and extra hands to wash the dishes at the end of the day.

It’s good to take a day to focus on being thankful, but daily gratitude is more powerful than most of us understand. In Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, she encourages people to journal gratitudes every day for a year. If you write three things a day, you’ll have a thousand! 

When I read that book, I had a hallway in desperate need of paint and a heart in desperate need of gratitude. It took me a year and a half to get to one thousand. I didn’t write every day, but when I did, I dated the entry and wrote in brightly colored sharpies until my mood lifted. I wrote of big things and small. Like the fragrance of baking bread, my son’s home run, and the joy of my daughter’s marriage. When I studied that wall, it never ceased to amaze me how much good there is in this life. We don’t notice the half of it.

A friend going through a hard time said God told her to “Cultivate a capacity for joy.”

I love that. He didn’t tell her to get over the grief, just to make space for joy. Focusing on God’s good gifts and thanking Him helps me cultivate a capacity for joy.

I no longer have a gratitude wall. (We won’t talk about how many coats of paint it took to cover that sharpie list!) But I seek to write gratitudes on my heart and His. To pause and notice the gifts in each day and to make time for good things. Sometimes it’s as simple as grabbing my cell-phone and taking a picture of the sunrise or lighting a fragrant candle.

I’m not a huge football fan, but I thank God for the Broncos! The community my family has fostered around those “stupid” games (doesn’t football last forever?) blesses me. There aren’t too many things more joyful than the deep-throated roar of celebration that explodes in my basement when the Broncos score.

This is the time of year I can buy my favorite apples. The fragrance of someone’s fireplace often fills the evening air. I love sunsets and long walks and even old bananas make banana bread.

Sweet friend, do you see it? The good all around us?

I challenge you to cultivate a capacity for joy. Notice your good God and His good gifts. Maybe it would help to write out things you’re grateful for. Put them in a jar on the kitchen table and read them aloud to yourself. Write notes of gratitude in your journal. Maybe, like me, you need to do it even bigger, and so you write the thank you list in big, bright letters with red and purple and yellow sharpies.

My Prayer: I give thanks to You, God, for You are good and every good gift comes from Your hand. Help me cultivate a capacity for joy, noticing the beauty around me and embracing the good moments of life.

Author Bio:
Author, speaker, and mom of four, Paula Moldenhauer encourages others to live free to flourish. She shares this message when speaking at women’s events, and it permeates her written work. 

Paula has published over 300 times in non-fiction markets and has a devotional book series, Soul Scents. Her first published novella was a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, and she now has six published works of fiction

Paula and her husband, Jerry, are adjusting to a sometimes-empty nest in Colorado. Today’s devotion was adapted from her devotional book, Soul Scents: Flourish

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