Jumping for Joy

An unusual blur of motion caused me to look up from where I was seated at the back of my classroom  One of my students was standing beside his desk, leg flung high, with his hand cupped around his heel. He was gleefully hopping up and down on one foot. I caught his eye and asked the obvious question, “What are you doing?”

To which he gave me the obvious answer.

“I’m hopping up and down on one foot.”

Honesty.

It’s one of the things I love best about kids. I wanted to laugh, but instead asked another obvious question, “Is that one of the assigned activities you should be doing right now?’

“No.”

I gave him THE LOOK. You know which one I’m talking about. The one that says I-really-don’t-have-to-say-anything-else-because-you-know-where-I’m-going-with-this-so-maybe-you-should-get-busy-on-something-else.

“OK,” was his reply and back to work he went.

There was a big part of me that admired him for standing up in the middle of class and hopping up and down on one foot for no other reason than he was feeling joyful. I even wished that I felt like doing that. It had been a tough couple of weeks with a particular student in my classroom and I was feeling anything but joyful about it.

Later in the week as I was getting ready for school I noticed that three little figurines on my bathroom countertop were arranged differently. Normally they spelled out J-O-Y, but on this day they spelled out Y-O-J. Evidently my sweet husband had cleaned off the counter the day before and had put the figurines back without paying attention to their order.

YOJ- that pretty much described how I felt. Somehow that nonsense word seemed to perfectly articulate the

Yucky,

Overwhelmed, and

Just plain tired feeling I was experiencing.

I’d had it with the yucky prolonged winter weather that never seemed to end. I was overwhelmed with spending an exhausting amount of energy on trying to fix a student’s problem that was beyond my control. And basically, I was just plain tired of being tired!

And then it hit me. I didn’t feel like kicking up my heels in joy, because my letters were out-of-order. If JOY was an acronym for how we should live our lives then I had it all wrong

It should be Jesus-Others-Yourself and not way I had been going about it.

I had been focusing in on Y instead of the J. Instead of taking it all to Jesus, I had been trying to solve my dilemmas on my own.But here’s the tricky part.

I had been praying about the problem I was having with this student. Multiple times.

But if I were being honest, I had never really, fully relinquished control to Jesus.

 Not on purpose, of course. Every prayer had been sincerely offered up for help. But in the end I had yanked it back.

I guess I’m not the only one to feel like she is missing the mark. After all, in Romans 7:15 the apostle Paul writes about doing things that are totally opposite to what he wants to do.

I especially like the way the Message Bible puts it, “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.”

Bingo.

I pour out my heart to God and say I give up control, but the before the amen is barely off my lips I’m thinking about it again.

Clearly I am a work in progress. No surprise here.

But in the meantime, I’m forever grateful for the grace Jesus pours out on me. The grace that allows me to start over whenever I let my Y get in front of my J.

The grace that inspires such love and blessing that despite my circumstances I feel like kicking up my heels and jumping for joy.

Who knows? Next time, one of my students feels the need to hop around I might be the one leading the conga line.

Ducks in a Row

One sunny, Saturday morning two mallard ducks waddled through my neighbor’s yard. What an odd ballet of synchronized movement it was. When one moved one way, the other mimicked the motion. Unlike ducklings following behind their mother in a line, these two bachelors were side by side. One was copying the other’s movements with seemingly choreographed precision. My nature-savy husband told me that they were on the hunt for a female. We watched as they circled around the yard, bright green heads bobbing in tandem, before walking down the hill and straight into the middle of the road! Fortunately for Bachelor Number One and his wing man, there were no cars in sight. It wasn’t long after their departure that a little brown female appeared in the yard next to the bird feeder. They had totally missed her.

Sadly, as a young woman, I behaved remarkably similar to those silly ducks. More than once I walked the wrong way down the middle of a road following after someone who said that they knew the way. That journey almost never ended up being a direct route to happiness. In fact, it is nothing short of a miracle that I didn’t end up by the side of the road flattened by the oncoming traffic. As I got older and earnestly sought out God’s calling for my life I began to realize that the only One with an impeccable sense of direction had been right before me the entire time.

Why is it then that I still veer off the path when life throws up a road block? Instead of trusting God to work things out in His own time I am tempted to follow after another little duck if she seems to be paddling by in good time. I empathize with the apostle Paul when he writes in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I don’t do, but what I hate, I do.”  I know I should wait for instructions, and yet I am so prone to try to forge ahead on my own! How thankful I am that the Father continues to remind me that He has already made a way for me. And the One who is the way, the truth, and the light shines before me like a beacon lighting my path.

“Lord, let me be still and know that you are God. When I am tempted to chase after my own solutions, remind me that You alone are the way. Lead me by by Your righteous hand for You are good and Your faithfulness endures to all generations.”