Unexpected Joys

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So, last week was a heavy post. I know. But sometimes, heaviness is needed. Sometimes, it’s like a weighted blanket for us–helping us to center and recognize where we need to focus and what we need to prioritize.

Sometimes, though, God knows we need light. For the Richardson clan, it’s serious gardening season. Yesterday, we created a fairy garden waterfall and put in plants along the neighbor’s fence.  We planted beans and sunflowers and tomatoes. My husband checked on the bees to see if their little lives were buzzing along happily. And sometime this week, he thinks I am going to sew together fifteen yards of tulle to protect his blueberries from the birds and bunnies. Ha. He does not know my week.

So, a summer garden series. Because life began in a garden. Some of God’s finest beauties and best lessons are learned in a garden. Here we go.

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In The Garden . . .

As I may have previously mentioned, lawn mowing around our house usually only get done when a) company is coming for a backyard cookout, b) we lose something valuable in the undergrowth (like a kid), or c) the neighbors ask us if we’d like to borrow their mower since ours must be broken. It’s not that we don’t like mowing—I really enjoy it. It’s just difficult to find a long enough chunk of time in my schedule to mow an entire acre.

After a few passes around the yard one morning, I noticed a bird swooping closer and closer to my head. After another pass, I realized that he was actually following me, darting and gliding close, but not too close, in the mower’s wake. I recognized the outline and colors of a barn swallow and smiled at my new friend. He must have thought he’d bellied up to the All U Can Eat Bird Buffet, as the tractor kicked up hundreds of tiny insects from the grass, destined to be a smart swallow’s breakfast.

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Apparently, the feast was too good to keep to himself, because before long, at least six swallows dined and rolled about me, coming so close I could see the light bounce off their almost iridescent deep blue backs. We finished the lawn together, my aerial pals and I. I provided them with breakfast; they provided me with entertainment and kinship.

The antics and evident satisfaction of a half-dozen strangers the size of my hand unexpectedly enlivened my morning. They came so close of their own accord, to join me in a kind of interdependence that God must have intended from the very beginning. Those magic minutes gave me a glimpse of the delightful intent of God’s creation and His final plan for its culmination when the lion and the lamb will indeed lie down together, and the bird will no longer justly fear the human. The birds’ brief “friendship” brightened the rest of my day.

One of my husband’s friends and coworkers has a saying, “While I was doing my duty, joy overtook me.” Real joy can come, and often surprise us, not in our zealous pursuit of it but in our daily activities, just doing what must be done.

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The Joy set before Him?

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross and obeyed even to death for “the joy set before Him.” Joy? Yes, that’s what it says. It’s not the word we expect. Pain? Agony? Necessity? Maybe those. But joy? Somehow, in doing the things one must, in submissive obedience to God, joy overtakes us.

I mowed the laws because it needed doing. No other grand motivation—just plain duty. But in that obedience, I found a joy that lasted all day and that I still smile to remember.

You’ve felt that joy, too. When what you offered under tight circumstances gave people in even tighter ones a gleam of hope. When a church service you didn’t feel like attending reached your heart with a new vision of God. When a note of encouragement you sent reached someone on the very day she needed it.

In dutiful obedience, joy overtakes us. Let it swoop and glide about your heart sometime today.

“While I was doing my duty, joy overtook me.”

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