Are you dancing through life choosing the joy of the Lord with every step? Or have the days become a drudgery of discontent?
Whether you are already focusing on choosing joy or know you have a lot to learn about the practice of joyfulness, you’ll want to read Sally Clarkson’s new book. (Keep reading to find out how you can win a copy!)
Dancing with My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy is not just an uplifting, encouraging read. It’s like each chapter is a chat over a cup of tea with the author herself. Reading Mrs. Clarkson’s book makes me feel like I’ve gotten to know this dear lady, seen her heart and felt her hugs. Hearing through the pages of Dancing with My Father about how she chose joy in her daily life and struggles inspired me to choose “a different heart”, a heart of joy. And it brought home the point that it’s not something that just happens—I must choose joy. Each and every day.
Clearly joy is an issue of the heart. Joy is not found in performing for people or in doing all the right things for God. Nor is joy in the absence of difficulties or problems. Joy is found in the presence of God in the midst of all circumstances, in delighting in the life he has given. (Dancing with My Father, pg. 38ff)
Mrs. Clarkson, as a mother of four, knows that joy doesn’t just naturally bubble up in every day of a mom’s life. She knows the loneliness and discouragement that can come to a stay-at-home mom. She knows the pain of watching a friend suffer. She knows the heartbreak of losing a baby. She knows the feeling that “life will be good when”—when I get married, when I have children, when my children are out of diapers, etc. She knows that one can begin to feel empty when each of those milestones arrived without the hoped-for fulfillment and joy.
She has learned that joy and thankfulness do not come with a certain age or experience: they can only come out of the daily choice to be joyful and thankful.
The key to enjoying God in every moment of these daily pleasures is to open the eyes of my mind to see and to appreciate what he has given. A thankful heart galvanizes the connection between my God and me. (pg. 92)
Making a choice to resist stewing and fretting over all the issues of my day gives me the ability to delight in each moment as a gift. My responsibilities have not changed, but my relationship to my responsibilities has. (pg. 177)
As a young mom who can all too easily stay focused on the exhaustion of my never-ending, never-finished tasks, this book was not so much a breath of fresh air as a timely prick to my heart and conscience. Am I seeing Him in the little things He has placed in my life—or am I too busy and overwhelmed to notice, let alone thank Him? Am I using those 3 a.m. feedings to thank Him for my little one—or to dream of going back to sleep? Is it evident to all who meet me that I have an inner wellspring of joy of my life—or am I rushed and stressed and anything but a picture of perfect peace and joy?
Mrs. Clarkson comes alongside the young mom, the stressed businesswoman, the tired missionary and gently reminds us of the only way we can keep the spring of joy in our steps as we dance through life: by choosing joy, choosing to live each moment in step with the Joy Giver, Jesus Christ our Lord.
If I want to grow a heart of joy, then I must plant the words of God and his truth. I must feed joy daily to ensure that it becomes a healthy fruit of my heart. I must be vigilant to pick and demolish the weeds of doubt, despair, sin, complain, and selfishness which threaten to overcome this joy. A hedge of protection should be in place so that nothing comes in to destroy the very place that God designed for me to cultivate faith, truth, beauty, and joy. (pg. 190-191)
And the sweet picture on the cover of a little girl dancing? To me it represents the hope that my generation’s loss of joyful innocence can be restored: not into blissful ignorance, but into delightful dependence on God.
He can turn our mourning into dancing. He is waiting to lead us by the hand, every step of the way. It’s a daily choice. But the burdens are lighter when Dancing with My Father.
- To enter the drawing for a copy of Dancing with My Father, please comment and tell us:
What is one of the “weeds” that robs joy from the garden of your heart?
What do you do each day to feed the joy in your heart?
What have you set as a hedge of protection around your heart to guard from doubt and despair?
- Drawing ends at midnight, Tuesday, March 9, 2010.
- Thanks to the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing this book for review and giveaway.
- Congratulations to Megan for winning a copy of Dancing with My Father!