Finding Joy In Who You Are

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Do you remember that question?  Perhaps you’re still waiting to grow up and figure out the answer to that question.  Or maybe you’ve grown up and you’re living your dream.  But more likely, if you’re like me and many others, when you evaluate who you are today, reality hasn’t fully matched your dreams.  Our answers at six, twelve, eighteen, and even twenty-five and beyond rarely take into account all that life will bring our way.

Unfortunately, most of our answers to the “what do you want to be” question rarely answer the question that ought to be asked.  We hear the question and our answers invariably sound like we heard, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”  I don’t know what your answers have been over the years, but perhaps some of these sound familiar:  I want to be a policeman, a fireman, a nurse, a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a builder, an astronaut, a mechanic, a business owner, or a whatever else we hope to do.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone answer the question of what they want to be by saying they want to be kind, loving, compassionate, honest, forgiving, joyful, content, fair, generous, peaceful, patient, gentle, or any other attribute that expresses the presence of God’s Spirit dwelling within us.

Yes, what we do can be a gift from God, who has in advance created good works for us to do.  But if our identity is fully formed around what we do, what happens when we can no longer do?  What happens if we can never do what we’ve dreamed of?  To find joy with who we are, we must move beyond what we can do and develop the deeper traits of who we can be.  One of the most difficult things in life, at least for me, is to find joy in being when the world says my doing doesn’t measure up.  Sometimes I think we, as a society, have worked so hard for equality that we’ve failed to see the dark side that often lingers with it.  Treating people without partiality is a good thing — and a God-commanded thing.  But that is not the same as believing everyone should fit into the same mold in order to be equal.  Yes, we should constantly strive to do all the good that we can do and work toward giving everyone the opportunity to do all the good that they can do.  But we should work harder at being content with who we are and helping others find joy in who they are regardless of what any of us are able to do.

So, how do you and I find joy in who we are?  We begin by believing what God says about who we are.  When we wrap our identity around being God’s child and allow our sense of value to come from His love for us, what we can and cannot do becomes less important compared to who we are and and who we can be in Christ.  Remember that list from paragraph two of what many people want to be (do) when they grow up?  My daughter, who is now twenty-seven years old, will never be any of those things — at least not in an official way, short of a miraculous intervention from God.  Yes, she teaches me more than just about anyone else, so you could say she’s a teacher — but not in the sense it is used when answering the question about growing up.  Yet she has great joy in who she is, and I have great joy in who she is, because her life is wrapped around her identity in Christ and is focused on being the things that we all ought to strive for — the things I mentioned earlier that I said I never hear in response to the question of what we want to be.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be like Susan.  I want to be one that finds joy in who I am — a joy that the world can’t take away, a joy that is not dependent on my abilities measuring up to the expectations of others but is solely dependent on being who God created me to be.  I pray that God fills you with His Spirit so that you overflow with joy simply because you are His.


Joy In Being!

The Eyes of a Child (Oh, To Be Six!)

Oh, to be six
     and filled with such joy!
To experience wonder
     through the eyes of a boy!
Perhaps if you go back –
     way back in your mind.
Some traces of wonder
     perhaps you’ll still find.

To remember some days,
     perhaps long ago.
When you were excited
     by things such as snow!
Some days that were carefree,
     no worries around.
Just great adventures
     everywhere did abound!

When boxes themselves
     would bring so much joy.
So very often,
     even more than the toy!
When worries were unknown
     and you had no fear.
Your imagination
     gave victories to cheer!

You applaud the effort
     of things simply done.
A room full of balloons
     looks like so much fun!
Your joy wasn’t based
     on how much was paid.
It’s really about
     the way that you played!

So, whatever happened
     to childhood joy?
The kind that I had
     when I was a boy.
How do I get it
     back into my life?
In the midst of living
     that seems filled with strife.

The secret may be
     some wonder to find.
To let imagination
     still fill my mind.
To see life as different
     than the world does.
To remember with wonder,
     what is and what was.

To let little things
     grow big in my mind.
To imagine a treasure
     that I seek and I find.
To look at a box
     and see a race car.
To imagine balloons
     that will carry me far.

To see the unseen
     and believe it is real.
Brings joy overwhelming,
     that you actually feel!
That is what faith is
     for those who believe.
The world is a mess,
     but peace you receive.

Your box may look bare,
     your possessions quite small.
But in child-like faith
     you know you have it all!
You take the world’s treasures
     and value them not.
For you have everything,
     when Christ you have got!

So, this Christmas season,
     and all of your days.
Stop for a moment,
     consider your ways.
What comes between you
     and joy that is wild?
Then take a good look
     through the eyes of a child!

© 2014 by Tom Lemler

This poem came to my mind from a simple comment, “Oh, to be six!” based on a six-year old’s excited reaction to some decorations at the building for a Parents Night Out event. That phrase stuck in my mind and this poem quickly came together from that. I pray that it encourages you to look at things differently.

In prayer,

Gray Skies

Outside of my window
     it’s cloudy and gray.
But one thing I know –
     it won’t stay that way.
I’ve lived long enough
     to know this is true.
The gray skies will leave,
     replaced by the blue.
Yet sometimes they linger,
     seeming never to leave.
Then I must decide,
     do I really believe?

Sometimes it is hard,
     as darkness descends.
To think there is hope
     that this ever ends.
Will sunny days come
     and replace this gloom?
Or is the gray normal
     as I view from this room?
That’s often the problem –
     my point of view.
I need to refocus
     and see things anew.

I know there is purpose
     in skies filled with cloud.
And storms that do come,
     with thunder so loud.
The rain and the snow
     that gray clouds do bring.
Are part of the cycle
     that cause birds to sing.
With only blue skies
     and warm sunny days.
It’s the earth itself
     that soon turns to grays.

Gray skies are one thing,
     but what about me?
Do I get the point
     when darkness I see?
Do I trust my Maker,
     who shines up above,
To use times of darkness
     to show me His love?
When my mind seems filled
     with all of the grays.
Will His refreshing
     still fill me with praise?

As I walk this journey,
     there’s something I’ve learned.
The blue skies are given,
     not something I’ve earned.
But even the darkness,
     God works for my good.
To help me to grow
     and live like I should.
I’m learning to trust Him
     when I can’t see my way.
So that is the rain
     in my cloud of gray!

© 2014 by Tom Lemler

As I was working on some sermon prep and watching some cardinals playing in the brush outside my window under some very gray skies, God put this poem in my mind. While I’m not fond of gray skies outside nor in my brain, I know God uses them for His purposes and will not waste the opportunity to bring growth in my life as I learn to trust Him fully. I pray that this poem is an encouragement to you and accomplishes His purposes for it.

In prayer,

A Real Thanksgiving Blessing

It seems we’ve forgotten
     to pray like we should.
Our prayer life is shallow,
     like knocking on wood.
“Lord, bless me and keep me,
     and give me all things.”
Is our prayer for the season
     and all that it brings.

A life of thanksgiving
     is not up to me.
It depends what I have,
     or can get for free.
The more that I gather,
     the less thankful am I.
For I realize there’s still stuff
     that I want to buy!

I turn on the TV
     and find I am right.
I deserve all things
     that are in my sight!
If only I had this,
     or some more of that.
I could be quite happy
     and content as a cat.

This isn’t helpful
     so I turn the tube off.
I open my Bible,
     the dust makes me cough.
I read about blessings
     to those who do give.
To help out the needy
     is the right way to live.

To practice contentment
     in all circumstance.
Helps me to give thanks
     that’s more than just chance.
On mountains quite high,
     or valleys so low.
I’m thankful for God
     as with Him I go.

He never leaves me,
     nor forsakes His own.
In all situations
     His love has been shown.
As I learn to trust Him
     with all I go through.
He makes me a blessing
     to people like you!

© 2014 by Tom Lemler

I’ve had several glimpses of poems running through the fog of my mind the past few weeks and this is one that seemed to gel together and come out. I’m not real sure if it is all one poem or if it is pieces of several of the thoughts that are trapped in my mind. 🙂 Anyhow, I pray that it is a blessing to someone and that God uses it to accomplish the purpose He designed it for.

In prayer,

Joy of a Child

There is something special
     about joy in a child.
Even when that joy
     may seem a bit wild!
To have a small part
     in a child having fun.
To hear them laugh
     as they play and run.
At least for the moment,
     they have no care.
Until one of their friends
     forgets they should share. 

They played in a bounce house
     and walked for some cake.
Sword fought with balloons,
     until they did break.
They ate lots of cookies
     and sugary snacks.
Even some popcorn,
     eaten out of the sacks.
No one was worried,
     it was a safe place.
The children lined up
     for a painted face! 

It was a reminder
     from each girl and boy.
When God’s love is in us,
     we should live with joy!
We all need some time
     in our busy life.
To put down the shield
     and avoid all the strife.
To hang out together
     and rest in the Son.
Set worries aside,
     and just have some fun. 

I know it sounds easy,
     but harder to do.
To let down my guard,
     enjoy being with you.
The longer we live,
     the more baggage we bring.
The weight of it all,
     makes it harder to sing.
God’s song becomes muffled
     when we fail to rest.
Then the message we share,
     really isn’t our best. 

So what can you do
     when joy seems to be lost?
Will you boldly seek it
     no matter the cost?
Will you see yourself clearly
     from God’s point of view?
And play like a child,
     as He watches you.
God longs for His children
     to feel safe and sound.
To know when they seek Him,
     He’ll always be found. 

Will I live my life fully,
     with my joy found in God?
And sing His praise loudly,
   even if I’m thought odd?
Will I feast on His goodness
     and incredible grace?
Will I give it my all
     as I finish this race?
I pray that we find it,
     that joy of a child.
And live boldly for God,
     even if we’re thought wild! 

© 2014 by Tom Lemler

I spent the evening making balloon creations for the Michiana Christian School Fun Fair and Open House.  While my fingers may tell a different story from tying so many balloons, it was a great evening of watching pure joy in the lives of children.  It always amazes me to see children line up and patiently wait to have a balloon made into some basic creation (because I’m not all that good at it and am very limited in what I can make).  It didn’t matter that many would ask for something I couldn’t do — their face was filled with joy when I handed them what I could make.  As I continued to make these balloon creations and pray for the children who were coming to me, God put this poem in my mind.  He also began asking me about my level of contentment and joy.  Am I not only satisfied, but filled with joy at the gift that God does give me?  I pray that this poem encourages you to be filled with the joy of a child.

In prayer,


Most people in life
      have something they want.
So stay out of their way
      when they start to hunt.
Sometimes we do struggle
      for we do not know.
Just quite what it is
      that we really want so.
Something is missing,
      of that there’s no doubt.
If only we knew how
      to figure it out.

We fill our life full
      of this and of that.
A piece is still missing
      and our joy does fall flat.
We may not know fully
      what we’re looking for.
It is so elusive,
      we think it’s just lore.
But when we do find it
      and we’re in the right place.
We won’t ever hide it,
      for it’s seen in our face.

God’s given me talents
      and gifts I can use.
How will I use them,
      I do get to choose.
Will I remain faithful
      in lifting His name.
Will I be serious
      or pretend it’s a game?
The more I do use,
      the gifts God does give.
I reach a fulfillment,
      each day that I live.

Sometimes we feel empty,
      for we’ve not figured out.
How God wants to use us,
      what our life is about.
Sometimes we know it,
      but we can’t figure how.
To use what God gave us
      to help people now.
When God calls you forward,
      the path may not be clear.
Take care of today,
      and walk with no fear.

There’s no greater joy
      than a life that does please.
To learn from my Savior
      as I pray on my knees.
To be lifted up
      and valued each day.
Loved by the creator,
      with something to say.
God gives me a venue,
      to share what’s in me.
To do it the right way,
      so it’s Him people see.

So, how can you help me;
      how can I help you?
Let’s encourage each other
      in what we need to do.
Commend acts of faith,
      without keeping count.
Keep taking steps forward,
      whatever the amount.
Trust God to finish
      what He has begun.
Hold on to your hat,
      make this journey fun.

It has been a fun 9 months of being back as part of the Deer Run staff and experiencing great fulfillment as I am encouraged to use all of the gifts that God puts into my life to serve others — even the unexpected gifts are valued with great encouragement to use them.  As I was praising God for His goodness, specifically in giving me these poems, He responded with this poem.  I pray that it encourages you to value God’s gifting in your life and in the lives of others.

In prayer,

Childhood Joy

Some time ago
     when I was a boy.
The simplest things
     would bring me great joy.
It didn’t take much
     to fill up my time.
I’d work on the farm
     or play in the slime.
It didn’t matter
     if work or if play.
Being a family
     had value each day.

We did not have much
     but we had each other.
My brothers and sister,
     my dad and my mother.
We worked really hard,
     we played just the same.
We even decided
     chores could be a game.
The things that we lacked,
     I could not even tell.
We had what we needed,
     we really lived well.

The things that we had
     that many did lack.
Was a house full of love
     and even some slack.
I always had value,
     even when I did wrong.
In my own family
     I would always belong.
I cannot imagine
     how different I’d feel.
If my growing up
     was anything but real.

Now I fast-forward
     through quite a few years.
Years full of blessing
     and even some tears.
And while I am wiser
     or older, at least.
Sometimes the joy’s gone,
     eaten up by the beast.
You may never see it
     but the beast is out there.
Stealing contentment,
     thinking no one will care.

I’m not all that different
     from days long ago.
Joy fills my life
     through the people I know.
The value they give me
     by what they do say.
Is the mark of a good friend,
     in work and in play.
I pray that these lessons,
     I learned as a boy.
Would lead to contentment
     and fill you with joy.

As I was spending time with God, reflecting on joy and contentment, He reminded me that I often look for both of those in all the wrong places. We are often taught in so many ways that the stuff we accumulate should bring us great joy. When joy doesn’t come we may decide we simply need more stuff. God took me back to my childhood that was filled with great joy even though we didn’t have a lot of possessions. It is a lesson I need to be reminded of often and I pray that it is a reminder that is helpful to you.

In prayer,