Surprised by Joy!

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This thing we call “ministry.” It gives us the opportunity to
use our gifts and talents to serve God. And it’s rejuvenating and
rewarding as we see children’s lives changed. There are those times
when we just want to yell from the mountaintops, “I love
ministry!”

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But there are also those valley times when nothing’s working the
way we planned, everything’s in turmoil, and we can’t seem to
muster up the motivation to get going.

It’s in those times that we must get out of our “pity party,” as
author Mamie McCullough calls it-where I’m the only guest…and
nobody’s serving refreshments!

If we open our eyes and look around, we’ll find that God is
sending raindrops of hope and encouragement. God has great things
planned for us. We simply have to take the time to experience his
joy.

The next time you’re down in the dumps, try one of these 25
picker-uppers to boost your spirits.

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  1. Take a child to lunch. Could be your own or
    one from your group. Really listen! Join in the laughter as the
    child talks.
  2. Cuddle a baby in the nursery. Sing a verse of
    “Jesus Loves Me” to the child and yourself. Jesus means that song
    for you, too!
  3. Call a teacher to find out what’s exciting in
    his or her class. Enthusiasm is contagious, so try to catch
    it.
  4. Stand at the entryway to your sanctuary
    between Sunday school and worship time. Greet the children as they
    come in, and drink in their genuine expressions of love-a wave, a
    hug, or a “hi.”
  5. Give a hug and enjoy the squeeze effect.
    “Never hug tomorrow someone you could hug today,” says Dave Ross in
    A Book of HUGS. Ross suggests giving Octopus hugs, Puppy hugs, even
    Porcupine hugs as ways to give and get a hug. There are even Single
    Arm hugs for people who walk together. Hugs can be a blessing any
    time!
  6. The next time you get a hug, imagine God’s
    great big arms wrapped around you. Receive God’s love through this
    special, “huggerific” messenger!
  7. Joy rises in my heart until I burst out in songs of
    praise to him
    “-(Psalm 28:7). Keep a tape deck within easy
    access and plug in your favorite worship music. If you have a
    collection of kids’ music, sing along and feel the joy lift you
    into God’s presence.
  8. Micah 4:2 tells us, “Come, let us go
    up to the mountain of the Lord
    …so that he can teach us
    his ways.” What a great means of encouragement! Take off for a
    weekend. Well, maybe an afternoon, to your favorite hideaway. Catch
    your thoughts, review your direction, allow God to talk with you.
    That is what God wants, but so often we’re too busy doing his work
    to enjoy his presence.
  9. You don’t have an hour, much less a day? Well,
    take an early-morning bike ride or a brisk walk. Marvel once again
    at the sunrise, the music of the birds, the beauty of the trees and
    clouds, and all God’s creation-without the noise and bustle of
    daytime commitments.
  10. When the opportunity affords, get out that
    inflatable mattress and a really good book. Take a float in a
    nearby pool or lake.
  11. Or join your kids in the front yard to build a
    snowman
    and have a rousing snowball fight. Don’t forget
    the hot chocolate afterward.
  12. Declare your mouth a “no-whine” zone. Any time
    you want to complain about something, find at least one positive
    thing about the “whiny” area and say the positive thing instead.
    You’ll be surprised how focusing on the positive will change your
    attitude.
  13. Take the time to listen to a good friend. Time
    spent giving to a friend is a great encourager to you. Share your
    troubles over a special cup of tea.
  14. Keep a sense of humor. Allow yourself to laugh
    at you and the funny things that happen in life.
  15. I love to fill my office with pictures of my
    family
    at special times and children who have been a
    blessing. These pictures help put what I’m doing back into
    perspective.
  16. Have you ever noticed how there’s always room for ice
    cream
    …or Oreo cookies and milk? Just get out of the
    office and take a walk while you lick that chocolate cone.
    (Sometimes, even a lollipop will do!)
  17. Nothing beats a good “Smile File.” Save notes
    of encouragement from friends, parents, or kids. Pull out the file
    when you need a smile. These notes will continually deliver
    encouragement from the senders to you.
  18. A good laugh brings great joy and loosens up
    those tight muscles. I have a friend who’s an avid Far Side fan.
    Her collection of cartoons comes out often during discouraging
    times!
  19. Take a trip to a local card shop with a friend
    or co-worker. Pick out cards to exchange. Read them, share
    them…but don’t buy! This is a quick half hour to lift your frown
    lines and your spirits.
  20. Always remember you’re not alone in God’s
    work
    . Keep special coffee blends in your office area. Make
    any day special when you invite staff in for a “Praise and Pamper
    Party!” Celebrate the positive happenings in each other’s ministry
    and life.
  21. A “Scripture a Day” calendar is a quick lift
    to keep close. Devotional calendars with quotes, quips, and verses
    can fit easily on a desk corner, a bathroom or kitchen counter, or
    even in the car. It always amazes me how God will draw my attention
    to a verse at just the moment I need it.
  22. Retreat to the backyard swing or a local park
    to watch the sunset. Take that sunset personally. God’s glory
    revealed in his power and majesty is a powerful reminder of his
    ability to care for you.
  23. Always carry a pocket book of encouragement.
    My favorites are the works of Max Lucado: God Came Near and He
    Still Moves Stones. These books often reveal a Scripture that I
    need to set me straight. Many authors have published great works of
    encouragement (some are now made small enough to fit in a pocket or
    purse), but the best is found in God’s work. Read through Psalm 139
    when the world gets you down, and know that God cares for you.
  24. Do you have a prayer journal or praise list?
    Keep track of needs, jotting down dates and prayer requests. Note
    answers to prayer. Go back over these answered prayers days, weeks,
    or months later to see proof of God’s faithfulness to you.
  25. Above all, talk to God. He longs to hear from
    you…and he will always listen and respond. Remember: Don’t pray
    by heart, but with the heart. Be open and honest with your Lord.
    God knows your every need, and he will bring encouragement from
    unexpected places.

Mary Van Aalsburg is a former children’s minister in
California.

Copyright© Group Publishing, Inc. / Children’s Ministry
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