Fruit of the Spirit

All posts tagged Fruit of the Spirit

Week 2: Joy

Published September 14, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2

Eternally optimistic. This is one of the character qualities that I strive for in my own life, so practicing being Joyful this week sounded as easy as pie. I mean, I’m fairly Joyful most of the time, right? It will just be like any other week. As soon as I decided to start this Fruit of the Spirit Challenge, I knew I wanted to use the verse above. I actually hadn’t thought of it in a long time and had to look up the reference, so I was surprised it even came to mind. But then I looked at the verse—really looked at it—I finally understood that it wasn’t saying to just smile and laugh when life goes your way. Actually, quite the opposite! No matter the circumstances, consider all of it a Joy. Everything. Not just the things that would make anyone smile, but be Joyful in all things. I also came to realize that it wasn’t about begrudgingly accepting the circumstances for what they were or appeared to be. No; “Count it all joy” forced me to find the silver-lining in everything, and that’s when this simple challenge got a little more complicated.

Day 1 went by delightful and Joyful, and I figured that was a good sign for the rest of the week. But, almost inevitably, life threw a few curve balls that tried to darken my usually sunny disposition (I’m saying that for dramatic affect; my skin doesn’t actually glow . . . But my pale legs sometimes reflect light back that outshines the sun and knocks planets out of orbit. Wait! We’re getting off track!). But I guess this wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it wasn’t challenging. I’m sorry to say that I probably deserve a C+ on the Joy scale for this week, so I hope the rest of your fared better than I did.

It seemed everywhere I turned, there was something to bring me down a few notches. Even the little things that don’t generally faze me pushed every button I have. Almost the instant this week started, it seemed like my Joy scale flipped upside down, and I admit I wallowed just a tiny. Then last night (the epiphany always seems to occur at the last second!) I was sitting outside reading because I was feeling restless, and suddenly it hit me: Joy is a choice. Sure, it’s easy to be happy when things are going your way. Who wouldn’t be? But what about when life doesn’t seem so great? Count it all Joy, right? I admit that I sort of rolled my eyes when I came to this conclusion, wallowed a moment longer, snapped my book closed, and went inside with a smile on my face. It took a few minutes for the mopiness behind the smile to fade, but the longer I made an effort to be more cheerful, the more I honestly felt Joyful. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I realized I was actually Joyful towards the end of the night. So I guess what I learned is that Joy is all about choice, and also perspective. When the power goes out, kids will make a tent in the living room and roast marshmallows over candles, while their parents freak out about what they’re going to do if the street lights are down when they have to go to work tomorrow because they hate four-way stops. If you look hard enough, and sometimes you have to search very hard, you can find something to smile about, like making a lack of power into an adventure. Sometimes you even have to create your own silver-lining. But that’s the beauty of Joy: It’s always there if you get creative and are willing to find it.

Week 1: Love

Published September 7, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Hey, everyone! Okay, so with school forcing me back into finding my “groove” again and working (babysitting, housekeeping, data entry for the Christian Coalition, etc. Yikes-A-Bee!), I have been a teensy bit busy this past week—hence my lack of a post on my usual Tuesday. Forgive me, loyal followers! But I also decided to start a Fruit of the Spirit Challenge, and so I wanted to wait until Friday so I had the whole week to let my fruit ripen (oh, yes; I intend to produce quite a few fruit puns … Did you get the “produce” joke?). I got the idea when I was writing my “Lend Me Your Ears” post and thought that this might be another fun adventure. Okay, so every Friday for nine weeks I will post about my efforts to practice each one of the Fruits of the Spirit and let you know what I discover. This isn’t so much of a show-and-tell as it is a New Years’ resolution to see if I can improve my outlook on life, exercise more patience and self-control, and, essentially, show more kindness and love to others. I’m also not just going to practice Love or Patience or Kindness for seven days, though: I will do my best to keep these Fruits with me for life and continue to demonstrate them day to day. Easy, right? We’ll find out!

“Faith, Hope, and Love remained. And the greatest of these is Love.” 

1 Corinthians 13:13

When I decided to start this particular challenge, I didn’t really have to ask myself what Love was. I mean, the definition of Love is pretty obvious, and so I assumed that I was going to start this off with an easy-peezy challenge. Most of you are aware how often I chow down on some humbling pie (or crow; whatever), so you can just add this one to the list. The small bump I ran into—on day 1, I might add—had more to do with how to emulate Love more in my life outside of saying it to family and friends. How could I show more Love? Didn’t I already show it in my actions? Wasn’t it just the same as exhibiting Kindness and Goodness to others? And I really, really did not want to go up to a random person at the store or school and tell them I loved them, so I hoped expressing it more verbally wasn’t what I needed to do. Actually, Day 1 of this little experiment to better myself came and went without any progress being attainted; I spent the entire day trying to figure out the how. By Day 2, I decided I just needed to do something. Period. But what could I do differently?

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

I started off slow—holding the door open for strangers, even if I had to stand there for longer than my patience allowed, and helping my mom with the groceries and dinner without being asked. Then I worked at being more forgiving when people made a mistake or interfered. I tried not to be so easily offended, to be a better listener, come through with my promises, pay attention more, laugh and smile more often with people, and be more sensitive to their needs. One of my biggest issues is that I don’t generally think before I speak, so then I decided to practice holding my tongue more and trying—really trying—to only say positive things. I was very surprised when toward the end of the week, I didn’t have to remind myself to stop and think as often, but sometimes I just knew whether or not it was a positive thing to voice. Now, keep in mind, I am the farthest thing from perfect, so I still slipped-up constantly during the week, but if I recognized it, I did my best to correct it afterwards. Don’t beat yourself up if you try to do this challenge with me and struggle with this part (or every part, if you’re like me), because it’s all about progress and growth; habits don’t change overnight! You gotta keep at it!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son for that whoever believes in Him shall not parish

but have eternal life in heaven.” John 3:16

Hmm. Did you notice some of the things I put into practice to exhibit Love? I didn’t even realize it until yesterday, but to show Love—the first of the Fruits of the Spirit and the most important Commandment—I had to emulate Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control. It almost makes the rest of this challenge null, because we’ve already covered all nine of the Fruits in one week! But I really want to focus on each of these individually, because obviously I learn more when I break it down. I really don’t have anything profound to say about this first week other than my realization that Love is at the center of it all. I also think that this will end up being my most challenging week because it forced me to put all the other qualities into practice, and that was not easy. I feel like Week 1 was preparing me for the following weeks and giving me a sort of “crash course” in what to expect. I don’t know about you, but I am very interested to see what happens between now and next Friday. Stay tuned for Joy!

“The road to true love never did run smooth.” –Shakespeare

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