Updated: Apr 9, 2020
(This blog is meant to be a sort of Bible Study for kids and an outreach project.)
I decided to create a family motto when my son was 4 years old. “Spread joy. Choose the bright side. And know that you are loved.” Sometimes I add, “And glorify God always!”
When you see the cute lil’ yellow circle with a happy face on it, how do you feel? For most people it will trigger just a general sense of happiness. What makes you happy?
For me, I experience joy when I choose to have a grateful heart and seek to focus on blessing others. But the greatest and most unshakable joy is found in resting in God's love for us. This blog is intended to be a sort of Bible study for parents and kids mixed with creative ways to journey towards a life where our hearts can be full of joy despite hard times. So intermingled are photos of the creative activity we did to bring joy to others. And then my son helped me video myself talking about the project.
On hard days a cute lil' smiley face can’t really alter our circumstances. When life turns upside down by a sickness or heartache, suddenly it’s like the smiley face turns upside down. The things that usually make us happy don’t satisfy us. And if they do, it’s only temporary.
Only embracing and turning to God and His great, unconditional, never-ending love for us can. He died on the cross for our sins that we might know an eternal life or joy and peace and enjoy His unimaginable, heart-fulfilling love for us.
“What we turn to in our time of need is our God.” That is a quote I heard years ago. It stuck with me.
(Salt dough smiley faces and painting them was such a fun and relaxing project for kiddos!)
(The above photo on the right is my son having fun spinning his lemon in between stamping)
Sometimes the things that make us happy, leave us feeling sad, depressed or unhappy without them. An example would be right now (March 2020). The corona virus has hit our nation and our world. . Or favorite restaurants were closed. And take out just isn’t the same as sitting at your favorite place enjoying our favorite foods. Parks are closed. Social distancing is the norm. Friends that were our source of happiness are far from us. Many have become depressed and/or fearful. Anxiety has gripped many hearts.
Some people still can occupy themselves with t.v. or some sort of media.
But, imagine if that too was taken from you! If everything that you love or enjoy the most was taken from you (including all media), would your happiness remain? God desires us to have joy and peace in the middle of the most difficult circumstances.
God wants us to have a deeper sense of joy! He wants us to be able to be content in every circumstance. And with God, we can. He is as close as an unheard prayer. God desires to surround us with peace. And yet, often He waits for us to cry out to Him.
Is choosing joy at all times hard for you?
What are the things that steal your joy? Is what brings you joy temporary or reliant on people? True peace and joy is based on Christ alone.
I love the words in the song “In Christ Alone”:
“In Christ alone my hope is found
He alone my light, my strength, my song”
If you haven't heard it, listen to either of these videos:
Travis Cotrell: https://vimeo.com/220513646
Shane & Shane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2ld1wI2hT8
The only thing that doesn’t change is God and His unconditional love for you!
Choosing joy is often an act of the will. It’s a mindset of combating sadness with seeing the good things in your life. For me that is something as simple as focusing on all the flowers God made. I believe He didn’t make them for Himself but for us. He wanted to express His love in each flowers unique and beautiful blossom.
(I didn't have any recent pictures of me on my website or Instagram account, so I let my son take photos of me. We laughed so hard and had a blast. He begged me to let him take goofy pics of me! I didn't expect to have my head cut off. (-: But I love this photo he took!)
The other way I fight off sadness or obsession with my own sorrow is by spreading kindness and seeking to bring smiles to others. In the middle of the corona virus sweeping our country, my son and I made smiley faces and jars of flowers with uplifting words attached to them. We used a lemon cut in half to make quick and easy circles. The ones that didn't have enough paint on them, we turned into circle "flowers".
“The generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will themselves be refreshed.”
Often I wake my son with the singing, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” If he is grumpy or sad, I gently ask him to tell me what he is thankful for. Listing the things you are grateful for is good medicine for a gloomy heart. I challenge you to begin a list of 100 things, or more, that you are grateful for.
Being thankful, getting your eyes of yourself by blessing others and focusing on scriptures are a sure remedy for me in difficult times. They can be for you as well. But you must choose this path yourself!
“Be anxious for nothing but in everything, with prayers and petitions, let your requests be known unto God. And the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought me joy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.
Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
After reading these scriptures, which ones stand out to you? Are there any you can think of that I didn’t mention? I encourage you to pick 1- 3 of them to memorize. Then when hard times come you can repeat these over and over again. It’s like a sword at your side ready for battle.
With whatever resources you have, make a smiley face. Make a circle big enough to write a list of all the things you are grateful to God for. Also, add a scripture that affects your heart the most deeply. Or if you have the supplies, you can be a salt dough circle with a happy face on it. If you do the salt dough project, then simply write your list of things you are thankful for along with the scriptures, on a separate piece of paper.
(Love the addition of peanut butter to his face... just had a peanut butter break!)
If you make the salt dough craft and you have beads or jewels available, make holes in the salt dough before you bake it. You will need one at the top for a string to hang it with. And 3 at the bottom. I used a skewer, but a sharpened pencil could work. Make sure it is big enough for the string you are going to use.
For every bead or jewel, you place on each string, write something on paper that you are grateful for. This might take time. But I encourage you to do this. If this is a family project or one you do with a circle of friends, share the things you are grateful for. It is fun to hear what each person comes up with.
God's love for you is like no other! May smiley faces now always remind you of His perfect, unconditional love! He is there through every hard time waiting for you to call out to Him. He hears every prayer. And though some circumstances don't seem to change, you can choose joy and focus on your many blessings and learn to spread joy to others!
I hope through this art project Bible study you will grow in your understanding of true joy and the hope that comes with focusing on God's love. Maybe your life's motto will become like ours. Remember to "Spread joy. See the bright side. Be thankful. And know that you are loved."
Link to the video from this craft project:
More about the Circles of Hope Project:
Here is what we did with some of our circles. We hung them in an area by our house that people walk through. There were messages on the back of each. Cooper was able to practice writing while he wrote notes on his "Circles of Hope". Almost all of his simple smiley faces were taken after a few hours. I love that his sweet yellow happy faces brought people joy! And it made him feel awesome!