Oh so much Joy. Choice JOY.
The kind you have to glean and cultivate, which might arguably be the best kind of joy there is.
For starters, my mommy is having better days, and while she still has pain, she can be heard laughing more and more. Much like her old self. My daddy, having fought hard with illness and the threat of cancer over his shoulder, is a constant source of strength, wisdom and awesome for me and my family. Thats crazy joyful! Many other men would have considered this present trial a reason to become bitter and grumpy. I come from good stuff folks.
Thaniel has been relatively healthy for months now and is pulling words out of himself like a magician pulls that impossibly long scarf. Now mind you, my family might be the only ones to understand them but he’s trying and communicating and it’s all filled with awesome. He calls Moose “boose” and Maddy is “man” and Caily is “keey” and Judah is “dum”. I mean seriously… it’s hard to handle all the cuteness.
I met with an awesome Metabolic Oncologist and he sent off a bunch of fancy tests , but he also sent me home with a lot of hope and silver type linings. I’ll take it!.
Wanna know why I find Joy so important? Wanna know why I place such a high priority on living my Joy out loud? (maybe you could care less.. but hey, my blog, my overly quaint life lessons!)
Firstly, Joy is not happiness… that fleeting emotional high we get from finding a really cute pair of shoes. Joy is a lasting and solid depth of character (and finding those same shoes ON CLEARANCE!) I don’t want happiness.. it passes too quickly and will leave me high and dry when I need it most.
I find Joy important because it sustains me. It is my strength. It’s the rope I cling to, the anchor that steadies me, the protein I slowly digest during extended periods of fasting ( sorry… gym refrence.. that just slipped in there) Joy gives me courage I didn’t know I had, the ability to laugh it off, to smile at an angry face, to meet challenges with chin up and a positive outlook. Bitterness or a heavy heart would not give me that.
I have lived otherwise. I was once very very angry. My husband turned out to be a liar and a cheat and the pain of that was like a living death. Eventually I stopped grieving and got angry. At first blush, anger had everything I was searching for. I could once again get up in the morning. I met each day with a fierce determination to make anyone in my way pay for it. I pulled off things I never thought possible. Anger and its little sister bitterness were constant companions and I loved them. Anger can give you a false sense of strength. Keep you on your feet and moving. It can give you a twisted sense of courage. Sort of an “I dare you!!” type courage. It is not chin up, it is chin tucked, and waiting for a fight. But anger will not sustain you. It can’t. It’s draining and empty, as empty as happiness
Fear is also a great motivator. It will bully you into doing things you wouldn’t do in a calm moment. ” I should hurt them before they hurt me” “I can’t afford to trust, I should run now” ” I’ve been wrong so many times , I shouldn’t even try” and seriously, fear has lead me to make some of the biggest mistakes of my life. (On bad days those mistakes haunt me. They keep me up at night. They steal my joy) Regret is real people… poo on regret.
Picture Joy as the roots of a great tree. So deep. They almost seem to have buried themselves into the core of the earth, and they hold that tree steady in the storm. Branches may break, leaves die and fall, but the heart of the tree is strong. Sustained.
Joy like that has to have a deep source.
I find mine in the Ancient of Days. In Jesus.
I find it important to live my joy out loud because I never know who is sitting beside me dying a little everyday without a source. Bitterness draining them dry. Pain sapping their energy, their will. Anger driving them in purposeless circles. My joy might be a light. A soft breeze. A fountain of fun.
Joy is humble. Know what I’m sayin? If I come off like some lunatic happy freak and I blow away the poor hurting soul beside me with my “Happier than thou” self , then I need to give myself a shake. Joy out loud doesn’t make people feel like they are lacking, or not cutting it, or worse, somehow faithless. Joy feeds. It welcomes. It accepts. It says, I’m sooooo not ok, but I’m ok anyway… and you’re alright too… come sit in my joy for a bit.
Joy is an umbrella that doesn’t deny the rain happening all around it.
It just says, “come be drier with me for awhile “.
I’ve looked on at wonder at some of the pristine fakebook stories of some peoples lives and have been tempted to feel less-than. Ever feel that? Joy out loud shouldn’t leave you feeling that way. Jesus didn’t. People were drawn to Him, even tho there was nothing remarkable about Him.
By the time Thaniel came along, and the whole “down syndrome” diagnosis with him, I’d learned some of the secrets of Joy. That I’d be ok, even though I wasn’t ok. That Jesus would walk it with me, and the sun would still come up. When the big “C” word came along in my own life, that same truth sustained me. Look, rain or shine, it’s 24 hours. 24. And in that space of time you have a choice and no matter what you choose, craps gunna happen… the only variable is how you handle it. I suggest you laugh… it’s a more comfortable ride.
And here’s the honest truth. If I die… I’m still gunna be ok.
Joy doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s not supposed to I think. I think those roots need time and seasons to really dig down. I once heard a horticulturist say that a little drought is actually good for a tree, because the roots have to dig deeper for the life giving water, that apple trees bear more fruit when their branches are pruned right back and trained, that hot house tomatoes lack flavour, but wild berries are the sweetest. I’m good with that. Today’s a good day and Joy is within my reach, so I’ll hold it out for you. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll need to dig a little deeper to find it,
but I KNOW it’s there.
Maybe that’s the most important thing to learn about Joy.
Meanwhile, to remind me, I built a “JOY wall behind my desk. So that I could glance back and find some awesome, and so that the little roots around me could dig in too.