I am sitting in our sunroom surrounded by sunshine and shadows commingling as morning edges toward noon. The sky is Monet-like: a shade of blue here and there with splotches of white pleasantly interrupting the texture of the sky. Edges are blended and subdued, and the effect glistens as I take a wider view.
The past three years have been eroded by COVID, six surgeries and five family deaths. Each year bleeds into the next leaving the one before pale and drained. I have spent months searching for joy, and finally, joy has come into focus!
It started with a wake-up call one morning at 4am. God very directly told me that I needed to focus on joy even as I continued to feel the effects of the past years. So, I got up and considered the one thing that really was giving me joy: my fountain pens (a lost love but renewed after I received a letter from my nephew in New York who began writing letters with pen and ink, detailing his choices and the reasons behind those choices). I even had my father’s fountain pen restored by a local jeweler, and it looks almost new.
Out of nowhere came a request to do a baby baptism this summer. How joyful that will be! My Masterpiece Mystery mug arrived in the mail today. At a local fundraiser, I spent time with an old friend, and she happened to receive a jar of organic almond milk concentrate in a home delivery a few days later called “Joy” and promptly placed it in a bag that she presented to me the following Sunday. “It had your name all over it!” And then, I began to read Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis, an old favorite about his conversion from atheism.
I’ve received joy in the flesh: two directees (those who engaged in Spiritual Direction with a director are called directees) who are growing by leaps and bounds in their faith journey, and two sweet one-year-old puppies who came to their “forever home” with us just two weeks ago.
I almost wrote, “Be careful what you wish for!” but it is not in the wishing. It is in the choosing alongside God bringing joy into our lives unannounced. Sometimes our hearts and our minds are so pulled into the past that we cannot or will not see the goodness that is right in front of us. Yes, we have wounds, but wounds are meant to heal even though scars remain. All of us have been wounded, and all of us have the opportunity to take the time to see and experience the joy and the healing. Continuing to rehearse past and even present challenges blocks us from connecting to joy.
Surrendering our challenges to God is just one more opportunity to receive grace and joy. Let’s not hinder God’s movement in this way by holding on to the things that have hurt us.
I’ve been reading one chapter a day from a book called Forgive Everyone Everything by Fr. Greg Boyle. He serves the Hispanic gang community in Los Angeles. Finding the sweet places in the toughest of situations automatically brings joy. I do think it’s a practice, not just a seeking.
May God bring you joy as you open yourself up to its penetrating power!