It’s been far too long since my last blog. Why have I been absent? A few reasons. Truth be told, I had a sort of family reunion at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, OH, as well as some writing deadlines. I have my priorities straight–family first, then my job, and somewhere down the list is where my blog falls. Upon returning home from the reunion, a quick walk through my garden yielded more work which was of greater importance than writing. Peas, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers needed me. A couple of white pumpkins and a basketful of gourds now decorate my front stoop, and four large boxes of apples patiently wait for my undivided attention. Some are simmering in the crock pot as I write this, permeating the air with the tart, spicy scent of apple butter.
I also had some painful personal issues going on, which made writing this blog almost impossible. After all, my tagline is “Finding the Joy in Everything.” Frankly, there hasn’t been much joy lately. There’s been no dearth of misunderstandings, rumors, and, worst of all, the death of a friendship. None of these things has been resolved, and the lack of closure bugs me. But, as Mr. Bennet said in Pride and Prejudice, “I’ll get over it. More likely sooner than I should.”
So the question remains: How do I regain my joy? Is it really my joy? Nehemiah 8:10 tells me that the joy of the Lord is my strength. Well, I have been feeling rather weak for a month or so. Is that because I haven’t been relying on the Lord’s strength to get me through this period of mourning?
There may be weeping for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). When a friend dies, I weep. I mourn. Thinking of good times brings bittersweet tears. I want them back, but know the impossibility. For some, I can look forward to seeing them again in eternity, and this eases the pain. Similarly, when a friendship dies, I go through a period of mourning. However, the wound is torn open every time the friend sees me coming and turns the other way. It’s a different death, a death that repeats itself over and over, but a death all the same.
Thankfully, there have been very few periods of mourning in my life. Whether for physical loss or the end of a relationship, I have been blessed to come through each with a renewed sense of life, a new understanding of the One whom I call God, and a joy that knows no bounds.
What? Joy out of death?
Yes. I’m reminded of a time when I lived in Acton, Massachusettes. Our house was nestled up against an old growth woods. The woods were my favorite roaming grounds. In those woods I had a small treehouse, played in a rushing brook, and often met friends for games of hide-and-seek and adventure. On one of many advetures through the understory, we came across a goldfinch, dead. My friends and I looked it over, poked it with a stick, then decided to give it a proper burial and funeral.
The hole we scratched out was scarcely deeper than the bird, but we set up a small headstone and said a prayer. Over the next few months I returned to that spot each time I was in the woods. The stone remained, the small mound of dirt slowly flattened.
Snow came. Then spring.
Late in May I noticed something sticking out of the little grave: tiny green shoots. Subsequent visits allowed me to watch as small ferns unfolded in the very spot where the little finch rested.
In my naive, eight-year-old mind, I decided that dead birds turned into ferns. Now in my fortysomething mind, I have come to the understanding that death happens and life goes on. If I don’t keep moving forward, I’ll be the one feeding the ferns. Joy comes when I focus on what I have, not on what I lost. Joy comes from gaining new understanding after each trial.
While physical death is a discernable moment in time, the end of a relationship is harder to pinpoint. It’s a slow fade. The foundation of a friendship can be eroded by jealousy, insecurity, paranoia, and rumor, among other things. And often, only one person is swallowed by these vices. The other simply has no clue. The building crumbles when the foundation no longer supports.
So, I can look back on a friendship of twenty-some years and see good things in those woods–times when we joked around as teenagers, eagerly talked about boyfriends and wedding plans, visited each other’s homes, did the tourist things around NYC, prayed for each other. I’m not sure exactly when it died. Like a quietly-moving cancer, death came in a surprise attack, but in retrospect, not unexpectedly. The signs were there for many months, I just didn’t pay attention. Now I scratch out a resting place for it, set up a little stone, and move on. I’m trusting that good will come from pain, as it always has for me in the past. I focus on what brings me joy: I am living completely within God’s will; I have a husband, parents, and children who love me and each other; and I have a sister who will never let me down.
I move on. I keep moving forward. To retreat would bring my own plodding death.
So where do I go from here? Will my joyful blogging journey continue?
Taking a cue from a college classmate, David Wheeler (who has his own awesome blog at ldwheeler.livejournal.com), I will embark upon a new blogging adventure: 100 Moments of Joy. After all, I’m all about finding the joy in everything. I’d love for you to join me in this adventure and share some of your own joyful moments in the comments below.