On October 4th my dear friend passed away . On that exact same day I launched my worship album – a dream I had been slaving away at for close to four years . The timing of both things broke my heart .
October 5th was my birthday . It was also my 11th wedding anniversary .
On Oct. 6th I was asked to sing at Kristen’s funeral
On Oct. 7th I was consumed with creative stuff for my sister’s wedding .
Oct. 10th was Kristen’s funeral .
Oct. 12th was Thanksgiving dinner with the family along with a multi-birthday celebration . I had a piece of pumpkin pie , a piece of birthday cake , and I didn’t feel one ounce of guilt .
On Oct. 13th I sang a tribute song for Kristen in church, and fell apart .
Oct 14th I snapped. With such roller coaster circumstances happening all around me, and all at once, I didn’t know how I was supposed to be feeling. So I prayed that God would teach me about true joy.
He answered my prayer .
On October 24th, I read this passage of scripture: “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” ~Nehemiah 8:10 .
On Nov. 1st my son accidentally hit shuffle on my iTunes library and “Joy to the World,” blared through the speakers . I listened with different ears.
On Nov. 7th my friend’s little girl was diagnosed with leukaemia .
On Nov. 8th I talked to another friend (my age) who had just had a mammogram , but as she shared, “I found a lump,” she also explained, “But I chose to have a dance party with my daughter despite.” . So then I cried because I hated that she was having to deal with all of that , but was oh so inspired because she was beautifully exemplifying to me true joy in the midst of difficult circumstances .
On Nov. 12th I hung out with Kristen’s sweet little boys , but it was my first time at her house since her passing , and I didn’t cope as well as I thought I would , so I had me a big ol’ bawl fest when I got home , which made me feel somewhat better , but then I gave myself a migraine .
And on Nov. 13th while my son was passing me my bible, it slipped out of my hands, fell on the coffee table and landed open to “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength” . And as I paused to acknowledge the coolness of the moment and the chain of events that had transpired over the past few months – I’m not even kidding – Joy to the World “randomly” played once again .
The roller coaster of life’s ups and downs is never ending, and they are inevitable, but what is joy amidst?
I have learned this:
1. True joy is an inner strength that gives you composure whether you are up OR down. It is steady in emotion, even in temperament, steadfast in commitment, constant in dedication, consistent in discipline and balanced in approach.
2. True joy is not about adrenaline pumping enthusiasm because the fun, the good and the enjoyable moments of your life are not the only things that define it. On the flip, happiness is not conditioned to circumstance where the sadness, the difficulties and the unanswered questions are what keep you from smiling.
3. True joy is the ability to give of your time, your talents, your energy, and your finances… even when you feel like you having nothing left to give…. because true joy is not based on your strength.
4. True joy is found within. It is the ability to cry when things are sad, but still see the good. It is the ability to see the good, even when things are sad. It is the ability to bounce back when you’ve been knocked down. It is the ability to see that once you’ve bounced back, you’re most likely going to be knocked back down again. And rather than hoping knocks don’t come, you prepare for the bounce back as best you can.
5. True joy means you subdue extreme excitement and acknowledge extreme grief so that neither adrenaline, emotion, nor escapism takes you away from dealing with your life. True joy is a balance of both pendulum swings.
I know what you’re thinking, wow, so much to process. But how? How do you find true joy?
In these past few months (which has really been a long journey of the past two years) I have experienced 3 very freeing truths:
1. The power of scripture.
Getting the word in my heart and mind as a rock solid base has been foundational. When the rough patches hit, and all the top layers fall apart, my foundation remains steady. I found 30 passages of scripture that pertain to the theme of joy. I then wrote them out onto cue cards (an app I downloaded) and every single morning I would shuffle a verse (which I’m still doing) in hopes that the truth would sink in in such a way, that the next delivery of sad news would find my mind thinking about positive scripture first, and the saddening tragedy second.
2. The power of community.
I got really picky about how I spend my time. Life is not about what I want; it’s about what I need. And what I need are really confident and supportive people in my life. If I don’t feel like someone is challenging me, supporting me, encouraging me in my pursuit for true joy, then I won’t hang out with them. Sounds mean, but truly, it is the first time IN MY LIFE that I have been this selfish – and I gotta tell ya, it has given me more freedom and more joy than I can ever remember having. And here’s the cool part… when you choose to distance yourself from those who suck the joy out of you, God surrounds you with people who will encourage and replenish your joy to the specific parts of your life where the hardships are threatening.
3. The power of giving.
This may seem contradictory to the above point, but trust me, there’s a difference between being busy and being effective. I took James 1:27 to heart: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” And I’ve decided that despite what I’ve got going on in my own life, I’m going to give of myself to those worse off – to those that really need me. And I’ll be honest; I have cried far more happy tears than grieving tears. Why? Because something happens when we fill our hearts, our minds and our souls with powerful truth. Something happens when we surround ourselves with people of similar pursuit – true joy becomes solidified. Something happens when we choose to give and stop being so stinkin’ self centred. We become transformed. We discover contentment. This is true joy.