Joy

I have a friend named Joy. To me, she is the living example of what joy is. She carries with her a peaceful and strong faith and hope. She has many challenges in her life and yet, when talking with her, I come away with a feeling of joy. I have often said her mother named her correctly.

Yesterday while I was walking I had the phrase, “Joy comes in the mourning”come to me. I saw the word mourning and thought, well, I spelled that wrong. I was impressed to think about that statement.

I immediately thought of the last part of Psalm 30:5 which says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (NLT)

This morning, this was in my devotions. I hadn’t planned it that way, it was just what came up. Once more, the phrase, “Joy comes in the mourning” came to mind.

As I have pondered this the past 36 hours, these are the thoughts I have stumbled on. Joy, true joy is a result of difficult situations.

There are several seasons of mourning in our life. Some, in retrospect may seem tiny, but while going through them, they are anything but small.

We mourn broken relationships. Losing a friend is heartbreaking. A part of you that trusted and confided in, is gone. Gone also are those things shared with someone you trusted. Things spoken in confidence only to have that confidence shattered.

A death of a parent. We mourn what we have had taken from us. A part of who you are is lost. There is a void there that cannot be refilled. It is like walking with a gaping hole in your being.

A fractured marriage. The intense isolation that comes with this. The questions that plague you.

Loss of a spouse. I have no idea how this is. I do know that I have witnessed through friends this unbearable ordeal. It is worse than loss of a parent, this is truly losing part of your heart.

But, I believe, through the midst of all of this, joy comes. It may not be the laughing, jovial type of joy, but it is joy nonetheless.

A synonym for joy is comfort. In times of mourning, there is a time where comfort resides. It’s not that overwhelming feeling of laughter, but there is a comfort, an acknowledgement of life being better, richer because of that friend, that spouse, your parents.

These people who are lost are truly gifts in your life. They have given joy, love, truth. We learn vital lessons from them. Our lives are changed because of them.

I am still trying to think through the phrase of joy coming in mourning. I had to get them down so I can remember.

Joy

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 (NKJV)

Today this scripture came to mind. My youngest and her family are on their way up now. It has been too long since we have all been together.

Although I know that this daughter is not a prodigal, what struck me was the joy the father felt seeing his son come home.

I had never thought of this scripture from the parent’s point of view. I have only seen it as the forgiveness the son received.

This morning when we heard that today was the day they would be here (colds and yuckiness has kept them away), I immediately was excited. I looked around thinking of what I wanted to do first, bake? make soup? clean up? My mind raced in anticipation.

So, now they are only a couple hours away, hopefully not in traffic. I will need to velcro myself down so that I don’t stand at the window for the next few hours.

How excited that father in the scripture must have been. He had not seen his son in years and knew the life he was leading was not right. He ran to greet his son. I do know that feeling. When my girls arrive I am almost at the door of their vehicle before the engine stops.

I will be that way again later this afternoon. Anxious to throw my arms around my Little Man. God is so good. Today is really a Merry Christmas day for me.

A Winter’s Day

As I opened the curtains today the Simon and Garfunkel song “I am a Rock” sprang to mind. Although we had no snow, the day was dark and a bit dreary. I could feel the chill of the outdoors through the windows and it was hard to ignore the bed calling me back to it for more sleep.

Winter days are like that. Those are jammie days, staying in your p.j.’s and not real clothes. So tempting. But, I resisted and got my day going, completely dressed including shoes.

The sound of rain is still falling on the roof. The bare trees look forlorn. It is winter. Not the fun time with snow and ice, but winter. The time of year when you know that the world in your yard is dormant. The grass won’t need attention until the spring. There are still leaves to be swept off the porch and the stairs, but, today, they also can wait.

The fireplace filled the house with warmth this morning as I read and got breakfast going. It’s been a slow day. A day that this retired person thinks there is no activity anywhere. Yet, just down the street people are driving to and fro shopping, or appointments, or work. Such is the quiet of being done with work.

I truly do love these days. I always have. There is something comforting in the dark days of late fall and early winter. They somehow invite me into the quiet, and it is there that I am refreshed.

I read the lyrics to the song that has floated in my mind. They are actually quite depressing, yet, I know for years they were my personal anthem. A part of me can easily revert back to that time. Being alone, and shutting myself away. Yet, that is not where I am now. The cold, dank winter days are a respite, but not my abode.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)

As the song goes, “A rock feels no pain. And an island never dies” is, of course correct, but with that pain comes joy and laughter and love, these things that are perfect gifts from God.

Peaceful

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

The past few weeks I have had several conversations with people going through difficult times.

Each person is experiencing a time that would like to rob you of any joy, peace or knowledge of the Lord.

I have tried to be a good listener and to respond how I think the Lord would have me respond. What I have concluded is this world is not pleasant. Yes, the scenery and artistry of God is present everywhere in this world, but, living here is filled with troubles.

Each of us experience things that can tear our heart out. Sickness, cancer, death, isolation and loneliness can drive us to the brink of wondering where our God is and if he is actually listening or caring about us personally.

It is easy to look at the situation looming towards us. It is easy to say that there is no possible way that God could be in the midst of things. It can be easy to look at the world and what it holds and be disillusioned. Personally, I have done this. I have lost joy before, I have questioned and yelled at God.

What I learned is that God is big enough to yell at Him. He can take it. He, like the loving Father He is will allow us to scream, holler, yell, roll on the floor, pitch a fit, kick and fuss. He allows our tantrums, and again, like the good Father He is, He will gently pick us up and hold us.

The situations may not have passed, but He is watching over us. It could be days, weeks, months or years later and we look back and marvel that the Lord was in the midst of that season. Ever faithful, ever watching, ever caring.

Today was a day that would have liked to rob several people of their peace, it was an unsettling day. But, God. He was in the middle of it all. He was not distant. He was not taking a nap. He was not ignoring cries from hearts. He was in the center, watching and supporting.

This morning a young man in our church ran through the gates of Heaven and into the arms of a waiting Savior. As he rushed into Heaven, I know he was greeted by our Lord, His arms wide open and waiting to hug this man. He met him and greeted him with a “Welcome Home Son, I have been anxiously waiting for you.”

“Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b (NKJV)

This scripture has run through my mind this afternoon. The joy of our Lord is my strength. I do have the joy of the Lord. He gives it in abundance.

We may want to falter, and hesitate, and give up. Between the peace of God so freely given, and the joy of the Lord, which is our strength, there is nothing we cannot conquer. So, I will continue to have difficult conversations with friends. I will continue to pray how to respond. Most importantly, I will pray for them.

If Only My Legs would Move

I love music. I love dancing, but, my feet do not move and so I stand stationary with a slight sway and sporadic hip movements. I have always longed to dance freely and I think, as a child, I did.

Somewhere a switch turned off and since then, I sway.

Each St. Patrick’s day there is a yearning deep within me to do a jig. I can feel it rising up and yet, nothing. I sway, longing to move and dreaming of someday being in Ireland. I have thought if I could get to Ireland and get in touch with my heritage, I could jig.

There was a year in our family where we celebrated many weddings. My sisters danced and had a wonderful time. I watched, aching to join in. But, my legs would not move.

In worship, I see people moving, dancing before our Lord. Again, I sway. I have actually prayed that the Lord would loosen my feet, loosen my legs and let the joy I have deep inside overflow into dance. It must be one of those prayers whose answer is Wait.

So, wait I do. I imagine when I get to heaven I will hit the gates dancing. I will be filled with such joy that I will not stop dancing. I will do a jig with my parents, I will do a dance with my child who is there, I will joyfully bounce with David, and do jazz hands with the apostles. With Jesus, I will do a waltz, allowing Him to lead me sweep across heaven, swirling and twirling. I wonder if Joshua would do a tango?

We took a dance course. It was fun, but like higher math, it did not sink into me. So, I remain a swayer yearning to explode joyfully before the Lord. Until then, I will wait and ponder on this scripture.

“Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp. For the Lord delights in his people;  he crowns the humble with victory.” Psalm 149:3-4 (NLT)

My Baby

Almost 40 years ago today, my youngest was born. Dale was out to sea, and I had just moved our belongings into our newly purchased home with friends helping. We still had baby things and nursery things in our garage, not set up or ready to go.

Again, my brother from another mother and his wife were at the ready to keep me going. She was with me for labor and the birth of our youngest and he put the crib and changing table together.

Our youngest was a rainbow baby, a baby born after the loss of another. She was and still is a rainbow in our lives. She taught me joy, a deep abiding joy. She taught me to laugh harder than I had ever known. Her quiet spirit is evident in all she does.

I write about her birthday almost every year. It is a time of joy for Dale and I. We are blessed by this gift from our Lord. Each year I also struggle with how to describe this woman. She is multi-faceted in her abilities and her giftings, yet each time I fail to totally portray her.

Our children are precious gifts to us. Each one teaches you different things. Each one grows into an unique adult. I stand back often and think of my daughters. The women they are and how they got to be where they are. On birthdays especially, I look at their lives and remember the impact they made on me, how they shaped me into the person I am today.

So, happiest of birthdays my dear Rachel. You are a gift and a joy. I hope you are spoiled with gifts and love as you have spoiled me with the gift of you. Thank you for being you. Love you.

Little Miss #1

(Reworked from an original post October 2019 from dearanonymousfriend)

Little girls come into your life and they nuzzle up and reach in and steal your heart.  They do this easily and quickly.

I always wanted to have five boys.  That was my dream when I was young.  I wanted enough boys to have a pick up basketball team.  I always thought I would have a household full of boys.  They would grow up and look down on me and be in my home to eat all my food and make me laugh.  Yes, if you would have asked me in my early twenties, that is what I would have told you.

Then, near my mid twenties, our first daughter was born.  Suddenly, little girls were my world.  Lots of pink and ruffles and sweet little smiles.   A few years later her sister was born.  Again, lots of ruffles, but, lavender this time.

Finally, years later, our Little Miss came to us.   This little girl, this little gift.  She came a bit early and was really small.  Her size did not deter her personality though, as it was full grown and ready to be presented to the world.

Granddaughters are so much different than daughters.  They melt your heart even sooner than my daughters did.  I saw my husband melt within the first few hours after her birth.  It was different than with Little Man.  With Little Man, he was proud.  I could see his chest popping out in pride.  This was his Grandson.   In a moment he was in the future with him, working on cars and going fishing and doing all the guy stuff he had experienced when he was young.

When Little Miss was born, this man of mine became jello.  He held her and melted.  I watched him do it.  He looked at her and his heart was now in her little fingers.  It has remained so to this day.

She is our Halloween pumpkin.  She is giggles and long stories.   She is a ballerina on her toes, leaping and in the next minute she is chasing her dogs and trying to hug them.   She is wanting to wear frilly dresses but not let her long locks be touched by a hairbrush.  She is a range of emotions like the range of the Appalachian mountains, it just goes on and on.

She is our precious little one.  The one who has her Mom take pictures of her in her church outfit so I can see how she looks.  She poses with one foot out, like a ballet position.  She is a true little girl, the sugar and spice, but also a measure of snips and snails and puppy dog tails…

It continues to amaze me how wonderful our Lord is. He gives us such abundant gifts in our families. He renews the wonder of new born lives. We get to relive the joys of childhood without the stress and strain of parenting. We see our children in these little lives. We remember the stress and tiredness of raising children. But, as grandparents it all seems like golden memories.

“We love each other because he loved us first.” I John 4:19 (NLT)

Little Man Lesson #4

(Originally posted in July 2019, on my other blog, dearanonymousfriend)

“And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)

On the occasion of our Little Man’s seventh birthday, hubby and I traveled to see him and spend time with him.  It was glorious!  I always come away with a lesson learned from him and this time was no exception.

Friday we spent a couple of hours with him in the pool.  It was a fun time with lots of laughter and splashing and rough-housing.  He showed us his jumps into the pool, his cannonball, his karate kick jump, and his vertical alligator jump.   All named appropriately, and each delivered with grace and style.  If they were to be judged by this Grammy, they would all be a 10.

We played cards, and Rock em, Sock em Robots.   It was a tie at the cards, but only because the game was interrupted by dinner and then forgotten for a bit.   I lost the battle of the robots, much to the glee of the seven year old.

The lesson I have learned this past weekend?  To live life with joy.  Embrace the fun that life holds.   Jump into the pool of life instead of gently lowering yourself into the tide and flow.  Most of all, hug, laugh and make funny noises when words fail you.

Don’t forget how wonderful fun is. Keep joy in your heart and let it flow out of you. Be excited with little events and times. All are precious gifts from our Lord.

Clementine

“Run like a deer from the hunter, fly like a bird from the trapper!” Proverbs 6:5 (MSG)

Our daughter’s family has two dogs, Winston and Clementine. Winston is a mixed hound breed, very loving, docile, and the image of a loyal companion who sticks closer than a brother. He stays beside you and goes where you go.

Clementine is a mixed breed also. We can’t figure out what she is. Half gazelle, half dying for attention and full on lap dog if she could get away with it. She is a small bundle of energy and love.

This morning I let the dogs out to do their morning thing. I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw Clementine bound down the steps into the yard. She had spotted something and she was going to get it. She was halfway down the steps to the beach before I could get down the steps to the yard.

I hollered at her, I clapped my hands, I used my deep voice. I watched as she kept going. I finally got down to the lake and she was bounding down the shore, sniffing and following scents that only dogs can smell. She would occasionally stop, turn around and glance at me, but her instincts had taken over and she was on her own mission.

I tried to be upset with her, but, I couldn’t. She was having too much fun. She didn’t wander too far, as rocks blocked her path and she couldn’t jump over them. Reluctantly, she turned around and headed back. I told her to go to the house and without slowing down she bound up the steps (there are 65 steps leading down to the lake). Winston was beside me and I told him to head to the house. He lingered beside me, making certain I followed them.

Clementine after her jaunt

Clementine often reminds me of joy. She takes advantage to leap around and enjoy her freedom. She relishes a good run. She makes the most of moments to explore her surroundings. Her mixed breed is a combination of dogs who hunt, explore and run. She does what she was made to do.

“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” Psalm 18:33 (NLT) I pray that I, too, can be like Clementine. Relishing each moment, exploring the possibilities, and feeling the freshness of each day with delight.

Sensei

As a little girl I thought I would like to teach. Actually, I wanted to be a nun for many years . Obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead, I married a sailor and roamed around the world.

In 1977 we lived in Yokohama, Japan, a seaport city south of Tokyo. We lived in government quarters that were built during the occupation after WWII. Across the street from our home was the building that housed a department of the Army, actually a department of the U.S. Army Calvary, the veterinarians who served the community caring for the pets of the military personnel. They also inspected the food coming into the commissaries on the bases. I was hired on as a receptionist for the days the vets worked with the animals. I loved that job, my bosses were great fun and I loved seeing the animals, and yes, we did end up adopting a dog through my work.

Later that year, and in addition to working with the Army, I was honored to have a job as a teacher. I taught in a private school in Kita Kamakura . The school operated in the evenings. I taught on Thursday and Friday evenings and once a month on Saturdays. It was a fascinating time.

Shoes were not permitted in the classroom, so the teachers had their own area to remove their shoes and put on the slippers to move around the classes. On cold and rainy days the secretary of the school would meet me with a cup of hot tea. Always welcome after a train ride.

I had an interpreter who would translate what I said to the students. When the kids arrived in the classroom they would bow deeply and greet me as Sensei (teacher). I would then read out of a reader and the kids would repeat after me. Although the nights were long, I so enjoyed seeing the kids. I taught a couple of my classes how to write in cursive and sing American songs. I always left with a smile of my face.

I learned so much from those times in the classroom. First that Japanese children were the same as I was as a student. The girls would play the hand-clapping games and sing song to them. They would play cat’s cradle. The boys would fold paper and play football. It was a typical classroom. I still have pictures from my students that they drew one night the interpreter was not able to make it and I wasn’t able to convey what to do. If I arrived a minute late, there would be a caricature of me on the blackboard.

I often think of my students and wonder what they are doing. They all have grown, and have families. I still carry them in my heart. They helped to make me who I am today.

I tend to think that the joy I had watching them in class is similar to the joy the Lord has in watching us. I assume that God tends to shake His head at me consistently. I think He laughs often at me.

“The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 121:8