Someone recently asked me about my blog name, and I thought it would be best to answer her with a post.
The name originated with the idea in Psalm 30:5-
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Not a direct quote, but for me it gives the general idea. In my life, this is what my spiritual journey has looked like.
No matter what has happened in my life, joy has always followed. The interesting thing is that the deeper the pain, the more intense the joy. That just seems to be the way God works.
I struggled a lot with faith and what that meant in my life as a child. I didn’t always “feel” like I believed, and the lesson I had to learn was that our faith is not based on feelings but rather on our decisions. I chose to follow Jesus and that carried me through, no matter how I felt or how many doubts I had. Despite my struggles with this that sometimes threw me into emotional upheaval, I was still a very joyful child. It was a gift God had given me.
I grew up, and I learned that love is a lot like faith. It’s not based on feelings, but on choices. Sure, the feelings are important, who would want to marry someone that they didn’t like, but if you don’t have something deeper than that, something called commitment, it’s never going to go anywhere. And you are going to be very unhappy. I made a commitment to John, we got married, and lived happily ever after. OK, so that’s a little cliche, but really it is very true. Our lives are full of joy. We’ve had misunderstandings, we’ve had hurt, but afterwards, there is always joy.
Then we decided to embark on the journey of parenthood and were blessed with a healthy, bouncy baby girl. Everything was perfect right? But for some reason I didn’t FEEL like it was perfect. I felt depressed, weepy, and full of worry. I cried and had a hard time being motivated to get off the couch. This wasn’t what motherhood was supposed to be like. Why couldn’t I enjoy this wonderful baby, which happened to be one of the few things in life that I had wanted since childhood? It turned out I had something called postpartum depression. It sapped the joy right out of me and things were not right. But, with a little bit of time, a caring doctor, and a prescription for anti-depressants I began to feel like my world wasn’t falling apart after all. I dealt with the post-partum depression with each of my kids, but one of the interesting things I found was that during those dark days I could still see glimpses of joy. God’s presence was clearly felt. When I felt like I couldn’t hold on any longer, it was as if he said, “That’s OK, just let go. I’ve got you.” I often turned to the Psalms, searching for encouragement in those verses of trial and triumph. And then there was joy. It would start slowly at first, perhaps a small glimmer in an afternoon, then the next day I’d find myself spending a whole hour feeling it, and soon most of the day felt bright again. The anti-depressants were a must, but I have to say that I am thankful that God walked me down that path all four times, because what I gained was a greater appreciation of normalcy, of faith, and most of all of joy.
Then, in our 5th year of marriage, we experienced loss. In less than a year, we both welcomed and said goodbye to our second daughter. We realized quickly that Emma was not a healthy normal child. As diagnosis after diagnosis came in, her care became more and more difficult. Yet, it was never too much. Emma’s whole demeanor was one of joy. Her eyes almost twinkled; her smile was contagious. When you were around her you couldn’t help but experience joy. I remember clearly the day when I realized truly that I was the mother to a handicapped child. A child who may be handicapped her whole life. In that moment I cried. I fled the hospital room where Emma and I were staying and found a semi-private bench in the outdoor garden and I cried. I was sorry for Emma, but probably even more importantly I was sorry for myself. I realized this meant I was committed to caring for her needs through all her childhood and most likely into her adulthood as well. I cried for Emma, what she might not get to experience, and I cried for me, for what I might have to sacrifice in order to care for her. And then I dried my tears. I returned to our little hospital room and I never again spent time feeling sorry for myself over that issue. Sure there were still days where I found the care overwhelming, but I was no longer worried about how long or how much I would need to give to her. I don’t really remember feeling sorry for Emma after that either. I don’t think I really realized it at the time, but I had become committed to Emma, to caring for her in the best way I could for as long as I was needed. I became fully engrossed in her care and realized great joy in the times I spent with her. And great joy in the limited time I spent with John and Elise as well.
When Emma died, I thought it would be so hard to fill my time. I had spent so many hours of each day caring for her that I didn’t know what I would fill that time with. I was afraid of depression, of falling into a deep dark hole that I couldn’t climb out of by myself. I was worried I’d need anti-depressants again. But I didn’t. I grieved, but I also rejoiced. I knew where Emma was, I knew she was being well cared for, and I knew she was healthy and strong. I realized the blessings we had been given in the short time we’d been able to care for her, and I was able to thank God for his perfect timing and his wonderful gifts. My heart was filled with inexplicable joy.
Later, when Will was born I began to know even more joy. I cried during his labor, but I’m not sure if I can explain why. I know I was thinking of Emma, I know I was worried about the delivery and the postpartum depression, and I know that I was in a lot of pain. It was just an overwhelming emotional experience. I wasn’t really thinking about Will at that point. But then suddenly he was here. And I couldn’t believe that I had this wonderful gift that I absolutely did not deserve. I knew he didn’t replace Emma, but he helped to fill my arms at a time when my arms ached to be filled. He brought me joy. Well, no. I think the joy still came from God, but he delivered it in a not so little bundle in the noon hour of July 19, 2007.
Of course 2008 brought with it another child, one who hadn’t been expected at all. Now I can’t imagine life without him, but there was a time when I wasn’t sure I wanted this new little life that I had discovered was growing inside of me. Seth, who is a little bit stubborn and very mischievous, came 10 days late and has been causing trouble ever since. But his adorable smile, everyday laughter, and positive outlook on life have endeared him to just about everyone he meets. He’s even been known to run up and hug complete strangers. His goal in life seems to be to bring others joy (except in the case of his brothers and sisters, if he can’t make them laugh, then making them scream seems to be the next best thing). But needless to say, God has used him to brighten our days and remind us of what is truly important in life.
And now: The kids are growing, interacting, building relationships. John and I are building our talents, searching for the important things in life, and trying to figure out how and where to serve God better. We’re living in the present, while still wondering what the future holds.
But no matter what, I know I will still be able to say, “And then there was joy.” Because my joy doesn’t rely on circumstances or even on how I FEEL. It is a result of my faith, my commitments, and most of all God’s love.