I’m not a fan of the phrase, Choose Joy.
There. I said it. Hopefully we can still be friends.
I love the concept. I’m all for deciding upon a positive desire and chasing after utter contentment with everything in me, but the truth is, I’ve tried to choose joy and came up empty. Perhaps I’m desiring the idea of what joy ought to be, instead of releasing myself to who Joy is.
If my dad were still alive, today would be his 70th birthday. 70.
I’d give anything to have him over for burgers and giant watermelon triangles, potato chips and onion dip. We’d drink coca cola until we burped and laugh hysterically while the fireflies come out and the sun goes down. He’d throw the boys on the couch and play, “I am the King” and even though Tanner is almost 10, he’d laugh and pretend not to like it, but would ask, Papa throw me again. And again.
We’d hang wet swimsuits and towels over the deck and devour chocolate chip cookies and as the boys fall asleep, we’d end the night in the living room, with he, mom, Bry and I talking late, passing our new puppy in a circle. Glasses of wine poured and re-poured and his coke topped off.
We’d talk about this season of many questions and no answers. About discovering a deep joy beyond words. They’d listen and ask more. And we’d puppy pass and sip.
There would be tears. Tears about jobs left and still to be discovered. Tears at leaving old comforts for new discomforts. Tears at wondering why God stirred us from CA to TN only to invite us to surrender every damn cozy part of our previous status quo life.
And then the four of us would lean in close and talk about the magic of what happens when nothing tethers us to things or stuff or egos or titles or paychecks. Bryan and I would share about intentionally stripping ourselves of dreams and answers for the raw belief that trusting in the unseen cements an inner stillness that no external securities can.
Bryan would tell him that in the last year, he’s yet to find a full time job, even after working at a church for 15+ years. Masters and all. Nope, my strong vulnerable man would share story after story of the people he’s met working at a hardware store, nonprofits, rebuilding a neighbor’s rock wall in the sharp cold of winter. He’d gaze off and think of hours he painted hallways and sanded wood shelves, and how even now, he’s bartending just to make minimal means.
We don’t get it, we’d nod.
There’s joy in finding home in our boys and them in us. There’s joy in coming to know that whether in plenty or in want, our souls are deeply well. There’s joy in living untethered to anything or anyone other than the God who holds us in the palm of His capable, caring hands.
There’s joy, even when I’m tempted to rock in the fetal position for how scared I am when I think about how we’ll pay for our home, our food, our kids’ birthday parties, and then my eyes land on Luke 12 and I stay there. All day. If he cares for the birds and the wildflowers, will He not care for us? Is He not providing even now? In the faces, and love, and receiving of grace from neighbors, and discovering, for the first time, what it is to be fully known and loved regardless of who we are, or what we can give, or whether or not we serve in a church? This is joy. This is joy because today is set on surrendering all our dreams, fears, and plans in exchange for open palms and trusting spirits.
All we can do is settle in and claim His promises. He will not leave us nor forsake us. He will provide. And this deep transformation pushes past control and striving, it burrows beyond happiness, or even contentment. This joy is found when moving toward Him and Him alone. No choosing joy, just resting in Joy Himself; where faith, hope and love fill from the inside out.
Even though we’re scared of undiscovered puzzle pieces and jobs not yet found. Even though I’m tempted to be overcome by anxiety and control my own plans and push myself to overachieve in the name of faith, I know inside when I’ve reached the end of myself. So I give up. I give up me. I instead, snuggle our boys, and while I’m looking for jobs and working my hardest, we have spontaneous water fights in the backyard and go off-road wildflower picking and we listen- really listen– to one another.
We make homemade Cookies & Cream ice cream and swim until our fingers are pruny. We talk and watch afternoon movies and invite friends for drinks on the porch. We look at one another and say, this hard will not define us. We will know Joy for He is our daily bread and we are depending on Him today.
And today I wish we could have this conversation with my dad, while singing Happy Birthday and cheering with coca cola bottles and enjoying shoulder-heaving laughter, the kind that comes straight from your gut.
I know joy now. Joy is not happy or unicorny or a precious feeling. Joy is unwavering, regardless of circumstances, others, or moods. Joy is still and deep and pulls me toward Light. Joy pulls off the extra and makes space to breathe easier. Joy is living out a sacred awareness that every meal, every smile, every day is a holy gift. Joy is a spark of what my dad knows in Eternity and for this, I am grateful that Joy comes in the morning.