31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Introduction (Day 1)

31 Days of Unexpected Joy: Introduction (Day 1)

31 days of unexpected joy

Hello, and welcome!

This is my very first post in the 31-day writing challenge. By way of introduction, I thought I’d share my plans for filling this space over the next month. My intent was to touch on the following:

  • Definition of terms and some friendly catechesis – what is authentic joy, anyway, and where may it be found?
  • Comparison to happiness – what is the difference, and why does it matter?
  • Favorite select quotes about joy
  • Thoughts on (and perhaps pictures of) specific things that bring me joy
  • Ideas regarding how we can identify, cultivate, and savor joy in our everyday lives and
  • A few special guest posts on the topic for good measure

As today is the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Little Flower, I figured I would, in her honor, keep posts for this challenge short, sweet, and simple, sheerly as a survival mechanism, since writing consistently has never been my strong suit.

But a funny thing happened on my way to beginning this writing challenge about a topic almost universally regarded as “feel good” – an unexpected thing. I came up against a bunch of bumps, detours, and unabashed ugliness on my way to this post, and I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, feeling good.

It all began promisingly enough. I planned to begin today with community – meeting up with some friends and planting a seasonal flower pot to add some color and life to my cobwebby front porch. Sure, I would probably kill the thing in a week or three due to my trademark incompetence in growing anything other than babies, but at least I was ready. My husband kindly picked up a new pot for me when he was running errands yesterday, as none of our large planting pots made it through The Big Move last Fall.

But then my daughter woke with a low-grade fever and couldn’t go to school. Moms’ group was obviously a no-go for today. I tried to brush off the feelings of disappointment and decided to embrace the opportunity to stay home and tackle my lengthy to-do list in between parenting duties. “Everything is grace, right, St. Therese?” i asked. Yes. Everything.

EverythingIsGrace

What I failed to realize, however, was that my to-do list for today would soon contain an avalanche of challenges that felt like anything but grace or joy (in no particular order): facing disrespect, rejection, miscommunication, exhaustion, grief over a friend’s extraordinarily painful medical situation, the stress of several concurrent deadlines, did I mention physical and emotional exhaustion?, isolation, self-loathing, chronic back pain, cystic acne, children bickering, whining, and arguing, others’ indifference, project expectations, being so very publicly wrong, incessant boo-boos and toileting needs, considering inexplicable health concerns, shock over the mass murders just hours from here, at a place I’ve been many times, knowing I was letting people down, forgetting to follow through, learning that a former choir member whom I’d loved and admired passed away this week and I never had the opportunity to say, “good-bye.”

All of the above and several other things I’m not mentioning all happened in a single day – during this morning and the first part of this afternoon. I hadn’t even had the chance to make a second cup of coffee and I was just overwhelmed.

Riddle me this, dear reader – in the description of my seemingly godforesaken day, where is the joy? The inspiration to be informative, encouraging, and uplifting? Where?

For some of you, what I’ve described seems like a lot to bear. For others of you, perhaps these are the types of challenges you face each and every day. Still others are saying, “Pffft. That ain’t nothin’. Come live MY life for a minute.” If you are that person, and you’re ever within a 30-mile radius of my house, I will gladly buy you a cup of coffee and give you a hug and hope that you don’t pass out in front of me from sheer overload. Because, holy wow.

If you’re new here (and you’re still reading – GOD BLESS YOU), I’m telling y’all plainly, in case you haven’t picked up on it yet: I’m a hugely broken person. I am wounded, I am weak, and I am often worn out. I can, however, fake being strong for extended periods of time. I’ve been doing that on and off with varying success since birth. I can often push through once, twice, a hundred times before things start to visibly crack.The Lord knows I’m as stubborn as they come, and deep down, I have the heart of a warrior. But today? it’s been sort of hard to keep upright. Writing anything about joy, of all things, has felt very manufactured and inauthentic, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

The pot without plants or flowers. Yet.
The pot without plants or flowers. Yet.

I will tell you, however, as the shadows lengthen and I begin to wonder if I will ever have the courage to hit “publish” on this post what I do have time for, in this unexpected mess of a day – I have time for Jesus and what I promised Him I would do.

You see, I made a commitment to the Lord to write these posts about joy, my friend, and I intend to keep that commitment. I am not sure exactly what He has in mind for this space (especially after an intro such as this), but you know what? The thread of joy that remains within me right now is that of trusting in Him, trusting that He will take care of this mess – take care of me – because He has always has. He is trustworthy.

Jesus, I Trust in You. That, my friends, is my unexpected joy for today. Perhaps I should have expected it by now, but I didn’t.

Despite the storms. Despite the heartaches. Despite the twists and turns and the downs and outs. The spark of joy that remains and can acknowledge that, yes, St. Therese, for the soul that loves, all IS well. Because where there is love, there is God.

Jesus, I Trust in You. 

Because the real joy is knowing that, while the waves may crash and thunder may roll, He is God and HE IS GOOD. He is GOOD, my friend. I can testify to that to you tonight through tears. Because I didn’t WANT to write this post – I didn’t feel like I had anything left to give after today. But I am here. Through God’s grace, I’m here. And, perhaps, so are you. 😉

He. is. good.

Jesus, I Trust in You. 

Maybe you’re reading these words and you aren’t feeling joy, either. Maybe you haven’t felt joy in a long, long, time. Life has beaten you up and brought you down. Or you’re going through a rough patch with no end in sight. Or there’s an end in sight, but you’re just not sure you can make it to the end.

Maybe you’re wondering if you’ll ever feel the tender and unexpected kiss of joy in your life again.

Tonight I pray that the Holy Spirit will provide us – you and me and those we love – with a large measure of hope – that while the night may have come upon us and is trying to dampen our sense of worth, our faith, our identity as sons and daughters of the King, there is, my brothers and sisters in Christ, authentic joy that will come in the morning. If only we will seek Him. There is a peace that surpasses understanding. There is mercy as wide and as deep as a thousand oceans awaiting us if only we submit our will to His amazing grace.

Let’s reach out to Him right now for that hope, that peace, that mercy, and, yes, joy. Lasting, abiding, and authentic joy in Christ Jesus.

Amen and amen and amen. I believe, I believe, I believe.

Jesus, I Trust in You.

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See y’all tomorrow.

heather

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My child, I say to you: arise

My child, I say to you: arise

Photo by Marlee Kay
Photo by Marlee Kay

Hi, there, friends!

I was blessed to write today’s devotion over at Blessed is She, one about seemingly devastating pain and sorrow that was miraculously transformed by the healing touch of our saving Lord. Maybe, like me, you’ve experienced pain or sorrow so deeply that, at times, life doesn’t seem like it’s worth living anymore. I am here to testify to you, my dear sisters in Christ, that life is *always* worth it, even if it isn’t easy. Real healing begins when you can allow Jesus himself to enter into your life and say to you as he did to the little girl in today’s Gospel: “My child, I say to you: arise.”

Please know that he loves you so, so much and wants nothing more than for you to be healed. You are not alone. God bless you.

heather

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St. Monica, pray for us!

St. Monica, pray for us!

Dear St. Monica,
troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine;
your prayers were answered.
Grant me that same fortitude, patience,
and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
that God may favorably hear my plea
and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.

20140827-132013.jpg

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Just another manic … wait – what day is it again?

Just another manic … wait – what day is it again?

This past week without the Internet and a landline was crazy. Very unfamiliar, and quite enlightening in a way, but also crazy.

And today is seemingly no different. Yes, our Internet is back, but there’s always something. When will I admit that “crazy” is kind of our family’s default mode? The denial is strong up in here.

Denial is a river in Egypt, capeesh?

Anyway, poor husband’s back seems to be thisclose to going out completely, and has been since yesterday afternoon. But I did manage to concoct some yummy food for the rowdy crew.

Chicken cacciatore - it was really tasty once the chicken was actually cooked through. Minor detail.
Chicken cacciatore – it was really tasty once the chicken was actually cooked through. Minor detail.
Brunch is more my speed.
Brunch is more my speed.

The homeschooler awoke at 5:15 this morning puking her guts out, the boy baby keeps running into things and falling, and I missed the girl baby’s first day of preschool because of aforementioned puking homeschooler (sorry – I said “puking” twice in that last sentence). But she got there safe and sound. Here she is!

Mah (sniff) baby!
Mah (sniff) baby!

Annnd … wait for it … I have started to feel a bit icky myself. Perhaps it is the sheer power of suggestion, but I have a feeling it might just be my turn. The tummy bug kept our two away-from-home schoolers from schooling a while back, so it is possible.

Well, cheer up, gentle reader! We try to praise the Lord in all things around here, bad backs and puking kids and ill-tempered people (ahem) notwithstanding.

Yay. Praise His Name.

Also, also: there is still time to win a wonderful homeschooling book by my friend Rebecca Frech! Enter in the comments below, or here or here and I’ll announce a winner on Wednesday, the Feast of St. Monica. That seems as appropriate a day as any; I’m sure that, as the mother of the infamous (not always) Saint(ly) Augustine, Monica had her fill of craziness. She may have made him a saint, but I’m willing to consider it was possibly the other way around.

St. Monica with a crazy kid who turned out awesome - ora pro nobis!
St. Monica with a crazy kid who turned out awesome – ora pro nobis!
Be blessed, friends!

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