Pursuing Peace, Expecting Joy: Five Minute Friday

I was sorting through pictures this year to find some for our family photo books that I make for grandparents this time of year. I came across this picture.

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For some reason it moved me. I remember when it was taken. I was smiling so much my face hurt. It was probably the best day we’d ever had as a family of five. (I’m hoping to talk more about that special day next week).

 

I love this picture of myself. Because it’s one of the first times in the last year that I remember feeling happy. I know I was happy other times. But I never looked happy in pictures. I looked tired, worried, stressed, irritated. But never happy. Because being a mom of three isn’t always a happy time. I deal with lots of screaming, arguing, enforcing of chores and school work, breaking up of sibling fights, butt and nose wiping. In fact there are days when I hardly remember genuine smiles. You know the kind I’m talking about, the ones that you don’t have to think about or remind yourself to do.

 

I have a few very distinct memories of times when my face hurt from smiling so much. One was my wedding (and that was before we even got to the formal wedding photos). Another was in my parent’s dining room playing board games and laughing until we cried. After my daughter was born. My 30th birthday girls game night. Then our Edaville trip. I know there have been others, those are just the ones that stick out in my mind.

 

When I was starting my memoir in college I wrote a chapter that I shared at our final public project reading. Pursuing Peace, Expecting Joy. I’m just realizing now what a perfect description of the Advent season that is. Because for us joy is not a surprise. The Messiah was born! We are no longer the shepherd’s shocked by the appearance of the angels; we can be Simeon. He knew he would see the Messiah and in his lifetime, he believed God when he said it. So he looked for it, watched for it and anticipated the Incarnation.

 

We don’t have to just wait to feel peace this holiday season. Very little about the traditional way this holiday is celebrated in the United States lends itself to peace naturally. But we can pursue peace, seek the Prince of Peace in fact. We can expect joy because we know He already came. We can look for times to feel joy, remember the times that happiness overcame us and we couldn’t stop smiling. We may not be able to force it to happen, but remembering it can and will happen, is half the battle. We can nurture joy in our hearts by drawing close to the Savior Born to us and reveling in all he has done for us, both in the past, now and in the time to come.

 

As you review your year, (as many of us are prone to do during the year end holiday season) whether through pictures or just in your mind; remind yourself of the joy that came, even at times that didn’t appear on the outside to be joyful and the peace that descended into the most chaotic of situations.

 
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

 

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Joy is a Promise

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Photo Credit: Photosightfaces via Compfight cc

I was reading Circle of Quiet again today and as I finished a chapter the final line struck me. “Joy is a promise.” I’ve never been good at joy. I excel at obsession, and frustration. I usually fail miserably at relaxation. Compartmentalization and I rarely meet. Apparently I’m not the only one. The ladies at my MOPS table and I discussed how we all struggle with letting go of things. We can’t relax well when there are things to do. I lie awake at night with lists scrolling through my head, unable to sleep because I feel like I should be working. Even as I write this my brain spins with all the lists of things yet undone, and how to find the money to pay for them. I found an error in my budget spreadsheet that has resulted in a significant monthly shortfall. It will mean giving up some small luxuries that I have grown dependent one. It makes me angry and sometimes I can’t think about anything else. So when the time comes to spend an evening with my husband, I can’t focus. I can’t just sit in watch a movie while the laundry piles tower around me. Or if I do, I can’t enjoy myself with the guilt I heap on myself. A good wife would have finished all of this days or weeks ago. A good mom would have gotten the clothes into the drawers and had things laid out for tomorrow.

Joy seems rare, the real genuine kind, not the happiness that I’m supposed to feel that I fake. When the children show me a picture or a trick and I smile and pretend I’m interested because I know I should be. But all I can think of us the mess they leave in their wake and how I will get it clean before I pass out at the end of the day in exhaustion. Those moments of real joy when for a little while I can forget it all and just exist for a little while; they don’t happen often. They slip through my fingers like sand. But                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Madeleine L’Engle is right. Joy is a promise. No matter how hard things are, or will be in the future, the moments will always come. The joy is always there, we just need to let it find us. Like a lost child, stop moving and stand still until we are found again.

I need to stand still more. I don’t know how to block out the cacophony. I can’t thinking that the right method, list, software or schedule will solve the problem. But it doesn’t and it won’t. I just need to let it go. I want to be able to latch on to the moments of joy and let them last as long as they ca, wringing out the extra seconds. To enjoy my children, to adore my husband, revel with my friends. Joy can be my promise too. I will always be here. I won’t give up. Never surrender to the encroaching darkness. I will engage with joy and love with abandon.

Pursuing My Joy

 

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Today’s Five Minute Friday prompt is: Joy

Joy was the original name we had planned for a daughter. We both really felt like we were going to have a girl first. But my sister, whose middle name is Joy, really wanted to save the name for her own. So we switched it to a middle name. Althea was my great grandmother’s name and became our choice for our first born. We decided to call her Thea for short. Althea is Greek and means healer or wholesome. Thea means goddess, though I don’t tell her that. Approaching five she already things she is almighty and the center of the universe. Joy seems like a natural extension. I always felt like her name was a blessing I was speaking over her, that she would be a joyful child who brought healing to others. I imagined she might be a doctor or pray for others and they would be healed.

But then she grew up a little and she was no longer the sweet baby and precocious toddler. She became a preschooler with a mind of her own and a strong will. Each day begins with anger and whining before she even emerges from her room. I blame myself, perhaps I unintentionally let her believe that she really was the center of the universe for far too long. It was never on purpose, but almost three years of being an only child, only niece and only grandchild to adoring parents, aunt and uncle and grandparents has a way of doing that.

It’s hard not to feel bitter some times as my friends describe the wonderful bonding with their daughters and how much they enjoy each moment of their days with them. We do have our moments, but mostly each day is more a wrestling match than a dance.

Some days I have trouble seeing the joy, I only see the goddess, mighty and wrathful. But I try to remember that we called her healer and wholesome first. Somewhere, underneath the whining and the screaming, the immoveable will and grandiose demands and threats, I know that the joy is there. The hardest part about parenting is trying to bring out the best in your child.

Today, I chose to pursue my Joy. I can’t make promises about tomorrow, next week or five years from now. Such grand goals of idealistic parenting don’t last long around here. But for this day, in this phase, I choose to see her has friend rather than foe; to love her for who I know she is inside, rather than what she behaves like. Honoring the strength of her will, even as I must bend and turn it in healthy directions. She is wholesome, she is joyful. She is my daughter.

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