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Joy on the Journey

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“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

The last few weeks have been hard and painful, with a new-old ankle injury rearing its ugly head. Emotions running high for many reasons with MRIs in the last month for both my guy and me. Monthly scans for him have become our norm. My MRI tells a story of new tears and old injuries. I wonder what an MRI of the heart would tell about all the wounds and injuries that we have carried on this journey called life.

One may wonder, where is the joy in on this journey?

The world is and has been upside down. We attempt to emerge slowly from the parched soil like a delicate blossom planted on an early warm spring day. We are quickly reminded the winter is not quite over yet. And the flower and a freeze warning, well, they don’t quite mesh. 

But we know the hope is there as the spring blossoms still keep forcing themselves to the surface of the cold, dark soil. I think the Easter flowers will be watered with tears of joy as many return to the altar for the first time in a year.

We are Easter people who may feel the sting having missed our favorite liturgical day last year. I can hear the mighty roar as we raise an Alleluia on Easter Sunday. I can only imagine joy and tears will abound as we approach the altar. You don’t know emptiness unless you have fullness.  

Speaking of the things of last year, I am keenly aware of the weight of loneliness and isolation my mother has carried. I know it is not mine to carry, but it stirs my tender heart. And honestly, I just miss my mom. I miss my “last year mom” even when things may not have always been easy. I miss the freedom to show her love and make her smile. To be honest, I miss many “last year things,” and people that have been taken and/or absent from my life.

It has been a whole year since I last hugged my mom. I know I am not alone in this. I haven’t seen her beyond a screen or a six-foot roped-off barrier in a year. 

Something in my heart told me to snap a picture as I left her on March 9 last year.  I wrote a post about her here.

I hold that picture close along with the picture of the sunset I took as I left her that day a year ago. They bring me joy.

Lately, I hardly recognize the face staring back at the screen. And the time between our messages is stretching out further than my heart desires. I see how time and isolation have taken their toll. Yet, I believe she is trying to find joy and holds onto prayer as much as she is able.

And of course, there has been the new feather added to my cap these last few months being a caregiver to my favorite guy. Though caregiving has a broad definition these days. Perhaps it is more about caring for his heart and (and he for mine) as we point each other to joy.

From the outside, all I have shared here seems to be too much, right?

I imagine it does. but on the inside, we still find joy. It’s hard to really articulate why. Leaning into faith, I guess, is the reason why.

I’m sure our story isn’t all that much different than yours. The characters, the details, and how the plot thickens are different, but WE ALL have endured some sort of hardship not only this year but also in life.

I know you are carrying heavy burdens too. They all matter: loss of loved ones, broken relationships, the pinch of financial woes, rising anxiety with the wake of the unknowns…the list keeps growing for all of us.

Still, I believe we walk a thin line of wanting to hold onto joys in life, remembering that our suffering can really offer grace and while honoring the heartache we endure. 

Our journey in life is sanctifying, to say the least. Thank you, St. Sharbel, for showing up in places to continually remind me of this.

While there was more physical pain for me due to my ankle the last few weeks than I would have liked, there has been a joy beyond measure in those weeks.

I wish you could see it from where we sit. I really do. Because there is so much joy.

While heartache and frustration try to prevail, the joy on this journey persists if we seek to find it.

The joy comes in the outpouring of love by reconnecting with a lifetime-ago friend who returns to you by way of two (maybe 3) different other friends. You find yourself in awe of those golden threads, the 6 degrees of separation, and the way God has them waiting in the wings exactly when we need them. We just need to invite them in.

There is Joy on this journey.

The joy comes in the heavy snowfall (the day after my ankle injury), reminding you of Narnia and those days of Hope because our Aslan is so very near.  

“This was the very reason you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there…Courage, dear heart…Wrong be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bares his teeth. Winter meets its death. and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” Aslan, Chronicles of Narnia 

As that old messy snow melted away with the heaviness of dark winter days, new life begins to burst from beneath the surface, and daylight pierces the morning an hour earlier than we’d choose.

The joy comes as the sun bursts out of the sky as it greets each day. We are springing forward once again watching for new life to emerge and bring hope and beauty. The birds wake up from our slumber with the voices as magnificent as a choir of angels. Birds, like the flowers, know the winter, and the difficult days only last for a time. 

There is joy on this journey. 

The joy even comes when your most severe pain intersects with the difficultly of carrying the weight that you can barely walk. Mind you, I am speaking of my ankle, but I am sure you see the metaphor of carrying a cross alongside someone you love. When sharing my frustration with pain, a friend lovingly reminds you: “maybe someone needs the grace from your suffering.” 

WHOA! “Maybe someone needs the grace from your suffering.”  Just contemplate the beauty of those words.

Because the truth is someone else is always carrying a cross heavier than me. There is no need to compare the weight of our burdens. Still, there is so much beauty in the redeeming grace of our suffering. May it help another who needs that grace—a powerful reminder we are One Body. 

So we offer up our suffering because God wastes nothing, and we begin to heal, find peace and feel joy. We can get knocked down and but we get up again.

“Oh if only the suffering soul knew how it is loved by God, it would die of joy and excess of happiness. Someday we will know the value of suffering, but then we will no longer be able to suffer. The present moment is ours.”-St Faustina Kowalska.

Joy comes when we send “Philly Love” to a Texan friend who has been suffering “Texas Big.” Does it make the suffering end? Probably not, but it is in giving that we receive. 

It is said in giving, we receive. And then the friend tells you, “it’s hard for me to receive.” 

I am in touch with those words,” I tell the Texan Friend.

I find joy in what I’ve been told each time I say thank you to the generous souls for showering us with prayers, gifts, and love: “We want to do something to help. We know we cannot control the situation, but we can offer help in some way to ease the burden. So this is how we help.” These are examples of the words friends offer to us.

There is joy on the journey.

Jon and I have been receiving so much it’s hard to even articulate. We are givers by nature, clearlymore than we realized—as per all of the “giving” we are receiving. How on Earth can we EVER repay for so much kindness in our greatest hour of need? 

So we continue to give back even in the smallest of ways that we can. Giving back may only be by our being present, by showing joy, peace, and hope in what others are naming as “big, devastating, and scary….” 

It is all of that. But maybe the smallest way may only be in offering my words in this little space for me to shed light on hope and allow you to see our joy even if we are walking a difficult journey. 

I wish it could be more. I hope you see the joy. Just imagine the day we throw another party (I wish it could be a 52nd birthday party) in our backyard for another celebration or simply to break bread over a good cup of coffee. Please imagine we are inviting you in to come as you are. 

Imagining those memories and those days to come once again brings me joy. I do not know about you, but I miss gathering with people. So we gather the memories. There is joy in that too.

Joy comes when a friend texts in the past few weeks, “please send me the list. I want to get your family groceries. I want to give your kids the snacks they love.” Humbled. I ask the kids for their list and remind them to be open to receive. People want to help. Loving our neighbor allows them to enter in by loving you, even when it is hard to receive.

Within two hours, those groceries arrive at the door.  

Joy comes when a precious friend navigating a mountain of grief of her own, who brings me a meal or a bouquet of flowers, maybe a carton of eggs at least once a week.

Joy comes with each meal thoughtfully prepared and delivered with love and flowers and treats that fill our house and hearts as much as our belly.

Joy comes in others reaching out with every call, text, message, and card to send your prayers, letting us know we are seen and loved. Isn’t the heart’s greatest desire to be seen, known, and loved?

Joy comes in how time and distance drive us to lose touch, but life and difficulties build bridges, and with the Grace of God, we find our way back to those we love.

Joy comes in knowing God really shows up even in the difficult moments by the providence of innumerable graces and love through people, beauty, and the way he guides me to weave these words.

Joy comes in the small gifts when MRIs can give us a bit more hope each and every time. I think it’s natural to just want more time.

As for Jon, we will continue to monitor this journey and diagnosis one day, One MRI at a time. We will hold onto hope with one another, leaning into your prayers and trusting the care he receives and the Will of God.

For me, I need more time to heal my ankle. So for today, I will not have surgery. Good grief, I do not need nor want to have surgery on this driving foot. So I am resting. I am not the process and taking care in all ways to heal. Healing will come in God’s time. 

My beloved Pastor pokes fun each time I hobble into the church, “I see what’s going on with you, Heather, you want the attention. You want to take the attention off of Jon,” 

“Haha, Father. Yes, yes I do.” 

Of course, he is having fun with me, to bring some levity. I am quickly reminded how our suffering is redeeming and brings us closer to the heart of the Father.

I resign myself to offer my own pain and suffering for Jon’s grace. I will take that gift with obedience and grace. God wastes nothing. 

“But from love springs joy. It is therefore logical that joy should follow love, for everyone who truly loves finds joy with the persons they love. They also find joy in serving them. Far from being a burden, the opportunity to serve gives great satisfaction and happiness…peace is the fulfillment and completion of love and joy.” Andrew Apostoli, The Comforter-The Spirit of Joy.

After weaving these words over the last few weeks since the ankle injury ironically or appropriately reared its ugly self on Ash Wednesday, For sure this has been “my Lent,” sanctifying and purifying. I once again find irony or a wink from God.

I felt called to share these words today after a friend sent me an article, from Walking with Purpose (do you see the golden thread to this?) “From Joy if to Joy even if.” You should read the reflection; it’s worth your time if you are trying to understand how to find joy in hard places. It is funny how part of the reflection talks about a wife and a husband climbing a mountain—our clever and courageous journey, so Climb Aboard.

Joy comes when that friend who sends you the said article with a message that reads: “This article spoke to me and I saw you as such a wonderful example of ‘joy even if.'” I am honored and humbled, to say the least. 

And as I am preparing to publish this post, another friend sends me…” I saw this and thought of you.” Once again, affirming these words God placed on my heart to weave and shared were meant to be released. (note: This is not an ad for a keychain, just an ad for noticing a nudge from God sent by a friend, an ad for being present.)

“The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled joy.” Psalm 126:3

We “hearted” and “!!’d” (nod to my tech fun) about the timing of these things, and the friend wrote. “It’s His message for you. He ordered it (JOY) for you today.”

What an incredible gift of joy on this journey.

I pray you will discover joy on your journey today, too. And for the record, it’s okay to buy a keychain to remind you find the joy. It’s okay to have reminders to look for the joy on the journey.

Each season I send out a newsletter to share some “life lately” things. I am working on A Spring Love Letter just for you. We have some surprises in the works. We will announce all things new through email announcements. We hope to make an announcement very soon

If you wish to be updated in your inbox when a new blog post is published or wish to receive the latest newsletter when it “hits the press,” You can subscribe here please.

While Jon is fighting and healing, he and I are taking time to dream and discern something that has been on our hearts for quite a few years. Please say a prayer as we discern the next steps in making this happen. We are finding joy on this journey to use this difficult time to perhaps bring to the table something we can share with you. It would be our greatest joy to share this with you. Stay tuned.

And please continue to pray for our Jon and our family on this journey as we embrace it with joy one day at a time.

We will continue to pray for you. 

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