Monday, June 25, 2012

A Special Father's day

Life is a succession of seasons. Some are long and some are short.
  My latest season has been going on for a little more than a year now. Our world was turned upside down the day my mom suffered not only a heart attack but at least 3 mini-strokes. Unfortunately, our lives would never be quite the same.
  Prior to that when I’d make my daily phone calls to check on the folks it was my mom that I spoke to the most. Not that I didn’t want to talk to my dad but he always seemed to have better things to do. I guess that’s how it was alot as I was growing up too.  After he put in his long hours at work, we spoke at supper then he’d read the paper. Before you knew it was time for him to go to bed by 9 so he could get up long before dawn to do it all again.
   It was mostly me and mom that did things together. Girl things like shopping, painting bedrooms, cooking & watching the Miss USA pageants all the while talking about whatever.
  Try as I might I could rarely seem to find something my dad & I had in common. He didn’t like my music. I didn’t like his war movies and he definitely didn’t like MY movies.  Our one common bond was being at our camp where we hunted through dumps finding treasures that someone had discarded or going to fill up our empty milk jugs with the cold spring water nearby. He was my dad...the family bread winner, the disciplinarian, the head of the household & someone you didn’t want to make angry. Someone I looked to when I needed wisdom & guidance.
   Just as our life changed that day last May, my perspective and priorities have changed as well.  I have had to rely on my faith in ways I never thought possible.  And it has been stretched and strengthened in ways that I never realized was lacking. Add to that my specific & deliberate journey of ‘joy’ since the beginning of the year and wow, what a time it’s been....I still perhaps have not reached the full impact of it all but it’s true that it’s not the destination but the journey that is important.
  Which brings me back to my dad. It occurred to me the week of Father’s Day. I felt something special when I bought his card this year. I can’t explain it exactly. Although I have always loved my dad of course, there was just something different, a higher meaning, if you will as I read the words on the card.  Then it occurred to me, I have been given a wonderful gift in the midst of these trials. And I was again reminded of James 1:2 “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy”.  And as you know I have been doing my best to make joy my #1 choice in all things. (Joy, the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.)
   Maybe I was finally getting ‘it’ because it was like a light bulb being turned on. As much as it has pained me to see my mom’s health & mental capabilities declining, I have been given more time with my dad! Not just quantity but quality! It wasn’t just the status quo.
     Each morning when I call at 9 am to ‘check in’ he is eager to talk! lol  We now also have regular breakfast dates at the local diner, go to yard sales together, and we compare notes on techniques & supplies when we’re doing our individual handiworks. (even if he’s never done it before he can fix anything!!!.. broken figurines, old-time toys, weaving rocker seats etc)    He has trusted & looked to me to take care of everything from his banking to overseeing my mother’s care. Our roles in many ways have reversed. Ultimately though, he has become my friend! 
   Who knew that by ‘Choosing Joy’, I would be granted such a priceless gift!
    

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Finding joy in the strangest places

Even though I haven’t written since February my ‘joy journey’ has continued. As a matter of fact it has been being tested with fire, refining it, if you will.
  From my own research & sometimes stubbornness I’ve been trying to seek out and hold onto the joy even in the most unlikely settings. You just have know where to look....the other day I was going through a closet and found something I hadn’t seen in awhile, a gnome figurine with JOY written on it. Nearly 20 yrs ago I had won it in a drawing. The circumstances surrounding my winning gave me great pause, even then. It was just down right eery. So much so that at the time, I even mentioned it to those with me.  Now I have to wonder if this was hint of my journey to come.
    We lost another two beloved family members in those months since not to mention some very trying times with mom as she’s battled infections that have confined her to her room.  I remember saying to a friend that as I sit here with my mom & she’s saying things that are not like my ‘old’ mom, in my head I am saying, “I will choose joy even when things are like this, there must be something I am to learn from all this, Lord and I'm trying to be open to learn whatever I'm suppose to get from this”. I cannot tell you how many times this has occurred that in my defiance against how much it sometimes hurts my heart & the assuredness of my faith, I have felt a peace come over me that helps me cope with the situation.
  Something my friend said to me days later resonates on a daily basis in my mind. Joy is a choice! It’s not a fleeting happy event that just comes to you, it is a choice. Wow! Really? Someone else has found this to be true? I am not alone?  I have heard, “pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy”....hmmm, ponder that one a minute.
  My approach to problems has usually been that we must be doing something right that Satan is doing his best to discourage us and break us...While that may very well be true it may also be that God will use these hard times to help us to stretch & grow.  And just like the growing pains you have as a child, sometimes it hurts.
  James 1:2 says, “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy”.  Seriously? When trouble comes my way, my first thoughts are usually fear & panic. Then I take a deep breath & calm myself so I can think..  But it is true that an untested faith is an unreliable faith. It’s not rocket science to know that it’s easier to have faith when everything’s going your way.
  My journey of joy has been further confirmed by something I found quite randomly while doing a search on a totally different topic. From my experience, self help books tend to talk down to my intelligence and leaving me wonder what I could have better spent my money on. But this one, well I couldn’t deny that it seemed like it was meant for me....CHOOSE JOY because Happiness Isn’t Enough by Kay Warren. As I read it she was able to put into words what I was struggling to figure out on my own. It gave me that added boost that I was on the right track. It was exactly what I was trying to accomplish.
  Her definition of joy summed it up perfectly, “JOY is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”  
   One of my favorite songs (much to the chagrin of my family) is Bobby McFarrin’s, Don’t Worry Be Happy...as catchy as that little ditty is, it makes it almost seem like you should smile when bad things happen. That’s not it at all. Bad things that rip you to your core will happen in this life to make us cry & be dreadfully sad and rightfully so or we wouldn’t be human!...but it’s how we choose to pick ourselves back up that makes the difference. You never know who might be watching. Shouldn’t our faith also be reflected in how we react to these situations? 
  So why did I just come upon that little statue from so many years ago at this particular time? Maybe it was to be a reminder that I had joy all along, hidden away...I just had to look for it and then set it on the shelf for all to see...