As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, joy is a hard thing for me to comprehend.
The Google definition of joy is "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness."
No... that's not it. For while I struggle with joy at times, I have experienced it. And that definition is quite simply awful.
It's not a feeling, at all. It's a mindset. It has almost nothing to do with pleasure and happiness, because it can be found in situations that aren't at all pleasant or happy.
Once again, I go back in my mind to June of 2014, when my oldest child's head was broken into pieces and made new. When the scalpel was a hair's breadth away from her brain stem. As she was carried away from me, crying because of "happy juice" gone wrong... as my baby girl was in the arms of the anesthesiologist instead of her mommy... I smiled. No other parent that I saw that day was smiling. Hospitals are not full of smiling.
So why did I smile? Because of my mindset. Because I had fought as if my life had depended on it... because hers had. Because I had researched and called and argued and yelled and demanded. And someone had listened. And so while there was absolutely nothing "happy" about my baby girl's brain sitting exposed on the operating table... while there was no "great pleasure" that my daughter's skull, the one created in my womb, was lying in pieces on a sterile field being analyzed for parts that could be split in half while her brain expanded after having been squished for over two years...
I knew it was for her good. I trusted her plastic surgeon, after nearly losing faith in the entire medical community. I trusted her neurosurgeon. I trusted her anesthesiologist. I trusted the team they'd assembled to be in that operating room. And above all, I trusted the God Whose hand was over every hand holding a drill, a saw, a scalpel. I trusted the God who'd allowed doors to be slammed in my face and mistakes to be made. Because He knows every day of her life. He loves her more than I do.
And so, I smiled.
Not because I wanted her to be in pain. Oh no... but because I knew that pain would allow her to grow. I knew that great suffering would give her a chance to not suffer so much later. I knew that very hard thing would give her a chance in life.
And so... having experienced that joy... why is it so hard to keep hold of in my daily living?
I've seen several people recently use the phrase "stole my joy." I've used it myself at times. And yet... no. No one stole your joy. We laid it down, at the street curb, with a sign saying "free," when we picked up something else. We picked up perfectionism, worry, anger. It may disguise itself as an overloaded schedule, an out of control budget, a family squabble.
I watched it happen in myself just last night. I laid down shortly after midnight, and as soon as I did, I started going through the list of all the stuff I needed to do today. And I very quickly had the thought "how am I going to get all this done, oh my goodness, it's going to be crazy. Why did I promise I'd read the girls that really long Christmas picture book?!" But thankfully, I've learned something in this last year. I stopped. And I put down the perfectionism.
If we don't get to decorating Christmas cookies today, it's okay. The girls will be fine as long as I promise, and then keep the promise, to make them next week. And none of the ingredients will spoil. The basement doesn't have to be perfectly clean and organized. It's SO much better than it was, there's room for the kids to play and mom and dad to sit. So there's a few more bags of stuff that need to be organized. Throw it in a box and stick it on a shelf and call it good enough for now.
There's only one Christmas Eve in 2016. Only one Christmas Eve when my children are 5, 4, & 2 1/2. This is it, the only chance I get. Why am I going to spend it trying to get things perfect? Why am I setting my joy on the curbside with a "free" sign stuck to it? Put their last gifts in boxes and let them help wrap their own presents; they'd love that! Let them be in the kitchen with me and make letters out of the sweet potato peelings. Let them help me vacuum, not because it's so important that the carpet be vacuumed but because they like helping me vacuum, even though it slows me down.
Joy. It's a gift that can't be stolen, any more than grace could be stolen. I'm taking it back off the curb and throwing the "free" sign in the trash.