“Choosing to have joy is not naively thinking everything will be easy. It is courageously believing that there is still hope, even when things get hard.” 

This quote from a Morgan Harper Nichols Hallmark greeting card came from a dear, long-time friend.  Fern has been one of my greatest supports for 40 years – through child-rearing, work craziness, the death of parents and a husband, Fern has been there for me.  We meet regularly for lunch. There is close to 20 years difference in our age, which speaks to what Al-Anon refers to as “experience, hope and wisdom”.

Anyway, I digress. Joy!  Joy is my “thing” – I search for it, I try my best to live it. Sometimes it comes out as crazy-fun games of hide-and-seek with my grandsons.  Sometimes it is lunch with an old friend. My best art happens when I am feeling joyful.  These days it is often walks and bike rides with Barry.

My wedding vows on May 18th included this line: “In January of this year I declared “Joyful” my word of the year, and that is what I am when I am with you.”

For me, joy is a state of deep contentment, combined with an appreciation of whatever you are doing at the moment: listening to music and lifting your hands, cooking something that smells amazing, lunch with a friend, clean sheets!, the sun on your back.  I’m not sure joy can be “found”, as in going on a search for it but it can be grow in your spirit if you feed it.  Barry and I have become sourdough bread people.  We “feed” our starter every week or so and it grows: just flour and water, really quite amazing. It doesn’t take money or a 5 star beach resort to grow your joy. Just simple things.  Find the “flour and water” that makes you joyful.  That is where the contentment comes in; the hope, even when things get hard.  Joy isn’t happiness, which is often fleeting and seems dependant on external circumstances.  Joy is a state of being.   And that’s not to say I’m “joyful” all the time.  Crying doesn’t come easy to me, but I have shed many tears, alone and with those I love and trust the most, several times in the past couple years.   .

I woke up May 18, our church wedding day, determined to savor each moment.  And for the most part I did.   In my 65 years I’ve realized that joy is harder to find in the rushing and the chaos.  More often joy is found in the slow times, the quiet times, the one-on-one times.

Barry and I selected three songs for our wedding. Each one, in its own way, brought me great joy that day.  I knew I wanted “The Goodness of God” by Bethel Music somewhere in the service, and when Barry suggested we make a wedding video, that was the perfect piece of music as the background.  We had about 20 pics of each of us, from our first “studio pic” to our grandchildren photos and in our few short months together we have 10 photos of the two of us: Mexico where we met, Calgary where we got legally married, Chicago for a Blackhawks game with Nelson and biking the coulees of Medicine Hat.   

Barry found “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Life in 3D and that beautiful rendition became our walk-down-the-aisle song. The 3 young kids that sing it are so selfless in their talent that we had the video play as well. Check it out.

And Jennifer, our pianist from Heights Baptist Church, suggested “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees and that made us both joyful!  We look pretty joyful leaving the sanctuary in our photo – and then we had a big hug and a twirl!

And those hard times? The ones we are promised in the Bible? “In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world”, Jesus promises in John 16:33. There is Hope, even in the hard times.

Getting back to my art will happen.

The inside of the card from Fern reads:  “Here’s to Living Joyously and Holding Hope Closely. Today. Tomorrow. Always.”