I am writing this while my children play beer pong. But with water. If this is any indication of what their future will look like, y’all can put me on your prayer list. I have no idea where they got this idea. Maybe they truly do have my DNA. To be fair, I think they are doing their best to come up with creative ideas to do when they are bored of being quarantined from friends, sports, school, movie theaters, and every other thing that once entertained them.
So I’m gonna actually go out on a limb and say I’m kind of proud of them. I’m proud of them for coming up with new ideas. I’m proud of them for being creative. And I’m proud of them for choosing to find joy. Joy is just that. Something we have to choose to find.
So many of us are facing circumstances that are sucking the joy right out of our marrow. We are scared and worried. We are surrounded by sick people. Some of us are sick. We are losing our jobs and our businesses are facing the threat of closure. We are looking at our bills and our investments and the market crashing. We are hearing words like “depression,” “death” and “eighteen months” and all of this is literally stealing our happiness.
And you know what? It all might steal our happiness, but let’s not let it kill our joy.
Joy is something we have to choose to see and feel. It’s there for the taking, but we can deny it’s presence because we want to blame our circumstances. No matter how much this coronavirus experience strips us, no matter how much it takes from us, no matter how much it wears us down, we can choose joy and find it in the simple things.
After our first few days of being quarantined, I had a conversation with myself. And it went like this: “Self, why are you down? And why are you inside? Why have you made the news your background music and the fear your view? You can still find joy. You can still go for walks. You can still see life. You can still laugh. Go outside and do something other than clean and cook and watch news and worry.” And I was like “Fine. You’re so bossy.”
So I started going on walks every day. And one day we forced our kids to go on a hike in nature. I know, we are terrible parents right? At one point while we trekked through a beautiful forest towards the ocean, my son tried to get us to turn around and call it good. I started doing that typical mom thing, lecturing him about needing to be outside and find joy in the simple things. I started preaching to him like I had to preach to myself, saying something like “We shouldn’t just be happy or joyful when we are being entertained or only when we are with friends at social events or when we are doing what we planned and hoped to do.” I’m sure his face was saying “Blah, blah, blah” but I didn’t notice because I was surrounded by views of the San Juan islands. He responded to my hope that we could find joy in the simple things with an irritated sense of humor, “Mommmmm, can’t we just find complex joy?”
We share the same desire my son has. His desire is one that wants to go back to the kind of joy that comes with our expected comforts, busyness, pleasures and entertainment. But should we need these things to be happy, joyful, upbeat, positive, and hopeful? Maybe all these things that we all miss are just masks of temporary comfort to keep us from feeling the discontentment, fear, loneliness, worry and pain that lay dormant within us. What we want to return to, it’s not lasting, as we now know, feel and see. So my son is right – what we long to have again is complex.
Everyday during this coronavirus crisis, I have needed to go looking for the things that bring me joy. And they are simple things. Simple like the fresh air I can breathe in and out as I walk outside. The blooming of the cherry blossoms. The silly tik tok dances my daughter does everywhere. The smell of coffee brewing. The sun piercing through the rain and their child, the rainbow. The prayers of my kids. Childlike faith. Laughter. Puppies. Daffodils popping out to say hello. My favorite soft blanket. Sunsets every night, each one different. Orange. Hot pink. Heavenly blue. White clouds with spikes of sun from glory peeking through, all telling me who I am and who God is. The call from a friend checking in on me. The voice of my dad saying, “Life is good” even when life is really, really hard. And joy, even from teenagers playing some kind of wacky game of water pong.
I can hear their giggles. I can hear them making fun of each other in jest and love. I can hear them talk smack. I can hear them fake brag about their pong skills. And what I hear brings me joy.
We shouldn’t have to pay for joy. It shouldn’t require material possessions. Joy should not always need a booming economy to accompany it. Joy should not be threatened by change in routine and changing expectations. Joy, the kind we need in huge doses right now, should not spoil, nor go extinct. Joy should not be taken by thieves, markets, contagion, dismal news, winter, and empty grocery store shelves. Joy should not cost a dime. Joy should not be measured by the world’s ok meter. Joy has to be deeper. Joy has to be longer lasting… eternal, actually.
Over and over again when I read about joy in the Scriptures, it comes from spending time in the Presence of God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Creator of you and me, the Supernatural Being who is over all things, before all things, in all things and supersedes all things. The phrase I keep coming upon is “the joy of Your presence.” Joy is something we have from spending time in God’s presence.
You know what? Everything can be taken from us. People can divorce us. The bank can take away our house. The years can take away our hair. The company we work for can take away our hours. The stock market can take away our retirement. But you know what will never ever ever be taken from us? God’s presence. Psalm 139 reminds us there is nowhere we can go to flee from God’s presence. God is everywhere. God is the ultimate stalker. He is your ride or die. God is not going anywhere. He will never be taken from you.
So if you need some joy today, my greatest encouragement is to spend time with your Maker. If you haven’t done that in a very long time or you don’t know how or you have been so busy putting out fires or starting a homeschool or taking care of sick people, my best prescription is to go and be in God’s presence. Everything is closed. Businesses are closed, bowling alleys are closed, schools are closed, the flippin NBA is closed, but God, He’s not closed.
Go for a walk and allow His presence to fill you with joy as you pass by the hints of spring.
Kneel beside your bed, bow your head, fold your hands and pray the Lord’s prayer word by word, pausing at each one until you can pass to the next.
Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
Forever and ever.
I usually get stuck at “Our Father.” He’s not just my father, He’s yours. We share him. That gives me joy. I have so many brothers and sisters.
Go make homemade spaghetti sauce and think about where the basil and the tomatoes come from, the wine and the garlic. You might find the joy of His presence.
Sit with your kids in your living room. Turn off all the lights and then light one candle and ask your kids to remind you how they have seen light show up in darkness. If that doesn’t give you joy, friend…call me and I’ll facetime you so you can watch my kids self entertain with red cups, ping pong balls and smack talk. You can laugh and feel really great about your kids because they are probably building puzzles and reading books. And then you might feel led to prayer for mine…and that will lead you into God’s presence and it’s there you will find joy. Then you can thank me for leading you to pray…and that will give me joy too.
Crank up your favorite song, the kind that gets you to feel. To feel is to be alive. Allow God to remind you that life is a gift, every chapter is a gift. No matter how hard life gets or how weird or confusing or scary, it truly is just that, a gift. That’s why we wear masks. That’s why we are drowning in hand sanitizer or wish we were. That’s why we are quarantined. Because we want to be here. We want to live. Let us not forget how badly we love to live.
Joy in His presence is more available to you than toilet paper. Find joy in the life you so desperately want to live. God gave it to you.
My prayer for you is this: May you experience joy in His presence, joy in the gift of life – past present and future, joy – simple and complex, joy in the little and the big, joy in being, joy as a daughter, joy as a son, joy in light, joy in song, joy in giggles, joy inside, deep within, a joy that cannot be taken, joy, everlasting.