The candle we light this week is the candle of joy…the rose within the purple candles. This is my favorite of the themes. In this season of Advent, of anticipation, joy is surely a sign of our preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus!
I feel very strongly about joy, that it is more than a feeling, that it is a choice. So let me share with you the talk on joy I was privileged to share at the last associate retreat (Call to Joy):
Joy begets joy.
Joy is more than a feeling of happiness for me. It is a foundation for viewing life.
I grew up in Dubuque, an active member of The Salvation Army, even planning to be a minister! My dad was from Aurora, IL, and my mom from Stockton, CA. Mom didn’t think I had enough world experience; she wanted me to attend other churches; she did not want me to go to the University of Iowa, where I had been awarded a scholarship. She refused to complete the paperwork for my admission. Instead, she sent me to her sister in Victorville, CA, where I was to attend the community college before transferring. (no Salvation Army there). I remember sitting on the plane thinking how much I was going to hate living in the high desert on a ranch by a little town (11,000) after living in the sixth largest city in green, multi-seasonal, Iowa. I was cranky, to say the least. So I prayed about it; and looking out the plane’s window, I made a decision… to enjoy the experience and not focus on the parts I didn’t like. Things would work out. How does this relate to joy? Well, I chose joy that day, and in the choosing, left myself open for experiences that were filled with joy.
My husband and I attended a Marriage Encounter retreat where I learned that we go through cycles in our lives of romance, disillusionment, and joy…that it was in the joy that we shared that kept us going. Standing as part of a circle singing with other couples, I felt that strong joy and sense of home that led me to become a Catholic!
I think the most joy-filled people in my life have been children. Their laughter triggers a smiley part of my soul! I have been blessed with 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson who can cheer me up and make me smile every time I think of them or see them, even in a picture! I guess my own three children did that for me as well, but living through their growing up has hidden some of those joy moments in time.
I have a friend who spreads joy everywhere she goes. The room is brighter when she is there; the day is smoother. I love her hugs, which always hit that spot in me, glowing in my heart, making me see things in a more peaceful, positive way. Thanks, Sister Mary Jean Ferry!
As part of a Cursillo retreat, I learned to look for moments of joy, moments where joy overflowed so strongly, that it shouted the presence of God. Singing in the middle of a choir can surround me with that joy. Even singing in a congregation where those around me are lifting their voices in song, in praise, brings that deep inner shining, a bedrock of joy, raising me higher, so high, I feel I am floating…that I feel hugged by God! And when the person next to me turns and smiles, or elbows me, I know I am not alone, and the feeling gets bigger!
Joy is such an important part of my life, such a manifestation of God to me, that I want to share it with others. So I look for joy to share…maybe just a “what a beautiful color on you!” or “I love your skirt!” It makes me happy to see them smile; and makes both our days better. Since working at Mt. Carmel, I have found another way to share joy…by the outfits I choose to wear to work! The sisters stop me and exclaim over the fringe or the color or the ensemble! They smile and I smile…a touch of joy, keeping my day bright, even if I have frustrations and moments of crankiness, visiting with them brings the joy…and I can go on!
Joy for me is the sign of God’s love and mercy in my life. Even if I get upset by something, I come back to the touchstone of joy in my soul, finding a way, finding a friend, finding a view, finding joy outside of myself, sharing joy, sharing God with others!
Thank you for letting me share this with you!