From my earliest memories, Joy has been a part of my life. We were born 9 months apart and undoubtedly had our first meeting under the tender care of Mrs. Osborn, a five foot ball of love with saggy, brown stockings and white hair. She wore a pale green smock to protect her Sunday best from the projectile vomit of infants and I have nothing but the best memories of her.
Joy and I were together on Sundays from nine to twelve and again from six to seven-thirty and on Wednesday nights during prayer meeting until we were 5 when we timidly walked into Mrs. Butcher’s cheerful Kindergarten.
We have shared memories of first grade reading groups with Miss Ring and the second grade detective work of Miss Keffer, correctly identifying Brice Halbaker’s farm boots as the source of an eye watering odor. Miss Roe was more stringent and once made me stay in for recess because I cut my cloud out of blue construction paper instead of white. The very best thing about her though was her signature sneeze. A giant Achoo, followed by a series of three mini sneezes, choo, choo, choo. Joy definitely had the advantage in fourth grade because our teacher was her aunt. Miss Denham read to us every day from a giant rocker and called us to attention rephrasing Shakespeare. Ladies and Gentleman, Lend me Your Ears.
At six foot six, we were slightly intimidated by our first male teacher but ended up having a blast that year. Mr. Arthur is the principal in our primary school and I love to remind him we played Heads Up Seven Up every afternoon waiting for the bell to ring. Mr. Lago’s volatile anger spurred by David Parr’s daily physical outbursts made us feel as though we were in a reform school for wayward sixth graders but we must have loved the guy because one of our parents made him a gorgeous oak podium and we presented it to him with a plaque that said 1981-1982.
Joy and I were together almost every day and there’s no way I could separate her from my childhood. Cheerleading spats, slamming locker doors, that semester we were supposed to be learning new instruments but stuffed our mouths with Reeses and Ruffles instead. We have entertaining middle school memories for miles but I think it was in those years that our love/hate relationship began. There was a shortage of boys, which didn’t help matters, and we were, according to one of our Sunday school teachers, the most boy-crazy group she had ever seen! Our class had 12 students and the majority of us were together six days a week so we definitely got on each others very last nerve.
I still have a scrap of paper that once hung in my room boasting I love God and Joy but I will never forget, after one particularly catty fight, my mother said Marcy, you will always have a Joy in your life. She was trying to tell me that there would always be challenging relationships to work through, but I’d like to think she was proclaiming some sort of blessing as well.
In 1985, my life would take a drastic turn when my parents left the bubbled enclave of my childhood church, my only social structure apart from my neighborhood, and started a new church with a group of five or six other families, none with children even close to my age. My parents pulled me out of my school on a Monday and I never went back.
It was the first real conflict I had encountered in my life and if I attempted to climb Mt. Everest tomorrow, I would be more prepared than I was then to enter the public school system the following fall. The complete social structure of my life including every childhood friend except my neighbor, was ripped from my life overnight. I’m still uncovering deep ways this impacted the foundation of my life and continually understand more as I watch my children develop socially.
Joy was gone overnight. And my Joy, the Joy that had accompanied me every day to that point, was extinguished from my life.
My friend walked back into my life not quite ten years ago, but Joy, the sense of being I’ve been slow to allow, has presented herself in ways I can no longer ignore. Joy can be defined according to the dictionary or according to scripture but in my own life, I consider Joy to be an unrehearsed, instinctive state filled with satisfaction and hope unassociated to position, lifestyle, resources, or prosperity.
I said last week that I chose Joy because Joy chose me but really, I think it’s less of a choice we make and more of an atmosphere we live in, a peace. We can choose peace when it’s related to conflict with another person but I don’t know that we can change the climate around us to a peaceful one just by deciding that we choose it.
Joy is the opposite of Anxiety.
- Anxiety’s first response is, Fear. Joy’s first response is Trust.
- Anxiety screams What If. Joy whispers What Next.
- Anxiety collapses your chest. Joy fills your lungs.
- Anxiety slams the door. Joy throws back the sashes, opens the windows, and lays out a welcome mat.
If you’re feeling anxiety today, can I just say I get it! When anxiety slams the door in your face, it feels like the truth. You’ve never, you always, you won’t, you can’t, how could you. It also seems like that heavy feeling sitting on your chest or wrapped around your neck will never go away. Can I tell you something? It’s not true. I’ve hardly started to tell my story here but please believe me when I say, if I have begun to live in an atmosphere of peace, you can too.
Anxiety is a liar, but Joy? She wants to be a friend for life.
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