Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Minimalist Time: I want joy

Long ago, I was emerging from a family that admitted its dysfunction. Two fathers had come and gone so there was pain all around, some confusion and still, a lot of loyalty and love. I was emerging because I'd been living at home in college but now engaged, I'd be leaving one home to begin another. I was very happy on the cusp of this adventure with a man who'd work hard with me at loving and even had a game plan, since he'd watched his parents for years. But finding myself in this happy state, I instantly feared losing it. I'd hoped for this, prayed for this, dreamed of it and now that it was actually happening, I imagined how devastating it would be to go back to darker, harder times. Since lying to God is pointless, I told him I was worried - afraid I wouldn't be strong enough to hang on if I tasted this kind of happiness and lost it. 

Maybe I felt it was a fluke for a girl from a broken home to find a guy who wasn't "messed up" and wanted her. Maybe I felt it was fleeting, like what I really deserved would catch up with me and I'd wake up from the dream that was too good to be true. But I'm a girl of action, so I busied myself with "securing" my happiness. If we made smart choices, read the right books, communicated enough, dated enough, we'd be okay. Since it wasn't a conscious decision, I haven't any idea how many quests have been energized by this fear. I suspect its presence any time I'm compelled to do something, feeling like I have no choice and weirdly, like it's of grave importance that we have a minivan that sits on a driveway that leads to a house. I think some of the externals that weren't around in my childhood got associated with the security I lacked. Now, it felt better, and looked better, to be a go-getter, but I was still channeling fear. Not wringing my hands, but running from the pain I dreaded. I ran because I thought it was the joy-snatcher. Then I read this, written by Glennon Melton at Momastery:

"If no pain, then no love. If no darkness, no light. If no risk – then no reward. It’s all or nothing. In this damn world, it’s all or nothing." 

While that thought was still settling, I read One Thousand Gifts where Ann Voskamp points out we have to open our hands to receive gifts from God, no matter what they are. I've spent my whole life opening up for what I deemed good and trying to dodge what I saw as bad - like pain. But I'm ready to stop judging and filtering. I want to lay my hand, or soul, open to what comes my way. Here's how Ann says it: 

"All these years, these angers, these hardenings, this desire to control, I had thought I had to snap the hand closed to shield joy’s fragile flame from the blasts. In a storm of struggles, I had tried to control the elements…But palms curled into protective fists fill with darkness...My  own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy. Flames need oxygen to light. Flames need a bit of wind."

Maybe joy is much stronger than I thought it was when I was twenty. Maybe it's fierce enough to coexist with serious pain. Pain isn't the joy-snatcher. A closed, hard heart is. And God promised to switch out our stone hearts for flesh ones - new ones, pounding with life. When I think about truly living, I imagine myself in a state of joy. So it's interesting that Jesus said people who try to save their lives will lose them and people who lose their lives will find them. He wanted me to know about the joy flame. He wanted me to open up to him and stop grasping and snuffing. 

I've heard lots of people say that joy is different from happiness and my response was always, "Then I don't want joy. Let me be specific - I want happiness." Now, I think I'd rather be that person who can rest no matter what. If I find myself in a hospital bed that will double as my deathbed, can I still be thankful and enjoy orange jello? I'm not saying I wouldn't pitch a fit initially, but I hope I'd come around to jello-savoring a peace and trusting contentment. 

P.S. Speaking of trust, what I never told you after the last post about time, was that the very next day, Chandler had lice. Again. While Brian was away. Again. In case you don't remember, that was the post about choosing trust over stress and I'll admit, it was touch and go, but I was very aware it was time to practice acceptance. I did what I needed to do and did it with love. I found humor when I could and was thankful for things like: it was just Chandler this time and I knew how to treat it. This is progress.

P.S.S. Here's a link to One Thousand Gifts. I get a small commission if you buy it through the link.


  1. They say we can learn from another's experiences, so thanks for sharing yours, Kendra. You don't know how it might help someone, struggling with the same emotions and concerns. And you are handling them so well by including God in the equation. By admitting that you sometimes miss the mark, you give your readers the permission to do the same, without feeling bad about it. There's always a better day.

  2. Yes! feeling bad about mistakes is counterproductive. :)

  3. Your message is well timed. I'm a control freak, and lately I have squeezed my hands into tight fists in order to maintain a grip on the "perfect" situation in which I've found myself. I'm terrified of losing what I have worked so hard for, even though I know whatever happens is God's plan for me. I know he is waiting for me to loosen my fingers so He can show me how to enjoy where I am and be content with where He leads me.

  4. I'm so glad, Kayla! I think honest sharing can propel us forward in our journeys because we aren't fumbling in the dark, all alone. And it's always a relief to know it made sense! :)

  5. You have a lovely, vulnerable, open and real voice. Your description of your jitters and doubts was really evocative. Keep it up!

  6. Thanks much for your time and encouragement, Christine!