Find the joy

Even optimists are sometimes sad. Life can be hard and scary, and there are days when the silver lining is hidden from view. But there are always moments of joy, always pieces of mercy sprinkled around.

We look up. We take our mind off the tasks in front of us, the problems surrounding us, the failure inside us. We look up, because God has the answer to our problems and failures. The gospel, the fact that He died and rose and lives again, provides for us what trying harder cannot provide. It releases us from guilt and fear and anger. It reconciles us with God and gives us peace. It infuses our lives with joy and the mercies that are new every morning.

It starts with the sunrise (because who can be sad or dismayed while viewing the glory of a new day filling with color and hope and possibility?) And it continues with God’s words (which are alive and powerful and true and able to bring healing and life and hope.)

Then we can look around to the edges of the day. If the day is not filled with happiness, we might find it in the edges where we least expect it. The hard is made softer by the flecks of joy hidden in the corners.

On the cancer floor there is lots of hard and lots of beauty. Old women pushing the wheelchairs of once-strong men, quiet laughter masking sad hearts, kind eyes meeting frightened ones, frailness overshadowed by inner strength. Beauty. It’s there if you look for it.

The fight itself can be beautiful. A young heart struggling to understand, rising to face another day with courage, stepping forward in the dark with firm faith, holding on and being held.

The journey has plenty of joy. We embrace each day because no one knows the number of days. No one gets to choose how many. What we have is today. We have today to love our people and take walks in the sunset and eat chocolate cake. Today we can smile at inconveniences and appreciate life’s messiness. Today we can forgive someone who is full of faults and weakness. Today we can really listen to someone’s struggles. Today we can be gentle with a hurting heart.

What are you facing that is difficult and dark and cold? What makes you feel like giving up or giving in? Maybe you could look for joy. It might not be right where you’re standing. Some days it might be hard to find. Seek it in the edges. Wait for the light. Let the Son warm you.

He gives strength and warmth and grace in unexpected places.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. Psalm 28:7











For Father’s Day

My daddy was a joy-filled man. He laughed often and he laughed well and whether you intended to or not, you laughed with him. He was full of corny jokes and knock-knock funnies. He could find the good in any circumstance and always did. If you knew him, you loved him.

Whatever he did, he did it enthusiastically and with might. He worked hard and he loved his work. He was strong and tender, hearty and full of heart.

He never knew a stranger. He could make a friend in 30 seconds, and so his life was filled with friends. He smiled at every person, joked with most of them, and would give the shirt off his back to any of them.

He loved music and music filled his life. He played guitar and harmonica and used his voice to sing of life and faith and God.

He loved his family. I was his 8th child, born when he was 46 years old, but I could have been his first. I never felt like he was too tired to be my daddy. He always had a squirrel or bunny story or a switched-up, never-the-same fairy tale. His was the voice that I heard at the end of each day, his delightful stories filling my heart with wonder.

He loved his Savior. His simple faith in God carried him through life’s storms. He was never so full of joy as when he was singing of God’s promises and his future in heaven. He found those promises to be true, and I know he’s still singing, still joyful, his faith made sight.

They say you marry someone like your father, and it must be true. One of the first things I loved about my husband was his sense of humor. He makes me laugh. We share a lot of stories, and all of them are better because of him and his ability to make me smile. We have laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed.

No one works harder than he does. He works long hours and still comes home to help. He is always chopping wood or working on the lawn or fixing some broken thing. He has no hobbies besides us. He enjoys the things he has to do anyway–his woodpile and his garden and loving his family.

He is a good father. He loves babies and noise and laughter. He is not frightened by chaos or life or teenagers. His joy is in leading and serving those he loves. He is always selfless, always giving. His favorite place is home, and we are his favorite people.

He cherishes me. He has seen me at my worst, but somehow he believes in my best. I would love to be the person he sees, the person he thinks I am. After all these years, he still makes my heart flutter. He is my best friend, my love, my heart.

His is a gentle strength, and he is as steady as they come. I am often surprised by his insight, always rebuked by his faith. He trusts God. He knows Him and he believes in Him and he has found Him to be true. He is always looking up, always taking my hand and helping me look up.

These two men have been God’s good gifts to me. I have been loved and stretched and blessed by knowing them. I am thankful to call them mine.

I want to be just like them when I grow up.

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you. (Psalm 31:19)







The shadow of the Almighty

So it is cancer again. Just three weeks after surgery, the cancer came back, visible and angry and spreading fast.

I think we both knew. At the post-surgery appointment when they announced she was cancer-free, it didn’t feel like truth. Somehow the aggressiveness of this enemy–the way it grew even while on chemo and the close margins on the pathology report–somehow we knew we were not safe, that the battle was not over.

And this is hard. Stomach-punch, can’t-catch-your-breath hard. I’m sure that I have never felt so afraid or so vulnerable. It feels even harder than the first diagnosis, probably because she is already tired and worn. She was just beginning to gain strength and grow hair and look ahead, just cresting the last hill before the finish line, just holding on to the end.

Now she’s being asked to run another race, an even longer race, on tired legs with no rest and no fuel.

How I want to run it for her.

In the first days following her surgery, I encouraged Marissa not to be afraid of the pain. I guess all of my childbirth experience taught me that. Lean in. Accept it. Move through. Breathe. And I thought of that again this week. Don’t be afraid of the pain. Let the tears fall. Let the grief do its work. Lean into truth. Accept what God is doing. Do the next thing. Trust.

It all comes back to trust. “We don’t trust in what God is doing because we don’t know what He is doing. We trust in Who God is.” This quote is written in the front of my Bible, and I’m not sure who said it, but I am sure of it.

We trust in God. We trust in Who He is. Yes, we are afraid of this road and where it is taking us, but we are not afraid of God. We know Him.

This shadow is very dark and our hearts are sometimes faltering. But we are sheltered and we are safe.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1,2)