An Advent Writing on Joy
I wrote this as I concluded an epic weekend in my life. I was on a flight as I wrote, returning from Atlanta, GA, where I spent the weekend returning to places and people significant to my life from 22-27 years ago.
One of my daughters began kindergarten in that time and became friends with a sweet girl named Allie, whose mother is Jill. Jill and I became friends and even though 16 years apart, we forged a bond that remains to this day.
Jill and her husband, George, hosted me over the first weekend of December and I returned to a home of hospitality, love, and friendship that had welcomed me many years ago. This home holds memories of my children playing, cups of tea, and conversations at the kitchen table. What a gift friendship is.
During those years, from 1996-2001, I experienced tremendous change and a huge personal crisis. I was away from home with a young family and unsure of what to do in the midst of a great challenge. When I reached out for help to someone I trusted, they suggested I find a spiritual director. I didn’t even know what that was, but eventually someone handed me a business card of a woman named Joy. Joy lived 90 minutes outside of the city, but somehow I had the courage to get on a 7 lane highway and drive into the Gainesville area of Georgia and discover ‘Joy’.
I was in deep distress. Joy became the midwife of my soul, listening to me and companioning me through a journey of deep sorrow and suffering. She never pitied me, but invited me to open to all that Life held for me in the story I was in. She held a fierce energy of love and devotion and inspired me to a life that said, ‘yes’. Our relationship became a foundation for the continued work of spiritual formation that evolved over the following 22 years after I returned to BC.
I came back to Georgia once twenty years ago, but had not been back since. Joy turned 90 this year of 2023, and had experienced many health challenges which brought her into living in the city of Atlanta. I knew I must return and this was the weekend to go. After all these years, we met again and our hearts leapt with a joy of reunion, both of us crying with a deep love that we share. Her love for me met my love for her. How grateful I have been and continue to be for a woman of valour who companioned me in my darkest night.
I found out when we met that she had had a great longing that I would sing in the parish where she had been a minister back in Gainesville. She had longed for that for 20 years but it never happened. I never came back … until now. Could it be that I could sing? For the first Sunday of Advent?
With lots of last minute planning, and returning to a Hallmark-like community church out in Gainesville, Joy and I returned, with Jill and Joy’s daughter, Laurie, accompanying us, to the place where Joy had wished I would come for 2 decades. I sang Sunday morning for her former congregation with Joy sitting in the back, tears coming down her face.
It is truly incredible to experience long-term loving friendship. Jill and I have a bond that has held for all these years, and the ease and joy of sharing life is a remarkable gift to be cherished. Joy and I share memories of a tumultuous time, but the wonder of how true joy entered my life as I continued to say ‘yes’ to the life before me.
Joy is a person. An incredible woman who is a soul I will be grateful to for all eternity.
Joy is also a reality of the soul.
I believe joy is a quality that has been so lost … but is part of our essence. It is interesting how healing brings as sense of vitality and creativity and life.
I think aligning with the truth of our being is what brings healing, wholeness, and an energetic quality into our lives.
This energetic quality holds a vibrancy that can feel youthful, curious, and free.
This, feels like joy. Joy is a gift, a grace, that emerges when we have tasted the beauty of soul.
It is an energetic quality that I feel lies at the heart of the universe. Actually, I wonder it is our natural state, what we were created to emanate. I think it is what we were meant for – JOY.
Joy isn’t something to be attained or acquired – it is something to be remembered, returned to, and restored in.
“Joy is our birthright, our true essence. Underneath the layers of burden, of sorrow, of grief, of numbness is a wild beauty, waiting to rise. Joy is the music of heaven; the song of home we have come from and are returning to.”
This weekend, this first weekend of Advent was a gift of Joy.
Joy, the person.
Joy, the quality of being that emerges in my heart with the overflow of the abundance of love.