My grandmother recently posed a question in a daily devotional she emails to some of her former students and some family members like me. She asked “Are you joyful?”
What a question.
In the past two and a half years, the two siblings I considered my closest friends (the ones I saw the most often, opened my heart to and knew the best) have died. One died suddenly of a heart attack and the other died after many years of hospital stays and treatment for leukemia. One died in my home and the other died with her family by her hospital bed. On top of that, in November, I lost a baby at 25 weeks of pregnancy and delivered our Luna stillborn the day after Thanksgiving.
But that wasn’t what passed through my brain when my Oa asked if I was joyful.
I was thinking about Easter. I guess I should clarify by saying that she sent this email out around Easter, which is probably why it came into my head. But here we were at Easter celebrating the day Christ conquered the grave, rose from the dead and saved sinners around the world. How could I be less than joyful?
My joy does not rest in my life here on Earth because all these things are temporary. Losing Jake and Jen taught me that firsthand. If I thought my existence ended here when I died, or that their existences ended when they died, then I would have no joy. If my life here on Earth was everything, then all this pain and loss I have experienced the past few years would be everything. But it’s not. My life basically BEGINS when I die. I will be with Jen and Jake in heaven worshipping God for eternity and glorifying Him in ways I can’t here.
So yes, I am joyful. I am joyful that my God and my Creator had enough mercy and grace to save a poor angry, selfish, impatient, needy woman like me. I am joyful that I get to move past the hurts and the pain of this life and spend eternity experiencing joy that I can’t even imagine. I am joyful that the same God who gave me everything I have chooses to bless me continuously every day. I am joyful that my God has chosen me to bear the burdens of loss that I bear because I know He has a purpose for them and for me. I am joyful because the life I have been given is a life that serves a purpose.
I am also joyful because my losses have taught me not to take things for granted. My God has blessed me so many times in the past thirty years that I cannot linger on the losses and hurts without also thinking of a million reasons to smile. The majority of my memories of Jen are of when she was alive and vibrant and strong – not thin and tired and struggling to breathe. Praise God. My soul aches when I think of the infant I could be holding right now, but it also soars when I think of the tiny soul God has already placed in my belly, due less than a year after Luna was delivered. Better than that, it soars when I think of all that Luna taught me and all the time I got to have with her regardless of her early death. I cannot mourn the five miscarriages my sister had without also thinking of the gorgeous miracle that is her daughter Lolo Fe and the incredible (and gorgeous) miracle that is Jes herself – a woman who never gave in to hopelessness and continued to be joyful no matter what God gave her. I cannot think of my brother’s funeral without remembering the few chuckles I shared with my parents and siblings during the ceremony. I cannot remember my sister’s memorial service without feeling incredibly proud of my brother Chris and nephew Alex.
I guess what I am trying to say is that my heart is joyful. My heart is JOYFUL. Regardless of what I have been through, my God is the same God He always was and always will be and when I handed my life over to him, I did it because I trust Him. And that makes me joyful.
I am joyful because my life is about Him and not about me. Well, at least it should be and when I remember that, I am joyful.