Hi, my name is Joy

I recently went to the movies with my mom in the afternoon while my boys were at school.  Watching the previews is one of my favorite parts of going to a movie.  A good trailer fills me with anticipation and excitement.  On this particular day, we saw a trailer for an upcoming Jennifer Lawrence movie.  The movie looked interesting, but as I watched I didn’t get the tingles, or think that it was a “must see”.  What caught my attention was the end of the preview.  In the last frame, Jennifer proclaims, “My name’s Joy, by the way”.  Turns out the name of the movie is also Joy.  (Check out the trailer here.) Well, now I have to see the movie, right?  After we left our movie, I went a different way home than I usually go.  As I drove, I was watching street signs, and I realized that I was driving on a street called Joy.  Not long after I noticed the name of the street, I passed by this wonderful park and at the entrance was a big sign that said Joy Park.  What a coincidence to get all these reminders of joy on the same day.

I have never taken my name for granted.  I was adopted, and my mother named me Joy because when the social worker called to tell her that they had a baby girl for her, she was overwhelmed with joy.  What a great way to be named.  For most of my life, I felt like my name truly fit me.  I was a happy person, and it wasn’t an act.  My nickname in high school and college was Joyful, for Pete’s sake.  I came to believe that it was just in my nature to be a happy, upbeat, optimistic person.  It’s who I was.  I encountered some bumps in the road along the way, and I would have moments of Grief or Anger, but they were just blips on the radar, and I would always return to Joy as quickly as possible.  So it came as quite a shock to me when I had a period in my adult life when I came to a bump in the road that was more like a mountain, and I couldn’t shake off feelings of sadness and depression.  It was like a foreign entity had come in and kidnapped my Joy and left me with an emptiness that I didn’t know what to do with. Grief and Anger had been mere acquaintances before this.  They had come knocking on my door in the past, and I would opened the door and let them into the entryway, but that’s as far as they had been allowed to come in.  We would speak for a moment and then I would quickly usher them out before they had a chance to get too comfortable.  Joy was my roommate and it was a two bedroom house.  No room for anybody else to stay any longer than necessary.  This time when they knocked on the door, I answered it, and they  pushed right past me and set up camp in my living room.  I didn’t know what to do with these unwelcome house guests.  It was somewhat of an identity crisis for me, because for the first time in my life, being joyful felt like an act.  I felt like a fraud because I was still smiling on the outside, but I felt sad and empty on the inside.

The biggest thing I learned while Grief and Anger were living with me is that they aren’t the enemy.  I don’t need to fear them.  They have a place in my life just as much as Joy does.  I can say that for a time, my name was Grief, and that’s o.k.  Anger reared its head to get my attention, and I listened instead of running and hiding under the bed.  They didn’t diminish who I was; they added another dimension as I learned to lean into them and learn what they needed to teach me.  Grief; Anger; Fear…these are all God given emotions that He gave us for a reason.  Turns out Joy was still there all along as well.  She hadn’t been kidnapped, she had simply moved to the other side of the house for awhile so that these new guests could get the attention that they needed.  It was scary getting to know these new parts of myself, and I couldn’t have done it without close friends and a good counselor.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to know them though, because having a genuine relationship with them opens me up to an even deeper relationship with Joy as well.  I dug and scratched my way over the mountain with Grief and Anger as my companions, only to come out stronger on the other side.  My name’s still Joy by the way, but now when I need to, I make room in my house for Grief or Anger. Throw in a dash of Compassion and a lot of Grace, and I’m starting to see my whole authentic self.  It’s nice to meet me!

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The Playground

I used to be great friends with Resentment.  It was my constant companion.  I had a whole long list of things to be resentful about, and I felt pretty justified in my self-righteous anger at the hand I was dealt.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a terrible hand that I was dealt.  I have a pretty great life with a husband who provides, and two great boys.  We don’t have any major money issues.  We have had no major health issues, which I am so grateful for.  We haven’t had to deal with unemployment.  I have wonderful friends who I know would be there for me in a moments notice.  So who was I to be dissatisfied with this life that God had granted me with?  Most of my resentment stemmed from my marriage.  I thought I had married my soul mate, but the real life version of marriage was not meeting the version of marriage that I had in my head.  Every time I felt like this man of mine let me down – every time he didn’t call to tell me he would be late getting home; when I didn’t feel heard by him; when he made work his priority; when he didn’t communicate with me about what was going on in his life; when we would fight and he would walk away in frustration, my resentment would grow. In her book The Mended Heart, Suzanne Eller refers to the Playground of our Mind.  For me, this playground is where Resentment lives, and I would go there to rehash the wrongs that I felt like this man of mine had done to me.  If we had a fight, I would run to the playground and go over and over what he had said; what I should have said back, and how obviously I was so much more right than he was. Instead of being calmed down by my visit to the playground, my conversations with Resentment only served to keep my hurt and anger at the forefront of my mind so that the next time we had an argument or he said or did something that hurt me, it would just build on that last time.  I spent so much time at the playground that it got to the point that this man of mine would look at me wrong and I was instantly angry.  I had pretty much set up camp in the playground.  I had my tent and my sleeping bag and my jars of food.  I had a two-man tent so Resentment would have a place to sleep too.  Turns our Resentment was not a very fun companion.  Resentment and Joy are like oil and vinegar, and there wasn’t enough room in our little tent for Joy too, so Joy eventually left to wait for me outside of the playground.  The funny thing is that this playground where I had set up camp has a fence around it, but the door was wide open, so I could have left whenever I wanted.  I was not being held prisoner.  I was there of my own free accord.  All I had to do was walk out, but that meant leaving Resentment behind, and even though it was toxic, I was reluctant to leave it.  In my mind, Resentment had become my way of trying to get what I wanted from life.  It was my twisted version of hope, and without it, would things ever change?  I struggled with leaving that playground.  It was familiar,  and how could I trust that things would actually be better on the other side of that fence?  Ultimately, it took having someone standing on the other side of the fence to keep calling me to come out.  Come out!  Come out of the playground so you can experience the freedom and Joy of life without Resentment!  You won’t regret it! So one day, I finally did it.  I walked out of the playground.  I stood on the other side of the fence and I gave Resentment a final wave goodbye.  And you know what? Joy was waiting for me.  She grabbed my hand, stretched her arms wide and we jumped and ran and played.  My playground is still there.  Resentment is still camping out, and there are times when I will walk close to the fence and wave.  There are times when I may even go inside and say hello, but I don’t stay long, because it turns out that Resentment will never get me what I want out of life, and Joy is a much better companion. If you have set up camp in the playground of your mind, come out!  Come out!  You won’t regret it!

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