Today is the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this millennium. I find this overwhelmingly cool.
It’s also Veterans’ Day in the U.S. and it’s my nephew’s third birthday (would that we were turning 11!), which are also pretty cool. And I don’t have to go in to work today, I have my reading actually done for the class I have (very unusual), and yesterday, here in the North, it snowed.
Let me take a minute to inform you that I am one of the very small contingent of people who actually like snow. I do. I’ve loved it since I was little and I love it still, and even though driving in it is a pain and I can’t feel my fingertips from November to May, I love snow.
So yesterday was the first snow of the season, alternating between near-hail-like pellets and big fluffy white flakes smacking wetly into the windows. There was no hope for me. I couldn’t pay attention during class, I couldn’t pay attention during work; all I wanted to do was watch the snow drift down, because God is in the snow. It’s incredible, actually, to think that each snowflake is different—and 99% of them will melt without ever having been seen, without anyone knowing that that snowflake was beautiful and intricate. And that’s okay, because there are a million more, and one of them may be caught on the glove of a 3-year-old who wonders at the pattern before it melts into the fabric.
So the snow yesterday put me into a pretty good mood. I think I startled Interpreter, actually, because I was so effusive when I bumped into him last night. He probably wasn’t expecting such exuberance from me, but then, he had a lot on his mind and he’s one of the normal ones, the ones who see snow and think about whether the roads will be slick. I see snow and think about whether it will still be there when I get outside so I can feel it settling on my shoulders and hair. It’s magnificent to me, this unexpected dash of winter in the last days of fall.
So today’s post is about joy. Joy in the little things, the things that get lost sometimes because life is a force all its own. What brings you joy? What made you smile, for even the slightest of moments, this week?
I find joy in writing a story that may never see the light of day. I find joy in my friend Help trusting me enough to bounce ideas for one of her sermons off of me. I find joy in sitting in my living room without any of the lights on, only a single candle burning, watching the snow fall in the twilight. I find joy in a friend who invites me to a movie marathon.
And as you think about this, friends, understand that I see a great difference between joy and happiness. Yes, all of these things make me happy, but happiness is something that comes and goes, something that is always tied to the moment in which that thing made you happy. You can’t really be happy and sad at the same time–but you can be joyful and sad, I think. Joy is something that’s underneath everything else; joy is the memory of the moments you were happy, joy is having a crap day and noticing how beautifully orange the leaves are on a tree you pass all the time, joy is having someone you don’t know smile at you. Joy is the recognition of God in all things, all people, even when all things and all people are driving you up the wall and you want to just hibernate for the rest of the season. It doesn’t stop the world from being harsh, but it allows you to remember that it won’t always be that way.
I believe you can be happy and joyful. I also believe you can be joyful without being happy at all, which is something I didn’t realize for a long time. My dad was the first one to explain it to me, actually—even when he was unemployed for a long time, his wife had left him, one of his kids wasn’t talking to him, and his mother was dying, he told me, he had joy. He wasn’t happy, by any measure, but he had joy, because the foundation of God’s hope gave it to him. That kind of blew my mind at the time and I totally didn’t understand it, but he was right.
There’s a song called “Joy” that my friend Charity gave me years ago by a band her now-husband loves, Page CXVI. It’s worth listening to, I think, and I’ve listened to it a lot. I like this particular version of it because of the explanation of the band for the writing–the song proper starts at 4:32, if you want to skip the preamble.
So what makes you happy? What brings you joy? Are they the same? What memories pull you through the moments when the world is still? Such moments are the silent presence of God, I think. And for every time I remember that, I am grateful.
Have a great and momentous day, Reader. You’re living it, and that’s magnificent already.
[T]he river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy. (Psalm 65: 9b–13, MSG)