Friday Five: Surprised By Joy

As posted by yours truly at RevGalBlogPals:

Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No."

said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will
find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in
because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to
Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. (John 21:5-7)

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
(Psalm 30:5b)

week I’ve been watching parents of the young people slain at Virgina
Tech trying to make meaning out of the lives of their lost children,
and each one seems to begin by focusing on something joyful about that
child. It’s a gift that most humans have brains wired to respond in
that way. For some of us it can be harder to work our way out of dark
places, but I believe joy remains the key. It is the spirit of

Tell us about five people, places, or things that have brought surprising, healing joy into your life.

1) Holding each of my children for the first time was a special moment of joy after the hard work of labor, a little different each time. With #1 Son, there was a deep gaze into one another’s eyes as he lay quietly in my arms, an old and familiar soul. With Snowman, there was a quick, hard labor and an adorable little scrunched up face and high pitched "Wah! Wah! Wah!" that calmed as soon as I began to sing to him. But in this context I think particularly of The Princess. It was a difficult labor as she made her journey with one shoulder up and the other down, a bruising encounter for her mother. Never before during labor had I a sense of the liminal, or of the nearness of both new life and possible death–my own, I thought. It was with enormous and joyful relief that I cradled my beautiful daughter, both of us whole of body (if a bit sore, in my case).

2) Unfortunately, following her birth, I suffered a severe postpartum depression. It was a black time in my life that included an eventual hospitalization. One of the bleakest moments I experienced occurred at a concert celebrating Bach’s birthday, when I realized that the gorgeous music had no power to break through the wall of darkness surrounding me.

About six months later, sitting in a church choir rehearsal, I heard the opening measures of a piece I had not heard in many years, Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, and tears began to escape my eyes. It’s complex music, in which the voices intertwine, rising and falling, and as I gave myself to it, I had a sense that healing had begun. I took joy in the music.

(Thanks to romy who later sent me a translation of the text.)

3) The long season of grief, followed by divorce, slowed and then halted my seminary education. In the winter of  2000, I returned to school, and later that year I was invited to preach at Large Church, my home congregation. It was Labor Day weekend, and the church’s Elder Chaplain, whose turn it would be to preside at Communion, asked me to assist him. He knew I was In Care, moving toward ordination, but had no idea I was dubious about serving in a parish. At that time I wondered whether I even had a call to a sacramental ministry.

"Have you assisted at Communion?" he asked. "Not for a long time," I said, and it was true, I had been asked when I first began seminary, but that had been five or six years earlier. "So I don’t know if I want to," I said. "That’s all the more reason you should," he said.

With an attitude of mental grumbling, but a public smile, I stood beside Elder Chaplain and held the chalice while he served the bread. As the first people came forward to receive communion, I suddenly felt held in a shaft of light as high as heaven, as deep as the earth’s core, in all times and places one with those who had help the cup before me.

(I am stubborn, but I’m not crazy. I stopped doubting or debating my call that day.)

4) Molly is the first dog I’ve ever had in my life. She was about 9 months old when we learned she had bilateral hip and elbow dysplasia and learned the recommended treatment involved two surgeries, one which had a high likelihood of success (for the better hip), the other pretty much all they had to offer to abate the severe pain in her already arthritic elbows. In the weeks before the first surgery, her delightful personality had been altered by her misery, and I remember lying next to her on the floor and promising that I would not allow her to suffer.

The first surgery took place in December, and it was three long months of gradual building up of exercise and time for healing before the elbow arthroscopy took place. By now she was a year old. The elbow procedure was considered iffy in terms of outcome, so we watched her carefully. Somewhere around the first of May, six weeks out, I noticed that she wasn’t struggling to get up anymore. The surgery had been a success!!! We’ve had four good years since then, more than we had really hoped to have, and many moments of joy with both Molly and Sam.

5) Before there were the dog children of the second marriage, there was meeting Pure Luck. It’s hard to pick out one moment, when there have been so many, but here’s one I can share. After a long hard day of climbing his favorite Great Big Mountin in the summer of 2001, one that way overmatched my abilities, we headed to Lake Great Big Mountain for a swim. There in the shadow of the mountain, he said some words for the first time, words I had been eager to hear. The following year we climbed Great Big Mountain again, and there we made promises to each other and to my children, and exchanged symbols of those promises, two times of great joy after the hard work of getting to the summit.

You don’t have to be a RevGalBlogPal to play; let me know if you do!

12 thoughts on “Friday Five: Surprised By Joy”

  1. Oh, Songbird–thank you! Once again, I resonate so loudly with so much of what you’ve written. I’m particularly moved by your Summit Story. Blessings…

  2. Wow –
    You are still singing joy despite the pain you have walked through. And you give me courage that my tenure in seminary will not be the typical ‘3 years and out’ because… well, because.
    Thanks for sharing your heart stories and for today’s topic!

  3. Your comment about depression and realizing the music had no power — how true that rings with me as I realized what a depression I was in when music did not stir my soul. Nor did the people in my family…
    The Faure piece is one of my very favorite, and surprisingly, one I have not personally sung. It’s a piece that never lasts long enough as I feel as it is something that should last forever.
    Thank you for sharing each of the stories and glimpses into your life.

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