Yesterday morning, I drove two and a half hours to the funeral of my friend’s mother. While on the phone, taking care of some business while driving, I was told, “It’s nice that you have the time to do that.” I assured the person on the other end that I did not have the time, but that I was raised in a family where attending funerals is just what you do. You make the time. People flock to showers and hospitals to welcome new babies into the world, but few people take the time to usher someone out of this world. I went because it was the right thing to do. And what did I gain from it? Simple; the joy on Anne’s face when she glanced up and saw me there. It’s all about spreading joy even in places where you expect to find none.
We’ve actually been talking about joy a lot lately in our family. It has been a hard few months for us. Rebecca is juggling the LSAT, law school applications, the hardest classes she has taken so far, and an impending change as she crosses the street from childhood into adulthood. Katie, my homebody, is facing leaving home for a college between two and four hours away. For many, that distance seems inconsequential; but for Katie, it’s monumental. Morgan, my baby, is grappling with hormones, shifting friend groups, and all that comes with being fifteen. Of course, Ken and I are staring into the future and contemplating what life will be like in just over two years when we are empty nesters. Sometimes, when faced with the trials of every day life, joy can be hard to find.
Pope John Paul II, said that “God made us for joy.” It seems so simple yet so hard at times. Recently, a friend suggested that, when finding it difficult to get past the hard times in life, it can help to keep a gratitude journal. This was the most beautiful advice and can really make a difference. Best selling author, Brené Brown, tells us that “There is no joy without gratitude.” The more we are thankful for, the more we see the good in the world, and the more joyful we are. To take the small things throughout the course of the day, and see them for the joy they can bring is so easy, so why don’t we do it more often? Just look around. Witness the thrill of a child with a new puppy. Savor the taste of a hearty meal or a good glass of wine. Feel the warmth of a fire on a chilly night. Experience the calming effects of a beautiful song, a good book, or a meaningful prayer. Be thankful for time spent with friends, no matter the occasion.
On a recent mission trip to Guatemala, Ken was humbled by the poverty of the people he visited and amazed by their constant expressions of happiness. He said that they had so little but radiated such joy. It reminds me of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians that, as Christians, we should be “in pain yet always full of joy; poor and yet making many people rich; having nothing, and yet owning everything” (2 Corinthians 6:10). We tend to put so much stock in material things, always looking for happiness in grand ways, but it’s in the every day, little things, that we can find true joy, even at a funeral. We must look, always and everywhere, for the things that that make us happy. For in finding true joy, we not only create better lives for ourselves but for all the world around us.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.