How do I describe joy?

Maybe it’s the feeling I get when I stop amidst the busy day and just look at my family.

Sometimes they’re arguing, sometimes they are trashing the house I just cleaned, while other times they are looking at me like I have grown a second head because I told them to put on a coat in 20 degree weather.

All the time, they are my heart beating outside my chest. That’s a vulnerable position to be in, but I think every mother identifies with it.

When they hurt — I hurt.

When they are happy — I am happy.

When they come home beaming because they got a good grade on a test, or walk in disheartened because they studied really hard but didn’t make the grade. If someone has encouraged them or made them feel special.

I feel like it’s all happening to me too.

And let me tell you there are only two situations where I have the ability to become violent: when there's a spider in my house (because I want it dead and its entire family dead) and when someone hurts my kid.

So, when they are soaring on the clouds on the good days and I am soaring with them — is that joy?

What about when it’s date night and I look across the table at him.

He’s got salad dressing on his face and I keep warning him that when dinner gets to the table, he won’t be able to eat it if he goes for that fourth dinner roll. He grabs the roll anyway, eats his dinner and then moans the whole way home that the bathroom is his when he gets in the door.

Romance in your 40s is sometimes sharing a glance over top of a blooming onion and just knowing you're going to regret it later.

But let me tell you, when the weather was recently icy and the headlights of his dusty old Hummer popped up over our gravel, that felt like joy.

We gathered around the table that evening as a family with the dogs underneath hoping to catch a crumb and our bird nipping at my toes because that's what our bird does — and my heart was full.

Full of joy, though?

I think the answer is yes — and no.

Happiness is temporary.

Those situations that are joyful are a glimpse into the wholeness and contentment we will feel when we reach Heaven. When everything is right and safe — and there’s no more sorrow or fear.

When the four of us are gathered together for the night and will only be traveling as far as our beds until the next morning, that’s exactly how I feel.

Because unless one of us trips over something on the floor and dies — and honestly that would probably be me — then we have safely made it through another day.

That’s not joy, though.

It’s beautiful and it’s warm — it’s pure happiness. And it could end at any given moment.

Yet there is joy in every ounce of it.

There are seasons of happiness, pain, confusion and so on that we go through together.

Some of them I wish could last forever while others I can’t get out of soon enough — like from winter to spring.

This is where joy comes in.

Joy is what encompasses all of it — the good, the bad, the ugly — as I look at the life God has given me and realize all of this is paves the way to Jesus, through His sacrifice on the cross.

Joy is the Holy Spirit whispering on the good days, “This is just the beginning of what God has for you.”

Joy is the Holy Spirit opening my eyes on the bad days, “You are not alone.”

Joy is in knowing that God loves Shawn and my kids even more than I love them.

There will be suffering and there will be bumps in this road to eternity — they might not come home one night or they might receive bad news. 

Happiness is what we feel on the good days — joy is knowing that there is something at the end of the road to make it worth traveling.

No matter how bad it gets.

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