Perfect Joy

For those of us who are married or have been married, the memory of our engagement day is usually one of sheer joy. Often, it is more joyous than the wedding day, simply because of all the stress surrounding wedding plans and arrangements. But the engagement day…that one takes us by surprise and takes our breath away!

It’s bowl season now and teams and fans are geared up for some high stakes joy as well. I’ve never been a huge fan of any sport, but I can remember getting caught up in college tournaments and how exhilarating it is to experience “the big win” with your favorite team. Ah, the big win. But then there’s always the other team – and if you’re a compassionate person on any level, you have to feel sorry for those guys, right? My mother used to say, “There’s no perfect joy on earth.” I understand what she meant.

My daughter got engaged just before Christmas this year and it was surely a joyous time for our family! Great kids who have made good decisions and are making good progress toward their educational goals getting engaged is something to celebrate! Several days later, the couple made an unsettling discovery: a diamond had fallen out of the ring after being resized . . . then a second one fell out. Heartbroken they were – both of them! It didn’t really matter that everything would end up fine because the ring would be repaired, etc. Perfect joy was tarnished. Imperfection had raised its ugly head and ruined a perfectly beautiful ring and perfectly joyous moment in life.

Jesus spoke about joy this way:

John 15:10-12 (NIV, ©2010)
10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

I think we get “joy” and “happiness” confused too often. Perhaps it would have been more correct to say that there is no perfect happiness on earth. It is possible to experience joy, even in an unhappy situation… when we experience love the way Jesus commanded us. In that sense, our joy can be perfect.

Marking Time

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Hurry up and wait!” It seems as though a lot of our time in this culture is consumed by the “wait” portion of our big hurry. The problem is that we don’t seem to know how to handle the waiting. Common examples that come to mind include traffic issues in our fine little metro or the weekly work ritual of wishing the week away by looking forward to Friday. One of my favorite movie scenes is from “Meet the Parents” when Greg and Jack are trying to beat each other back to the house as they burn and screech their way block by block, traffic light by traffic light back to Jack’s house. Clip from Meet the Parents

We experience a variety of responses to this waiting time: anger, anxiety, confusion, frustration. . . perhaps even discouragement and sadness. It is an exception when we welcome times of waiting as a chance to catch our breath or reflect on what we are experiencing.

Sometimes the waiting times are found in more serious contexts: hurry up and get all these tests done, then wait for a diagnosis; hurry up and get engaged, then wait for the right wedding date; hurry up and get to the airport, then wait to reunite with your loved one. Perhaps if we can learn to engage these times of waiting, we can also learn to live more fully. Reflecting and journaling are great ways to process our thoughts and feelings during times of worry, confusion or frustration. When we fail to process thoughts and feelings, we fail to learn anything or grow from our experiences.

Back in high school, I was in the marching band. I remember marching in parades and how, even when we couldn’t move forward, we had to march in place or “mark time”. My memory of that experience is that it was exhausting. We were working very hard to cover very little ground.

I suspect that happens in our lives often. We use up vital energy during our times of waiting by marching in place rather than being still and reflecting on our experience and listening to God’s voice. Here’s a challenge for the coming week: When faced with a hurry-up-and-wait scenario, take an “at-ease” posture instead of marking time and engage the waiting time. Let me know what you experience!

Somewhere where you are

I’m one of those moms who had a child at a “later age” in life. My first two children were born during my early twenties and my third child came when I was in my 40th year. Parenting is challenging at any life stage, so I can’t say that it is any easier now than it was twenty-plus years ago or that it was easier then when I was a younger mom. I can say that I am a different person than I was twenty years ago and life circumstances are different…at least some of them are different.

When my older children were around the ages of 6 and 7, we established our own Christmas tradition called, “Special Day”. My reasons for implementing this tradition were partly because of my wish to downplay the whole Santa Claus thing and to focus on Jesus’ birthday celebration and partly to set up some boundaries against the spending frenzy that Christmas could become. As a single mom, I was constantly balancing or defending against one thing or another. Special Day was simply a day spent with each of my children individually to do things together. It was my Christmas gift to them and the only one they would get from me. We had a set amount of money to spend and spend we did! In those early years, we would go bowling, ice skating, horseback riding, arcading, movie-watching and more all in one day. (Of course, whoever went first would set the bar, so day two would be all those things plus one extra something to win bragging rights.) Special Day has changed over the years, but it’s still a really special thing for us. I suspect we’ll always do it…I truly hope we do.

The youngest hasn’t yet had his first Special Day, but the seeds have been planted to get him ready, too. This weekend we were having some snuggle time and I told him how much I enjoy our quiet time at home together. He replied, “yeah, I just like to be somewhere where you are.” I think he is beginning to grasp the concept of Special Day: our days together are our best gift to each other.

So, what did they put on your driver’s license?

I was one of the few people on earth born with two different eye colors – one is blue like my father’s eyes, and the other one is brown, like my mother’s eyes. The reactions I’ve witnessed to this little conversation-starter have ranged…widely. I can tell when someone first notices by the way his or her face transforms from active engagement in conversation to that wondering smile, fixed stare…and then the first question. Someone once asked me, “Did you know…” (If I had been quick with my wit that day, I would have acted shocked and dumbfounded.) Typically, I have a little script that I give them: “My dad had blue eyes, my mom has brown eyes, and I got one of each!” Once in high school, someone noticed it while we were in the library. He ran out screaming “witch!” I didn’t have time to give him my schpiel.

The question under the whole exchange – on both sides, really – is “WHY do you have two different eye colors?” During my lifetime, the answer I first embraced without understanding was that my chromosomes for eye color slipped during my development. I’m glad it was eye color and not something else. It could have been something else. Today, there are conversations about something called “chimerism” – a condition whereby two sets of DNA are consumed into one person. That one’s way too weird for me to embrace.

A formal name for my particular kind of eye color is sectoral heterochromia, although that is not what is on my license. My license indicates “DIC”, which stands for dichromatic. There exists a Facebook group for people like me, but I’m not a member of that group. That would defeat my whole sense of uniqueness in that regard.