I Looked for Joy in the Wrong Place


I thought it was gone, but it turns out, I was just looking for it in the wrong place.

Four years ago, when my dad died, everything changed. I’m not just speaking in the metaphoric sense that everything changed in grief, but in the very real, physical sense that everything in our wee Forbes world changed. My dad’s illness and passing triggered a full-scale upheaval that saw us leaving the small town where we had built our life and returning to the city where we were born.

This meant a change of houses, jobs, schools, church, friends, extra-curriculars, routine and entire way of life. Our quaint “Stars Hollow” world was exchanged for a fast-paced flurry of uncertainty and daily encounters with The New.

It took a few years, but finally last year we began to feel truly settled into this city life again. The kids found their collective groove in their new schools, they made friends, joined teams and began to return to themselves. The Mister, one part City Boy and one part Mountain Man, was so happy to be rescued from small town prairie life that he could barely contain his enthusiasm for all The New. Even I began to feel like we were building a real life here again. But I also felt that everything had shifted—and in the shift I had lost a few vital pieces of me.

During the holidays, my house used to be full of Christmas cheer. I had decorations for every room of the house. We had a schedule—yes, a written down, hard copy schedule—of holiday movies to watch and events to attend and sweets to bake. We had a zillion traditions and holiday routines we followed precisely every year. It was what we always did and it was glorious!

Last year, when it came time to begin all of the rituals of Christmas, I just didn’t have it in me. I recognize now that grief had finally caught up with me. I was living in an intense period of mourning, not only the loss of my dad, but the loss of what my life had been. I was also deeply mourning the injustices perpetrated against the brothers and sisters of my heart. These widespread, generational injustices left me feeling impotent and useless and very frustrated. Christmas was marked with no pomp and minimal circumstance.

I made it through last Christmas and the year that followed in a diminished state. I certainly have some great memories and experienced happy moments and lots of love, but joy was gone. Or, I thought it was. Joy wasn’t where it had always been. It wasn’t in the excesses and the busyness, like it once was. It wasn’t in the doing of All the Things and the checklist of traditions. It wasn’t where it always had been, so I thought it was gone.

Turns out, joy had found somewhere else to settle. I found it right where it should have been all along. I found my joy in peace.

I’m not the same person I was before my dad died. His death triggered a monumental shift in our family. Moving back to the city forced me out of my comfort zone, out of my Small Life mentality and propelled me into a life where truth and justice are in my every heartbeat and I feel the whole world in my soul. I am so changed that there is no possible way the pieces of me could be at rest in the same places they were before. Of course Joy has moved in to Peace! Of course Peace is where I should seek to abide, for it is there I will find Joy.

Peace is the promised thing that is so easily overlooked.

For unto us a Child is born
Unto us a Son is given
And the government shall be upon his shoulder
And his name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,
Of the increase of his government and peace
There will be no end. —Isaiah 9:6  & 7a

We SheLovelys are pretty intense people. We care so deeply and see the world so fully. The heartache and disappointment of injustice is so near to us that joy can seem elusive. We feel the oppression and danger our brothers and sisters experience in a way that drives us to stand, speak and rise up. These are serious, life-and-death, soul issues and joy can sometimes feel frivolous and silly. But, dear ones, Joy is vital. It is joy, flowing out of peace, that sustains us in this passion for justice. It is peace in our souls that will lead us to joy, in spite of the injustice we see.

From before Jesus set foot on this planet, Peace was his domain. Not love or patience or joy or even justice. It was peace. It has always been peace. Peace without end is the thing Jesus offers us. It is his glory. It is his promise to us and it is the foundation he offers us as we continue his good work. It is our security, our healing balm and our hope for a world changed.

I thought Joy was gone but, it turns out, I was just looking for it in the wrong place. Joy lives with Peace.