There’s an expression that talks about “rose coloured glasses,” viewing the world with optimism. Recently I was talking to someone and they asked how I could always be so joyful – as if I wore “joy coloured glasses.” Yes, my personality does tend toward the positive and bubbly but this year, well, let’s just say, it’s been a year.
If an outsider were to take a look into the Chamberlain bubble of 2017, there are lots of words that they could use to describe it: The year of death, fear, cancer, heartache, anger, etc. There are so many words with negative connotations that could rightly be used.
To understand 2017 we need to dip back a bit into the year before. In late June 2016, my parent’s pastors and my long-time mentors moved away to a new assignment. Mere days later the leadership changed at my own church and this one/two punch knocked my world off kilter. I questioned God and myself in ways I never had before. My spiritual life was on very shaky ground for a long, long time.
In November my sister-in-law, who was 8 months pregnant, was in a car accident. The following few weeks were anxious as we awaited whether there would be any long term harm to my niece.
Also that month, my maternal grandfather took very ill at the age of 91. Though he would recover, death would come a few short months later. As my parents spent time in Connecticut preparing for Grandpa’s funeral my Mom began to feel “not herself” and went to the doctor when she returned to Ohio.
The diagnosis came back: she had cancer. As we anxiously awaited surgery and all that was to come thereafter, she severely injured her hip which left her unable to walk for a time. After the cancer surgery there was setback after setback which left her in the hospital as much as she was out! During this incredibly trying few months there were times I truly feared I would lose My Mommy, my best friend.
If you’re still reading this, you’re probably wondering where I am going next! So let me put my joy coloured glasses on and rewrite the above.
During the summer of 2016 when I was questioning all things spiritual, my very wise mother pointedly asked me this question: Do you go to church for church or for a specific pastor? In that moment I truthfully answered that I didn’t know. But over 2017, I have come to find out that I love my church! Apex is an incredible community that I just love and that loves me. When I have occasion to visit my parent’s church, I find that even if the pastors are new the spirit is the same. Being with God’s people gives me such joy!
My sister-in-law’s car accident brought no harm to her unborn baby. My beautiful niece was born healthy on December 15th and she just celebrated her first birthday surrounded by the family that just adores her. Her smile, her giggle, and those of her wonderful sister (age 4) bring such great joy to anyone privileged to meet them!
While it was hard to find joy in my grandfather’s death, I have peace in knowing he had a long and happy life. He is now reunited with those who loved him but left this world earlier than he. The pain and frustrations of the body that had betrayed him at the end is gone. And my Mom was healthy enough to go to Connecticut to say her final good-byes. This brings its own sort of joy.
Which brings me to the greatest joy of 2017. I got to spend Christmas with My Mommy! She still isn’t 100% and we will always have to “be careful with Grammy” but she is here. She can walk, and hasn’t been in the hospital since October and we’re hoping this is a very good sign. Even all those months she was bed-ridden, it was wonderful just to curl up next to her and be. Spending this time with My Mommy has been the greatest joy I can express.
You see in all the dark moments, there was always a silver lining. A moment for rejoicing. In a strange turn of events, I have found myself unable to finish reading a book. The avid reader that I once was is gone and I can’t seem to get her back. But through this struggle, in 2017, I rediscovered music again! In fact, one of the most vivid memories I have of this year took place on June 3. I travelled to Wilmore, Kentucky to attend a taping at Asbury University of “My Boys” Veritas. While they sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” I sat in the seat and sobbed because minutes before I had found out my Mom being admitted to the hospital. The wild irony was that at the moment in time she couldn’t walk, but she wasn’t alone. We are never alone because He journeys with us.
Also with Veritas, I was part of the release team for their newest album, Hope Survives. Through this and many other unexpected experiences over the year, I have made so many new friends (and even “frands,” you know who you are.) As an extroverted introvert, it’s hard for me to branch out sometimes and yet, God has brought some truly wonderful new people into my life.
I have a church community that knows my faults and weaknesses and loves me still. They surround me with love and friendship and service but most especially prayer.
Bemoaning your lot and frowning at everything and everyone is certainly one way to walk through life. But might I suggest another? Put on joy coloured glasses. With them, you’ll see that joy really is all around you. I am not just talking about the theoretical here either! Especially in the holiday season, it could be the physical word “joy” or “rejoice.” The reminders of light and hope and yes, joy are all around- you just have to step back a moment to look for them.
For when you start seeing the silver lining in the storm clouds, things will change I promise. It might not be the situation itself but you yourself will be different because of it. Even though the job you have might not be the job you want, you’ll see the blessing of an income. The relationship (or lack thereof) you have might not be perfect, but maybe this is the God-given opportunity to grow and mature.
The life you are living might not be at all what you envisioned, but if you’re reading this – you’re still alive and that thought alone should leave you with unspeakable joy.