Last Saturday morning began like all others. Every kid had a event between 830 and 2, and Jon and I were going to spend the day driving them around. But when I got just a brief moment alone in the car after the first drop off, I realized that there was something new inside me, something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I felt joy. Not happiness. Joy. Just a complete sense of peace within my soul. It was overwhelming.
Joy has been elusive this year.
Last January my daughter almost died. It was the most traumatic experience I have ever been through. It was surreal and the memories of giving her mouth to mouth and then watching a grown man on top of her in the ER doing chest compressions have haunted me like a demon.
When most people consider the word trauma they think of it as an event, a moment in time. And where this is maybe how it begins, trauma is actually a noun. It’s a thing, born out of an event, that lives, breathes, changes, and sometimes even consumes the person it settles into.
I can feel my trauma like I used to be aware of my babies inside me. It is rooted down in there and holding on for life. Most of the time I get to control it. But sometimes it finds the power to rise up and shake me to the core. Trauma puts you on the floor of aisle 2 in Trader Joe’s with your head between your knees or in the fetal position in a parking lot because you just can’t keep driving. Trauma has power.
But here’s the thing about me. I’m stubborn and a natural optimist. And so when we finally got home after 89 days in the hospital, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to find joy in life again.
Because joy is worth fighting for.
I admit I was afraid. I wondered if I would ever be able to move aside the fear of losing a child and live in the present moment.
And then there was this glaring question: Could Jesus restore my joy in the midst of the worst thing that has ever happened to me?
My faith wasn’t shaken and I never doubted God was still all good, however the only thing that overpowers trauma completely is JOY. Crazy, no good reason, joy. It’s different than happiness. I can be happy for a day or a reason, but joy is about the soul feeling hope and amazement and fulfillment for no reason other than God is on our side. And I just didn’t know if I could accept God’s sovereignty and find joy again.
It hasn’t come easy. I’ve had to fight for it.
I started by getting Xanax for those massive panic attacks. I needed a backup to help me get through them. And it worked.
I picked up my bible again. It was so hard. But once I got back into the word, God was able to speak to me again through it.
I did usual things like flying to Portland to visit a friend. I was so afraid to leave my daughter, but I was even more afraid to never live life again.
And most importantly, I stopped praying for things to change and I started to just say thanks for the day. As it turns out, we are all dying. Not a day is ever guaranteed. I almost did not get a single day of 2015 with my daughter so I refuse to not live them all with gratitude.
Gratitude brings about joy in the most amazing way.
And so does serving others. So today I find myself boarding a British Airways plane to Kenya to help in a school for special needs kids. Yep, I’m a little scared. There could be a major catastrophe at home. But as I mentioned, we are all dying and deciding to live every day in the present, serving others is where my joy is.