I was somewhat battle-weary in January this year. 2012 had been a roller-coaster ride, one where I was pretty sure I was going to come careening off at some point and land in a tangled mess. But I’d made it to the end, clinging for dear life to courage, and there was a sense of victory in that but also exhaustion.
January was the month we would have been expecting our first child to be born and so it was a heart-sad month to start the year with. I chose my one word for the year on new year’s eve, sitting in the semi darkness of our living room, wondering what the year to come would bring. I chose joy because I realised I needed it. Needed to find that deep abiding joy that could be my strength through sorrow and a bubbling fountain in happier times.
Over half way through this year and I had to stop and think whether I’ve found it. That search bought some anxiety – if I have to check whether I am joyful, then surely I can’t be? But it’s there. A gently swelling feeling deep in my soul.
I’ve found joy when I preach at our church and feel something in me come to life as I plan and speak.
I’ve found joy in the gym – of all places – the deep satisfaction of feeling my body perform in the way it was created to.
I found joy in the mountains, the glory of exploring the snow-covered sun-drenched peaks in France earlier this year.
I’ve found joy my kitchen, as I cook and experiment and bake, sensing the connection with the women of my family as I stand and do what they taught me.
I’ve found joy at the table, the many evenings we gather friends for dinner and birthdays and celebrations, with fast conversation and freely flowing wine and a recognition that this is home.
I’ve found joy in a women’s shelter, as we treated those beautiful people to an afternoon of pampering and spoiling, telling them over and over how valuable and worthy of love and belonging they are.
I’ve found joy in the patterns of the year, in having my forehead marked for Ash Wednesday, celebrating Easter with family, marking the solstice with a long night with friends.
I’ve found joy in cups of tea and coffee and shared conversations with countless friends who have enriched my days.
I found joy in our trip to Uganda and Burundi, in premature babies and hugs with our sponsored children, in reunions with friends I’d not met before and in the faces of so many incredible women.
I’ve found joy in my little balcony garden, the thrill of watching things come to life and produce food that we can actually eat, the beauty of the flowers and all that green, the reward of learning something new.
I’ve found joy in my writing, in stringing words together in just the right way, discovering that thing I had been trying to say, trying to understand in the words on my page.
I’ve found joy in my marriage, the long evenings together on the balcony or the sofa talking and planning and laughing, drinking wine and good single malts, learning more and more how to love each other well.
I am finding joy in seeking a better balance in my life, in slowly releasing my anxieties over how I spend my day, if it’s valuable enough, good enough, impressive enough.
In all these places, I feel joy rising. There have been many hard moments this year already. And then I cry and swear and doubt and worry. A man once described himself as “sorrowful, but always rejoicing“. And I’ve been learning – oh so slowly – how to exist in that space, what that joy is, seeking it out more, allowing it the room to grow, trying not to quench it with too much anxiety.
And I realise as I look back at my list that the rejoicing comes when I remember who I am, who I am made to be. Joy comes when I chose to live as that woman, without apology, without shame, without fear. Joy comes from that deeper connection to the Source of life in me, to the endless love poured out on me.