There were so many plans I had for how to celebrate the end of 2018. I was publishing the first book in my series about Rapunzel’s journey of hope. I was going to keep reaching out to others suffering from depression and/or chronic illness and make sure anyone who wanted a copy of my messy book of finding hope in God could have one. But instead, every two hours my internal alarm went off and I felt the need to send Joy to the bathroom. I would look up from whatever I was doing, and then I would remember, my sister is dead. The brain-injury that kept her from caring for herself is gone and no one needs to remind her ever again to go to the bathroom . . . or take smaller bites so she won’t choke . . . or help her bathe . . . or help her do a million other little things. She is free from these worldly cares and her disability.
She is free, but I’m still here. For weeks after her death, I kept feeling as though she was just in the other room and I was waiting for her to come out. I felt the urge to go check on her, make sure everything was alright. But nothing was right. I couldn’t cry like everyone else was, I just kept waiting and waiting, and now I keep searching and searching. Plans for promoting books and ministering to others seem to be falling apart. All I can do is search. I feel as I enter this New Year, perhaps that’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.
For the past several years I have heard of people choosing a word to represent their goals for the year, a word that will inspire them to make the coming year the best so far. Though I was happy for my friends and others I followed through social media, I didn’t participate. One word seemed to difficult for me to choose. I’m a writer and I never seem to be able to reduce things to just one word (much to my husband’s chagrin). But this last year, I was feeling pulled towards a word, a thought, and a specific Bible verse. I began writing a book entitled “Life with Joy” entailing my journey learning how to care for my sister, Joy, and also my own search for a life of joy. Thus far, the search had been difficult as I wrestled with chronic debilitating migraines. Now that Joy has died, I feel more convinced than ever that the verse I was pulled towards was the right one. By the end of 2019, I hope I’ll have more of a grasp on what true joy is and how God satisfies us in the midst of what seems anything but joyous.
There are times that my life has shown similarities to the life of Moses. As I have read and reread Moses’ Psalm 90, God has been speaking to me. I feel as though He wants me to share this journey with you. Imagine what it was like, so near the Promised Land, but not entering. What did the air smell like each morning as the Israelites woke and gathered food the Lord left like dew on the ground? How did their feet feel in those shoes that never wore out as they walked and walked? How parched must their throats have been to begin murmuring against the God who provided freedom from lifelong-slavery?
I know I have things in my life I have lost faith God will provide for though He has proven what a good Father He is. Two women showed up on my doorstep to buy jeans for my little ones when we had no money. I had a couple of days with little pain after months of migraines so fierce I rarely left my home. When I was lonely, God gave me a new friend who came to hold me after my sister died. What was it like being set free from slavery, but wanting to return to it because of great fear? Perhaps on some level, we have each done that. Don’t we return to the familiar even if it is unhealthy because we are afraid of the unknown?
As I look at the year ahead, I wonder how many of you are facing similar uncertainties. Something has happened in your life that you didn’t plan and it has left you wrecked. Perhaps you feel that everyone else is full of joy and hope at this New Year, but you are just gasping and pleading with God that it would be better than the last. You’re not sure you can ask for it to be good. You sputter instead, “Just, please, not as bad as 2018.” Setting goals and choosing a word may seem pointless or even scary because you feel alone in your pain.
You’re not alone. This year scares me. But I don’t want to allow the fear to win and immobilize either of us.
Joy is gone, she is home, she is free, but I am not. I am searching for the meaning of her name, looking for the truth God wants to share and asking Him to teach me to be satisfied in Him alone so that I may rejoice at last. I don’t know if this is a journey you want to come along on. If you do, there is room. I will be chronicling the journey here and sharing it on social media using the hashtags #lifewithJOY and #searchingforjoy. It may one day be a book or it may simply be a series of blogs. I don’t know. I only know I need to search and I’d rather do it alongside you than alone. Let’s beg God for healing and hope in this wilderness.
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Photo credit: Aaron Burden, Aaron Burden, and Kat J.