Friday, June 10, 2016

Celebrating Joie de Jean

Lil Jeannie full of joy

 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
–John 15: 9-11

 One of my parents’ favorite phrases was joie de vivre or “joy of life” which usually refers to someone who has boundless joy and enthusiasm simply for the act of living. That was Mom. For her, every day was a jewel to be cherished and even minor occasions were to be celebrated with gusto. Maybe that was because she lived in the shadow of death for most of her adult life. Still, instead of allowing the many physical and emotional trials she faced to produce a root of bitterness in her, Mom turned to the Lord who cultivated within her a wellspring of joy. In turn, she watered the weary spirits of those around her with the river of life God gave her. In fact, most people who encountered Mom remarked that the overwhelming quality she possessed was joy.

Mom taught me the importance of  joy from a young age often quoting Nehemiah 8:10: “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The verse has served me well during life’s darkest hours, and God’s gift of joy even infused the last Memorial Day weekend I spent with Mom. She’d had a stroke just weeks before that left her right side paralyzed and she was stuck in a rehab hospital trying to get well enough to go home and die. One of my dearest friends spent that weekend with me and Mom and we had a ball together watching one of our favorite sitcoms and dyeing Mom’s hair blonde. Mom even mustered the energy to flirt with a cute doctor who woke her up in the wee hours to check on her. I would imagine few people can say they had a good time under such conditions, yet when my friend and I left we both felt rejuvenated from all the laughter and fun we had been blessed to share with Mom that weekend.
 The first half of the Nehemiah verse reads: “And do not be grieved.” The comfort of the verse combined with the memories of Mom’s legacy of joy often strengthen my spirit. And so with the assurance that Mom’s joy in Christ has indeed been made complete, I am reminded that there’s no better time to honor Mom’s joy-filled life than today on her birthday.