Pure Joy

Fence&Deb

I’m not sure I know what it means. Nor do I feel I am doing it well. But I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the words, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2

I am certain it does NOT mean a plastic smile. Nor does it MERELY mean to gloss over the immediate reality of pain and discomfort to claim that One Day…One day all will be well. This is certainly true and does hold a great deal of hope for us. But the above call, to consider it pure joy, is definitely speaking to the day-to-day experience of it, the ongoing reality of the trial in one’s life, the uncertainty as to whether it will get better, or whether one will have to endure it to the end of one’s days.

In these months post-surgery in early June, I’ve been holding onto that One Day idea. The surgeon and his nurses speak this way: it’s an adjustment period and once you get through that, in a few months, you’ll feel great! I’m going on four months now and I’m not there. In fact, I’ve developed other issues that have my experienced surgeon in a bit of a quandary. First it was a fistula and now ongoing inflammation has developed which is not responding to the antibiotics he has had me on for weeks now. I’ll be going in for testing to see if he can identify what’s going on and prescribe a medicine or other regimen to get rid of whatever is causing the issue. Now I’m thinking this will be more of the same: try this med, see what happens, if it doesn’t work, try another, hope that the side effects are minimal, and if that doesn’t work… Ugh.

I’m now needing the fortitude to find joy, pure joy, in the midst of this trial. I don’t want to “gloss over”. I want to approach each day with an eye toward understanding what these huge words mean…consider it pure joy.

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One thing I’m certain of, is that in drawing, I know this joy. Or perhaps to put it more succinctly…it is THROUGH drawing that this joy comes to me. It might be called happiness at times. But not always. One’s happiness is often tied to how a drawing turns out, whether I’m pleased with it or not, whether it is “good” (whatever that means).  There are times, however, when I may not be feeling good about my drawing, or I may not be feeling good period (as I was on Friday morning, drawing the two you see here, with my friend Debbie, up the road at Smith Hollow Farm), and I STILL experience that joy.

So… I draw. And as I draw, something wells up inside me. It may be called peace. It may be tranquility. It may be an assurance that somehow, some way all will not only be well, but it IS well, just at that moment. It matters not how the drawings turn out. Indeed I felt what I produced on that soggy morning was well…a bit soggy. The act of drawing becomes a conduit for joy to break in, no matter what my body may be feeling at the moment or what may come in the future. Drawing, quite literally, draws me into the present moment and ushers in a joy that does not necessarily include a grin on my face.

It also helps to have an encouraging friend, as I did on Friday. Someone who holds out hope that, yes, tomorrow will be different and possibly for the better. Drawing outside causes me to start thinking of all that I DO have: the beautiful outdoors, the cool breeze, the love of my family and the encouragement of friends. Drawing the people, places, and things in my life causes me to see beyond the resident discomfort and pain and allows me a new set of eyes for the grandeur of what’s all around me. If this sounds too pollyanna for you, I do not apologize.

In suffering of any kind, we can choose one of at least two paths. We can either be sour, bitter, beat down, and resentful. Or we can take a deep look at what it might mean to “consider it pure joy”. I’m choosing the latter because I know there is LIFE there, and there is death in the former. I feel the sour, bitter, beat down, and resentful start to bubble up. And I’m battling it with drawing… my pen a sword, my watercolors a shield for the fight for joy.

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It’s worth every minute of time facing an empty page in my sketchbook and filling it with what is right in front of me: fences, friends, family, flowers, cows, anything! Through the act of drawing I’m understanding a bit more of what it may mean to consider it all pure joy.

Won’t you join me?