When my boys were little, one of their favorite movies was a dinosaur classic. We’re Back was where the dinosaurs return from the dawn of time, through the miracle of time travel and some brain grain, to live in modern times. When the dinosaurs romp down the streets in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade singing, “Roll Back the Rock”, it didn’t matter what I was doing because Reed would beckon me to come and dance with him. I could be covered in flour or soap suds, but to him, it didn’t matter.
Getting our boogey on down, we would rock with the best of them. Holding his sweet little hand in mine, we would stomp and swirl, shimmy and giggle while a chubby cheeked toddler would laugh watching us. That, my friends, is pure joy – when you lose your adult inhibitions and get lost in your preschooler’s loving gaze – knowing at that moment you embody motherhood at its finest. You want to savor those moments forever.
Until the day, you don’t . . . which is exactly what happened to me this past year.
You lose your joy.
When you lose your happiness, you find quiet comforting. There I said it. I was sad. Heartachingly, gut-wrenchingly sad. Distraught. Overwhelmed. Frenetic. Chaotic. Heartbroken and sad.
It didn’t happen overnight. No, I would say it took about five years for it to crescendo into deafening silence.
There were many things that happened that literally ripped my heart in two. What feels like a never ending saga with the tragedy in our family played a familiar role, but so did a myriad of smaller things. Seasons in friendships changed, a health scare that frightened me, doors closed, dreams diverted, and quite simply the chaos of good intentions and overconsumption had brought a sense of darkness to our doors.
The hardest part about all of this was this was the first time that I wasn’t alone in my sadness. The floor opened up and swallowed us all. It is hard to be a cheerleader for a broken spirit of team.
In the fall of the year, I no longer felt like a cheerleader, let alone a candidate for Mother of the Year.
In the aftermath of our family’s darkest day, I had a conversation with someone who asked me some of the most unbelievable questions. I think she was blown away by my answers, but one such response summed up a large part of my sadness. When asked, “Other than the obvious things, what thing makes you the most heartbroken about your life right now?” My heartfelt reply was, “Being a red-shirted freshman.” I wanted to play in the game of life, and due to our circumstances, I simply could not.
Now here I was all these years later, and I had those same misgivings with a twist. With all the distractions and disruptions, I had forgotten how to be me. The authentic Kandy was tired. Worn-out. Exhausted. I wasn’t the mom I wanted to be, and that was breaking my heart. I had lost my joy, and I thought that at this juncture all these years later, we should be feeling better not worse.
But this is where the story starts to change. I retreated and clung as tight to God as I knew how. About the same time as my forced sabbatical, back into our lives came a friend who knew those days of dancing with little boys in the basement. Gently, she reminded me what joy looked like.
Poked and prodded by her love and the love of several others who picked up the cheerleading banner, I became encouragingly dogged in my pursuit to let go of expectations that were boxing me in, of old hurts that kept me a prisoner in my own doubts, and of chaos that didn’t fulfill us. I looked for the little things. Guess what? God showed me they were there the whole time. Making time for the little things, clinging to His promises, and reclaiming the things I enjoy were all beginning steps to understanding what I had allowed to steal my joy in the first place.
Just like catching my breath when encountering that first blast of arctic air, joy was something that I needed to clasp my hands and heart around as well.
During the bench-warming sad place, I communed with God to revisit the concept of joy. It was time well spent.
For this New Year, our family sat down and decided to follow through with the concept of a one word theme based off a devotional by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization. We had a family meeting where I offered that I thought “joy” might be a good word. One of our children enthusiastically concurred. What she said next spoken years of wisdom, belied by her actual age. “I agree with Mom. You know, sometimes because of our family’s story, we simply forget what joy is.” After a few murmuring assents, the vote was unanimous as we proclaimed three simple letters to be God’s cleansing tide for our souls for the next year.
We are going to search out and find joy in our lives, making it our battle cry. I don’t think Reed would want us to be perpetually sad, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that God never wanted us to lose sight of joy in our lives. It simply happened.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace Isaiah 55:12 (NIV)
Just like that movie title – We’re back! And who knows?
You just might find us dancing in the basement somewhere along