The Fullness of Joy

The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything. –Julian of Norwich

joy fullness

Life is a paradoxical journey, embracing joy and sadness, light and darkness, birthing and dying, God in all and God within.  This tension is held, sometimes with more trust than others. I find myself wondering in the tough times, is it really possible to still live with joy? Must I wait until “things get better” to feel the joy I long for?

In a previous post, I asked readers, what is joy?  Specifically, I posed these questions: How do you define joy? What brings you the deepest joy? How do you cultivate joy? What is the source of joy? Is there a difference between childhood joy and grown-up joy? (Read the responses at The Source of All Our Joy!)

But recently I’ve been contemplating, can one feel joy even in the very tough times, during times of adversity, uncertainty, change, or emotional pain?  Is it possible? And, if so, how does one DO this? 

I know I have held both joy and sadness together. It is bittersweet. It is not the ego’s preferable way to experience joy; it feels like joy is being sabotaged. Of course, I want ALL joy. I know this desire is an extension of the either/or world that we live in. We prefer joy over sadness, not joy AND sadness.  Despite my desires, I believe that life can be both/and, both joy and sadness. I believe (I have to believe) that we must learn to hold the two together.

But this I wonder: Is it possible when there is not something to feel joyful about to still live with joy? My faith tells me it is possible, but how? What do you think?

we all have a story1
Card name: We all have a story

“There’s a ‘time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance’ (Eccles. 3:4). But what I want to tell you is that these times are connected. Mourning and dancing are part of the same movement of grace. Somehow, in the midst of your tears, a gift of life is given. Somehow, in the midst of your mourning, the first steps of the dance take place. The cries that well up from your losses belong to the song of praise. Those who cannot grieve cannot be joyful. Those who have not been sad cannot be glad. Quite often, right in the midst of your crying, your smile comes through your tears. And while you are in mourning, you already are working on the choreography of your dance. Your tears of grief have softened your spirit and opened up the possibility to say ‘thanks.’ You can claim your unique journey as God’s way to mold your heart and bring you joy.” -Henri Nouwen

Using the SoulCollage® image above, consider what your story is. There is a story behind everything–what looks like joy, may quite possibly hold more painful memories than one might realize.  How can we find joy in growing older? What does joy look like to you? Please share in the comments! Or create your own SoulCollage® card.

Related blog post: A Story Behind Everything

What Makes a “Happy” Mother’s Day?

I heard the joyous greeting, “Happy Mother’s Day!”, many times this weekend.  But I was thinking since it is the first of this holiday I have spent without my daughter, what makes a “happy” Mother’s Day?

Although I would love to be with Jessica, what makes a Mother’s Day truly happy (and this mother’s heart full on ordinary days as well), is having a happy child. This is all a mother desires—to know that her child is happy, learning, growing and always becoming.  


A year ago, just one day before her college graduation, Jessica accepted a full-time research assistant position in Washington, DC. Just a few weeks later, in a car packed to the gills, she made the 1200-mile journey to move into a house with two roommates and begin her first full-time job.

In this past year, Jessica has done some serious adulting—working 40 hours a week, making decisions about her health insurance and retirement savings, learning on-the-job about social policy for low-income families, and challenging herself to grow personally and professionally. She’s had fun visiting new sites and cities, enjoying solitude, making new friends, and finding love. She’s made a few trips home for the holidays, made weekly phone calls to her grandparents and has hosted both of her parents as a guest in her home. She is becoming and it is beautiful to behold.  

“Blessing Jessica, as my grown-up child, is a journey of becoming comfortable with the uncertainty and the many possibilities for her future, letting go slowly, surely, courageously. The blessing card is as much a reminder for me as it is for Jessica.” (from A Mother’s Blessing)


“When Jessica was just a toddler, I created a bedtime prayer that I blessed her with each night…Some nights, in a hurry, it was shortened to “God bless Jessica’s mind, body and spirit. Amen.” Still, it remains my prayer for Jessica as she continues to become, giving birth to herself over and over again, becoming more herself.

God bless Jessica’s mind so that she make good decisions and choices.
God bless Jessica’s body so that she grow strong and healthy and safe.

God bless Jessica’s spirit so that she know the love of God and others. Amen.”
(from Jessica Becoming)

There isn’t anything that could make my Mother’s Day any happier than knowing that my prayers have been, and are being, answered. Jessica has made good decisions and choices, she is strong and healthy, she does know the love of God and others. And she continues to—she is becoming.

“I journey with Jessica in her becoming. As she grows, I grow; I re-center, reset and adjust to our new way of relating.  I am learning and re-creating the role of mother as Jessica is becoming. We are both becoming.

When your heart is full because your child is happy, then every day is Mother’s Day.daughter


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