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

Lessons I’ve Learned, Again: 2016 in Review

beginningsHappy New Year from SoulFully You! Thank you for subscribing to and sharing my posts during 2016.

The SoulFully You website was birthed as a way to connect with those who practice prayerful creativity and who attend my retreats and workshops. The blog came along later when writing as an expression of creativity felt comfortable. Journaling is a spiritual practice, sometimes an emotional purging, but always a way to see the hand of God at work in one’s life. For me, reflecting is just as prayerful as the writing itself. Reading what I have written during 2016, I see how God was preparing me for challenges, urging me to trust and to be patient. God works in every moment of our life—in times of joy and peace, turmoil and trial.  I am never more certain of that than when I re-read my journal or blog posts. I appreciate those in person, or through this blog, who joined me in the journey.

Lessons I Have Learned, Again

Most of 2016 was observed as a Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church, a time to reflect on the many ways we are in need of mercy and the opportunity to always begin again.  Sometimes it takes living, learning a lesson, living it again, remembering the lesson learned, (and in my case) writing about it, screwing it up a few more times, before, finally, letting the lesson settle into the soul as a balm for what ails.

captureThere were plenty of opportunities to practice mercy, on myself and others, this year. In Parker Palmer for President: The only political post I will ever make, I was full of intention to be “more Benedictine” during the tension of a tumultuous election year—to listen more, to honor diversity and to be more hospitable to those who don’t share similar political views. I admit that it was easier to write before we knew who the Presidential nominees would be, before offensive Facebook posts and family disagreements, before the dream of our first woman President died, than it was to live out. The best outcome from this post—a direct response from the dear Parker Palmer, who I pledge to vote for should he ever decide to run.

Lesson learned: Having intention is easier than action; be more merciful to oneself; try again. 

In When the Dust Settles, I had a dream that gave me the insight to move through some difficult situations slowly, to be cautious, and to patiently wait for the dust to settle, to see what otherwise might be overlooked. God has many backup plans for us; we don’t need to have a perfect vision of what is to come. By surrendering to surprise, by surrendering an idealized version of our life, we create an opening for God to work in mysterious and more perfect ways than we could have imagined.

Lesson learned: Be patient; one can see more clearly when the dust has settled. 

I also learned what I previously thought I knew, that I don’t know nothin’. I learned from my father-in-law, who also knew nothin’, that one should leave “room for not knowing, for mystery. He knew he wasn’t in charge of all things true… and he admitted it many, many times.” So many times I’ve thought I had things figured out, knew what would happen, had expected an outcome, just to come back to this lesson—I don’t know nothin’. Anything can happen and that’s going to be okay too. Things change, God is constant.

Lesson learned: I don’t know nothin’. 

I also remembered that I am a child of God, something I thought I already knew, but apparently had forgotten also. In Made for Goodness: A Child of God, I was reminded of this message: “Walk slowly. Listen, for God is speaking. You are accompanied. You are known; uniquely created. Be faithful. Trust and it won’t matter how the road may turn. It’s not where you are going, but how. God is with you.”

Lesson learned: God is constant. HE is before all things. By HIM all things consist. (Col 1:17) 

So Much Joy Too

Despite the challenging year, there was so much joy too. Most significantly, our daughter, Jessica, navigated her final semester of college, landed an amazing job in Washington DC and moved to Capitol Hill two weeks after receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Business Administration. “Our blessing has always been for her to pursue her dreams, to find her place in the world and to become a joy-filled, independent adult.” See A Mother’s Blessing and Just Listen: Advice for a Quarter-Life Crisis.

Much joy came from simple, yet poignant moments: lunch with a friend, a walk around Holmes Lake, a thoughtful text message or a surprise gift or card of encouragement, good conversation, times of silence, reading, creating, leading or attending a retreat at St. Benedict Center, having a photo in the Hildegard Center for the Arts “Bridges” Nebraska Sesquicentennial Photo Exhibit, Oblate discussions and lectio divina, the friendship and shared reading with my Circle and book group, the satisfaction of finishing my first theology class at Creighton University, the ordinary moments of marriage and mothering, a Carrie Newcomer concert on a coincidental weekend trip to DC, moments of clarity and connection with the Divine. Joy can always be found.

In 2017, I hope to write more about Benedictine spirituality, sharing posts and other resources at a new website and blog, BeingBenedictine.combeing-benedictine

Thanks to you, SoulFully You was viewed 4700 times by over 2400 readers in more than 40 countries, primarily in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Germany.  SoulFully You is about listening, praying and living a creative, purposeful, passionate life. It’s about becoming SoulFully You.  

May you have joy, peace, love, and creativity in 2017!  May it settle in your heart that you can “do this hard thing” knowing God is present in all of your moments. Blessings, Jodi

You can do this hard thing
You can do this hard thing
It’s not easy I know
But I believe that it’s so
You can do this hard thing

 

 

 

The Source of all our Joy!

In my last post I asked the question—What is Joy?

The responses have caused me to think about joy in an expanded wayjoy. Thank you for your insightful, beautiful responses shared in italics below.

There are many ways to look at joy…and that makes sense. Perhaps we describe joy based on our most recent or joy-filled experience. Perhaps our sense of joy depends on our season in life or in our sense of purpose.

“Joy is a choice. Sometimes we don’t feel it, but we will more often be aware of those moments if we are eyes wide open.” Continue reading “The Source of all our Joy!”

We are made in the image of God

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy” ~Rumi

We are made in the image of God; we are created to create.life a work of art

Perhaps you doubt whether there is a creative bone in your body, but you would not be giving your Creator the benefit of the doubt. Everyone has an Inner Artist, but often our Inner Critic expresses itself more ardently. And we believe in the voice that whispers (or screams), “I’m not creative. I don’t have talent. I’m too self-conscious to create in front of others.”  Continue reading “We are made in the image of God”

Signs on country roads…and in life.

DSC_0076abI found some new country roads this weekend with lots of hills and curves and dead-ends and surprises.

If people think Nebraska is flat, then they’ve never gotten off Interstate-80. I drove for miles seeing neither car nor person. I discovered roads that are closed (likely indefinitely); roads that are minimally maintained; roads with bends, turns and curves, for no other apparent reason than a row of trees in the way; roads thatDSC_0079a embraced hills that rose out of nowhere; and roads with sharp rights (and no other options). Continue reading “Signs on country roads…and in life.”

Cece: * A * * Snow * * Day * * Reflection * *

I think of Cece, our neighbor, often, but especially when we have “snow days”.  As a teacher, I benefit from our school district’s closure for inclement weather….today—

A WIND CHILL ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 12 PM TODAY AS -20° TO -25° WIND CHILL COULD CAUSE FROST BITE WITHIN MINUTES AND HYPOTHERMIA. STAY INDOORS AND IN HEATED AREAS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.”snow day1

This is Nebraska—it can get very cold and snowy. We have five extra days built into our school calendar for such weather. We are usually notified the night before or early morning if school is cancelled, but one morning I drove to school and didn’t realize it had been cancelled. From then on Cece Continue reading “Cece: * A * * Snow * * Day * * Reflection * *”

Linger in the 12 Days of Christmas

mother and childWe are still in the midst of the Christmas season. There are TWELVE DAYS of Christmas…you know the song. Yes, the gaudy decorations are still up at the mall, but the Valentine’s Day displays are being assembled right next to boughs of holly and Santa’s reindeer. And all of the items that espoused to create your perfect Christmas are being sold at 50-75% off; for some reason those items aren’t worth as much as they were last week. Christmas is over! As a culture, we plow through Christmas and move on the next Hallmark-created holiday—and that’s just the way retailers like it. Continue reading “Linger in the 12 Days of Christmas”

Surrender to Surprise

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I learned that from “The Brady Bunch” (or Math class).  11aMapQuest or Google Maps usually give a few  options, recommending the most direct route. But based on my own personal experience, it isn’t always accurate or logical.  It may seem more efficient to take a well-planned route, but it’s not nearly as adventurous. I find it so exciting to drive down a road that I’ve never been on before and sooooo boring to drive the same route time after time.

There are countless ways to get from one point to another.  And I plan to discover as many of these countless routes as possible between Lincoln and Schuyler, Nebraska. Just go north and west, 90 minutes. COUNTLESS possibilities– each one delivers something new with St. Benedict Center as the final destination. Continue reading “Surrender to Surprise”

Suffering: A New Level of Intimacy

Perhaps it is a paradox to follow writing about Your Inner Child, the importance of laughter, fun and looking through the eyes of a curious child, with a post about suffering and dying. But life is like that—days that are filled with humor, adventure and joy; followed by days of fear, avoidance, pain and grief; and then there are just plain, ordinary days. On the ordinary days, we long for something more exciting. In the midst of darkness, we would settle for the ordinary. Life is like that. It is natural to avoid pain and to seek comfort, but perhaps in controlling so many aspects of our lives—by numbing, avoiding, manipulating, quitting, leaving or even dying—we deny ourselves an intimacy with God and others. Continue reading “Suffering: A New Level of Intimacy”

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