Hi. As in hi-atus. As in, when do I intend on posting normally here? No idea, guys. But listen. Last week was Father’s Day and I had full intentions to do this post then, but thennnn I had a three hour online midterm that was apparently only open THAT DAY, and didn’t even hang out with my own dad. (Sorry, Toddie-B. Thanks for being a champ about it.)
So here we are, a week later, and it’s for the best because I’ve had a few more thoughts I wanted to jot down.
Our assignment to speak in church last Sunday on fatherhood had me all kinds of thoughtful last week. I thought about my own dad and our relationship. Growing up, my family joked that I was the family puppy because whenever I heard the door to our garage open, or our cars’ ignition, I would drop whatever I was doing, bound out of the house, and immediately get in the car with whoever, going wherever. Since he’s such a doer, a lot of the time, my travel partner was my dad.
I remember distinctly that whenever we’d stop at the gas station for gas or a soda refill, my dad would slip a little something onto the counter for me, usually gummy worms, sometimes Airheads, or whatever my current favorite treat was. I don’t remember my dad being overly effusive about how happy he was I was there, but I always remember feeling loved and acknowledged in this simple way. It made me certain that my father loved me, knew me, wanted to acknowledge me, and wanted me to be happy. While I ran to the car every time for the journey, not the gummy worms, they were a joy and made the journey sweeter.
Our Heavenly Father is like that. Heavenly Father (God, Allah, Life with a capital L, the Universe, whatever your name for Him is — we’re all barking up the same tree here) wants us to feel loved, known, acknowledged, and happy. Part of why we’re here is to experience mortality, the trials and the growth, and yes, the pain. We are meant to be challenged. In conversation with a sweet older woman this week, she shared the following quote with me and I wanted to hug this stranger and be like, BRENDA, YOU BRILLIANT WOMAN, YOU. (Disclaimer: Not sure her name was actually Brenda. But she looked like a Brenda, idk.)
“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.” (Tim Hansel)
And don’t we, though, sometimes? I think pain is important, to feel it fully, to be driven and changed and refined by it, to be humbled by it, to be educated by it – it’s vital to the journey. It’s one of the reasons we “hopped in the car” so to speak. But misery is not. So how does that work, exactly?
(Hi, when you figure it out completely, let me know. I’d love to find out.)
But here’s what I’ve learned this week and thus far. Pain deserves acknowledgement. Pain isn’t shameful. Pain is important.
But so are the “gummy worms on the counter.” So are the quiet, constant, and beautiful punctuations of joy and love that make the journey so, so worthwhile. I have found that the times I am most miserable are the times I am ignoring the little things God is doing to sweeten the journey and make it joyful because I am focused instead on Him taking away the entirety of the pain. And He can’t, if He loves us. And He won’t, because it’s important.
But equally important is joy, and it can coexist with the pains of life. It does, everyday, in little ways and big, if we look for it. The more grateful I am, the more joy I find.
I’ll give you a silly example. Very often when I’m having a bad day, I run across a lemonade stand. And I have what you might call lemonade-stand-itus, where it actually pains me to drive by and not stop. I can’t do it. Saturday before we spoke in church, I was feeling extremely stressed and anxious over several things. I ran across FOUR lemonade stands that day – I kid you not, everywhere I had to go. It was comical to me, and delightful, and I felt loved, acknowledged, and known. I felt lighter, and rather than wallowing in my “pain” to the point of misery, I found joy and felt gratitude for the little expression of love right in front of me.
It’s easy to pass our little daily joys, to rush on with our heads down, trying to plow through the pain (big or small) of life and its challenges. It’s easy to write them off as coincidence or routine. “It’s summer, so of course there are tons of kids out selling lemonade on a Saturday.” “Of course my dad is buying me gummy worms, he always does.” But it’s not just coincidence or routine. It never is.
It’s everyday magic and love and acknowledgement of US as individuals. It’s everyday joy – if we choose it. And the more I list my everyday joys, the more I notice the little things everyday I’m grateful for, the more I actively choose joy. AND I LIKE THAT.
I’m working on a little gratitude journal, and I’m pretty obsessed. The increase in joy in listing ten things daily I’m grateful for is like, embarrassingly wonderful. Why have I not been doing this every day of my whole life, no matter how up or down I feel?
Life is hard. That’s a fact. There are hard-knocks, hard days, hurtful words, misunderstandings, yada, yada, yada. But that’s not who we are or the reason we are here. We experience pain, but our souls are made of the stuff that can fight through misery. Likewise, our souls are made of such substance that we can actively choose joy and find it daily, if we choose that. We are made for that fight, and our Heavenly Father is trying to fortify us for that fight and for that joyful choice, but He doesn’t force our hand.
Instead, he slides us daily joy, encouragement, and love into our lives like my dad slid the gummy worms across the gas station counter – quietly, perhaps, without demanding acknowledgement or fighting for recognition. It’s just all right there, right around us, everyday, to buoy us up and carry us through.
The option is ours, and that choice is maybe the greatest quiet expression of love that a Heavenly Father (God, Allah, Life, the Universe, etc) has for us.