Monday, December 17, 2012

I Don't Know How to Write About Joy - Reflections on Joy

Week Three of an Advent Synchroblog

Today I write about Joy.

This was the plan.

On the first week of advent, I wrote of Hope. And my words then, seem so much more fitting now.


I don't know how to write about joy. I know joy is not the same as happiness.

I have the choice to go on and live life as if Friday didn't happen. But it did. And it changed things.

In a town, about 90 miles from where I lived for most of my adult life, there are families fighting for breath, drowning in tears.

I can't write about joy.


On Friday I registered my big girl for Kindergarten testing and the lottery system to get her into a school better than our neighborhood one. I sat at my keyboard, hands still trembling from the news, and picked schools in the City of Chicago that we want her to have a chance to attend. 

Chicago is only eleven murders shy of surpassing the number of US Troops killed in Afghanistan during its bloodiest year.  And we have had over two times the number of people killed by gun fire since 2001 than have been killed in Afghanistan.

The irony of all of this is not lost on me.

I don't know how to write about joy.


On Sunday, I walked up and down the hall of the Preschool wing checking on teachers and praying over the rooms. I felt like a sentry, guarding those children because suddenly the world was a little worse than it was last Sunday.

I don't know how to write about joy. Not after Friday.


Here, in the Now, I grasp at a joy that sustains during tragedies, violence, sickness, death, war, genocide. And I know that joy should be there always, dependent on our inward life and heart, not on our outward circumstances. But on days like this it seems so far off.

And I look to the not yet, when His Kingdom will reign. When there will be peace. When I don't have to talk to my kids about what to do if someone comes into a school with a gun.

Yesterday, I peeked in at children's church and hear them worship. And on those faces, I saw Joy. 

They were singing, some eyes closed, their little hands raised. They had smiles on their faces. 

Your Love is deep
Your Love is high 
Your Love is long
Your Love is wide

Your Love is
Deeper than my view of grace
Higher than this worldly place
Longer than this road I travel
Wider than the gap You filled

Who shall separate us
Who shall separate us from Your love
Nothing can separate us
Nothing can separate us from Your love

I don't know how to write about Joy. Not right now. But their voices, lifted high, reminds me of the God who gives joy. The God who is with us in our suffering. Who is close to the brokenhearted. The God who was born in our darkness. The God who is bigger than all of this. The God who held each baby tight. The God who will set all things right.

And that, gives me Joy.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come visit us here
Caris Adell
Emily Miller
Katie Axelson

Would you like to join us? We would love for you to share your stories of Advent. Your stories of JOY reaching down and meeting you in the darkness. Even this darkness.


  1. Thanks for sharing your heart on this. As a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, I, too, was (and still am) overwhelmed by last Friday. I preached three times on Sunday, the Sunday of Joy in the liturgical calendar. The joy wasn’t the bubbling sort of joy that many expect, but it was a joy wrought out of coming to grips with the fact that Jesus came for that very reason, last Friday. Explanations, rationalizations, scapegoats, all pale in comparison to the God of all love and compassion, who understands what it is to lose a loved one—for us.

    I like your phrase: now, not yet. That expresses so well our Christian hope. God’s richest blessings in Christ. (I have appreciated your writing very much.)


    1. Thank you so much, Rich, for reading. I am so glad you found it. And thank you for preaching faithfully and being their to minister to your people! Blessings (and joy!) this Christmas!

  2. "Born in our darkness" seems like a prophetic choice in titles this week. It is dark. It was dark 2,000 years ago. But joy is like the Advent candles flickering in that darkness -- they remind us it's there. It has come and is come and will come again, if we just remember to light the candles. That must have been a rough day, holding the reality of what happened halfway across the country and the reality of what you needed to do here together, all on the same day. I'm praying with and for you, friend.

    1. Thank you for your prayers. I have to trust God to keep my babies safe, even when atrocities like this can happen unexpectedly.

  3. I love your finish here, "The God who sets all things right." Yes.

    Redemption is the basis of our hope and the certainty of our joy.

    A heart-felt, yearning post. Loved it, Brenna.

  4. Thank you, Kelli. He will set it all right. I know.