I have a hard time writing the word joy… without an exclamation mark!

It just seems to belong – a word with exuberance, with deep emotion, a heart full of happiness and peace and love… this would equal joy in my thoughts.

Of course, joy can be elusive.

Especially at this time of year, and I know this well, as I work at a hospital.  Depression is common and debilitating.  Illness, loss of health, tragedy weigh heavily, and seem even more difficult around the Christmas season.

 I’ve experienced it myself. And wanting to be authentic and honest, joy is not always felt.  Although it is the desire of my and many a heart.

I remember well a Christmas in 1995, and I, a new widow with three teenagers had an aching heart.  And I could not sing the words that year “Joy to the World.”  They stuck in my throat.

Shortly after Christmas, I remember asking a Hospice worker if I would ever be happy again.  For I was certain I wouldn’t, that was the depth of my sadness.  And she assured me, yes… but it would take time, and that I needed to embrace my grief, as it was.

And so I did, one day at a time, choosing to live, choosing to love.

Two Christmases later my children pulled out some old slides and wanted a picture slide show.  My heart sank, for I knew for certain I would start to cry – and that bothered me… and them.  But to my surprise, as we rolled through our memories, beautiful pictures, I was able to laugh and smile as I remembered.  It was a moment of joy for me!  And a lovely discovery that grief would not always grip my heart.

Joy can come in the moments.  Life is a fabric of sorrow and joy, good times and bad, the sweet with the bitter.  If I’ve learned anything is that there can be wonderful moments, like rays of sunshine in the clouds that draw you to joy.

I’ve been drawn to the Christmas words this year… hope, peace, joy.  It was the angels who were exuberant that night in Bethlehem, shouting joy from the heavens.  Their joy, contagious for the shepherds, who were terrified at first, then found courage to go looking for a miracle!

To me, that is the miracle – finding joy in the darkest of places.  This is the message of faith, the hope that joy will come.  With an exclamation!

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