“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13
None of us were happy that our trees were coming down. Hearing the chainsaws and the crashes seemed to affect the kids the most. They asked me to go outside and stop the yard workers. I tried to explain to them that even if I did, more would come. The decision to cut down the trees in our yard was not made by the workers themselves nor was it made by us. The decision was made by our landlord who had been persistently pressured by our neighbor to cut the trees because they interfered with her garden. I’m not sure my kids understood the full situation. They did understand that we were losing trees our neighbor did not like.
About two weeks later my son hit a baseball over the fence and into the same neighbor’s garden (*cough* the ball would’ve been stopped by the tree *cough*). We went next door and the neighbor graciously agreed to let us retrieve the ball. When we returned home my kids came up with a plan. They wanted to make cards and crafts for our neighbor. They were so happy to get the ball back that they wanted to share their joy and appreciation. I’m not sure they remembered the loss of the trees a couple weeks back, but I sure did.
I sat with them as they gleefully used their finest glitter and applied their finely tuned gluing skills. I said nothing about the trees and instead allowed their joy to work on my heart as their hands finished their crafts.
As we headed back to the neighbor’s house they were practically floating with joy. Our neighbor received them and their gifts with glee and gratitude. She invited them to pick flowers from her garden as gifts for their mother. It was all around a beautiful experience. Maybe my kids were so focused on the present that they forgot about the fallen trees.
I didn’t forget and I’m not proud to say that part of me wanted to persuade them to make their cards for someone else. Fortunately, better angels prevailed and I watched as God poured joy into a space that I didn’t even realize needed it.
In his reflection on joy the great preacher Frederick Buechner writes, “…joy is always all-encompassing; there is nothing of us left over to hate with or to be afraid with, to feel guilty with or to be selfish about. Joy is something that by its nature humanity never hoards but always wants to share…joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes. Even nailed to a tree.”
“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin