As 2017 started, I had no idea how difficult this year was going to be, but I also had no idea how much joy it was going to hold as well. I began this last year just like many of you, making goals, but I also set the word of joy before me. One thing I have learned about joy is that if you want it, you have to fight for it. 2017 was no exception to this rule.
My job is a fulfilling one, but over the last year it has been a struggle to find joy as I teach. Many of my students live in severe poverty and their stories make my heart ache. One students’ parents struggle with alcohol and drug addictions so bad that the student had to flee in the night with all their possessions in black plastic trash bags. Another student shared a story of having to, at the age of 12, drive herself to school because her parents were each working one of their three jobs. Both of these students know the meaning of joy and their smiles have helped light up my classrooms. As they fight through the struggle that their lives are, they do not stop. So when my job became a struggle, I chose to be like them and to fight for joy.
Therefore in February, just as I was told my job was going to be cut, I flew out to California with April and proposed to her. She said yes! What joy!
The disappointing school year ended and even though my job had been retained, I no longer felt wanted where I work. But I entered the summer with a coming wedding and joy filled the air. But we had to fight for that joy. Just like many engagements, ours was filled with drama. It seemed to pop out of nowhere, but it was hurtful and forced us to make a last minute change to our wedding party. However, one person’s attempt to steal the joy of our upcoming wedding only made me love April more. She never stopped caring for that person and it is that grace April shows to the people in her life that truly amazes me.
My wedding day was a true adventure. Not the type of adventure like my bachelor party where an 800 pound black bear showed up to end the party, but a crazy string of events that nearly caused me to miss my wedding. April spent all day with her family and I stayed with mine. I shared a calm morning with my niece and nephews, trying to stay present in the moment and not worry about my wedding. About an hour before my groomsmen were to show up so we could meet Becky Rice, our photographer, I was packing my car with all that I would need for after the wedding. As I walked out to my Civic with the last suitcase I was surprised to find that my car was locked. I grabbed my keys and pressed the unlock button, but nothing happened. It was as if my car was dead, unlock-able with all of my wedding items trapped on the inside.
I ran inside to grab my spare key to see if it would work, but no luck. Time started to slip away. I tried calling Honda to see if they could help. No luck! As I was on the phone, Luke and Taylor, two of my groomsmen showed up. I gave Luke my car keys and said, “See if you can fix it.” Just as I was telling the Honda agent, “No I can’t have it towed into your shop today because I am getting married,” Luke came back downstairs and told me he had done a miracle.
With my dad, Michael, and Taylor as witnesses, Luke had walked up to my car, said a prayer to Saint Michael the archangel and then punched my car. It immediately unlocked. Joy returned! We were free to leave for my wedding, but then I couldn’t find my wallet.
We scrambled to search all of the locations I had touched only to give up thirty minutes later. We were already late and our photography session with Becky was slipping away. I hopped into my car, figuring I would just go wallet-less only to jump back out and run inside to find it in the last place I looked. I had left it in the drawer with my spare car key.
My wedding was the most joyous day of the year if not of my life. I know that God will grant me days just as joy-filled and maybe even more so, but dang my wedding was fun. As I drove to my wedding after finding my wallet and having my car miraculously unlock so we were free to leave for Hudson Gardens, I choose to live in joy and not take on the stress that had attempted to ruin my afternoon. April and I danced, we were able to eat our food, but the best part was the joy in knowing that April said, “I do,” to me.
My wedding ended and as we left the reception, surrounded by friends and family who love us dearly I knew I would have to hold onto this joy. I know that through sickness and health, through the good times and the bad times I will need to remember the light of that night and the love Christ has given me to be able to choose to love and serve April. I will choose to fight for joy because I too said I do.
Also, it turns out I needed my wallet. April accidentally left hers in her car and we wouldn’t have been able to check into our hotel room without a credit card and a form of identification. I laughed with joy as we made our way to our room.
That was July and the rest of our year has had ups and downs, but through it all God has taught me about His joy. If you want it, you have to fight for it. If you fight for it, it will be like having Christmas with a three year old. It will light your dark night and shine light into your day with a smile that will last for days.
April and I shared our second Christmas together and we were awoken, okay I had been up since 3:30 because I love Christmas too much to be able to sleep, by Addi, Linc, and Breck. Their cries of joy and delight were so much fun to share in. Breck couldn’t stop running around in excitement. Who knew 6:30 in the morning could be so much fun, even Treagan was all smiles.
What a blessing of joy it was to share Christmas with my entire family. 2017 has been a year of joy for me, but I hope my readers understand that it was also a very difficult year. But there is a joy in my life that even in the darkest of nights, I will continue to fight for and I hope you do to.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and peace and joy be with you!