When a nurse calls early and says she has the results of the chest x-ray, I’m standing in the kitchen.
A kitchen of muffin tins and cracked eggs and two frying pans and the bacon already gone.
She puts me on hold to get the file.
I scratch away at the glass splattered stovetop with a razor, as if there’s this way — this way to cut things right down to the bone.
The nurse gets back on the phone and talks about those x-rays I had over the weekend and I’m wondering why in the world getting breakfast for three starving teenagers, two bottomless boys and a curly-haired tomboy, and a hard-working Dutch farmer, leaves one kitchen looking like something eggy and oiled exploded volcanic?
This stovetop is going to need more than a razor.
“But your doctor looked at them this morning and it look’s like, from your chest x-rays…”
Who let porridge crust like a fossil formation to the side of the counter? And why pile plates in the sink like these sticky skeletal remains?
“It looks like you have pneumonia.”
And I stop… look up and out the window. Look out across the weedy tomatoes. Out to the corn leaves all chaffing in the wind.
If the joy of the Lord is my strength — if the joy of the Lord is my strength, the oxygen that keeps me standing —
why do I deprive myself of joy’s oxygen?
“Why deprive myself of joy’s oxygen?
The swiftness and starkness of the answer startle.
Because you believe in the power of the pit.
Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love?
That Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way? Why else get angry?
Is it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me up into the full life I really want?
When I choose — and it is a choice — to crush joy with bitterness, am I not purposefully choosing to take the way of the Prince of Darkness?
Choosing the angry way of Lucifer because I think it is more effective — more expedient— than giving thanks? than living joy?”
My chest hurts.
Braced against the counter, I hack-cough like I’m hoping something in me might break — like the hardest places.
“So your doctor would like if …” I cradle the phone, stack the dirty bowls so I can fill the sink with hot water.
Cynicism isn’t strength and ranting doesn’t rejuvenate and frustration can never accomplish what Faith can.
Does my life testify to my belief in the power of complaint — or the power of Christ?
“The doctor would like if he could get this turned around for good this time….”
And I’m nodding…. it’s so time to be well.
If neither height nor depth nor death nor anything in heaven or earth can separate me from the love of God — surely neither can messy bedrooms or dirty sinks or loud kids or ugly days separate me from the joy of the Lord.
Really — if nothing can separate me from the Love of the Lord — can anything separate me from the Joy of the Lord? Breathe.
“So the doctor’s set up a treatment plan for you….”
And the cough gives way to this happy relief…. I can feel it — A smile is where the first strong surrender to His will and His joy begins.
Why let anything steal your joy?
If the Joy of the Lord is my strength, then why let anything steal my strength?
The Joy of the Lord is our strength — and anger leaves everyone weak.
The corn out the window — the chaffing of the leaves, it could be strings of something like a song. And the clattering of plates, it could be a chorus, the water running — and why not laugh and why not breathe? Why let the naysayers say there’s not enough reasons to enjoy right now?
I wash dishes. Scrape off the stove. Go fill a prescription. Change the laundry. Read aloud to the kids. Hack-Cough. Heave. Straighten. Step over the mess. Breathe. Smile.
Let something steal your joy — and you let something steal your strength.
And it comes — the lungs healing, the oxygen filling.
-with love for you by Ann Voskamp
Q4U: What’s stealing your joy right now? Distractions? Fear? Busyness? Stress? Worry? Anger? Is it worth it? What if you tried the Smile Project: Smiling every time you felt something stealing your joy? What’s keeping you from joy right now in your life? How could that change?
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