Perhaps I am biased, but I have some pretty incredible friends. Within one week after I decided to launch my intentional search for authentic joy, I encountered three beautiful examples of friends rocking the joy quest. Here’s the amazing part: I witnessed all three successes in the same day. And I got so excited to share with you that this blog almost wrote itself.
We’ll start at a wedding. Such occasions are what many consider an obvious source of joy. Love, promises, family, music, food, dancing, the first chapter of two lives joined into one—all were present on Saturday, and warm fuzzies abounded. While I have no aim to downplay the abundant joy of the day, I do want to highlight how my friend, the beautiful bride, refused to let a minor hiccup rob her of said joy.
You see, she was originally planning to hold the reception in an outdoor tent, but the week’s rain and dropping temperatures forced her to find an alternative venue only days before the event. The stress of such logistics would be enough to send many brides off the rails. But not my friend. She, her family and some fabulous colleagues of theirs found, scheduled and decorated a reception venue such that we, as guests, would never have known the different had the original invitation not given it away.
And the bride? Instead of embracing the role of bridezilla, she was all smiles and thanks to those who helped pull off the swap. Not only that, during the reception, she was spouting off reasons why the indoor venue was better—not in a fake I’m-trying-to-convince-myself-that-I-think-this kind of way, but in a genuine it’s-all-good kind of way. To me, the couple’s refusal to let life stuff rob them of their newly wedded bliss was almost as beautiful as the wedding itself.
We graduate now to some friends of mine in a different life stage: newly adoptive parents. Before I share their story, I have to tell you… These two individuals are some of the biggest hearts I have ever met. He is an EMT who cares deeply for every life he touches. She is a certified counselor who has traveled all over the state to help children in tough life situations (to put it lightly). These two were made to guide and to love on a little life.
Watching them fight back against the depression that infertility threatens has been—inspiring is not a big enough word. Patience, fund raising and late September brought them the news that they had been selected as adoptive parents by a woman who would be giving birth in early November. The absolute euphoria that followed enveloped them and everyone around them in its warmth. That joy only grew as my friends shared the news with the world, began preparing for their wee one’s arrival and eventually announced her birth.
Now, the joy story that I want to share with you actually begins after the news, after the birth, after the adoption paperwork. I do not know all the details, and out of respect for all involved, I won’t share all that here. But my friends have been very open that their sweet little girl was admitted to the NICU just days after birth due to complications of her withdrawal syndrome. Together, this sweet family has battled tremors, seizure-risk, extra fussiness, extreme worry and—if that’s not enough—an all out war with insurance approvals (or lack thereof) that has forced them to stay over an hour away from home to give the baby the in-person therapy she needs.
Exhausted from driving, longing for their own beds, beyond concerned for their daughter, over eating out and furious with insurance red tape, they have every right in the world to feel defeated. Their response? A live internet video on Saturday evening showed them holding onto hope; showed them overjoyed to hold their daughter in their arms, loving their little fighter through a battle she has no choice in facing. Their thankfulness overshadows the frustration. While insurance may deny their request to transfer closer to home, no one will be denying them of the joy they have over their little miracle.
The last example in my joy trifecta for this week has us graduating to yet another stage of life: friends of mine who are parents of a toddler. My husband and I had the profound pleasure of catching up with this couple at the wedding on Saturday. We reminisced over how long it had been. We caught up on big life events. We commiserated over the stress of buying new homes and moving everything we own. After some other pleasantries and occasional breaks to witness cake cutting and first dances, conversation got real.
Our friends shared their struggle with recent news and how it can feel like a bleak shadow darkening our days—how they wished there was a “good news” podcast putting a different vibe into the ether. (Hmmm…this sounds familiar…) They shared how difficult communication has gotten in their marriage since having a toddler—how raising their little guy is one of the hardest things they have ever done. They shared how they were grasping for every moment they could to reconnect as a couple—how days will go by when they won’t even have time to ask how the other is doing. They shared how a tree literally fell through their fence only days after it was finished being built.
As they talked through the tough stuff, however, I couldn’t help but notice them sharing the occasional squeeze of hands, reassuring one that the other was still there. I couldn’t help but hear them maintaining hope that good news IS out there and that they would continue to look for it. I couldn’t help but see the absolute radiance come over their faces as they shared what it was like to have their newly speaking toddler say, “I love you, Mommy. I love you, Daddy…” I couldn’t help but be encouraged by their intention to continue going out on dates (like they were that evening) to absorb as much of each other as they could—even if opportunities to do so are sporadic at best. I couldn’t help but celebrate their valiant quest against unrighteous anger at their neighbor despite her hiring contractors who fell a tree in a most inopportune direction.
What joy is mine! To have such friends; to witness such delight overpowering the shadows; and to see this all in the course of one 12-hour period? There is hope. My friends continue to prove it. Daily. I’m glad I’m finally paying more attention! I encourage you to look for the joy that’s surrounding you as well. With that approach, we are bound for happiness.