This blog post is part of a series that I began for telling our story. You can read the first post here.

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Longtime readers of this blog will recognize my Monday word. In fact, all of you have seen it here before, in the title of my blog: Blooming Joy. I have written so many posts about this word that I’m not sure I have any words left to share on it. But maybe having new things to say about this word isn’t the point. It’s how we got here in the first place.

Joy first hit me in the face during my residency for my DCE certification. We spent a week on campus taking classes and getting to know each other in our cohort, before spending two years learning together online. Each night we participated in special devotional worship services, some with other folks on campus, some with just our group. One of the nights, we were in the chapel doing some kind of meditative prayer, with repeated chanting throughout. I cannot remember what it was (this was, um, more than ten years ago?), but the word “joy” stuck out. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, and convicted of how much I denied myself joy in my daily life.

Ya’ll, I’m a Midwestern, Lutheran, German-heritage girl. We don’t emote. We don’t get too excited. Raising hands in worship or even swaying to the music is way too flashy for us. I was given the nickname “Grimace” in grade school by some older kids because I had perfected the nasty look already by the age of 10. There’s video evidence of me hiding behind a book and sticking out my tongue when forced to face the camera. Smiling has almost never felt natural to me. That’s why this concept of joy was such a foreign idea. How on earth am I supposed to have joy?

Well, for one, God gives it to us. Back in 2013, I attempted to blog about the “joy” verses in the Bible. I ended up bailing because halfway through I was mired deep into similar sounding passages and had nothing new to say about them. But here’s the thing: there are 495 places in the Bible where either “joy” or “rejoice” or some form of those words get used. 495! That’s more than one per day for an entire year.

Here’s another reason: it’s in that Galatians passage I shared yesterday about the fruit of the Spirit. That list is given after a list of all of the things that are born out of sin, from Satan. It says, “BUT the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY…” So joy is #2 on the list, and is one of the fruits of our faith life, one of the ways we express who we are in Jesus Christ. Seems pretty clear that it’s a non-negotiable.

I finished that evening devotional worship face-down on the floor in tears. It was healing and humbling, restoring and reverent. God knocked me down to pick me back up again, and in so doing, He reminded me that joy is a gift that He gives to me. I was pushing that gift away, and from that day on, I have tried my best to embrace it.

I still don’t smile easily. But I’ve learned through the years that joy and happiness are not the same thing. But that’s more for another day…

Next post coming tomorrow.