|taken in Fishtown, Leland MI.|
Are you familiar with the concept of choosing a word-of-the-year? The idea is to pick a word to focus on, mediate on and reflect on it in daily life throughout the year. Or as Ali Edwards so eloquently says, “pinpointing one guiding principle and then walking with that word thought the year.” In January I chose the word Joy.
On the verge of moving and in the midst of countless life changes, joy was perhaps the word I was most seeking. I’ve held tight to that word all year. Particularly, when I’ve doubted our decision to leave friends and family back in Charlotte, I’ve clung to the joy of being able to be a full-time Mom and sought joy in the little moments of life. This word-of-the-year practice has provided reflection on joy in a different way, but for 8 months, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something more to it.
It’s now late August. This past weekend, we stumbled upon the oldest church in Toronto while ambling around the city on a mini-exploration of sorts. The name of the church is St. James. The bells chimed on a Saturday afternoon and James Robert took delight. I was pulled-in by the open doors and intrigued to compare it to the St. James church of my childhood.
It is beautiful. High gothic ceilings and plentiful stained glass. As he took it all in, I saw a smile spread over James Robert’s face; I saw the awe in his eyes. At 2 years old I saw the joy of travel, exploration, and adventure take root. It’s all that I ever hoped I could give him from this experience of moving to Canada. And right in the middle of that church, on a random Saturday, more than half way through the year, it hit me like a ton of bricks- JOY. The force of it took me by surprise.
This word-of-the-year journey was not intended as an exercise in faith, just as our decision to move away from “home” wasn’t intended to be an exercise in faith. But God has a beautiful way of sending you a message when he really wants you to hear it. I got the message loud and clear.
The next day at church, wouldn’t you know it, joy was the topic of the sermon. And as Hymn 474 was sung, it was as if the words were written on my heart. A joyful surprise in the best way:
“The joy of God comes close. Where faith encounters fears, where heights and depths of life are found through smiles and tears. The joy of God is here to stay, embracing those who walk the Way; the joy of God is here to stay.” Hymn 474