Surprised by Joy

I have a thing about Seattle. I avoid it. Traffic, congestion, noise. Crowds. Gag me. But there are times when I can’t avoid the Emerald City. Like when Snuggle Bunny has an appointment at the V.A. For stuff like Dermatology, his only option is a 200+ mile RT drive to Seattle.

This particular day was full of surprises.

I grumbled about “wasting” a Monday in Seattle. Frankly, spending a whole day in crowded, cranky Seattle ranks right up there with having a root canal without Novocain. But sometimes you just gotta do what ya gotta do.

Perusing my book shelf to fortify myself with something to read while I waited in the South Wing of the V.A., I snagged a book I’d already read. Like, a couple decades ago. But any book by Max Lucado is a book worth re-reading. So I grabbed The Applause of Heaven as we dashed out the door en route to cranky, crabby Seattle.

Know what? Opening those pages for the first time in over two decades was like re-connecting with an old friend. I suddenly remembered why Lucado is a long-time favorite. A prodigious writing talent, Max’s style is fresh and pungent, brimming with insight and a dash of humor.

At the V.A., I opened the book for the first time since 1996. There on the fly leaf was surprise number one.

The copy of The Applause of Heaven wasn’t just any copy you could pull of a bookstore or library shelf. Or order from Amazon. There, in crisp black ink was the evidence of something special. Something I’d forgotten. Something that made me smile:

I knew that Max Lucado pastors a church in San Antonio, TX. “Funny,” I thought as Snugs checked in for his dermatology appointment. “I don’t remember ever meeting Max. How in the world did I get a book with his signature?” I scratched my head. “I’m sure I would’ve remembered meeting Max Lucado.”

Outside, a small miracle took place. Gallons of sunshine poured through the windows. A fresh spring breeze danced a tango as rhododendrons hugged a fence like a neon sign.

Sunshine in Seattle? In April. Will wonders never cease?

Inside, on a black plastic chair in the derm waiting room, I turned the page for another surprise:

The handwritten note is from long-time San Antonio friends.

While Snugs was getting a clean bill of health from his “Derm guy,” I finished about half the book. I remembered why I loved it.

Suddenly, Seattle didn’t seem so bad. A strong sun beat against the windows. Temperatures tickled the low 70s.

Then I remembered how a blogger recently contacted me for an interview regarding overcoming personal adversity. She wanted to hear my story about how I chose joy related to my battle with Micronodular Basal Cell Carcinoma (skin cancer). During the interview, Miriam noted that her daughter’s name is Joy. I said, “I’ve learned a lot on this journey and continue to learn. Whether you are facing a health issue or any other challenge, I’m leaning that joy is a choice! We can’t always control our circumstances. But we can choose how we react to them.”

The main thesis of Max’s book? Sacred delight derives from stubborn joy.

A fresh look at the Beatitudes, The Applause of Heaven opens with:

Think about God’s joy. What can cloud it? What can quench it? What can kill it? … his joy is a joy which consequences cannot quench. His is a peace which circumstances cannot steal.

There is a delicious gladness that comes from God. A holy joy. A sacred delight.

And it’s within your reach. You are one decision away form Joy.” (p. 111)

During my interview with Miriam, I recalled a favorite Lucado quote: “If God had a fridge, your face would be on his fridge magnet.”

Little did I know that I would be meeting my favorite author again on the same subject less than a week later.

Driving home from Seattle on Monday, an epiphany struck. My latest book is The Small Things: What ‘The Waltons’ Taught Me About Writing & More. At its core, The Small Things is about joy. I didn’t even realize that while I was writing it. But now that I think about it, there it is.

Talk about wonders never ceasing.

Lucado closes out The Applause of Heaven on a resounding note of joy. Sounding a high and clear tune as his plane nears San Antonio and home, Max gently reminds us about the sweetest joy of all:

You may not have noticed it, but you are closer to home than ever before. Each moment is a step taken. Each breath is a page turned. Each day is a mile marked, a mountain climbed. You are closer to home than you’ve ever been.

Before you know it, your appointed arrival time will come; you’ll descend the ramp and enter the City.

You’ll see faces that are waiting for you. You’ll hear your name spoken by those who love you. And, maybe, just maybe – in the back, behind the crowds – the One who would rather die than live without you will remove his pierced hands from his heavenly robe and… applaud.

I can’t wait.

How are you choosing joy today?

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