That’s what this fellowship is all about.
I encountered the true significance of joy for the first last summer at Jacob’s Ladder in Jamaica. I wrote this in a previous blog post:
Service is about joy, even in the hard places. One of the residents, Joy, was not able to speak and honestly I am not sure if she could hear. But by the grace of God, I felt closer to her than any of the other residents by the end of the week. I would sit with her for extended periods of time and she would fall asleep petting my hand or arm. I did not feel overwhelming sympathy for Joy. I do not think she would want that. I feel an overpowering love for this woman and her name is no surprise. God wants us to feel true joy, and I believe we felt that together. In service, no matter how much darkness is on the surface, His light shines in joy of the less apparent things. His light was constantly shining in Joy that week.
This lovely lady’s name is Joy and she really left a mark on my heart. I haven’t thought about faith in the same way since. The Lord wants us to be happy. He wants us to celebrate. He wants us to find joy in Him. In love, in friendship, in laughter. But also in sacrifice, in the hard places. The way we can find joy in these things is through faith, relying on Him.
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” (John 15:9-17)
God invites all of us to experience joy. I am reading Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel right now (I started it last summer if that tells you anything about me) in which he clearly states, “The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.” Further, the Gospel is more than a message of love. It is a story of love in action. Authentic love, sacrificial love, unconditional love. Love that we should aim to imitate.
Throughout the past few weeks here in Sydney, I have come to know joy in new ways. I experience joy every second I spend with my 9 boys at St. Lucy’s. First of all, their joy is contagious. If one of them is excited, whether they accomplish something new or simply hear a sound they really like, I can feel his joy. When one grabs my hand, I can’t help but smile. When they share their talents in their drum show, I feel joy. When they listen to what I say the first time, I rejoice (although that doesn’t happen very often). When I am at St. Lucy’s, I experience unconceivable joy and authentic peace simultaneously. While that seems contradictory, there is nothing quite like it. I can be standing in the middle of the classroom, see each of the boys in his own little world climbing things, yelling things, and touching things, but at the same time I think about the love they are encountering, the education they are receiving, and the resources they are using.
The students are so blessed. They are being cared for in a way that upholds the dignity God instilled within each one of them. So when I am at school, my joy is visible in smiles around the boys. When I am on the train home, I feel drained and look exhausted after a long day with these wonderful but extremely challenging kiddos; however, the joy is still there. I am full of joy at the mere fact I have this opportunity to learn and love in new ways in new places with new people. Even more generally, I am full of joy knowing our Creator did all this for you and me and has plans for us that we cannot even imagine. His pure goodness is a reason to rejoice. He is good when everything is going right and He is good even when everything seems to be going wrong.
The service I am doing on this fellowship is the biggest source of joy for me right now, but I am so incredibly happy adventuring around Australia. Sight seeing in Sydney and hiking the Blue Mountains leave me breathless with overwhelming gratitude. Crossing Sydney Harbor on the train every day is a blessing in itself. When we hiked past waterfalls, I couldn’t help but go into my weird reflective state of how much beauty was around me and how God is literally present everywhere and the symbolism of water and all that fun stuff (I will have a whole blog post dedicated to water and my strange love/fascination/obsession with it). See, I made Adrianna climb a rock to take a picture of me standing on the edge of this cliff over the waterfalls. Pretty sure she almost had a heart attack, but LOOK AT THIS VIEW!
Adrianna Perry is another source of joy. My experience would be nothing like it is without her. She is always down to explore with me, encourages my love for good food and coffee, and is inspiring to watch at St. Lucy’s. So thanks, love.
“God loves a cheerful giver. The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is a normal result of a heart burning with love. Joy is strength.” -St. Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa is my girl. If I could spend a day with one person alive or dead, it would be her. She is my inspiration, role model, all those things. To me, she exemplifies what it means to be Catholic. She lived the Gospel. In even the darkest of times, she did everything with love. Lately I’ve been reflecting on this quote. Accept everything with joy. The blessings and the hard tasks. You know, the mundane, challenging, frustrating tasks. Take it with joy. The people you don’t like? Love them, pray for them – with joy. These are things I am working on. When I am at St. Lucy’s it is becoming easier and easier to say yes to everything with a smile. We have to avoid being pessimistic, losing faith, and feeling discouraged. While it may be easier said than done in our competitive, individualistic society, it is possible. He calls us to rise above the selfishness, competitiveness, and judgement. Sure, He asks a lot of us. But he also gives us so much. We have countless reasons to rejoice. And he wants us to rejoice always, to celebrate every small victory. He calls us all to be missionaries where we are. We are all called to evangelize. More simply, we are all called to love like Jesus does and to share our joy with others. That is the joy of the Gospel. So, love one another. You will find joy there.
I feel blessed beyond words to be able to say, “I am here” in Sydney. I have so much to look forward to in the remainder of my fellowship. I am so excited to experience joy even more fully in the Solomon Islands. I will be leaving for the Solomons in less than 2 weeks, and I know I will be challenged spiritually, mentally, and physically. This is something my heart has been calling out for and I am so grateful for this opportunity to grow in my faith in such vastly different places halfway across the world.
Love yall. Miss you people in the states thanks for reading my rambling thoughts xoxo