Sounding joy: In search of joy
I didn’t grow up in a happy family. Joy was not something I naturally searched for. I was searching for peace and calm in the chaos. I think the first time I experienced true, uncomplicated joy was the day our son Leo was born. After three and a half years of trying and failing, round after round of IVF, and approximately $100,000, our boy arrived. He was beautiful and perfect, and I was overwhelmed by joy.
Because we had done IVF, we had a photo of our son as a five-day-old embryo. As a nurse, I have an excellent understanding of biology but even I was amazed by the miracle of pregnancy. I remember thinking, “how could people who conceived a child not believe in God because everything about pregnancy was unbelievable.” How my child went from a five-day embryo to a fully formed infant was indeed miraculous.
At 26 months, our son was diagnosed autistic. That initial diagnosis dimmed our joy. We were overwhelmed and scared. It was like suddenly discovering that our son only spoke and understood Spanish while we were speaking English. As he grew and we learned more, we were able to find the joy in autism too. We often describe autism as the gift we didn’t know we wanted or needed.
Leo is non-speaking but anyone who knows him knows that he is an excellent communicator. Sometimes I think he is better than most speaking people. He is direct and deliberate and doesn’t have time for fluff and filler. Leo only does things that bring him joy and if it doesn’t, he isn’t interested. He does not bend to guilt trips or do things just because everyone else is doing it. Joy is his motivator for every decision he makes.
I think that is what God wants for all of us, to be motivated by joy. Sure, no one wants to stand in line at the DMV but while we’re doing that, we can remember to be joyous. To be grateful that we have a car and the money to pay for our registration. We often root our joy in our circumstances. When things are going well, joy is easy to find. Leo has taught me to look for the joy in all things. I’m not always successful but I keep trying. While I was running late this morning on my way to a meeting, I reminded myself that I’m healthy and able to make it to that meeting. That once I get there, I will be with people who bring me joy.
Joy is what I have learned from Leo and as my Grandma Alice used to say, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (which is probably in the Bible but I like giving Grandma Alice credit). I do feel stronger when I am joyous. It helps me to better understand the world around me and to remember that I am loved. That is joy that never fades.
Teri is the mother to Leo, granddaughter of Alice, and Child of God. Teri lives in Bettendorf with her wife, Kristina and son, Leo.