Generations of Joyfulness

Joyfulness is maintaining a good attitude, even when faced with unpleasant conditions.

I have learned most of my life lessons on joyfulness from my 90-year old grandmother, Esther, and from my three-year old daughter, Essie Grace. Grandma Esther often refers to the apostle Paul and the persecutions he experienced, yet he always remained joyful.  Grandma unexpectedly became a widow at 55, which is about the same time she started raising my brother and me – he was nine and I was eight years old. After that, she also raised my younger sister and my much younger brother. I have never heard my grandmother complain about anything. She doesn’t complain about her health; if someone asks her how she is doing, she always replies, “I am mean, ornery and hateful.” She doesn’t complain about the weather. In fact, I was whining about the 112-degree heat the other day and she responded, “Oh honey, I have heard of a place that is hotter.”

She doesn’t complain about the price of gas and she certainly never complained about having to raise children who were not hers. I am so thankful for the sacrifices she made throughout the years, and when I tell her how much I appreciate her and that I don’t know what we would have done without her, she responds with this: “Oh fiddlesticks, honey, I don’t know what I would have done without you kids; you gave me a reason to wake up every morning.” This is a true example of joy, which is internal, regardless of circumstances which are external.

My grandma did not have time to grieve over the loss of her husband. She went from being a grandmother to finding a job that would support her grandchildren and still allow flexibilility to get us to little league games, softball games, church camp, and whatever activity we were involved in. She did this off and on for 20 years, until my youngest brother graduated from high school. I don’t think my grandmother expected to be widowed at 55 or to raise four grandchildren, but she did it with grace. And maybe it was us, her grandchildren, who gave her a purpose, and in turn, joy, something she might have had to search for had we not been there.

We named my youngest daughter Essie Grace, after Grandma Esther. I often tell Essie that I should have named her Joy because she brings me joy every single day. She is by far my most difficult child (I have four). She is sassy, sometimes obstinate, and most of the time ornery. She is the child that, when she walks out of the room, my husband and I look at each other and shake our heads. I know that we will be tested over and over and learn lessons of patience. However, she is also the child that has taught me how to relax even on the tough days: when we are out of milk, when we have forgotten a backpack or—even worse—when we didn’t let her eat a pickle for breakfast. Perhaps she is my lesson in joy—my reminder that, regardless of circumstances, everything is going to be OK – we can be joyful.

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