Every year when our church celebrates Epiphany, the ushers stand at the front of the church holding baskets filled with little slips of paper. On each brightly-coloured paper is a word, a gift that God wants to give each of us that year. Before the words are drawn by the members of the community, they have been prayed over by our pastor, asking that we will be guided to draw that word which will show us what God wants to give us, or a word that shows us how He wants us to grow.
My word for 2013 was happiness. I laughed a little when I read it, then teared up a little, and finally just said, “I’ll take it.”
A little history:
2012 was not a good year for me. (2011 wasn’t exactly sunshine and rainbows either, but let’s just talk about last year for now.) 2012 is going down in history as a year of loss for me. In February, I started to lose my hair, and my the middle of May I’d been forced to shave what was left in hopes of starting over.
In July I lost my maternal grandmother, a woman I’d been extremely close with through my entire life. I was her first grandchild, and my Princess was her first great-grandchild. Baby Belle was given my Nana’s name as her second name, in honour of a woman who taught me so much about loving and leading a family.
Then in December, I miscarried at 11 weeks. We were crushed. Much like the loss of my hair, this loss really struck me as a woman. I felt like an utter failure as a mother, and I mourned the loss of our baby very deeply. We named him Thomas.
So when I pulled happiness from the basket, I was relieved. I thought that was God’s way of letting me know I was in for an easier, happier year.
And now we’re nearing the end of June, and already I’ve begun to lose my hair again, I lost an aunt and wasn’t able to travel to be at home for the funeral, and – by far the worst – my closest friend recently lost her two-year-old in a tragic accident. Once again, it feels like my year is being defined by loss after loss.
So where is my happiness in all of this? When do I get the easy-breezy, carefree happiness I thought I was promised on Epiphany?
Oh, it’s there. The happiness, that is, not the easy-breezy part. The grief and the sadness threaten to swallow it at times, eclipse it at others. Those dark emotions are the proverbial squeaky wheels. They demand attention, they cloud my vision, impair my judgment, and threaten to drag me down.
But the happiness will not be defeated. My happiness comes from above, from Him who created me. I delight in my beautiful children, who teach me daily to have even more trust and reckless abandon in the arms of my God. I am happy with my husband, who serves our family so selflessly, a glimpse of what Mary’s life with St. Joseph must have been like. I am happy to be held up and supported by family and incredible friends who share love and encouragement at every opportunity. I am happy in our home, living out my childhood “dream job”.
I suppose instead of the happiness just coming easily, the gift I’ve been given is instead the ability to find the happiness. To search for and cling to those threads of happiness that wind their way through my days, through the mundane and even tragic. The happiness isn’t as loud or as feisty as the sorrow, but it’s bigger. It’s brighter. I clutch it tightly to my breast. It sustains me and moves me forward. Thank you, Jesus!