Sunday, October 21, 2007

a quieter joy

I returned today from a weekend away at a conference all about Joy. It was an interesting time, and not quite the mountaintop experience I had hoped for, but lovely all the same. The retreat center is in the woods, and I enjoyed a walk around the lake, sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, watching turtles swim, a night sky filled with stars, and a spiderweb glistening in the moonlight. Oh, and sharing a room with an unknown critter that I saw scurry underneath the couch. Excellent.

As I said, it wasn't a life changing weekend. I neither wept from the release of age old burdens nor leaped with a new uncontainable joy.

It's very easy for me to go to these sort of things and sit back and critique. I have been to several, and have helped run several, and I am a woman of strong opinions. I help plan worship at my church, organize the vacation bible school, and lead a small group bible study. I was a camp counselor, a camp program director, and have served on a committee that planned a youth gathering. I know what goes in to creating these kinds of events. I have seen great things happen at them, yet I am not easily enchanted by the "special things" they have planned.

For a good part of this weekend, I was unable to turn that inner "watcher" off as I watched tech problems and scheduling problems, inconsistencies and and failed communication, lackluster presenters and weak content. I'm a pretty outgoing person (surprised?), willing to strike up conversations with strangers and be one of the first people to speak in a group setting, and yet often found myself lonely and feeling out of place. There was a lot of awkward silence. I went to the weekend hoping for more than what I saw, and began to be disappointed.

And yet...

I watched other women slowly open up. I saw them walk taller after we nailed our burdens to the cross. I saw them go from standing awkwardly to singing. I watched them cry and laugh and dance. And I realized that it is not all about me. It's not all about my experience, my joy, my increasing faith.

Of course, as I began to realize this, as I began to accept that I wasn't likely to come away a changed person, some things did change. I stopped expecting perfection, and instead watched the proceedings around me with love and grace. I saw people with hearts full and hands ready to help. I saw tears dried and hugs given and love shared.

I left calm and happy, and ready to go home.

At my door I was greeted by The May Queen, who flung herself into my arms for a full body hug. As she sat in my lap and my husband watched football and we made plans to bake cookies I felt joyful. More joyful than I did at the conference, where I expected to practically explode with joy. Yet I realized that on Friday afternoon, I would not have felt that joy sitting there. On Friday afternoon I was snippy and tired and short on patience. My husband and my daughter were not bringing me joy.

And so my weekend away did bring me joy, in a quieter and less expected way. I was able to return home, to the every day, and find the joy.

And that is just as important as any mountaintop experience.

24 comments:

Victoria said...

"I was able to return home, to the every day, and find the joy."

So true. I'm glad a little break did you good. We all need it now and again.

Have a great week.

slouching mom said...

I wish I could bottle that feeling of walking in to greet my family after having spent some time away.

It fades too fast, sadly.

I'm glad that you got to experience it this weekend.

crazymumma said...

I know. embracing the mild chaos of return and saying yes to it is the joy.

but sometimes a mountaintop retreat is a little more peaceful.

Rimarama said...

I'm glad to hear you came away from your weekend with some joy, after all. It's good to be able to have that kind of perspective. PM, you always inspire me to see the glass as half full!

But how did you get any rest knowing there was a critter under the couch? Egads!

jen said...

when i was young everything needed to be a peak experience...and now, the quieter joys, the softer sides...it all means quite a bit. more, perhaps, in it's staying and authenticity.

Karen said...

I ran into a verse from Galations, we are called to be free...to serve one another. There is some freedom in my faith not meaning that I have to be happy-content person all the time - because that's not me, and if it were, I'd not recognize myself. Glad you had some joy!

Kathryn said...

It is so difficult to find joy in everyday life, and yet so critical. You can not be angry, resentful, bitter, or grumpy if you can experience true joy.

It is nice to get away once and a while just to remind you how wonderful home really is. Glad you found your joy. :)

Jen M. said...

I'm so glad your joy is at home.

I would love to go to a retreat like that!!!

Family Adventure said...

It's all about perspective and expectations, isn't it?

I'm so glad you were able to see that when you came home to your family!

- Heidi :)

Mary Alice said...

"I stopped expecting perfection, and instead watched the proceedings around me with love and grace."

Now if I can just work on this a little more - when dealing with my own family situations! (Like when people have cleaned out their room - yea - but then left an enormous pile of unexpected laundry in the cellar- boo)

Amanda said...

What a beautiful revelation. Here's to finding joy off of the mountain.

niobe said...

So interesting to read this. I wonder what it was about the retreat that had such an effect on others.

WorksForMom said...

Now THAT sounds like the best revelation of them all. Joy at home.

Chaotic Joy said...

I used to live from mountaintop to mountaintop, and it's a frustrating, often disappointing lifestyle. God is slowly teaching me that true joy comes from finding contentment and appreciation in the moments of our lives. I see you found some of that. I am so glad you were refreshed.

Jennifer said...

Quiet joy is more difficult to attain than the mountain top experiences, I have come to realize. And it is so valuable, I have come to realize. How wonderful for you, to find it tucked away at home.

Magpie said...

it's the Wizard of Oz, right in your own home.

nomotherearth said...

I'm a strong proponent of "absence makes the heart grow fonder". It always give me for perspective, whether it's for an hour or a day.

Furrow said...

That can be an interesting jolt: to take yourself out of the equation and really notice the effect an experience has on others.

And that feeling of being disenchanted because you know what goes on behind the scenes -- as an actress, do you often feel that when you watch performances, too? Can you still be carried away?

SusieJ said...

Hmmmm. It is so hard for me to get free and find time to get away for a retreat. I went to one once, and it was so horrible, and so awful, and my hopes were so deflated. I will never go again; unless I have time to spare on my hands. The homecoming was the best, as yours.

flutter said...

Oh my god, how beautiful

Christine said...

you are amazing-- to appreciate and share the joy of others. to appreciate the joy home brings to your life.

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

Lovely post!

b*babbler said...

A lovely post!

I increasingly find that it is no the break itself that does my heart good, but the renewed sense of discovery that the Peanut and I have in one another after some time apart.

Emily said...

What a thought-provoking post...