"Sometimes you have to poke holes in the darkness until it bleeds light."
-Margaret Feinberg, Fight Back with Joy
As many of you know, 2014 was the hardest year of my life. This is almost comical since I began 2014 with an endeavor to finish my first book- a book about the pathway to new life in the face of what I assumed had already been the hardest year of my life. Boy was I wrong. The thefts, fire and subsequent near bankruptcy in 2010 that left my husband and I, and our band, Addison Road, unable to move forward in our music and ministry was nothing compared to this past year.
2014. A year where my Mamaw stared at me and asked me who I was and why I was in her bedroom and my heart crumpled. A year where my grandpa's legs slowly decayed while his mind, spirit and heart only fought harder to love us well before he died. A year where my baby sister announced she was having identical, twin girls, Maggie and Ellen. And the year that we buried them. 26 weeks old, fully-formed and more beloved than we could have ever dreamed. There was also the whole: Ryan's complicated back surgery, our rental home being condemned with black mold, my diagnosis with asthma, the unexpected death of a precious friend and the paperwork that came through and finally confirmed what I had known for a while (but refused to believe) that I had lost my record deal and publishing contract of over eight years.
It was the most painful year. By Thanksgiving my mom announced that if anything else bad happened in the family, she would be bringing a priest to the house to start performing general exorcisms on all of us. Just in case. My friend Matt suggested the same thing in jest, "Maybe you guys have generational curses?" My friend Missy said, "You are not moving into a new house until we all come out and pray over it. Seriously. Just in case." And when I asked my soul-therapist, Al, if we were cursed he answered by saying "You know it seems to me your family just gets a little more than it's fair share of crazy." 2014 was bitter, hard, gritty, painful and often downright unbearable.
And in the same breath- in the most unexpected, unexplainable, un-cliche way I can possibly muster- there was joy. Deep, abiding, nonsensical, powerful JOY. At the park, around the table, moments after the babies died, at the funerals, in the hotel rooms, long car rides, hospital rooms, driving Annie to school, watching the birds out my window, deep down in my soul after all my cussing diatribes and foolish I-give-up-on-living temper tantrums... there was joy unexplainable.
I didn't have the words for it then, but I do now, because a woman I so love and admire finally penned them during her own season of unbearable pain. "More than whimsy," Margaret Feinberg says in her new book Fight Back with Joy, "Joy is a weapon we can use to fight life's battles."
Joy... a weapon? Absolutely. Not the fluffy, easily thrown about sentiments that we Christians are so polished in handing out. The "Everything is wonderful! God is good all the time- all the time God is good! Oh, this ole' cancer? These ole' babies dying? Just be happy-God's got it!" While pithy statements may feel nice to say in the moment of suffering- they oversimplify the fight for "honest, real, gritty, messy and lasting joy—the one that people rarely talk about." Joy in the midst of suffering looks less like camp chants and more like this gritty, messy, honest joy that Margaret Feinberg describes from the over 400 references of joy found in scripture.
The miracle of my 2014? Joy. That joy is possible in the midst of the most dark moments speaks to the heart of our Savior's loving, redemptive nature. It is, as Margaret says, our heritage, purpose and destiny.
"When we fight back with joy, we declare that the darkness does not win," Margaret says, "Joy can change unchangeable circumstances. No matter what your circumstances are, you can practice defiant joy."
Never have I picked up a book and through tears and laughter (by page 5!) said, "YES- this is how I want to live. This is who I want to be. This is how I want to fight back." But this is that book for me. And if you or anyone you love has experienced a year like we did in 2014, I so hope you will get a copy of this book or join with friends over this 6-week bible study written by a fellow fighter and begin to discover how joy is the absolute best weapon we possess in the face of our hardest battles, deepest trenches and darkest moments.
Joy is the sacred jingle of God within you.
Joy emanates out of the abiding sense of God's fierce love for us.
Fight Back with Joy is available on Amazon