I have a new book to read, given to me by my new friend, Joyce, who is the wife of the book’s author. It is The Joy Factor by Jep Hostetler. When I heard his name, I said to my friend, “Shouldn’t that be Jeb?”, as though his parents had made some mistake or they had written the name incorrectly on the plaque that sits outside the door of their house. Joyce told me that the name can be found in the scriptures. I thought to tell my son and his wife who have selected all biblical names for their children. Then I remembered that they always choose names with an “a” or “ah” at the end. A name like Jep would have to be changed to Jepah. (Yikes, I am having a Dorothy Jeub moment)*
Jep wrote in my book. “Judy – Joy is a Choice”. He told me that his little book just under 100 pages is light suggesting that I wouldn’t find it to be a deep or scholarly dissertation. In my opinion, simple often turns out to be the deepest of all, but we shall see.
I read only the introduction so far which gives a framework for the rest of the book. In it, he draws a distinction between happiness and joy that I’d like to share: “Happiness is circumstantial, temporal, fleeting,” he writes. “Happiness involves the congruence of good things in our lives: health, shelter, food, good relationships, success, and children who behave.” On the other hand, he writes that “Joy is spiritual depth and self-awareness. Joy is like a deep, wide, slow-moving, sparkling river. You can be on a river of joy in a boat full of sorrow.”
I am reading another book which I told you about the other day, Eaarth by Bill McKibben. As I suspected, it begins with a pretty grim picture of the state of the earth as a result of global warming. I will finish the book because it is the selection of the spirituality book club to which I belong. This morning, I think of the gift of this book on joy. God’s timing is amazing. It seems that these two are meant to come together in some way. As I prayed this morning, I thought of the words of Jesus, “Be not afraid.” It is difficult to hear the truth when it is dire, whether it is due to some cosmic reality or to a personal reality like learning that one has a fatal disease. Jep writes, “Joy is a choice.”
This has been a stormy year for our family with many days of sorrow. But my daughter is coming from Arizona and she and her daughter will be with us and her sisters over Christmas for the first time in 13 years. There are lots of plans being made related to food and fun activities. There is a fire in the hearth, snow on the ground, and my hibiscus is in bloom. Jep’s poetic description of joy really fills my soul today. I feel the slow-moving water beneath me. For the time being, my boat is dry and steady. If it starts to rock again, I will try to remember “Joy is a Choice.”
(* Dorothy Jeub was my husband’s mother, known for her tendency to go off on tangents when she talked. I sometimes think she possesses me when I write. Most often I edit out my wanderings. For this my readers should be grateful.)