the Traveling Writing Room

Joy, an illusive butterfly

Doesn’t Atticus look like he’s begging me to go jump in the lake?

This will be quick. It’s 5:30 pm on Thursday. I am camping near the shores of Lake Michigan and it is 97 degrees as I write this. Do you know where Lake Michigan is? Well, it’s not Texas if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m in Wisconsin, people, and Towanda, my brave Traveling Writing Room, is pumping out cool air the best she can. Bless her. Got here about three hours ago. We drove in, backed up, plugged in and haven’t ventured out since. I will have no excuse not to write at least 12,000 words in the next few days. Wish me luck.

I brought two books with me, both of which I’ve read before. They’re written by C.S. Lewis and, take it from me, this storyteller’s books are worth reading many times over. C.S. Lewis’ pursuit and understanding of Joy prompted much of his writing. Listen to this…

“In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else… than that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable that any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”

You might want to read that quote a couple of times to get it. That’s the only way I know how to read any of Lewis’ books and make sense of them. Read. Ponder. Reread. So, Joy. Since my husband’s death eight and a-half years ago, I’ve been trying to recapture those moments of unexpected Joy, the serendipitous gift of Joy, which I never deserved in the first place, yet was given it all the same. I’ve been like a horse with the bit in its mouth refusing to relent until it’s safely back in the barn munching on the most delectable hay. But I can’t get there. Forcing it doesn’t work. Is C.S. Lewis right, that “Joy is never in our power?” Is Joy only gifted never earned?

In my case, it seems so. So, what to do? I am praying that God will show me how to live purposeful whether Joy comes or not; How to love beyond my capabilities; How to not take my days for granted; How to see those people around me as wearing flesh and have beating hearts and not see them as bones in my way. How unforgiveable that would be, don’t you think? Somedays are easier than others. Going back to C.S. Lewis, I’m beginning to think that Joy tastes like his Narnia-eques Turkish Delight, once tasted, nothing is ever the same again. Notice I didn’t say, ‘Nothing is ever worthwhile again.’ Oh, to be content and allow God to be God.

I just checked the temperature again. It’s 6:30 p.m. and it’s 95 degrees. God bless Towanda and her twenty-four-year-old air conditioner!




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