So here's the rundown. Wednesday, April 29, 2015 was exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary. So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage. I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years. Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15. I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update. So be looking for these weekly entries.
I always saw JOY as happiness. That was kind of the definition that I toted around for many many years. It was more than just average happiness - like a bigger version. Even the dictionary definition is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” But I don’t think that is really accurate either. It seems too simple.
I would offer a different definition for JOY. I think it includes happiness for sure. But it also includes peace and contentment and completeness. It is like like a need you didn’t know you had was satisfied in a pleasing and wonderful way. I am not sure I really had experienced JOY many times as a younger person. It is a more complex emotion. I mean, I’ve been happy a bunch of times. When I got my Dallas Cowboys Tonka Truck in 1st grade for Christmas, I was happy. When my parents surprised me with a Sony Discman for my car in high school, I was very happy. When I eat Pizzeria Uno or Four Rivers BBQ I am happy. But none of those things really would be bringing JOY.
I don’t think I really began to understand what JOY was until I married Heather. That isn’t some ooey gooey sappy statement. It is true. And it wasn’t because I immediately had a ton of JOY for being married. But I was married to a person who was very JOYFUL. And that is where the difference between being happy and being JOYFUL becomes more clear. Heather is not some always grinning, simplistic, happy go lucky person. But she brings JOY wherever she goes.
I have never met someone that doesn’t like Heather. I’m serious. Why would anyone not like her? I know a whole truckload of people who absolutely adore Heather. That is the prevailing opinion I get from fifteen years of talking to people about my wife. Heather brightens any room she walks into. She leaves an very positive impression on people. This is why patients love her, attending doctors love her, co-workers love her, friends love her, family members love her. You can’t help but love a person like that. When I show up somewhere with the kids and Heather isn’t there (due to work), people always get this disappointed look and ask, “Oh, where’s Heather.” It happened last week when I went to see my family in West Palm Beach. When they found out we were coming back in October, that wasn’t as good of news as the fact that Heather was coming too.
Heather smells good. (I know that sounds random, but it will make sense in a minute.) I have always been impressed by how she always smells so nice. When Heather is getting ready in the morning, our bathroom smells like her body wash and spray. But that smell soon drifts into our bedroom and then into the kitchen and living room. Heather’s schedule is always changing at work. So sometimes she will not need to get up and ready until after I am driving the kids to school. I love coming back into the house and smelling Winter Candy Apple as soon as I get in the door. That is lot like the impact Heather makes in her world. She exudes JOY and love and it affects everyone around her.
I don’t begrudge all of these good feelings about my wife. I completely understand. We all feel the same way at our house. The kids are happier when she is home. The dogs lose their minds when she drives up at the end of the day. They will hear the car engine as it enters the driveway. It doesn’t matter what they were doing - even if it was snuggling someone else on the couch - they will leap up and run to the door. By the time the alarm beeps, Minnie is scratching and the door like a crazy person. Katie is standing there with her tail violently wagging. When Heather comes in, they assault her and jump all over until she snuggles them. This doesn’t happen when I get home or the kids get home. Just Heather.
You know those people who you just want to be around? That’s Heather. And that is because of the JOY in her. I have been fortunate enough to experience that JOYFUL person for fifteen years now - actually for seventeen years. Even before we were dating, I felt the pull to this person. I wanted her at church events. Part of that was because I thought she was cute. But it also was because she made every room brighter and every gathering better. She isn’t a dance-on-the-table center-of-attention type of person. But she is one of those people that you want around. She brings a sense of peace and calm to her world. That is why she is such a good doctor.
I remember distinctly one time I recognized JOY in myself. It was before we moved to Tallahassee. I was driving home from work in the evening. I had taught my Bible class earlier at International Community School. Then I raced over to the Apple Store for my evening shift. Then I drove back across town to our apartment. I was dead tired. But I felt so happy and so fulfilled at that point. I loved my jobs (I was working four different part-time jobs). I loved my family. I just felt happy and content and complete. That isn’t to say that was the only time that I have felt that. But it may have been the first time I really grasped what it felt like. It was what Inside Out called a Core Memory. I “got” JOY. I know I have felt it again since then. That time just really resonates with me as when I discovered JOY for myself. I wasn’t just watching it through the lives of other people, like my wife. I finally understood.