by Rachael Skyberg
Merriam-Webster says joy, noun, is defined: a feeling of great happiness. Joy, verb, is defined: to experience great pleasure or delight: REJOICE.
Joy is so much more to me than the Merriam-Webster definition. For me, it runs into the depths of my soul, leaving my spirit fulfilled and hopeful. Joy can always be found if we simply turn our hearts toward God and His will for our lives. I am finding this more and more as I seek Him in church, newfound friends, prayer, and especially in worship. I love music. I don’t sing well but praising God and opening my whole self to Him is the most joy I have ever found. “Look What You’ve Done” by Tasha Layton describes my growth and maturity in God and His will for me. This brings me undeniable joy. God has always been there, ever patiently waiting for me to look and listen and hear Him.
God has been speaking joy into my life more and more in the last two to three years. In 2019, I was living in San Diego, California and woke up one night unable to fall back to sleep. My parents were heavy on my mind and heart. I wrote them a handwritten letter recalling all the ways they brought joy to me in my childhood.
My father always spoke of God as his Daddy, and it left me perplexed. My dad isn’t great at a lot of things, but I had zero doubts in his love for Jesus. He would praise Him with reckless abandonment. I know without a doubt that my father loves God and I hope that I can embody that joy of love for God to my children. My father brought me joy by taking me for runs in the cold, dark, early mornings, when the world was quiet and it was just the sound of our breathing and our feet hitting the ground. Because of my dad, I can truly say I have never hated running.
My mother was a homemaker. It took me many years to know and understand what that truly means. I served in the military for seven years and, upon my leaving the military, I believed that being a stay-at-home mom, or homemaker, wasn’t enough. The things I saw online and interpreted from the world was that I needed to be more and do more. How childish of me to believe these things. I know better now and can see the love and energy my mom poured into me so that I could know joy. My mother taught me to cook home-cooked meals that fill you up and comfort your body and soul. She taught me, intentionally or not, that sitting down together for dinner was important—important to stay connected and important to appreciate the time she was continually giving to us. My mom taught me how to love my children in the little and big ways… with small gifts for every holiday, with hugs that made you feel safe and secure. She read to my brother, and I watched. I preferred reading to myself, but now I read to my children before bedtime. She taught me how to be a homemaker before I even knew I would be one. I am overjoyed that God made her my mother.
My family and I moved to Carriere, Mississippi in January 2020. I woke up unable to fall back asleep. I was crying and thinking about my husband, myself, and our three children. Joy was missing in our lives. Moving to a new city and town, having no friends or family nearby, is difficult. I let my children fill their time with YouTube, games on our inactivated iPhones, and many other distractions. I cried for nearly thirty minutes or more. But the Holy Spirit put on my heart the ways to remedy the turmoil and disconnect. “Weeping only lasts for the night... Joy comes in the morning…” (Psalm 30:5, but I specifically am hearing “Joy Comes in the Morning (Live)” by Church of the City featuring Tasha Layton sing those words) said it perfectly. The next day I felt peace. I began to remove as many external influences as possible from my children, our family, and our home that I was and am supposed to be keeping. I removed televisions from bedrooms, took away Kindles, took away inactivated phones, limited screen time. I deleted apps from my own phone that took time from my husband and our children. I started reading to our younger children at bedtime. I made sure that I and my husband tucked our children in to bed, even our teenager. I was met with a bit of discontent in some of these things, but I watched as there was an immediate improvement in the way our children interacted with my husband and me, as well as with one another. They have bickered with one another less and I have continually watched their brotherly and sisterly bonds grow stronger. Listening to God and making these changes has brought us peace and joy.
I find joy in the man I am blessed to call Husband and the father of my children. My family doesn’t have a hometown. My husband and I have raised our children in eight different homes between 2008 to now. We will raise our family in a new home starting in June 2022. But the joy in this moving from state to state every two to three years is that our home is simply us, always being together. It can be tough when my husband travels for short and extended periods of time because he is the head and heart of our home. But the joy is still there. The joy comes in watching the way our children each hug my husband in their own specific way. Our daughter stands on a chair to make sure they are eye-to-eye and then he will pick her up and hold her tight, rocking her from side to side. My younger son will do what he sees his sister do. My older son won’t say a lot and won’t hug him for long, but I know he is happy having Dad home. I know how hard it is for me to miss him and I know it is even harder to process those emotions as a child; so, I will wait and hug him last. He will walk slowly towards me, looking me in the eyes, and then he will wrap his arms underneath mine as I stand on my tiptoes so I can lean my head into his and be as close to him as possible.
My relationship with God is something I have begun to intentionally seek, and His joy is continuing to grow in me and my family. I know that God is my joy. He shows me how to find joy in His many blessings upon my life—like hour long conversations with my best friend from 6th grade, my oldest sister, or my mother and father; in shades of blue in the paint on my walls; in the individual talent each one of my children show as they continue to grow; in feeling the wind on my hands and arms when I roll down my car windows. When I don’t feel joyful, I turn on praise and worship music. I fall to my knees, and I seek God.