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We Do Not Rob Joy, Joy is Robbed From Us; Finding The Valley

Heavenly Chants

The day wore the color that some define as saddening

I glorified the whispers of transient lights, in the cloudburst.

Serenity invaded me, my knees cleansed in puddles;

I sought for nature's blessing--the wild is my church.

The Earth birthed saplings and implored sustenance,

Her longing was answered--and descends with no flaws.

Bewitching was this moment, of ravishing glory;

When the rain fell upon me

Like an angel's heavenly song.

-Claire Estevez

I awoke last Wednesday in the midst of a beautiful mental and emotional storm brewing; forming slowly and then all at once, it speculated on whether it would wipe me out completely for the day or for once, give me true recovery.

It seems to me that some people can quickly move forward from a deep thought, a downer moment, or an upsetting occurrence and be just deeply fine the rest of the day. It has never been the case for me and I am learning not just to accept that part of myself but to defend her to those who either innocently or worse, deliberately, try to rush her along.

I used to listen to the people who would suggest, "Why don't you just let it go?"

I wholeheartedly wanted to believe in that theory and take serious stock of their question. I could learn to let go quickly but it was not of my nature and therefore, I so desperately needed to accept my surroundings, my placement, and my essence on Earth, with friends, with lovers, and in family. God led me to the road that might be narrow but it extends deeply down into the valley where it is surely beautiful and expansive...

...but the climb back up is daunting.

It asks for pauses and drawing clean deep breaths in. It is worth it when you get to the top and have produced something of an exasperated "ta....da...[pants with tongue out]" proclaiming victory. The climb, the hustle, the proving & the pushing to produce is only half of God's plan for these bodies. I am seeing now that I am meant to spend a lot more time in the belly of the valley than most people. And that is more than ok. Let me tell you why.

The valley is worthy of full arrival, not just half. The other side of this body, mind, and soul is meant to be filled with true rest which involves grieving, tears and exposure to the pain because it is the pain that truly moves the needle for joy. Joy cannot know where to fill if pain does not scream it's emptiness. Pain feels like it takes up so much space but it is quite empty.

Last Wednesday, I was trying so hard to get my focus back--to let that painful thought go but to no avail, I simply could not. Instead, I was led to the dunes. It was a seemingly sunny, 60 degree day and I thought I better take advantage of it.

As I arrived, the storm clouds started rolling in and there was not another soul in sight. I debated whether I should turn around. A small log caught my eye that seemed like the perfect spot to wait it out.

As I took a seat, the rain began slowly, one drop at a time. Then, the wind picked up, sending gritty particles of sand into my eyelids. I thought, "How silly of me to be completely surrounded by a dune of sand in a windstorm right now."

Again, I thought about leaving but I began to ask myself "Why is this sooooooo "bad" to feel?"

When the rain comes in the Midwest, we scatter like sheep before that lion in the battle! In Hawaii, rain is known as a blessing and with blessings, you accept it and simply, take it in. Now, I know rain in Hawaii feels better after a 90 degree day then rain in the midwest at 60 degrees and the end of a long winter, but nevertheless, I decided to wait it out and try it the aloha way.

It was a serene moment; no one else was around, just me and Lake Michigan's glory. For some reason, the deep swelling in my heart decided to make that moment even more dramatic as I played, "Everythings Fine, I'm Fine" by Brent Morgan on my phone.

Time after time, pain in the pain Nothing's as easy as running away Lie after lie, keeping us sane Am I the only one feeling this way? Maybe it's okay, not to be okay

Tears fell from my eyes and I felt exposed in front of nature, Brent Morgan, and God alone. I felt the reality sink in that God created me in the valley, equally loved and equally seen, and there was and is nothing about this bellowing, wailing heart that needs to change except to never again pull her out of the valley when she is not ready to leave yet.

Joy is a word that has been annoyingly ringing in my ear for years like faulty church bells. I first dived deeper into the meaning of joy when I read Brené Browns, Daring Greatly.

There is a moment in her book where she discusses how we "rob ourselves of joy." She gives an example of staring at your child sleeping, thinking about how much you love that child and within a few seconds, you are imagining their death and how it would rip your heart out. In essence, she describes this as "not allowing ourselves to feel joy."

While I certainly agree that we have the tendency to take a good thought and turn in on it's head quickly, I also believe that joy is perceived differently for everyone and that true joy comes from God's thoughts. If we are always rushing, we cannot hear those.

For me, joy is felt in the quiet moments with God when I realize that we are coming to a much deeper understanding of what has been stolen from me. Brené says we rob ourselves of joy. I say we are born into a body and a world where joy does not actually live. Joy has already been robbed from us the second that we leave our spirit form. This is not to say birth is not joyful! In fact, birth is an example of what God does not want us to be robbed from on Earth.

I remember holding sacred space for a dear friend during the birth of her daughter. I was praying, speaking in God's light, and being shown visuals. I am still processing that moment but all I know is that it felt like I was praying for as much true joy as possible to squeeze into this little body so that when she arrived, she would not completely be robbed of it. Essentially, she would not "be in amnesia to it."

Furthermore on when I feel true joy...

It is not joy that I feel when someone purchases my art. Joy is the chaos before the market. It is the messy room with tags and earring cards spread all over the floor. It is in the moment of silence when I take a break, look around at what I have created and hear God say,

"I told you that I created you for this when you were six years old. I am proud of you for seeing through the veil of trauma and suffering and knowing this gift is still for you."

It is not "Wow, I did this. All glory on me."

It is "Wow. We did this."

That is when I feel true joy. Not stamped on, "I should be happy every day" joy but the kind of joy that says, "It wasn't for nothing."

True joy,comes from listening to the pain, doubts, and grief, yet arriving on the other side with that "out of no-where" realization that you have arrived where the pain told you to go.

Joy is different for me than just simply having gratitude. I feel gratitude and appreciation when somone purchases my art or enjoys the art of aerial with me. It feels like joy but I know that joy does not come from the production but the process and the relationship.

What I produce is not where the joy comes from, it is who and where I produce it with/from that is truly joyous.

Therefore, joy requires the valley for me because it is in this cove that I can see what is brewing & what it will require for me to birth it.

Maybe you do not need the valley or maybe you are not sure, but if God is calling you to the valley or the dune or the desert, then my heart says to you...

Clinging to the rock that is God, for me, is about knowing that God will pull me out of that valley when I have processed enough for that time being. But if He is not pulling me out, it is for good reason. "Slowing down is fighting back."

He might pull me out by sending a friend that is going to help me with the climb, or maybe he puts a therapist on my path [that I can afford] or perhaps it is just me and God, alone, because that is how much faith He has in our co-laborship; that I can and I will on His strength alone.

Either way, my prayer for you is that you take the moments necessary to become so intimatedly intertwined with the Divine that you cannot tell the difference between your human and your vastly joyful soul. At times, this intertwining dance feels like the most beautiful tornado. Embrace. Amen🙏

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