The Joy Well

DSC_0413It can be nearly impossible to find joy in the midst of life’s hard. When things are bad and you’re hurting. When you’re stuck, or suffering, joy is the last emotion that seems within reach.

Genesis 21:19 | Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God can open our eyes to a well of water, a joy well. We just have to want to see it there, waiting for us to take a drink. If we stop and look beyond the circumstances we’re standing in, take the time to notice, we will see it. It can be soaking in the laughter of our spouse, smiling at the kind neighbor who waves every time you pull out of the drive, or taking the time to appreciate new life in a bird’s nest or new blooms in the spring.DSC_0408

The point is, I am learning, if we are willing to see it — the joy – it is always there. In every situation, relationship, circumstance, it’s there. God is at work, for our good. I’ve recently been encouraged to seek God in the hard places that I doubt I will find him. And, I think he might surprise me. I expect Jesus will show up in the hard, in the situations where I am stuck. That expectation alone is like a long, cool, refreshing drink from the joy well. And in the middle of the daily hard, the small sufferings, it’s enough to remember that the joy well is always there, God just has to open our eyes to see it.

The Full, Colorful, Wild, Big, Joy-Filled Life

slip and slide
Slip and Slide | Photo: Taylor Monaco

Sometimes we fall so flat on our backs, thrown by emotion, hormones. Hurt by those we try so hard to love; disappointed by those we have such hope in. It is hard to get back up with any amount of grace.

When we can’t get up, we can seek him right where we are. We can be bold and forthright in prayer, spill out to God how you really feel. (I dare you to be honest with him.) Tell him your hopes, and where you are hurt. Guard yourself against resentment, by praying against it.

Call Jesus boldly to your side so he can be your aid and your defense. Ask for buckets of wisdom and a compass to move forward. Ask him to clear the path right before your eyes and show the foot steps you are to take forward.

Then plant your feet in steps toward the purpose you were born for. Take the first step, for in him is the fountain of life. (Psalm 36:9) The full, colorful, wild, big, joy-filled life.

Seek

She said to Jesus, “why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, YOU WOULD ASK ME, and I would GIVE you living water. | John 4:6-10

If we just ask, seek, he will give, be found.

Seeking Photo
Seeking | Photo: Taylor Monaco

Keep asking. It will be given to you. Keep seeking. You will find him. Keep knocking. He will open the door to you. (Matthew 7:7)

In Training

Potty training photo
Potty training. | Photo: Taylor Monaco

This little one is potty training. There are so many accidents. So so many. But when he messes up, he is forgiven. Undies are thrown in the wash, and we start anew. The past is quickly forgotten because we are in training.

Jesus reminded me today as I beat myself up over sin that I just. can’t. shake. that this 2 year old and I aren’t much different. Jesus forgives and remembers my sin no more (Jeremiah 31:34). I hate knowing I may sin this way again, but the truth is I am in training, and I am learning. He is there to forgive and to give the gift of righteousness. (Romans 3:22) That gift comes through faith in him, as I believe in him. To be righteous means to be free from guilt.

Forgiven of my sin, freed from my guilt. I am glad to start anew with him. I am free to do better next time, as I continue in training to bear good fruit. (Matthew 7).

Abba Father

Lincoln Monaco
Lincoln Mae Monaco | Photo: Taylor Monaco

Though we are born to biological parents, I have learned that they cannot fulfill our desire to be accepted without question, and loved without condition.

They will let us down, every time. As humans we just aren’t capable of that kind of love, though we are born desperately needing it. We were created to need it, and for that need to be met. We are born in need so our one true Father can fill it, fill us.

“Because those who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God… We received a spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba Father.” | Romans 8:14-15

Cry Out

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. | Psalms 18:6

I have leaned the truth of these words. He wants us to cry out to him with whatever it is that we have to bring.

No judgement.
No conditions.
No shame.

My son meets none of these when he comes to me crying out, no judgement, no conditions, he just meets open arms full of love and acceptance. The same is true of Jesus, when we run to him.

Finn Ryan Monaco
My son Finnegan, crying out. | Photo: Taylor Monaco

He wants us raw, and hurting, and bleeding, makeup melting off in salty tears. The ugly cry. That is truly what he desires. He is the one person we don’t have to clean up for. No sugar coating needed. No eloquent words. He created us, he sees us anyway. We can’t hide. We are seen by him, so come to him and let him see you, in whatever shape you are in. He will meet you there with a great love.

Joy Overflowing

Jesus offered thanksgiving for the trial, the suffering that would break and crush him, yet give him an overflowing of joy.

Out of the most severe trial their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. | 2 Corinthians 8:3

My daughter Lincoln, full of joy.
My daughter Lincoln, full of joy. | Photo: Taylor Monaco

When we give thanks for the suffering, for the trial, when we see his blueprints behind the disaster, and we can be grateful for it, then there is joy overflowing. And that joy, it leaves us wanting to give it away, share it, despite the fact that we are desperately poor in hardship. We find our self rich and generous, and so very full with joy.

October Hope

In April, we found out that we lost our second baby at 12 weeks and I was in shock. You never think that something like that will happen to you, no matter how very common it is. Then, once it really sunk in, I was devastated.

Right after it happened, a good friend suggested that I name the baby, for closure. At the time I knew I could never do that. It would only make things real, and much harder. And, to be honest, I thought it was silly, maybe even a little melodramatic. It didn’t seem like something Dan and I would want to do, though I appreciated the advice, why would we want to rub in the pain by giving our loss a name?

DSC_0282
We planted this Cherry Blossom in memory of baby October Hope Monaco | Photo: Taylor Monaco

When we first read the positive pregnancy test and found out we were due in October I was pretty disappointed. It sounds really silly, but I’ve never liked the month of October. (I think it’s because my mother raised me with a true dislike for the Halloween holiday, or as she referred to it “the Devi’s holiday.”) I was also quite terrified to have a girl, our son is 16 months now and I’ve just loved having a boy so much. A girl seemed like she would bring so many unknowns. Part of me will always have a hunch this baby was a little girl – though I don’t pretend to know that at all. At any rate, Boy or girl, October-arrival or not, we were over the moon for the coming baby. The pregnancy felt like it was really creeping by slowly, especially with all the complications that arose at 7 weeks, never-ending hormone shots and ultrasounds not knowing if we’d find a heartbeat, it was draining.

I don’t really think I was over the shock of losing the pregnancy until the d+c procedure was over and I woke up in recovery at the hospital. Once it was over and that baby was no longer inside me, everything felt different. Rather than knowing that we had experienced a complicated pregnancy, losing the baby turned into something very different that I didn’t expect. It turned into death. A death in the family. A family of 4 turning into a family of 3 again. A child who would have grown up, celebrated birthdays and first days of school, graduations and marriage and so many other milestones, was now never going to experience any of it. We had planned to walk this child through all of those celebrations and all the hard days too. All of a sudden we had to let all of that go. When you’re prepared to give all of that love of a parent, and then there is no one to give it to, what do you do?

I’m not sure if it was the anesthesia or God speaking to me, probably a little of both, but I woke up with a verse on my mind. (A true testament for scripture memorization that the the verses that you memorize really stick with you when you need encouragement.) Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, not to harm you but to prosper you, to give you a hope and a future.” With that verse on my mind it was clear. This baby was October Hope. The name represented everything I now knew about the child. The pure joy they were going to bring to a month I’d never cared for, and the promise that Jesus had a plan of HOPE for that child, not to harm him or her, though it might seem that way to our earthy emotions.  That child belonged to God from the very beginning and I knew, without a shadow of doubt or questioning, that God’s plan for October was for GOOD. I couldn’t pretend to know what the good was yet. Maybe so that I can be an encouragement to another women going through this in the future, that my words might mean more to her because I’ve been through it. I just knew, I trusted immediately that regardless of my emotions I had to have faith in what I believed, that God is good to us and that he loves us. And not just that he loves me and has a plan for me, but loves that child more than I can even imagine and so I need to trust his ways no matter how sad I was, no matter how cheated or robbed I felt. And so I grieved, and I cried (oh, how I cried), and I struggled to sleep or get out of bed, but through it all I trusted. It’s amazing how God can help us trust when he knows that our heart longs to do what he would have us do.

This morning, nearly a month after our loss, I read a devotion that asked me what questions  I might have for God if I was able to sit with him and ask him questions (Luke 2:46-47). I decided I would ask him why I had to experience the suffering. I knew he was good, but I didn’t know why exactly that loss had been his plan for me. A page later in the devotion, Jesus decided to bless me immensely with an answer, a word from him. I can’t really describe the joy in knowing Jesus is giving you an answer that’s just for you, just because you asked, sharing his secrets and his plans with you. I pray that everyone could know him and hear from him the way I did this morning. He brought me my answer in Hebrews 5:7-8, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

And there it was – Jesus Christ learned obedience from what he suffered. If Christ (who is perfect) learned obedience from his father through his suffering while on earth, how much more can I learn from my suffering? God calls us to obedience if we love him, and through learning to obey and trust in him, and bringing him questions and being able to listen for answers, I can know him in a greater and truer way. When he made this clear to me, my blind trust faded away and was replaced with a confident, knowing trust, one that understands he is good and he is teaching me, drawing me nearer to him still. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 says, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering.” This morning, in spite of great suffering I accepted Christs message and his plan with joy.

While I really want to keep this story personal and private (and away from judging opinions which will no doubt follow) I’m choosing to take this path of obedience to share this story with you. I hope that in doing so I can encourage at least one of you. If you have been through a similar loss and want to pow-wow about your suffering or Christ’s goodness I would be so thrilled to walk in it with you – please reach out, monaco.taylor@gmail.com. Maybe I could offer you just a little bit of the joy and trust he’s blessed me with.