New Year's Day means time to explore the Joy Jar! Throughout the year we (pretty much me) have recorded joyful events, an exercise in acknowledging and celebrating the positive. We shared the Joy Jar contents this afternoon after a meal of southern traditional black-eyed peas and cornbread. The black-eyed peas are a symbol of prosperity and a tradition passed down to me by my southern kin. In addition to black eyed peas, collard greens and pork are also traditional symbols of wealth, heath and prosperity in the new year. As a child we were often gifted a side of seasoned pork grilled over an open-pit bar-b-que from my dad's most trusted farm worker, Matildo. Matildo and his wife Maria were Cuban refugees who sought freedom in Homestead, Florida in the 1960's from communist Cuba. Matildo could speak not an ounce of English and my dad not a lick of Spanish; together, with extensive sign language, they created an avocado dynasty. No, not really a dynasty, but 40 acres of productive fruit trees that allowed Matildo and my dad to provide for their families. Maria would often join us picking avocados in the heart of the summer season. Matildo was always covered in long sleeves, a hat, long pants, and heavy work shoes. As I worked in my shorts and tank tops, eaten up by red ants and wasp stings, I wondered how he could withstand the heat. Now we know he was all the wiser as his fabrics breathed and protected his skin from the harsh Florida sun. Today after multiple visits to the dermatologist I recognize the wisdom of those that are born in the tropics, cover up! .
My mom, brother, and sister plus Matildo and Maria and myself would work easily 8 hours a day in 95 degree heat. In comparison my kids grumble at the request to clean the cat's litter box twice a week, their Grandpoppy would have fired them for their outspoken rebellion as farm hands! But Matildo and Dad honored one another with respect, integrity and hard work. Each Christmas we would look forward to this succulent pork delivered on an open cardboard box lightly covered in foil. Cuban herbs and spices would have been rubbed and marinated on the pork for hours. Truthfully we never were certain if Matildo and Maria would deliver the pork, particularly when they retired, and yet routinely, even in their retirement, there would be a surprising knock at the door and sometimes their grandchildren would deliver the incredible gift. By most standards, Matildo and Maria were poor. They frugally saved in order to share a special Christmas meal with their family and yet they always gifted our family a generous portion of this traditional , rich pork. Sometimes they would call us to alert us that they would be delivering the meat, however since neither Matildo nor Dad spoke the same language it was a conversation of faux words and heavy accents, (My dad would ask, "Pork Que?") Nonetheless, we knew if Matildo called Christmas Eve we could expect dinner shortly! (That was a walk down memory lane.) We enjoyed at least the black-eyed peas sans pork today but with good memories. Ron saved the day with a few frustrated phone calls and texts searching the Walmart bean aisle for 10 minutes, he finally located the "hoppin-johns" on the bottom shelf nearly hidden from view
As I shared last year with The Irony of the Joy Jar post, joy is often wrapped up in painful circumstances. That's a fact of life our kids are learning and us adults continue to accept and imbibe in the revelation. Joy and pain, like sunshine and rain...the good times and bad times often walk side by side. For instance, if you recall the spring break vacation, blog post White Mother Trucker, we drove 1000 miles to visit with my brother and his wife in Atlanta; only they had to depart suddenly for a critical family matter. We never saw them. We made ourselves at home in their beautiful southern subdivision but missed their company. In addition I backed the car into an invisible tree shattering the rear windshield. Nonetheless, Ron and Trey made it to downtown Atlanta with my sister-in-law's car only to suffer a serious athletic injury at the Collegiate Football Hall of Fame, an injury known only to the most elite 45 year old former athletes, a pulled quadriceps when kicking a field goal in front of the Chick Fil A grand-stands. I paid $70 to a delightful Peruvian cab-driver to take me to downtown Atlanta where I drove my sister-in-law's car with son and injured husband in tow, back to their Chattahoochee River subdivision. The point is what made it to the Joy Jar were the highlights:
Auburn met her goal of making the JV1 volleyball team. She was most proud however of two surprising honors, being chosen to give the 8th grade promotion speech by her Language Arts teacher as well as being nominated to the homecoming court as the honorary East freshman. At the dinner table she exclaimed that was the most fun week of the year thus far and Auburn rarely openly expresses sheer delight. Thank you to her peers, friends, Mrs. Sargeant and East staff that created such treasured memories.
Trey's year was more mellow with good grades as a highlight (yet never opening a book,) and finishing ranked #7 in the state for their 6th grade East Suns basketball team. Their ball-handling skills, no-look passes, fast breaks and absolute team-work is admirable. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for these boys as they near high school. Dedicated coaches and supportive family make this team a success on and off the court.
In June we traveled to The Linikin Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. A family reunion qualifies for the Joy Jar, but let's be honest, you don't make it 50 years in marriage without some pain too. "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience and perseverance." (James 1:2-4)
When we made our spring break trip cross country to Atlanta but missed seeing my brother and his wife due to a critical family matter, they had hurriedly departed to Florida to complete an anticipated adoption, six years in the making. We were overjoyed that the baby was arriving even though we missed their company. Unfortunately, after attending the birth and receiving this child at the hospital, a complicated social situation ensued in which my brother and his wife returned 10 days later to Atlanta with a suitcase of baby clothes, a stroller, and an empty carseat. One never knows the sorrow behind a smile, the despair hidden behind a kind word. It was a roller-coaster of hope followed by loss, but that was not the end of the story. A month later on Mother's Day weekend, another call from a Florida social worker. A baby had been born and the birth-parents desired to joyously surprise a couple, to selflessly make somebody else a mother on this Mother's Day. Within hours my brother and sister-in-law were parents of a healthy, beautiful baby boy.
As I close this post I am reminded of a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, "The Glorious Unfolding." The lyrics to the chorus say: "And this is going to be a glorious unfolding. Just you wait and see and you will be amazed. You've got to believe the story is so far from over. So hold on to every promise God has made to us, and watch this glorious unfolding." Wishing you faith when you feel the rain, the pain in 2016, perseverance in trusting that the story is still unfolding. Most importantly, if there must be pain, may it open our eyes and yield a Joy Jar that overflows into an abundance of friendships, service, sunshine and love on December 31, 2016. Happy New Year. Join my family this year as we Count It All Joy!
Thank you for reading.
Thank you for reading.