This week, the iTunes app on my Mac at work decided to stop working. Since it’s the week before Christmas, I’d say this is unfortunate timing. All my Christmas music is either on iTunes or on CD. Desperate for some classic Smitty Christmas, I went to Walmart and found a cheap personal CD player, which only has two volume settings–“Amoeba Burp” and “Rocket Launch.” Two days later, I conceded and now I’m listening to dcTalk’s Jesus Freak.
It’s funny how much music can have an impact on your memory. Jesus Freak brings me back to 1995, which was a very difficult year for me. My best friend had just told me she no longer wanted to be friends, I was on heavy doses of Prednisone, and I was extremely depressed. The Prednisone gave me terrible heartburn, and made me gain a lot of weight very quickly.
But something good happened in all of that heartache. That year, I discovered my favorite artistic medium: colored pencils. I still remember the project I was working on, and how I learned to do shading. I finally felt that I was progressing as a young artist.
Then came Christmas. What I really wanted was a Yamaha keyboard with my favorite voice “bell strings”. Instead, my parents completely blew my brother and I out of the water with a brand new Mac Performa computer. These were the days before the Internet was widely available, but we didn’t care. I loved playing with the creative software, making these wonderful new things called “gradients.” I had no clue what graphic design was back then, and I had no idea that I was setting myself up for a productive career.
Amidst all of that sorrow, art had given me joy. It still does! And even though I’m not famous or wealthy, I can say I’m a published colored pencil illustrator and you’ll see one of my advertising graphic designs this month in Rolling Stone.
Although I love my job as a graphic designer, it’s not always easy. In fact it can be very stressful. The past two months, I’ve been watching my joy and my energy slowly slip away. A cold-turned-sinus-infection knocked me out of my routine in October. I stopped going to the gym every day. I started binge eating again. I lost my creative desire. Somehow, Jackie Joy lost her joy.
It’s four days until Christmas and pouring down rain. My family is mourning the sudden passing of my Aunt this past Tuesday. Instead of a Christmas party this weekend, we’re going to a funeral. At this point, I don’t really wish to be around anyone, since I physically feel miserable from gaining a lot of weight. Nothing fits, and I’m not fit at the moment. I have cookies to bake, Chex mix to make, cards to send and presents to wrap. Not to mention the things I wanted to make for people but just didn’t have the enthusiasm I normally have this time of year.
It would be easy at this point to stay in bed…to hide my remining light under a bushel. Or fuzzy blanket. Bushels aren’t very comfortable to sleep under.
It is hard to be a testimony when you’re tested. It is hard to be a beacon of light when your lightbulbs are fading and the rains of life are eroding your hope. What do you do when you can’t find joy in the places it once resided?
So sitting here listening to Jesus Freak, I’m thinking about how far I’ve come since the 15-year-old me sat coloring while playing said album on cassette tape. I should be grateful…
I am healthy! Not only that, but a marathoner and triathlete!
I have a 16-year career in graphic design.
I have amazing family and friends!
I did finally get that keyboard. And a stage piano. And a synthesizer.
I’ve recorded two albums, and written a lot of songs, even though I never “made it big”
And the more you realize the blessings in your life, and are grateful for them, it’s easy to find joy in the little things…
Painting cats and dogs with my best friend at her kitchen table.
The laughter of my nephew, Andy, as I spin him on his dad’s desk chair.
The 60º air and sunshine that briefly followed today’s pouring rain.
A complement from a former coworker who’s inspired by my endeavors.
A fond Christmas memory from my childhood.
Everyone has blessings in their life to be grateful for, even in the midst of pain and sorrow. If you’re going through a hard time, I pray that you’ll find a renewed sense of joy this Christmas.