My husband and I both grew up camping with our families and have many joyful memories sitting around the campfire or collecting pine cones. Due to my rheumatoid arthritis we have never pursued these adventures for our own son, however. We have a tent that the “boys” set up a couple times a year in the backyard, but my rheumatoid arthritis makes me unable to get down on an air mattress.
Even with the best of sleeping circumstances under the stars can disable me for a few days.
Yesterday, however, we experienced a great compromise of the camping experience. The local lake had a “family camp out” and allowed camping for one night in the park.
My husband and son went out in a paddle boat, they went on a group hike with flashlights, we ate at the snack shack overlooking the lake, and roasted marshmellows at the group fire pit. A family of over 20 people camped beside us so Josh had plenty of playmates. Our other “neighbors” we knew from AWANAs.
I came home and slept in my bed about 9:30 PM.
Joy comes in many forms and one of them is getting to see the smile on the faces of our children, especially when they are experiencing something new. My son asked for awhile, “Mom, are you leaving yet?” (I kept saying, “Not until tonight.”) A few times he said, “I didn’t know Mom was going to stay this long!” I took delight in his surprise.
Each day we make millions of little choices. Some provide small doses of joy. Some give larger amounts of joy. Some days we are too exhausted to think of JOY, we just want relief. I admit I pushed through the day. I was wiped out, exhausted, in pain, and stuck in my chair in the dark while they went on the hike (I couldn’t get up to get a flashlight!). But I was able to do it.
Some days, regardless of how hard I would have tried or how positive my attitude had been, it still would not have happened. Attitude helps, but I understand that sometimes it’s just not enough.
But regardless of our abilities, remember that God’s joy is already IN us, we simply need even the smallest crack so God’s joy can shine a ray of light out of us. I would have loved to gone on the paddle boat or the hike, but in my son’s mind, it was a surprise I was just there. His memory will be filled with joy, so I must adopt his joy, instead of focusing on that which I have missed.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since 1993. She lives in San Diego with her family and she has a new 300+-page book out, How to Start a Chronic Illness Small Group Ministry.