As the only child of a single mother, I didn’t have much of a family when I was growing up. No siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, or even grandparents were a part of my life. When I was just four years old, my parents separated. Soon after, my mother and I moved a couple thousand miles away from the only family we knew. So, I spent a lot of time alone, playing games like checkers and monopoly against myself. It wasn’t a sad childhood by any stretch, just lonely. Joy wasn’t something I remember experiencing. The only time I ever heard that word, or even gave it any thought was once a year in a Christmas song.
“Joy to the World, the Lord is come..”
Having spent so much time alone, I fantasized quite a bit over the years about what it would be like to have a real family someday. In my dreams, my husband would be a handsome, funny guy that would adore our children…and me! We’d have two or three super-smart and well-behaved munchkins. We would laugh and talk around the dinner table like the families on my favorite TV shows. And, our home would be the place where all their friends would want to come and hang out. Even within that fantasy, I never considered that word, “Joy.”
As could be expected, I married the man of my dreams at a relatively young age, and together we had a LOT of babies! My husband and I had six little boys in six years, and they were also everything I dreamed of and more. But, even though my childhood fantasy became an actual reality, I still didn’t know how to fully experience the joy that was right under my nose. I just didn’t recognize it.
It’s no coincidence that my husband and I experienced our own spiritual rebirth when we were expecting the birth of our oldest son. We welcomed God into our relationship at that time, and He took up residence in our household. We prayed fervently for a healthy child, despite some early complications with the pregnancy. And, the Lord came through for us, cementing our faith from that point forward. But, where was the joy?
Without gratitude, there is no joy
It took me about eight years to realize that joy had been present all along. Instead of focusing on how challenging it was for an only child like me to adapt to such a large brood, I learned the art of gratitude. I began to praise God every day for taking away my loneliness, and filling it with love. And, I looked back over my life with a fresh set of eyes, and savored each joyful moment.
Each time I felt my babies moving inside of my womb, there was joy. Each time I held them in my arms and nursed them, there was joy. Each time they took their first steps, there was joy. Every day when I’d pick them up from school, and they’d all pile into the back of my minivan, there was joy. Each time I watched them play games with each other on the living room floor, there was joy. Every single time I’d hear one of them laughing, there was joy. To this day, when I see smiles on their bearded faces, there IS joy.
Fast forward 30 years later, and it’s no surprise that this lonely little girl’s big, rambunctious family means absolutely everything. I see them all as a blessing from God, and an answer to a prayer that I didn’t even know how to pray. When times get rough, I cling desperately to the joy that my family has brought to my life over the years. With the addition of brides and grandchildren, our family continues to grow, the joy continues to flow, and I’ll never be lonely again. Thanks be to God!
Leslie McGuffie writes about being in love with the Lord, and she loves sharing the wisdom He gives her about daily living. In her spare time she’s a wife, mother of six, and grandmother of three. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @listen2leslie. Subscribe to her blog at listen2leslie.com where she writes about Faith, Family, Health, and Happiness.