“Joy is the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”

                           (Brother David Steindl-Rast)

We stood before a thickly branched blue spruce that must be at least 70 feet tall. How
different we were, the two of us looking out the window at the tree. A mid-80’s woman
holding onto a walker for support due to a broken pelvis from a recent fall, and myself,
experiencing good health at a younger age. Our differences did not divide us. A much
deeper bond of lengthy spiritual friendship united us in respect and love for one another. I
thought of my friend’s positive outlook in spite of her body’s slow recovery. She could have
been imprisoned in bed everyday except for a willingness to do her daily exercises, and a
firm determination to be healed and walk more easily. Her long years of various sufferings
prepared her for this situation. She knows the truth of what Brother David indicated. My
friend finds joy in Spring’s soft green tips on the evergreen’s branches as she stands daily at
the bedroom window, gazing in wonder at the tree’s growth from the past twenty years
when it was newly planted. She treasures a visit from a beloved granddaughter, the inner
peace found through faithfulness to prayer, the increasing strength in her arms and legs
due to physical therapy, the kindness shown by daughters, and the caring messages sent
from friends and church community.

I’ve learned anew by observing my friend’s response to her situation, that whether we are
on the receiving or the giving end when troubles and unwanted situations dump distress
into our midst, our contentment does not depend on them. We can decide how we will
respond. I benefitted from this wisdom several weeks ago when I sojourned four days in a
one room cabin. After the first day there, I wrote in my journal: “I can receive and welcome
joy here even though there’s no running water or indoor plumbing; loud traffic roar from a
highway two miles away; temperature of low 30’s in the morning; little clouds of no-see-
ums and gnats swarm in the sunshine exactly where I want to sit to warm myself; and the
“real restroom” is a block away. But when I focus on what I have, I am supremely content:
precious solitude, trees lush with dancing leaves, a marvelous walking trail, a quiet lake, the
wide river flowing gently in front of the cabin, a comfortable bunk bed, electricity to juice
my computer and provide refrigeration, and best of all, songbirds galore.”

When closing the door to leave, I was definitely ready to return to the cabin again, knowing
that the pleasure of those days did not depend upon the unwanted, external irritations.
Now that I am back home I am more aware of the daily choices I make. There’s no need to
blame anyone or anything when I feel grumpy or stressed. It’s a reminder to pause for an
interior inventory, to decide on which view I choose to place my focus—the stuff I’d like to
bump out of my life or the unceasing benefits that slip between what I do not want.

When my view gets skewed and happiness seems far from me, I return to the trust and
encouragement of Julian of Norwich’s oft quoted line: “All shall be well, and all manner of
things shall be well.” That trust-filled wisdom readily serves to restore my equanimity.

Abundant peace,
Joyce Rupp