Thursday, December 7 2023 - 6:41 PM

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Southwest

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Joy in the Mourning

“I don’t know if I want kids,” I told my husband more than once.

“I could live with or without them,” my phlegmatic husband would say.

Good answer, because that meant I wasn’t pressured to have them–along with all the responsibility, hard work, and risk of losing my own “life” and ambitions that came with those little “bundles of joy.”

Joy? Really? Then why did all the parents I see look tired and frazzled? And why instead of having the freedom to travel or go out on the town, are they stuck at home reading bedtime books and going to bed at 9 PM? Doesn’t sound like fun to me.

My Mother

But then there were all those fun times with my mom. Like the fancy cakes she baked and decorated for my birthday parties, which were always a big deal. Like my fifth birthday when she dressed me as Lemon Meringue (from Strawberry Shortcake) so that I would match the Lemon Meringue doll she got me. Or the countless times she would make me laugh so hard– and so much–that my stomach ached and tears ran out. Or those nights we would count our kisses before bed to see who could kiss the most. But mainly, it was her unconditional love–just knowing she’d love me no matter what and would always be there for me that brought me security.

But my security left me. She lost her life to cancer when I was 17.

I can’t say her passing came easily; it was the hardest struggle in my life. But I knew the struggle would pass because God was my help. After some counseling for a year and some months, I had an identity again and was ready to move on.

But even though I finally felt like getting out of bed in the morning, there were so many times I longed for her to be with me. I wanted her to make me laugh and give me joy like she used to, and I wanted her at my high school and college graduations. I wanted her to know my boyfriend, and I wanted her there when we planned our wedding and married. And I wanted to call her the day I discovered two pink lines.

Unplanned Joy

My husband was waiting to hear the results. I handed him the test. “I’m pregnant,” I said, matter-of-factly. It wasn’t planned. We both stared at the pink lines–just to be sure there were two. “I figured you were,” he said. With mixed emotions, but mostly with excitement, I called my aunt; he called his mom. I wished I could call mine.

After 22 hours of hard labor, my baby girl entered the world. It was the most beautiful and exhilarating moment of my life. She was perfect; I even loved the sound of her cry. Now she is crawling, and everything in my world has changed. Not only have I quit working outside of home, but I have relished in just being a mom. My goals have changed, but my purpose, my life, has not stopped. There is no greater purpose–or joy–than being a mom.

I gave my daughter the middle name “Joy,” and now I understand why they call them “bundles of joy.” She has brought me more joy than anything in my life; traveling and going out on the town isn’t even a toss-up. And although my mother isn’t here to share my joy (or my Joy), I now understand the joy she had with me.

It took me by surprise one day when my daughter flashed a big grin. Her smile mirrored her grandmother’s. As she has grown, I’ve noticed the shape of her face, and even her eyes, look more like Mom’s every day. As her personality develops, I am discovering how overtly sanguine she is. She didn’t get that from me or my husband–she got it from Mom.

Then it hit me: My mom left my life, but God gave me a precious little “Joy” who is so much like her. My daughter and I have the same big belly laughs my mother and I used to have.

The verse is true: “…For those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV).

God has given me a beautiful Joy in place of Mom’s absence. And I praise Him every time we laugh.

If you like this you may enjoy, A Time for Every Season | Choose to Love

Vanessa Pham writes from Texas.

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About Vanessa Sanders Pham

Vanessa Sanders Pham

Vanessa Sanders Pham

writes from Texas.

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