Finding Joy

It was in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, Ft Bliss, that I first met Judy. Perhaps it was the heat, the lack of any color beyond melted butter and toasted cacti, or the distance to the nearest lake that masked the joy of the adventure, but the desert brought out the worst in me. I fell victim to a depleted spirit as we left the lush landscape of Arkansas and the closeness of family for our first duty station at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

With deployment looming and the day-to-day difficulties of being a mom with three children under age five, I struggled to find joy in the everyday of military life. Judy, however, quickly became a source of strength to me as I watched her adapt and embrace this life. It was a new adventure for her as well, having left corporate America, a successful career, and a close knit support system of family and friends, but Judy embraced this new life with positive determination.

Nearly a year after we arrived at Ft. Bliss, I attended a pre-deployment event for spouses. Most of those in attendance (myself included) had never experienced the struggles of maintaining the home front, a long distance marriage, and the fears that came with both. The speaker, meaning to be encouraging, compared deployment to her own battle with cancer. For me, this was the worst possible comparison she could have made. Having just celebrated my daughter’s third birthday and her two-and-a-half year milestone of being cancer free, I panicked. I couldn’t do it again. Was I really about to enter a phase that was the same as what we had just barely survived as a family? My fear led me to Judy’s door; a door I knew would offer hope and wisdom. And in true Judy fashion she simply stated, “But you did survive.” She then proceeded to make me a cup of chai tea and we talked for hours. By the time I left, my fears and insecurities had disappeared. I knew I wasn’t alone and that I could handle whatever came my way; Judy gave that to me.

After our men deployed together we faced our fears, struggles, and everyday life. Her house became a haven for a good cup of tea, conversation, and an occasional attempt at yoga.

Overtime, and largely through her influence, I began to discover the joy in the adventure of Ft. Bliss. The desert blossoms in poppies, prickly pears and pomegranates. The buttery landscape melted away into hues of brown, gold, and red in the light of endlessly sunny days. Loneliness took shape into purpose as I sought out opportunities to minister to other military spouses. I found a new passion for life and all that was before me. I learned I could do more than just survive as a military spouse and I gained confidence in my own abilities to follow my dreams.

Judy taught me, as a friend and a mentor, that life is full of joy despite the circumstances we are in or face. By switching one’s perspective, rather than location, a world of unexpected beauty, potential and joy can be experienced. Judy encouraged me to pursue my dreams of writing and ministry as I took a front seat in watching her pursue hers. As she launched, Judy-The Direction Diva, she worked on dream boards with me, encouraging me to reach not just success in a career but in relationships. While she worked on the publication of her own book, The Right Side Up, she encouraged me to pursue my dreams of becoming published.

Mostly, Judy has inspired me by allowing me “behind the curtain” to see the crazy beauty of her life. The pieces aren’t perfect but why should they be. Life is beautifully messy and now I’m enjoying the adventure of today as well as the promises of tomorrow in a way I never knew was possible.

 

Hope Griffin