Life is Short, Embrace Joy!

Yesterday I participated in National Dress Day, along with approximately 736 women who wore dresses to raise awareness for cancer.  I wore a gray dress, for brain cancer. 

When I saw the date of this event, December 9th, I knew I had to participate. If you've read my blog for over a year, you might remember that my aunt passed away from brain cancer a year ago, last week. 

I really don't remember much about last winter besides the funeral. We found out that she had cancer in September, we flew home for a few days, we came back to Arizona, and suddenly, a couple weeks before Christmas, she was gone. 

Sentimental Soul Photography
"Joy Brace earned her name early in life, having inherited her mother’s sparkling eyes and easy laugh, and having somehow channeled a good deal of her father’s personality, especially his serenity during the difficult times of life. Her birth certificate reads, “Florilla Joyce Crawford,” but she was Joy from the beginning... More than a thousand people attended her funeral service, held at Faith Baptist Bible College, Ankeny, Iowa. Many testified how she spent the last months of her life spreading joy.

“Heaven is coming–and it is sooooooo much better!!” she had written in a recent blog post, quoting Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Joy called this her “eternal perspective,” explaining to friends how her brief illness had changed the way she viewed her life. “What a fantastic thing to know that what I do today can have an eternal impact!” she wrote on Nov. 18. “People are the only ‘things’ you can take with you! Thank you to all who are praying for us, your prayers make such a difference! Please continue to pray for spiritual victory and grace for my family. I would not be honest if I didn’t say it is difficult for all of us some days. Of course, we continue to pray for healing, and above all, that God would be glorified!”

'Joy didn’t just endure suffering; she embraced it,' her brother Duke said at the memorial service. 'And in embracing it she remained joyful to the end.'"
-Embrace Joy, Embrace Suffering

Some of you may also be missing relatives or friends this season. This season is supposed to be a season of joy, but it can be a season of deep sorrow. 

One of the many things I learned from my aunt is that life is short. So embrace joy. 

Yes, feel the sadness. But choose to remember the good things. Don't let yourself get too busy or too stressed or too caught up in the Christmas "stuff" that doesn't really matter. Make time for people. Make memories this season that will last a lifetime. 

One of my fondest memories of Aunt Joy is sitting around the table at Nana and Papa's house with the French book she'd given me for Christmas, going over the pronunciation. I'm pretty sure I owe my obsession with France and French culture to her. When visiting Nana and Papa, I'd get to sleep in Aunt Joy's old bedroom. She had hung a giant eiffel tower poster on the wall over the bed, along with a few other souvenirs from her missions trip to Corsica. I think that poster inspired me to want to visit Paris someday.

Aunt Joy also loved singing and acting, so in my head, I dedicated my performance yesterday in our church Christmas program to her.

I didn't know Aunt Joy and I also shared a love of scrapbooking until the funeral, when many of her scrapbooks were displayed. Book after book was filled with everyday moments, like children losing teeth, or new puppies, or having friends over for dinner. One book in particular stood out to me; it was filled with Christmas cards, the cards received throughout the years. That's a big part of why we are sending cards this year. I want a visual reminder of this year, and I want people to know we love them.

At the end of my life, I hope Aunt Joy and I share more than just a middle name. I hope we share a passion for life, people, and living with joy.

Life is short. Embrace joy!

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