I was a junior in high school when momma found a drawing at a yard sale and bought it for just a couple of dollars. The frame showcased a photo of a tall girl with dark brown hair carrying a much smaller girl with bright yellow hair. Above it in script read the words, “Quiet Joy,” with a reference to a verse in 1 Chronicles in tiny print at the bottom. I never gave much attention to the words, because I thought the picture was enough. When momma told me she wanted to give it to me because it reminded her girls, I knew it was because the picture looked like me carrying my then 3 year old sister.
At that point, we had lived in a two-bedroom trailer for a few months, which we called our “temporary fix.” I had been told to bring my necessities, so the rest of my stuff could be put out of the way in a storage unit until we moved to our real home. And on the morning of my sixteenth birthday, I woke up in a room that was barely bigger than my bed and a couple of cardboard boxes that lined the wall. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you this was the start to an easy year, because honestly, it was one of the most difficult valleys I have ever been led to walk down, through, and out. And for more reasons than the size of my bedroom.
I don’t remember where I put that framed art when momma gave it to me. But I do remember that I kept it among the necessities in my small room. That small gift was so precious to me because it reminded me that a unique goodness lies in people, even when it feels like everything around us is falling apart and away.
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I pulled the framed drawing out of another box just days ago. Long sitting in a cardboard box of other frames, knick-knacks, and a couple of books, I dusted the dead spiders off the glass as I muttered to myself, “How did I forget about this?” And as I remembered where we have come from since that day a few years ago, I knew how I forgot about it: things changed.
Things changed the night I screamed to tell dad I got saved, and immediately, his own yelling stopped. It changed the morning I told my nanny I was getting baptized at the church the next day, and she wrapped me in her arms and she wept as she repeated, “I’m so happy, I’m so happy, oh, I’m so happy.”
Things changed when I came to Nashville for college with the mindset that I was 5,000 miles away from home in Joelton.
Things changed when I landed a jobs in retail and at a summer camp, and heard stories from people that are too big for me to attempt to craft out of my own hands but I still retell with all the courage and grace given me.
Things changed last July when we packed up our boxes one more time and settled in a house nestled on a Cheatham County backroad, and overlooking the tree-lined hills above the creek and the cow pasture below.
Things changed in those moments of staying up too late writing words that didn’t make sense just to release them in the air, missing friends I haven’t seen in years, and talking on the phone so long that my ear was numb and my heart was full. Things changed with every fear I overcame in obedience, and every dream that was planted in my heart out of grace.
Dusting off that old framed drawing reminded me: things changed as my baby sister grew too big to be carried. No longer is the picture of “us” enough, because it’s not true now. I can hold her hand and even carry her on my back, but no longer is the picture of the brown-haired girl carrying the small baby enough.
But, that’s when I finally noticed the cursive: Quiet Joy. It resounded in my head, over and over.
I think it had it wrong when momma told me the drawing was a reminder of her girls. Yeah, obviously it’s an illustration of an older sister and a younger. Greater than that, I think it’s a reminder of the bond that holds them together. Even when their worlds are changing and their feet are growing bigger, the Joy that created them is enough to sustain them down, through, and out of every valley and mountain they travel. It’s quiet, but oh, does it move with such grace and power.
When momma thought of her girls at that yard sale over 4 years ago, she knew what I didn’t know then: things will change. She knew their hair would grow longer and they’d have their heart broken by people they love many times. But, she also knew that in the midst of so many changes that would shape her girls into who they were created to be, they would find a Quiet Joy that would give them a purpose to keep climbing every single day. They’d have each other, they’d have the memories of the passing days, and the anticipation of the days to come. Most of all, they’d have a Joy that holds all things together for good.
It’s amazing how much can happen in such a short, short amount of time. Because of that, I’m hugging my sister extra tight today and displaying my framed art on the shelf across from my bed in a place I hope I can always tell you is home. Thank you, Grace, that so much can happen in such a short, short amount of time.
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Inspiration: my sister’s 8th birthday, a yard-sale gift from my momma, and a morning spent cleaning.