Thursday, February 20, 2014

Joy (Part 5)

Wendy wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and shuffled from her bedroom to her living room. Exhausted from that little bit of expended energy, she curled into a ball on the couch. She was tired of feeling tired, sick of being sick all the time. She missed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and she hated having to carefully scrutinize the lists of ingredients on everything she bought. She hugged her knees to her chest, and wondered if a prolonged life was really worth all the obsessive precautionary measures she would have to take. Feeling weary and inconsolably trapped, and hating her body and her outlook, she cried herself to sleep.

“Follow me,” she heard from behind her, in a gentle tone as though it called her to join a game. She tried to turn around, but as in some dreams that you cannot control, she could not see the source of the invitation. She looked down, and saw a shadow cast before her, with arms moving and head tilting side to side. She understood then, and lifted her arms. Like a dance, she moved so that her own shadow was hidden in the other, following carefully each motion.

When the dance became more beautiful and complicated, she couldn’t keep up, so from behind a strong pair of hands took hold of hers. “May I lead you?” he asked. As they danced together, Wendy heard music that accompanied and inspired, and she smiled, for here with the man with the iridescent mind, she felt strong, healthy, whole, and full of life. His presence was a great comfort to her, and she wanted to dance like this with him forever.

“You can.” She was surprised when he answered her thoughts with these words. “Let me always lead you, and guide you when you don’t know what to do, and carry you when you cannot go on. Let my life be sufficient for you… let my colors reflect in your mind. Your illness will not disappear, but it can be made beautiful in me…” Then the voice faded and she awoke.

Once more, Wendy, Lily and Joy shared similar dreams. They gathered together the next morning, early, at Wendy’s house. Lily was thrilled to fill in what she had learned. “I got to ask Him how I could reflect His colors, and He told me to meet with him, to dance and sing and rest with him, and he would cause it to happen. His colors are so brilliant – his greens are fresher and newer and lovelier and more alive than the Greenest Hope I have ever imagined! I wonder how I could ever reflect anything that beautiful?”

“I think you already are,” Joy pointed out with a smile. “Your mind is becoming like a marble, with different shades of green swirling and blending together. It’s not perfect, but it is quite lovely to look at – full of depth and dimension. It shows that you have wrestled with the clouds and darkness of life and still hold on to Hope in the midst of it… a Hope more pure and bright than you ever had before… almost like the shadows serve not to quench it, but to highlight it.”

Wendy’s eyes grew wide with understanding. “That must be what He meant! Somehow he is adding his color to our suffering. Our pain, weakness, and illness, are like a dark background that shows off the light and color he brings. Joy, your mind is also swirling, proving that pain and joy can both be a part of life – that pain doesn’t have to destroy joy, but can put it on display.”

“And there can be comfort in the midst of the pain, Wendy,” Joy added. “Our comfort is not in healing or becoming ‘normal’ again… what is our comfort?”

“It is the man with the iridescent mind!” Lily concluded with excitement. “Ever since he came to us in our own suffering, we have been comforted. Ever since he taught us and led us in that dance, we have had joy. And now, as we see what he is doing in our minds, we have hope, because he has promised never to leave us and to make us more and more beautiful.”

Just then there was a knock at the door, and the three women turned to see, standing in the doorway, the man who had met each of them in their dreams. He sat with them and smiled. “I am the Son of the Great King,” he said, “and I have come here to lead you, heal you, and give you greater joy than you have ever known.” He called them daughters, and talked with them for hours, making them laugh, making promises, comforting them, answering some of their questions, and asking them to trust him with the rest. They each decided to follow him and listen to his voice, and see what great joy he would bring.

Years went by, and the women became well-known throughout the realm for their vivid, marbled minds. They loved and served others, and continued to counsel the downcast, always by introducing them to the Son of the Great King, who led them day by day. Other’s minds swirled and changed through this relationship, but none were quite as brilliant as the colors of the three friends… for nothing brings beauty to life quite like Hope, Comfort, and Joy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Joy (Part 4)

“I had a dream last night,” Lily said quietly to Joy. They were slowly sipping tea together at Joy’s home, a week after the Deep Heartache. Joy was on a couch, surrounded by pillows, and Lily slumped in a wheelchair. Both were not themselves – at least, not who they once were. Joy did not smile – could not smile – and Lily spoke with her eyes downcast. They had both come to realize that their sufferings had not only affected their present, but also their past, so that they could no longer recall the good memories they once relied on. Wendy was at her home, in bed, still trying to overcome the sickness that suddenly plagued her day and night.

“In my dream,” Lily slowly recalled, “I met a man… a kind man, with the most beautiful mind I had ever seen. It was radiant and iridescent, like a highly polished pearl. When he moved, it shimmered with every hue of the rainbow, infused with light and life. He smiled at me, but with a sort of sad smile, and reached his hand out to me. His hand rested on my cheek and then brushed across my forehead…and then his smile faded, and he closed his eyes and fell to the ground. Then I saw a heavy burden on his back – two pieces of thick wood. He struggled with the weight of it, and could not rise up under it. Someone else came and lifted the burden, but by then he seemed too tired and weak to even stand up. I wanted to help him, to let him lean on me, but I realized his suffering was the same as mine.”

Joy listened with interest, because she had also had a dream, very similar to Lily’s. “That man came to me as well,” she said. “But in my dream, he bore long, ugly gashes across his back and thorns pierced deep into his head. His look of pain mirrored my own, and I was sorry for his suffering, yet also strangely relieved and comforted. He didn’t tell me that he knew what I was going though – but I could sense that he did, more so than anyone ever could. And somehow it helped, just knowing that he understood.”

The man with the iridescent mind perplexed the friends so much that they decided to call Wendy and see if she had dreamed of him, too. Before they could ask her, she said, “Oh, my friends! I had the strangest dream. I met a man who felt my illness just as I do. Can you imagine? He seemed just fine at first, but then he touched me and became just as sick as me. But it seemed as though he chose to – like he knew that by touching me, he would enter into my disease. Why would he do that?”

The others agreed that it seemed true of their dreams as well, and they were baffled by the thought. Later when Lily left, Joy laid back and tried to imagine her pain away, to concentrate on something beautiful – anything beautiful – but the stabbing and throbbing pain absorbed everything else. What was once effortless now was impossible. She felt as though she had been beaten like the man in the dream. When she remembered his face and beautiful mind, her tight muscles eased a bit. He was the only light she could cling to in this dark time.

That night, Joy dreamed of the man again. But this time, he stood straight and tall, looking strong and healthy and wearing a bright peacock-blue robe. His mind still swirled with many colors, but she noticed the blue of his robe was highlighted in his mind now. She became a little sad, because it reminded her of what she had lost, and she wondered if the first dream had been true after all.

He seemed to know her thoughts, because he stepped closer and held out his arms. “I am the same,” he assured her, and she saw long scars on his skin, criss-crossed and bright pink with the freshness of their healing. “I know your pain… I remember the pain… I will never forget the pain.”

Joy was again comforted, but also deeply sad, though she could not express why. She wanted to say that she wouldn’t mind remembering, if it meant she didn’t actually have to live with the pain anymore. She wanted to express how she couldn’t imagine living like this and being so alone. Again, the man seemed to understand, for he said, “You will not be alone. I am with you.” Then he picked her up and began walking. “I will carry you when it is too difficult to bear.” And in his arms, she felt a touch of the familiar blue beauty come back to her, even as the man faded away and she awoke from her dream.

The next day the three friends talked on the telephone, from the confinement of their beds, about their dreams and the man with the iridescent mind.

“He said to me, ‘I am strong; let me carry you,’” Lily said in awe, and the others agreed that he had carried them as well.

Wendy said, “When I look at him, I see my old taupe color, and I forget that my mind is this awful yellow – I forget that I am sick. I feel like I am whole again.” And they all agreed. They wondered about this man, and talked about him together for a long time. Who was he, and how did he meet each one of them in their own suffering?

Since they could not see each other, they could not tell that the colors of their minds were changing – that the dullness and darkness, while still present, was swirling with something else. Streaks and smudges of bright beauty highlighted some areas and blended into others, so that their minds appeared like marble. They each knew something was different; their suffering continued to rage, but did not crush them quite so much now. And they each went to bed that night wondering if the man would appear to them again, and what he would say or do…

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Joy (Part 3)

The terrifying truth of every culture, country, and realm is that even the highest degree of purity and goodness has a counter-extreme degree of evil and hostility, wanting to destroy as much as the former wants to restore. That realm was no exception, for many years it was plagued with a villain of a thick, impenetrable charcoal mind, who knew and practiced a very dark magic. Her name was unknown, but her shadow was infamous, for the soot of her mind soiled others, tainting their thoughts and perceptions with depression and fear. And as she stole the colors from other minds, they dissolved into the black abyss of her own, never to return. In the tiny, inviting office of “Hope, Comfort, and Joy,” the women counseled and served the victims of this wicked one, but their own minds would not allow them to believe that they would ever be victims themselves. They saw their own lives as too healthy, too lovely, to be threatened or destroyed.

But the next day, while drinking tea and chatting about all their happy thoughts, the women were interrupted by the little bell ringing over their doorway. In stepped the woman whose eyes and heart were as charcoal black as her mind. A shudder went through the three friends when they saw her, but their beautiful minds worked quickly to remind them of their wonderful jobs, and they smiled at the possibility of easing the thick darkness into the shade of a velvety night sky.

“Come in, please, and tell us about yourself,” Wendy said as she stood and moved toward the tea pot. But her steps were halted by the icy tone of the visitor and the dark magic that seeped into the room like a poisonous gas.

“Don’t bother with your charming words and ways,” the wicked one said. “I will not stay long. I am only here to teach you something – something that you all need to learn. You may find the good in other people’s situations, but it is not a challenge for you, because you have never experienced what they have. Your lives are easy, and you live as though you have no knowledge of the real world.” She stepped to the middle of the room, and dramatically glared at each woman. “You will now know the deepest meaning of the word Suffering. And I defy you to find the good in that.”

As she said these words, the clear minds of the women clouded – the spring green mind of Lily turned to a murky poison green; the taupe mind of Wendy turned to a sickly infected yellow, and the peacock blue mind of Joy brewed into the grey shadows of a foreboding hurricane. They all closed their eyes and moaned in despair, not sure what was happening to them or how to stop it. And in the midst of the blinding confusion, the woman with the terrible charcoal mind vanished forever; but when she was gone, the darkness remained.

Wendy fumbled for her tea cup, hoping it would ease the sudden churning of her stomach, but with one sip she dropped the cup and ran to the restroom, heaving until she could scarcely breathe. At the same time, Joy doubled over in her chair, crumpling to the floor and twisting and writhing in pain. “Something… is terribly… wrong!” she gasped. Lily tried to stand and reach the telephone to call for help, but also fell from a shocking loss of strength in her back and legs. When Wendy staggered back to the front room, her face was flushed and her neck was covered in hives, fever raging so that she was on the brink of unconsciousness. She managed to press the emergency button on the phone before the world faded before her eyes.

Joy awoke in a hospital room, with her friends in the beds on either side of her. Monitors beeped, and as she tried to sit up her muscles and a dozen wires and cords protested. The others were already awake, but very quiet, and the doctor solemnly studied each of their files. They all knew him well – Wendy’s brother, a kind-hearted young man with a mind the color of the blue sea on a clear summer day. When he noticed their questioning gazes, he sighed and sat down. “You three ladies have been through a very traumatic ordeal,” he began. Joy looked at her friends, who remained silent as they waited, and she noticed that there were thick black storm clouds permeating their minds. She assumed her mind looked the same, for she felt a strange sensation which she never remembered feeling before, and she didn’t know what to call it. But it was a smoldering dampness on her soul that she feared would bury her alive.

“You are each suffering from illnesses that are chronic and debilitating. The clouds imposed upon your minds kill the true color and cripple your bodies, minds, and spirits. And while there are some treatments we can offer, the treatments will only lessen the symptoms temporarily, not get rid of them completely. If we tried to extract the clouds in surgery, you would surely die. There is no known cure.”

Lily, with a weak and shaky voice, asked, “What do you mean? Will I never be restored? Will I never be able to run or sing or jump again?”

The doctor hung his head in sorrow and said, “No, I don’t believe you will. The Weakness will not leave you; rather, it is progressive, and will eventually take your life.” Lily lay back on her pillow, and as a tear fell down her cheek, Joy thought she saw it shimmer with a faint green – the last drop of hope draining from her frail body.

“And what about me, dear brother?” Wendy rasped from the opposite corner. “Tell me, how does this suffering affect me?”

Without looking up, the broken-hearted doctor whispered, “Sickness is your constant companion now. You must be very careful about the food you eat and the places you go, because you have developed severe allergies to many things. We cannot even know the extent of it, because I believe other disorders and diseases will develop and build on each other as you grow older. Your health is very fragile, and you will have to sacrifice many things you enjoy, for the sake of prolonging your life.” Wendy’s taupe complexion paled as her final thoughts of self-comfort and assurance evaporated with this diagnosis.

Joy did not want to ask, and didn’t think she needed to. Hearing the diagnosis of her friends helped her grasp the Deep Heartache that they had all succumbed to. If her friends had lost hope through weakness and comfort through disease, then certainly the intense pain in her body would torment her day and night and rob her of joy – her purest, peacock blue, beautiful joy.  And if there was no more joy in life, then there was nothing to live for. Her life was over, and the Charcoal mind had triumphed.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Joy (Part 2)

Before they even swallowed, though, the bell over the door jingled and a gust of chilly wind entered the room, along with a very Storm-Blue Brody. The women exchanged knowing glances and a surrendered shrug.

“Good day, Mr. Brody!” greeted Wendy.

“Oh, not such a good day, Miss Wendy,” Brody said with a heavy sigh. Joy poured a steaming cup of berry zinger tea (this client’s best tonic), and Lily led the old man by the hand to his favorite upholstered arm chair and foot stool. “The temperature has dropped considerably since last night, and the cold air finds every crack and cranny in my house, and heat is too expensive to keep up, and there is no use anyway because it will just seep out of those same cracks and crannies and make my arthritis flair up and then I can’t sleep and-“

“Now, now,” soothed Wendy, and patted his arm. “Let’s drink your tea and rest a while, and see what lovely, happy thoughts we can remember. Your arthritis is a sad and difficult condition, but some warmth and a nice massage will alleviate that soon enough.”

“Yes, and just think how much you love the shimmering crystals the frost makes on your windows, and how the wind tinkles the chimes on your front porch. Lily will sing your favorite songs to you, and I will remind you of all the joys and blessings you’ve been given this year.” Joy sat down beside him in another chair, Wendy continued to gently pat his shoulder, and Lily sat on the floor at his feet, and looked up at him with an irrepressible smile. The three of them kindly took turns cheering the old man, and slowly they saw that the icy tone of his storm-blue mind melted to resemble more of a mountain spring. The women knew they couldn’t change the color of anyone’s mind, but they could ease the sharpness and strengthen faded tones, and even stormy shades of blue could become calm and peaceful.

Mr. Brody fell asleep in his chair and took a nice nap for a few hours, much needed after the long nights of pain deep in his bones. While he dreamed, the women attended to other guests – the bitter Mustard Yellow mind of Mr. Polls, and the insecure and second-guessing Burnt Orange mind of Miss Wilma Sniffly. The women were tired by sunset when they closed and locked the front door of their office, but they felt pleased and content that they were able to bring so much hope, comfort, and joy to others.

“My friends,” Joy said as she linked her arms through Lily’s and Wendy’s, “we make a great team. With our abilities to console sadness, point to promise, and see only the best, we will be happy all our lives, and even better than that – we will bring happiness to everyone we meet!”

And this ideal could have been true, could have followed them all the days thereafter, if it wasn’t for the Deep Heartache that awaited them the very next day.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Joy (Part 1)

Once upon a time, there was a Great King who lived in a Great Castle, and ruled over a Great Kingdom and all the Realms Beyond. Many tales have been told about the kingdom, but very little is known of the Realms Beyond, especially those at the furthest corners of the land, for none of the kingdom’s citizens ventured to the far, far away lands, except the Son of the Great King, whom the King sent out on his most important royal quests. The Son could be seen travelling through the Great Forest and in some of the closer, more familiar realms; but then he would disappear over the purple mountain ridge to the west, or fade into the morning mist of the plains to the east, and would be gone for a long while, and no one but the King knew where he was or when he would return.

In one of these far-away Realms Beyond, there lived a young woman named Joy. She was artistic and brilliantly intelligent, always creatively analyzing her world and finding ways to unfold its mysteries to others. She was lovely, but if the citizens of the Great Kingdom ever saw her, they would have thought her quite unusual, for she had what her people would call a “peacock blue mind” – a visible, colorful gem that shone from inside her head. Everyone in that land had a similar gem, and in their culture, the color of one’s mind was highly regarded and told a great deal about a person’s strength and love. It was also valuable because it indicated whether one was a blessing or a curse to others. A rustic red mind was old and marred by sadness and regret, while a chartreuse mind was young and impulsive with great potential for wickedness. But the peacock blue mind – that was the clearest and most perceptive of all minds, able to penetrate debris and filth and find the most precious things in life.

The colors were also a sort of filter for how people perceived and reacted to circumstances in their lives. For the poor soul plagued with a rustic red mind, their color ate away all joy and hope and left the soggy bits of tragedy as the only remains of their memories.  The dreaded chartreuse mind may have had the same experience, but internally they clung in a magnetic fashion to the evil intentions and ill will in the memories. The one with a peacock blue mind would recall none of these pieces salvaged by the others, because love and truth and joy and hope and peace are all that would stand and shine forth.

Imagine the implications of such a gift creating and shaping a society! Such was the world in which Joy lived and worked.

She had a cozy little office space; decorated in warm earth tones – tan rugs, light blue and brown arm chairs, taupe walls, and a beige overstuffed sofa. Taupe minds were the best for interior designs, because they filtered all tension out and retained only comfort and inviting refreshment; the taupe-minded decorator, Wendy, sat serenely on the sofa, patiently waiting and admiring her work. White and cream candles in dark bronze candelabras were on the walls and side tables, but the subtle highlights of peacock blue frames and flower pots brought true joy and hope. It was needed, because it was the purpose of the office, which was the community’s “Center for Hope, Comfort, and Joy.”

“I wonder if we will have any visitors today?” pondered Lily, whose mind was the lovely green of an early spring crocus bud. “I hope so… it’s been so quiet the past few days.” She crossed her legs and popped a chocolate truffle in her mouth.

“Well, we did just come out of the holiday season,” Joy pointed out from her place behind the desk, “and there are so many joyous things that have happened lately, it would be hard even for our Storm-Blue Brody to find the worst. The community cannot easily forget the delight of the new baby born just a week ago, or the three wedding engagements that were announced, and the newspapers are still gushing about the marvelous celebrations and the bountiful blessings and all the happiness…”

“I sort of hope we don’t have visitors today,” Wendy said with a gentle smile, “because that would mean their colors are still working hard to filter out the positive, and there are still too many wonderful things they haven’t been able to forget.”

The other two ladies agreed, and raised their coffee mugs. “Here’s to another day of no business!” toasted Joy, and the others laughed and sipped their drinks.