Joy. It’s difficult to describe. If you’ve ever seen the movie Howl’s Moving Castle, there’s a character named Calcifer, a fire demon who keeps Howl’s castle moving, hence the title. Though in the movie Calcifer is a flaming ball of sass, arrogance, and frustration, his placement and appearance are how I’m imagining the joy inside me.
Calcifer is an adorable and energetic ball of fire that holds Howl’s heart and keeps the castle moving.
I just finished working at Summit Ministries for a month and by the first day, despite a stomach full of butterflies and nervous gas, I already knew I was exactly where God wanted me. I have absolutely no idea where to begin as I process through this past month but I do know one thing: the joy of the Lord is my strength.
I’ve never felt so energized, so ready to wake up in the morning (though I’ll admit, it got progressively more difficult to convince myself that breakfast was important as exhaustion settled in), so excited for life! I couldn’t help but smile and randomly jump or laugh or sing because joy kept bubbling over.
To my surprise after being unhappy and lonely for so long, the most common encouragement I recieved from staff and students was that I had JOY. Well that, and everyone thought I was cool; which, yeah, I am. ;)
But the joy, man, the joy. I can’t explain where it came from or how it’s always there. It’s nothing by me, that’s for sure. No matter how emotionally and physically exhausted I was or how frustrated I got with my own performance as a staffer, the joy was always there, holding my heart and keeping the castle moving.
I hate crying because I am the Master Commander, crying makes me feel weak, and the Master Commander is not weak. I didn’t cry, like really cry, for the first two and a half weeks, but then Girl’s Staff Appreciation Night happened. By this point in my time at Summit, my emotions were sloshing at the brim, threatening to drown me. The guys led us ladies around a scavenger-hunt-type journey, speaking words of love, respect, support, and honor over us as women of God. Then they brought us to a reception area with food, drinks, a photo booth, and beautiful handmade paper boxes filled with flowers and personalized notes. After the reception, they drove us to the chapel and sang over and with us. At the end, the girls all piled into vans, feeling loved and appreciated, when I noticed one staffer choosing to walk back to the dorm rather than ride in the van. Something surged inside me, yelling “Walk with her!” and I jumped out, shouting her name until she stopped.
As we walked, I struggled to keep the wave of tears from gushing out while she told me this was only the second time in her life that she’s cried tears of joy. She told me about how loved she felt being here, taking the words I struggled to say right from my mouth. I listened, biting my cheek in a desperate attempt to be strong for her, and we finally reached her dorm. I told her I loved her, gave her a hug, and watched her disappear into the building, unable to stop smiling at the Lord’s constant work of redemption in our lives.
Before I even passed the shrubbery outside her dorm, I burst into tears, unable to hold it in any longer.
I ran to my dorm, my pride beckoning me to hide, and burst into a small lounge area unknown to most residents, shutting the door quickly and quietly.
And I cried. I told the Lord that I didn’t want to leave.
I’d finally gotten glimpse of true community, one in which everyone strives after excellence not perfection. And one in which we challenge one another to be our best selves, affirming the diversity in gifts and shouldering one another’s burdens. One in which the goals we set for ourselves are met and then raised higher and higher as we work together to become more Christ-like. One in which I felt like my real self, known, broken, and loved.
People keep asking me what the best part of Summit was and I can’t seem to pinpoint a specific part. I loved every aspect. I could list out all the moments throughout my days that hold special places in my heart, but that would be an exceptionally long blog post. Instead, I’ll say it was a slow burn, a growing fire. Everyday, we all grew closer, stronger, and yesterday, it was so freaking hard to say goodbye. Goodbyes are the pits.
But rather than wallowing in leaving my community, my family, I still have that joy. It’s still burning, brightening, keeping the castle moving. Now that I know what true community should look like, I have this intense courage to call others into it. To invite the Holy Spirit into every moment. To live dangerously.
To have joy.