The grown people chat.
The boys draw.
It's quiet. We're tired. We've raked fall's leaves under the spring sun and we're spent.
"What are you drawing?" Lonny's mom asks.
Zay looks up. Too-long bangs fall over his forehead. "It's a picture," he says. "A picture of us."
Logan and Grant lean and look. Then Zay lifts his paper so we all can see.
"Here we are," he says.
He's right. There we are. It's a family portrait by a child's hand. Rugby's tail looks life a fifth leg. Our legs are sticks with flaps at the ends. Our bodies are round potatoes. We're smiling like jack-o-lanterns and have ears big as all outdoors.
Zay smiles with pride. Then, all of a sudden, he begins to laugh.
It starts as a small bubble. A hiccup of joy. Then it ripples straight through. The laughter gathers momentum, and he's giggling now. The drawing slides to the table and his hands go to his mouth. He tries to press the laughter inside but he can't and now he's holding his middle and there are tears, real tears. Lonny and his dad talk politics. His mother and I are talk, too. The big boys are on their phones. Sam and Gabe keep drawing, but soon all eyes are on Zay.
We can't help but laugh.
His laughter is like a wave that stretches far and pulls us in.
His pitch is high and the sound is sweet and we're lost in it. Nothing is funny, really, but this glee is contagious. We laugh. All of us. It feels silly at first, but then I understand.
This is joy.
So many times, so many days, I'm too busy to remember joy. In my "grown-up-ness", I think and worry and move from task to task. And then there are the burdens. The ones I carry day in and out and the battle can go long. I often carry the weight of circumstance and circumstance can crush the soul.
Yet the Lord wants us to have joy.
I'm learning, as I lean into the Lord, that while joy can't be fabricated or forced, it's possible to have joy even in the midst of a troubling circumstance. As a children, we sing "We've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart."
Down in my heart.
Joy, the soul-settling kind, comes not from circumstance but from living in the freedom of the promised Presence of the Lord.
He's with me - no matter what.
There I'll be when troubles come. He will hide me. He will set me on a high rock out of reach of all my enemies. Then I will bring him sacrifices and sing his praises with much joy. Psalm 27:5-7 TLB
I understand, as my own cheeks are warm and my sides ache too, that it's not often that I cut loose and abandon all to something so precious and sweet. It feels good to laugh this hard.
I want a life filled with more laughter.
Laughter and joy.
Eventually Zay runs out of steam. My mother-in-law dabs her eyes. We mellow.. Things simmer down. Zay composes himself and takes a fresh sheet of paper. Conversation rumbles one more.
We sit up and straighten up and the moment is gone.
But something precious has happened and I'm grateful.
Laughter is a pure and simple gift.
And the joy of His Presence can be mine.