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Allowing Joy to Find Me

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Editor’s note: Missioner Erin McHugh reflects on the nature of joy and shares how she was able to find joy when she surrendered, relaxed, and practiced presence with those around her.

“Somewhere along my journey, it happened. Quietly, imperceptibly, almost without my knowing it, I relaxed. Got comfortable with myself. I began enjoying myself, accepting myself, accepting life. Liking life. I found joy.” ~ Melody Beattie

I was reading through my daily meditation book by Melody Beattie called Journey to the Heart  when this quote struck me. I feel like it describes how I have felt throughout my mission journey:  

As I was discerning whether I wanted to come back into mission after having to leave Jamaica early, I remember the one thing bothering me was that I didn’t feel like I was filled with joy. I felt like I was just going through the motions of my daily life but not really loving or enjoying it. I was actively trying to do everything I could to get the joy back, but it didn’t seem to work. I felt at times I was forcing myself to be joyful. Even after deciding to go back into mission in Guatemala, I still was struggling and afraid I wouldn’t be able to find joy on mission again.

Little did I know, God had powerful lessons about joy and peace in store for me during my time in Guatemala. I have learned that instead of actively looking for joy in my life, I need to let go, relax, and let the joy find me.  

In these first five months in Guatemala I have had a deep sense of peace and contentment that I haven’t felt in a long time; I am more comfortable and confident in myself than I ever have been before. I would definitely say joy found me when I was least expecting it! I have been filled with joy countless times in Guatemala.

The kids at Valley are some of the most affectionate and loving kids I have ever met. I am filled with joy when one of them grabs my hand when we are walking side-by-side. I am filled with joy when one of my students wants to practice their English and my Spanish with me outside of the classroom. I am filled with joy when they call my name and want me to sit with them at meals or events. I am filled with joy when they run up to me for a big hug. I am filled with joy when they want to go through pictures of my family and friends back home. I am filled with joy whenever I have the chance to be with any of the kids to share stories and laugh together.

Joy has found me, and I have experienced it in a deeper way than I could have imagined. I am once again filled with joy for mission and working with children. I am learning what brings me healing and growth. I am learning to love myself and walk on my own unique path. Finally, I am continuing to love—and be loved—in this beautiful country.

I am no longer worried about finding joy. I am content and present to where I am, knowing that joy will always find me on my journey.

Reflection Question:  How can you let go, and relax to allow joy to  find you in your daily life?

Erin McHugh has a strong passion for working with children and a heart for those living in poverty. After serving in South Africa last summer with Experience Mission, Erin is looking forward to building relationships and immersing herself in a new culture through Franciscan Mission Service. While her family now lives in Cincinnati, OH, Erin has roots in her hometown of Louisville, KY. Before pursuing her calling for international mission work, Erin attended Butler University for two years. There she was involved with the Butler Catholic Community and was co-chair of the service committee. Erin has been in Guatemala since January 2017.