FreerangeFriday: Rediscovering JOY

by Lilly Lewin
Gethsemani in spring

by Lilly Lewin

It’s the middle of April and I’m sitting at the Abbey of Gethsemani with a fan blowing on me. This week the temperature has gotten up to the low 80’s and 70’s at night! Much too hot for this cool weather girl and very different from my usually abbey visits that take place in January or February each year. It’s a bit later than I normally get here because I missed getting my reservation in and I had a couple of other trips that came up in the first part of this year.

So here I am in the middle of Spring with the dogwoods in full bloom and on a week that happens to be very warm. ‘
Things tend to be a bit louder in warm weather even when it’s a silent retreat.
They are already cutting the grass and weed eating around the property.
Everyone is outside rather than in their rooms.
The birds are out in full force and really loud at dawn and dusk!
I love the variety of birds here, from gold finches to cardinals to wood peckers!
And I’ve been enjoying the antics of the chipmunks.
Even saw a ground hog who has taken up residence in the stone wall in the Abbey garden.
The purple irises are in bud and many of the trees already have their leaves.
Signs of Resurrection are everywhere!

One of the things about practicing begin to notice things that you might normally take for granted. Like the different bird songs, or the traffic or the sound of ice in a glass. The smells of lilacs and freshly cut grass or the honeysuckle. Even though it’s been warm, Jesus has provided us with beautiful clouds and glorious wind and even a thunderstorm that helped cool things down a bit. Yesterday, I took my blanket outside and laid on the ground. I actually took a nap outside! I’m not sure how long it’s been since I just laid on a blanket in the grass outside!
I let the sunshine and the breeze blow over me and I just enjoyed being present.

One of my practices when I come to the Abbey is to go through my photos on my phone and take a look back at my last year. Before I got very far, I noticed a photo of my STAR WORDS for 2024. Maybe you chose a word for the year or selected a STAR WORD at Epiphany in January. At thinplace, we usually get three words. And honestly, I’d totally forgotten what mine were for this year.




What is your word for the year? Do you remember? How is God inviting you to notice or live into this word or words?

I started with JOY….
What things bring me JOY…
I made a list
A long list…here are just a few joy items

Dark chocolate
Blue jeans
My Love Heals baseball hat
Being outside
Taking Walks
My husband and kids
Sunsets, vistas, rocky seascapes
Hot tea and good coffee
Jon Batiste’s music
Book stores
Art, art museums, art supplies
Creating beautiful spaces
Hanging out with good People
Flowers, especially tulips and sunflowers

What things are bringing you joy? Take some time to notice. Make a list and keep adding to it this week!

Honestly, Joy has been hard to find in 2024. I’ve been pre-dreading the election and all the political conflict in America. And add in all the wars and needless killing happening and JOY seems trite.
But JOY happens to be the
second fruit of the Spirit… the one just after LOVE. Galatians 5:22-23

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.


AND Jesus said in John 15:
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

READ THE WHOLE TEXT: What do you notice?

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.

For me, I can experience and know Joy because I am greatly loved by the God of the Universe! I am not alone!



We can have JOY even in the middle of the crap of life, because we have Jesus’s love surrounding us. I’m learning to surround myself in his love. To picture that love like a blanket that covers me or a shield that protects me and cannot be taken away. His love never leaves me, even when I drop the shield or throw off that blanket for whatever reason.

I want the JOY of Jesus in me. I want to experience more of this JOY! How about you?

This week Jesus showed me his JOY in a beautiful yellow butterfly and in the little yellow gold finches around the abbey garden. I think God will start using the color yellow to remind me of JOY just as God has used the color pink to remind me of God’s love.

What color would represent JOY to you? Take a walk or play with some paints or crayons and notice what brings you JOY!

Create a playlist that expresses JOY to you. I suggest you start with some Jon Batiste! Maybe Freedom Or Butterfly

I started practicing silence over 20 years ago and it has saved my life and my faith….to take time out to be still and quiet and listen to Jesus away from the noise of every day life. It is a gift I do not take for granted.

Take some time away from your phone this weekend and practice silence. You might start with a walk without your earbuds. Maybe go somewhere you don’t usually walk or a place where you will have more beauty and less traffic. You might get out a blanket and lay outside in the grass. Notice what you hear, what you see, what you smell. What else do you notice? What does Jesus use to speak to you? What brings you Joy in the silence? Don’t be afraid of the noise in your head. Just let it go and focus on somethings that brings you life/joy/peace. I’d love to hear about what you discover!

books i'm reading

books i’m reading

Father Ed Hays Chasing Joy: Musings on Life in a Bittersweet World is helping me explore Joy. Father Hays helps me see and experience God in many joyful ways. I also flew through Fr. Richard Rohr’s Dancing Standing Still! this week and it has brought me hope! I highly recommend them both.

©lillylewin and



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