The joy of the Lord is your strength. —Nehemiah 8:10
I first noticed this familiar Bible verse—which in her version reads, “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength”—on my mother’s refrigerator during my annual Christmas visit last year. Nestled amid the fading cartoons, family photos and (a newer addition) a whiteboard listing a month’s worth of doctor’s appointments and reminders, this modest magnet stood out with unusual force. The passage rings unusually true as my mom—call her “Miss Wanda,” everyone does—approaches her 90th birthday in June.
Strength bolstered by faith, and joy in the love of the Lord, has rarely been more evident than this winter, as my mom diligently and successfully worked to get back on her feet after an emergency hip replacement—coming a year and a half after another fall fractured her pelvis. She recovered well enough from that injury to start driving again, and to resume “Silver Sneakers” workouts at the nearby Y and her volunteer work at church, where she helps prepare hundreds of Sunday bulletins and envelopes.
My mother’s story is one of sustained resilience through love and joy in the Lord. Widowed in her early 30s, raising three children (I was the youngest) in a small Indiana town with relatives on every other block, she never lost faith or showed despair—at least not to me. The church I was brought up in was filled with family, always there for Wanda and her kids. And now as her world inevitably shrinks, a new church (in suburban Kentucky) rallies to her needs: friends and staff calling amid a deep freeze to make sure she has what she needs, cards in her mailbox wishing her well and hoping to see her again soon.
Her views on religion and society don’t always align with mine, but my mom’s example never fails to inspire me in moments of doubt. For her, church is family, and how the ladies in the church office beam when Miss Wanda pays a visit. We expect she’ll be back on a regular basis before long. Praise the Lord!
Dear Heavenly Father, we give thanks for your love and joy in your creation, which gives us the strength we need to face our challenges. Amen.
Matt Roush is the Clerk of Session at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.