Joy, she wears it well…

Goblets sparkled and candles flickered.
One hundred and twenty or more widows were escorted to their beautifully decorated places at the tables.
The meal, so carefully planned and printed on the menu was served by formally dressed young people, feeling a bit starched but smiling. Carefully made corsages were pinned on their blouses, and each one was welcomed warmly.
It was our annual widow’s luncheon, and each year the group swells a bit from the previous one.

They come dressed in their best, leaning on canes or some walking with a limp.
I always love watching how well they dress, how carefully their hair is curled, their make up applied.
The colors and styles tell how much they really care. They are women of dignity, these widows.
They have seen so much, loved so much, and lost so much.
And now here they are, for a few hours of our time; listening.
It is our turn to give back.
We serve them food. We have a speaker, one who walks in their shoes. We sing.
We want them to know how much we care, how much we appreciate them.

I’m always blown away at the thought that what brings this unique group of women together is loss.
Each has a husband buried, each has wept late midnight hours, and sleeps alone.
Most have given life, reared children and guided children into adulthood.
But here they are today, leaning hard on the arm of one our young people, being helped to their seat.
They are alone.

Of course I am biased.
My mother sits in this crowd each year,
but only after she has gone around and spoken individually with as many as she can reach.
She is beautiful, her hair has silvered with time.
She looks regal, because she is. I think she is the most beautiful widow in the crowd.
I look up from where my husband and sisters and I are singing, and she nods and smiles.
It’s a look that says, “You are doing wonderful. You sound great. I am proud of you.”
And of course, afterwards, she finds her way to my side and says all those words.
She has always been my cheerleader.


Life hasn’t been fair to her.
As she raised six lively children with the man she loved, and then lost.
And then as her life spiraled out of control and she found herself on the strangest journey ever.
A 15 passenger van loaded with all her earthly belongings and her six children headed to a land where she knew no one, and a language spoken that she didn’t understand. Then being caught, thrown in prison, the miraculous expunction and relocating to the east coast, far from Texas and the land she was raised in. And then the staggering and sudden loss of her only son.
How does one keep breathing after so much trauma?
Keep smiling? Keep living?

It is hard to see time wear at her.
To see her fingers touched with arthritis. To see her go to work to pay the bills when I wish she could just stay home and cook meals like she loves to do… I wish Dad were here to care for her.
To delight in his lovely little wife. To see how well he had chosen.
To grow old with her.

But God has been good. He has been gentle. And she has been faithful.
He asked, and she followed. He took, and she said, “Blessed be his name.”

Nineteen years ago yesterday, my Dad entered eternity, and my mother began this journey of widowhood.
She smiles. She cries too, at times.

But Joy is her name, and she wears it well.



If my mom has blessed you in your loss, or carried you in a special way;
feel free to join me in blessing her by leaving a comment below.


31 thoughts on “Joy, she wears it well…

  1. I never met you or your mom. But after reading the book your family wrote about your life story, I found your blog and have followed it ever since. Your mom has been an amazing inspiration to me in my journey of mothering and homeschooling in Christ my own six children. May God bless her and you and the rest of your family abundantly.

    Heidi in FL

  2. You mom is a darling! I count it a privilege to know her. I’ve wondered “why??” so often in her behalf! But God has taken her heartaches and woven a beautiful life from it, Joy, we love you! You hang in there, lady friend! “Heaven’s REALLY gonna shine”!!

  3. Your Mommy is one of the strongest, sweetest, most gracious people I know. The crushing truly has released the perfume. She’s raised her children beautifully, with so much love and grace and fun, and I love to see them rising up and blessing her. Praying for God’s presence to rest with you all through this, another hard anniversary, but especially with you, Joy. We love you! Peace and grace and joy to you!

  4. Your mom is one of the sweetest ladies I know!! She welcomes everyone and make you feel at home. She has a meek and gentle spirit and is everyone’s friend!! I love her!! You are blessed!! 😉

  5. This brought tears to my eyes. I am blessed to have your mother as my mentor, a person who gives godly advice and I know prays many prayers for me! I am beyond blessed to have her in my life and as my friend! You said it all so well and I love the ending…. Joy is her name, and she wears it well.

  6. So beautifully said Melissa…. Tears run down my face at the pain she has so bravely gone through with a lovely light that is etched on her face from the grace God has given her to bear it all. I love you Joy! Thank you for being a dear, sweet spirit in our midst!!!!

  7. Your mother is inside and out one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever known. So many sweet and beautiful memories I have of her. One that was especially etched in my mind was our return home from having been stuck in the elevator on the 4th of July. You , Shana, Ashley, Isaac and I with your dad. We pulled in to the driveway with stories ready to tell. And before we had even stopped the car, your mom flung open the van door and embraced your dad. At the time I couldn’t understand the sweetness of that moment. Hug her for me today!

  8. This is so beautiful, it leaves me nearly breathless. The beautiful lady it has been written about leaves my eyes swelled with tears.
    The privilege, the honor of knowing Joy as a personal friend and having seen glimpses into her beautiful soul is a gift only God could have given.
    Joy, you make Christianity look like it was meant to be be. Thank you for wearing it well! I love you!
    -Mary Strain

  9. When we lived in North Carolina for a few months, uprooted gain, moving again, having to learn a new church culture, again, and new people, again, your mom (and your family) made me feel like everything would be ok, like not everybody was mad and fighting, because she had a kind smile even when she didn’t know us and kind of felt like a little piece of home, although I didn’t really know what and where home was. Thanks so much, Joy!

  10. “They are women of dignity…” So true, and I love your observations of how that is manifested. Having a younger sister widowed for 18 years, and now my mother for 5, has given me a heart of compassion for these women and their courageous strength. I count it such a privilege to be a friend of your mother, to witness the grace of God flowing through her to others. God bless all of you for blessing these wonderful women in this special way!

  11. There’s dear lady who lost her husband and father of her 5 children nearly 13 years ago when in the middle of the night a drunk driver drove through their bedroom wall, killing him instantly. God saw fit to spare her life that night and she has gone on to raise each of her children for the Lord. She always has a kind word to speak and has a sweet smile to share. Truely the words of the the old hymn “They That Sow in Tears Shall Reap in Joy” are so fitting not only in her life but in your mother’s as well. She sounds like such a dear Christain lady. May God’s blessing be your portion this day.

  12. So true and so well written. Your mother is a saint like none other I know. I have always been grateful that God in His wisdom allowed our paths to meet and run together for a time. She will never begin to know the blessing she has been in our lives. I love her (and you girls) so much. May God bless you all. Just me, Kim M

  13. Just this morning I was thinking of her, and I finally concluded that her strength must come from the Lord. Interesting because that was before I even read this. ☺ She is always cheery and friendly and full of the joy of the Lord. She has encouraged me in her faith in her Heavenly Husband to provide for her needs. And how thankful she is! Love you Joy. And praying blessings of peace n love.

  14. Indeed, every word of this is so true. I have a note up in my desk by your mom that was written after we had our first molar pregnancy that we had thought was a miscarriage. I’m sure she doesn’t remember writing it, but that’s usually how it is for someone who is truly gracious, lovely and overflowing with Jesus …. They leave a note or word that stays long with the receipient long after they themselves have forgotten. Thank you, Joy. You are loved and treasured!

  15. I meet Joy at girls passion 2014…first I read your story and then at Passion listened to her speak! I am inspired by her incredible faith in Jesus and how she passed that on to her family! Thank-you Joy for your Godly example! Blessings on your journey ..

  16. Dear sister Melissa beautiful writing about your beautiful mother. So true, every word you wrote. I just want to tell sis Joy how much we the Gavarretes love her. We love you sister Joy. You are an inspiration to us.

  17. Joy has long been a woman whom I have looked up to, as an example of a strong faith in God, of courage, of selfless giving, and joy; in-spite of all the sorrows she’s had. I remember clearly the poem you all and your mom shared at a program. “In acceptance lieth peace.” Her sweet smile and caring have blessed me so many times! My love to her, Lucinda

  18. Approximately 8 1/2 years ago this wonderful woman and her daughters came and rescued me from the whirlwind of excitement and exhaustion of having twin boys. I will be ever grateful for the love and attention she and her girls “joyfully” poured into our lives. Not only does she wear it well, but her Joy is contagious.

  19. The first and second times I came here to comment, I couldn’t see through my tears. I love you, Mama Joy, and I will always remember how graciously you mentored me through a very confusing season of my life. Amy Carmichael writes in “Edges of His Ways” how the bees add cell after cell of sweet honey to their comb. She suggests that in the same way, God adds cell after cell to our hearts to give us space and ability to love many people. I am one of the many people who is grateful to have my own cell in your large heart of honey. Thank-you for all the care and interest and prayers you have invested into my life, and for sharing your precious son and sweet daughters with me over the years.

  20. Beautifully written Melissa, you are right. Thanks for sharing!
    Dearest tia Joy, I love you so very much! You and your family are a huge blessing to my life! I have so many great memories, and I thank God that He lead our lives to cross. God’s richest blessings to you! Te quiero mucho!

  21. Mom was so blessed by all your kind words here. She wanted to personally thank you…

    “Thank you! Each of you who took time to warm my heart with your kind, loving words! I think I can live off of your sweet encouraging sentiments to me for a good little while now.
    A warm hug back to you from me!”
    Mama Joy

  22. This is so very, very beautifully told. Sometimes I wonder how so much loss can be handed to one person. Yet, when I see the glory God has received through people like your mom, I know He redeems those painful places as well.

  23. I first met your courageous mother through her book, and then later at meetings in pa. At the time my parents were beginning the process of separating and I was taking care of my younger siblings. We sat next to your mother during many of the meetings, and my little brother fell asleep on her lap once. It made me happy to see him receiving motherly love at a time when he needed it so much, and I could only do so much as the big sister 💙

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