I stood on the escalator next to him, one hand on the rail, as we rose higher to the upper level. It felt so grand to be in such a fine place: the children’s department at The Emporium’s. It wasn’t a place where we usually bought our clothes, but today was different. It was one of my father’s first visits after the divorce. I was excited because he said I could pick out whatever I wanted.
My father shuffled beside me with his greased-up hair, baggy pants, and wiry legs moving in sync with my curiosity. He would pull out something random off the shelves. This is pretty . . . you like?
Then I saw it.
Hanging up high, perched on a special display, was the most beautiful outfit I ever saw: a soft bubble-gum pink corduroy jacket with silver buckles and matching pants. It was perfect. It looked amazing to me. Which one should I get — the jacket or the pants?
As I stood there tippy-toed, reaching up to fish the outfit down, my father told me to stand still and placed the outfit in front of me with one arm shot straight out, eyeing me like an old woman threading a needle.
“Turn around,” he said, pressing the sleeves against my wrists. “It fits. Daddy will buy both for you.”
As I stood there at the checkout register, watching my father pay, I couldn’t believe it. The whole outfit? My heart was bursting, full of something beautiful. It was new, and it was all for me.
Never in a thousand years would I have guessed I’d never have the chance to wear that jacket and those pants out in broad daylight.
When I got home and tried it on in front of the mirror in the hallway, I thought it fit perfectly, but I could tell from my mother’s eyes that this was the furthest thing from the truth.
“You look ridiculous,” she spat.
After dinner, my momma took whatever leftover gunk was found in the sink and dumped it on top of my pink outfit that she’d thrown away, with the tags still hanging off of it. I stood there in that gloomy kitchen devastated.
I don’t have anything good anymore. It’s gone. I felt so lonely. Something I thought was perfect and mine was no longer any good.
Maybe this is when I first learned how completely lonely it feels to hope for joy and how hoping for it meant leaving room for disappointment.
It’s easy when you’re young to believe dreams can come true. But if you’ve ever truly had a perfect moment carry you to a place of belief — whether it was a positive pregnancy test, a romance, a friendship, a parent, your health, a career, or a life-long dream — and then had it taken away, then you know what it feels like to see something perfect end up in the refuse of broken dreams and mismatched opportunities. You begin to wonder whether anything is worth delighting in again.
Is anything really worth enjoying if it can’t last anyway?
Rest and joy can feel dangerous. For some of us, joy is connected to times when it was ruined, when a simple moment of happiness was decimated by a person, place, or thing. After that incident, I didn’t feel like I needed joy.
Then Jesus caught me in an unguarded moment and said, I was there, Bonnie. I stood beside you as you cried. As you looked into the garbage and saw something you loved being destroyed, I was there. And I’m here with you now.
Jesus called to mind a man who was battered, imperfect, and bruised. When the young man asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him a story of a person lying half dead on the side of the road — a man no one stopped to pay any attention to, except the Good Samaritan. I remembered how Jesus said that precious oil and wine were splurged onto this man’s wounds, and that’s when I realized that joy and rest were the oil and wine missing from my life.
I once thought that the wounded stranger in that story was someone else, but now I understood that joy-wounded stranger was me. That man was carried to a place to rest, and Jesus said to my heart, I will never run out of rest for you, Bonnie. No matter how much you need, no matter how long it takes, I will care for you.
Jesus understands the wounds where joy has been demolished. Your wounds are not invisible to Him, and He has an abundance of joy and rest to pour into them. Jesus calls us to create space — to slow down and nurture our souls so He can fill us.
Your story will be different from mine, but you might have a pink outfit story too where joy was lost. God can help you recover the courage to reach up again and ask for joy — to choose joy. Let’s give ourselves permission to be real, to go beyond surviving, to uncover what feeds our soul today. You are worthy of joy.
“These things I have spoken to you,
so that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be made full.”
John 15:11 (NASB)
Michelle S. says
Bonnie, I had someone steal my joy on the job last week AND this week. This post spoke to my soul. Thank you for making this hurt more bearable. Your posts are simply wonderful!
Bonnie, I believe that angels in Heaven rejoice that you have found joy in the Lord. Truly, the Joy of the Lord is your strength. And you use that message for so many others. May God continue to bless you.
Rebecca Rouse says
Fine words to encourage my soul often in a lovingly pink outfit! Treasured moments of good news. Thanks
Julie Garmon says
I love this post.
Ruth Mills says
Your post made me immediately mad at your mom. But bless you, you pointed to Jesus! His Spirit nudged me I don’t have all the facts & your mom, just like me & all of us, needs the grace & mercy of Jesus as well. Oh the precious presence of The One Who knows & loves us best!!! Blessing to you & thank you for your beautiful writing.
connie ker says
After reading this story in my senior years, I am thinking that it wasn’t about the pink outfit, as much as it was who bought it for you and who gave you that joy in the moment. Your mother was throwing away the divorced man in the trash heap because she was angry about the loss of joy in her marriage to him. Children are the victims of divorce and if your mother was beyond her hurt and anger, she probably would have let you keep and wear the pink outfit. I remember having teen daughters who had different taste in clothes than I did and today the word “modesty” has disappeared. You still have the JOY of being with your Dad on the pink shopping trip. Cherish that memory and forgive your Mother who didn’t get a new outfit from the Emporium. Divorce is hurtful and the loss of a marriage is rejection. If your parents are still alive, love them both which will bring you JOY., and everlasting JOY is in our Lord which you have already found.
Connie, I had the same thoughts as you. You are absolutely right and you worded this perfectly.
Thank you for your testimony. It is well with my soul. Oh, what joy fills my soul! Praise God! Praise God! Praise God!
One of my fondest memories as a child was shopping with my Dad at a little town store called Harrison’s. He let me pick out my favorites: a bright purple and Kelly green striped T-shirt with royal blue corduroys. I was so proud wearing that unmatched out fit to church that Sunday and laugh about it to this day. Hold onto the joy that day brought you! Thank the lord you found your grace, forgiveness and joy in Jesus. He is always there to guide us through the toughest of times .
Bonnie thank you for being vulnerable! The Holy Spirit has moved through the words you penned, anointing each sentence. Thank you for drawing me to the Lord Jesus to find healing and joy.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 A row of hearts for you and your delicious encouragement Bonnie which communicates so refreshingly clearly, through your vulnerability and Truth and reliance upon Our Father xxx
This was just what I needed to read this morning! Blessings for sharing your painful memory so it could speak to our hearts about joy beyond suffering.
Carol Coates says
Bonnie, thank you so much for your beautiful writing and reminding me that even though I, too, have been like the man beaten by life and left for dead, Precious Holy Spirit binds up my wounds. Jesus was there and came to my rescue even walked/walks me through that grief as my High Priest who is well acquainted with grief and chose to suffer death for me. Love the connection between oil and wine and rest and joy. Blessings as we are pretty in pink and rejoicing in Him this Easter.
This spoke to my soul and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing and taking the risk to be vulnerable so we can all learn more about God’s blessings and desire to bring joy and rest to all of us. I pray you are encouraged and strengthened as you work on your new book. I’ve missed your posts, but I know you are busy!
Melinda Stortenbecker says
I’ve been there, Jesus did that for me, also.
Shared it … thank you for sharing.
Theresa Boedeker says
You have changed my idea about that parable about the stranger.
Thank you for your words, Bonnie! Well said!
I needed this in the worst way, God always uses you to help uphold what was let down ! Ty so much for your words of hope❤️
This is so powerful for me and so ironic. My relationship with my father has been very complicated since my Mom passed away. The anniversary of her death was a few days ago. On this same day I also lost a close friend to cancer. I was in shock. My father actually called me that day, but not to ask how I was doing or to reminisce of sweet memories of my Mom but to accuse me of making poor decisions and listening to the “wrong people” for advice. Cancelled by my own father. Your statement about leaving room for disappointment is spot on. It’s been a rough 4 years of trying to overcome the grief to get to the point where I allow myself to feel joy. But when I do allow those moments to surface it’s not long before the sad ones creep back into my heart and I wonder if I will ever be able to come to terms with sadness and allow for joy to occupy a more permanent space in my heart. Thank you for this post.
Christina Warrington says
Oh how I cried for that little girl. Thank you for this post. I have given up on real joy. I trust in Christ. I know He loves me,& will never understand his choice foe me. I got divorced from an extremely mentally abusive alcoholic. It was leave or die. I had no more strength even with Christ holding me. I’m alone. I have friends who love me, but I work & do what I need to to survive. My son & his family are 3 hours away, too far to drive in 1 day without being exhausted, they work busy & odd hours so visiting me is only on my birthday. I work full time to pay to live. At Walmart so I make enough to do that. Likely never retire. Could never afford to. I pray & try so hard to focus on my gifts from my Father. I’ll be ok for a few hours or a day, but I’m tired of crying. It seems I am just a failure. It’s only knowing that I am loved by Christ that keeps me going. So so sad. Thank you again for this post. May God continue to give you joy.
Dear Christina, you are so precious and valuable in the sight of God. Jesus gave His life for ALL. Not just those who have found joy in their lives, but for all. Although it is great you know Him, may you truly find true joy in this. In knowing that God loves you and wraps His arms around you and has kept you safe and alive to this day. May the JOY OF THE LORD be your strength. Our joy is not in our circumstances. A friend once challenged me to find a hint of excitement in my life (I was facing a risky 3rd major surgery in 6 months). I was determined to “handle it without complaining” and “be longsuffering” but my friend encouraged me to find joy. Joy in surgery? Joy in your circumstances? YES!!! Because where we are is where God has allowed us to be. Let Him be your joy. Praise Him for His salvation. That alone should have us all jumping for joy all the time. Earthly success or failure should have nothing to do with our attitude….and how I need a constant reminder of this myself. Joy in Him. Joy in trials and tribulations. Not a silly “Pollyanna” smile ‘on the face’ which denies the pain and hurt, but a true joy that lifts us above our circumstances to acknowledge the pain and hurt and yet be joyful in Him. Jesus wept and He sees your tears. Let Him be your continual comfort and strength. Just focus on the next 5 minutes…one step at a time, one day at a time. Praying for you!! XX
I am so sorry for your pain — did your Father not say anything? why couldn’t she have just taken it back? Did she ever say she was sorry?
God loves you — bless your dear Father for trying to please you
Janet Williams says
Thank you for sharing Bonnie. I love the reminder that He is with us always…especially when we are affected by another’s pain. God reminds me I’m filled with joy when I honor how He made me. I’m worthy of joy because of Him
Allison Wixted says
Wow, Bonnie! As always, you’ve spoken directly to my heart.
Foreboding joy (as Brene Brown terms it) is a real threat in my life. When the promise of joy disappears on the dry shores of disappointment repeatedly, it hardens our hearts over time. We wall ourselves off from even the possibility of joy since the fall into despair is a bigger threat than the ethereal potential that joy will actually land in our laps and stay there. Many times in my life, joy seems to want to jump right out of my lap before I can even savor its fruits.
But like you said, Jesus waits for us in those moments. He knows that worldly joy is an illusion. His arms are always open wide to offer us the authentic joy only He can offer.
Thanks again for helping me dive deep into my heart and help heal a little part. I’m grateful that Christ uses you as his faithful servant to help me and so many who need to hear your healing words.
Christine French says
I can just picture you in heaven some day, twirling for your Dad in that fab pink ensemble, expertly tailored by your Mom tailored to fit perfectly under your wings . . . All together, all smiles. Something to look forward to! 😀
Mary Mccauley says
Thank you Bonnie. I can so relate to struggling to find joy. God’s joy. I am learning gratitude and contentment help me know joy.
You paint great word pictures and I ached for that little girl.
I am so glad she is now an amazing woman sharing her strength with others.
Katie Randolph says
Thank you my friend. You words are a balm to my soul. They are the rest I needed today.
Beth Williams says
God is bringing joy back into my marriage. We’ve had years of dealing with aging parents & job issues. It has been hard dealing with all the stressors. Things are looking up at work for hubby & myself. We are reconnecting to the people we were when we married 17 years ago. That in & of itself is giving me such joy & happiness. Being with him & hearing him tell me how much he loves me brightens my day & brings a smile to my face. This struck a chord with me: Let’s give ourselves permission to be real, to go beyond surviving, to uncover what feeds our soul today. For years we were surviving. Just two people who said I love you, but didn’t often show it. Now we are showing it big time!!
Carol Brown says
Oh, how I wish I could buy you a pink outfit with a silver buckle and you could wear it in joy. I recognize that God has helped you find joy and rest in His way, but your story makes my heart weep. I have been praying for a better understanding for His joy for me and how to share His joy to the needy world. Thank you for sharing your pain and for reminding me Joy every day is for all of us.
What a sad, but immensely beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it with us. Yes, Jesus was made to feel little and small by the petty-minded Pharisees of His day, and so He understands how we feel. He is a wonderful and amazing.
I usually don’t feel right when somehow something gives me joy or momentary peace, it is suspicious to me and I instantly sabotage myself. I am fighting to change that. Thank you for the reminder. As always, your words are sweet, kind and always, ALWAYS lead me to Jesus. I love reading you Bonnie. Sending you hugs!
Tina MacRae says
Oh,I forgot who much I loved those elevator’s at Emporium ‘s!!
It’s comforting to be reminded that Jesus was with me, the little girl, when I was locked out of the house, wishing to just belong and to be loved. And to know I was held and protected….