“Dancing Lightly with Life”

September 7, 2015 at 1:56 pm


3-Year-Old, Chelsea, fills the room with her joy... "Today is my day to dance with Life, Sing wild songs of adventure, Invite rainbows & butterflies out to play, Soar my spirit, and unfurl my joy!" _Jonathan L. Huie_

3-Year-Old, Chelsea, fills the room with her joy…
“Today is my day to dance with Life,
Sing wild songs of adventure,
Invite rainbows & butterflies out to play,
Soar my spirit, and unfurl my joy!”
_Jonathan L. Huie_












written by Debbie Allen

Who needs a written definition of joy when there’s a picture like this one hanging in the halls of your memory?  Over the years, those hallways of mine have expanded into more of a Gallery of Kodak-moments.  Their steep, Victorian walls are now bulging under the weight of countless snapshots filled with the little faces of my children and grandchildren, captured in their own unexpected moments of undeniable joy.  I walk among them, gazing and praising God for each and every memory hanging before me.  Believe me; I retreat to this special place often.  For it is when I stand here, gazing at pictures like the one of Chelsea, above, I am most reminded of what it feels like when true joy floods the heart.    That deep, abiding kind of joy that so effortlessly frames our faces, sets our hearts aglow, and stirs our souls. While wandering through my Gallery one day recently, I couldn’t help but notice how even true joy seems to subtly fade-away from those same radiant faces with the onset of adulthood.  Intrigued at the very thought of it,  I  couldn’t help but wonder, “What is the source of such inexplicable joy   …and why is it that small children seem to have cornered the market on this rare and beautiful gift?”

Though there is no simple answer, I believe the answer still points us towards something simple.   The simplicity that comes with just being a child. A child’s eyes still see Mom and Dad as heroes worthy of their complete dependence.  Heroes with the answer to everything, and love enough for all things.   A child’s heart is still filled with innocence and wonder at every turn in their world.  Their heads are not yet swimmimg with doubts and worries of this life that steer them towards a life-style tainted by mistrust and unbelief.  Their hands have not yet taken hold of the hands in this world that so eagerly pull them down paths they were never meant to go.   Children wake up wide-eyed and eager to explore whatever a new day brings them.  They spring from puddles of joy, hair parted crooked, and shoes on the wrong feet, to the breakfast table where they wrestle with the hardest decision of their day. A chocolate-frosted, double-dutch doughnut with sprinkles?  …or a bowl of soggy Shredded Wheat? (We both know which one wins!)

There is simply nothing like being a child…and ironically, once we grow-up, we often just wish we were a child again.  Somewhere along the way, as adults, we lose sight of the joy that characterizes childhood. We lose touch with the wonder that God has tucked in the folds of each of our days.  Our wandering eyes are more quickly drawn to focus in on the circumstances surrounding us. It is in this breach between the wondering heart and our wandering eyes  (perspective), that we begin  to push joy and Truth  through our own filter of circumstances and logic; ending up with only  a strained version of what the world calls happiness.

Perhaps this accounts for the difference in the expressions on the faces of those in the snapshots in my Gallery, as they grow older.  I studied the snapshot of Chelsea as she danced with life.  Then, I glanced over at a picture of myself on one of my recent birthday celebrations.  Oh…I wore a big smile on my face, sitting before a glowing birthday cake and a pile of presents, but Chelsea’s expression radiated something mine lacked. (No…not youth vs. age! ).  I remembered being prompted by my Daughter-in-law right before that picture was snapped to, “Smile, Mom!”   So I did.  Evidently happiness is capable of being staged.  It can be put on as quickly as it can be taken off….much like a coat.  My smile was born in just the right moment, for just the right set of circumstances, and then quietly subsided.  My smile was not a world-changing event. Chelsea’s smile, however, filled the entire room, washed over all our hearts, and continued long after I captured her on camera.  She spilled joy into the room that night.   Chelsea beamed.  Grammie had only smiled.

Because of the huge difference I could visibly see in those two snapshots in my Gallery, I decided to further explore the difference between Grammie’s smile and Chelsea’s beam.  Here is what Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary had to say about it:

Smile– to wear a cheerful aspect.  n. an amused expression of the face, characterized by the raising of the corners of the mouth.

Beam- to grin radiantly.  to emit light.

So….a smile can be worn and can be considered more an act of the will, strongly dependent upon surrounding circumstances.

A beam, however, seems to take on a life of its own.  It is more spontaneous and comes from somewhere much deeper inside of us.  It is not forced, and something, or Someone, I can only call Light streams from its source. Light capable of flooding an entire room and touching any heart  captured by its radiance. It is contagious.  This is joy…and it comes from the Source of all Joy, God Himself.

Someone once said, “If you have joy in your heart, it will be heard by the look on your face.”  Chelsea’s snapshot is proof positive of this to me!  It’s the perfect description of what you see on her face.    A priceless picture of sheer Joy.  A living example of the immense difference between just a smile and a big beam…and just happiness and great joy.   Sadly enough, it’s also the difference between adulthood and childhood.   As we grow towards adulthood, the complete trust and peace we once shared while living under the roof of our parent’s love and guidance, slowly erodes with doubts, fears, and the ways of a world who claims to know what’s best for us…and insists on telling us how to find true happiness.   Granted, this world is a beautiful place. We can live within this world and even find happiness in many of its corners, but when life’s circumstances come crashing down around us and happiness transforms into a distant memory; the peace we knew in childhood seems nonexistent.  Without peace…there can be no joy.

I have walked this earth long enough to know the world’s happiness is no substitute for true joy.  Even though I understand this truth with my head, there are still times when I catch my heart feeling robbed of joy.  One day at work not long ago, I was feeling both overwhelmed and under- appreciated.  I let my unhappiness about some unpleasant circumstances surrounding me dictate my inner attitude.  Like a giant billboard, my face became an advertisement for my heart’s disdain.  As I walked by my boss, Billie’s, glass-framed office; she motioned for me to come in.  All I really wanted that morning was to get to my desk and indulge heavily in the cup of black coffee waiting there for me.  Sipping it, I grimaced.  Like the rest of my morning, it wasn’t what I expected.  It was ice cold but, I knew it was the only refreshment available for the pity-party I was about to throw myself.   Putting my pity party on hold until after my meeting with Billie, I headed for her office to see what was up.

Reluctant smile and cold coffee in hand, I braced myself, expecting her to approach me about the 101st thing gone-wrong-in-one-morning in the crazy Middle School world we both worked in. Such a moment never came.  There was a short time of just small talk and then Billie broke out into a story from her childhood that still touches me to this day.

Billie went on to share little bits and pieces about her childhood on a small sheep and cattle ranch in the middle of windy, Wyoming.  She spoke fondly of the brazen, fun-loving Dad she loved dearly; and the staunch, God-fearing, Mom who she adored.  Billie was the baby in the flock of brother’s and sisters she grew up with. Though they were dirt poor, love disguised it well.  She couldn’t think of a time when any of them ever went without a garden-fresh meal on the table or new hand-me-downs on their backs. Sounds to me like love filled in some pretty big gaps back then.  After a few minutes of sharing with me, Billie broke out in a hearty laugh; as she often did at the end of her stories.  But today, laughter didn’t signify, “The End.”  Her laughter was only the interval I saw her countenance transform happiness into joy.  Her laughter ushered in what I believe to be the very reason I was sitting there in front of her. For me, this moment gushed with God.

Without missing a beat, Billie began telling me how her Dad and Uncle would back a flatbed truck up to the barn on shearing day.  To me, a city girl, shearing day sounded like anything but a holiday, however, Billie’s expression told me otherwise. Her eyes danced while she spilled the details to me.  She was a child reliving that moment again!  I don’t believe I could’ve removed her smile with a crow bar even if I’d tried!

Shearing Day took place on the farm, in Wyoming, in the heat of summer.  I imagine such a day was also characterized by scorching winds dancing across sweat-drenched brows, while swift and sweaty palms worked shear magic to transform the wild and wooly into the scraped and scrawny.    Sheep bleating, clippers clipping, and fleece flying!   All of this sounds like more than enough exhilaration to rate “extremely-high” on a child’s joy meter.  Billie’s face reflected this as she proceeded to act out her part in this scene from her childhood.  While still sitting in her rolling desk chair across from me, Billie threw both arms out to the side, lifted her feet straight up, and began to re-enact the dance that little four-year-old Billie danced on shearing day; after being placed down inside of a fifteen foot tall, burlap, fleece-bag dangling from the barn loft high above her head.

“I can’t remember how I got down inside of that bag”, Billie pondered, grinning “…I just remember being there and having so much  fun; laughing and giggling for an entire day, while endless fleece rained down on top of my head!”

Like every other task performed on the farm, Billie’s Dad did not just place his precious, Baby Girl down inside of that stuffy, burlap, fleece-bag without a much greater purpose in mind. She was given a very specific job to do for her Daddy.  She was his own, personal fleece-stomper!  He was to her, the fleece-maker.  He sheared and sheared…Billie stomped and stomped.  At the end of that day, pounds and pounds of sheared fleece became bags and bags full of compressed wool to take to market.  I’m sure each bag brought a great price, but, do you know what I consider to be the most valuable take-away from the farm at the end of shearing day?  The expression of joy that Billie still wears on her face nearly five decades later. Shear joy!  It comes from the heart of that little farm girl inside of her who, even now, looks back on all her stomping…and sees dancing.  She remembers her sweaty, pint-sized brow…and still calls it fun.   She ponders growing tired…yet, still draws strength from her Daddy’s words of encouragement that day, “Just keep stomping, little Bill, keep stomping!”

“What else was I going to do?” Billie asked me, beaming a smile in my direction.

“After all, the only way out of those bags was up!”

Billie and I both chuckled at her last comment and how differently small children see their worlds.  As I walked out of her office that morning, I knew she had no idea just how much her story impacted my heart.  So much so, I dumped out my cold coffee on the way back to my desk and cancelled my pending pity-party!   Billie’s last words made me realize that my own joy meter was stuck on zero. Her childhood story about the joyful fleece-stomper and her beloved fleece-maker, made me sorely aware of the kind of story I was revealing to those around me that morning.  Mine was more a grim tale with a story line that fell somewhere between  the worst of  Hugo’s “Les Miserables”, and the frantic cries of  Chicken Little’s,  Henny Penny crying out, “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!”  It portrayed nothing of the joyful relationship my Heavenly Father desired for me to be sharing with Him or living out before others.

As I mentioned earlier, this was a God-Gushing moment for me.  Every one of Billie’s words and gestures oozed with God’s message for me; concerning my grumpy, joyless responses to this morning’s unpleasant circumstances.  At one point, I felt God confronting me with this question.

“What if four-year-old Billie had said, “No!” to all of the things her Daddy had in mind for her that day?”

This question both haunted and humbled me.  I knew it was directed at my own heart.  Though I answered with silence that day, later, I clearly understood that if Little Billie had said “No!” that day, I wouldn’t even be writing these words you are reading right now!  So while Billie’s words continued filtering through my brain…God was busy translating her story even deeper in my heart.  Here is what gushed out.

“What if four-year-old Billie woke up on that hot, windy, Wyoming, shearing day on the farm and said, “No!” to the joy awaiting her in that day (As we adults too often do)?  She could’ve chosen to dwell purely on the facts surrounding her.  She was too little…too tired…too busy…and the job was too much for her littleness to comprehend.  But, she didn’t!  Instead, in the way of a little child, she sought her father out and without questioning him, accepted her small part in his BIG world.  Grasping her Daddy’s hand in total trust, she went willingly down into the burlap, fleece-bag which swallowed her up whole and then kept her from seeing him at all.  Little Billie could’ve felt trapped or even alone in this unfamiliar place.  Fear might have won. But, looking up, instead of giving in, she cried out, “Daddy?”

“I’m here!” Daddy answered…and fear was done!

Quickly, she learned that just because the fleece-maker was invisible to her; didn’t mean he wasn’t still standing there beside her.  And when the clumps of fleece from her Daddy’s hands tumbled down upon her head, she didn’t wince or cry out, “Why?”  She simply remembered her littleness…in light of his nearness; and joyfully danced to the sounds of her Daddy’s voice…

“Just keep stomping, Little Bill’…

Keep dancing for me!”

“And let joy teach your heart

to really see!”


“To really see…”

 Most of us forfeit the chance to really see because we become paralyzed by, or choose to focus only, on the circumstances falling down around us.  If Little Billie had chosen to do the same, she would have been buried alive at the bottom of the fleece-bag on shearing day.  However, she didn’t.  She chose wisely to heed her Daddy’s words and responded with obedience.  She stomped and stomped, tromping the fleece falling on top of her head, beneath her feet.  In time, with both diligence and fortitude, she rose steadily to the top of that bag; climbing out into the arms of her Daddy’s treasured, embrace.  Though hard work and difficult circumstances abounded in this day, joy overwhelmed it.  Joy enough to teach a child’s heart that trust and obedience brings both treasure and reward at the end of any given day.  Shear joy, so deeply infused in a little girl’s heart; it is still worn on the adult face of that little fleece-stomper today.

“To really see…”

A child’s eyes still see…really see.  They see beyond the point where adults choose to stop looking.  They see the wonder that God has tucked in the folds of their little lives…and their hearts chase after it!  Look again at the expression on my Granddaughter’s face on her three-year-old birthday.  That is a reflection of the very Signature of God upon her little heart…written in the ink of sheer joy!  Her Mom and Dad named her right when they chose “Joy” for her middle name; Chelsea Joy!  She floods an entire room with it when she smiles.  Joy inhabits the sparkle in her blue eyes.  Joy is what propels her little feet to dance in the middle of a room filling up with bubbles.  When we adults looked at those same bubbles that night, we saw only the soapy reminders of our own distant childhood.  Chelsea really saw them!   She saw tiny, shiny, floating spheres filled with miniature, glistening rainbows and the very Breath of God!  Her heart surrendered to joy as she danced on tip-toes, spinning around; her eyes drawn upward into a higher reality.  Reaching towards the beauty she saw in those heights, she listened hard to the good-bye cries of bubbles as they popped against the ceiling and disappeared.  The girlish giggles that followed those good-byes, exhibited anything but disappointment.  I believed them to be the outward signs of the inward Whispers of  a Loving, Heavenly Father assuring  His little girl’s heart  that just because something, or Someone, is out of sight…it doesn’t make them any less real! Oh, the joy that inhabits the trusting ways of a little child!

“To really see…” 

We must learn to embrace the possibility of the impossible.  To see that life is more than filling in the blanks with our own guesses for what is real and possible, and what is not.  Wisdom is not defined according to our own set of rules and boundaries, theories and happenstances.   There are many people today who choose these ways as a filter for living their entire life. Today’s world embraces such thinking, calling it knowledge.  Yet…when the world watches little children at play, doing this very same thing; they choose to call it ‘make-believe.’  So which is it?  Knowledge…or make-believe?

There are no double-standards living inside of Truth.  Even our very best guesses in this life are no substitution for Truth; nor do they change the reality of that Truth.  We were not designed by our Creator for living and making choices in a world where so many double-standards rule.  A place like this is laced with confusion, doubts, unbelief and fear.  These all come with a guaranteed promise to steal your peace, run away with your happiness and kill your joy.  The Truth is…all of us were designed to live as little children in our Heavenly Father’s world.  We can choose to make life up as we go, living on a steady diet of double-standards, or… we can trust God like the little child we were always meant to be and learn to live within the safety of His boundaries of Truth.   He promises His children this:

“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)

These Words come straight from the Heart of the Perfect Father.  One Who knows His children from the inside out.  He wrote their story and shares their every joy. He daubs every tear.  He bears every complaint.  He treasures every moment of unquestioned reliance.  He endures every season of unmerited defiance…yet, He chooses to Love them anyway. There is great peace of mind living inside the safety of such a Great Plan and such a Great Love.

Little children understand what it is to truly experience life on this level more naturally than adults.   Adults have a tendency to endure what was meant to be enjoyed as a gift.  Chelsea didn’t just wake up on her third birthday, endure the bubble-chasing event, and then mark it off the calendar  before stepping into her new, three-year-old role.  Had this been the case, I’d have one less portrait of Joy hanging in the halls of my memory!  No…Chelsea experienced it!  She jumped and swirled and danced with the bubbles!  She felt them brush up against her pink cheeks and sting her eyes when they popped.  Catching them on her tongue, she sampled their soapy wonder.  She tried to capture their beauty with both hands, scooping at the myriad of bubbles as the floated by her!

Author, Sherwood Wirt, once wrote, “Joy is the enjoyment of God and the good things that come from the hand of God.”

I watched as Chelsea lived out this kind of joy with her whole heart on her birthday night. I witnessed the same joy overtake the adult face of Little Billie, as we sat in her office that day in the library.      Our Heavenly Father desires a life much like this for all of His children. We are designed for experiencing all of the good things He has already planned for us concerning every day of our lives.  Perhaps it is no accident the story of the fleece-maker and his daughter mirrors the story that each of us as God’s children were intended to be living out in this world before others.

The Fleece-maker and his Daughter speaks loudly to me of the kind of relationship a little child is meant to have before his/her Heavenly Father.  It emulates waking each morning and saying, “yes” to Joy.  It is seeing past the obvious; I’m too tired…too busy…and the job is too much.  Seeking our Father out, without question, we are to accept our small part in His BIG world.  Grasping  our Father’s Hand in total trust, we are to go willingly, as He slips us down into the unforeseen circumstances surrounding us each day.  And yes…they swallow us up without reservation and sometimes keep us from seeing the Face of our Father at all!  Feeling alone down in this unfamiliar place; Fear fights to win !

But, we cry, “Father?”

“I AM here,” He answers.

And Fear is done!

Quickly, we learn in this place, that just because our Father is invisible to us, doesn’t mean He isn’t standing right there next to us.  And when the circumstances that fall from our Father’s Hands come crashing down upon our heads; our Father’s Love has taught us we don’t wince and cry out, “Why?”

We remember instead, to ponder our little-ness in light of His  Near-ness and joyfully dance to the sounds of  our Father’s Voice…

“Just keep stomping, Little Child,

Keep dancing for Me;

Let Joy teach your heart

To really see!”



“..in Your Presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm16:11b NKJV)

Below you will find some of my most treasured Portraits of “Joy”.  These are some of the faces I gaze upon while strolling down the Halls of my Memory:


Granddaughter, Makayla, climbing a tree for the very first time!

Granddaughter, Makayla, climbing a tree for the very first time!

Chelsea,  a glimpse of life...riding on Daddy's shoulders!

Chelsea, a glimpse of life…riding on Daddy’s shoulders!

Grandpa Jim...just a big kid, swinging with his Granddaughter!

Grandpa Jim…just a big kid, swinging with his Granddaughter!

Grammie Debbie & Grandpa Jim...sharing a  mountain top experience; learning the art of taking 'selfies'!

Grammie Debbie & Grandpa Jim…sharing a mountain top experience; learning the art of taking ‘selfies’!

Rusty & Blue...the joy of finding you have a new and furry, Kissing Cousin!

Rusty & Blue…the joy of finding you have a new and furry, Kissing Cousin!

Grandson, Ryan...Tossing a little frisbee around at Glennwood Springs!

Grandson, Ryan…Tossing a little frisbee around at Glennwood Springs!

Grammie & Ryan, Chelsea, Makayla... Celebrating the joy of 'silly-ness!'

Grammie & Ryan, Chelsea, Makayla…
Celebrating the joy of ‘silly-ness!’