“The Nancy Drew of Joy:” A Seasonal Meditation

In a dark time, a

candle ignites hope, sparking

the advent of joy.

How are you spending these short days and long nights?

 We celebrated our family Christmas during Thanksgiving week this year,

which means the gifts and feasts came early.

Now there is time to rest, read, go to concerts, light candles, and reflect.

The theme of joy, associated with a biblical angel

proclaiming “Good tidings of great joy,” seems perfect for this season.

Four books to read during Advent.

Four books to read during Advent.

This morning, as I sat in the “window room,” with the Joyful book on my lap,

I was entranced by large snowflakes, dancing downward.

Snow through the windows.

Snow through the windows.

Last night, I was similarly mesmerized by the flickering light on the Swedish Chimes on the dining room table.

Did you have a set like this one when you were growing up?

“The darkness around us is deep” says poet William Stafford. So true!

And so, too, are these words  from John 1:5:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I am committed, during the season of Advent,

to loving the darkness, lighting candles, embracing joy,

and finding ways to share joy in everyday life.

I want to be a “Nancy Drew of joy,” to use the felicitous phrase of Ingrid Fetell Lee.

How to do that? I have her book on my lap and the sounds of angels dancing in my head.

I love moving through Advent slowly and yet ardently, waiting and watching,

paying attention to gifts of joy all around me.

I’d love to hear your story of joy in a dark time.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on December 5, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    My mother’s favourite Christmas carol ( the German version) is “Lo How a Rose e’er Blooming”. She told me how the German Deaconesses made Christmas for the refugees that first Christmas away from home. They brought food, set tables with white table cloths, lit candles and sang this most beautiful song. she never forgot that day and that kindness and that song.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 6, 2018 at 8:51 am

      Lo! I can imagine a little refugee girl starved for beauty as well as other comforts of home, eyes wide open. Watching, Listening, yearning.

      Thank you so much for this image of joy, Elfrieda. It will remain with me through the season. May you be blessed.

  2. Linda Gartz on December 5, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Beautifully reflective and words to live by. One day soon, I hope to have time to sit in my window room (or one of many “window seats” in the home, and read a book calmly without a million pressures. You know these early days after publication. It’s just a little crazy. I know you’ll have a joyful and BRIGHT holiday season. Dark days must be banished (some come with no warning or desire. Then we must wait for the light again).

    • Shirley Showalter on December 6, 2018 at 8:57 am

      Linda, I remember a very different season five years ago when I too was full of the excitement and many commitments of helping a book find its readers. I loved that time. Now I love this one. For everything there is a season.

      Thank you for taking a few moments to read and respond. I wish you and your family much joy and great, bustling, energy. I also hope you take a cup of something soothing with you to your window seats — as often as possible.

      • Linda Gartz on December 6, 2018 at 11:49 am

        Thanks for the encouragement. That sounds so lovely. I’ll plan at least half an hour a day to get into the seat. I have to make it an integrated part of my “to do” list. I’ll send an update. 🙂 (And congratulations on your five year anniversary of ‘Blush.” Hard to believe so much time has passed. Blush was a beauty and spoke on so many levels.)

  3. Marian Beaman on December 5, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Nancy Drew mysteries and Aunt Ruthie’s Swedish Chimes both sparked joy in my childhood. Tonight at church clear voices of young children lit my candle. I’m still basking in the light.

    You are making wise use of the days of Advent. And your book titles tempt. Thank you for opening a window on joy in the twilight, Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 6, 2018 at 9:05 am

      We have so many things in common, as we almost always note. You make me wish I had heard the recent concert of the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir. BUT just the mention of the joy of children’s voices reminded me of this lovely video. I send it to you and others here as a way to hear the clear, pure joy in the human voice as it is just forming. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QvDSWK0GAg

      And thank you for this phrase: “opening a window on joy in the twilight.” Nancy Drew will take that one into her roadster!

      • Marian Beaman on December 6, 2018 at 6:02 pm

        Teens are children too. Thanks for sending the link. The children we heard last evening were 3-6 years olds, clear voices with lots of wiggles!

  4. Linda Hoye on December 6, 2018 at 12:04 am

    “I am committed, during the season of Advent, to loving the darkness, lighting candles, embracing joy, and finding ways to share joy in everyday life.” A wise and worthy intention during this dark season in which we wait. I’m joining you in it this year.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 6, 2018 at 9:08 am

      It’s lovely to have companionship in the journey, Linda. Your photos have given me so much joy over the years, and I know you have mountains to gaze upon also. Thanks for sharing this post. If it brings us other kindred spirits, more the joy!

  5. Lisa Enqvist on December 6, 2018 at 2:53 am

    I began to discover Joy in a different light at a course for creative writing in January 1990. It was my first ever opportunity to be a part of such a course. I asked for “homework” – and was given the assignment “Write about a feeling.” I groaned. I was numb. All feeling was drained by – what I didn’t understand at the time – an overloaded stress burden. It seemed impossible to find a feeling to write about. I began writing a list of situations which at some time had brought joy.

    Joy is
    Autumn’s bright colors
    against dark coniferous forests
    Candlelight in dark November
    Pure white snow on a
    shimmering frosty day
    Wild anemones on a May morning
    Dandelions laughter

    Joy is having a place to call Home
    Fulfillment of a dream

    Joy is seeing – not demands – but opportunities
    to serve others – give oneself – to receive

    Joy is to recognize a soul-mate in a new acquaintance
    to keep the friendship through the shifting times

    Joy can be expressed
    by laughter and smiles
    clapping or jumping
    with hugs and tears of joy

    Joy can be a surprise
    or a fulfilled longing

    Joy can be
    cheerful – bubbling
    a quiet stream
    of calm contentment
    despite external conditions
    Joy can be experienced
    when despair and bitterness
    hate and guilt
    are dissolved by of the warmth of love
    to faith and hope through forgiveness

    • Shirley Showalter on December 6, 2018 at 9:17 am

      Thank you so much, Lisa, for this list of remembered joys and reflections on their meanings. What I find deeply joyful in this moment is that every single one of the memories and insights shared above is mentioned by you in this list poem.

      One of my undergraduate students, wise beyond her years, once said to me: “You can never truly know deep joy unless you have known deep sorrow.”

      You are a living testimony to that truth, Lisa. Sending Light and love your way.

  6. Laurie Buchanan on December 6, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Shirley — The term “Joie de Vivre” has transformed from a “term” to a “lifestyle” for me. And I’m embracing it with all my might. It does not mean there’s no sorrow. It simply means that joy is prevalent, or as I’m fond of saying, “Joy is inexplicable peace that comes from within.” Some refer to joy as “peace that passes understanding.” In January I’ll be sharing the following information with my blog readers:

    JOIE DE VIVRE—Joy of Life!

    JOIE DE VIVRE—A delight in being alive; an exuberant, keen, or buoyant enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit.

    JOIE DE VIVRE—A philosophy of life; a sentiment that involves one’s whole being.

    Thank you for capturing the four books you’re currently reading in a single photograph. I’ve added them to my reading list.

    • Shirley on December 6, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      I have enjoyed all your “joie de vivre” posts, Laurie, and I am glad to see the way that phrase expands the meaning of joy to include a philosophy of life that involves one’s whole being.

      I have a very rudimentary understanding of French. One of the first time I tried to use the phrase I said “joie de vie,” which made the young French boy laugh.

      Evidently other Americans make the same mistake because there are a lot of businesses named Joie de Vie listed online.

      Just another reason for joie!

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