My sister Crystal graciously offered for me and my 17-year-old daughter, Tori, to use her home for a mini vacation while she was out of town. I jumped at the offer as my daughter and I both needed a break from our responsibilities to enjoy some fun together. We made the four-hour drive, talked, laughed, ‘discussed’ life and enjoyed a chocolate ‘frosty’ along the way. When we arrived at Crystal’s home, we reveled in the luxury and goodness of her heart to share it.

When I went to unpack my things in her bedroom, I noticed a picture on her bedside table.

 

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Jesus laughing?

The picture in the small silver frame on my sister’s bedside table became my focus the minute I saw it. I picked it up for a closer look. It was new and disturbing to the ‘image’ of Jesus I typically access in my brain.

Laughter is not the first thing I view in my picture of Jesus.

I wondered about that.

The theme of laughter has been coming up a lot for me lately. A dear friend told me just a few weeks ago that he has begun to discover the gift of laughter and that he has found it freeing to laugh in the midst of his mistakes and trials.

I agree.

It seems fitting that the picture of laughing Jesus sits on my sister’s nightstand. I have two sisters whom I cherish. When Crystal, Therese and I are together, we laugh. A lot. We have for as long as I can remember.

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It is fun to recall the memories and how life and laughter have fanned life into our growing families. We have been referred to as ‘crazy’… ‘nuts’… ‘wild’. Sounds of Jesus.

There have often been people who have noticed us in our laughter, mostly because of its loud and contagious beauty. I often wonder what they would say if they knew the childhood story we bear together, the one that birthed such contagious joy from much sorrow.   The one that evil meant for harm to steal, kill and destroy.

But evil doesn’t get to win.

Laughter and life continues to live in the relationship we share. I give credit for our laughter to our dad, and my memories of his wild sense of humor. There have been people who have said it was his way of avoiding reality, but nonetheless, his laughter birthed life. Life lives on in the laughter we share. It feels refreshing to name the goodness of my dad’s laughter.

In my journey of recovery, I have been offered opportunities to consider that like my dad, I have used laughter to avoid pain. Those words may hold a smidgeon of truth, but the greater truth is that laughter has been a gift of mercy in my life.

I can’t help but smile when I see the picture of laughing Jesus. He was there when we were kids, laughing through my dad and his ability for play. He was there in the laughter of my brothers and sisters in three-legged races and baseball games. He was there bringing relief in the heavy, when death came near and laughter seemed ‘inappropriate.” Laughter brought levity and formed a weapon to dispel darkness.

Where is laughing Jesus in my life today?

Well. In an attempt to perfect our mini-vacation, my daughter and I bought flavored coffee and creamer to enjoy. On the first morning of our “mini-vac,” there was a knock on my bedroom door. She came to wake me, to let me know, “The coffee creamer tastes awful…mom…it’s bad.” I began to laugh hysterically at the look on her face and she was soon laughing too. “We’ll make a trip to the grocery later on to try again…” The moment was sweet and the laughter sweeter.

Laughing Jesus, how much I have missed you and noticed your laughter. Forgive me. Thank you for the picture. Thank you for my friend who reminded me to laugh at my mistakes. Thank you for my sisters and the joy of their laughter. Thank you for my dad and most importantly Jesus, thank you for redeeming laughter with my daughter.


photo-4Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 26 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.
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