Always Choose HAPPY

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Today is International Day of Happiness!

March 20, 2018

I hope you’re finding ways to spread happiness throughout your neck of the woods today. If you’re not sure how to share happiness, check out the ideas over at¬†www.dayofhappiness.net. By joining the “movement for a happier world”, you’ll be able to access all sorts of images to share on social media and ideas for children, adults and your community to make the world a happier place. BUT…

… if you’re finding it hard to smile and the circumstances of life are pulling you down today, the following music video by MercyMe is a must watch! By the end of the song, I guarantee you’ll be SMILING – maybe even dancing! – and I know you’ll want to pass the SMILE along.

“Happy Dance” by MercyMe

(By the way, the video begins like it’s a totally different song but hang in there til 0:24 – it’s totally worth it! Besides, that’s only a 24 second wait. You can handle it! ūüėČ )

Are you feeling happy, yet?

Good!

Now go spread that happiness to everyone you meet!

Have a HAPPY, HAPPY International Day of Happiness!

#InternationalDayOfHappiness

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When You Don’t Measure Up

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While scrolling through my Facebook feed, I ran across this t-shirt ad:

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As soon as I saw it, I couldn’t help but exclaim,

“YESSSS!”

You see, I’ve been reflecting on twenty years of marriage the past couple of weeks. My reminiscing has been wonderful except for the few brief moments when my mind turned to Proverbs 31.¬†I do my best to avoid this chapter of Proverbs but no matter how hard I try, my mind always drifts to the advice of King Solomon’s good ol’ mom when I think about my role as a wife and a mother.

The last two-thirds of Proverbs 31 is essentially a poem about the ideal wife and was most likely passed down for generations by Jewish moms to their daughters as instructions on how to be an honorable wife worthy of her place in her husband’s household. Apparently, though, one Jewish mom thought it important enough to pass down to a King. Maybe she was like many moms believing no one could be good enough for her precious boy so she shared this ode to the perfect woman thinking her son would never find such a creature, thus his heart would remain hers forever. Or maybe she was fully aware of her son‚Äôs weakness for the ladies¬†(He did end up with 700 wives and 300 concubines!) and passed it on as a chastisement of his wandering ways. Whatever the reason, the Queen mother taught this poem to her son who later documented it for us all.

(I must note here that many scholars believe the verses in Proverbs 31 about the Virtuous Woman have nothing to do with the advice of the King’s mom found in Verses 1 – 9 of the same chapter. Additionally, many scholars aren’t even sure the King being given the advice was Solomon. He’s called “Lemuel” in the Scriptures. Could’ve been a nickname. Could’ve been some other king. Could’ve been a fictional character. No one is certain but to me, the identity of the King and whether the poem was part of his mother’s advice makes no difference. The value of the message is the same!)

As a teen, I would read of the Proverbs 31 Woman and think, ‚ÄúYeah. That‚Äôs the kind of woman I want to be.‚ÄĚ Now, I read about this perfect woman and I pretty much want to smack her. <Gasp!> Sacrilege – I know! (I’ll have to repent after I finish this post!) But she’s so perfect. There’s absolutely no way that I can measure up to this chic. Have you checked her out, yet? Well, let me introduce you.

This lady is:

  • A successful entrepreneur
  • A skilled seamstress
  • A prudent business manager
  • An early riser
  • A midnight oil burner
  • A diligent worker
  • An incomparable multi-tasker
  • A philanthropist and charity worker
  • A dutiful housekeeper
  • A supportive and loving wife
  • An attentive mother and
  • A skilled gardener!

She stays in shape and is well-dressed. She spends her time wisely and is always prepared. She is known in her community for her wisdom, strength and dignity and is respected by her husband and children. She is not only a woman whose reputation cannot be faulted but a woman whose character strengthens her husband’s reputation, as well.

Amazing, isn’t she?

Yep. She bugs me.

Now, let’s take a look at me: My house is always a mess, which I’ve learned to embrace. My clothes are more comfortable than fashionable and they certainly aren’t hand-made. I never see the sun rise unless… Nope, no exceptions for that one! And though I’m often up late, you can bet it‚Äôs because I‚Äôm watching the next episode of my latest Netflix binge. I use the grocery pickup service because I hate to do the shopping and although it may be a healthier choice, I do not have a garden. I am a plant killer. I am proficient at multi-tasking but I‚Äôm also great at procrastinating. I love my husband with all of me but there are many times I secretly desire to wring his neck. And as for my parenting skills, I’d feel much better about myself if I could just get my kid to brush his teeth every day.

Ugh! On the measuring tape of perfection, you’ll find me somewhere near the metal hook at the end.

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I’m so glad God doesn’t use a measuring tape. No, God looks at me through the eyes of GRACE. That certainly doesn’t mean I can ignore Proverbs 31. It‚Äôs in God‚Äôs Word for a reason. It also doesn’t mean that I should be satisfied with my shortcomings, either. I should always be striving to be a better wife, a better mother, a better me. It does mean that I can stop comparing. I don’t have to kill myself trying to check off every item on the list. In fact, I believe the essence of the Virtuous Woman and the message of her age-old tribute is summarized in one verse (v. 30):

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the¬†Lord¬†is to be praised.”

If my goal is to be a woman who fears the Lord, everything else that matters will fall right into place.

Happiness in Marriage

764D6E83-D815-46BB-9E71-F6B57F24328DThis week my husband and I celebrated twenty years of marriage.¬†TWENTY YEARS! I feel as if I should be receiving an Olympic gold medal. Maybe two. I’ll settle for platinum, if available. ūüėČ

I’m not a mushy, gushy kinda girl so I don’t want my husband to send me roses or buy me jewelry. That money could be applied elsewhere. And if he had presented me with the traditional 20th Anniversary gift of china, my first response would have been, “Do you still have the receipt?”

I know. I’m weird. Or maybe I’m simply practical. I don’t know. My husband thinks I’m awesome, though! (Hahaha!)

To celebrate my 20th, I thought I’d share a few of my secrets to happiness in marriage – twenty secrets to be exact. Now that I think about it, these may be more like things I wish I knew on Day 1 rather than secrets to success but valuable knowledge nonetheless.

So, here we go – my twenty “secrets” to happiness in marriage (in no specific order). I’ll try to keep them short.

20.¬†Don’t buy into the whole “Wedded Bliss” idea.

Okay. I know this sounds horrible but hear me out. Nothing in life is perfect – especially a marriage. Although you‚Äôll have times when you‚Äôre living on Cloud 9, you’re also going to have times when you feel your marriage is falling apart. It can get rough. So, if you‚Äôre expecting the Fairy Tale, you’re in for a shock. Remembering that you are two imperfect people striving to create a life together will do wonders for your wedded bliss!

19.¬† Don’t keep score.

Again, neither of you are perfect. You‚Äôll both make mistakes. But marriage isn’t a game so don’t keep a record of each other’s wrongs. Forgive and forget!

18. Understand that marriage isn’t 50/50.

It’s 100/100. Marriage takes two people giving 100% of themselves to make it work. Sure, there will be times when you or your spouse cannot give 100%. We all have those times when we have to depend on the strength of others. So when your spouse doesn’t have 100% to give, take up the slack. Then on days when you are lacking, let your spouse take up the slack. Just remember – don’t keep score!

17.¬†¬†Learn to say “I’m sorry”.

A LOT! Most of us hate to admit when we are wrong but those two little words go a long way – if you are sincere.

16. Always buy the bigger comforter!

Maybe you’ve been there. It’s the middle of the night. You wake up to find that your spouse has rolled over in bed and taken the blanket with him. All you’re left with is a tiny sliver of fabric to shield yourself from the arctic blast coming from the A/C vent. For newlyweds and cuddly-natured folk, this may not be a problem. For those of us who need a little leg room to get a good night’s sleep, having a larger sized comforter makes all the difference in the world. Separate blankets work great, too!

15. Respect your spouse.

Don’t undermine your spouse. Don’t contradict your spouse in front of your children. Don’t talk down to your spouse. Don’t argue in front of others. Don’t compare your spouse to the spouse of another. Treat your spouse exactly how you would like to be treated. This should be a no brainer but because of such closeness and familiarity, respect often gets thrown out the window. Don’t let it.

14. Never expect what you haven’t spoken.

This is a tough one, especially for wives, I think. We believe our husbands should know what we want or know what should be done without us having to tell them. It’s an unrealistic expectation and the cause of many arguments that could easily be avoided if we only learned to verbalize what we want or expect – even if we think our spouse should already know. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

13. Choose your battles wisely.

Not everything is worth an argument. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. <SIGH>

12. Remember that your attitude sets the tone.

It’s easy to let the mood of your spouse affect your own. It’s actually natural but it can also be a disaster waiting to happen. If your spouse is in a fowl mood, don’t let it pull you down, as well. In fact, your positive mood could just as easily sway the attitude of your spouse. So, set the tone.

11. Give each other space.

If you can’t keep from being affected by your spouse’s negative mood, you may simply need to give your spouse (and yourself) some space. Just because you‚Äôre married doesn‚Äôt mean that you have to spend every waking moment together. You really do need time apart.

10. Little things make a big difference.

I say this so often but only because it’s true! Buy your spouse his/her favorite sweets. Write a hidden “I love you” on the bathroom mirror which is only revealed by the steam of the shower. Little gestures go a long way.

9. Serve each other.

Give of yourself. Have a tall glass of cold tea waiting on your husband when he gets home. Wash the sink full of dishes so your wife will have one less thing to do after work. When you serve each other, you’re strengthening your relationship, providing for your spouse’s needs and showing your spouse how much you love and respect him/her.

8. Learn to appreciate his/her love language.

How does your spouse show his/her love for you? Does he keep your car in perfect working condition? Does she prepare five course meals for you? Figure out your spouse’s love language, acknowledge it and show your appreciation for it.

7. Listen to your spouse.

Turn off your device. Put it out of reach. Turn your face toward your spouse and make eye contact. Listen with all of you.

6. Laugh together.

Laughter is not only beneficial to individually health but also to the health of your marriage. Find ways to laugh with your spouse every day.

5. Be honest.

ALWAYS. Don’t even lie about the little things. Lies lead to mistrust. And trust is so very difficult to regain.

4. Compromise.

You and your spouse are not always going to see eye-to-eye. At some point in your relationship, compromises will have to be made. Be willing to meet in the middle or even give up your desire or point of view altogether.

3. Support your spouse.

Be your spouse’s biggest fan. Praise him/her at home and in the presence of others. Stand beside your spouse when no one else will. Support his/her dreams. Help your spouse reach his/her goals. When you build up your spouse, you‚Äôre also building up your marriage. It’s a win/win situation.

2. Dream together.

Plan your future together. Talk about it. Pray about it and make it happen – together.

1. PRAY.

Without ceasing. The key to happiness in marriage is God. When we strive to build a marriage that honors the Lord, all the other mess falls by the wayside. Pray daily for God to strengthen your marriage. Pray daily for your spouse. Be specific and be consistent.

Whew! Marriage is hard! I guess that’s why the Apostle Paul said it was better to remain single! But when you find the one you were meant to build a life with, it makes all the difference in the world.

Twenty years! My dad (who celebrates 57 years of marriage with my mom this year) says 20 is a great start. My husband and I have a long way to go to catch up to my parents but I’m looking forward to every single moment of it!

What about you? What would you add to my list of secrets to a happy marriage?

Happiness in Imperfection

Wonderfully Made

She walked in the room and looked down at me. I wasn’t surprised by her serious expression nor was I surprised by her remarks.

“Your pics are bad,” she reported. She glanced over at my husband and reiterated, “They’re bad.”

I simply nodded my head in agreement for even though I had not seen what she had, I knew her assessment was correct. She was my doctor, after all.

No, the pics she was reviewing were not head shots for my blog (although I could use a new one of those!). The pictures to which my doctor was referring were x-rays of my spine.

When life gives you Lemons…

Lemons and Grace

My scoliosis was detected in my preteen years. I was no stranger to physical malady, however. I had been living with a genetic muscle disorder all of my life. Scoliosis was just another lemon to add to the pitcher. But I have to tell you, these lemons were pretty rotten. How do you make the best of a muscle disorder that prevents you from living a “normal” life and a spinal condition that disfigures your body and promises even greater complications in the future?

Grace. My only answer is Grace.

God’s sufficient Grace

The way I see it, my life has been one big miracle. From walking when the¬†neurologists said it wasn’t possible to¬†roller skating, bike riding and tree climbing, a diagnosis didn’t seem to stop me. The typical activities of children were challenges that I faced with the love and support of family and friends. Some activities were (and still are)¬†more challenging than others, like¬†climbing a flight of stairs¬†(Check out my post about the stairs of life¬†here.), but I did it.¬†I¬†pushed¬†myself to live a “normal” life. None of it was normal, though.¬†I had to learn to compensate my weaknesses with my strengths. I had¬†to take advantage of railings or whatever was available (including people) to pull me along or assist in climbing or getting up after a frequent fall. I had to¬†adapt to make it through life.¬†It hasn’t been easy and I know that¬†if it weren’t for God’s grace…

Well, I try not to think about that.

God’s Work on Display

My Weakness

So, here I am, a few decades down the road from its first detection, and I find myself facing the inevitable. The scoliosis has progressed along with all of¬†its lovely side effects – deformity, labored mobility and pain. I’ve been ignoring it, telling myself that it’s my¬†norm. The reality is I didn’t want to¬†admit that I needed medical help. It’s discouraging to face my imperfections and dependence head on (Have I ever talked with you about my stubbornness? ūüėČ ) but I’m doing my best to keep it all in perspective. (Really, I am.)

You see, I don’t believe I was cursed. I don’t believe God gave these problems to me. None of us are perfect.¬†We all¬†have something in our lives that makes us feel abnormal whether¬†we admit it or not.¬†What I do believe is that God can use my medical issues¬†to display¬†His mighty works.¬†In fact, as I look¬†at all¬†He has enabled me to accomplish, in my physical growth and in¬†every area of my life, I realize His Grace has always¬†been shining¬†brightly in me, through me and around me as a miraculous beacon of hope – a hope that will carry¬†me through all that is to come.

Finally, Lemonade!

Since I began this post, I have had my first visit (in 18 years) with a chiropractor. He showed me my x-rays and as I already mentioned, my doctor was right. It’s not good. (I’d show them to you but that’d be taking transparency a little bit too far, don’t you think? ūüėČ )

On the bright side, though, I have learned that I am the topic of conversation throughout¬†the entire doctor’s office. It seems I’ve presented them with a case unlike they have ever seen. In the words of the chiropractor, “There is no textbook for [me].” Well, what d’ya know! I’m one of a kind.

Now how’s that for lemonade! ūüôā

And Fortune Smiled

My Post (2)

From¬†a pile of 8 or so fortune cookies, the “Eeyore” in my life picked up this one. How fortunate!

(Check out my post on the Eeyores of life here.)

Immediately, he placed the cookie’s secret message in front of me without saying a word. The reveal had nothing to do with my blog posts, though – my Eeyore doesn’t read them. I knew that bringing it to my attention meant he heard the¬†message loud and clear.

It’s a little disconcerting to be overshadowed¬†by a cookie. You see, I’ve been preaching this same message to him day in and day out. He appears to be listening and always responds in agreement.

“Yes, I know it’s how I look at things.”

“Yes, I know I control my own happiness.”

“Yes, yes. You’re right.”

But the message never seems to make it past his earlobes.

I suppose it takes something out of the ordinary to get our attention every now and then. However, those attention grabbers may not¬†always turn out to be¬†as yummy as a cookie. For many of us, it takes a hard knock or two to wake us up and prompt us to make a change. We’re so wonderfully headstrong, aren’t we!

However, for some of us, we only need the¬†wake up call¬†to be delivered in an unsuspected¬†or¬†unusual¬†method –¬†like a fortune cookie.

So, go ahead, my Eeyore. Ignore the encouragement I’ve been giving you for years and listen to the stinkin’ cookie!

I’m pretty sure whoever wrote¬†that fortune has been reading my blog, anyway. ūüėČ

 

 

Happiness in Uncertainty

We all have those moments of uncertainty in life. If you're like me, those moments are experienced daily! In this post, you will find the secret to being happy even in those uncertain times.

“I know one thing for sure,” my husband declared as he walked through our bedroom door with a tall glass of sweet tea in his hand. The statement came out of nowhere but was made as¬†if the two of us had finished a long debate on some deep subject about which neither of us were able to come to any conclusion and¬†the only way to end such a debate was to state a matter of certainty. It’s highly possible, though, that¬†my husband¬†had debated¬†the matter all in his head prior to entering our room and felt the need to¬†sum it up for me with¬†his enlightened statement of truth.

No matter, I was¬†curious¬†and eagerly inquired of his certainty. “What’s that?” I asked.

He paused for a brief moment at the foot of our bed as if searching for the perfect words to express his great truth. Finally he replied, “Give me a minute. I’m trying to remember what I was going to tell you.” Then he lifted his glass and took a long drink of sweet tea as I laughed at his forgetfulness.

And I did laugh – not because I was mocking him (well, maybe just a little – okay! A lot!)¬†but because¬†that brief conversation with my husband pretty much sums¬†up my life. When I think I have¬†it all figured out,¬†life always takes a¬†surprising turn and everything I thought I knew for certain gets thrown out the window.¬†I find myself stumped and perplexed around every bend and when called upon to take action or make a decision or simply respond, I¬†hear myself saying, “Uhm. Give me a minute.”

Ah, but maybe that’s the certainty: Life is uncertain. And¬†maybe¬†that’s what¬†makes life worth living. If I had all the answers, if I knew every situation I would face,¬†what kind of life would that be?¬†Sure, if I knew¬†what problems¬†await me tomorrow,¬†I could take steps to avoid them. But what if by¬†avoiding¬†a problem, I miss a valuable lesson that could¬†help me in¬†the¬†future or make me a better me?¬†And wouldn’t knowing all the good that was coming my way take some of the joy out of the blessing?

I don’t know.

I do know that in my moments of uncertainty, I can always look to the One who knows it all. He holds my every moment in His hands and He is working them all for my good. That doesn’t mean I won’t face any problems or that I won’t have those¬†times when all I¬†want to do is¬†run and hide because I don’t have any answers and can’t seem to figure anything out. But it does mean that I don’t have to face any of my moments of uncertainty alone.

Yes, life is uncertain. But there is one thing¬†I know¬†for sure…

You’ll have to give me a minute, though. I’m trying to remember. ūüėČ

Discover the height, depth, width and length of God's great love for you.

Grace

Discover the height, depth, width and length of God's great love for you.

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND what I do.
The things I want to do, the things I know to do, I do not do them.

But WHAT I HATE, that is what I DO.

My heart is DECEITFUL and beyond all cure. My sins have SEPARATED me from God and have hidden his face from me.
You must grow weary of my trampling through your courts of grace with my vain requests for forgiveness.

Oh, God, can you still HEAR me?

Please speak to me.

I am undone.

In my darkness, I hear your voice,

Come now,

And with its sound, I am once again reminded of your TENDER MERCIES.

You are COMPASSIONATE and GRACIOUS, Lord. You are SLOW TO ANGER and ABOUNDING IN LOVE.

You do not deal with me as my sins deserve nor do you repay me according to my offenses.

Instead, you are PATIENT WITH ME. 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so GREAT IS YOUR LOVE FOR ME.

You are FAITHFUL TO FORGIVE – when I confess – and to cleanse my heart of its unrighteousness.

As far as the east is from the west, you have removed my transgressions from me.

YOU REMEMBER THEM NO MORE.

From your abundance, Lord, I have received your GRACE UPON GRACE.

Of this my heart will forever sing!

 

 

 

*This¬†expression of praise for God’s love,¬†forgiveness and grace¬†is a compilation and personalization¬†of the following Scriptures: Romans 7:15; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 59:2; Isaiah 1:11-15;¬†Job 11:5; Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:1; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 103:10; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 103:11; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; John 1:16 and Psalm 89:1

The Power of a Breakfast Casserole

Wouldn’t you know it! As soon as I write a “How To” on maintaining happiness (Check out Happiness Is… A Keeper), the devil begins his attack. (That’s his M.O., though.) My focus has been the target and as I mentioned in my previous post, focus has a huge¬†effect on our¬†happiness.

Focus, KJ. Focus.

So, what do we do when our focus becomes a little blurry? I find it helpful to spend time doing something I love. It gets my mind off the negativity and boosts my spirits which always helps me tune in to the important things of life. Oddly enough, cooking has become one of my go-to refocusing tools. (Yeah. Completely surprised me, too!)

Okay, devil! I’ve got a skillet and I know how to use it!

This morning, I hit the kitchen around 9:15.¬†I had my heart set on a¬†breakfast casserole but first, I had to find a recipe. That always takes some time. Pinterest has way too many choices. I finally settled on Fully Loaded Cheesy Breakfast Casserole¬†from “The Slow Roasted Italian”. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that this recipe was my¬†inspiration. I didn’t quite follow¬†it. (It’s amazing I¬†ended up with something edible. I really have no idea what I’m doing!¬†ūüėČ )

 Breakfast Casserole by KJ

First, I gathered all the ingredients Рwell, almost all. I kinda grabbed stuff as I went along. But here is a list of the ingredients I used:

1 lb. ground mild sausage
Half bag of frozen diced hash brown potatoes¬†(it’s all I had in the freezer)
12 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 green peppers
1 medium onion
2 cups of shredded Colby & Monterey Jack cheese (almost 2 cups Рagain, I used what I had)
1 tbsp. Minced garlic
Salt and Pepper

How to (and how not to, in some instances) prepare:

Preheat oven to 350¬ļ. The recipe¬†called for a temp of 375¬ļ. I have no idea where I came up with¬†350¬ļ but it¬†turned out¬†fine.

Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking oil and set to the side.

Defrost ground sausage. So, I didn’t plan ahead and the sausage was in the freezer. On top of that, it turned out to be 2 pounds of sausage. I only needed one but had to defrost all of it. I guess I’ll find something to cook with the remaining sausage tomorrow.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee. This is going to take a while!

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While waiting for the sausage to defrost, chop the onion and peppers. One of my peppers was a hybrid – half green, half orange.¬†(Genetic engineering? Hmmm…) I only chopped the orange side so really I only used one and a half peppers.

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Once sausage is defrosted, add to a skillet along with the chopped onions, peppers and minced garlic. Cook until sausage is no longer pink.

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Scoop out meat and vegetable mixture, allowing the grease to drain back into the skillet, and spread into the casserole dish. You can use a slotted spoon or¬†one of these handy scoops: (I’m not gonna tell you what I think this scoop looks like. You may lose your appetite. But, I promise, I bought it in the kitchen department!)

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Drain some of the grease from the skillet until there is about 3 tablespoons remaining. (Just eyeball it, I guess. ??)

Return skillet to stove and add hash browns. Cook according to the package instructions: spread in single layer in pan, cover and allow to brown for 4 – 7 minutes on each side on medium-high heat.

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While hash browns are browning, combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper in large bowl.¬†I repeat, LARGE bowl. It’s hard to whisk when you’re worried about sloshing egg all over your counter like I was!

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Switch to whisking with a fork because plastic whisk ain’t cuttin’ it. (Note to self: Find metal whisk! Where is that thing?)

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Check stove for cause of burning smell. Ugh! This is why I can’t do two things at once while cooking.

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Salvage the non-burnt potatoes and spread over the sausage and vegetables in the casserole dish. (Oops, I missed a burnt one or two!)

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Spend five minutes or more scraping¬†out skillet while it’s still hot. (I learned that at the Japanese steak house where you not only get a fun show and great meal, you get¬†a kitchen clean up lesson, as well!) Now, where was I… Oh, yeah.

Next, pour egg mixtu- – No, wait. That’s not right. I’m forgetting something.¬†The cheese!

Next, sprinkle cheese on the casserole.

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Now pour the egg mixture as evenly as possible into the casserole.

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Bake for 35-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when you stick a knife in the middle and it comes out clean.¬†(I actually knew that before I started all this cooking nonsense. ūüėČ )

Use baking time to clean up your mess.

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Reheat coffee for the third, maybe fourth, time and then wait.

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Beep, beep, beep. Look at this beautiful casserole! It was yummy, too!

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It took me 2 and a half hours to make (I told you I don’t know what I’m doing!)¬†but by the time I was done, the¬†thing that was¬†stealing my attention no¬†longer mattered. In fact,¬†my only distraction at the moment¬†was the rumbling¬†of my tummy.

But that was quickly remedied. ūüôā

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Happiness is… A Keeper

Adobe Spark (82)

Happiness is to know the Savior,
Living a life within His favor,
Having a change in my behavior,
Happiness is the Lord.

Happiness is a new creation,
Jesus and me in close relation,
Having a part in His salvation,
Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine,
No matter if the teardrops start,
I’ve found a secret,
It’s Jesus in my heart.

Happiness is to be forgiven,
Living a life that’s worth the livin’,
Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,
Happiness is the Lord.

“Happiness is the Lord” by Ira F. Stanphill

I learned this fun, little song when I was a child and as soon as I began this endeavor of blogging about happiness, the memories of singing this song¬†in church so many years ago flooded my mind.¬†And it has been playing¬†over and over again in my head ever since. Even now, I can’t help but hear (and sing)¬†it!¬†But what a great message – Happiness is the Lord! And what a perfect introduction to¬†this final installment of “Happiness Is…”.

What have we learned thus far about happiness?

We’ve learned that it is not an object, a person, or a¬†desired set of circumstances. These are merely vehicles for¬†temporary pleasure. They¬†elicit¬†short-lived feelings and¬†never usher us into¬†a¬†lasting state of true Joy.

We’ve also¬†learned that¬†true happiness¬†is not¬†a goal to be reached but rather a by-product of how¬†we live.¬†When we live in such a way that honors God, the Creator and Giver of true happiness, only then will we find a Joy that can weather any storm and sustain us for all of our days.

That’s good stuff! ūüėČ

Now that we know how to attain real happiness, how do we successfully retain it?

Yes, unfortunately, it is possible to lose our Joy.¬†Oh, don’t get me wrong. Once we’ve found the true Joy of the Lord, it’s ours for keeps. That doesn’t mean, however, that our lives will be filled with nothing but blue skies and smooth sailing. No, life is filled with storms – big ones! Difficult people, sickness, death, financial struggles and so many other trials of life are lurking around every corner waiting to steal our Joy. All of these “storms” have the potential to leave us lonely, depressed, sorrowful and hopeless. So, how do we make it through the storms of life without losing our Joy?

When the storms of life begin to threaten and we feel as though our Joy is waning, it’s helpful to stop a moment for some serious introspection. In times like these, there are four areas of our lives that we need to examine:

  1. Our faith
  2. Our foundation
  3. Our focus
  4. Our hope¬†(Well, pooey! I couldn’t think of a fourth word beginning with “F” to complete my alliteration. How on earth do pastors do it every single¬†Sunday? ūüėČ )

An honest look at these four areas is key to learning how to retain our happiness.

Where is your Faith?

The tendency we all have (as we learned in Part One of this series) is to stake our happiness on the desires of our hearts, obtaining one treasure, one relationship or one ideal moment after another. When we do this, however, we are trusting our happiness to the objects of our affection and allowing them to reign over us emotionally, mentally and physically. We are essentially placing our faith in our desires rather than in our Creator and Heavenly Father. Only when our faith is placed in God can we be filled with true happiness.

I say to the Lord, ‚ÄúYou are my Lord;¬†apart from you I have no good thing.‚ÄĚ

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,  with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:2, 9-11 (NIV)

Is your faith in the pleasures of this world, temporary treasures that are here today and gone tomorrow? Or is your faith in the Giver of good things in your life and the Author of your Joy?

What is your Foundation?

Just like your house needs a firm foundation to keep it from slipping, sinking or falling apart, so does your life need a secure foundation in order to weather the storms that come your way. Unlike the several types of house foundations, though, there are only two options for the foundation of your life: Rock or Sand. Take a look at what Jesus has to say about your foundation:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:24-27‬ (‭NIV)‬‬

You see, your life’s foundation is your faith put into action. And the consistency of that foundation depends on where your faith lies (see question #1). If your actions, words and thoughts are driven by your faith in people, things or ideals, your foundation will be shifty and unstable just like the sands on the beach. If, however, you live your life in accordance with God’s Word, putting Him first and allowing Him to be Lord over every area of your life,¬†you’ll find there’s no storm big enough to shake your Joy because your foundation is established on the Rock of your salvation!

Truly HE is my rock and my salvation; HE is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭62:2‬ (‭NIV)‬‬

Are you building your life on shifting sand by living out your misplaced faith? Or are you building a firm foundation by honoring God in every area of your life?

Where is your Focus?

There is nothing that can affect your happiness more than your focus. Even when your faith is sure and your foundation is firm, your focus¬†can make the difference between a joy-filled life and a life consumed by¬†negativity and sadness. When¬†you choose to focus on problems, irritations, frustrations and other pains of life, eventually, that’s all your mind will be able to see. And what a shame that would be! God has¬†given each and every one of us so many good things like family, friends, time, the comforts of home, hugs, beautiful mornings and on and on the list goes. Who would want to miss such wonderful blessings!

Focusing your attention on the positive is essential to maintaining your Joy each and every day. It reminds us of what is truly important in life and helps us to stay above those pesky, threatening waves of negativity.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable‚ÄĒif anything is excellent or praiseworthy‚ÄĒthink about such things.

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Is your attention on the negativity of life? Or are you focusing on the good gifts the Lord has given you?

What is your Hope?

At this point¬†(if you’ve stuck with me this long), you may be saying, “Come on! Sadness is a given. There’s no way anyone can be happy all the time.”

You’re right. We all experience sadness, anger, regret, grief and every other negative emotion there is. We are human. We are going to misplace our faith. Our foundations are going to crack under pressure and our focus is most certainly going to be¬†diverted from where it should be. And all of this will result in the loss of our Joy.

But if you take anything away from this post, I hope that you will remember this: No matter your struggles, no matter your sorrow, no matter your pain, it will not last forever. The God who gives us our Joy also walks with us through the storms of life. He comforts us. He leads us and more often than not, He carries us. And when the last rain drop has fallen and the winds have finally settled, He will remind us of His great Joy that has surrounded and sustained us through our troubled times.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm30:5b (NIV)

That, my friend, is your hope. It is the hope to which I tightly cling.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)

The Choice is Yours

There’s nothing easy about maintaining our Joy. I struggle with it more times than I’d like to admit¬†but each time I let anger, hurt, disappointment or sadness¬†overtake me, I try to remind myself of the questions of faith, foundation, focus and hope. Ultimately, though, hanging on to our Joy is a matter of choice. We can choose to live a life of misery or we can choose a life of Joy.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV)

When your happiness is being threatened, you have a choice to make: either give in and allow your circumstances to steal your joy or stand firm and hold tightly to the precious Joy of the Lord.

As for me, well…

I CHOOSE JOY!