What does happiness look like?

  A year ago, I wondered whether this would be the happiest year of my life.

 

I was turning 33, and research had come out that suggested that is our best year.

 

So, today, on my 34th birthday, I am compelled to reflect.

 

It wasn’t an unhappy year, by any means. But I often equate happiness with ease, and it definitely wasn’t a year of smooth sailing.

 

In the last year, I moved across states for the second time in as many years. I transitioned from stay-at-home-mom to working-mom, back in the saddle of vocational ministry. I also transitioned into mom-of-a-school-age-child as my son entered kindergarten. (Boy, that transition made me feel old!) And, I spent much of the last 8 months sick with one bug or another as I caught all the germs brought home from the petri dish of elementary school.

 

I have had trouble keeping it all together. The blogging world has been slipping away from me, as I have struggled to keep up with writing posts, responding to comments, and reading the posts of others. I haven’t volunteered in my son’s classroom as much as I wanted, or even kept track of all the things we were supposed to be doing from home. There is a list of books I want to read and projects I want to do that seems to get longer every day.

 

It wasn’t a terrible year by any means. It fell as most years of our lives do, somewhere on the spectrum between difficult and easy, frustrating and euphoric. But was it happy?

 

I guess that depends how we define happiness. Is it laughter and light-heartedness, or is it something deeper?

 

What does happiness look like?

 

In the midst of transitions and frustrations, I entered another year of being me.

 

That means another year with the man I have been married to for over a decade. With each year that passes, with him and my children, I understand love on a new level. I experience the with-ness, and for-ness, and doing-life-together-ness of life and love, which is sometimes messy, but also amazing.

 

That means another year not being superwoman. Those unmet expectations and undone tasks bother me so much less than they used to. I am a human. I am not good at everything. And my worth is not defined by what I do. The deeper this lesson sinks into my soul, the more peace fills my days.

 

That means another year as a child of God. I am a child who is beloved no matter what, and is called to love in the same way. My faith is becoming less and less my performance, and more and more my roots.

 

happiness is goodnessThat means another year of learning. Learning the value of pursuing possibilities instead of fearing disappointment. Learning to be in pictures instead of just taking them. Learning how much I know and how much I still have to discover. Learning to give and receive grace. Learning to stand on the solid Rock when waves of uncertainty are crashing all around my feet. Learning what are really the most important things in life.

 

Was this year filled with glee? No. But was it good? Absolutely.

 

Maybe happiness comes when we understand that it looks more like goodness than it looks like delight. And I am confident that there are more good things to come.

Will this be the happiest year of my life?

There was recently a study about the age at which people are the happiest. Do you know what the answer was? 33.

Today is my 33rd birthday.

And I think I understand the results of the survey.

Crossing over into my thirties had some fear attached to it. I was letting go of a younger decade and planting myself firmly into adulthood. But now, I am here. I know I am no longer young, but I know I am also far from being old.

I have learned much about how I want to live my life. I am excited to move forward living it that way.

And what is it that I have learned? How is it that I want to live? Perhaps my thoughts are best summed up by the Annie Dillard quote, which says,

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

As simple as that quote may be, it is also profound.

Our lives are made up of the sum total of moments. If we don’t pay attention, regrets can add up more quickly than spare change.

As I have gotten older, I have learned to stop and take notice. To recognize the joy and the depth of meaning that are embedded, not just in the big events of life, but in the small, ordinary moments of everyday.

That’s why this blog is called Everyday Awe. It is a journey of seeing God move and hearing God speak, all around me, everyday.

I have grown in my understanding of a verse that used to seem impossible.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I used to wonder how it was possible to pray all the time. What about talking to people? And reading? And playing games? How could we pray simultaneously with the activities of our lives?

But now, I see. I do not think this verse means we need to say particular words at particular moments throughout the day. I think it is telling us a simple truth about life with God.

Noticing moments means noticing God.

Recognizing beauty. Feeling God’s peace. Appreciating relationships. Expressing gratitude. Finding joy. These are the moments that make up a life of purpose.

And so, I would like to end this post with a celebration of some of my life’s recent moments. Moments I spent doing some of the simple things that make life wonderful. Moments when what I was doing made me notice, rejoice, and give thanks.

So, as I turn 33, I do not dread getting older. I look forward to the moments yet to come.

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