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.

Being HERE is not the same as being HAPPY

  april snowstormNo one likes a spring snow storm.

 

Even the most seasoned Minnesotans among us are upset about this week’s weather. Bundling kids in snowpants and boots and mittens to head to the bus stop on APRIL 10 is wrong. Just wrong. We are supposed to be wrapping ourselves in the smells of spring flowers not scarves and coats that have still not been put in storage.

 

This is what it means to live HERE.

 

Here is a place with summers full of amazing beauty and fun. But here is also a place with winters that sometimes linger beyond what we can bear.

 

Being here, living here, means accepting all of it.

 

We spend so much time trying to be happy. But being here is different than being happy.

 

Here is a mixed bag of joy and frustration. Here is family we’ve known forever and friendships just beginning. Here is seasons of transition and seasons of peace. Here is all of it.

 

Here is contentment.

 

Even when the weather makes me want to pack up and move, I won’t. Because here is worth it.

 

Five Minute FridayThis post is linking up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. A weekly prompt with strict instructions: write for 5 minutes and post. No over-editing. No do-overs. An practice of freedom. A way to let go of perfectionism. An exercise for some not often used writing muscles. Read more posts or link up over there. Today’s prompt was: HERE.

What is the Source of Well-Being?

I have looked for it in many places to no avail. Sometimes I think I will find it when I cross those things off my list that have been nagging at me for way too long. Other times I think it will appear when I buy that new pair of shoes I have been dreaming about. I have often thought it would be hiding behind the wall of the next house project that will make our house just the way we want. I swear it peaks at me from underneath the chocolate wrapper, but when I am done eating, it is not there anymore.

Happiness is a coy prey that is exhausting to hunt. Just when we think we are in position to capture it, it disappears behind the next big thing our heart desires.

"If only..." sends our happiness into hiding. If only I had a better job. If only I had a bigger house. If only my kids were at a less grueling and hair-pulling and I don’t think I can make it to bedtime without screaming stage.

The lure of these if onlys blind us to The Only source of what we are looking for.

I say to the Lord, “You are the Lord, my only source of well-being.”- Psalm 16:2 (NET)

We think our well-being is hiding from us. When in reality, our well-being is found in the One who created us.

This can sound like such a trite and cheesy Christian message. Often, because it is boiled down to something frustratingly untrue.

The Lord does not promise to make our life easier. He does not promise that all will be roses and rainbows once we are following Him.

God does not promise us happiness.

God does promise us well-being. Contentment. Peace.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. – Psalm 16:8 (NIV)

I have a friend going through an unimaginable tragedy. She is swimming deep in the waters of grief. And yet, she is not drowning. Somehow, inexplicably, she has still been thinking of others, even while needing such healing herself. Everything about her circumstances should be sinking her. But there is something deep within that is keeping her afloat.

Her being is not well. But the Lord is her well-being.

This is the hope offered by the Christian life. Well-being. The presence of God with us in this life, and our presence with Him in the next.

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.  – Psalm 16:9-10 (NIV)

No tragedy of this life gets the final say. We have the promise of the resurrection. That it-sounds-crazy-but-we-believe-it’s-true Christian belief that one day we will rise from the dead, just as Jesus did before us. The promise that one day, we will live in the presence of God in perfect and beautiful community.

In God, in our source of well-being, in our promised future, there is something more than happiness offered. There is fullness of joy.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.