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Shake off these heavy chains...

I’m wondering this morning... what is this search, this pursuit, of happiness?  What does it mean?  What would it look like if we were “really” happy?  Why do we think we “must” be happy?  Is it spiritual?  Cultural?  How we were raised?  

It’s not even 6 a.m. and I’ve been awake for an hour and a half.  The kids both were awake before 4:30 a.m. and by the time I checked on them, settled them back down (i.e. threatened them to go back to sleep or else) and came back downstairs, it was nearing 5 a.m. and my alarm was set to go off then anyway.  So I went ahead and got up.  Folded that load of laundry that I had tossed from the bed to the floor so I could sleep last night.

I thought about it as I stared at my bleary reflection and pulled my hair into a ponytail.  I felt irritated as I patted concealer under my eyes.  Why can’t they just sleep?  Why can’t I catch a break?  Why can’t I set my alarm to wake early to read my Bible of all things and not be interrupted, hassled or awakened even earlier by my children?  

I went through the motions.  Got ready.  Found the shopping list for later.  Made the coffee.  Then I made the extra motions.  Light a candle.  No, two.  Open the window over the sink.  No, open another.  The birds, the fresh air, the pinch of light beginning in the east.  I sit down, the baby monitor on low because you know, at least one is still awake and still calling out.  

I read in an old book from my church’s library, a book that hasn’t been checked out or picked up in over twenty years.  I feel enthralled pulling a book like that off a shelf.  It feels “meant to be” in some way.  Ironically, funnily, I pick up a book entitled, “Serendipity”.  I know it as a word meaning, “a fortunate accident”, coined more popular because of a John Cusack chick flick.  

The book is just about that.  How we are trudging down one path and bam, lightening strikes and we find genius or meaning or a cure for smallpox.  Our aim is to seek first the kingdom of God.  That’s our grand focus.  Our big idea.  But along the way, we find all sorts of “happy accidents”.  But happiness itself was never to be our one true pursuit.  

But we live like it is.

I see it all the time.  In myself.  I see it on Facebook and Pinterest and I hear it in the chats I have with my best friend.  We’re not unhappy.  At least not all the time.  But we feel we should be happier.  Are supposed to be happier.  We think something is wrong with us because we’re not balls of birthday party, caked-up joy 24/7.  We’re tired and we’re trying to fake it until we make it.  We have little kids and jobs and to-do lists and husbands.  We have parents and family members with trails and struggles and church groups with busted stories and broken dreams.  But we’re supposed to be happy, right?  We have Jesus.  We should be the happiest people on earth.  Joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts.

I do believe happiness happens.  I do believe we all possess a deep, abiding joy in our souls, knowing we are God’s and God’s alone.  I don’t believe this means you never have hard things to go through.  I don’t believe this means you never feel broken down.  I do believe, though, that it means we have a very useful tool for mining through those times.

More and more research and more and more mainstream and popular authors are showing that gratitude is the key to a deeper joy.  But not just any gratitude.  You can be a thankful person and note how good the sun feels on your shoulders after an icy and dry winter.  You can take notice of nature or the delicate creation of a newborn baby.  But gratitude that changes things is in noting all the ways that God blesses.  All the ways He loves us.  It’s His love that changes us and His love that sets us straight and His love that keeps us going... and makes us happy.

I’m a very grateful person.  I have the gratitude journal and an abundance of Facebook statuses to prove it.  But simply “being happy” is not my goal and it’s not my aim.  It’s impossible.  I can’t physically be boundless energy all day, every day.  I’m human and I get tired.  I get up through the night and wake early.  Sometimes I’m convinced only Starbucks will “make me happy” and so we trudge there with an excuse to buy groceries while we’re in town, but let’s be honest, I’m really just driving all that way for a treat.  A pick-me-up.  Something I feel I both “deserve” and “need”.  Neither of which is truly true.

But I’m going after it because heck, I’m supposed to be happy.  Right?  So do what you can, do what you have to, pull yourself up and order a Venti.  It’s the only way to survive the day.  The only want inject some “joy”, when really it’s entitlement that has me in that drive-thru (well, that and a little teeny bit of addiction).  I should be happy.  I have a right to be happy.  Give me a latte for now and an iced coffee for later and warm up that breakfast sandwich stat.

I don’t have to be happy.  But I do have to be thankful.  

And happiness, a different kind that is settled in, even when I’m tired and I find it hard for my smile to reach my eyes... that’s a different kind of joy and it comes from knowing all the little ways God is saying, “I love you” throughout my day.  My life.  This very morning.  

Confession: I can get irritated when my plans are interrupted.  This morning I dropped into my chair, coffee close by and that baby monitor turned down because Travis was still calling for me.  I had my Bible in my lap and was not feeling like being spiritual or being taught or being faithful.  I didn’t want to go back to bed (I was awake now!) but my day felt wrecked.  “Come on, God, seriously?  I can’t even have one morning to sit here and do my devotions?!” 

I felt Him sincere and soft.  Quick on the heels of my sassy attitude.

“When did I tell you that you had to meet Me only this way?” 

I sputter.  Well... well.  Come on!  Of course I’m supposed to get up early and seek God and read my Bible and make petitions and throw some grain on the counter and create bread.  I mean, that would be very Proverbs 31 of me and isn’t that what I’m supposed to be striving after?  Modeling?  Excelling in?

When I go to get Joel out of bed this morning, he’s laying in bed, his blankets over his head.  “There’s a present for you, Mommy!”  I could be all agenda-mom.  Come on, get-up, quit messing around, we need to get Travis to grandma’s.  I could be tired mom.  Come on, Joel, let’s go get breakfast already.  But I’m not.  I’m in the moment, trying, trying to be grateful mom.  And as I pull the full bag from the diaper pail (hey, it’s trash day!) I go, “Oh, really? A present for me?” 

I go to the edge of his bed and bend low, he’s standing in bed, his favorite blanket, the one I bought when I was pregnant with him, over his head.  “Unwrap your present!”  I peek under the corner, reveal that sweet little boy face and exclaim, “A Joel!  I always wanted a Joel!”  He laughs and hugs me and goes, “Did you wish for me, Mommy?”

Did I wish.  For you.  

Oh, honey.

Sweet boy, I prayed for you and I wanted you and even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to become a mommy quite yet, I wanted you.  And somehow with the potty training and the tantrums and the not sharing and the endless wrestling and squealing and running through the house half-naked... somehow that can all overtake what a gift a child is.  What a wished for, hoped for, please, please gift both of my boys are to me.

And I remember the gift.  I’m grateful.  And I feel joy bubbling over the fact that my day started at 4:21 a.m.  I don’t have to watch the sunrise and simultaneously be in deep prayer and scriptural reflection. Is it amazing and beneficial when I am?  Yes!  But is God demonizing my rest when I get to miraculously sleep until after 5 a.m.?  No.  I don’t believe that.  When we live that way, with our lists and our musts and our “I can’t be really worthy unless...” talk, then we’re back under the thumb of the law.  

We’re back in shackles.  Just like that. 

The Bible says we are free.  And that we should not be yoked “again” to slavery.  (Galatians 5:1)  I love that.  The first time I read it slow, I caught the “again”.  Sometimes we can read quick and just think yeah yeah, Jesus set me free and I shouldn’t be a slave to fear or sin or whatever.  No, no.  It’s not just that.  It’s being knotted down “again”.  That’s how we were.  We can easily morph back into that thinking pattern, but it’s not authentic.  We are free.  If we are in Christ, we are free.  We have His Spirit and we have every power and every possibility.  

Do you feel it?  Don’t you wish for it? That feeling that only freedom gives? 

It’s right there.  In His open hands.  Always.

"Seems like all I could see
was the struggle...
Bound up in shackles
of all my failures...
Wondering how long 
is this gonna last?
Then You look at this prisoner
and say to me,...
"Stop fighting a battle
that's already been won."
~  B i g   D a d d y   W e a v e ,   " R e d e e m e d "


  1. thank you for always being honest. i think sharing your own fight in words somehow translates into courage for others. or at least, it does for me.

    1. You inspire and encourage every time you write to me! xoxo (And I don't know WHY I am not receiving notifications! Sorry this is so delayed!) You are the sweetest!


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