All the Happy People

JoyI confess that when I was pregnant with baby man I spent a few too many hours watching shows like “A Baby Story” and “The Business of Being Born”. I think it’s inherent to pregnant women to read and watch everything pregnancy related they can get their hands on. This seemed strange to me only because you’d think by pregnancy number four I would be ready to write the material instead of reading it.

Something started to bug me as the months progressed. If you’ve ever watched “A Baby Story” you’ll remember that at the end of each episode, they usually have a clip of the parents saying what they want for their child as he or she grows. I realized that almost all of them said the same seemingly noble thing, “I want for my child to by happy.” Ah, the sentimentality.  Isn’t that what every parent wants… a happy, well-adjusted, smiling brood following behind them like a row of ducklings. It seems so normal and selfless a request.


I don’t think I realized why it didn’t sit right with me until this week. Now it seems epidemic. People everywhere I look are touting the need to be happy. It is an inalienable right after all, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. If it’s in the Bill of Rights, it must be a noble aim. Who am I to argue?

Still, I think we’ve gotten it all wrong. Happiness is so circumstantial. It comes and goes like the tide. I’m happy when things go my way and I get what I want. I’m not happy when the hard times come. I’m not happy when I can’t pay the bills or when the kids are sick or when I’m completely soaked with baby spit-up at the office (circa today), or the car or the microwave breaks, or my marriage gets rocky, or my friends prove unfriendly, or…insert whatever else here…

The “pursuit” of happiness is a great way to put it because it’s fleeting. It often seems just beyond our reach and we stretch and fight and push harder and farther hoping to achieve it, the whole time wondering what we are doing wrong. We must be doing something wrong if we can’t grab it! After all, it’s the goal, the dream, what our parents wanted for us, what we were taught to desire and follow above all else. What is life without happiness anyway?

I contend there is a better way. There is such a thing as joy whose purest form can only be found in the Lord. Joy is a gift given freely with salvation. It’s a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.)

I heard the following quote by Pastor Greg Surratt recently, “Happiness is what happens to you but joy is produced in you.” Joy should well up from inside simply because we are His, because the Spirit of God within us is the source of all joy. Nothing else matters.

Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”  Somehow, we feel like our lives shouldn’t be messy. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that if we’re serving God, everything will be perfect and we will never suffer. This ideal is totally contrary to scripture. Paul was beaten with rods, shipwrecked, thrown in prison multiple times, yet he was content. The disciples were martyred for the sake of the gospel. They suffered horribly, but I don’t think you can convince me they did so without joy or peace.

Ultimately, true joy comes from trust and obedience. If we trust in the Lord, nothing can steal away the joy set before us. If we truly believe what we say we believe, we won’t be thrown by the circumstances of this life. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Some may think it seems a little easy for me to say such things when I am now incredibly happy, but I assure you, I know what it is for circumstances to steal the wind from your lungs. I know the ache of life not going as planned all too well. I speak of this amazing joy that permeates everything, including the ugly, not from a place of a life well lived, but from the remnants of a life torn apart and rebuilt after “I never expected things to turn out like this”. I’ve melted to a puddle on the floor of my closet crying to the Lord begging Him to change situations in my life. I’ve spent hours or my past telling Him that I didn’t think I could take anymore. I know pain. I also know that in the midst of the worst of it, He was there and so was a deep peace and everlasting joy.

Now on the other side looking back, I can see it so clearly, the brightness of glory as He carried me through. I see how he molded me into something lovely. He didn’t blow away the ashes of a life once lived and start fresh with new material. He used the ashes of every moment seemingly wasted and shaped them into something beautiful.

He didn’t promise us “happy”. He did promise us joy. For my children and for those I love, I don’t wish for happiness though it seems a nice gesture. My prayer is that my children, my loved ones, may know Him and the fullness of His peace, love and joy. I pray they would dive deeply into every precious promise and seek first HIs kingdom. I pray that they would know that no matter what life throws at them, they can be content.

Lord, I thank you for the hard times in my life. Thank you for being there with me even when the darkness seemed to overtake the light. Thank you for allowing me to know that my joy comes from you alone and that nothing can ever steal it from me or snatch me from your hand.

Who are you?

Psalm 40


I heard someone say once that our stories define us. I couldn’t disagree more. Our stories contribute to our worldview. Our stories can impact or influence our actions and attitudes. They give us wisdom and sometimes strength. Sometimes we allow them to make us bitter. Still, only one thing can define us.

We are defined by the word of God and the one who created us. His thoughts about us outnumber the sands of the sea. He sees his children as whole, complete and captivating.

I choose to be defined by him and him alone.

Crash Course

I was in a car accident about fifteen years ago. It happened on a Sunday afternoon on my way home from church. I was pulling in my driveway when she hit me. I never saw it coming. Apparently, she didn’t notice me slowing down to turn until the last second. When she did see me, she swerved INTO the driveway instead of away from it and consequently, nailed the side of my car right there in my driveway traveling around 45 miles per hour.

Everyone was okay, despite some cuts, bruises and a little whiplash. It was definitely one of the scariest parenting moments I can remember. My daughter was in her car-seat in the middle of the back. I remember it taking me a moment to realize what had happened and then hearing her screaming. My best friends little sister was with me also and the impact was very close to where she was sitting. She was 8. She looked completely dazed and blood was pouring from her face and mouth. It was in that moment, when it all hit me, that the panic set in. Suddenly, nothing else mattered but the kids. I didn’t even notice my injuries until later after I was sure everyone was okay. My car was totaled.

This morning I was thinking about how life can feel like a colossal mess sometimes. You’re traveling along enjoying the ride, when out of nowhere, it hits. You didn’t even see it coming, and you’re stunned by the impact. You spend some time trying to process it all. Maybe you feel your pain first, maybe you notice the others around you. Maybe you realize what you’ve lost right away or maybe it all comes in pieces, little by little, you take it all in and you break down a little more over time.

Often, we wonder why it happened. There’s usually no readily available explanation. Sometimes the hurt is so extreme that we turn heavenward demanding answers. Sometimes, the heavens are silent.

Some react with rage, others sorrow. Some weep while others remain locked in uncomfortable numb. We all have our ways of dealing with the aftermath.

I don’t have answers to the question why. I try to figure it out sometimes like we all do, but in the end only God knows the plan and we are called simply to trust him. But maybe sometimes he’s hoping when life hits hard, we will turn outward first. Maybe the trials of life are intended to train us to think of others and not just us.

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

It’s not always our natural reaction to think of others in the midst of our greatest pain and loss. But our greatest comfort often comes when we do just that. Whatever your reaction is, it’s most important that you get up and keep going. Don’t let anything stop you from fulfilling your destiny. You were created for greatness. Don’t let anything stop you from believing that.

I don’t know what you’re going through. Maybe life is crashing around you as I write this. Maybe your cruising along loving the journey. My greatest desire is that you would know that you are in His hands, He has a plan and that someone out there needs you to get up and keep on going. You are not alone. Look around. Look up. Keep moving forward! It’s going to be okay as long as we keep our eyes on Him.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28



The View from Above

view 2

What’s the view like from up there? I often marvel at the way you can love us with such depth despite the messes we’ve made. The problem of pain exists only because we seek to blame you for the bad without crediting you for the good. You see us reeling from the consequences of sin. Destruction, pain, sickness, tragedy abounds casting shadow on the weary hearts you seek to save. You call to us with the answer, with comfort, with peace beyond description and we accuse. “How can a God of love allow such tragedy?”

“For I consider the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)


We look at things so narrowly. All we see are the steep rocks around us and we fear we cannot make it through. We forget that you always clear a path. You never ask us to cross without making a way before us. Yet so often we turn back thinking it’s too hard so you must not be in it. There must be a wider opening that will lead us to the same destination. Still, you’re faithful to scoop us back up and lead us back where we belong. We must look so silly to you sometimes. Yet you love us immensely. You make a safe place for us in the cleft of the rock. You allow us to rest in your presence.


I can’t help but remember today how evil men caused our hearts so much sorrow. The problem with pain is that bad things still happen to good people. “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45 NKJV)

I don’t claim to have all the answers but I know this, God is still good even when we aren’t. God is still there even when we can’t see him. God still loves even when hate seems to win. Just as the towers falling couldn’t break the spirit of a people, circumstances cannot change the immutable goodness of God. As we remember this day, let us not forget the one who holds us and looks upon us with abundant love, abounding mercy and infinite greatness. He sees us lovely.


What’s the view like from up there? Do you see us looking up? Lend us your smile and wrap us up in your peace today.




I have no time to write today

The busy fairies have carried me away

I’ll see you on the other side

If the busy fairies bring me back alive

Labor Day

Once a year, we get to cease from our “manic Monday” lives, and be celebrated for the impact our working has had on our society. We mark the end of the summer with this hiatus. We light our grills, don our shopping garb and hit the sales, relax with friends and family. We get to rest. But do we really?

What about our souls? Deep within where no one can see, do you feel yourself striving? Are you striving to be more, to do more, to be a better person, to be more diligent…to be seen? We hide these inner longings with stuff. The busy trappings of a life fully lived. Work, school, kids, chores, laundry, diapers, christian service, community service, hospitality, good works. I’m not denying the value of any of these things. They are all good and should be done. But do they drive us? When our tired heads crash into the fluff of our pillows at night, do they consume us still? Are we able to rest or are we thinking about all of our stuff? Do we feel full with overflow…ready to pour out again tomorrow not of necessity, but rather abundance? Why are we striving at all?

We all know labor. The toil and motion of our days. The drive to accomplish more or be a little better. So we reach and stretch like ace bandage around the wounds of our lives, hiding the inner longing from the masses. Gaining momentum so we can do more tomorrow. We know the ache of muscles overused. The dull of a mind overspent. The fog of lack of slumber and heavy heart. We may not labor everyday. We may even enjoy it. We, hopefully, take time out to laugh and enjoy the moments of greatness. We rest a bit now and then, but is rest a lifestyle?

I contend that every day should be labor day. Jesus said this in the book of Matthew: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.  

The answer to our striving is always found in our following. Jesus didn’t ask us to be better. Jesus took our ‘bad’ upon himself, bore our sorrows and took our shame. Jesus provided freedom for our souls. Freedom from the burden of striving. When we come to him, we are free to be. In him we find rest. He joins us in the yoke of life, strapped in together with us and carries the burden for us. We simply walk with him.

There will always be hustle and bustle circling overhead. There will always be things to do and commotion to tame. But there will always be Jesus soothing our souls with the balm of his peace. He washes our hearts with his spirit, quiets us with his love and calls us righteous. None of this is based on what we can do or have done. Though our righteousness was as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), he clothes us with his righteousness (Romans 3).

Today, I encourage you to rest in him. Enjoy this labor day, knowing that you were created for his good pleasure, that he delights in you and that you are loved more than you can ever imagine. Happy Labor Day!