Sunday reflections: Happiness

Happiness. We have all heard quote after quote about happiness. Money can’t buy happiness. Happiness is a choice. 

Today, I am reflecting over our message at church on the pursuit of happiness. One thing the pastor said that has me quiet and reflective is this… achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort. 

He then proceeded to ask and challenge us…how do we deal with this discomfort? Do we choose to live with it or do we do something about it?

This led my thoughts to something else I have been working on when I pray. Instead of praying out of difficult situations, I want to pray through difficult times because I believe God has something in these moments for me.

Maybe praying through these difficult times of considerable discomfort and being willing to stepping out in faith to meet God is the pathway to happiness. After all, growth is often painful.

I don’t know what discomfort you might be feeling today, but know you are not alone. Pray through your discomfort…and look for opportunities to find joy.

Comfort in the Uncomfortable

What does it mean to be comfortable to you?

 Comfort is a warm fuzzy blanket, a book in my hand, a warm mug of coffee or tea, and a quiet house.


Of course, those cherished moments are just that, cherished moments. To be comfortable​ in the day to day existence…What does that look like?
I told a friend once that I don’t think God wants us to be comfortable for too long. During that particular time in my life, I had just left a long-time job to try something new. This “new” was different and very uncomfortable.

I believe it is during these challenging periods of life that we experience the most growth. I realized that even when my job was hard, I could find something to be grateful for. Believe me, I’m definitely not trying to sugar coat anything or be “Pollyanna” about this…Some days finding something good in a difficult day was, well, hard.

Some days may be like a typical dinner conversation with our son…

Me: “Jay-R, how was school? What was the best thing that happened today?”

My son, with a smile on his face as he gets ready to take a bite of food, “It ended.”

 Maybe some days​, you are grateful to have just made it through yet another day. 


My prayer into work has become a prayer of “God I have no idea what I might face today, but I say yes to whatever comes my way because I know You will be right there with me.”
Greater trust. Overcoming anxiety one moment at a time. Glimpses into what really matters to me in my life. All lessons in the uncomfortable.

Yesterday morning I read this in my In Touch devotional by Charles Stanley…“We must accept that God’s priority for us is transformation into Christ’s image and not necessarily comfortable circumstances.”

Paul shares in Philippines 4:11…

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 

Times of plenty, times of less. Times of sickness, times of health. Times of comfortable, times of uncomfortable.

Finding comfort in the uncomfortable….Perhaps this is on my mind so much as I reflect on the message of Easter. Christ endured the greatest “uncomfortable” for me, for you, for us. He was ostracized, ridiculed, beaten, mocked, and hung to die a pain staking death. Why? So that we can live a life full of His grace, His love, His mercy, His peace, and His hope.

Is comfort possible in the uncomfortable?

I think it is when our hearts are open to what He is wanting to whisper into our souls. 

My friend, all things are possible through Him.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

How about you…Where has God spoken​ to you in the uncomfortable?

What if…

It’s one of those mornings where no one but me has to be up early. My husband has the day off work, and school is closed for my son today. 

In the mostly quiet house except for the off and on barking of our dog, I really don’t mind these days of being awake in solitude. My mind does a lot of thinking during these mornings.

The other day, I wrote about “keep fighting.” The next day, my devotional was about fighting, and it really resonated with me. It’s important to fight through the struggles of life and keep our eyes on God. But, here’s another thought to add to this whole fighting thing….God loves to fight for us.
The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. Exodus 14:14

Stay calm? During hard times?? This is definitely something I continue to learn. It is becoming a little easier everyday. The whole expression of “let go and let God,” it really holds a lot of truth in terms of peace.

When I am discouraged, before I know it, my mind wanders to this world of “what ifs.”

What if I had chosen another career? What if I hadn’t changed jobs? What if we had moved so many years ago like we had planned? The list can go on and on.

But, here is another question…”What if I am exactly where God needs me to be right now?

Life isn’t easy, but it is during the most difficult moments that we can experience the most growth.

On this Good Friday, I reflect, what if Jesus would have been spared the pain of everything He endured on the cross for us, for you, for me? 

That is a what if I don’t want to think about because the answer would change everything.

Thankfully, that’s not how the story goes. Jesus died so that we may live. His death and Resurrection change everything. He died on the cross so we can live in His truth and promises.

Instead of worrying and “what iffing,” I need to let go and let God. He will fight my battles. Just stay calm, trust His promises, and rest in His peace.

What if we worried less and prayed more?

Prayer can move mountains. 

Keep Fighting

Sometimes, I feel so knocked down by the stuff of life…Work stress, so much to do at home, exhaustion…The list goes on.

Sometimes, I just feel so defeated. I feel like a failure. I know we all have bad days. Bad days can morph into all kinds of negative thinking if we let them.

When I was in fourth grade, my dad came with me to a young author’s event at a local university. I remember being so excited to go and that my dad was with me. I came home with the book It Wasn’t my Fault by Helen Lester. I love the story because the young boy has an egg dropped on his head. He tries to find someone to blame but ends up realizing that maybe he was to blame after all. Instead of turning the blame on him, his new animal friends try to stand behind him and make the best of the situation.

Walking the Christian life is a lot like that.

We make mistakes. Things don’t always go as we plan. We feel like failures sometimes. God doesn’t waste anything in our lives. He can and will use everything to grow us and increase our trust and dependence on Him.
For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

It often isn’t big trials that seem to get me down. My faith has carried me through some pretty big challenges in my life. For me, it’s the everyday stuff that drags me down and threatens to defeat me. Difficult situations and people at work. Not feeling well. A cluttered house because we are so busy. Taxes still to do ( I have a week yet 😉). 

This “stuff” weighs me down. Then, God speaks to, encourages me through one of the most precious voices in my life. My son.

We were driving home recently, and I asked him if he knew what spiritual warfare was. He proceeded to tell me about how this was the theme of his recent youth retreat. We talked about praying through those difficult times and trusting God. He looked at me and said, “Mom, you’re a fighter. You always fight through stuff.” 

Thanks, son. I needed to be encouraged.

Maybe the morning moments of reading my Bible are noticed. Perhaps our nightly prayer together matters to him.

Little acts of faith create big faith. 

Maybe I can fight through this one more day with God leading me. And then one more day. Someone is watching me fight my battles, and he’s taking note.
We never know when our faith might resonate in someone else’s life

 Keep fighting. Eyes are watching.

Friday Fatigue

One week back to work, and I am tired. 

Sigh…And I can’t really say, “I need a vacation”… I just had one!!

During these early morning hours, I choose to start my day in the Word. The past few days, I confess that I have jumped right into work stuff as soon as I was awake and then listened to my devotional in the car on the way into work. Perhaps, I have had my priorities shifted.

If Jesus walked on water, then certainly God can hold me through these challenges of day to day living. I have made some small changes in my schedule already, and I have faced opposition. Being busy is what I know. I am learning my need for rest.

Our church is in the midst of a prayer challenge and we are reading Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson. I am committed to praying and believing deeper that God cares about all the details of our lives-the big and small.

God cares about my tired. God cares about my sense of feeling overwhelmed. He doesn’t leave us in the middle of the ocean to drown. As in the movie The Shack, when Mac starts to walk on water, the character Jesus looks at him and says, “This works better if we do it together.”

So, I need to do my tired with God. He wants my honest, tired prayers. I am choosing to believe God can carry me through the tired. He who moves mountains can certainly make a way for tired souls. 

Beauty from Ashes

The perfect vacation for me is a quiet escape to the mountains. As we spiraled a narrow winding road up the mountain to a cabin retreat, I breathed in the sense of rest I knew would be mine to cherish the next few days.

The area of the Great Smoky Mountains is near and dear to me. My parents first introduced me in my junior high school days, and I fell in love with the majesty of the mountains. I introduced my husband when we were dating, and he instantly fell in love with the area, too. Since we first said “I do” at a mountain chapel, we have made several trips to the area through the years.

This particular year, our hearts are saddened and joyed at the same time. Back in November, Gatlinburg suffered from a forest fire. As we drive through the area and see the remnants of the damage, I am reflective of beauty from ashes. 

On our peaceful horseback ride this afternoon, several blackened trees marked the sides of the trails. Driving through the town and adjacent roads, burned buildings still beckon to be repaired. A few former attractions and hotels remain closed. For the most part, though, Gatlinburg is alive and well. The area has rallied together since those horrific days and rebuilt beauty from the ashes.

I saw this on a hotel sign…”God bless Gatlinburg and America.” Another sign read simply “Mountain Strong.”
Isaiah 61:3 reads…To those who have sorrow in Zion, I will give a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, and a spirit of praise instead of no hope. Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored. Isaiah 61:3 NLV

As I read this passage, Gatlinburg could easily be substituted for Zion when I think of the situation of the forest fire. In any situation that seems hopeless, God can make beauty from ashes. When we trust Him to transform the situation, hope replaces despair and all the Glory goes to Him.

Gatlinburg will always have a special place in my heart, and I am humbled by the reminder of God’s power to create beauty from ashes in all things.
#gatlinburgfires #greatsmokymountains

Confused Flowers and Brokenness

I’m in a bit of a slump. I’m not sure why or how I found myself here. I think I am simply tired and exhausted on so many levels.

Yesterday, it snowed in my neck of the woods. The spring flowers are confused after the unseasonably warm February days. As I looked at my neighbor’s slumped over yellow flowers blanketed by snow, I thought, that’s just about how I feel.

Broken. Defeated. Tired. Confused.

Like the flowers pushing forth and attempting to spread some sunshiney joy and then unexpectedly set back by a little snow… It feels a bit like, well, life. Things are going well, life happens, and then you feel defeated, discouraged, drained.

A passage from Psalms flashed through my mind as I snapped the picture of the flowers.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17

And, just like that standing there shivering in my driveway looking at my neighbor’s pathetic flowers​, I was reminded that God welcomes our brokenness.

Perfectionism is not my purpose.
Sigh. How often I forget this and try to aim for something I can never attain. 

No wonder I am tired.

God honors our broken spirit. I find that a lot of the time, I overthink, I work too hard, I push myself too much.

The answer isn’t working harder. It is trusting God more. Listening. Accepting that I can only do so much in a day. It is learning to be okay with knowing that I will never make everyone happy. 

I try to pray during my commute into work. I pray that God will help me through whatever comes my way. He already knows what I will face. My response to it is my choice. 

My current situation? The slump I am in? I think I am tired. Life is filled with pressures and expectations. Sometimes, a snow storm can beat down the flowers, but that isn’t the end of the story or the end of my story.

God is working. We don’t see the details, but He is paving the way. 
But forget all that-it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a path through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

God honors your broken spirit. There’s always hope for the spring.