How to be happy; a simple guide.

When I think about our generation, certain ‘catch phrases’ and driving thoughts come to mind. We’re obsessively passionate about ‘pursuing our dreams’ and we’re the Kings and Queens of YOLO. We’re all about changing our uni preferences, our jobs and our friends in order to live the type of life we’ve decided we want. There are many other defining characteristics of our generation but one I’ve noticed is a desire to be considered deep yet understood and an overarching goal of achieving bliss. In fact, we want deep bliss.

As much as a generation changes and moves with culture and the times; the rest of the world is slow to catch up. Our parent’s and employers don’t really understand our constant need to be complex and our drive to live the ‘dream’. My world is filled with both types of people; deep thinkers and people who just want to be happy and then people who want to be both. The two however, seem to be mutually exclusive. The more you think and the more you contemplate – the more you realise how deeply unhappy you are and how you need to make a change and get your life right again. The two forces end up becoming a vicious cycle and we can’t seem to be happy or deep or understood.

I’ve definitely been there. Our generation seems to think there’s something romantic attached to being a ‘deep thinker’ and to being ‘complex’ or ‘misunderstood’ yet at the same time, we want every type of success and happiness in the world and wonder why it doesn’t work out. After lots of time and attempts to be both happy and deep I’ve come to realise something.

It really doesn’t take much to be happy.

Our generation doesn’t really believe the above statement. To be really, truly happy we think we need to have a certain amount of things. A good, fulfilling and preferably high paying job where we hopefully don’t have to do too much work or ever be stressed. A large number of friends of whom you feel deeply connected with all of them and somehow have time to hang out with all of them and that also happen to be very good looking. A wonderfully impacting relationship with God/other spiritual being that helps define us and give us “meaning”. A love type relationship that challenges us to be better than were the last day and makes us always feel like a baaabe. A plethora of university qualifications and other numerous skills such as but not limited to: some form of artistic ability (drawing/music are high on the list), sporting prowess and the gift of the gab or some other socially enhancing personality trait. It would also help if we had a great house, a great car and if no one was ever mean to us – ever. We want wicked holidays, epic Instagram photos with 80+ likes of said holiday photos. We want to be clever and well-read and really ‘up to date’ on certain topics of interest and it of course, would be best if we sponsored one more children in Africa and if we had the time – we’d also be volunteering for a cause that also attributed further ‘meaning’ to our world.

‘It really doesn’t take much to be happy’ feels like a lie.

A month or more ago I had this ‘wow’ moment when I sat down in bed with a cup of tea before I went to sleep and thought to myself “I am so happy right now – in fact, all I think I need in life is a good cup of tea.”

It feels.. so trivial doesn’t it? Tea Steff? Really?
In fact, it actually feels like I must be lying – or at the very least exaggerating.
But I wasn’t. I was so into this cup of tea and I was truly happy.

The ‘deep thinker’ within tried to come up with some intrinsic metaphoric reason for why tea was making me happy but I came up with nothing except the fact that if I could become so happy from drinking a cup of tea, then anything additional on top of my tea – would cause my life to be, well, AMAZING. So I rolled with it. For a season in time I forced myself to become that person who finds everything pretty awesome.

I would walk outside and think ‘My isn’t the air beautiful and crisp today. I love breathing fresh air’. I would receive an email at work and think ‘Oh they added a smiley face in their message – that’s SO nice’. I would get more green lights than red on the way home and think ‘WINNING’.

I made the simple things in life.. My everything. I tried to focus on only simple, easy to achieve, smile inducing things and told myself how happy they made me.

I thought it would feel trivial. Just like believing that I’d reached life’s peak while drinking a cup of tea was a limited way of thinking. I thought I wouldn’t feel deep anymore and that somehow by living simply, I’d lose any intellectual and emotional depth that I once possessed when I was deep but truthfully, a little unhappy. But I didn’t – in fact; my life increasingly had more and more meaning.

Why? Because the more I practised simplicity the more my simple little joys became infused with meaning.

Because when I drank my tea at night – I ended up thinking about how great it was that I had a job to come home from, even if it did make me tired. I would sit in bed feeling warm and appreciating my home and that I can afford to live in it. It would make me aware of how other people didn’t get the same luxury. I ended up feeling so darn lucky that something so simple could make me so happy.

What once was tea – ended up being gratitude, perspective and that ‘I’m so darn lucky’ feeling.

When I would walk outside for an errand at work – I ended up thinking about how the seasons work, and how beautiful it is that grass continues to grow even once it’s been cut and how the patterns on the leaves that had fallen on the grass have their own unique design and how that reminds me of snowflakes and how no snowflake is the same which makes me thinking of how wonderfully unique I am because God made me that way.

What once was a work errand – ended up becoming worship, fascination and unique sense of purpose.

In order to live happily – one must learn the art of living a simply deep life.

As soon as I adopted the above principle, everything became better. Surprisingly, everything became deeper and the happy, reflective, stoic, grateful kind of deep not the moody, what are we even here for, damaging deep.

I never thought being happy was so simple.

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Strength in Joy

Lately I’ve been so aware of the heartache of life. Situations that people find themselves in where there actually is a physical response to emotional pain. A literal heart ache. In talking, thinking and praying through these situations I keep coming back to the words ‘The Joy of the Lord is my strength’. The phrase comes from Nehemiah 8:10 in which we are instructed ‘Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’.

I think it’s one of those wonderful things we say to people who are grieving but I never want to be someone who just says things for the sake of saying things and so it warranted further thought.

I’ve never been more aware of the acute difference between Joy and Happiness. Happy is an emotion, joy is state of mind. Happy is temporary, Joy is eternal. There’s something so powerful about true joy and I think that’s why we tell people ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength’. It’s not some iffy wiffy statement that proclaims, if you are happy and you just try a little bit harder to find some ‘joy’ in this trial, there you will find your strength. Fooey! Anyone who tells someone that, hasn’t been through heart ache or is having you on.

Have you ever met someone with true joy? So often it seems like nothing gets them down, that somehow they turn every hardship into opportunity. These are people who have grasped pure joy. People with joy aren’t easily beaten, they aren’t easily bruised and when they are, they have the strength to rise and try again.

If true joy seems a little unattainable, or a little too tough at times the best news that I have is that it’s the joy OF the Lord that is your strength. Supernatural and complete joy only comes from God. Let his joy and delight be your joy and delight. It won’t fix your problems, but you will find strength in pain.

1 Chronicles 16:27
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

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Dreary dreams.

Realistically, there are a lot of reasons why today, while reading this blog, that you could be filled with sorrow.

Natural Disasters. Financial Difficulty. Death. Loss of a relationship. Unemployment. Family Breakdown. Physical Sickness. Emotional Sickness.

You could even be really petty and whinge about something like the weather. Or that you haven’t bought a new pair of shoes in months.

Who holds your joy?

If joy is found in wordly things, then the world holds your joy. If your joy is found in all the moments God gives you, then Christ holds your joy.

When you find yourself in moments of despair or sorrow – where do you turn? Do you turn to the world or to Jesus?

Who you turn to shows so much of who is in control of your life. Is the world? You’ll be dissapointed. Are you in control? You’ll be dissapointed. Is Jesus? He will never leave you or forsake you. His mercies are neverending and new every morning. Pain in the night – but joy in and through the mourning.

So, who holds your joy?

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:11 NLT.

December

Everyday at work I have to type the date multiple times – and by multiple, I mean like 200 times. So I was very excited today when I got to type the date

01.12.10

December is without a doubt – the great month of the year. After a fairly dodgy November, I am even more excited than normal to welcome this festive month. 31 days of Christmas orientated activities – what could be more brilliant than that.

Reasons for a great December!

  • Christmas lights. By December, anyone who is gonna do Christmas lights – has them up! This year my Mum is using her Solar Power Christmas lights. Saving the planet and looking pretty at the same time. Yay for Mumma Willis!
  • PANTO! It’s a pure priviledge to be involved in this year’s Christmas Panto ‘Neverland Christmas’. Rehearsals have been underway for nearly two months now and it really helps me get into the Christmas mood! It should be a brilliant weekend – Dec 18 & 19 @ Nexus Church.
  • Christmas shopping. Being a gifts person, I love love shopping for presents. I never seem to have the money that I’ve been allocating to Christmas presents all year long. But doing it on a budget is kind of fun too – I love thinking about what a person would really love to receive at Christmas. I choose to ignore the crowds and the awful parking and just focus on the fact that there are Christmas decorations and Christmas music everywhere!
  • Christmas movies. Christmas movies get played on the tv and at the movies and I love to snuggle in under a blanket (in cranked air con) and pretend it’s snowing here like it is in all the Christmas movies. Favourite is definitely The Santa Claus with Tim Allen. But there are other goodies as well!
  • Wrap up parties. Everything is having a break up and it’s fun to go to so many parties. Looking forward to the reverb break up – Dec 10th – dont’ miss it!
  • Christmas baking.
  • Christmas services – Nexus does such a brilliant job! Looking forward to that.
  • Family – so much of both sides of my family are going to be around this Christmas. Special mention goes out to my Aunty Deanne from the States who hasn’t been home in 4 years!
  • Weather – things aref finally warming up this summer. Will be nice to hit the beach once or twice. I shall try not to get skin cancer while I’m outside.
  • HOLIDAYS! Arghhh – I can’t wait for work holidays. This year we are closing the office on the 23rd.. which means I get Christmas Eve off! Which hasn’t happened in so long!

Ah December.. you make me happy!

Snuggling

If you live in Brisbane, Australia – you probably had a difficult time getting out of bed this morning. It started raining last night as I fell asleep and was still raining when I woke up again this morning. I don’t know about you – but I like to sleep when it rains. I’m not exactly sure whether it’s the rain itself that actually makes you want to sleep, or whether we’ve convinced ourselves over time that sleeping to the sound of rain is relaxing. Either way – I want to do it all the time and sometimes I catch myself praying “Jesus, make it rain while I try to sleep tonight”. Naturally I find it difficult to sleep – so I think perhaps this prayer isn’t too ridiculous.

This morning I wanted to snuggle. Not with any person, but with my doona. I wanted to snuggle deep deep down, perhaps lift the cover over my head and just lie there. I don’t know if I even wanted to sleep, but I definitely didn’t want to get up. You know how some kids sleep right down in the bottom of their beds, they roll up into a ball with the doona all around them and just lie there. It’s pure delight.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much everyday life relates to Jesus. Lately all I feel like doing is snuggling deep deep down into the presence of God. Pulling the covers over my head, curling into a ball, immersing myself into his sweetness while the reign of heaven pours down all around me.

When it rains, I like to lie in bed under the covers. But sometimes, I like to do the very opposite. One day, maybe a year ago, it poured rain. Maybe for about 10 minutes, but it was some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever ever heard. Whenever I run in the rain, it makes me laugh. I tend to giggle a bit. I’m not exactly sure what’s funny about the fact that you’re clothes are now going to have that wet damp smell, or your hair is going to immediately fluff and frizz – but I laugh all the same. So on this particular Saturday, housemates all out and busy doing things. I changed into an old pair of clothes and ran barefoot out the front door. Instantly I was soaked. I cacked myself laughing. I ran all the way down the end of the driveway and back.. the rain was so thick and heavy that it didn’t even take long to achieve what I’d set out for, pure joy and delight. I left big puddles all throughout the house as I made my way to get a towel.

Not only do I think the presence of God can be described like snuggling in bed on a Saturday morning – but I think it’s also like a big run in the rain. It’s crazy and a little bit stupid – but it makes you so happy. Sometimes it’s about enagaging and actively immersing yourslef in the holy reign.

I think there’s no right or wrong way to experience God’s presence. But I really hope you’re getting a varied experience of the sweetest thing around. Next time it rains, snuggle deep down in the covers with Jesus and let fear, guilt and the worst stuff about life melt away. Next time it rain, run around outside and get soaked, saturated and let God’s joy overtake you.

In the glory of your presence, I find rest for my soul

In the depths of your love, I find peace, makes me whole

I love, I love, I love your presence

Running in Raining by Kentoku