He rejoices over you.

Perhaps it is because I am a “performance-based” individual. I thrive on accomplishing my goals, doing my best, receiving compliments, excelling in presentation, and so on.

I care. I care about what I do, how I present myself, what to say, how to live. That’s not all bad, if I keep it in check and maintain a healthy balance.

But, you know just as well as I do that success isn’t continual. I don’t always succeed. I don’t always say the right thing. I don’t always receive compliments for the good and helpful things I do. I sometimes fall short of doing my best. And, furthermore, some of my dreams and goals still seem so far off.

Why can’t I get there? Why can’t I just live in a state of success?

I know, I know. Life doesn’t work that way.

Life instead looks like this: Trying, living, failing, questioning, and getting back up.

Oftentimes, we get discouraged. We get weary. We get frustrated. When we don’t measure up to our own requirements, we somehow love ourselves a little less. That’s not right, nor is it OK.

My Daddy, my hero, has always said this: “It’s not about where you are — it’s about where you are going.”

Right now might not look exactly like you want. Your job might not be perfect. Your family might be falling apart. Your laundry might need folded. Your heart might be broken.

Life, though, is SO MUCH more than just RIGHT NOW.

Don’t make the “snapshot” of what is today the cover for the “album” of what your life has been, is, and is going to become.

Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit trying. Don’t love yourself less. 

In these moments – the less than perfect ones – hold on tightly to the only thing that ALWAYS succeeds and NEVER fails – God.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

~ Zephaniah 3:17 ESV

When you can’t stand where you are in life, when you can’t handle failing again, when you can’t imagine another hurt coming your way. . . Think on this.

Our crazy, awesome Heavenly Father is sitting up in His Heaven. He is delighting over you. He is celebrating you. He is right beside you. He won’t let you go. He never loves you less. He longs to quiet your spirit. He desires to calm your anxious spirit. He is singing about you. You’re his favorite.

You might not be happy with yourself. You might not have much to rejoice about right now.

No worries. . .

God is rejoicing just because you are, and He made you that way.

 

Photo by Leon Biss on Unsplash

The J O U R N E Y. Part One.

Let’s face it. Life is a messy thing. There is no manual titled The One Way to Do Life Right. Oh, how I wish there was! I am at a different spot in life than many of my friends, relatives, and coworkers. I’m at a completely different spot in life than I was just six months ago. Sometimes I feel frustrated. Sometimes I feel joy. Sometimes I feel like a conqueror. Other times I feel as if life is kicking me in the backside.

Have you been there, too?

It was in a discussion I was having just this past weekend that it dawned on me. . .

Life is a J O U R N E Y. 

Part One. Reflection of the Journey.

Life is a J O U R N E Y. Each life represents a unique journey. There are no duplicate journeys, but there are similar ones. There are certain stops along the journey, but there are no required or marked pathways from one stop to the next.

Sometimes our journey feels like a road-trip or vacation. It’s “smooth sailing” for a day, a week, and – if we are a lucky – a year! Other times, though, our journey seems like a never-ending expedition past places we did not intend or ever wish to go.

You see, where I started my journey is simply not the same as the start of your journey. We were each born into a different home, a different family. Our journeys have been shaped by different people and past experiences.

We have each observed and felt happiness, acceptance, and freedom. We, too, have experienced loss, rejection, and heartache. But, the memories I tie to each of these emotions are completely different than the ones you tie them to.

As I take a little time to glance back on the different spots I have visited on my journey, my heart is full of a bittersweet emotions. There were some painful, dark valleys I trekked through. Some caves, even. Losing my best friend to an early death, being confronted with the rough edges of my personality, losing friendships — those legs of the journey were tough. I never want to go back, of course. But, I must realize the stronger person that I am because of those hard days on the journey.

I then remember those magnificent mountaintops that were waiting on the other side of the valleys of grief, fear, and pain. Those spots were filled with wonder and awe. Learning to love, finding my passion of teaching, and experiencing self-confidence and beauty — just to name a few.

Along the journey we are confronted with so many voices, telling us what college to attend, what career path to choose, who to date, who to stay away from, how we look, how we need to improve, etc. We have been bombarded with the desire to measure up to all these voices but the frustration of never seeming able to.

No one can tell you how you feel, no one can tell you what career fits you best, and no one can decide for you if you if you really like the person you’re dating.

YOU, my friend, have to experience YOUR journey for YOURSELF. No, you don’t have to go at life solo. That’s not what I am saying. But, I do firmly believe that life sometimes consists of trial and error.

You’ve got to be yourself. You’ve got to make your own decisions. You’ve got to fail every once in awhile. You’ve got to feel frustration and have determination in order to feel celebration.

There is no “one” path you can choose in life. The J O U R N E Y of life is a combination of pathways that wind and combine together to make a journey uniquely yours. Sometimes life throws storms and challenges your way. These make you divert down a pathway different from what you would have originally chosen.

Sometimes life throws surprises and situations your way that warrant you to make a decision that will alter your journey in life. This alteration is unexpected. But, on the other end of that decision that changed your pathway in life, you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you made the right choice. Your life is different – but better!

I can’t explain it, really. When I was a teenager, looking forward college and “adult” life, you better believe I had life all planned out. My life looks a thousand times different than those “plans” I had made. Nothing has quite turned out like I thought it would or even wanted it to back then. Am I ever thankful for that! You know why? My life is a thousand times better than I could have imagined it would be! A  J O U R N E Y. That’s what life is.

In the famous words of Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Don’t be afraid to make a decision between two paths. Don’t be afraid to get five years down the road and realize that life didn’t pan out quite like you thought it would. Don’t burden yourself by expectations that weren’t met.

Embrace your J O U R N E Y. Yours is special. Yours is unique. Yours is controlled by you – no one else.

I encourage each of us to take some time to reflect on our journey. Let’s relive the memories. Let’s deal with the emotions. Let’s laugh at the good times, grow from the bad times, and let go of the bitter times. Let’s make the decisions we’ve been holding out on. Let’s release the fear of the “what ifs.” Let’s believe that things happen for a reason. Let’s look forward to what is yet to come. And – most importantly – let’s not forget to hold onto the hand of the Almighty Father who says, “I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I…forsake thee.” (Heb. 13:5 ASV)

(Watch for: The J O U R N E Y. Part two. >> Hitting the blog soon!)

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

No happiness leaks.

Happiness is a fleeting state, or so it seems.

One minute incandescently happy – the next annoyed at everyone around. I mean, really. . . Who hasn’t been there at least a time or two?

Sometimes it’s the tiniest detail that can ruin a good day. Other times it’s worrying about minor issues that pop up out of nowhere. Perhaps it’s a self-made to-do list of optional or wishful thinking items that’s become too much to handle.

Whatever the triggers are — I’m plain fed up with them. Done. Over.

I’m tired of letting small things or unmet, wishful expectations or random, dumpy situations get in the way and – frankly – create opportunities for my happiness to leak out.

Sometimes it’s our perspective that is just whacked — for lack of a better term. We overthink, We overreact. . . We get in our own heads.

We react wrongly – for the most part. I firmly believe that the way we react to situations determines the rate of happiness leakage in our lives. Do we CHOOSE focus on the positives? Do we downplay the negatives? Do we deal with things and just move on? Do we expect too much from those around us? Do we ever stop thinking about OURSELVES?

Seriously, friends. We are selfish. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. We want more than we need, we ask for more than we should, we complain more than we compliment, and we sigh more than we smile.

In fact – (personal confession) – two days ago, I had a “lightbulb” moment. God let me see that sometimes I’m the one who creates holes for happiness to seep out of my own life.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m newly married to the man of my dreams, working an incredible job, and now involved in a new ministry alongside my husband. Life is good, and I’m blessed abundantly. I have no complaints that are substantial. However, instead of enjoying and cherishing the moments, more often than not I feel that I need to meet the next goal, check the next item off my list, compare my wardrobe with the newest fashion, or plan my next vacation. When did I get so self-absorbed without realizing it? My focus is out of balance.

Instead of creating an environment for unhappiness or discontentment to sneak in and happiness to leak out. . . I want to establish a new trend that focuses on thankfulness, positive self-talk, and proper balance.

Yes, I can be disappointed the day didn’t go as planned, but that gives me no excuse to treat those around me worse or project my feelings of frustration on to them.

Yes, I can listen to the problems of friends and family and offer advice, but I shouldn’t make those problems my own and let them zap my emotional energy. (And – P.S. – I definitely shouldn’t gossip about those problems and build myself up off of another person’s insecurities or baggage.)

Yes, I can expect those around me to treat me with respect, but I shouldn’t expect those people to be perfect – because they are human, too, and are in need of as much grace as I am.

Yes, I can be frustrated that minor problems or miscommunications come about, but I shouldn’t blow my minor problems out of proportion and discredit those friends and family members who are facing much bigger troubles.

And the list could go on and on. . .

 

I challenge you! Take a moment or two and look at your own life. . . are there happiness leaks that need fixed? Is there a focus that needs balanced? Is there a grateful attitude that needs cultivated?

 

A Practical Application: In order to work on this new, balanced focus. . . One of my friends suggested that us Bible Study ladies keep each other accountable for a gratefulness check EVERY DAY. For the next week or so, my two friends and I are texting each other just one thing we are thankful for each day, and there can be no repeats. We do this in the morning – before work. I have personally noticed a change in my attitude going into the work day. I’m spending time praying and thanking God for so many things on my (long) drive to work, and I notice the day starting a little bit brighter. What practical applications can you start that will help your focus start to balance? (Comment or message to let me know!)

 

Side note: I’m not trying to be harsh. I’m not downplaying the struggles we all face. We have frustrations, problems, and disappointments. We have sick family members and friends. I’m not saying you’ll always be “happy.” I’m simply saying – don’t let happiness sneak out because of a dumpy outlook on life.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Let it go.

Sometimes, you just have to let it go — release it — be set free.

Let me explain.

I know how things are “supposed” to go in my life. I mean, come on. . . Don’t you?

For example. . .

  • My outfit will look so “on point” if I put those two pieces together.
  • My car won’t fall apart until I have driven it for (at least) six years.
  • My new city will be just as charming as my last one.
  • My students will listen to me the first time.
  • My licensure tests will be easy.
  • My career will go smoothly.
  • My new job will bring awesome friendships.
  • My husband will like the new “dish” I tried out for supper.
  • My corny joke in the grocery check-out line will be met with a chuckle or two.

And, you know what? Sometimes, I am right! Things go according to plan. The new “dish” is met with a sweet kiss to finish off the meal. The school day is successful; none of my students threw an attitude or balked at a directive. I even come home to the house picked up and the bed made by my husband! And so on. . .

But. . . Sometimes? Well, sometimes my outfit looks horrific as I walk out the door, and I don’t have time to change so I feel frumpy all day. My car might be making some “odd” noises, more so than before, and I hope I can “baby” it through. My corny joke at the grocery store is met with a blank stare from the cashier, and I feel quite awkward as I swipe my card. Or perhaps my new city just doesn’t feel quite like the last.

Tell me that you’ve been there, too. . . When the day just won’t end and the disappointments keep piling up.

Well, friend. Here’s what I have found. (And, I speak from experience here. . .) It is so easy to hold on to all those frustrations, disappointments, irritations, and insecurities. In fact, you just keep holding on to them daily. The frustrations from a frazzled Monday are carried into Tuesday. Your irritation at some simple misunderstanding at work comes home with you and causes you to “snap” at your spouse for no apparent reason. Your failure the first time you try something difficult causes you to never try again and miss out on an incredible success.

Let it go. Seriously.

Life is just life. Ok? I might only be 23, but I have let way too many days, weeks, months, and moments go by feeling hurt or frustrated or unhappy by things I just couldn’t change. . . even things that (even though I did not realize it at the moment) were making me into a stronger, more capable person.

The car repair that was $300 more than you wanted to pay and didn’t even fix the problem. . . The rough day in the classroom that made you cry. . . Don’t let times like that define you.

I have realized that I am a much happier and kinder person when I let. things. go.

  • “Oh, well. . . I’ll do better next time.”
  • “Yeah, okay. I just looked like the most awkward human being in Kroger.”
  • “Perhaps I should never wear this outfit again. In fact, I should probably burn it.”
  • “At least next time I know what NOT to say to that student.”
  • “This will make a good story.”

The definition of release is this: (1) to relieve from something that confines, burdens, or oppresses or (2) to give up in favor of another.

What do you need to release today? What do you need to let go of today?

I’m not saying that it will be easy. . . (It’s a moment-by-moment choice somedays.) But, I am saying that it is worth it.

Life is too short to hold on to things that just. don’t. matter. CHOOSE to free yourself from that extra “stuff” that weighs you down.