I wish everyone could meet my Aunt Linda. She’s witty, thoughtful and loves her family deeply. She knows that I love photography, and every year for Christmas she sends me a collection of frames. This year one of the frames had the words “Happy Family” engraved on it. After all of our gifts were opened and stored away, the frame remained without a home.
Happy Family. It stared at me.
We are happy. We are a family. But something about that frame didn’t completely settle right with me, as if it painted a picture of our family that wasn’t quite accurate.
I love my children and husband, in a deep, deep way, and am very thankful for them. But on our best day, we apologized only a few times to feelings hurt, tempers lost, and expectations missed. As I jot these thoughts down, my 18 month old is crawling on the table knocking everything off it, while my two oldest are arguing about who gets to use the iPad first.
But I do find an enormous amount of joy in my life. Why? Because of Jesus.
My life isn’t perfect. I don’t feel happy all the time. There are plenty of times that I raise my voice with my children and feel shame. Or I don’t meet my husband’s expectations, or worse yet, disrespect him with my words and actions, and I feel guilt.
My happy is challenged all the time in the little and the big things. Things like miscarriages, surgeries, disobedient children or betrayal. Social media can steal my happy, too. I see families on exotic vacations, couples on dreamy date nights or kids getting awards that my children might never get.
Here’s what my Instagram pictures should portray: an imperfect marriage to a less-than-perfect man who is married to an imperfect wife. Kids who embarrass me in public at times, but are the laughter in my belly and have taught me most about the Father’s love for me. A stay-at-home mom of littles, which means 4 out of 7 days I don’t shower or get out of my sweats (read PJs). Those pictures will be some framers for sure.
But I do find an enormous amount of joy in my life. Why?
Because of Jesus. He knew every day I would wake up and fall short in many ways. He knew I would try to replace the holes in my heart by looking for my happy apart from Him. Possessions, ministry, acceptance, friendships, security…the list goes on. He created those spaces in my heart. He was intentional about making them. But only one thing was meant to occupy and satisfy their hollowness: Himself.
He planted a thirst deep within my soul that only He can quench. As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God
He knew over and over again I would stuff, fill, fall and repeat. He knew I would try and try. So He intervened. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure (Psalm 40:2).
Happiness is fleeting, but joy in the Lord is forever.
Because He called me His own and placed my feet on Christ, the only solid rock, my life is no longer dependent upon circumstance. When my happy seems lost, I can grab ahold of the promise that He will never leave me (Isaiah 41:10).
So as I stare at this unfilled frame with scraps of Christmas wrapping paper still taped to it, and read the words it claims, I long to rewrite it with something more accurate. Maybe “Thankful”. For all of it. For the struggle, for the mundane, and for the happy moments in my life. I’m thankful that the Lord is continuing to remind me not to focus and stuff my heart with things that are insignificant, but fill those deep places with every part of Himself.
For me, this looks like waking up every morning and spending time with the Lord. Praying. And attempting to keep my focus on things eternal, not my circumstances. And when I fail, I will try again. I am going to be real and let people in. Let them really see me. As situations don’t go my way, I am going to remind myself nothing is a surprise to the Lord.
My guess is I am not alone in this journey. I imagine I am not the only one to experience loss of happiness. Perhaps you’re at that place even now. Can I encourage you? Lean into the Lord. Remind yourself to be thankful, and walk with the Lord in the hard, mundane and happy. Because happiness is fleeting, but joy in the Lord is forever.
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