Sep 21, 2013

Thoughts on Happiness


It's raining.

The sound of cheering Seahawks fans is coming from the living room. Josh is watching football and Annika is playing with Legos on the floor.  I was reading in the bedroom but then I remembered I could write instead. It smells like fresh, cold air and the orange block of waxy stuff I just put in my Scentsy this morning.  "Fireside" or something, it's autumn-y. 

I feel happy.  

It's weird how it happens.  These chemicals in our brain and body that determine much of how we feel, that totally influence our perception of every day life.  Lately I have been feeling not un-happy but uncomfortable.  Just searching, seeking, wanting for something. I kept coming back to memories of Fayetteville and this word... "sanctuary." There was this safe, warm, comfortable thing about life there.  Even though our lowest, hardest days were there in that house, there was simultaneously a loveliness that pervaded my heart. 

I have still been trying to figure out how to find sanctuary here. In this home and in this life. Here

That feeling, the sanctuary thing, is a crazy influencer for me. In Arkansas, that feeling influenced the way I cooked, lovingly swept the floors, hosted dinners and gatherings, read unhurried books at night with Annika, drank late night cups of tea and early morning cups of coffee.  Finding joy in all the small things stemmed from this inner peace that, if I'm honest, was highly related to the way I felt about life in our house. Plain and simple: the loveliness of life in our home. 
It's just weird, I know, but I'm learning this thing about my myself... I may be tough and able to weather the big things, but I am super influenced by my immediate surroundings.  I want everything to be in pleasant order. I think of words like "cultivate" and "balance" and "harmony" and "beauty"... "sanctuary"... but sometimes I wonder if it's just about narcissism and control

Like, why did rearranging the furniture finally make me desire to read Scripture in the mornings?

I could tell you why.  It's because the early light casts these subtle, soft shadows onto the living room floor, and it didn't do that in the kitchen.  And because my new spot in Annika's great grandmother's lime green velvet armchair looks out into the tops of evergreen trees that are always disappearing into the morning fog. I like to look up and see them shuddering like the massive giants that they are. And because I don't have to look at the dirty dishes from Josh's breakfast. 

But, why do those little things make the difference of whether or not I am thriving, spiritually

So far, I don't really know the depth of the why.  I am just realizing that this thing, this need-for-sanctuary thing, is. Whether or not it's holy and good, or even just acceptable, I'm not totally sure.  But it is, and at least I know it now.

So lately, I walk my house, day after day, asking myself how to make this place a sanctuary for my family - and for myself, who lives and grows here, and craves it so much. And I have even asked God, who has actually answered me... like, when I asked him for passion to read my Bible in the mornings and was strangely distracted with an idea about rearranging living furniture, moving the television out of focus and squeezing in that lime green chair. And plain and simple, it has made the difference.

And I have realized that my disappointment (read: guilt) with all the dead garden flowers can be redeemed by filling pitchers with the branches of cedars and red maples instead. I have remembered that pumpkin spice candles are like opium to me and can pretty much guarantee an endorphin rush.  I know that making my bed (and folding up a colorfully knitted blanket at the end) makes me breath easier in our small house, and putting weird songs with African vibes on repeat makes me deliriously happy.

And all of these little things somehow make the bigger things feel... lighter. More easy.  More filled with joy.

Yes, my trust in the Lord can make feel strong, his love and grace (and grace upon grace) empower me to endure every trial and season. But also I sometimes dance around the kitchen with Annika to songs with choirs and electronic beats and drums and mbiras and just forget what was stressing me out to begin with. 

I just feel happy. 

As a Christian, I think we're not supposed to want "happy"... we're supposed to want bigger, better things like joy. Happiness is shallow, but joy is spiritual - that's what we've told ourselves for so long.

But I have to say, good or bad, the happiness makes me feel grateful for life. And stronger.  More ready. And not every season of my life may be full of "happy"... but who says that hard season has to be right now?

Lord knows some pumpkin spice candles and African choirs make me happy.  Like, seriously... the Lord knows. So I'm going with it.  All these simple little things that trigger those happy, grateful, strong feelings in my every day life.

For now, I'm just going with it. 

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8 comments:

  1. #1. will you save that butterfly shirt for me? i mean, gemma.
    #2. i'm glad you're happy. God is the creator of all beautiful things and He made our hearts to love and crave and appreciate beauty around us. i think as long as you remember that He is the source and give him the praise (instead of praising ourselves for our smart decorating choices or whatnot) then it's all good. sometimes us introverted types get too serious! ain't nothin wrong with a little happy.
    #3. the big font still gets to me :)

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    1. #1. Yes :)
      #2. Ain't nothin wrong. Preach, sister.
      #3. It's scientifically better! Accept it!

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  2. I am very much like this! My surroundings do matter. Just the other day I lamented somewhat because the seasons were changing to the point where I would have to use artificial light (ugh!) rather than natural light in order to read my morning Bible study.

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    1. I get that! I'm hoping the lack of natural light here in Seattle won't completely do me in. And if it does, then I will go to Goodwill and find a cheap, interesting lamp that I'm happy to use ;) Side note, but I remember being in a very rough shantytown in South Africa and some of the homes (made of boxes and sheets of tin) had cut out holes where someone had hung brightly-colored, patterned fabric as a curtain. It struck me how even in the darkness of poverty and hunger and sickness, it mattered to someone to make pretty curtains for their little home. So it's not just a "first world" thing, you know? Maybe it's a woman thing. Or just a human thing?

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  3. I've started making the bed again, and it really does make me feel better. As do the pretty pink carnations I bought for my daughters birthday. Focusing on these small beautiful things helps me not to focus on the rest of the mess that surrounds me...although it's on my to-do list to sort out the rest of the mess!!

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    1. Oh girl, I have to make my bed. Mostly because I'll get back in it if I don't! And you're right, we don't get sucked into being despaired by the ugly, frustrating things if we have little reminders of beauty and order and peace to lift our eyes/thoughts/hearts above it all!

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