happiness is a receipt

What is happiness?  We see it all around us in movies, songs, TV, etc.  Although I haven’t counted, I bet there are millions of books that try to tell you the secret to being happy–whether it be a book about money, sex, beauty, success, or even religion.  Quotes say, “Happiness is not a destination; it’s a journey” and “life is what you make of it.”  Do we even know what these mean?

In my three Bibles of different translations, happy and/or happiness is not mentioned ONCE in the concordance.  So what is happiness?

Today I sit outside on the patio outside of my apartment.  It’s the end of February, and yet it is warm and sunny–a beautiful day.  All I feel, though, is empty of “happiness.”  Why?  Because I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve spent almost all of my life pursuing happiness, and I never even knew what the word meant.  Everything that I’ve done in my life now seems to be part of just some method–a “become a better person” scheme, a “how to be successful” plan, or a “you’ll have joy once you can wear size 2 jeans” state of mind.

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The most meaningful, joy-filled, and overwhelmingly challenge-filled thing that I have ever done is this:  being a camp counselor.

Every single day, I was challenged.  There were days when I hated it.  There were times when I just about lost it.  My temper would flare.  My patience would be gone, and tears would be on the brink of flooding the dam of my tear ducts.  But then, I would close my eyes.  I would breathe.  I would remember….God is love (1 John 4:8).

Those campers were not just 9 and 10 year-old girls.  They were the love of Christ Himself.  They were the embodiment of everything that Jesus calls us to be, to live for, and for what we should abandon our lives.

In all of my life, I have never loved anything more than the times I spent loving those precious girls.  Holding them tightly in my arms and rocking them back to look into their sweet faces, I would witness God’s great beauty.  “You are my precious angel,” I would say.  “I love you so much, but do you know who loves you even more?”  Their faces would crinkle to a look of contemplation, and I would tell them, “Jesus!  He is your best friend, and He loves you more than you could ever imagine!”

Even now, I wouldn’t trade anything for that summer I spent wiping away tears of homesickness, sitting on a toilet seat covered in deodorant, writing bedtime stories to read as their devotionals, conducting marriage ceremonies to tubes of chapstick, and paying 2 slices of gum for a 5 second massage.

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That is happiness.  That is living completely void of one’s own self and living solely by the love, the strength, and the grace that God gives.  We have to empty ourselves of what we value, pursue, and hope to receive and we must be filled constantly with the renewing and redeeming love that only Jesus gives.

Of this I am convinced:

True happiness is the receipt that we are given

when we have exchanged

our knowledge for His knowledge,

our strength for His strength,

our heart for His heart,

and have sold our life

–its desires, ambitions, and meanings–

for His life lived through us.

Please Pray for My Role Model

From the same hometown and the same high school, my role model and I both grew up in Brentwood, TN.  Although we never actually met, I’m sure we passed each other in the crowd for the title as “the real “Wood”–the Ravenwood High versus Brentwood High football game.  She went to Ravenwood High School, and I went to Brentwood High.  Had I known then that there was another girl in my midst, a girl living in abandon for Christ, maybe things would be different.  Maybe, I would be with her today, but enough with the “what if” game…

This girl that I’m writing about, her name is Katie Davis, and she is now a missionary in Uganda.  From what I could gather from her blog, Kisses from Katie, Katie moved to Uganda after she graduated from our high school.  In addition, she created a non-profit organization called Amazima, a child sponsorship program that sends children to school, pays for basic medical supplies, and food.  Now as a 21 year-old, she has lived in Uganda for three years now.

Daily, I read her posts of being a mother of 14, adopted children in a home so filled with love for the Lord that the air is saturated with joyful noises and praise.  Her words express everything that I have ever felt but couldn’t express and everything that I hope to experience.  Katie is a symbol of hope that God has given me for a future in mission work.  Oh, how I wish I could be there them…God is always good, though, and I trust that if His will is to send me abroad for mission work, He will do so.

Today, please do me a favor and just read her blog.  Pray for her and her ministries.  Pray with such fervor that even though she is thousands of miles away, she will feel all of our love, prayers, and support even in Uganda.

Kisses from Katie:

http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/

Amazima:

http://www.amazima.org/

Para Siempre…

One of my passions is Spanish.  The letters combined in each word roll off your tongue–each syllable is filled with passion ringing like music hanging in the air.  The Spanish language is beautiful.

With that being said, one of my favorite verses is Psalm 23:6.  Below, I’ve written it in both Spanish and English.

“La bondad y el amor

me seguirán todos los días de mi vida;

y en la casa del señor

habitaré

para siempre.”

salmos 23:6

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“Surely goodness and love

will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the

house of the Lord

forever.”

We have all been created for one purpose: to dwell in God’s great House.  This doesn’t have to begin once we reach Heaven.  On the other hand, we live in God’s house every day that we wake up in the morning and give our lives back to Him.  In this way, becoming a Christian may occur once in our lives, but following Christ is a decision that we must make in every moment of every day–with every breath we breathe, step we take, action we make, and every thought we think.

His goodness and love DO follow us wherever we are.  We just have to release control and allow God the opportunity to show us that His goodness and love always do follow us.

What exactly is this goodness and love?  This is the assurance of Jesus Christ–the depth of His love and the weight of His sacrifice.  This is the reminder of Revelation 21–that there will be a day when God will dwell among us, that there will be no temple in the city for the whole city is the temple.

Para siempre…

Goodness and love will follow me

For always…

I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Forever…

Return. Rest. Quietness and Trust.

One of my favorite things to do is to sit and feel my heart beat.  Do you ever do this?  It sounds pretty silly, but try it.  For one minute, even 30 seconds, simply sit and feel.

I love moments like these–when all I have to do is sit still, close my eyes, and breathe in and out, in and out.  The breath that you just inhaled…that’s God breath.  It’s the very breath He breathed into you at creation.  Breathe in again.  It’s the breath He continues to give.

Feel your heart beat again.  To the rhythm of its beat, hear Him say to you, “You are mine.  I love you.”  Your beating heart–an organ of natural necessity and supernatural existence–God is there, and He is pumping His love all throughout your body as we speak.

Let go of all of your worries, stress, and fears….Let it go and let God.

Now feel your heart beat again.  Let go and let God enter you.  Feel His warmth entering your body.  Tingles and chill bumps, let them cover your arms as you realize that the Holy Spirit is moving within you…. This is what it means to return.  This is what it means to rest.  This is what it means to be in quiet.  This is what it means to be in trust.  This way of resting in God’s love… This is the meaning of Isaiah 30:15.

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“In return and in rest, you shall be saved.

In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

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This is also what it means to be compelled…to feel him calling you to return, to rest, to be quiet, and to trust…

Is the love of Christ compelling you?

Purifying Our Hopes

How often do we create hopes for ourselves?  For me, not only do I create false hopes, but I also make checklists that I seemingly believe will make me a better person.  In order for me to succeed, I must ______.  To be happy,I need to _______. By doing _______I’ll be the best Christian that I can be. Even I should do _____ in order to be the best friend, daughter, and sister. Fill in each of those blanks, and you’ll have a recipe for a “urrhhhh-i’m-going-to-pull-out-my-hair” day.

Today, I just want to share one of my favorite quotes about this.  It’s one of my favorites from Oswald Chambers…

“If our hopes are being disappointed just now,

it means that they are being purified.

There is nothing noble the human mind has ever hoped for or dreamed of

that will not be fulfilled.

One of the greatest strains in life is the strain of waiting for God.

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience.

Remain spiritually tenacious.”

What this quote is saying is that, contrary to our popular belief, God isn’t depriving us whenever plans don’t go our way.  Rather, He is purifying us!  These disappointments of various hopes are actually steps in our purification because:

  1. He already has a plan for us. Jeremiah 29:11- ” ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil.  Plans to give you a future and a hope.”
  2. He’s purifying our faith.  If we believed that our relationship with God depended on a checklist, we would never understand the necessity of His grace in our lives.  Whenever we would fail to check everything off the list, we would be in danger of thinking that we were unacceptable to God.
  3. He’s teaching us to live as if everyday is Christmas Eve.  In other words, He wants us to look towards everything with anticipation and to receive everything with a grateful heart!

There are so many other great things about this quote, but I must run to class for now.  I’ll edit it later! Thanks for reading!

Praying your day is filled with Sonshine,

Sarah