My mama used to eat her crab or lobster with gusto, picking the shells clean of the meat, then sucking all the juice and flavor from them. I'm savoring summer like that, slurping up all that I can of hot summer afternoons and letting them sit on my tongue until I've enjoyed every nuance of flavor I can suck out of them. There's only one summer that my grandchildren will be twelve and eleven, six and three and one, after all. I will never get back this one special summer with them. So, although I'd prefer that June, July and August have totally blank calendar pages, though I'd prefer that the there be some kind of mandate that summer is all about fun and pleasure and time with family and friends, the reality is that we have some pretty big life changing events on the calendar this summer. We have a potential buyer on the home we've lived in for sixteen years, so it looks as though a big move is happening for us before summer's end. There are also two overseas ministry trips happening during that same time frame. Exciting? Yes! Stressful? Yes! Will I take time to play with the grandkids anyway? Yes, yes, yes!
I think the saying "happiness is a journey, not a destination" is a profound truth. It may sound like a trite cliché that looks great on a sign you hang on your wall, but I propose that it's a good guiding motto for life. Too often I've lived with the wrong mindset that I'd be happy if this person would change, or that circumstance in my life were different. Happiness became as elusive as chasing the wind. There were two events in my life that dramatically changed that way of thinking for me.
The summer I turned fifty, I went to the beach by myself overnight. I knew there were some things twisted up inside my heart that could only be straightened out with a good long talk with God while I walked by the sea. My heart was full of unforgiveness and bitterness towards others and about circumstances in my life that I was unhappy about. I can take you to the exact spot on the beach where God spoke to my heart these three simple words, "Build your life". He gave me the understanding that I had been focusing on all of the unchangeable things in my life, other people and certain circumstances that I had no control over, while I had been ignoring things I could change. Shortly after that I quit a job that had become way too stressful and which was limiting my availability for ministry at our church. I also began pursuing things I love to do, such as writing and photography.
Not long after that trip to the beach, I also began to keep a gratitude journal, which I have now been keeping for over six years. Every day I take notice of at least three things to be thankful for and I write them in my journal. Each Sunday evening, I write a blog post about all of the blessings that I counted from the previous week.
It was those two things, choosing to shift my focus to the things I could change about my life rather than focusing on what I could not change, and learning to see and give thanks for the many daily blessings in my life, that caused me to find happiness in the journey instead of waiting for everything in my life to line up perfectly.
In a perfect world, my dream house with a river view would become available in our price range, closing and moving would not happen until after all of the upcoming travel was over, and someone else would miraculously do all of the packing and moving for us. Meanwhile no one in our church and ministry would have any crises for us to have to deal with, our kids and grandkids would be trouble free, there would be world peace, and I'd win the lottery even though I've never bought a lottery ticket in my whole life.
On the other hand, it's a beautiful summer day here in Portland, Oregon, a bit cooler and milder than it has been. Carpé Diem! There's a whole beautiful summer day to be seized, to be savored, to be enjoyed. Today, I'm choosing to build my life, to build my own kind of happy in the middle of my perfectly imperfect, messy, busy real life.
Also joining THOUGHT PROVOKING THURSDAYS
and THE HIGH CALLING