when being “happy” isn’t as hard as we think

Recently I’ve been reading a book called “Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy” by Leslie Vernick.

YES, it sounds totally weird and self-helpy. But it’s great – it could be better classified as Jesus Awareness and titled “Practical Ways to Actually Live Like the Gospel is Reality.”

It’s great. I recommend it.

Vernick talks about negative thought patterns, identifying the ones to which we particularly fall victim, and then goes to scripture and gives doable strategies for claiming the thoughts and actions Jesus came that we might claim in abundance.

Wa-bam. It’s awesome.

 

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Anyway, last week, I babysat for a family.

When I got to their home and walked in the door, I was going over the list in my head of things I need to get done before my own baby comes.

Finish book revisions, send requested material, paint nursery, fill nursery, read a book or ten about how on earth to take care of a baby, organize that bane-of-my-existence junk drawer in the living room, learn how to apply fake eyelashes (I don’t know. I just want to!), figure out how to schedule writing time with a baby, tour the hospital, sign up for a birthing class, try not to freak out about labor on a daily basis…all the things.

All the things!

After babysitting and reading books with the little nugget for a very enjoyable hour and a half (that’s all he wanted to do! Really!), he went down for his nap and I took out Vernick’s book to read.

Here’s what I read:

“Why has our doing overwhelmed our being?” ( Vernick p. 45)

Oh.

I don’t know.

“We live in a world that defines a person’s value and worth by his or her productivity and efficiency. How much we get done and how well we can do it are benchmarks of a good day…[but] God defines personhood and success very differently than our culture does.

From Christ’s perspective, success isn’t measured by how much we do, how much we earn, or how much we have, but by how well we love and by what kind of a person we’re becoming in the midst of life’s activities.” (Vernick, p. 46).

 

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I read these words and instantly thought about my own to-do list which, up until this moment, I hadn’t realized was being played on repeat in my head. I honestly didn’t even realize my mental to-do list existed – I was so used to waking up to it and going to sleep with it and working for it throughout the day.

So then I wondered, Does God really need me to do all these things right now?

I mean, my list is full of good things, but does He care more about me enjoying Him and just being rather than doing?

Suddenly I felt like I’d gotten rescued from a hamster wheel.

And it’s not that I won’t do all the things on my to-do list eventually, because I will. They’re important. (Well, most of them are. But I maintain the need to learn false eyelash application is important, too. Because makeup.)

It’s just that suddenly, there’s no imaginary person named Pressure standing over my shoulder and checking the things off my list, giving me a gold star for each one.

Vernick challenges us to allow ourselves to be silent before God for a time – not reading, not watching TV, not even studying the Bible, just being with God and listening.

So I tried it while the nugget was sleeping.

And suddenly, I saw the whole room differently.

Wait.

Let me rephrase that.

I saw the room.

The room I’m sure the mom wishes she could have cleaned perfectly all of a sudden showed signs of life. Of being. Of little ones growing and being, too.

Here’s a little bit of what I had the eyes to see when I got off my own hamster wheel:

 

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I would encourage you to take just 5 or 10 minutes to be silent before Jesus. It’s amazing what you’ll see, what you’ll hear, and how refreshed you’ll feel coming away from just being in His presence…just being with Him.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Target. 

To buy some fake eyelashes.

 

Blessings to you,

Robyn 

Identity: You Are More Than a Writer

Guest post by Michelle Vandepol

 

I heard a keynote at a recent online conference I really appreciated. This author, who had reached the goals many of us are currently setting for ourselves, was saying that he now enjoys his writing more than ever precisely because he hasn’t made it the sum of who he is. This wasn’t always the case. He had to be intentional about expanding the other aspects of his life so he wasn’t talking, breathing, and living only in pursuit of his writing. This is especially important in the digital age when building a writing platform takes time and can quickly overshadow things that are actually of more importance. Not to worry.

 

Here are 5 easy ways to move forward on your goals while not losing yourself in your ambitions.

 

1.     Keep a sense of humour about the climb

Between aiming for growth on word counts, book sales, and social media followers; hyper attention or discouragement are both risks. Adopting self-deprecating humour and knowing that it will happen when it is meant to keeps the writer productive as well as happy. If our identities are not all wrapped up in whether a review is stellar or less so, whether a book takes off or needs a follow up to draw attention to it, or whether someone follows or unfollows us; pursuing the writing life is enjoyable. Humour lets us step back and gain perspective. Check out the hashtag #writerhumor or others like it to indulge.

2.     Think about the expanse of a lifetime and beyond

When the day feels like a write-off  because the words are not coming quickly or if they’re arriving, but you don’t feel like they’re ones you can rave about, know that there are still days ahead in which to polish and have flurries of writing happen. There is an oft quoted adage about examining whether something will matter in a week, a month, a year, or ten. The farther we go out (I recommend thinking lifetime and beyond) the more we realize that it is our small attempts pieced together for bigger use, our relationship building, and keeping our eyes on the real prize that builds something of legacy and purpose.

3.     Nurture hobbies and interests outside of writing

Other interests can complement your writing life (think book reviewing, bookstagramming, journal art, or a side craft business that builds on your bookishness), but it can also be something completely unrelated like a sport, nature, spiritual practice, your day job, or volunteer work. All of the pieces together make you a more interesting multi-dimensional human and in turn lessen the stakes of any one thing in your writing life. This, ironically enough, is what allows the emotional angst that prevents productive writing sessions to fall away and get replaced by something much healthier and much more enjoyable.

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photo by ashley mckinney

4.     Bond with your writer friends about more than who they are as writers

We may meet our writing friends primarily because of our shared interest, but if the friend chemistry is there, it will still be there when we are focusing not only on writing. It is a heart affirming thing to learn more about your writing friends, celebrate similarities and differences, and move forward with intention to be a part of lives beyond word count and market recommendations.

5.     Spend some time appreciating who you were created to be

It takes courage to out ourselves as writers so it makes sense that sometimes our writer identities take on lives of their own. To only celebrate one aspect of oneself though, is to limit greater joy. There are many ways to fill your bucket and thinking about what you’re good at, enjoy doing, want to learn, and would like to make more time for is a good place to start. You were created for more than one purpose. Live like it.

 

 Michelle Vandepol is a writer, editor, and bookish Canadian who loves connecting with other readers and writers on instagram at @michellevandepol. For more articles on the writing life, visit her website www.michellevandepol.com