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The Happiness Dare, Week 1

I've been wanting to get out in the gardens around the house and photograph some of my favorite things. Things that make me happy.

I started reading "The Happiness Dare" this week, as a part of an online book club book launch. Whew! That's a mouthful! Author Jennifer Dukes Lee is teaching us this week that happiness is not the opposite of holiness, and it's different than joy, which is also good to have.

"I had come to understand this truth: Our inner desire for happiness isn’t a sin. It’s a desire planted
in us by God himself. Yes, you read that right: happiness. Not the reverse of joy. Not the opposite of
 holiness. But authentic happiness, found in Jesus." - Jennifer Lee, The Happiness Dare

Today, in our book club video, Jennifer challenged us to keep a journal of things that make us happy, things we can look back on and "re-live" later on, recalling the joy that it gave us. 

In addition to keeping a list of things (or putting them on strips of paper and storing in a jar, then reading them at the end of the year), I'm photographing them when I can. Today, I can.

It was too sunny outside, and I was going to break all the rules of photography. I took photos in the middle of the day, in the brightest sun, with the harshest daylight. The shadows were fierce. The colors were going to seem washed out and too bright. I didn't really care, as these for for MY happiness, not a competition. To see these flowers growing in the "wildflower garden" in my backyard, makes me feel happy.

The previous owners had a vegetable garden here. The ground was rocky, and the soil not very good for vegetables ... or mowing. To do those things would take a lot of work. The ground sits about 3 inches lower than the grass around it. We would have to amend the soil with compost, and add more soil to it (while removing said rocks) to make it vegetable garden worthy.

OH, and then there's the squirrels and rabbits.

"So many of us are missing the pleasure of a life in Christ because we have long thought
that happiness is mostly a self- centered, carnal pursuit." - Jennifer Dukes Lee, The Happiness Dare

Did I forget to mention them? We didn't realize what living on the edge of the woods would entail. Apparently, in addition to the beautiful birds that graced our feeders all winter and spring, we have scavenger rabbits that eat my bulbs, and squirrels that eat everything else.

A vegetable garden would be futile.

 Living on the edge of the woods makes me happy. Sometimes I wake up and think that it's overcast (again?) forgetting about all the trees surrounding us in the back yard. An acre (or more) of trees, of all sorts and shapes and sizes.

But the oddly placed former vegetable garden sits precociously in a clearing by one of the two sheds. It sits right where the most sunshine hits, capturing the late morning sun from the south, then another exposure as it sets to the west. If they could grow vegetables there, I thought we may be able to grow flowers!

I bet you can't understand why I'm so excited to see these growing. I sprinkled a baggie of wildflower mix in late winter. Yes. WINTER. It had been unseasonably mild, and I wondered if anything would come of them, but it was a $5 gamble I was willing to take.

I had been sick most of the winter, my lungs given out to whatever was causing me to have a bad asthma season. Perhaps it was the dry colder air (mild, but still cold). Or the new house, and whatever odd animal hair remnants living in the carpeting. Or the stress of making our 5th move in 6 years, not counting the 4 apartments we lived in between those house moves.

"Our happiness has great power. Happiness can change this tired world, a world that has become overrun
with cynicism and heartache. How can happiness change the world, you ask? A girl named Anne Frank
spelled it out in eight words: “Whoever is happy will make others happy too.” - Jennifer Dukes Lee, The Happiness Dare

Happiness seemed to stay behind when I drove from Kentucky and left my 2 daughters (and 9 of my grandkids) behind.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. A LOT. I was SO grateful that God provided a job for him, and bonus that it was in an area that wasn't completely unfamiliar to us, we had lived just a few hours from here a few years ago, and a few years before that in another town. Still, we were a few hours from everyone we knew in the area, and it was too far to go to those churches, have fellowship often with those friends. We were even an hour from our closest grandchild - but there was ONE in our area, and that was a blessing.

I was still unhappy.

It was a stressful process.

I found a few moves ago that there are things that are hard for me to do, becoming a bit phobic of moving again. I don't want to hang photos on the wall, not even of my grandkids. I can only blame this on the need to "de-personalize" a home when you put it on the market to sell. The first thing the realtor tells you is to take down all the family photos. Let the buyers see the house with room to imagine their family photos on these walls.

In every one of the other 4 houses, I'd done major landscaping projects. In the last house, we had a privacy fence put up around our half-acre back yard, then stained it and landscaped it ourselves. It was perfect! It was a great selling point when we listed the house with the realtor, and the house sold (twice!) within 3 weeks (the first offer fell through).

While landscaping didn't bother me at all, planting seeds did. Planting potted plants and trees take off and get bigger. Planting seeds takes time. I never know if I have that time anymore. I don't trust the calendar.

So to buy that $5 pack of wildflower seeds, and scatter them on the winter soil, was a huge leap of faith for me.

Bigger still was to let my husband get back out there and plant more seeds when we didn't see the first batch coming up. Then again, he planted a bag of zinnia seeds given to us from new friends at the new church God blessed us with.

I couldn't plant them. I was just turning the corner to happy, and beginning to gain back my health with the warmer, wet, spring air. I let him scatter the other seeds. He wanted me to do it, to make the memory together, but I couldn't. I was too weak, too sad, too unhappy still. I felt the need to let him plant them, as if my hope and happiness would sprout with the seeds. I depended on it.

So a few months have passed, and each week we look out the back door to see the flowers get a little taller. We've culled the weeds a little, but mostly we just let things be, not knowing for sure what is a weed and what is a wildflower.

Somehow, the patch looks like it was always there. It's in full bloom, keeping up with the now fading hydrangeas near the house, and the ferns and trees that we've planted around the house. I've even found a mystery squash blooming! I'm pretty certain it is a left over from the vegetable garden inhabitants, and I fully expect the rabbits to eat the blossoms before they ever get a chance to become a squash, but it makes me happy to see that it survived the weeding, the sowing, the growing, and MIGHT become a squash.

Today, as I walked out among the shriveled poppies and the sagging hydrangeas, I was happy! I experienced happiness as I saw new things blooming, others going to seed, and finding things unexpected.

"Happiness is not the great opposite of holiness. Happiness is at the heart of Jesus, who gladdens weddings."
- Jennifer Dukes Lee, The Happiness Dare 

"Your desire for happiness is also a hint at what’s to come— the full joy you will have one day in your forever home."
 - Jennifer Dukes Lee, The Happiness Dare

I know that I will never know how long I will live anywhere, but I know that I am happiest when I can make that place a home. Even if it's just for a short season. Even when I long for my heavenly, happy, forever home.

Even in the times of upheaval. To choose happiness in the hardest places, in the unknown. To seek it out. Call it by name. Commit to living in that spot instead of allowing the gloom and doom of the world to take me over. To change the channel, or turn off the tv all together. To live differently than I ever have before. To help others choose to live differently too, choosing happiness along with holiness, and not instead of it.

"This book is an invitation into a rebellious hunt that will lead you to a soul cache. I believe the Holy Spirit is saying
to each of us, “Pay attention. Savor the life God has given to you. Thank God for the good when life is beautiful.
And fight hard to find the happy when life is brutal.” - Jennifer Dukes Lee, The Happiness Dare

"There’s happiness right where we are. God is daring us to stalk it. Sometimes it shows up small. But it’s
important that we look, because some days the looking will save us." - Jennifer Dukes Lee, The Happiness Dare


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