Today I am 59. It feels old to say I am 59 years old. Fortunately my reality is I do not feel old at all. In fact, to coin a phrase from an NPR radio program: I am growing bolder not older! So, I am looking forward to what the rest of my life will bring and the future chapters I will write to my life’s story. It is exciting to even think about and my mind reels with all the possibilities and the adventures I have yet to experience.
My life to this point in time has been filled with ups and downs or if you prefer: highs and lows. The thing is, I can honestly say I wouldn’t really trade too many of my experiences. Definitely not any of the good and truthfully I probably would not trade in any of the bad either, as it is through those experiences that I have become who I am at this moment in time. Although in truth, knowing what I know now, I would handle some of the bad experiences differently. But I can honestly say: I am grateful, blessed, and happy. I can say that even though this past year has been filled with many challenges, some rather difficult.
But then I believe my happiness is a choice I make each day when I get out of bed. I can choose to be happy throughout the day and not let slights and irritations get to me or I can choose to let everything bother me and consequently take everything personally. So, I choose to be happy. And I don’t mean that Pollyanna style of happiness that goes away when things get tough. I choose to be happy even when life is falling apart and definitely not going in the direction I would will it to go. I can choose to be happy because even in the midst of life’s difficult moments, I know God is there with me and God is sustaining me and giving me the strength I need to withstand the onslaught. During those times I find myself humming the verse to the country song, “If Your Going Through Hell” sung by Rodney Atkins that says:
If you’re going through Hell
Keep on going, don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you’re there…
So for me, choosing happiness over anything else keeps me incognito. Well…at least it keeps me a little more pleasant to be around ; )
Now before you think choosing happiness is easy…let me assure you it is not. It is a conscious effort I make every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every…well you get the idea. And sometimes I am successful and sometimes I fail miserably. The thing is I don’t give up, I don’t stop, I keep on trying and I get better at it as time goes by. Because you see, this is something I have been doing most of my life so I know firsthand that (over time) it does work. (It is in part hard wired into my DNA – my blood type is B+ – so what else can I be but positive!?!)
One thing I do that helps me tremendously with my choosing happiness is going on mission trips. I try to go to Red Bird Mission at least every other year and for two of those years it has either fallen on my birthday or my birthday was immediately after I got home. Helping others is always gratifying and very humbling. It makes me realize when I get to feeling sorry for myself that I really do have much to be grateful for and very little reason to be down in the dumps. Helping someone else is far more productive too.
So, I encourage you to choose happiness when you wake up each morning. And if you find yourself struggling, I encourage you to volunteer in a local mission outreach. Find a soup kitchen, a clothes closet, volunteer to help in your local schools and churches, work in the scouting program mentoring a boy or girl scout, or go on a mission trip. There are any one of a hundred ways you can give back to the communities where you live. The important thing to remember is that in helping others succeed in life, offering kindness with no expectations of anything in return, giving of yourself…it is there you will find true happiness.