Be Happy (A Giveaway)


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This morning when I stepped out on the porch with Bonnie, a flock of geese cut through the newly born blue of the sky above—honking the day into awakening. They were so low I could hear the swoosh of air pushed underneath wings, almost feel the breeze of the passing. I spun around to watch their flying V move across the sky, until they soared out of sight. I could hear them long after they disappeared over the horizon, cradled the memory of long-necked grace amidst receding trumpet blasts.

On Tuesday we saw our son off to his second year of college; drove for hours, helped him unpack and organize all the stuff of life, and then left him in his dorm room. This was an easier departure than last year’s, for we all knew a little more what we were doing. Last year we drove away from him with a sinking feeling, fear in our gut. This year his roommate had driven down from New York all by himself—no parents, no entourage. The young man’s confidence in his solitary travels gave me pause. When we pulled away I wondered aloud if this would be our last year of dropping our boy off in this way. We’ve talked about sending him with a car next year, and if that’s the case, it’s unlikely we will tag along. This thought added a new dimension to my musings and I studied the landscape more intently as we drove toward home.

A century ago, the Anglican Bishop, Phillips Brooks told his ministerial students to study three “books”: the book of books, the book of the Bible; the book of nature; and the book of mankind. I find this sound advice for the span of a life—both for the college sophomore and the mother driving away from him. Life itself is the best of schools if we pay attention. I know I cannot hold all of his life in my hand. There is only One who can do such a thing.

This is the natural way. Kids grow up. Life changes. We roll with it. But every once in a while something inside of me rises up and says, “hold on, things are moving too fast here.” I want to memorize the moments, hold on to them as they pass.

Somehow I think driving away from our boy will never be easy. It has been a long, hard summer, with his grandfather’s illness, and he was a big help on that front. The memory of his face lighting up when his friend came into the room lingered with me on the trip home. I could still see his smile long after we were gone. He was happy. Happy to be back in school, to have a purpose, to see his friends.

And because he was happy, I was too. I am learning that happiness doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. In her book, The Happiness Dare Jennifer Dukes Lee says,

“You are the imago dei. You carry the DNA of your happy and holy God. … God is the inventor of happiness and the chief spreader of it. When you desire happiness, you …  are responding to something built into your soul. Your desire to live happy is not a flaw. It is your soul’s memory of the original paradise, etched and alive in you.”

I think I would add that your desire for your children—for all of your loved ones, in fact—to be happy, is a God-designed thing. Opening the hand in this way requires a trust I don’t always feel. There are so many things in life that pass out of our vision but still remain strong in our hearts and minds—the trumpet calls of love.

Last year, in honor of Teddy’s first year of school I hosted a giveaway of some good reads I’d been enjoying. I think this is a nice tradition. This year, I did a little shopping at the school bookstore (one of my favorite things about the campus). In this happy giveaway package, one reader will receive a copy of Jennifer Dukes Lee’s new book The Happiness Dare, one pair of Natures Precious Gems hand embossed natural brass earrings, one pinkhouse handmade scarf, and a sweet little Be Happy bag from naturallife.com.

Just leave a comment by Sunday 8/28 at midnight for a chance to win! Winner will be announced on Monday 8/29.

The Right to Write: In Praise of Happiness (book club)

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

image by Lívia Cristina L. C.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. My Wednesday book club series is a part of the journey—a way of exploring creativity during this season. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here.Don’t forget to stop by this post for a chance to win some signed copies of S.D. Smith’s children’s books. 

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December 10, 1984

Dad called today to tell me that he got married last week. So now she is my stepmom. I can’t believe it. I was so mad when he told me. I wanted to hang up. But there is this: he sounded happy. So now I have to decide. Am I going to go on hating this forever? Or am I going to be happy for him?

I stumbled across these words in an old journal not too long ago.

I’ll never forget the day I learned my father had remarried. I was sixteen years old. It was four years after my parents’ divorce. All of my teenage hopes were crushed that day. I finally had to face the fact that my parents were never going to get back together.

I don’t remember exactly what I felt when I wrote those words, but I do remember that I made a deliberate decision soon after to be kind to my new stepmother. I believe writing about it all helped my young self make that decision.

Julia Cameron does too. In this week’s readings of The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Cameron discusses how writing helps us make decisions that lead to happiness.

Just as walking aerobicizes the physical body, producing a flow of endorphins and good feelings, writing seems to alter the chemical balance of the soul itself, restoring balance and equilibrium when we are out of sorts, bringing clarity, a sense of right action, a feeling of purpose to a rudderless day. Furthermore, writing when we are out of happiness can lead us into writing from happiness. We recall happier moments and we recall happiness itself … Writing … is a series of choices that lead to a sense of something made—that something is “sense.” Sense brings to the writer choice and, with choice, a sense of at least the potential for happiness.”

My father and his bride celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this past December. I have never once regretted my decision to embrace my stepmother. Writing about it helped me see my father’s happiness. And in seeing that, I was able to see at least the potential for happiness for me.

Not only does writing lead us into happiness, says Cameron, but writing from that place of joy is—contrary to common mythology—powerful. And natural.

Two variables seem essential for life to feel beneficent. One variable is stability. The other is change. Writing supplies a sense of both variables. Writing both gives continuity and creates a sense of continuity. Writing both gives change and creates and awareness of change. A writing life is therefore …very often a life with substantial happiness at its core. Writing to find my happiness, I find my happiness—writing.”

The angst-ridden, neurotic writer is a fallacy. A lot of good stuff comes from joy, says Cameron.

Doesn’t that make you happy?

Next week we discuss three more chapters: Making It, Honesty, and Vulnerability. See you on the page!

Week 7: Writing as Prayer
Week 6: The Letter
Week 5: I Go Alone
Week 4: Witness
Week 3: Invite the Muse to Tea
Week 2: Write from Love
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Introduction: Invitation

Above image by Lívia Cristina L. C., sourced via Flickr, used with permission.

Almost Empty