choose a happy life

Just Above the Clouds

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Storms of LifeAs the plane descended, I looked out the window to see a beautiful blue sky above and a thick layer of puffy white clouds, below.  Above us, the sun was shining, and the sky could have been described as a beautiful day.  The clouds below didn’t look particularly ominous as their fluffy surface bounced up and down as far as the eye could see.  Up here, things were calm.  Up here, life was perfect.

Our descension continued bringing the serenity to an end as we bounced around while passing through the ever so innocent looking layers of clouds.  Once on the other side, things looked different.  A storm was afoot and by the looks of it, this storm was anything but weak.  Lightening flashed, thunder rolled, and the rain pounded the window thus blurring my view.  Down here, things were violent.  Down here, life was rough.

At any given time, my life can be easily be viewed based solely on the circumstances surrounding me.  Life throws constant changes or lifelong curveballs, and rarely could I say that life is perfect based on what is happening in the here and now.  The good news is that life CAN always be viewed as perfect based on the view of my life from above the clouds.  From God’s perspective, my life is lived in his presence and guidance, and thus is a perfect existence.   Sure, bad things will come, but God is always there to pierce his beaming rays of joy and hope through the clouds that have formed in my life.

Down here it is hard to see through the clouds to the glorious sun and sky that always remain whether our eyes can see them or not.  The clouds block our view of God, but not God’s view of us.  Weathering a storm can take its toll, but when the storm passes, and the clouds clear, we are reminded that the sun was shining all along even when sunshine was the furthest thought from our mind.

I thank God for his ever present help throughout the storms of life.

The Sun Can’t Shine Every Day

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The forecast for our area calls for two to three inches of rain over today and tomorrow. This has been the forecast for a week, now, and the rain has already started to fall. Even with the advanced warning, I still saw this post on my Facebook feed this morning:

“It’s so gloomy. I want sunshine.”

I wonder how much we focus on wanting more sunshine instead of making the world a brighter place with our own light. We require that our happiness comes from the environment around us, and when that environment turns gloomy, we lose our joy. Of course, the problem with that as a way of life? It WILL get gloomy.

One thing I do know is that the sun cannot shine every day. Even in the beauty of the garden, the rain is seen as just as necessary as sunshine. In fact, without rain and the cloudy skies that come with it, we would all be living in a desert. Nature finds the clouds and the rain as refreshing. Maybe the gloom in our lives sometimes comes with refreshing rain as well.

This past summer, our family made a trip to Walt Disney World before a weekend speaking engagement in Orlando. The beginning of our trip was marred by a tropical storm that refused to move beyond central Florida. It rained. A ton. So much rain and gloom that we found ourselves longing for the sunshine. Once the rain cleared, however, we learned the true meaning of the word “sauna.” It was so hot and so miserable that we found ourselves longing for the rain again. Our happiness was being derived from the weather, which was way out of our control. That kind of external reliance is a way of life for so many, and it does not work.

Life will send problems. It is only a foundation of happiness and positive living that allows us to retain our joy when the dark times come. Maybe it sounds too trite to say that simply choosing to be happy will make you happy, but have you tried it? Maybe dismissing the idea as too simple is simply an excuse for those not willing to give it a try.

Give it a shot. Choose to be happy…to live happy, and see where that choice gets you the next time the gloomy problems of life show up! I cannot promise it will be easy, but I can promise that if you truly commit to happiness, nothing will ever steal your joy.

Wounds That Define Who We Are

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For the past week, I have dreaded going on Facebook.  Not because it is a black hole that sucks away my time (though it is), and not because I didn’t want to hear anything about the Olympics (since I’m DVR’ing it and watching later).  Rather, my dread came from the general anger and outrage over the statements made by the owner of Chick-fil-a.

I’m not going to further beat that dead horse by bringing up more arguments regarding the statements made, but rather focus on something else that I believe is a much deeper problem.  So many of the comments on Facebook this week were not about discussing the statements that Mr. Cathy made, nor were they even about the issue(s) brought up by what he said.  The vast majority of threads on the subject seemed to quickly devolve into shouting matches filled with hateful speech and pointless rhetoric from both sides.

And…it’s gotten us nowhere.

Never mind the fact that Facebook has to be the worst place for convincing someone else that your opinion is the only correct opinion (maybe Twitter would even be better because it would force people to be succinct in stating their cases).  The social media platform, instead, simply served to worsen the already deep wounds that are so prevalent in our society.  I believe those wounds have to heal before we can have any conversations in our country that aren’t reduced to neanderthalic, mud-slinging events.  So, why are these wounds unable to heal?

Because we let our wounds define who we are.

I hope it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that I have been discriminated against in every way possible.  I have seen and heard it all.  Don’t think for a second that hateful comments towards me haven’t left wounds.  That would make me a robot.  The difference in my life is that I have CHOSEN to not let those wounds define who I am.

If the scars of past statements and actions of others could alter my personality and beliefs, I would have become bitter and angry long ago.  I believe that our society holds on to these scars either because being pitied can be addicting, or because they have not found anything to fill those holes in their lives.  Either way, it is no way to truly live.  You can become enslaved to these wounds to the point where you can’t live a positive life, and instead you simply become a fight waiting to happen.  It is a broken existence.

Instead, the deep cuts that I have endured in life have made me stronger, and allowed me to serve others because I know what it feels like to be hurt.  I am in a somewhat unique situation, and can help when other people are knocked down in life simply due to what I’ve experienced.  How is that possible?

Jesus.

The ability to take an imperfect body like mine, and make it a life that is perfect in the eyes of God is solely credited to Jesus.  My wounds can’t define who I am because HE defines who I am.  And, while the scars may still be visible, the deep cuts have long ago healed through His love for me.  That healing allows me to be free.  It allows me not only to live, but to live happily.

I have no doubt that each and every person who chooses to read this has been hurt by someone else.  I believe you when you say those pains run deep, and that it is hard to let go.  What I refuse to believe is that you can’t let go.  What happens to you is often out of your control, but your reaction to those events is 100% within your power.  Your default reaction to pain can be re-learned to the point where you let your hurt go the moment after you have been wronged.

I don’t believe for a second that the vile nature that came out all over Facebook this week is simply because of the issue at hand.  More likely, the spiteful things typed out on the social media giant’s site this week were born out of hurt.  Hurt that has been building up for years, and explodes at every turn.

I challenge you to take that hurt…that pain…and give to God.  He is big enough to manage your hurt while you take the time to heal.  And, once you are on the path to healing, find others along the way who also need healing and care for them.  Caring for each other is the only path towards a discrimination-free society…because it is hard to hate while you are loving.

So I Had to Call the IRS…

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A few days ago, I received a letter from the IRS saying that I had not filed a certain form for my travel agency that specializes in Disney Vacations.  While they were correct in what they claimed, I had understood from my own research and from consulting with a CPA that I was not required to file that form due to being in a community property state.  So, as the letter requested, I picked up the phone, dreading the next several minutes as I figured I would have to be on the defensive because, let’s face it, who WANTS to call the IRS?

Then…it hit me.  How many people call the IRS upset or incensed about the fact that they received an accusatory letter like I was about to do?  I took a breath, realized that the person who was about to answer my call likely had nothing to do with sending me the nasty letter, and dialed the number.

When the voice answered, I simply explained that I had received this letter, and that I believed it was an error.  She (the IRS rep) looked up my case, and guess what?  I had received the letter because of an incorrect marking in my profile.  She placed me on hold and in less than a minute, she returned to tell me that the error had been corrected and to throw away the letter.  I would not be receiving any other inquiries about this.  I thanked her, and we wished each other a pleasant evening.

Could that have gone differently?  You bet!  If I had gone in blazing mad over receiving the letter, I would not only have ruined her day, but I might have even met a negative response when inquiring about fixing the issue.  The easy way in which the situation was handled was all in my attitude.  Because I chose to treat the situation with a smile, I not only had the problem fixed, but I even got the IRS agent to laugh about how ridiculous computers can be.  We both had a pleasant call because of a choice about how to approach the situation.

Make 2010 the year that you commit to a happy life and a positive attitude.  Without one, you might wind up having to call the IRS a second time!

Speaking to the Healers at Arlington Memorial Hospital

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I just wanted to drop a quick line of “Thanks” to the surgical staff at Arlington Memorial Hospital in Arlington, TX. I spoke to them last week at their quarterly staff meeting about choosing to live a happy life. I actually got to speak to two different groups, one at 6:30AM and one at 1:30PM. I have to say that I was surprised to see the 6:30AM group so awake, alive, and attentive. Both groups were a blast, and I thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to tell you my story.

Here’s a comment from the Director of Surgical Staff:
He was absolutely fabulous! The staff was touched and inspired by his story and his message. -Lori D.

Happy New Year

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Happy New Year!  I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting me, and wish everyone a HAPPY 2009!  Remember, only you can choose a happy life!  Make 2009 your happiest year yet!