Happiness. Even Here? Taking the Dare. And a Giveaway
“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
It’s early morning. I’m sitting at the cancer center receiving three bags of IV medicine that prepare my body for the chemotherapy to follow. Steroids, Phenergan and Benadryl along with a hefty dose of oral Tylenol pave the way for a long infusion of Rituxin. This is the first of four infusions, one a week for the next four weeks. I’ve just come through another grueling round of five plamapheresis treatments. Every time we say I can’t do it again. The access to my main ventricle is more and more dangerous. We had to go in the left side through my jugular and tuck the catheter under my clavicle and cross my heart under the skin to get it placed this time. It was even more painful than usual. The consensus between all my doctors is the Rituxin worked at suppressing the autoimmune attacks for a longer period than ever before. After this aggressive month long push I will continue to receive chemo infusions every six weeks indefinitely. I feel hopeful about the new plan.
Most cancer center infusion rooms are similar. This one has over thirty recliners lined up in rows. There is a fireplace and a large TV. When you come in early, like I do, you get to pick your spot first. Slowly the room begins to fill with patients in various stages of cancer. This particular oncologist is known as a cowboy. He does research trials on drugs in various stages of approval. Most of these patients have been told there is nothing else available in their fight, and they come here. This huge room is scattered with people, young and old, who are committed to fighting and holding on. Many of them say their lives have been prolonged years because of their chemo and care here. Still, it is not a “happy” place.
My friend Jennifer Dukes Lee gave birth to a new book today. She named it The Happiness Dare. I love Jennifer’s writing, both her last book Love Idol and her blog. Still, I have to admit I’m just not in a place to play the glad game. When her book showed up on my doorstep the week before last, I resisted the cheerful blue cover with the yellow candy font. The last thing I wanted to be challenged about was happiness. Really? How could I find happiness in all this never ending hard?
Over the last ten years of unrelenting trial in our family’s life, I’ve wrestled with God’s asking me to “Count it all joy.” Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. I understand the suffering of this short life cannot be compared to the eternal glory waiting. This is my ultimate hope. I’m not sure I’ve ever fully believed happiness is something God wants for me. The Happiness Dare blows this wide open, and it begins with Jesus.
“Jesus’ most famous sermon happened in the region of Galilee on a mount. Envision the crowds gathering to hear what the Nazarene has to say. Find a patch of grass or a comfortable rock on the hillside and listen as Jesus begins to speak.
The first word out of His mouth is not holy. It is not joyful. It is happy.
“Happy are those who…”
The word for happy in the Scriptures is Greek makarios. Some translations use the English word blessed whenever makarious appears in the New Testament, But other translators—keenly away that makarios comes from the word makar (which means happy or blessed)—translate the word to happiness instead.
It’s on that mount Jesus opens a profoundly important door into the happiness we can have in Him.”
Jennifer goes on to address the rub in the Christian tradition between joy and happiness. Mix in holy, and the waters are even muddier.
“Happiness isn’t the opposite of holy. It’s part of what makes you holy.
Happiness isn’t the opposite of joy. It’s a part of Chris-inspired joy, expressed within you.
Happiness isn’t selfish, or stupid, or wrong or ridiculous.
When we seek it, we are more, not less, like Jesus.
Our happiness is hemmed directly into the heart of joy. How many truly joyful people do you know who are pinched-faced Christians? If you have to dig a mile deep to find a person’s smile, is that really joy? Or has the misery disguised itself as deep Christian joy?”
Does joy in Jesus abide and happiness come and go with our circumstances? I’m ever grateful Jennifer began her book with the theology behind her dare to be happy. I had to read chapter two several times before I could move on. I realized along with her I have never bothered to ask God for happiness. Ever.
“Maybe I had never asked because I didn’t think I deserved happiness. Maybe I’d heard too many sermons telling me that I’d be far better off aiming for the more durable virtue of joy. If I prayed for happiness, I feared I might sound like a woman who believed in a prosperity gospel, which promises happiness through prosperity and success. But I didn’t believe that kind of gospel at all. I didn’t want happiness at the expense of holiness. I wanted happiness as a part of being a human created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
I exhaled. I got down on my knees, and I dared to ask God to make me happy. Happy here in this chair with chemo slowly dripping, even knowing how utterly sick I will feel tonight and tomorrow. Happy understanding this road is one of healing but always fighting and never fully healed here on earth. Happy learning an unimaginable new surgery is needed for my Danica. Happy opening the mailbox to find the crushing medical bills I know I can’t pay. Happy watching my Delaney and my Dan experience all this as if it was happening to them. I’m seeking and asking for enduring happiness. Will you take the dare with me?
“Takers of the Happiness Dare learn that God not only cares about our happiness, He encourages us to go after it. The Happiness Dare is a challenge to enter into a holy pursuit of happiness, to boycott cynicism, to wring delight out of our ordinary days, and to hunt for happiness even when it’s hard to see…Dare to believe that our happiness actually matters to God.”
Friends, this book is good. Jennifer takes you through finding happiness in earthly pleasure through the good gifts of God. She encourages you to taste heavenly joy even now in His kingdom on earth. She lovingly takes your heart and hand to explore your unique happiness wiring or happiness personality style. (Not a big surprise mine is The Giver) She ends her book specifically addressing happiness in times of pain, loss and grief and our ultimate desire for eternal happiness in heaven. Without these chapters punctuating her dare I still might have felt this book didn’t apply to me. But it does. It is for you too!
“Let’s do this. Let’s frighten the critics and baffle the cynics.
Be like Jesus.
Take the dare.”
“I have told you this to make you completely happy as I am.”—John 15:11 CEV
Gifts are a crazy loud love language (and now I know a happiness personality) of mine. I’m so excited to invite you to join me in celebrating the launch of Jennifer’s book with a giveaway! The winner will a copy of The Happiness Dare
Here’s how to enter:
1. Share this post on social media to give your friends a chance to win this amazing book.
2. Please leave a comment here about a big or small way you’ve found happiness by really seeking it out.
3. Totally optional but highly recommended is to head over to Jennifer’s place and subscribe to her blog Jennifer Dukes Lee. SIGN UP TO TAKE THE DARE and read her post today with all kinds of fun giveaways. I had the honor of meeting Jennifer at The High Calling retreat in November, 2014 and have been truly blessed by her writing and her friendship.
A winner will be randomly chosen from all the entries on Sunday night, August 7th, and announced Monday morning!
Courtney LorentzAugust 2, 2016 at 2:25 pm (7 years ago)
I find happiness in the striving and the sharing: In the little accomplishments of each day, in daily prayer and watching it answered, in reaching out to new and old friends, and in making sure to fill a gratitude jar regularly, if not each day.
MonicaAugust 2, 2016 at 2:48 pm (7 years ago)
The discipline of gratitude is so key in an enduring happiness. When it becomes part of our daily rhythm we are changed. LOVE.
StacieAugust 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm (7 years ago)
Writing down three things I’m thankful for everyday. That has brought so much happiness as I reflect on my day with three little ones. Sometimes the days are long and frustrating, but even on those days there is moments of happy sunshine or of my kids saying or doing something sweet or hilarious and looking for those things are what get me through. Love the happiness dare! 😊💘
MonicaAugust 2, 2016 at 2:49 pm (7 years ago)
Yes! The discipline of gratitude in the small is so integral to enduring happiness. LOVE.
MonicaAugust 10, 2016 at 7:30 pm (7 years ago)
The Psalms are a beautiful template for our happiness. There is lament but always followed by praise. Creating a structure and discipline for gratitude has changed my life as well. I hope you saw Him in big and small ways today. LOVE.
Alicia DaughertyAugust 2, 2016 at 2:46 pm (7 years ago)
After my decompression I got super sick with mrsa and sepsis, I needed 3 additional surgeries within a four month window I had became really depressed because I had no money and I wasn’t able to support myself but God showed me that He would provide and it took a huge burden off me. I was able to enjoy going to church without stressing about the cost, buy more than ramen, and he provided me a job quickly when the time came. I was stress free which allowed me to be happy and carefree.
I’ve added her book to my Prime wish list so if I win or not eventually I’ll be able to get it! I added it so I wouldn’t forget it
MonicaAugust 2, 2016 at 2:50 pm (7 years ago)
Your journey has been so hard. Happiness in the hard is brave and beautiful! Love.
MonicaAugust 10, 2016 at 7:28 pm (7 years ago)
Alicia, I won a giveaway on Jennifer’s blog for another copy of her book. I’d love to mail it to you. Private message me your address. Strength. Healing. Love.
Diane SheffieldAugust 2, 2016 at 6:09 pm (7 years ago)
Monica, I found you in #Rhythmsofrest Launch Team. You never know what you’re going to read when you connect to their writings. I began my joy dare when I read 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. During this time I was suffering with an over active bladder that kept me up through the night, sometime getting up 12 times, for 8 years. Seeking blessed happiness brought me through this trial in my life. I like that you write to know what you think. I am praying for you and your happiness being fulfilled through Jesus! All Is Grace! Diane
MonicaAugust 10, 2016 at 7:26 pm (7 years ago)
I’m so glad to “meet” you Diane! Yes, every single bit is undeserved merit. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. LOVE.
TammyAugust 7, 2016 at 10:18 pm (7 years ago)
Jennifer linked your blog post, Monica, and that’s how I found you.
I am touched by your writing. Ten years is a lot of perseverance, and yet you continue to praise your Creator. You know you can’t by yourself, but you also know you’re not by yourself.
Please know I am praying for you tonight. Praying that not a moment of your life will be unused, but that every keystroke, every breath, will be a slap in the face of our enemy. That it’s God’s breath in your lungs and He delights in your life, every second. That your very existence is holy warfare against an unholy foe.
I’m so sorry for your medical situation, and that of your daughter. Again, I offer you my prayers, as all else I have is not helpful.
MonicaAugust 10, 2016 at 7:22 pm (7 years ago)
Tammy, Thank you for your prayers and taking the time to encourage me here. We have been beautifully held in all our suffering by the supplication of the body of Christ. LOVE.
JennieAugust 7, 2016 at 10:29 pm (7 years ago)
Many days, we’ve been faced with the prospect of losing a child. We’ve prayed, so fervently, for healing and health. But, I knew that if Jesus called her home, that I wanted more than just pleas to our Father to allow us to continue to love our baby here.
In the midst of difficult, trying days, I looked for positive, good things, happy things to remember. To many, it might seem insignificant, but spending days in the NICU, the memories are pieces that tell a beautiful story. Of God’s power and miracles.
It’s not the neat package, complete with a bow. But it is our glorious, wonderful, story. We found joy in the midst of heartache. And discovered that even when the desires of our hearts don’t align with Gid’s will, the plan is still perfect. Still beautiful. And still joyous.
MonicaAugust 10, 2016 at 7:20 pm (7 years ago)
I’m so grateful for you, friend. I’m glad you won, and I hope the book helps you find greater joy in the hard.
EmilyAugust 8, 2016 at 10:37 pm (7 years ago)
I’m still learning how and where to find my happiness, but slowly I am beginning to find it where it is least expected. In the everyday mundane things, such as being able to be upright an extra hour, listen to the laughter of children’s innocence, and realizing that my family is not to be taken for granted.