The Sunshine of My Life

You are the sunshine of my life
That’s why I’ll always be around
You are the apple of my eye
Forever you’ll stay in my heart

I feel like this is the beginning
Though I’ve loved you for a million years
And if I thought our love was ending
I’d find myself drowning in my own tears

You are the sunshine of my life
That’s why I’ll always stay around
You are the apple of my eye
Forever you’ll stay in my heart

You must have known that I was lonely
Because you came to my rescue
And I know that this must be Heaven
How could so much love be inside of you?

You are the sunshine of my life, yeah
That’s why I’ll always stay around
You are the apple of my eye
Forever you’ll stay in my soul

You are the sunshine of my life, baby
That’s why I’ll always stay around
Can’t stop living You are the apple of my eye

Stevie Wonder

The things that bring us joy in life are many and varied. What makes one person happy is as unique as that person is themselves. It is February, just after Valentine’s Day, and yet in my neck of the woods (I am surrounded by Plumas National Forest), folks are starting the first of their flower and vegetable seeds indoors, airing out their houses, wearing shirt sleeves while the weather holds, and taking full advantage of the unseasonably warm weather until the next storm hits. (We are expecting snow on Tuesday.) Gardening, listening to birds sing, cooking, puppy breath, the smell of Fall, the faces of my children, the love of my husband…these are some of the things that make my heart sing, and wrap around me like a warm security blanket. My list is unique to me, although many people would say similar things also make them happy. The love of my particular husband named Adam, the faces of my exact children, and the reasons and memories which are the basis for my list of favorite things are even more specific to me. These things inspire and encourage me when I am feeling discouraged or depressed. When I feel like giving up, they help me go on, and on, and on…

Many studies, such as published on the website of the University of Kansas (Happiness = Health), have shown a strong link between health and happiness. It follows that the happier we are throughout our lives, the healthier we will be as well. A positive attitude and well-developed sense of humor cannot stave of any and all effects of living, naturally; but the road we follow can have a lot less bumps and a lot more scenic vistas. It all depends on our method of travel and our point of view. In other words, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 NIV

We all of us need our “heart song” lists. Life is often hard and full of challenges in all shapes, sizes, and durations. If we do not have things to buoy us up, we will surely sink. Perhaps, therefore, it would be wise to focus on not just a happy place, but happy people, place(s), and things. Carry the loves of your life in your heart. Take them with you wherever you go; and never leave home without them. Better than any credit card you might carry, the joy of your heart will help you up like a kind hand extended. With a happy heart, it is much more likely that we will be able to rise again after crushing disappointment. Happiness comes out of us. It is not dependent on our situations. Therefore we must carry it inside of us. What do you carry inside of you day after day? Is it a burden that drags you down, or a boon to uplift your spirit and the spirits of those around you? The greatest source of joy which I have found is the truth of Christ, and Him crucified. After discovering something so rare and excellent, what reason do I have to stay downcast?

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:5

K.I.S.S. (Finding Happiness in the Ordinary)

Sometimes, our lives can be confused, hectic, and complicated. We’re stressed, grumpy, and irritated at everyone and everything that expects one more thing out of us. Trying to be perfect sure can wear you out! It doesn’t have to be that way. We can practice a very valuable habit. It can be done anywhere. It can be done by anyone, regardless of age, weight, height, gender, yadda-yadda… It’s called Simplicity.

Today was a little cooler than yesterday, which was waaay too warm for me. It was the kind of day where you turn your house into a dark, claustrophobic cave just to stay cool. I don’t like being shut up in a dark house. I like fresh air and natural light; but I DON’T like to feel like I’m living in the steam room down at the YMCA. So, we closed all the windows and blinds, Ba-da-bing. TODAY, however, was much milder. I’ve had my window open all day, and it occurred to me how much I find plain, old-fashioned, vanilla-flavored delight in simple things. As I sit by the window, I can feel a little bit of a warm, spring breeze. I hear the nearby traffic sigh like the ebb and flow of the sea, the chirping of birds, and the occasional bursts of joy from the neighbor behind the back fence as he gardens and sings in Japanese.

This neighbor, who inspired my blog post for today, has adopted an unclaimed lot which sits directly in the middle of the backyards on the block, with no street access mind you, and belongs to no one. He mows the weeds, has several raised and cordoned-off beds, and uses it as an extension of his own garden, which I think is wonderful. Not only does he spend a lot of time and trouble making this weedy, abandoned lot useable and enjoyable; but his joy and enthusiasm overflows at times and I get to hear his heart sing!

What we may be surprised to know is that we find the most joy in, something besides a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Bermuda, or winning the lottery or finally landing that promotion or corner office. Those things are nice for what they are, but they usually come with a price tag that includes more than money, and they are the exception to life instead of the rule. (For the majority of us.) What if, we could find our happiness in things we didn’t have to buy or maintain? What if we could find happiness wherever we were, no matter what?  What if we let our guard down and just enjoyed our lives once in awhile?

When was the last time that you watched a sunset (or sunrise), or colored a picture in a coloring book (going outside the lines is OK), or sang a song, or had a picnic, or walked in the woods, or baked a cake(or pie, or cookies), or drew a picture, or wrote a story, or went to a ballgame, or watched cartoons, or dug your toes into mud, or got up to dance, or told a corny joke, or played in the sand at the beach? Have you forgotten why children see life so differently? Kids are silly, and they see a reason to laugh way more often than you do. Why is that? In life, it seems like true joy has to follow the same rules as nudity: It’s understandable ONLY if you’re a small child or insane!

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” C.S. Lewis (British Scholar and Novelist. 1898-1963)

Joy and Love are very similar. They both come from the inside. Real joy, like real love, is something inside of us that compels us to do things, not get things.

Joy is not in things; it is in us.” Richard Wagner (German dramatic Composer and theorist, 1813-1883)

Our sources of joy can be as unique as we are. For example, I can name all of the U.S. Presidents, in order, from George Washington to Barack Obama. I love to recite them if given the chance. I’m not a big U.S. history buff, or over-the-top patriotic, either, although I AM thankful I live here. I love the car commercials that show the shining reflection of things in the paint as the car drives by. I love TV theme songs. I used to watch some shows SOLELY for the opening theme, and then change the channel or turn off the TV altogether. I love commercials and previews and jingles. I love playing games on my PC, and my favorite is World of Warcraft. I LOVE birdsong. I love to cook and garden. I am unique, and these are a few of my unique, make-myself-happy things. Each of us has things that make us happy. Each of us deserves to be happy, and make other people happy. If not now, then when? We only get this one life, after all.

“Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal.” Rose Tremain (b. 1943), British author. Sunday Correspondent (London, Dec. 24, 1989)