Books, Just Write, Mental Health, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Happiness isn’t the goal.

“Happy” ≠ “healthy”. They are not synonyms. But I think we act like they are.

I’ve been trying to use my lunch break to enjoy some reading and recently just finished a book called “Why Emotions Matter”. The middle section of the book spends six chapters looking at each of the six most basic emotions we all experience. Each chapter focuses in on the value of one emotion, where we see it talked about in scripture, when that emotion can become an problem, and how to navigate each emotion with wisdom. While looking at these things in regards to shame or fear or sadness was helpful, when I got to “happiness” I started to realize how little I actually know about how emotions work.

We go through a day or a week and someone asks us “How are you?”. Generally speaking, if the primary emotion we’ve been experiencing lately is something along the lines of happiness, we respond that we are good. However, if any other emotion has raised to the top, our response indicates that we are not good. (Well, at least if we’re not just acting “fine” even if we’re not… but that’s an entirely different blog post.)

We chase happiness as the ultimate defining factor of life being “good” or even “healthy”. In reality, happiness is just another emotion that CAN indicate things are going well in our lives, but happiness can go wrong too. Each emotion has its place where it adds value to our lives AND has potential to become a problem in our lives. I think I see this easier in emotions like anger or fear or sadness, but I’ve never considered this with happiness.

The authors of the book described well the main challenge happiness can bring:

“Happiness is wonderful, but it’s also tricky. We want happiness to last, to be the default, all-the-time feeling in our bodies, even though that simply isn’t possible. It’s not how we’re made. Yet like addicts we chase the high, never permanently satisfied. We’re also pretty terrible at knowing what makes us happy. Again and again we fall into advertising traps or cultural narratives that tell us stories about what will make us happy, yet every time we end up hungry for more.”

Later on it in the chapter they remind the readers that happiness is just one of many emotions, one “voice in our body’s communication system” and that “all of our emotions matter”.

Suddenly it all made sense. Happiness doesn’t automatically mean “good” and something like shame or sadness or fear or even jealousy aren’t inherently “bad”. I can be sad and yet deal with that in a healthy way while wrongly chasing happiness as the ultimate goal.

I saw this play out in my life over the last few weeks. January into February really provided space to find some healthy rhythms for my life. In addition to physical health, I was finding an emotional and mental health better than I had experienced in years. So I got a little frustrated when that seemed to all suddenly change a few weekends ago.

Grief has a way of sneaking up on you and suddenly my generally happy day-to-day life was overwhelmed by sadness for a while. As the one year anniversary of a certain event approached, I began to grieve so many things, loss of dreams, loss or changes in relationships, a desire for some areas of my life to be different. As God would have it, I happened to be reading this chapter on happiness RIGHT in the middle of that time. What a helpful reminder that just because “happy” wasn’t my primary emotion didn’t mean my whole life was suddenly bad or unhealthy.

While that weekend brought grief and sadness and opportunities for perfectionism to take my heart captive, looking back I actually responded in good, healthy ways.

I processed my grief and sadness instead of ignoring it, letting it show me where some healing is still needed in my life.
I celebrated the realization that perfection no longer has the same hold on me that it once did.
I rested when my body signaled its need for that.
I did some work to figure out why fear was popping up in my life more than it was actually helpful.
I reached out to friends and chose not to be alone even when I felt alone.
I enjoyed the few happy moments that did come along even if they were shorter or less prevalent than they’ve been in recent days.

While many of those emotions are less enjoyable than happiness, life was (and is) still really good. One challenging aspect in all of this is that after my thyroid surgery and in the 18 month process of finding the right amount of medicine my body needed, often my emotions or experiences did indicate something was really unhealthy and out of balance in my life. Sadness could so quickly lead to depression. Increasing fear often indicated that worry that anxiety was around the corner once again. Fatigue or muscle pain could be a signal that I had too much or too little medicine. These hyper-sensitive signals trained my brain to think any time some of these things popped up it was bad… because for an extended period of time that was true.

I’m thankful for a season now of re-training my brain… of enjoying a happy moment without fear of when it may end… of letting shame draw me into exploration of where my identity feels threatened… of sitting in my sadness realizing some things in this sin-stained life are just hard and worth grieving… of truly celebrating victories and growth and health in grace without over-focusing on areas I still need to grow.

All of this and more is helping me re-define the true, abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10, not necessarily a life filled with only happiness, but rather a life of health and joy and peace despite what hard things may be happening around us or difficult feelings rising up in us.


Books, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Counting Every Blessing {What I’m Reading Wednesday}

I’m not really a “new year’s resolutions” girl. Despite that, there is something about switching from December to January that stirs up some specific things in my soul, mainly a desire for the new.

I love a new day, a new journal, a new month, a new school year, a new pair of socks. I long for newness and delight in a clean slate.

Until this year I must admit that I got annoyed at the social media posts that seem to surface around the year end where people bashed the year before, saying they “can’t wait” for a year to be over and to start a new one. I may have rolled my eyes once or twice… until this year where that was me.

2018 had so many great things but also was one of the hardest years of my life so far. I desperately longed for it to be over, desperately longed for newness.

But here’s the thing: just because the clock hits midnight on a certain December date doesn’t mean everything instantly changes. It works in Disney movies but not real life. I think that’s why I found myself rolling my eyes at post in the past (and at myself this year.) It’s just another day, like any other day.

January 1 might not change things, but I don’t have to stay where I was… I can change things and that’s really what I was feeling heading into 2019… that I needed to change. Whether the circumstances that made 2018 challenging continued or not, I HAD to find new ways in this new year to look at them.

In preparing for a trip last week, I skimmed through the books on my shelf and those available for digital checkout from the library to take along and came across Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”. I’ve read this before, shortly after I came out. I loved it then, I’m loving it now. The lessons are nothing new, but the reminders so necessarily in this season.

“Joy is the realist reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.”

Joy. Yes, that’s what I want in 2019. That’s what’s been missing lately. Life. I was a full life.

“Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.”

Rejecting joy. As strange as it sound, I know that. But choosing joy is the better way… a smack-in-the-face to the hard of life to say, “You can’t steal my joy.” Oh and light… that feels right too. In a dark, dark world we all need light. And so, as the author Ann does, I start counting the gifts.

1. hope

Yes, this is the greatest gift in this new year, a gift that comes from counting the other gifts.

2. Clouds, white and fluffy, a blanket in the sky

14. Sunshine

17. Chick-Fil-a waffle fries

21. Seeing young adults studying the Bible unprompted

36. a little girl in a wheelchair dancing with her daddy

And as the January days tick by and the list grows longer, hope grows, joy renews, light breaks in…

58. the fact that I got paid today to spend the day in Florida with a group of awesome young women playing mini golf, swimming in the pool, and dressing up as giant gift in a Christmas parade

59. Friends who check in and truly care

66. Banana with peanut butter

And I list the hard gifts too, the things we don’t want to be thankful for but can see God in, the gifts that come alongside the hard…

78. Grace to cry

79. Vulnerability and honesty in safe places

91. Scrapping plates in the dish room (not the glamorous job, but joy is found in humility too)

144. Access to health care (even if I see the gift in a week of too many medical appointments and being sick in the first place)

164. People who hold out hope for you when you can’t and honestly can say “I know what it feels like…”

And as I count the gifts, these words from another favorite book jump off the page confirming this challenge, this dare:

“We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” Colossians‬ ‭1:11-14‬ ‭




Joy that comes in thanking the Father.

An inheritance that’s secure.

Rescue from darkness.

Living in light.

Yes, I’ll count the gifts. The hard ones too. For the Giver is a a good one and he loves me, his dear daughter. And I guess this no-resolution girl has a resolution after all… to keep counting the blessings this year… maybe even two thousand and nineteen of them… maybe even more.

Because in counting the gifts, I find glimmers of joy.

In counting the gifts, I discover light for myself and light for the world.

In counting the gifts, I fight for hope.

Books, Uncategorized, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Best Books I Read in 2018

I read a lot this year. In addition to reading through all 66 books of the Bible I managed to make my way through 51 other books. It’s hard to decide which were the best, but here are a few that definitely rose to the top:

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors
This was actually a re-read from 2017, but so worth it! I love the authentic and honest way in which Katie writes and even more so the way in which she lives. In a year where hope was at times hard to come by, this challenge to DARE to hope was a great reminder!

When God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner
Yes, even some children’s books made my reading list for this year, and for good reason. This one by Matthew Paul Turner (along with his first children’s book “When God Made You”) are wonderful reads for children and adults alike. These books are also wonderfully illustrated by David Catrow

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
I can’t encourage people enough to read this book. It was a hard read, but such a good one, and a helpful one too. It’s one I need to read again and again, and other books like it, to understand more of what I likely will never completely be able to understand.

Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff
While the title does a pretty good job of summing up the entire book, this makes the top reads list simply because it was a FUN book to read. I got the audio copy from the library and loved listening to Bob’s adventurous stories chapter after chapter.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazis by Neal Bascomb
This piece of historical fiction is probably the closest I’ll come to adventure/spy type novels. I enjoyed hearing about aspects of history I didn’t know much about before.

Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro
This was probably the best work-related book I read this year at the recommendation of a friend who found it to be helpful. In a season of illness that kept me from being at 100% at work, it was some great encouragement to keep moving forward despite limitations while still creating spaces and routines of rest.

It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa TerKuerst
This new release probably gets my #1 spot for this year. The prayers based on Scripture at the end of each chapter alone made it worth me buying my own copy after having first borrowed it from the library. The honest way in which Lysa shares about life’s disappointments without feeling the need to wrap it all up with a nice pretty bow was refreshing. Life is raw sometimes but as the subtitle promises, strength can be found even in the most disappointing places.


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(All links in this post are Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Bekah's Heart, What I'm Reading Wednesday

Yes, Please!

One of the books I recently finished was Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I think it might have been a better fit in a different season of life, but I still enjoyed her spunky spirit, honesty, and vulnerability that came across so well in the audio-book version I listened too.

While I finished the book a couple weeks ago, suddenly a passage of it came to mind last Saturday night.

I was texting a friend about other stuff and mentioned how tired I was. It had been a good day, but a long one and body and brain were maxed out. She offered to drive over and do a simple task for me.

I turned her down.

It felt ridiculous. It felt dumb to let her stop what she was doing to come do something so simple for me. I couldn’t shake the thoughts of “Seriously, Bekah, just get up and do this task that literally will take less than a minute.”

She wanted to help. She wanted to serve me. She wanted to love me in this tangible way, even if it seemed silly to me.

But I said no.

Long story short, she came over anyway. (Because when you have friends that are like family, that’s just what you do for each other.) While I had already done the task, she showed up “just to give me a hug”. She lingered. She sat with me and simply was the friend I needed that night… the friend I almost missed out on because of my own stubbornness.

As she left, suddenly a section from that book popped into my mind. I didn’t process it too deeply the first time I heard it, having been framed in the context of motherhood. After this experience with my friend I realized that while I’m not a mother, the general concept still applies, especially in this current season I find myself in:

“Find a tribe of people who are in a similar walk of life as you are. Once you find them, be honest about where you are and what you’re struggling with. Learn to ask for help, and when someone offers help, accept it! Accept any and all help you can get and consider it a gift from God! I cannot tell you how many women ask me how I “do it all,” and when I tell them that I’ve learned to ask for help, they look at me as if I’m an alien.

“Like, help with what?”

For example, when your mother-in-law says she’ll come for the afternoon and entertain the kids, say, “Yes, please.” If your husband offers to fold the laundry (even when you don’t think he’s good at folding towels), say, “Yes, please.” If your girlfriend says she wants to bring you dinner but you feel bad that you’re putting her out, say, “Yes, please.” Or if your elementary school offers afternoon classes that will occupy your rambunctious boys for an additional hour and a half, say, “Yes, please.”

What can give you more time, more space, more freedom to find your center? Whatever it is, say, “Yes, please” to that!” – Rachel Hollis – Girl, Wash Your Face

When talking about self care and boundaries, we often talk about how the hardest but best thing to say is “no”. “No” to extra commitments. “No” to social engagements that aren’t fun for you. “No” to tasks and to-do list items.

Perhaps another favorite phrase should actually be: “Yes, please.”

I am WAY better at receiving help (and sometimes even asking for it!) than I used to be. I learned even more after my surgery in May when I had to depend on those around me for everything. However, it’s still easy for pride to slip in from time to time and I push away help in the process.

Just because I’m technically capable of doing something doesn’t mean help isn’t valuable. I may not NEED it, but perhaps help is a gift my friends (and ultimately, my God) want to give. So, my prayer is to be come more of a “Yes, please” person.

If someone volunteers to do something for me at work, I pray I will simply say, “Yes, please”.

If a friend offers to plan the details of an outing I initiated, I’ll ignore the nagging voice that nags: “You should be responsible for following through on this” and simply smile and say “Yes, please.”

If a family member or mentor or friend offers to spend time to talk and encourage me on a good day or a hard day or just any random day, I hope I’ll quickly say, “Yes, please.”

I’ve always found joy when others let me serve them. It baffles me that I can’t seem to remember the reverse is also true: maybe others find joy in serving me.

So, if my best friend wants to come put my groceries away or do my dishes or just stop by to give me a hug at 8:30 on a Saturday night because she loves me and wants to serve me… I pray next time I won’t turn her down, but instead will unlock the door and text back: “Yes, please!”


Other Books I’m Reading or Finished Recently: