Happiness Is (A Sonnet)

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Prompt: Emotion

 

Happiness is waking up on Sunday,
the sunlight streaming into your bedroom.
You wake up, dreams of last night gone astray,
but the dream was good or so you assume.
Happiness is making a cup of tea:
kettle-boiled water, lemon, and syrup.
You drink it up, feel the serenity,
then say a thankful prayer to gear up.
Happiness is being with those you love,
the ones who know what’s in your heart.
The need for small talk is disposed of
When you feel like you’re never far apart.
Happiness is the song that sings “Good night,”
filled with gratitude, hope, love, and delight.

Prosperity vs. Providence: What You Want Isn't Always What You Need

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I’ve mentioned before that for me, when it comes to relying on God, I like to think more along the lines of believing in providence rather than prosperity.

The word “providence” comes from the word “provide,” which means “to make available” or “to supply.” The word always takes into account what is to come. Prosperity means “successful, flourishing, thriving.” Not that there’s anything wrong with having a life that’s successful, flourishing, or thriving, but at the same time, meditate on this Bible verse: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

We live in a society that doesn’t understand the difference between “Need” and “Want.” Blimey Cow did a video on this:

Let’s apply the strategy from Messy Mondays to the things that we want.

Would we really be in serious trouble if we didn’t have the perfect house or a nice car or a million dollars? Pope Francis lives in what is basically an apartment building and only rides in the Popemobile once a week. Not to mention that since he’s a Jesuit, he’s taken a vow of poverty. Would we really be in serious trouble if we missed an episode, or heck a whole season, of the latest hit TV show? I get by pretty fine avoiding How to Get Away With Murder and Game of Thrones. Would we really be in serious trouble if we didn’t get the job we wanted? Well, that’s a bit of a gray area, but honestly, it’s not like getting the corner office is the end-all be-all. It’s good to have a job, but not at the expense of everything else.

We will always want things. It’s part of being human. We may think that we “need” things, but in reality, we may just be wanting something that’s not the best for us right now. Like, hypothetically speaking, say that there’s a girl who always whines about needing a boyfriend. It’s not exactly the end of the world if she doesn’t have one. The trick to figuring out what we need versus what we want involves learning what we can reasonably live without. You may want to go on a trip, but you can’t exactly afford to do so because you need that money for the rent or to pay off the mountain of student loans you have hanging over your head. Although I didn’t exactly make all 30 days of Leah Darrow’s “The Closet Challenge,” the task made me realize what clothes I don’t really use or wear. In other words, it made me learn what kind of clothes I needed as opposed to clothes I wanted but may not wear all the time. It also kept me from asking for new clothes, even though I had the opportunity to get new clothes if I so wanted to.

When we look at our lives and plan for the future, it’s better to have realistic expectations of getting the things that we need. The Gospel of Happiness says that it’s better to have realistic expectations in the long run. The good news is that while we can plan for the future, we can bring God into it by asking Him to provide for what we need. “Give us this day our daily bread,” as it says in the Our Father.

And sometimes, the Lord can give us what we want. I didn’t exactly need to go to Comicpalooza, but I still did and ended up having the time of my life. The way to have realistic expectations about what we want, though, is understanding and accepting that we don’t always get what we want all the time. We will always have what we need. Just that we can’t always get what we want.

Unconventional Happiness: Things I Learned at Cafe Catholica

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lawrence.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Lawrence. If you’re wondering where I am, I’m hidden behind the post in the choir loft.

The topic for last night’s lecture at Cafe Catholica focused on happiness and the decisions we make. I also did a bit of Mass Journaling this time. The readings from yesterday were part of the “tough love” readings in the Bible that many people would rather avoid reading, but as Fr. Ray Cook (the celebrant) said “We have to walk through the bad things. The readings always have things to tell us, but we always focus on ourselves, on things that make noise.” Although he never quoted Mother Teresa, I felt like Fr. Ray’s homily echoed the idea of God speaking in the silence of our hearts.

Last week was a real treat for me because everything was new and exciting, but this week, I had to take a step back and not get overly excited. Part of that meant trying not to sing as loudly so that I could harmonize with the choir (a problem stemming back from my children’s choir days). And when I didn’t socialize as much as I did last week, I accepted that sometimes, it’s better to just enjoy whatever small talk you make with people. You might find things about your friends that you never knew and will learn to appreciate.

Tonight’s speaker was Sr. Mary Guido, a Cenacle sister. She opened her lecture with this question: Have you ever allowed God to ask “What do you need from me? What are you looking for? What do you want?” The answer of course, can be found with the classic St. Augustine quote “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” God calls us to happiness, to be one with Christ, to have a union with God, others, ourselves, and all creation.

The rest of the lecture looked into religious life and decisions in the modern world. It amazed me at how much of religious life can apply to laypeople like me. An example of this can be found within the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These vows aren’t just for priests, monks, and nuns, but for everyone. The vow of chastity means loving completely, without exception. There’s a wonderful video from Fr. Robert Barron that explains the kind of love Sr. Mary is talking about. It’s not the romantic, emotional love that’s seen in a Nicholas Sparks movie. It’s an unconditional kind of love that takes us outside of ourselves. The vow of poverty means remembering that the things in our lives are not our gods. The things that we want to have are just means, and not ends. And the vow of obedience meas listening to God, completely surrendering ourselves to Him.

How does all this apply to discernment in the modern world? The word “discern,” according to Sr. Mary, means to sift out things, getting to the heart of the matter. It’s not necessarily “What will I do?” because we are all called to be saints. We are all working towards Heaven. The real question is “How?” Echoing what Fr. Ray said before, Sister Mary said to notice times of peace within ourselves. We won’t always get it right, but our actions will either lead us closer to God and away from him. She recommends keeping a record for a month and see what caused anxiety and what things caused peace within our daily lives. She also recommends getting a spiritual director. She ended the lecture with a quote from Fr. Pedro Arrupe:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”