Because I’m Happy :)

“Happy” is so not my word; I strongly dislike its conditional status.  In fact, in my circle of friends, if you talk about being happy, I might just interrupt you and tell you to “stuff it.”  I would tell you that I’m pretty sure I haven’t been “happy” a day in my life.  But the truth is, if I think about it, I’m lying to you.   Yes, I’ve been happy, but recognizing this has been a journey in and of itself.  I’d like to tell you about it.

This idea of happiness has been an elusive concept for me, so I decided to go to the experts.  Over the past few months, I have read three works of nonfiction centering on the idea of happiness— two of these books specifically focusing on Biblical happiness.  Is it okay to pursue happiness?  Does God want us to be happy?  What is the difference between joy and happiness?  Is there a difference at all?

Over the course of my research, I learned that Scripture often uses the words “joy” and “happiness” interchangeably.  In this way, happiness can be seen as an obvious counterpart to joy, not as an opposite perspective.  I had always thought that joy was the more holy of the two words.  One shouldn’t seek happiness; one should be focused on attaining joy.  Like I said earlier, happiness is such a conditional thing; its root “hap” makes it easy to think about what “happens” and correlate it to how “happy” it makes me.  Joy always seemed like a deeper, inner contentment.  To learn that joy and happiness are often one-in-the-same threw me for a loop.  I was intrigued.  I wanted to dig deeper.

One of the books I read over the past few months was The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee.  In reading her book and working through my Gallup StrengthFinder results, I realized that I am an achiever and doer.  Getting things done and being productive is what makes me the most happy and fulfilled.  It goes beyond that first, initial response upon completion.  I don’t just sigh in relief that I have accomplished something; I carry this feeling of completion with me throughout the rest of the day— sometimes the rest of the week.  I find incredible satisfaction in reaching a goal and knowing that I did it well.

The only downside to my doing and achieving nature is that I don’t often stop long enough to revel in that happiness.  I need to take time to celebrate my accomplishments before rushing on to my next goal, otherwise, I will feel that drive to accomplish again, and just like that I will be off to the next thing.

Being a doer and achiever is the best version of myself that I have to offer to the world; only I know what makes me happy and I shouldn’t be burdened by other’s expectations for my life.  What brings me joy and happiness is unique to the way in which God created me, and I believe that He finds joy in the moments when I celebrate a job well-done.

Here are a few snapshots of moments where I experienced happiness:

  • Dancing around my kitchen after a late-night decision at camp that was resolved in my favor
  • Reading and relaxing after having dinner with friends who are like family
  • Sitting at Lambeau field with friends and my sister
  • Finishing the process of writing a book or song
  • Sunday afternoons after leading worship,, knowing that I did my best and I can relax
  • Quiet Christmas Eve dinner for one
  • Packer victories
  • Following my performance at semi-finals in Nashville because my response was both of happiness and inner peace
  • The day I found my first apartment
  • The morning after my CD release when the phone woke me up because I was blissfully sleeping
  • Having coffee with my pastor on the day he offered me the job
  • First days entertaining in my new home
  • Hazelnut Tree Christmas concerts
  • The first taste of a vegan cupcake
  • Chris Tomlin concerts

I’m still exploring this idea of Biblical happiness, and I think the concept of joy and happiness will always be something I will be working through.  I don’t think I am naturally joyful; in fact, I’m pretty sure I am more introspective and I allow particular situations to dictate how I respond.  I want to be more conscious of those snapshots of happiness and seek to recognize them when they come along.  I am hoping that by concentrating on seeking happiness that I will find a deeper sense of joy within my heart and in my relationship with God.

In the coming weeks, I want to move forward with this idea of happiness as it relates to suffering and struggle.  I want to examine happiness through the lens of disability and adverse circumstances.  I want to find joy— even happiness in the midst of the darkness.  Will you join me on this journey?


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Everyone has to learn somewhere, right?  A child learns how to dress with help from Mom or Dad.  If a little girl admires her mother or older sister, she may emerge from the bedroom, wearing something similar in style to her elder role model.  A little boy might mimic his father or older brother by mirroring skills or behaviors, whether it be actions, unique quirks, or even abilities.  Hence, the phrase: “Like father, like son.”

Let’s face it; even without trying, we are imitators from youth.  They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and I have to believe it is true.  Even though I was the oldest child in my home during my growing-up years, I still found myself imitating others, even though I, myself, could have served as the trend-setter or role model. I did my best to learn from my mother as she cooked, cleaned and managed our household.  Due to the fact I had a visual impairment, I knew dressing in style was challenging, so I observed my younger sister, especially during our high school years.  I didn’t succeed too well in that area, but I longed to measure up with trendy clothes and pretty hair.  As I neared my college years, I began to imitate my father, almost without realizing it.  I found myself moving toward a career that was quite similar to his.  Out of everyone else in my family, it was his level of experience that impacted me the greatest in formulating my own vocation.

As I began working at the church and for the camp, I found myself fulfilling a new role.  For the first time in my life, I was the role model— the one others looked to for leadership and guidance.  In terms of worship leading, it often came down to the simple call-and-response song.  During our services, we often sing a song called “Lord Most High.”  It is a song that begins with the worship leader singing a phrase, and the congregation then echoes that phrase in response.  It is a fun way to worship, and it engages the congregation easily.  Sometimes, it isn’t necessary to project words on the screen, because the crowd knows what to do, just by listening.

The same was true during my time at Camp.  In order to get the students’ attention, the director or one of the head counselors would often call out, “Hey, YLF!”  It didn’t matter what the students were doing when they heard that phrase.  They would stop, turn, and look, and then respond with, “Hey, Cassie!”  It wasn’t exactly an echo, but similar to leading worship, it was reminiscent of a call-and-response.  It demanded participation.

Much of this came to mind as I stood outside my house, shivering in the early fall evening.  I had learned that there would be a full moon that night, and that it would be the Harvest Moon.  I was eager to capture the moon with my camera, even though I had no idea what I was doing.  My first fumbling photos looked distorted.  The photographed moon looked like an overly-bright blob in the dark sky.  Streaks of light flanked the edges of the perfectly full moon, and it just looked tacky.  I knew there had to be a way to eliminate the brightness and exposure issues, so I took to Google.  In a matter of moments, I had a few tricks I could try out.  The results were certainly not perfect.  After all, I was using my phone to capture the beauty of the moment.  But the result wasn’t too bad either, and I was satisfied.

That is, until clouds began to filter over the moon.  One by one, I scrolled through my pictures, disappointed that the wispy intruders were marring the perfection.  I knew I would have to start over because the images simply wouldn’t do.  I felt the first raindrops and knew I would have to go inside.  But I wasn’t about to give up.  An hour later, I was back at it again, and this time, I was satisfied with what I had captured.  It was well after midnight before I finally crawled into bed.  To say that I was hooked by this lunar photography was kind of an understatement.

I didn’t sleep very well, so at 6 a.m., just before dawn, I found myself outside once more.  I captured a few more shots of the full moon, once more satisfied with what I had accomplished.  I was intrigued by the idea of the moon, recognizing that it has no light on its own.  Of course, the moon receives its light as a reflection of the sun.  When clouds get in the way or when the earth is not in direct alignment, the moon is not visible.  The moon is a lesser light, but no less beautiful.  The moon is a picture of humility, reflecting the sun’s radiance and bringing light to an otherwise dark night.  It brings an essence of the sun as if to say, “Do you see the sun in my light?  Do I reflect its glory?”

It caused me to ask the same question of myself.  In many ways, I am like that moon.  I live my life as an image bearer of God and an imitator of Christ.  To be a Christian is to be a “little Christ,” and I don’t take this lightly.  When I directed Camp, I knew my purpose.  I might not have been directing a Christian Camp, but I still desired to reflect Christ in my leadership role.  The same is true as I lead worship.

But it isn’t always easy.  Sometimes, like in my moon photography, wispy clouds or thunderheads get in the way and serve as a distraction.  These distractions look a lot like anger, envy, jealousy, selfishness, stress, worry, impatience, etc.  Before we realize it, such things get in the way of our reflection of Christ.  Obviously, no one is perfect, but if we’re going to reflect Christ in everything we do, we need to be mindful of what holds us back.

My pastor recently started a sermon series on the Fruit of the Spirit, and I’m excited for what will come from our nine weeks in the word.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all good things, but they don’t often manifest themselves with ease.  It helps to know that Christ Himself embodied each of these traits, and He is the bearer of the greater light.  We can strive to mirror that light with the greatest of intentions, knowing that in this world distraction will come and distractions will go.  It doesn’t take long to become discouraged by our failures, so I’m here to offer some encouragement if you’re joining me in that discouragement camp today.

You will make mistakes.  Maybe for a time, your light will sputter and fade behind clouds of distraction.  Perhaps depression and anxiety will set in and the world will seem dark and hopeless.  Following Christ is a high calling with great reward.  It is through struggle and distracted thought where God often does some of His best work.  Let Him worth through your in those times of dimness so you can keep shining for Him.  Imitate Him in character even when you would rather lash out in retaliation.  Smile with inner joy even when things crumble around you.  Strive to be patient when something doesn’t go your way.  When those clouds sweep across the moon and the thunder rolls, take a deep breath, wait for the storm to pass, and then try again.

The brilliance of that light when it returns will be worth the wait.  Shine for Him, friends!  There’s no higher calling as believers!