I was out promoting my first book when inspiration struck at the local IHOP. I had just indulged in a plate of pancakes, but my mind was spinning with creativity. The weather that day was foggy and misty— conditions that took me back to a time almost nine months earlier. I didn’t even have to close my eyes to picture myself back on that early morning in December, 2006.
It was graduation day, and in a matter of hours, I would reach the end of my college career. I should have been celebrating, but instead, I wanted to cry. I was so confused. What did my future hold for me? Where would I live? Where would I work? Would I have the chance to fall in love and marry the one God had set aside for me? Everything seemed so bleak… just like the fog and mist that day. I should have been happy, but the melancholy won me over.
Nine months later, as I emerged from the IHOP, I had a song in my heart— a song I would later finish and call “Footsteps.” Singing this song has become a tradition of sorts at my annual Christmas concert because the first verse references my state of uncertainty as Christmas approached that year. On the surface things were great, but deep inside, I was struggling.
What is it about fog— literal or figurative— that obscures happiness? I think it simply comes down to the fact that fog is temporary; it sweeps in when the air is thick with moisture. Much like our circumstances, sometimes a happy moment can quickly dissipate into something darker and confusing. Something that once made sense is now overwhelmed with uncertainty. Fog obscures the light of the sun, and the heavy cloud mass can often mirror the heaviness of the burdens we carry. It’s easy to lose your way in the fog. Sometimes, even high-beams can’t break through the murkiness. Accidents can happen in the fog when things go unseen; people get hurt and lives are changed.
Sometimes the fog is necessary for a season. Yes, it can be dark and confusing; the world can seem to close in around you and there seems no way out of the struggle. But then, with dazzling light, the fog begins to dissipate, and you begin to see what the fog has left behind. How has the pain and suffering shaped your circumstances so you can stand in the beauty of this moment?
Life is messy. Sometimes, things just don’t work out the way you think they should. Plans fall apart, and you’re left standing in the rubble. Occasionally, you get a glimpse of why something happened as it did, but other times, questions go unanswered and you’ll never know why.
But if you look for it, happiness can be found in the midst of the fog— even in the midst of a raging storm. Here are some examples from my own life:
I think I was most happy in the very first year I lived independently. The only real damper during that season was my lack of transportation. I wanted to promote my music and writing, but I had to depend on others to support me in those endeavors so I could travel outside of my zip code. It wasn’t long before I became discouraged and had to resort to promoting my work online. But the Internet was sometimes a scary place, and I had to be careful with my information and what I shared with others. God used that time in my life to open my heart to the idea of a different kind of vocation: instead of promoting myself, I would learn to promote Him through music and the written word. It wouldn’t be an easy journey moving forward, but in the end, I made it out of the obscurity.
Just this past Spring, my family and I said goodbye to a dear, loved one. It was not an easy time for us. The process of dying was drawn-out and difficult to witness, but there was such peace within my family. Everyone gathered together in that little room and spent quality time investing in relationship with one another. There were stories told, songs sung, and stretches of silence where words weren’t unnecessary. I don’t know if I would call this season “happy,” but there was an ease and contentment that was present even in the midst of grief.
When the possibility of a record deal fell through for me in 2010, I mourned the loss of that dream for a full day. Then, I invested my bruised and hurting heart in relationship with others. I hit my stride at camp, and began a six-year journey toward disability advocacy for high school students with disabilities. I mentored two musicians as they explored their gifts and talents. I began leading worship at my church. I used the death of a dream to push toward another dream yet unseen. Remember, I am a doer. The only way for me to move forward and seek happiness was to do something else, so that’s what I did.
And when I had to walk away from Camp, I found happiness I didn’t know I had been seeking. For more than six months, I focused solely on worship ministry and growing closer to God. I didn’t think I would be able to tolerate more than six months with a quieter schedule, but in the end, it was just what I needed. I reveled in reading good books, sitting by the fire, watching riveting movies, spending time with friends who had earlier been neglected… It was an incredible time of rest and rejuvenation.
I wrote The Promise while battling through chronic allergic reactions and working my way through grad school.
I found happiness in exploring Trader Joe’s and later coloring with some of my girlfriends even through my mind and heart were in a tailspin. The world didn’t make sense during that season, but I focused on the good— chocolate-covered espresso beans and coloring with friends.
I bounced back after a significant issue with my eyesight and served as the headliner for a local talent show. There’s nothing like singing to help dissipate fear and worry.
When things fall apart, when the fog rolls in, and tomorrow looks pretty bleak, it’s easy to just give up and hide away. But in the end, nothing is gained by this approach. Its okay to mourn and grieve… to wonder why, but if you want to experience even the slightest bit of happiness, it’s important to remember that the murky disappointment won’t last forever.
In many ways, I am glad God created me to be a doer. I might have a disability, which limits me in some ways, but there is so much that I can still do and be. I may not be able to see far into the distance, but I see the large expanse of the sky and the vivid colors of sunrise and sunset. I may not be able to drive a car, but I love to ride my tricycle. I may not be able to crank up the tunes while I drive my car, but I sing at the top of my lungs with the radio as I cook dinner in my kitchen (which, by the way, has some great acoustics). I may not be able to see printed music, but I can still play piano. I just have to go about it differently.
If you have the patience and willingness to peer through the fog, you might just find that sunshine and happiness can exist within the cloak of clouds. Find the beauty in the murky, friends. I promise; you won’t be disappointed.