I firmly believe that we, as a society, don’t celebrate enough. We don’t remember the good gifts the Father has given us, the answered prayers, the needs met, and the goodness that’s all around us.
Maybe it’s because we’re inundated by conspiring information striving for our attention, or we’re too busy with chaotic schedules, or the stress of the unwanted is weighing us down. But more and more we must take a stance against parking our focus on the uninvited but weighted realities of our lives and set our eyes on the miraculous instead.
This is why I do a lot of journaling. Writing, for me, is therapeutic, but it also provides me the ability to focus my thoughts and not get distracted. The benefit of this is that I am constantly documenting my thoughts, frustrations, prayers, ideas, etc. Every once in a while, I’ll look back – sometimes just days or weeks – to see what prayer God has answered or need he has met.
What I’ve noticed is that he’s working in my life on a daily basis. And it’s not that I am too busy to notice, although I have been guilty of that. Often times I just simply forget. I feel deeply about one thing on a given day and that thing may have slowly dissipated over time or been replaced by a greater need or desire. So I move on – mentally… physically – to the next thing and slowly over time, I forget.
When I look back at my documented thoughts, I have evidence of God’s answered prayer over and over again.
This also allows me the opportunity to thank him for being present through the storm, giving me what I asked for, or maybe even closing a door which turned out to be the right thing after all.
The power of positive thinking is undeniably effective, and when you look at it through a Christ-centered lens, you experience the closeness of God and his love for you on a whole new level.
But how do you actually get there?
Some of us are naturally wired to be a little more optimistic about life – to naturally see the beauty offered to us in this world, regardless of our situation. But I truly believe that no matter what your personality type, joy and happiness are a choice.
Philippians 4:8 tells us “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
We are called to think on the lovely and right – the things that are worth celebrating. But often times our feelings are swaying our minds in a different direction because of the burdens we face in our broken world filled with broken people, ourselves included.
But when I look at the happiest people I know, it’s not their circumstances that determine their exuding joy; in fact, some of the happiest people I know have gone through horrors most of us won’t experience in a lifetime.
The common thread I see in the joy-filled souls around me is that they’ve chosen to be rooted in the love of Jesus, done the hard work of letting go and trusting God, and have chosen to receive joy rather than being crippled by the life-sucking road of bitterness.
Over the last few years, through much trial and error, and by striving to walk in the footsteps of many godly souls I admire, I’ve realized some simple practices that have helped me be a happier, more fulfilled person.
Invest In Your Relationship With God
No matter where you find yourself in your relationship with God, one thing is sure – he has called us into a relationship. And just as it’s true with my husband, children, and best girlfriends, our relationships won’t flourish unless we’re investing in them through our most valuable resource – time.
Whatever your schedule is like, set aside 15 minutes a day with the sole purpose of relationship-investment with Jesus. Don’t have an agenda. Start with prayer and ask him to fill you with his presence and shower you with his love.
Spend time in the Bible. If you aren’t sure what to read, you can simply pick a book of the Bible and read a chapter a day. John, Romans, and Proverbs are excellent places to start if you’re new to the Bible. You can also download the Bible app for free and access countless devotional for more guided reading.
Another tool I find incredibly helpful is The Daily Audio Bible app or podcast, which allows you to be in his Word every day via audio readings. There are others out there just like this.
The point here is to be consistent. It will get easier over time and the more you do this, the more you will crave this time. Soon, that 15 minutes will turn into 30 min, 45 min, or even an hour.
Jesus is contagious and the more you have, the more you want.
Don’t Be Addicted To Busy
I struggle with this one – big time. I have this incessant need to be busy. Even when I’m sitting, I must be doing something to fill my mind or be productive. I tend to overwork – in my job, my home, etc.
One summer my husband was out of town for a week and I worked myself to the bone. I worked 12+ hour days simply because I could. I had a couple of big projects to finish up for work and had this idea that since my husband didn’t need me, I could spend more time working.
I paid for this big time with heavy amounts of stress and not being able to shut off my brain. I even almost had a panic attack one night that I had to pray my way through as I physically slowed my breathing.
This unhealthy need to be doing something all the time is a horrible practice that steals from our very essence and I’m the first one to say I struggle with this hard.
If you’re like me, force yourself to shut off. You can do this by creating boundaries and parameters. If you must, shut off screens at a certain time, commit to not working after a certain hour, and be okay taking time to unwind and do absolutely nothing. This takes practice and intentionality, but your body will thank you for it.
When you choose margin by setting intentional parameters to your time and energy, you create space for your mind and soul to breath. This allows you to be more in tune with the goodness of God that’s right in front of you.
You’ll start finding more and more reasons to celebrate.
Write It Down
Even if you’re not naturally a writer, this is such a healthy practice to develop. It doesn’t have to be a well thought-out plan or idea, but simply documenting your thoughts, prayers, ideas, and wins/losses is a great way to focus your mind, unload your stress, and see how God has worked in your life from day to day.
Documentation gives life to what’s going on inside your head. The process itself can be healing and bring clarity to the turmoil. Additionally, it serves as evidence of a working God who is ever present in our lives. And even if you already believe this to be true, we all could use the reminder from time to time – especially when walking through dry, dark seasons.
Every approach is different and the idea is to do what comes most naturally for you, but I have found that having a prayer journal makes the most sense. I can jot down what I’m feeling and what I think God might be saying to me. I also note scriptures that I’m processing and different ideas that come to mind during this time.
Ultimately, remember that this is about you and him. It’s a private interaction that you can invite him to use to draw you closer to him. It’s not about perfection or being particularly eloquent, but developing a practice that allows you to focus on what God is laying on your heart as he develops you further into his intended purpose from the inside out.
Inviting God is such a simple concept, but often missed. But actually inviting God into everything you do is life-changing. If you apply it to your life and make it a habit that you don’t even have to think about, you will start to walk in step with him… and that’s truly the foundation of joy and most definitely a reason to celebrate.
Inviting God means that in everything – decisions your processing, changes your navigating, frustrations your dealing with, relationships your building, boundaries you’re creating…invite God into all of it.
Think of all the countless decision you make on a daily basis. When you stop and think about it, how often do you invite him into the process? When you’re uncertain of your next step, ask God what he would have you do and then wait for his direction. When you’re navigating a transition, invite him in to guide you along the way.
I think sometimes, as believers, we don’t always see the need for inviting God in. We become comfortable in that he’s always with us, so why make the effort to invite him if he’s already there?
It’s true that he’s always with us and that he promises to never leave us or forsake us. But when we are actively inviting him in and seeking his wisdom and guidance, we’re taking on the posture that admits we can’t do it ourselves and we truly desire God’s guidance.
And just because my children love me, I still want them to tell me they love me. And when they ask for my help rather than assuming I’ll just do it, I’m reminded that their hearts are open and in a place to receive my guidance.
Inviting God into the process communicates to him that we are open and willing to receive his loving direction.
For me, this means the people I hold nearest and dearest are ones I want to cultivate a regular prayer rhythm with. I don’t just mean praying for them, but with them.
My husband and I have committed to making sure we pray together every night before bed. We try to pray at other times too, but this particular time is one we can count on, without fail, and know it will remain consistent.
We both pray for our kids every night before bed and on the way to school each morning. And if you have this picture-perfect image in your imagination of this sweet little family with precious cherubs who have their heads bowed and their eyes closed, you would be wrong – very, very wrong.
It’s usually a quick prayer and blessing over them as we fight for our voices to be heard over the highly energized busybodies trying to settle down for the night. It’s not perfect, but it’s the reality and God meets us right where we are. Your prayers are heard and are planting seeds for generations to come
I also enjoy the unplanned prayer moments with my close friends. We don’t get together as often as we’d like, but when we do, and there’s a need, you better believe there is prayer.
Prayer is another way of inviting him in and letting him know we want to be a part of the big work he is doing in our lives, in our communities, and in our world. Prayer unites the body and brings us closer to God together.
Prayer opens the gates to Heaven on earth.
Take Time To Grieve
I felt the need to include this because I have a tendency to shy away from the things that make me sad. But, as I’ve grown and experienced more life, I’ve learned that grief is just part of the process and it’s an essential ingredient to celebrating life authentically.
It’s important to shed light on the deep and broken happenings in our lives – even the ones that have hurt those we are close to. When we take the time to recognize those pains, we are allowing our mind, body, and soul to take the time it needs to grieve and allow God to put the pieces back together as we embrace the journey of healing.
Grief doesn’t have to stem from the hardest and worst scenarios we can imagine; grief comes from whatever brings you sadness or anguish. Grief should come after trauma, and trauma can be experienced any time our life meets an interruption.
Our pain – no matter where it comes from – is pain and it’s unique to us. Take the time to grieve the things in your life that hurt and allow God to comfort you as you begin the process of healing.
Embrace The Slow
I’ve been on a beautiful journey of discovering that God does not hurry – I wrote a short piece about that here. He takes his time because his timing is perfect. It takes a while for something to blossom. It takes time for you to grow.
But it’s in the in-between where you’ll discover so much of his goodness. When we’re focused on the thing, the outcome, the endgame, we’ll miss out on the here and now. But there’s so much beauty and joy in the right now – so much rich life to be lived.
Embracing the slow – for me – means embracing the idea that being quick is not the same as being hurried; that God is in the details and the most amazing blessings in life usually take the most time.
It’s in the slow that I grow, learn new things about myself and others, and better understand God’s love.
These are simple yet life-altering practices that can shift your perspective and equip you to walk with God no matter what you’re going through.
So celebrate. Celebrate everything – big and small. Real joy isn’t produced through the situations we try and manipulate. You can’t fake your way to happiness.
But you can discover happiness through raw, intentional living. Through beautifully broken people. In the quiet mornings before the babies wake up or the late nights when it’s just you and the dog. On the porch on a cool fall evening or on your morning walk just as the sun is rising.
Celebrate through the pain of hard work and the outcome of persistence.
Celebrate the tears and fears and what it means to overcome the mistakes.
Celebrate the marriage that almost fell apart.
Celebrate the lives that once were and will be again.
Celebrate the F’s and the A’s because they all matter and they all allow for growth.
Celebrate the coffee and tea with or without cream and sugar.
Celebrate the bread and wine, cheese and crackers, the lipstick-stained glasses and crumbs on the floor… for they are evidence of living, breathing, and existing.
They are evidence of a God who loves – a God who exists.
Danielle is a co-founder of The Brave Collective, writer, creative director, and speaker. She is a wife of almost 16 years, mom of 2, and is passionate about championing women to develop and use their voices, which are so desperately needed.