The Art of Living Happy

The Art of Living Happy

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

~ Ralph Waldo Emmerson

I recently heard this notion that keeping oneself busy meeting friends for coffee, movies, or dinner dates, and shopping, or all the myriad ways we fill our time, may just be a form of distraction keeping us creatives from making our art – that which our soul yearns for us to create, and the world needs.

For the past couple of years I felt like I was living in limbo. I had this intense desire to write, but the words were often stuck inside, all bottled up.

During this time I became aware I had a constant low-grade anxiety (okay maybe more than low-grade). Truthfully, this awareness came when I began to take medicine to manage spinal stenosis and arthritis pain. The realization hit when the immediate benefit was a lack of anxiety. I felt easier in my body. It took the ease of it, the missing of it, to make me see.

This anxiety had become a constant, perhaps throughout my life. I’ve certainly beat myself up enough, certainly put a great deal of pressure on myself, certainly felt not enough in so many ways.

This past several weeks words have begun to flow in the form of poetry. In my last post I wrote about how it feels like I’ve come home – to myself – in writing poetry.

It’s been a release, a transcendent experience, and one of finding a measure of wholeness. In fact, it’s become so therapeutic I decided to experiment to see if the anxiety and pain would flare up if I reduced my medication.

I’m doing a slow, gradual withdrawal so that I can closely monitor things, and so far writing poetry has been winning as a pain and anxiety replacement – for me. (Of course, I can’t recommend it to anyone else.) Yes, even with all our lives being upended and we now live in a surreal world, with the coronavirus pandemic threatening every aspect of life, health, and livelihoods – writing poetry continues to be a cathartic healing experience.

Mind you, at the forefront of all this is being aware my faith in God is being tested, as is the case for all of us.

How much do we trust him?

How strong is our faith?

A book I am currently reading (very slowly for a deep integration) is The Year of Living Happy: Finding Contentment and Connection in a Crazy World, by Alli Worthington. I think there couldn’t be a more perfect time to read a book such as this.

Is it possible to be happy in these current uncertain times, when our ways of living are being uprooted?

I’ve spent several days mulling over and meditating upon what the author proposes just in the first chapter titled Happy Roots. She tells us that if we can live, with our happiness rooted deeply in God, then the temporary trials of the day will not throw us off.

… true happiness comes only from Him. It does not come through our material possessions, our relationships, or our circumstances.

~ Alli Worthington, The Year of Living Happy

Oh wow. How had I not understood it in this way before?!

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,

   whose trust is in the LORD.

He is like a tree planted by water,

   that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

   for its leaves remain green,

and it does not cease to bear fruit.

~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

It will soon be three years since I became a Christian, but I had lacked that insight. Over the years of my creative life (and life in general) I’ve had many successes and many failures, and upon reflection both aspects left me feeling something was missing and not quite right. Most important to note are how the successes made me feel. My accomplishments should have made me happy, right? The relationship with my wonderful loving husband should make me happy, right? Sometimes they did, but that kind of happiness is fleeting. It lasts only a moment. It’s not a day-in, day-out kind of happiness.

Pondering the idea that God should be the source of my happiness is illuminating, and a little confusing. I mean, how does that work?

I’m trying to take it in. I suppose this is not a matter of trying, but of letting the Almighty integrate this into my inner self.

I have to admit though, it is creating a lightness within, and despite also having been terribly sick with a cold and self-isolating, I am waking more now with a growing hope, a growing happiness that is not dependent on how I’m physically feeling, what I’m doing, or what I have.

It makes me wonder, is it possible to live each day, to write it on our heart that every day is the best day in the year, as Mr. Ralph Waldo Emmerson tells us? I can only speak for me, without God, without hope, without faith – it’s not.

Writing poetry is healing, it is transcendent, but without my believing in God, it’s not inspired.

Here’s a little excerpt from my poem titled The Calling Forth Garden

Rehabilitation from the Outside In or is it Inside Out?

Rehabilitation from the Outside In or is it Inside Out?

Imagine for a moment, a woman living inside this broken-down home. Standing slightly back from the window or perhaps even chained to a chair, not by iron but by a damaged body and shattered spirit. Peering out, lost in belonging to what, she wonders.

Her world becomes small and hope wedges itself in the cracks of the brick and mortar. The sands of time crumbling away in the dust.

The ache of it all patched and cemented in the withering and rotting. What life is there left to live in the watching it creep away? What meaning is this to the emptied out and broken?

I can imagine her or him all too well. Can you?

In fact, I’ve been her.

This image spoke well to the haunting of my past. To the mind and thoughts, the heart and body, the lies and false bravado I clung to. All of it manifesting into a body breaking down long before its time. The heart of me desperately wanting… seeking… love and the holiness in the ultimate love.

But it’s not found in the repeating, in the doing of the same thing over and over no matter how hard the work is for different results. Something other must appear – Grace in the wake of pleas and prayers and barrenness.

I was lost in the new age and the more I tried to find myself there, the wider the separation grew from my soul and my body. The bigger and wider I tried to see into The Universe, the deeper I plunged into physical pain and spiritual warfare.

I screamed in agony outwardly and stripped myself inwardly, until nothing was left, and hope seemed elusive. I had it all, yet I had nothing.

Until a miracle occurred. The Lord, he reached out his hand and offered me his Grace, a new way and a new life. I do bow down in worship and gratitude, every morning you can find me there. He rescued me from a broken way of living, in the ruined shell of a house.

This past year has been one of glory and trial, of love and letting go of the past. It’s not an easy thing, the letting go to become something other – the myself in the offering, in the making.

Over my life, I’ve had a couple of back injuries and have a genetic disposition to spinal stenosis, which after twelve long years of living with pain and a walking disability, and numerous tests, it was finally diagnosed this winter.

Too young. Too soon. Twelve years of hope receding, disintegrating and resignation setting in, my world was getting smaller. Like the decaying leaning falling down home.

I’ve learned to pray. And, I know that nothing is impossible for God. My prayers for healing whispered in earnest with the caveat, if this is your will I will endure. The difference now being I live knowing where I belong and to who – so there so much life and living in me now.

There came with the diagnosis a feeling of closure and peace in the knowing. According to the medical professionals there is no cure, but there also came a silver lining and a sliver of hope.

I’ve been off the radar living deeply in a rehabilitation program these past few months. It’s been intense, twice weekly visits to a hospital for therapy and rehab and engaging in a growing intensity twice daily exercise regime, to build strength, flexibility, manage pain, and with hope and fingers crossed (prayers!) that the impinged nerve causing the disability will heal over time.

My body is changing and growing stronger. It’s been hard and exhausting. Where the hope lies, I’ve become aware, is in the healing of old wounds and in the letting go of the past, and the lies I’ve believed.

Yes, the daily exercise regime makes me stronger physically, mentally too and there have been improvements in pain relief and management, but where something spectacular happens is in the moments when I pray, and I see, and I make strides in letting go of the past hauntings and the need for things to be different.

As I give it all up and thank God for the life he has given me, as I learn to see my life, and every one, and every thing, and every situation as a blessed gift from him – then the life that was and all the suffering releases, and it is then I experience moments of ease of walking, of mind and body and soul.

The tension softens with each breath of grace, and all of being is in a twinkling lasting eternity. All striving and wanting something different is forgotten. The sands of grief carried off in a breeze become seeing and being through the eyes of our creator.

And, when life is lifted up, given up, and praised as the gift it is, the moment becomes so very precious.

I’ve given myself to living this physical and spiritual rehabilitation. Turning away from social media and all the comparing and need for validation it conjures up, turning toward God instead.

Learning to lean more and more into him with each trial of faith. Spending time with him where life feels alive – in prayer, in studying the scriptures, and for me in writing. I know I am undergoing big changes from the inside out, though it may look like it is on the outside, the real change happens deep within.

Writing points the way for me. It reveals a living full, in the now and a future. What it specifically looks like is still a mystery. I’m learning there is beauty in the not knowing.

There is beauty in the not knowing.

There is beauty and wisdom and understanding waiting to be found in the resisting and suffering.

Grace is but a breath away.

When life should seem enough, but it isn’t.

When love should fill up everything, but it doesn’t.

When there instead, is a niggling nagging feeling something is missing.

When grief, anxiety, or fear is a consistent presence.

If anyone is reading this, if this is you in any way, take some time away from the world pressing in, from noise and distractions… to pay attention to little (or big) things that are trying to speak to your soul. Ponder what is important, what is truly important. What will fill the deep ache, not on the surface of living, but eternally, infinitely, everlastingly.

Seeking the deeper meaning of life, when I’d finally exhausted all the ways that seemed to take me back to suffering,  helped me to hear God calling my name. Everything shifted. Everything I thought I knew or believed altered, when I heard, and felt the love waiting for me to say yes.

This love that overcomes all and fills every need and desire is real. It calls your name. In the quiet place. In a whisper, the soul hears.

I Hear God Singing to Me: Going Public with my Faith

I Hear God Singing to Me: Going Public with my Faith

This past year has been many things, a full stop, a radical shaking up, and a washing away of a lifetime of grief, disappointments, and shame. It’s been a time of reflection, a celebration, and a setting right of all that was gut and mind wrenchingly wrong.

It’s been God in all His glory answering prayers that have been prayed for decades, in ways that were unimaginable to me. I could only see what I could see, and strive to make it through my eyes. My heart yearned for something, my destiny, for God’s calling on my life, only I kept choosing to grasp and claw my way through a bog of weeds so thick and high and deep that engulfed and suffocated me.

We have available to us a path straight to God’s heart and arms, and yes, his glory, his holy presence. So why do we seek it in all the wrong places and then try to convince ourselves we know it better, and are higher than him?

A new trajectory is before me. I stand on a precipice with a profoundly different perspective of life and living, the past, the present, the future, and while it’s scary there’s another truth prevailing…that if God does have a claim, a calling, a vision for how He wants to use me, then I can be assured he will provide the strength, the courage, and the way.

Whether I succeed or fail, doesn’t even really matter because he will use all of it for His good purpose. Whether or not I see the fruits doesn’t matter either, because if I do my part then I can rest in the trust that my life has not been in vain. Not that it could be anyway, because he simply loves me, and he lets me know it, day after day after day in the silent whispers, as he does with you.

Everything changes when we open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, our everything to let him in.

So many days – a lifetime, and so many ways seeking answers, signs, validation, belonging. A never ending, never fulfilling quest without knowing the language of God. So many illusionists claiming to be the Great I Am, without saturating oneself in the Word, it’s fair game for falling into false promises that pull one further and further away from the truth.

Yet, no matter the distance we travel, no matter the worldly or other-worldly ways that entice us or lull us, no matter in our fog of slumber that we descend into, we are not lost forever. One moment of turning our eyes and hearts up and we’ll find that we’ve not been forsaken, never have.

In a year that has literally that flipped from upside down to downside up, I find myself standing among over a thousand people and marvel in wonderment if it is all real. Shaking my head as if it’s been a dream. We are singing and clapping and moving in praise of the Lord.

My heart is pounding because shortly I’ll be up on that stage speaking to the crowd, sharing my coming to faith story. I haven’t been up on a stage in years and I never imagined that one day I would be talking about how Jesus saved me from a living dead.

Moments of wondering if this was real, if it was really God’s calling. Am I willing and ready to make such a public declaration. How did I get from living entrenched in a new age life to converting to Christianity, it seemed so bizarre.

And while yes, it was surreal beyond imagining, here I was. By the grace of God and only God, the only Living God, had my life been healed, transformed, filled up, and blessed in so many ways that I knew there was only one truth for me.

I prayed fervently, make me worthy of your calling. Give me strength, fill me with calm, may you be seen and heard in and through me.

I had been sick the past week. Knock down, Kleenex, tea, resting to the bone sick. First time in ten years and honestly didn’t think I’d be able to make it to service, much less speak.

Three congregations coming together in one service. Over a thousand people.

Public speaking is something I persevere with great hidden anxiety. My saving grace here was in reminding myself that it was not about me. It was simply me standing up for the God who had revealed himself to me, who has been giving me a new heart, a new mind, and new eyes and ears.

But with each passing moment getting closer to my cue, my throat parched in cracking dryness, I’m reaching for mints, I’m reaching for water, and again. I worried it would have me stumble and cough, desperate for thirst.

The energy, from floor to third tier balcony was high and pulsing. I’m now backstage, waiting in the shadows of light with monitors and technicians. The stage looks huge. The choir and band, three congregations wide and deep.

A shift begins to happen. Now I’m feeling gratitude filling up and ready to pour out. I get to do this.

There is the cue and I walk out behind my sister-in-law Lisa who will introduce me.

I don’t feel my heart pounding anymore. I’m not blindsided by fear, by the lights, by the theatre filled up to the balconies and all eyes upon me. I’m connecting. I’m speaking slowly, calmly, even eloquently, I’m told later. I hear it too. My voice steady, my body still. I’m both speaking and listening. The only sign that I’m present to nerves is a slight tremor in my left hand as I turn a page of my notes.

When it’s done I feel that it’s the best speech I’ve ever given publicly, and I give all credit to God for holding me steady and filling me up. I don’t know how to deflect the accolades after. I’m simply grateful for the calling on me that came close to not being fulfilled at this special service.

I’m in a new world now. It feels like I’m fully in and ready to be fully giving. In a lifetime of adventures of the spirit, never have I felt so supported and so blessed. Though I have to admit, I’m still kind of scratching my head in wonderment by the turn of events, and in the listening to the Word, the voice behind me saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ~ Isaiah 30:21

I’m excited for what’s to come because now I know where my strength, and wind, and breath, and the fire in my soul comes from. Through God all things are possible, and He tells us to be bold and courageous because He’s got us. In, around, behind and before. In all ways and in all things. His presence reigns true.

May His face shine upon you,

Kiernan

A Life Worthy of One Simple Word

A Life Worthy of One Simple Word

In a world of words, I want just one.

Just one that jumps out and claims me.

One that tells a story within a story. One that speaks to the deepest darkest depths… of the heart of this writer’s life… the word that makes sense of the wild and crazy journey I’ve been on.

The word that has compelled me, sent me out into the world to find its meaning, because it existed inside of me before I understood it… and then went into hiding, but always… always it was there.

A word that has taunted me to seek it in the daily grind, in the excruciating pain that consumed me, and in the beauty of fleeting moments that I believed were sacred… but, discovered haunting loneliness instead.

Through ugly loves, choices of spirals that were misguided and flawed, because I believed in the lies that were not real, but acted against everything that on some level I knew was right.

Through beautiful loves too… loves that have given me hope in the seeking of a sustaining truth.

A word that sums it all up and turns it all upside down… inside out… makes it all right in the soul… in the breath… in the wings that hover and protect.

In the loving eye that has always kept me in sight… in the uttering of the word… in the qualities of holy… of the holiest of holies whispering.

In the gentlest of breath uttered by my ear and fluttering along my cheek that it makes me quiver.

A waft of it swirling up into my mind, down into the ventricles of living life pulsing with particles expanding… drawing me somewhere closer to the only known that matters.

There is a book, a second book. A memoir. It’s waiting for me to write it. It’s preparing me. I’m sifting through moments to explore it, to investigate what wants to be rescued, inviting the theme that wants to be revealed.

A word has moved ever so gently in… and onto a Post-it Note where I can gaze upon it, and give it space to shape its essence.

I was visiting my parents this week. It was a good day, a good visit. I brought out their tin of photographs and let their memories come alive. I had mum write names on the back of the old tattered black and white photos.

I listened to tales of long long ago. Eager and attentive to catch glimpses of parts of them I never saw, never knew. Maybe I would learn something that would help in the making of sense.

Then my breath caught and my eyes wettened, not quite spilling over, but close. There in the listening grew a certain amount of anxiety in me, maybe even panic.

Their recollections… their memories… their sagas would soon be lost. Where would they go? What tales would I remember, or not remember, because so often in the grasping to hold near what is dear, it slips away.

Where do all of our lives… just us ordinary folks… the memories of them… where do they go? Generation after generation?

Does it matter? I don’t know.

But, I began to comprehend that there was so much that I didn’t yet know about them. At 92 and 88 time is running out for me to find out.

Short catching breaths.

What happens if our family tree dies off? Who will remember? So many precious moments… where do they go? What meaning do they have… in their having once been… and then no more?

Maybe I should make time for more visits. Maybe I should write these recollections down… capture them somehow. So much to be grateful for that I have been blind to all my life.

Where we hurt. Our trials, our suffering, our rage, our injustices.

What if they are meant to be our gift and our strength. If only we look up and see through the eyes of God’s love. We might see something altogether different.

In a world of words, I want just one. No flashy subtitles. Just one word.

Maybe… because…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

~ John 1:1

This one sentence, it speaks to me daily. It informs me in ways I do not understand yet. Somehow, I feel it defines my life, or the life that I am in the unfolding.

The Word… the word… it gives itself to me. It chases me. It’s so good to me. It presents itself as a mountain to climb and a living water to swim in. It creates me alive.

In a world of words, I want just one. May it be so.

I wonder… if you had a word that told your story, what would it be?

In abiding love,

Kiernan

His Love Endures Forever

His Love Endures Forever

It is a happy day because His Love Endures Forever.

Every day is a happy day in this knowing… even in the midst of the mess… in the silence as my soul awaits for God alone to instruct me in His Word.

His Word… how did it come so alive in me?

One day I wanted nothing to do with it… I did try on occasion to read the Holy Book, but the words… they were garbled. I’d read and re-read and re-read because I couldn’t make them out.

What did they say? What were these confusing words? I’d put it all away, shaking my head, wondering what it was all about, and thinking it obviously wasn’t for me.

Something changed all that. Something I can only explain as His time… to call upon me… to say enough.

Enough of the seeking in all the wrong places. Enough of the years going by in circles, repeating patterns.

Enough of a lifetime of never feeling enough… of doubts… and aloneness, an aching aloneness even where love was everywhere… because worldly love is not the same as His Love.

One day a tap on the shoulder came… a whisper of hope, of love, of peace in the darkness.

Jesus.

He made Himself known to me. He encouraged me to call upon Him in my times of need. He said He was here to help us… in this world. There seemed to be an urgency about it.

He told me to draw Him close and not let go. He walked with me and somehow, He filled me up with hope… with teachings on a new way to live, in the knowing that He loved me.

He loved me?

He. Loved. Me.

My heart quickened. It softened. It opened. Calling upon Him… talking to Him… sharing all that tormented me in my brokenness.

And the Holy Book began coming alive in me…. In my fingertips as I turned the pages… in my eyes that thirsted for the Light coming off the Words… in my heart that filled up with a need to spill over… up, up, up the rivers flowed.

Now, the Words… they are the air I breathe. They live in me. Every. Day. They are my daily bread.

His very Word spoken to me.

“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”

~ 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

Oh yes!

What means this? How is it possible?

There were times in my dark hours, when I’d think of Him and His hand extended… my head bowed… my breathing hilting and labored… pain ruling my body… my ache for the ways I could not make me feel love for myself, and for all the ways this ache hit upon others as surely as a tongue lashing or a beating with fists.

And, I asked myself, “What have I got to lose?” in the reaching out and accepting the hand tendered.

This Way. This Truth. This Light. Stretching out from fingers to air to me. I took His hand, and He became my strength.

I didn’t understand it all. Surely, I didn’t.

I could never understand all the talk about Jesus having died for our sins. I could not wrap my head around that one. It made no sense to me.

I acknowledged Jesus existed. I acknowledged that he died on the cross. But, what sins? How could his death over 2,000 years ago have anything to do with me?

It took months of studying the scriptures and watching movies about the Bible and Jesus… it took me having to recite the events of His life time and again… it took my own life review, praying and making amends… understanding that sin was really anything that kept me from experiencing God’s Love (God’s Love is always there and always endures but that doesn’t mean we EXPERIENCE it, does it?) to make sense of it.

Then one day, as surely as the Holy Book claimed me… it came. I could look into His heart, as He could look into mine. His breath became the air I breathed. His Presence… the Living Waters of which I drank, and it felled me.

It felled me.

Love filled the aching emptiness and broke everything wide open… the mind… the heart… the soul. Wide. Deep. High. Open.

And, I understood the grace of his death was my saving. Does that make sense? I’m reading these words just written, and I don’t know… do they convey what it is for an anguished pounding heart delivered into a new life? From numbness, empty living to everlasting… ever eternal peace and joy?

His death for Love. His death for kindnesses. His death for peace. His death for Truth. His death for All.

His Risen.

Rises in each one of us who is ready and called to believe in the power of Love.

I can see the Love in His eyes. I can feel the Love in His walk with me… in His talk with me… in His heart that finds mine.

What is it like to surrender my ways, my will for the Holy?

I am found. I am new. I have new life.

I am defined by His promises, which are many… and, shaped by His Word.

So yes, oh happy day. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. To live, with all that comes with life, the loves and losses… in the knowing that His Love Endures Forever.

In the knowing that He Loves Me… and He Loves You, even if you’ve never heard His name… He Loves you too.

So yes, oh happy day. As brush to paint in the making of this piece ‘His Love Endures Forever’ – a little something to celebrate Him in glory. I’ve got a frame in mind to affix this (heavy textured paper) piece to… please pray I don’t wreck it in the process.

 

His Love Endures Forever by Kiernan Antares

His Love Endures Forever | 18 x 24″ Acrylic on Paper

 

 

Heart to heart, love to love, may His face shine upon you,

Kiernan

xoxo

An Invitation into the Sweetness of God’s Presence

An Invitation into the Sweetness of God’s Presence

I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.

~ Jeremiah 24:7

This. Right. There. If we but cut out the noise in the world, and tuned in to this whisper. It changes everything.

I felt it as a child. Moments of the touch of grace. In the spaces… in the pauses… in the empty. The promise of something… but what I couldn’t hear.

What I knew with certainty was that it was different than everything else. How could I live it, I couldn’t know.

But, it was there, always there… softly… quietly… like a flutter… a touch… of another living voice.

It felt like both something inside me, and somehow also in the spaces around me.

I felt it in the longing to know it, to understand it, to feel it… in the wanting for it to live me.

You, God, are my God,

    earnestly I seek you;

I thirst for you,

    my whole being longs for you,

in a dry and parched land

    where there is no water.

~ Psalm 63:1

When the new age philosophies captured my attention, I thought God was there. I fell for the promises, the lure of transformation and transcendence. But, nothing was real or sustaining. The promises were just that… promises that kept being broken… always in the tomorrow… that never comes.

I grew tired of the false promises… of the never-ending cycles of the sun, the moon, the stars, which I gave my power to… in the name of ascension.

I longed for something real… something sustaining… something that would fill me up day after day.

After so many years, two decades of these empty promises, when Jesus began to call for me it was confusing. Head shaking confusing. Yet, I felt His urgency. He wanted me. He wouldn’t give up. He wouldn’t leave me in the empty another day.

When I finally arrived… when I finally landed in His Church, in His Body I wanted to fall to my knees. His presence so filling… so over-filling it wracked me with sobs.

The beauty so immense. It stirred memories of moments of this grace… what my whole life longing amounted to… that space inside me that wanted to be lived.

The longing that lacked a name.

Lacked comprehension.

Blocked by the every dayness of living… and not listening.

The Holy.

Many months later, studying scripture, miraculous blessings upon blessings through the power of prayer and grace, baptism… the living waters… singing worship songs still threaten to overflow in a fountain of tears.

My beautiful sister-in-law and sister-in-Christ standing beside me, takes my hand tightly and whispers, “I can feel God’s Presence… here… with… us.”

The child in me remembers. YES.

That’s IT. The sudden realization. It’s God’s Presence… that I feel in those moments.

His ever loving… ever faithful… Presence.

I vow to remember. Always remember. Forever and ever.

“O beloved, why has not Love sufficiently overwhelmed you and engulfed you in her abyss? Alas! when Love is so sweet, why do you not fall deep into her? And why do you not touch God deeply enough in the abyss of his Nature, which is so unfathomable? Sweet love, give yourself for Love’s sake fully to God in love.” ~ Hadewijch, 13th-century Belgian Beguine poet and mystic

Not my strength. But His.

Not my will. But His.

Ever deeper into this Love.

Nothing less.

 

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