Tears of joy at the dry cleaners? Yes. I'm just that sappy (and thankful).

I am finally home to stay for a while after a fun "kid" week at the beach followed by two relaxing nights at The Greenbrier with John. Both trips I very much looked forward to and enjoyed tremendously. But I drove eleven hours by myself on Saturday so that I could be home in my own bed for one night before leaving again. I didn't even have time to unpack. I just grabbed a few evening clothes that weren't necessary at the beach and left everything else in my suitcase. I love waking up at the beach and I loved waking up at The Greenbrier. But it feels so good to settle in and just enjoy being in my own home this morning.

I love the beach more than ever these days. But it's not just the beach I enjoy more than ever.
It's everything.

I frequently hear this comment from people:
"You are such a happy person."
And "You are always smiling."

A lady at the dry cleaners yesterday said to me, "You are so happy." And even though I have heard this comment many times in recent years, I'm always surprised at the observation. It catches me a little off guard because I'm not ever thinking about "acting" happy. I just am. You don't realize how other people are seeing you; especially when they meet you for the first time. I'm never thinking about how I am being perceived in those moments. I'm usually just going about my business and doing something mundane, like taking a dress to the cleaners. Maybe people don't smile when they go to the dry cleaners. Because I remember when I first started going to my previous cleaners in Murfreesboro and the woman who took care of me said: "I love when you come in. You are always smiling. Big, big smile. You make my day!" I thought: Really? I make her day because I smile? Is it that rare to see happy people? My typical response is that I AM happy. Very happy and very blessed and very thankful.

Maybe that is what people see in my smile. I don't think it is just happiness. I think it's my thankful heart. Because I can't tell you how many times I am telling God, as I drive around or shop at Walmart or cook a meal, that I still can't believe what HE has done with my life. And I am constantly thanking Him.

I was asked by the new acquaintance at the dry cleaners why I moved here, and I mentioned John and the new dealership. When she said, "You're so happy," I told her I am so happy and blessed. I told her that I am married to the most wonderful guy and I feel like this area is such a perfect fit for him, which also makes me happy. I said, "He is such a good man and I feel like he is appreciated for that here." And my eyes filled with tears. Because I wasn't just making conversation or throwing a compliment at my husband. Those words came from my heart. I made fun of myself and told them it wasn't the first time I have ever teared up talking about my husband. When I told John about this last night, he said they probably think I'm a little wacky (and not just happy) now. But my thankfulness is not a superficial thankfulness. It goes so very deep. My life could have been so different today. And the transformation is all about God's grace and God's redemption. If my future had been dependent on me and my wisdom, the outcome would have been different. I'm so sure of that. There is such a contrast between the person I am today and the person I once was.

I wasn't always known for my big smile. In fact, I remember someone asking me in an office lunch room once (when I was in my early twenties), "Don't you ever smile?" I will never forget how much it bothered me. I didn't think of myself as an unhappy person. And the observation jolted me. That was not how I wanted to be or how I wanted to be perceived by others. I wasn't an overly friendly person back then, either. But I wanted to be different. And I worked on changing. Although I was pretty good at rising above my circumstances and focusing on my blessings rather than my problems (this was my coping style), I realize now that I was never truly happy or fulfilled back then. Not the way I am today.

If you know me or my story, you know that God has dramatically changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. God's abundant redemption is so much bigger than our imaginations. And the transformation God has brought to my life here on earth has enlarged my imagination of how amazing eternity will be when He redeems His entire creation. If we could imagine it, we would run toward it, not away from it. We would take no extraordinary measures to prolong our lives here or cling to this world. But because our minds are so limited (and smaller than we think), we struggle to embrace what is unseen.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 reminds us: For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I feel like God has given me an appetizer "taste" of the truth in this verse. It is the contrast between what I've suffered in the past and the joy of today that enables me to fully appreciate and savor the sweetness of my happy marriage. And because I lived in bondage and deception for so many years spiritually, I have developed a deeper love and appreciation for the Gospel and salvation.

I am a morning TV person. I watch Morning Joe from 6:30 to 7:00. And then I switch over to the TODAY SHOW or GMA. I listen to the same news and fluff stories in much the same way a sports junkie listens to ESPN stories that loop over and over. At times, it's nothing more than background noise while I piddle on the computer or get household chores done. But this morning I decided to turn the TV off and listen to my son's last three sermons online. And I'm so glad I did. Danny has such a way of illuminating the Bible for me as one story of God's redemption plan. I don't think it's just because he's my son. Of course I'm proud of him and I think he's a good speaker. But what I love most about his preaching style is that I hear his heart in every message. He preaches in a conversational style, not in a preacher's voice. He isn't dramatic and he doesn't sound rehearsed. He's just Danny. He's genuine and natural. He's passionate about his faith. And it's rare that he does not have an emotional moment at some point in the sermon. He's not being a speaker when he preaches. He is sharing his heart. There is such a difference. And I love that about his sermons.

When he was being ordained and taking vows, there was a moment of silence as he struggled to maintain composure. Feeling the weight of his vows and the inadequacy that we all share as human beings, he was moved to tears and hesitated. For anyone who didn't know him, it might have seemed like he was having second thoughts. But it was the opposite. He was feeling the heaviness of spiritual responsibility.

As a mom, I wish God would call Danny to West Virginia. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but I really would love to hear him in person every Sunday. However, since that isn't the call, I'm so thankful for podcasts. Even though I'm hundreds of miles away, I can hear every sermon online. And I can share them on my blog. Danny doesn't frequently include details about his past beliefs in sermons, but he has shared a little more in these three; especially the second one (Beautiful, Saving Power). I always feel a renewed sense of hope after listening. And I think that is partly because I know what a miracle we both are. We serve an awesome God.

Each of these links will take you to that sermon's podcast.
Each sermon is approximately 20 minutes in length.