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"If only (fill in the blank) would happen, I would be happy"

This was the question posed in my devotional this morning, "If only (fill in the blank) would happen, I would be happy". Right away, almost instantly, my mind jumped to 'If only"... I won the lottery, the sun would shine, I had a new car, I lived somewhere else, I could sink my feet in warm sand, I could hear the sound of the ocean tide, I was on an airplane headed to Hawaii, I met a great guy, I could afford a muscle car, I was thinner, I wasn't chronically ill, I could wake up with my grand babies camping out in my living room, I had the next million dollar idea. That list kept rolling in my brain as it literally can go on, and on, and on, and on unchecked... I think you get the idea. It is easy to fill in the blank when you can pick literally anything--real or imagined. But what happens when you have to take a step back, claim your sane brain, and fill in the blank with something real and tangible? That question takes on a whole new meaning.

I have lived most of my life under the guise of 'If only'... and to tell you the truth, it stunted my growth (no pun intended... hehe!). 'If only' kept me from taking risks, from believing in my dreams, from stepping out of my shyness. 'If only' kept me hidden behind my anxiety and my fear. Never, not once, did I simply turn to face 'If only' and tell it to get lost, to go away, to demand it stop following me around like a dark shadow--even through really (really) great moments of my life. 'If only' would sneak in like a thief and steal the joy right out from beneath me sending me flying to land with a thud on my rumpus--which, by the way, I kinda deserved. After all, I was the one who kept clinging to 'If only' no matter how hard I tried to convince myself otherwise. I honestly didn't even understand the true grip it had on my life (or rather, I had on it) until I would hear 'If only' sneak out of my mouth during share times while in my recovery groups. I can still remember hearing myself share 'If only' I could meet a descent man. 'If only' I had a better job. 'If only' I could go back to when I was a child. 'If only' I could bring someone back into my life that was no longer there. And my 'If only's' just kept dragging along behind me like an extension of who I was--and who I wanted to be. I had become so comfortable with 'If only' that it was my first thought when I woke up in the morning, my last thought when I closed my eyes at night, and the thought that would surface in my brain when I looked at my happy, beautiful life. Somehow, someway... 'If only' became my constant companion. An even bigger truth, 'If only' emerged as a shadow, yet again today, as I was reading that question from my devotional.

So how do you answer that question honestly, without concern of your humanness showing? Are those things that flooded my brain when first responding to that question wrong? Not really, I was just being human. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win the lottery (who hasn't had that dream unrealized?!). There is nothing wrong with wanting the sun to shine on a cloudy day. There is nothing wrong with wanting a new car (we all do sometimes!). There is nothing wrong with a desire to live somewhere else (unless your desire has to do with running away from your life and you in it). There is nothing wrong with sinking your feet in the warm sand or hearing the sound of the ocean tide (deep sigh!). There is nothing wrong with wishing you were on an airplane headed to Hawaii (Hello?!). There is nothing wrong with a desire to meet a great guy (I do believe they are not extinct). There is nothing... I repeat nothing wrong with wanting to afford a muscle car (wink! wink!). There is nothing wrong with wishing you were thinner (especially if you've put on the extra Covid '19'). There is nothing wrong with wanting to be healed from chronic illness (we all want to feel good!). There is definitely nothing wrong with wanting to wake up to see my grand babies camped out in my living room (as any grandparent can attest). And wishing--or dreaming, that I had the next million dollar idea... I think this one comes with being made of flesh and bone (just bein' honest). So... my answer to "If only (fill in the blank) would happen, I would be happy" is (drum roll please)... to let go of "If only".

The answer is simple--just be grateful. Be grateful for the lack of not winning the lottery--this lack is teaching you a lot about yourself and what you are made of. Be grateful when the sun does shine, it helps you to appreciate the beauty of the clouds. Be grateful with the car-or pickup truck-or bike- or bus that you count on to get you from one place to the next & appreciate the fact that you can either afford what you do have-or-that you no longer have payments to make. Be grateful for where you live right now even if you might wish you lived somewhere else--by staying focused on what 'might' lie ahead, you are missing out on the beauty that surrounds you right now, this very minute. Be grateful that you have experienced the joy of sinking your feet into warm sand and listening to the sound of the ocean tide, and let that motivate you toward taking steps to make a short trip to do just that, or to prompt you to pull out some old photos of when you did just that (plans and photos have a way of touching our soul in a deeper space). Be grateful that, when the time is right, you will be standing in line to board that airplane headed to Hawaii (there is nothing wrong with wanting to plan a vacation as long as you are not putting your life on hold for it!). Be grateful for the fact that you are working on becoming a better you before you meet that great guy so that you both will be ready to embrace a new relationship. Be grateful that God created muscle cars and that His plan and purpose for you life might just include one (wink! wink!). Be grateful that you have had food to eat and that you have not had to go without even if your waistline has let out a bit--you have a lifetime to get thinner, or stronger, or leaner. Be grateful that you wake up each day and use your chronic pain as a reminder that God has great plans for you--even and especially with chronic illness. Be grateful for the hoards of silly memories of camping out with your grand babies, being smothered with kisses and cuddles and tickles and loves (nothing... nothing compares!). And be grateful that God keeps handing out million dollar ideas-- this is your chance to celebrate others who have succeeded or are thriving in their life (being happy for others goes a looooong way towards being happy regardless of what you get out of it).

Change your 'If only' to... "When I feel grateful, I feel happy!". It's that simple :)

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