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578581_10150687627128173_981480591_n“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Regardless if you’re a die-hard Gilbert fan or nearly fell asleep during “Eat, Pray Love”, when it comes to happiness, it’s hard to ignore Gilbert’s caveat to us all: don’t become lax in your pursuit of happiness.

Having travelled all the way to Scotland, I myself resonate with Gilbert’s words. I too have travelled around the world looking for happiness. This pursuit of happiness hasn’t manifested itself as a result of a personal identity crisis or a widening gap between me and God, but I do believe that we all at some point in our lives are faced with a crossroads, and for some of us, the most logical thing to do, if we want to survive and to preserve all that we are, is to leave the comforts of familiarity and mediocrity and to travel somewhere new. This crossroads led me across the Atlantic.

Amidst all of the packing and moving and meeting new people and building new relationships, I have learned one of the most important lessons I think there is to learn – happiness is a constant choice and we will never stop choosing. Even in the direst of times, happiness is still a choice we can make. It is within our grasp. It may require discipline and effort (more effort than wallowing to your favourite Ben Howard song), but it’s worth the fight.

Even now as I sit here and write this to you, I wrestle with this decision. Choose happiness? How can I be happy about a situation that makes me sad and despondent? How can I be happy about having to leave this remarkable place, all of its quaint stone-cobble streets, and its quaint tea shops in just 21 days? For those of you who know me, I must leave the UK in 21 days – the country where I have called home for the past year and a half, the place where I met and fell in love with my fiancé, and the place where I have made genuine friendships. While I will return in spring with my fiancé visa (it’s not as glamorous as it sounds), these next 21 days are looming in front of me like a bad car-pile up on the A9. Instead of dreading each step closer to my day of departure however, I want you to join me in the art of pursuing happiness over the next 21 days. Think of something in your life that weighs you down or fights for your constant attention and demand. Over the next 21 days, I encourage you to meet that worry or concern head-on.

This is not a journey for the faint-hearted, but it will require you to demonstrate peace of mind and a lot of patience. Write your thoughts down. Make a list of things you are looking forward to today. Whatever you have to do, I want you to learn how to engage in habit replacement. Replace the negative with the positive. Instead of a “to-do” list, write a “to be” list. Each morning, write down the top 3 things you are looking forward to today that make you happy. Whether you are simply grabbing coffee with a friend, finishing that class essay, or trying out a new recipe, let’s actively participate in becoming “happy” people. No, I am not asking you to blindly tell yourself that you’re happy despite your car breaking down and your poor grade on a class test. What I am encouraging you to do however is to train your mind to focus on the good. Most (honest) people will admit that being positive doesn’t come naturally to them. It is the result of self-control, personal effort, and loads of patience. In the same way we train or bodies for a marathon, we too can exercise self-discipline over what thoughts we entertain and dwell upon. And I believe that over time, this thought exercise will become a habit to us, making us naturally more positive and happy people. Choosing happiness, particularly in the midst of difficulties is probably one of humanity’s greatest life lessons, but I believe that God requires His people to master their own minds, thus exercising self-control, one of the fruits of the Spirit. Philippians 4: encourages us to train our minds to think on “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.”

My name is Rachel and this is Where I Stand.