“Please tell me you’re happy”. Those words caught me off guard this week as I was grumbling about in my backyard picking weeds. I looked up to see a young mom standing at my back fence. She had two toddlers strapped into a jogging stroller, they were fighting over the Cheerios container and she looked weary. I came over to where she was standing and before I answered her I took a deep breath as a million thoughts were racing through my mind, the two most prevalent were… do I tell her the truth and quite frankly why is she asking me such a loaded question, I don’t even know her. The reality being I was not happy at that moment. The list was long… my son’s dog ate my favorite pair of shoes, I just yelled at my kids for not helping enough around the house, I was annoyed with my husband over something trivial, my air conditioner was broken and we were going to reach 96 degrees, I was missing my son who I just took to college, let’s see what else could I add to the- “ I’m not happy list”. Instead I said,” I guess it depends on the day, why do you ask?” She proceeded to tell me that she walks by house almost every day and she loves looking over the fence into my garden. She told me she pictured nothing but happiness at my house because the yard was so pretty. She proceeded to tell me how she was having such a bad day and all the things that were going wrong with her life. It took me less than a minute to realize how my grumpy heart had no right to be un-happy. This young mom was struggling and she just poured her heart out to a stranger. I felt this was my opportunity to share a little with her.

I told her that on most days I am happy. The crazy thing about happy is that happy is so deeply tied to our circumstances. There are days when I just don’t feel happy. As a matter of fact, she caught me at a very unhappy moment. I told her I try very hard to choose joy instead of happiness. I now found myself waist deep into an even deeper conversation with this sweet young mom. I told her to look closely where I was just standing. Did she see those thistles? If you look at my garden from the back fence you are only seeing it from one angle, you don’t see the weeds. From her vantage point the garden did look pretty. I pointed out the weeds to her and I could see the disappointment on her face. I then pointed her to the daisies and roses in full bloom and I told her the garden is still pretty it just has weeds. Life can be messy but it is still beautiful. I was saying all of those things not only to encourage her but to remind myself that we are all works in progress this side of heaven.

I think as women we play this game a lot. We look at another woman and we see how cute they are and how well behaved their children are and we think badly of ourselves. We look at other women and their lives from the same view point this young mom had seen my garden, peering over the fence from a distance. The reality is we all have mess in our lives. There are always going to be thistles in the garden so to speak. So our challenge is we can either be grumpy or joyful. I also told her it is important not to gloss over the mess. I reminded her I was pulling the weeds. I don’t want them in my garden.

We hugged over the fence and went our separate ways. I think God knew she needed encouragement from a stranger and I needed a good reminder to choose joy despite the days circumstances. Today as I was watering my flower pots on the deck I noticed my new friend once again peering over the fence. This time she smiled and gave me thumbs- up. Today she chose to look through the mess and see the beauty that is life !