On Cultivating Places of Happyniss

In Chicago, I lead a small homework center where kids can come and work on their math and reading and everything in between. It’s certainly not what I thought I would do in life, but I love it. Maybe that will be the title of my next book because that seems to be a theme in my life.

Most days I feel completely unqualified to run this center, especially when the kids pack it out, and I run from table to table, trying to help as many kids as possible. So much of my life in Chicago is an example of how the Lord will use us even when we feel completely unqualified or lacking or weak. All He wants is our “yes.” 

Despite my many inadequacies and shortcomings, this little homework center is a joy and a delight. Kids come even if they don’t have homework because they want to play games or get out of the house or just spend time with our teachers. This place humbles me in the most profound ways and delights me when I least expect it. 

A few months ago, a girl asked me if she could write a note on one of our white boards. She’s one of the most polite and thoughtful kids I’ve ever met, and when I saw what she had written, joy filled my entire body. 

This place is full of happyniss. 

My sweet friend is from a devote Muslim family. My team and I try to walk the fine line of being bold in sharing our faith while also fully respecting the decisions of many Muslim and Hindu families. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we fail and fall down. For me, this was a moment we got it right. 

We share verses from the Bible at homework center, but we don’t preach to the kids. We don’t turn people away because we belong to different faiths. My team welcomes everyone who walks through our doors, and we do our very best to love like Jesus did—constantly and without reservation.

So often all we can do is show up, love others, and carry the Holy Spirit. That’s it. That’s what we do every day at homework center, or at least that’s what we try to do. And even in our weaknesses and mistakes, the Holy Spirit used us, because this “happyniss” wasn’t from us. I believe it is the joy of the Lord, the moving and working of the Holy Spirit in our small space. And my prayer is that someday, my sweet friend would collide with this God—the God who made her and loves her and takes her as she is. 

I’m convinced that we need fewer words and more tangible actions that speak love to those around us. We need less preaching and more actions led by the Holy Spirit. Friend, if you are a follower of Jesus, you carry Him. You carry the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the world would know we are His followers because of our love for others. May the fruit of our lives be the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

May you spread more than just “happyniss” today.
May you carry Jesus.
May you carry the Holy Spirit.
May you carry His love. 

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