Risky business!!!

Our mouths were filled with laughter,

our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

"The LORD has done great things for them."

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

Psalm 126: 2-3

Happiest U.S. States Pinned Down

A new study found that a person's self-reported happiness matches up with objective measures of state-level happiness.

The results are based on an examination of two data sets, one that included personal reports of happiness for 1.3 million Americans and the other that included objective measures, such as how crowded that state is, air quality, home prices and other factors known to impact quality of life.

Click here to learn more about the survey and what it means.

Here are the 50 U.S. states (and the District of Columbia) in order of their well-being:

Drumroll please..................................

1. Louisiana..............................? Really??

Since we moved here a year and a half ago, we've heard many sob stories about high murder rate and currupt government, so needless to say, when I clicked on that link, I fully expected to see my new home state at the far bottom of the list..... When I saw it at #1! I was shocked to say the least! Of course, now people around here would probably say we were so happy last year because we just knew the Saints would be going to the Super Bowl!! :)

Nevertheless, despite the murder rate in New Orleans and the corruption, Chris and I love Louisiana and had an amazing 2009! It wasn't always an easy year, I miss my family and friends back in Georgia more than I can begin to express here, and we have certainly shed many tears over many different circumstances over the course of the year. However, we are filled with joy! We may not have always felt like the happiest people in the happiest state in the country, but "the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!"

From some Biblical curriculum Chris has from long ago, he shared with me this description of happiness vs. joy:

"True joy is far deeper than happiness; we can feel joy in spite of our deepest troubles. Happiness is temporary because it is based on external circumstances, but joy is lasting because it is based on God’s presence within us. As we contemplate his daily presence, we will find contentment. As we understand the future he has for us, we will experience joy. Don’t base your life on circumstances, but on God."

This challenge, to not base our life on circumstances, has become an exciting adventure for Chris and me, and as we have entered into a new year and a new decade, I pray that we continue to look at life and joy in this way. I pray that we contemplate His daily presence in our everyday circumstances, and I pray that we continue to find contentment, even if things aren't always so easy.

One thing that I have been convicted of recently is the lack of risk in my life, which, to me seems to indicate a lack of true faith. I know, I know, it took a lot of faith and was a big risk to move out here not knowing anyone, every hurricane season is a bit of a risk, working with youth and being transparent with them is always a risk.... But you better believe all of our ducks are in a row, just in case something crazy and unexpected happens!

Just in case.........? Where is the faith in that phrase? If God called us to do something radical for Him, would we be willing to risk our financial or physical well-being? Of course if He calls us to to it, He will take care of the details, but are we ready, and are we even open or willing to hear Him calling us to risk our comfort or reputation for Him? I know I've passed up on many opportunities where I have felt the calling to risk something, but I've been too scared.... I think I'm ready now to take some risks for Him in this new year, I believe He's calling me and all of us to do that every day..... If you don't believe me, open your Bible to Hebrews 11, where the author chronicles the many risks that believers through history have taken because of their faith!

This is one story, in particular, that we've been talking about in Sunday school with the youth recently, and it's the kind of risk-filled faith that I desire and pray for: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18) I don't know how many times I've read this story, but until we went through it with the youth group, I never realized theHUGE faith it took to actually put this into practice. I highly recommend reading the whole story if you never have....

So... I'm ready to do it! I'm ready to skydive without a parachute, jump into the will of God, and instead of pulling strings or rip cords myself, I'm ready to allow Him to do all the work, and to find joy and contentment wherever and however He lands me! I hope you'll join me this year, so that by 2011, each of us will have our own "By faith...." chapter that we can share to encourage others and enhance His kingdom! I think that's where each and every one of us will find true joy and contentment, despite whatever craziness surrounds us!

I challenge you to join me in this: live in prayer and in His word, ask Him what He wants you to do for Him today, ask Him for strength in that and then just do it! No worries, He holds us in the palms of His hands! He will bring us peace, He will bring us joy!

Thank you all for your love, and your continual prayers for Chris and me and the ministry we've been entrusted with! We Love you all very much!


Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God every time I remember you;

in all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy!"

Philippians 1:3&4

Click here if you would like to see the rest of the "happiest states" list: