Under the Happiness Tree

Well, here I sit. Writing my very first Blog post.


Silly me, in true ADHD style, this is actually my second time writing it!  I started writing earlier, and noticed the “image” button on the left side of my screen, thought I would check it out!  Froze the computer. Had to just pull the plug from the wall………… And lost everything!

Oh well, I am NOT a newbie to “Try. Try again.” :/

I think God just needed to distract me from myself, and my fears. I know millions of people write blogs.  Everyone has a story to tell.  But for me, starting this stirs as much fear as it does joy and excitement!  I am SO ready; I am afraid!  Starting this blog wasn’t really my idea in the first place.  But, I can honestly say, that through many circumstances and through the encouragement from so many friends, old and new, I have felt a call to start this blog for a very long time.   If left to myself I would never start.  But people would keep commenting when I would share about our family life: “I read your Facebook post several times.”; “You should write a book.”; “I get so much inspiration from what you write.”   So many nudges, more frequent, more urgent, insisting I begin.  God to the rescue again as a beautiful young mom full of life and energy so enthusiastically offers to help me get a blog started!

Checkmate. Of love.

So, if you are a College professor who finds every post like fingernails on the chalkboard because my grammar and writing style have terrible punctuation; horrendous grammatical errors; and absolutely intolerable verbose compositional structure…….better unsubscribe now!

It is the thought of this smallness, and my incompetence being THAT visible, for all the world to see, that makes my knees shake.  And so I choose courage, especially because I feel my nothingness.  Grabbing God’s strong hand and leaping……….. With a full heart, cordially inviting you to follow our family journey, “Under the Happiness Tree” Sweet Pea & Lace Photography

We are the Kevin and Maureen Donnelly family.  And everyone who knows us, and especially my children, might just have a good chuckle when reading the name of this blog, “Under the Happiness Tree”.  BWAA-HAAA-HAAA! Happiness?  Your family? NOT.

Friends know what I mean.  Those who know our family would not associate us anywhere near the word happiness.  Our oldest daughter, Jen, has Down Syndrome.  Our second child, Maggie, is now married to a very wonderful man, and they have had their first daughter, Evelyn.  Our daughter Amie, who would be 26 years old, died shortly after she was born.  Our son, Sam, had two Open heart surgeries when he was a baby and toddler.  We lived so content and happy thinking that those surgeries were all that was needed to achieve health.  Last spring, after a whirlwind of sudden and unexpected emergency Cardiac hospital stays over the course of months and months, Sam had a complete redo of his heart reconstruction at Mayo Clinic.  Our son, Joseph lives with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and that poor guy just struggles to be stable these days.  Xavier is our son with the heart to conquer all things entrepreneur.  Agnes is our harp player.  Isabel, age 13 was recently diagnosed with NBIA Disorder – Type BPAN; it is degenerative and will lead to an early death.  Bernadette.  Bern. Bernie, Barney, Bernadetti, Bonedetti (does the baby of the family always end up with all the nicknames from all the brothers and sisters?!)…..She is the caboose, our sunshine, the one who keeps us all on our toes.

I know. You are thinking, “What?”  Or even, “Is she crazy?” HAPPINESS? All in all, you might be right, because our life is anything but!

Really, I would be lying if I said life is easy peasy in this house!  It can be downright beyond tough.  As I had prayed about the name for a possible blog, a thought would come and I would think about it, ponder for days, and pray some more. A few ideas came and went.  And then one day, the word “happiness” came into my mind.  Not funny God.  Really God, could we please be real here?  God kept putting the word “happiness” in front of me.  And the more I prayed and pondered, the more He put it right in my path.  Yep, some of us need to be hit between the eyes with a 2 x 4!  Lord, I am tired.  Pooped.  Spent. Exhaustified.  Exhaustified on steroids would kind of describe me these days.  Yet, God argued with me, “Yes, Maureen, you are like that these days, but… two truths remain.  Even in suffering, one can possess happiness.”  And He left me to think this over, and over.  Sometimes, when life is filled with overwhelming sorrow, I can only stay sane by looking at a crucifix.  Jesus, who suffered more than we could ever know was hung on the wood from a tree.  And yet that wasn’t where His life ended.  Yes, God wants us to know Easter Sunday too.  No matter how tough life is, there can also be joy.

At times of suffering, that is when joy becomes so much more meaningful to me.  I appreciate such little things that I probably took for granted in the past.  During times of great difficulty, it suddenly becomes more important to me that my children experience joy and happiness.  (which also means Mom letting go of the petty things of life!) At the same time, there are the moments when suffering is so excruciating that  I can hear the Blessed Mother tell young St. Bernadette Soubirous, “I cannot promise you happiness in this world; only in the next.”.   I would wonder about those words from one of my favorite childhood movies and wonder, “Is this just our lot? Happiness only in the next world?”

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Sam is five glorious, healthy months post Open heart surgery, and there are things I can see in hindsight!  Now that we are past all the wondering if God would take him from us and the dust is settling.  Sam is now off to work in the bustle and excitement of the city of Chicago, soaring with his strong spirit to live this new third chance God has given.  I miss him.  Yep, all those hospital stays were such a wonderful time for us to just BE.  We had hour after hour of card playing, visiting, joking and smiles ~ EVEN in all the fright and darkness of enormous life-and-death medical scares.  His siblings could come visit and later there were the train rides to the city for many doctor appointments.  We reached beyond ourselves to make these doctor trips a little adventurous by walking from place to place and seeing the city in all the beauty of Spring and Summer; sometimes even stopping at a new restaurant to share a meal as we went.

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Yes,  there was happiness.  It was there, even if we couldn’t see it then.  Even in all the worry, and in times when we thought he might die; there were so many times of simple joys.

We could not know the future.  Would God let our Sam stay?  Times we thought it was the end.  We could not see around the bend.  Fear could just get that death grip on our hearts.  Sometimes it would seem to paralyze me.  How?  How could we go on if Sam died?  We did not know what the outcome would be.

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Who suffers more, the parent?  Or the child?  I think it really tested us to the limit to grow in trust; heroically and with Childlike confidence, completely learn to just trust God. No. Matter. What. Many years ago, when our Amie died shortly after her birth, and I was so crushed I could not breathe, my mother told me something that I have carried with me all these years, “You have to take the good with the bad.”  HUH?????   Not like is an understatement!!

Through many years, after having more children, and living through many more good times and difficult times, I now know it is true. Every person has suffering, we all must have our time on the Cross.  If God himself had to suffer, why should we balk? (still working on that part)  How can there be happiness in all that seems so insurmountable, and so sorrow filled?  Because there will always be some choice on our part HOW we react to the difficulties.

I can let my heart get bitter, hardened, angry and resentful.  I can let fear rule.  I can choose otherwise.  And you know what?  I have no control how others want to live, but God gives me the complete choice to live out of the pain and sorrow, or to have the eyes to see and a heart to gratefully embrace all the blessings He places all along this path called life………honestly, if I can be grateful for all the gifts that come with the cross ~ There I find peace and rest, and even happiness in a very mysterious way.  And there?  There is where I want my family to be.

IMG_6485       IMG_5459 ………………………………..Under the Happiness Tree.


Friends, I hope for you all today, that no matter what difficulties you face, you find blessings, and all along the way ~ don’t let circumstances keep you from thanking God for the tiniest of blessings and don’t let sorrow or difficulties keep you from getting silly with your kids, enjoying a good laugh!  Under the Happiness Tree……

32 thoughts on “Under the Happiness Tree

  1. Maureen,
    I enjoyed reading your blog. It was wonderful. I have worked with your family for a long time now and I’ve always been amazed at how you keep it together. Anyone else would have lost it. You and Kevin have raised such wonderful children that have values, morals and respect. There is definitely a special place for you in heaven. It’s families like yours that has taught me to appreciate the wonderful things God has blessed me with in my life such as my family and friends and to try not to sweat the small stuff. God bless you and your family always.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maddalena,

      You are a very precious person in our family!! Thank you so much for all your sweet and uplifting words! And thank you for taking the time (when I know you have such a busy life yourself) to write! It means so much!


  2. What a wonderful start!!! Your blog was my prayer for today. Thank you. Under OUR happiness tree, we have you and thank God everyday. Love, mom and Bud


  3. Salt and light! Thank you for sharing the gift of your family, writing, and faithful perspective.

    May the world be blessed by your testimony that each day is a gift, that suffering is hard, but that the cross offers grace for hope and joy in midst (or soon after passing) of pain.

    Gratitude for the “now”. In every now. Not just the perfect or easy ones. The world thirsts for real stories of keeping faith through trials!

    Am glad God sent you that particular word to ponder. And that you and your husband have raised your family under the shade of the Happiness Tree.


      1. God bless you too! Had to return to your “story” before sleep. Have all of your wonderful people on my mind, in my heart.

        The banner that keeps running across my mental screen is this: if reality tv were like this blog, our world would change in a minute. A heartbeat.

        If more voices had the heart, bravery, and humility to show the “Both And” of the good AND bad (your mom was so wise, but am guessing at that time the hearing of it hurt when she planted that wisdom in your psyche), God’s grace AND our personal crosses, the praying thank you AND PLEASE help me get through this it is too much to bear… then we might look a bit more like the early Christian communities we read about in the Acts and Letters of the New Testament.

        Imperfect. But so hopeful! Caring and with real joy.

        So even though we have no tv in our home, tonight I will drift off imagining shows where the realities of life and death, marriage and family, mother and fatherhood, brother and sisterhood, faith and church, are all depicted through the lens of Trust in Him! With tears and prayers and simply silly moments guaranteed.

        The Divine Grace channel?!

        Good night and happy writing!


      2. Katherine! Thank you for our sweet words, I really appreciate you taking the time to write! You are so right. I think in heaven we will enjoy the fullness of the “Divine Smile”; here on earth we must live with the “Human cry” also. For me, it is such a challenge to start seeking God’s presence, ESPECIALLY in the difficulties. He is there, but sometimes I have to prayerfully step back to see where He was in it all! I like how you refer to it as a “lens”. Yes, that is it. Finding the correct lens to view my life and the circumstances that come our way. It changes what I see, it changes HOW I see. So many blessings, even on the toughest of days. I remember reading the story of St. Therese of Lisieux, and how she would say she wanted to be like a ball in the hands of God, content with however He handled her. She said that if God wanted to to toss her in the corner and just leave her there, she would be content……….to be content wherever, however, in all things, because it is His will. That is interior peace; true interior freedom, resting in Him……


  4. Thank you for this ! I to have struggles with the crosses God has chosen for me to carry, you story inspires me to leave it in the Dear Lords Hands!
    I dont know if I should cry or celebrate , you made me see that I need to trust in the Lord !
    Thank you for writing !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Maureen you have always inspired me with your never ending faith during trials and your ability to always smile. I see you as being an instrument, inspiring others during their own trials and sufferings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Louise,
      Thank you so very much for your kind words and taking time out of your busy day to write! It means so very much to me. For honestly, that is the part God does not let me see ~ how are difficulties and struggles might be a help to another. When writing it feels as if all we are doing is putting out things that are sad, or just that life is so tough…..

      So your words are so precious and I thank yo with a big hug!


  6. Thank you for sharing. Your words are such a blessing. I know I need to learn to choose happiness in the midst of suffering. I look forward to reading more of your family’s journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks LC! I just took a quick peek at your blog. It is so exciting to meet other moms in the throngs of life, and I am sure happy to meet you. (I will be trying your yummy chicken nugget recipe). And I appreciate your posting about the benefits of the Himalayan Pink. We have been trying to replace the bad table salt with healthier versions, and the Himalayan Pink was one I haven’t tried yet. Reading all those benefits means I will be sure to put it on my list for our next trip to Whole Foods. Where do you get yours? Hope you are having a blessed Holy Week! Yes, Confession is so good! I have that same trepidation about it beforehand too.


      1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I get my pink salt through Amazon. You can buy in bulk and set up a subscription so it comes automatically every few months. Holy Week is turning out to be busier than I would have liked, but I’ll just offer it up.

        Liked by 1 person

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