Things that make me happy!

 

Happiness can feel elusive during some seasons of life. I’ve been a little down lately, I think because of turning 60 and facing the fact that life is short. When you turn 40 or 50, you still have lots of good years to come, God willing, but at 60, you have to face the fact that you are past the half way point. For me, I have felt a little introspective and kind of down about that, wondering if my life matters and whether anything I’ve done will count for eternity.

The reason I decided to write about happiness on the blog is that I recently traded in my old and well worn car for a new one. In the past, I would have been so happy and excited to get a new car, even one with minimal bells and whistles (‘cause I’m cheap that way).  This one has plenty of them though because the only requirement I had was heated seats and that package was an upgrade from the basic package but I went for it anyway. In Montana, heated seats are the best. The point is, I realized that material possessions just don’t bring that much in the way of real or lasting happiness. In fact, as I made the first payment, I grimaced a bit! Happiness and satisfaction aren’t found in fancy cars, big houses, jewelry, or clothes. I am thankful to have a reliable, safe car to drive, but it really doesn’t make me happy. Happiness flows from a heart that is filled with gratitude and contentment.

So here is my list of happy things.

Waking up next to my husband of almost 43 years:   I honestly adore that man!

Hearing my grandkids yell “Grandma” as they jump in my arms at church:   Psalm 127:3 says “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” My boys, their wives and my grandkids are a very great reward indeed.

Books:   I know I talked about this in my last blog but reading a good book is such a pleasure. I am currently trying to expand my reading repertoire a bit and explore books I’ve ignored in the past. Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night is one of those. I confess to preferring political thrillers and sci-fi!

Flowers :  What is more beautiful than a bouquet of lovely, colorful flowers? Small and simple or large and complex, flowers are a gift of God. I love seeing the bouquets come in for hospital patients. They cheer up not just the patient but the nursing staff as well.

The Garden :  Growing vegetables is just plain happy. The crunch of a carrot freshly pulled from the warm garden soil and brushed off on my jeans is the best treat.

Riding my bike :   There is something special about pedaling along, smelling fresh cut alfalfa, seeing deer, eagles, elk– even snakes – and just knowing the freedom of the ride. What a joy to pedal along a country road and see things up close rather than from behind the windows of a car.

Without a doubt, happiness is found not in material goods or money but in the relationships that define us, the attitudes of the heart, the willingness to reach out and try new things,  but most of all in serving the Lord for years knowing that one day, He will welcome me home for eternity. And that is enough to make me smile!

Thoughts on Reading

There is no doubt that I love to read. Books have been my good friends all my life. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve going to the local library in Monte Vista Colorado, my hometown, and heading home with all the books I could carry. Some of my husband’s grumpiest memories probably include loading and moving my boxes and boxes of books over the years as we’ve gone from Colorado to Alaska to Washington and on from there.

I have spent the last month reading instead of blogging. Whenever I feel stressed, I find that turning to a good book (or 10) helps. Of course, there is one Book that absolutely changes my life and renews my mind and that is the Bible. Every day, the Bible is the one trustworthy place to find truth and wisdom.

As I read other books, I find it necessary to always be comparing the truth of the Bible with what the author is communicating in whatever I’m reading, whether it’s a relaxing work of fiction, or a book about history, life, science and ideas. It is so important to learn to read well, with discernment, fully engaged in the book but also completely seeking to compare the truth of God’s Word with what the author is saying.

So here are some thoughts on a few of the books I’ve read this month.

The More of Less by Joshua Becker: I really did enjoy this book about “Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own”. The author has great ideas about minimalism and getting from clutter to clear. He offers assignments to help you begin the process and directions to keep moving forward.  It seems that, as a Christian, Becker is trying to take seriously Jesus statement in Luke 12:15 NASB: “Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not [even] when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” His main premise is that, in fact, too much stuff gets in the way of a life well lived.

But here is where the discernment comes in- Becker comments that he believes that Jesus was trying to tell the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 that all his possessions were keeping him from becoming all that he was intended to become.  This smacks of the current fad that says we must all find our passion and potential in life in order to live life to the fullest. What I believe Jesus was teaching here is that when we put anything ahead of Him, be it possessions, jobs, passions, books, or really anything,  that is idolatry and there is no place in the life of a follower of Christ for idolatry. Yes, we are drawn to worship many things instead of the one true God, and we must repent of that idolatry. Discernment, according to Spurgeon, is the ability to distinguish between truth and almost truth. This is a good example of “almost truth”. And it is hard to see.

There are other examples in his book I could point out, but I am not going to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Becker has many good and practical ideas for moving toward a life where possessions are not my idols, and stuff doesn’t dominate my time and energy. Being careful that minimalism doesn’t become an idol in and of itself!

Quiet by Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Just the subtitle of this one grabbed my attention. It perfectly describes my world at work! There are times I really want to shout “just stop talking for a minute!”

There is a lot of psychobabble in this book which I ended up skimming over, but really enjoyed the section titled “Does God Love Introverts? An Evangelical’s Dilemma” and the section titled “On Cobblers and Generals: How to cultivate quiet kids in a world that can’t hear them”.

I love that she discusses the ways introverts work and relate in a positive way and highlights the value of being quiet.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers:

This one is a most enjoyable mystery novel set in England in the 1930’s. The language is more formal than novels of today, so it takes a bit of getting used to, but the story quickly grabbed my interest and held it.

I found this book appealing because it develops the themes that surrounded women of that era. Can a woman get and use an education? Can a woman live a fulfilled life outside the norms of marriage and children? Can a woman actually be an intelligent and independent human being? And all this set in the midst of a mysterious threat at the protagonist, Harriet Vane’s alma mater. Sayers actually did graduate from Oxford, so much of the action in this story flows out of her experiences there.

Again – discernment. I am not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, yet I am grateful for my education, my career and even more for my husband and my family. Give this one a chance – its part of a mystery series that Sayers wrote featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.

So I’m still reading but back to blogging too!