Monday, August 30, 2010

Happiness Project, Intro to Chapter 5

"Research shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life," writes Gretchen Rubin on page 113 of the Happiness Project.

Tough truth to hear when 99% of what you do isn’t fun. I don’t like cooking. I don’t like laundry. I don’t like cleaning or disciplining children. I don’t like driving them all over creation either....

"Studies show that each common interest between people boosts the chances of a lasting relationship and also brings about a 2 percent increase in life satisfaction." (p. 119)

Bummer. I’m not that into what my kids are into. Yikes. I really want lasting relationships with them.

Oops. I haven’t finished the chapter. I didn’t realize I hadn’t finished the chapter until I sat down to type this blog. Why did I choose now to write this blog? Because I had some unexpected play today and Chapter 5 is entitled: Be Serious About Play.


So, even though there are plenty of parts of my job that are really NOT fun. Even though I’m not into what my kids are into and I spend the vast majority of my time with them, there are ways to play.

Tonight I enjoyed the privilege of attending my Boy Scouts’ Court of Honor. An occasion in which they receive numerous awards. My boys raked it in tonight. Yeah! Worth celebrating. But before we left the house, this was the NOT FUN conversation.

Me: Zach! Did you wash your shirt when you got home from camp?!
Zach: Yeah.
Me: It’s filthy!
Zach: It is?
Me: You can’t wear that tonight.
Zach: I have to.
Me: TAKE IT OFF now, it’s going into the wash. I can’t let you go looking like that...

Horrendous Mommy Moment. I know. When we all get to heaven no one will care that his Boy Scout Class A Uniform shirt was dirty. But the Mommy Monster took over and me and Shout It Out had a party in the laundry room. Big Brother, and eldest child, who was recently nominated Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) starts having a fit because he’s doing the math on the time. Stress. Anxiety. And it’s all my fault. A NOT FUN mommy moment, indeed. SPL will be late to his first Court of Honor that he has to direct.... yada yada yada.

Fast forward 30 minutes. I took the clean class A out of the wash. Threw it in the drier. Numerous debates ensued over the time issue. How long does it take for a Boy Scout Class A Uniform shirt to dry enough to wear it?????

Me: Zach, take it out.
Zach: Now?
Me: Yes, now. It’s time to go.
Evan, new SPL: We’re already going to be late.
Me: No, we are not.
Zach: It’s wet.
Me: It won’t be when you get there!

When we got into the car I told Zach to hang his shirt out to dry on the way. We had FUN! Zach dodged cars, (think - matador!), as we let his shirt take wing on our windy roads. And guess what? It DRIED. Upon arrival Zach looked as spiffy as the rest of his troop.

It wasn’t planned, so I know this doesn’t count as the “regular fun” the research recommends. It wasn’t the kind of “common interest” the studies refer to either.
But we shared a common goal.

I’ll have to finish the chapter to find out what it really means to be serious about play, but on this occasion, we found the fun. We laughed. We rejoiced. We played.

A definite 2 percent increase in life satisfaction, for all of us tonight.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What do you see?

What do you see when you look at this picture?

You notice the candle thingy?

What do you notice about the candle thingy?

For years, I’ve only noticed the paisley design. There’s a vine-like leaf pattern, too. These are the patterns I have noticed. That’s probably why I bought it. I like nature. I think I’ve owned this Yankee Candle accessory for 5 years. Maybe more.

Funny though. I never noticed the hearts. Never. Not til today.

This morning, while praying for God’s mind and heart, this homey, sweet smelling bit of tchotchke was sitting front and center. I happened to be looking at it. This morning, I looked at it in a new way. I saw the hearts.

I realized that often, I don’t see God and in my frustration, I keep seeing the same things. Usually negative. Usually things I have to work hard to fix. Just like I haven’t really seen the heart pattern on this familiar piece of decor, I miss what is in front of me. Today, like the blind man I can cry out, “I was blind but now I see.” What’s important to recognize is that just as Jesus healed the blind man, Jesus needs to heal me. I can’t show myself these things. He must do it. He opens eyes.

As I think through my relationships, I know, too that I often ask my friends this question, “What am I not seeing?” or “What am I missing?” or “Am I interpreting this correctly?” Perhaps my conscience knows what a failure I seeing things way God’s sees them.


But what I love about God is that simple requests, the simplest prayers always seem to get answered.

Like, help me have compassion. The next thing I know I’m sobbing at everything. I donate time toward the leukemia society. I actually walk up to the people begging for money and offer them something, so they don’t have to ask. I pray for the woman in the store being mean to her children, instead of walking away with that self-righteous chip on my shoulder.

Like, help me love my husband.

Like, help me love my children.

Like, help me love You, oh, Lord.

My most recent prayer: Help me see what You see.

What are you seeing? Most importantly, what do you need to see? What simple prayer might you prayer inviting God to open your eyes?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Happiness Project, Chapter 4

Lighten Up.

God knows, I need to lighten up!

In fact, in a group of people last spring I boldly proclaimed, “I need to find ways to have more fun!”

Have I done it? Nope. Not really. But I’ll blog about that in Chapter 5. Chapter 5 is my favorite so far, but here we go on Chapter 4. One chapter at a time....

What resonated most with me was found on pg. 98-100. The author was discussing the importance of people’s feelings, specifically her children. Gretchen Rubin writes, “We should acknowledge the task is difficult (in the case of a child’s frustration or complaint)....Experts say that denying bad feelings intensifies them; acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return.” Please read it again. Slowly. I think it works even with adults. Have you found that to be true?

Many years ago I prayed to become a more compassionate person. I knew I was heavily task oriented, and I needed something to help me live more in the moment. Prayer change things. I still err on the side of duties and check-lists, but I am more aware of my tendencies and mindful to put people first. When my children were losing it, I began to stop what I was doing. Then, I would pause to feel their pain. Filled with genuine sympathy I say, “Oh, what a bummer.” With my husband I use, “Man, that really stinks.” A few simple feeling words is enough for most people. For me, it reduces my natural inclination toward should-ing and shaming and empowers me to sympathize a little better. Now that I know what the “experts say”, I hope those I love feel heard and understood. Hopefully, I have helped them to lighten up.

I love this Bible verse from Romans 12: Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. It’s part of what it is to love people. I try to keep that verse in the back of my mind. I think the simple principle is often the sugar that helps the medicine of life go down.

Other aspects of the chapter are like this one. It's stuff I already know. I keep photo albums of happy memories. “...recalling the past amplifies the positive.” Traditions are important. I’m not so good at that as our holidays are different each and every year, but we have a few basic traditions we enjoy as a family.

Take Away Point: When burdened, I need to lighten up a lot.

I like what Rubin advises about identifying the problem. Sometimes, it requires simplifying something. Sometimes, it is realizing that the work you are doing IS important to you, even if it is a momentary trouble.

The Bible says, “God loves a cheerful giver.” So, whether it is cooking up a storm for holiday guests, driving my kids to music lessons on a stormy afternoon, or wrapping Christmas presents at 11PM on Christmas Eve, I can anticipate the joy, savor the event as it unfolds, and express the happiness of the moment when it comes. Singing along with my children as they play Christmas Carols on the piano Christmas morning is the culmination of all this good effort. Forever, I get to recall those happy times and will have the pictures to prove it....

Thank you God for using your Word to lighten my path before I read Happiness Project, Ch. 4. Thank you God for your compassion on me, for hearing my prayer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's a Ladybug World

I experienced a ladybug miracle last week. One of those wonderful moments in a person’s life when you say, “Remember when.....”

I’ll always remember the first time I saw a bald eagle, perched in its nest, regal and still. I’ll always remember the time a red tailed hawk swooped into my suburban backyard to snatch an innocent bird at my feeder. I’ll even remember the time I carelessly hopped over a baby rattlesnake because I wasn’t paying attention. And I’ll remember this day at the river with some of my Ladybug People.

Once I wrote about ladybugs. They eat the aphids that suck the life out of the blossoms on my roses. Ladybugs are my friends. They help me bloom. I’ve been blessed with many in my life and continue to enjoy little reminders. I don’t know if I was blooming in their presence the other day when we were all together, but I know I couldn’t help but catch a whiff of their sweet aromas... sugar, spice and everything nice, rosy, serene with a hint of sunscreen.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Learn the Lesson of Not

Can you see it? The lazy days of summer are coming to an end. We are starting school next week. I just found out we need to leave our house at 7AM Tuesday mornings because Zach has a class that starts at 8. Wasn’t expecting that. Evan doesn’t get out of his classes til 3. You do the math. One long day. I’m sure this isn’t the end of surprises as we face a new school year. Homeschooling’s like a box of chocolates, don’t you know?

I wanted to share with you something I read from Sit Walk Stand (originally published in 1957). I don’t know why I want to share these things. I just do. I also know that people who don’t comment, are reading my blog. So, comments or no comments. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes we give gifts with wrapping paper and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we write thank you notes and sometimes we don’t. It’s not the receiving that counts.... It’s the giving....

Watchman Nee writes the following in the chapter entitled: Stand

John 5:19, “ The Son can do nothing of himself.” How often in the books of Acts we find the Holy Spirit prohibitions! (... he mentions Acts 16) Yet this book is the book of the acts of the Holy Spirit, not of His inactivities. Too often we think that the actual doing is what matters. We have to learn the lesson of not doing - of keeping quiet for him. We have to learn that if God does not move, we dare not move......

.......The abiding principle of all true christian work is, “In the beginning God.” (Gen 1)

...all work, to be effective, must depend for its continuance upon the power of God alone. What is power? We often use the word loosely. We say of a man, “He is a very powerful speaker.” But we have to ask ourselves the question: What power is he using? Is it spiritual power, or is it natural power? There is today all too much place given to the power of nature in the service of God. We have got to learn that even where God has initiated a work, if we are trying to accomplish it in our power, God will never commit himself to it.

You ask me what I mean by natural power. Put very simply, it is what we can do without the help of God. We give a man a task of organizing something because he is naturally a good organizer. But if that is so, how hard will he pray? If he is accustomed to depend on his natural gifts, he may feel no need to cry to God. The trouble with us all is that there is so many things we can do without relying upon God. (Exod. 4:10)

.....Somehow, in our history with God, we must experience that initial crippling touch of His hand to weaken our natural strength, so that we can stand forth on the ground of the resurrection life in Christ alone .....

..... When God commits Himself to a thing, then He comes out in power to prove that He is in it and is Himself its Author.

What a way to start my school year!

I’m an expert at trying hard. Aren’t we all? I even try to appropriate God’s power for myself. It goes like this: This is a good thing I feel I must do, therefore I will ask God to give me the strength to do this good thing I feel I must do. Ouch. Argh. Groan. Guess it’s time for me to re-learn an old lesson from a study I once did by Henry Blackaby. “Look for where God is already at work... then join Him.”

I’m not saying God can not originate a thing through me, He certainly can. I’m just sayin’ that no matter what I do, I want God the Author of it and the Power behind my activity in it. Anyone say, Amen?!

Our homeschool motto is Psalm 127, "Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain...." It could just as easily be a family motto or a life motto. A motto is an Italian word for pledge.

What do you pledge as your summer comes to an end and another school year begins?