Happiness suggestion this week: “Make some plans to look forward to.” I’m making plans to attend a women’s conference in California in a couple of months. One of my daughters is going with me, so I am looking forward to our trip west. It seems I’m always looking forward to a trip somewhere. I do like to see new places and revisit places I haven’t seen in a while. Travel, especially internationally, can be hectic but it’s worth it. Seeing new areas and making new friends—it’s very rewarding. Travel also broadens your perspective. When you see how people live and what they have to face every day, it helps you better understand and empathize with their problems. We don’t have to travel far to do that, of course. Just paying attention to people we come in contact with daily and caring about what happens to them can be done right where we live. Jesus is our prime example. Let’s plan to do something to encourage someone this week. Then we’ll both be happy!
“Master a new skill!” Hello, I haven’t even mastered some of my old skills. But that’s the matchstick suggestion for this week. Maybe I’m making too big a deal about the word “master,” but I don’t think so. When I hear or read “master” in conjunction with someone’s name, it tells me they’re more than average at whatever they’re doing. Yesterday, I renewed my driver’s license. A card will soon arrive in the mail that shows me competent to drive on the nation’s highways and byways until 2027. (If renewing in Texas, you’re required to bring your birth certificate or passport with you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) Am I a master driver? I’m pretty good. I’ve passed several drivers’ training courses, and had only a couple of tickets in my lifetime. OK, and a few warnings—but being a master driver makes me think of those trained for emergency driving in police and security work. A good driver, yes, but a master driver I’m not. So instead of taking on any new skills, I’m going to work on improving the ones I’ve got.
I heard him before I saw him. “You’re in luck today. Here, let me show you my pride and joy!” Surprised, I turned away from the New Books rack and saw an unfamiliar, white-haired little man with a photo in his hand. What! We’re in the public library. I didn’t know him. What’s this all about? His hair was thin on top and kind of longish and he was dressed in a red tee shirt over jeans, both baggy on him. Maybe one day they had fit him but that was obviously long ago. Before I could say or do anything, he turned the photo over. It was a picture of two bottles—Joy detergent and Pride furniture wax. I smiled and said, “That’s funny!” He laughed and went over to a woman standing nearby and repeated his joke. Then he left the library, chuckling as he went. No telling where he was off to next, telling his Pride and Joy joke to whoever would listen. I love living in Texas!
For those of you new to this site, one of my daughters gave me a matchbox full of 50 suggestions to “spark happiness.” This week, it’s “Foster gratitude: Write a list of things you are thankful for.” Though some of the weekly suggestions challenge me, this one should be easy. Of course, what I plan to list are all my blessings. But, the Scriptures say I should be thankful not just for the good that happens in my life but in “all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Oops, now, suddenly what seemed easy is challenging. I’ve had some severe ups and downs in my life (maybe you have too), and it hasn’t always been easy to be thankful. It comes down to faith that God will work the bad for good. He rescues us from situations that many times we get ourselves into. And, even if we aren’t rescued right away, we learn valuable lessons. At least that’s been the case in my life experiences, and I’ve gained more trust in him as a result. Whether or not we are always faithful to God, he is always faithful to us.
At a church conference, my daughter said, “Oh, there’s Mr. … behind you.” She expected me to turn around and speak to the longtime church member, but I didn’t. This man had tried to discredit another daughter by passing along false information about her. I had told myself I had forgiven him, but I couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge him as if nothing had happened. A couple of weeks ago our pastor encouraged us to look within ourselves and see if we had any deep-seated hurts or wounds we had not dealt with–some we may have stuffed down inside and tried to forget. He said maybe you feel you have dealt with them, but if you haven’t included Jesus in those experiences, they are still there. I’ve been thinking about his words a lot. Some, such as this man trying to hurt my daughter, came to mind immediately, and I’ve been praying God would show me what else is there, scabbed over but still festering underneath. You know what I’ve learned? It hurts to dig into those old wounds again, but unless I do and include Jesus they can’t be healed by him. Jesus is all about forgiveness. I can’t truly forgive without him being involved, and until I forgive the wounds won’t heal. Help me, Lord!
I can do this, “Treat yourself to your favorite dish.” That’s the matchstick suggestion for this week. At least the treating myself part will be easy. My only problem will be deciding what to eat because I have several favorites. And, of course, most of those favorites aren’t on the healthy food list. I grew up in the South, where fried foods are king. For my health’s sake, I have to deny myself my favorite foods. OK, I don’t always do that, but most of the time I do because the older I get the more important good health is to me. Come to think of it, it’s comparable with denying other physical pleasures to follow Christ. It’s not quite the same because we give up everything for him, no looking back or fudging on our decision to follow him. Because our relationship with Jesus is more important than anything the world has to offer. But, you know, I don’t think Jesus cares if I have fried chicken once in a while!
“Forge deep connections. Maintain eye contact and listen carefully to people.” That’s the matchstick suggestion for this week. It’s a good one. Do you ever feel almost invisible when you’re talking with a group of people, or sometimes even when you’re communicating one on one with a person? Good listeners are a rarity. I’ve been to workshops on how to be a good listener. Actually, I’ve given workshops on the subject! I’m not much of a talker unless I feel comfortable with the person I’m talking to. Small talk is difficult for me so I tend to listen more than talk in most situations. It’s just goes along with being an introvert. But I need the advice too. I may be listening, but am I really hearing what they are trying to communicate? And, those articulate ones who I admire so much for their fluent ability with words, they may have an even harder time listening. But, for both introverts and extroverts, concentrating on what the other person is saying, really caring about what they have to say, is more than being polite. It’s an act of love.