The Simple Things

Happiness is as elusive as it is transient. It has the attention span of a butterfly and about the same lifespan, flitting here and there, and then disappearing just as quickly. So, how can you identify the happiest moment in your life? True happiness is a culmination of lots of little moments over a lifetime, moments that come from the simple things.

People often cite specific events as their “happiest moment,” but putting too much emphasis on one moment is like investing all of your money in one stock. What about the rest of your moments? Are they any less valuable? When people put a lot of emphasis on a single event, like a wedding, there is a rush of anticipation that builds as the moment gets closer. However, once the wedding day finally arrives, the moment can feel anti-climactic and is followed by disappointment as the moment is quickly gone. A marriage, on the other hand, is made up of millions of moments, each one building on the one before: watching a movie, sharing a cup of coffee, cuddling in bed on a rainy day.

In the midst of all the damage from the fires and floods, the victims of these natural disasters are suddenly aware of the importance of the simple things, like food, shelter, and clothing. Suddenly, the big things aren’t quite as big as they used to be. A helping hand when it is most needed, a shoulder to lean on, and words of encouragement at the right time bring far more joy than a new car or the newest fad. It is a simple moment that will bring a smile even as a distant memory. In the movie, Sound of Music, Maria, played by Julie Andrews, tries to comfort the children who are frightened by a thunderstorm with a song entitled “A Few of My Favorite Things.” The chorus of the song says, “When I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.” She gets the children to list some of their favorite things, and they all begin to smile and laugh, momentarily forgetting about the thunderstorm. The children don’t mention money or fame; they list simple things that bring them joy.

Life itself is made up of countless moments of simple things that bring us happiness if we only take a moment to look for them. In the end of the movie Miracles from Heaven (2016), the main character, played by Jennifer Garner, tells the story of her daughter’s illness and miraculous recovery. She quotes Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” In her anger over what had happened to her child, she had not been able to see the miracles all along their journey, miracles of kindness, goodness, love, and mercy. Miracles are all around us if we will just look for them, often in the form of a simple act of kindness.

In my life, happiness comes when I take a moment to see the miracle in the simple things around me. The guys where I work taking time out to repair my car for free, my cats snuggled beside me when I am sick, a word of encouragement at just the right moment. These moments, these miracles, these simple things bring happiness. None of them is greater than the others, but when they are all added together, they are lifetime of happy moments strung together like bright lights on a Christmas tree. It is when they are all lit together that they make the greatest impact. Enjoy the light of each simple moment as it happens, but also see it as part of something greater. So, when the butterfly flies away, you know another one is sure to come along soon if we only pay attention.

 

 

Beauty from Ashes

During and immediately following the election, there was a lot of division going on in this country. The left blamed the right and vice versa. Everyone was up in arms and full of venom on social media. Even if the tirades were true, which often they weren’t on either side, they were seriously lacking in love. They weren’t meant to bring evil to light or right wrongs; they were meant to cause fear and division. All too often the plan worked.

In the last few weeks, people have banded together to help victims of Hurricane Harvey and are making plans to support victims of Hurricane Irma, not to mention the help sent to fight fires in the west. People are coming together to face a common enemy. The divisive factions are fading in importance as people face, at the least, possible destruction of their homes and, at worst, their very lives. People are being generous and thoughtful, showing love to their neighbors and even total strangers. This is something that has been needed all along.

When Mount St. Helen’s erupted in 1980, it seemed like a disaster of epic proportions. However, when the smoke and ash had cleared, the surrounding forest grew back stronger than ever, enriched by the ash itself. There was literal beauty from the ashes. Isaiah 61:3 says, “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”

Sometime God has to use disasters to help us focus on what is really important. When we focus on God and his plan, we stop noticing all the little annoying things around us that can get blown out of proportion. Instead, we see what we should have been doing all along: loving God and loving each other. In the face of a hurricane or wildfire, political and religious designations lose their importance. Let’s follow the words of a hymn instead:

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free:

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

(Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen Howarth Lemmel)

 

Bite Sized

I am currently working on multiple projects, and by multiple I cannot even begin to list all of them. I have knitting projects, yard projects, DIY projects in the house, organizational projects, writing projects and probably some things I left out. So many things I want to do, and so little time and money to do them. Sometimes, like this morning, I get overwhelmed trying to decide what I need to do today. That’s when I try to take into account some advice I read on a website called Fly Lady, a woman dedicated to helping people keeping people from having CHAOS – Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. Both the acronym and the actual word could apply to me. Right now they apply to my brain. All these ideas floating around mixed with To-Do lists make it hard to focus and be productive on what “needs” doing instead of what I “want” to do. Since it is my birthday this weekend, I have decided to try and do a little of both by trying to get some things off my To-Do list as well as get started on a few things I want to do.

I have discovered that it helps me to be less overwhelmed if I look at things in bite-sized portions. For instance, I have a stack of diskettes…you know those things that came after floppy disks but before “The Cloud”. They are taking up space, which is limited at my house, and hard to access. Some of the information needs to be deleted because it is no longer relevant or there are redundant copies. The files are also all mixed together randomly. So, my bite-size today is just copying all of the files over to my computer hard drive and disposing of the diskettes. I can organize another day. While the files are copying, I am writing my blog post, which is, by the way, about copying the disks. That gets two things off of my list and makes me feel energized to tackle the main thing I need to do today…revise an article for submission.

See, the article submission is a scary thing to contemplate, so I have been procrastinating heavily. However, I made myself do bite-sized parts over the last few weeks…okay months. I now have a rough draft, and it is time to dig in and finish it, but I wouldn’t have gotten to today without the bite-sized tasks.

God has a similar plan for when things get overwhelming. When the Israelites left Egypt for the Promised Land, God gave them each day’s plan at the beginning of the day, complete with the food needed for that day, no more, no less. The Bible also says, “34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34).

Lately things have piled up on me and made me feel like curling up on the couch instead of doing what needs to be done. It is on these days when I need to take things bite-sized, one day at a time, one task at a time.