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Happy Day Moment

For my mother who gave me Jesus

There was once a little girl who had bad dreams. She would wake up crying and fearful. Sometimes she would tumble out of bed. One time she woke up sobbing; the night was so dark and she was so cold. Lost and finding no blanket, she raised up and hit her head. Where was she? While still asleep, she had fallen and had rolled underneath her bed! At her cries, her mother rushed into the room. Startled to find no child among the tussled covers, she called out, “Where are you?”

“I don’t know,” the little girl’s voice was small. “I can’t get out!”

But mothers have a way of finding their children, even in the dark. She knelt and peered under the bed, and there was her little girl in company with little dust bunnies.

About the best place a frightened child can be is in a mother’s embrace. The little girl hugged her mother tightly and the night wasn’t so dark. The mother tucked the calmed child under the covers, snuggled beside her, and gently rocked her baby until sleep came.

In the morning light, the mother asked, “What shall we do about these bad dreams?”

“I could sleep in your bed,” the little girl suggested.

In her mother’s heart she understood the mystery of holding her children and yet letting them go. She told the little girl, “I have a better idea.”

She opened a book and took out a small picture of a man with long wavy hair and kind eyes. “I can’t always be with you, but here is someone who can. See his face? See the love there? That’s love for you. His name is Jesus, and he will chase away your bad dreams.”

That night the mother placed the picture of the Son of God under the little girl’s pillow. “He’s right there,” she said, patting the place where her daughter laid her head. “You don’t have to be afraid.”

Night after night the little girl slept soundly, no sobbing, no tumbling from bed, no bad dreams. The last thing she did before closing her eyes was to look on Jesus’ face then tuck him under her pillow.

Then one night a dream full of panic swooped upon the little girl, who woke up shaking and crying. “Come, Mom, come!” she called out. “Come quick!”

The mother came to her daughter’s side, stroked her face and wiped her tears. When the little girl was comforted, the mother asked, “Where’s your picture of Jesus?”

The little girl opened her cupped hands to reveal the crumpled and limp portrait. “It doesn’t work anymore. He’s all worn out.”

From that time on as the little girl grew, her mother taught her that Jesus doesn’t get worn out or used up. “He is not just a picture. He’s always there right there with you,” she lightly touched the little girl’s heart. “He covers the bad with his love. He is our calm and peace. We shall not be afraid.”

As a child, the little girl’s first thought during those dark, scary times was always “Mom!” But then her mother gave her child that bigger truth. And much later in the girl’s life during a time of great darkness and fear, her first thought became “Jesus!”

— Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you. – Your little girl, Jama

Project Happy Day Moment: 12 years

A dozen years. Yes, it’s been that long. My social media project on my Facebook page began April 1, 2010. Yes, except for December 2020 during my hospital stay, I posted a Happy Day Moment consecutively for twelve years. Yes, discovering and recording a “moment” each day reminded me to be grateful. {Yes, you can applaud/throw confetti/send chocolates and/or vacation packages …. 😊}

My goal for this project was to make myself focus on some “moment” during each day where I could be positive, thankful, and “happy” that I was alive. To slow down. Just for a bit. And be grateful. With so many Facebook posts that were negative, complaining, even whining, I was determined to use my status as a more positive platform.

Throughout these postings, I’ve experienced days with moments of love, joy, celebration, laughter, happiness – unexpected moments. But I’ve also had some days that were really crummy and achy and some that were soaked in sadness, sickness, grief and disappointments.

In every day, yes, every day, however, I found that “moment” that I could call forth as “happy.”

This experiment has been profound for me. For most of my life I’ve had a glass-half-full attitude, even when a diving accident as a 13-year-old left me a diagnosed quadriplegic. I’ve learned what being grateful can do, embracing each day. Life can be hard. I know.  But every day that I choose to look for the happy, the good, the blessing, the love, the joy – shifts my heart and my head into a better place. A place of gratitude.

Quite simply, it’s become my tool to keep track of the good things in life. No matter how difficult and defeating my day can sometimes feel, there is always a “moment,” something to feel grateful about. We can all be grateful.

While it’s tough to find that “moment,” that “something” to be grateful about during a rough patch, it’s not just another “easy to say, but hard to do” action – it can actually help rescue you during a storm.

Even more than that, regularly finding a “moment” and identifying the good things in your life can help prepare and strengthen you to deal with unexpected heartache and pain.

We all have own challenges and difficult days. Yet, even in my darkest days, my instinct is to feel grateful for the things that I do have and for the things that are going well. I let gratitude be the doorway to hope; once hopeful, I find strength and the will to take one small step that moves me to better and easier times.

It’s God’s way. It’s who we can choose to be. Grateful. In every situation, no matter what the circumstances, be grateful and continually give thanks to God. For this is the will of God.

For in writing good words, for finding “happy” moments and sharing them, I’ve discovered that I’m more thoughtful, more encouraging, more inspired, more aware – of the goodness of life all around me.

I know it’s rather grandiose of me to think that my small little space, my Facebook presence can make a big change in how others think about gratitude, but if I’ve learned anything in the last twelve years, it’s that when it comes to talking about living with gratitude, and about how we use our words – we can’t do it enough.

Every year has its negatives, its disappointments, its regrets, its sorrows, its pains, its losses.

Yet, every year (if you choose to discover) has its positives, its joys, its celebrations, its wins.

Some years have more milestones than others: personal physical mental professional relational emotional financial spiritual. Some years prayers are answered; some years there is more waiting.

This identifying and reporting a Happy Day Moment has become a spiritual practice, a habit…and my super power is believing that we can all find a Happy Day Moment. The daily practice, the discipline, the routine of choosing to look for the positive, being grateful, not always focusing on the negative, has changed me. Forever. Strengthened me to face … anything.

I take note of my gratitude for a moment in the day when things are good, or I feel blessed, or I merely remember that I’m alive. Mostly, the moments are tiny and commonplace, not usually moments of grandeur or enormous successes. They are moments of small human connection, that smile, that morning kiss, or a sudden bit of humor, or a child’s laughter, or the elderly couple holding hands, or the glimpse of a cardinal on a branch, or even a moment of peace during a hectic day.

Throughout these years, however, I’ve noticed that I’m capable of finding happy moments smack in the middle of the tough and painful and hurting and grieving moments. The comfort from a friend when I’m sad can be a happy moment, right in the midst of a very hard time. The kindness of someone bringing a cup of coffee when I’ve had a stressful and exhausting day can be a happy moment. The prayers from those who know my heartache can be a happy moment.

Yes, life is still good and there can still be gratitude, even when difficult stuff happens. This practice doesn’t shield me from the hard times or a denial that dark times will always exist, but acknowledging my “moment” brings me unshakable joy and gratitude for the miracle that is my life.

Becoming aware of a happy day moment takes a personal effort, paying attention to the instances of the blessings of life, shining a spotlight on the small good things.

After years of leaning into gratitude, I know I’ve only scratched the surface of this powerful principle. I realize my pursuit of gratitude isn’t an accident, as much as preparation for what has come my way during these last few years. Preparing to see me through – because when it comes to the struggles of life, we need gratitude to be our companion.

Because this is what happens:

Words of gratitude lift us above circumstance.

Sometimes the wall of difficulties we face appears too tall to scale. But the presence of gratitude lifts and carries us. We become stronger, more agile, infused with what we need, not just to face the barrier, but to search for a way around or over that we hadn’t considered before.

Words of gratitude refocus our attention.

They change our perspective.  We’re never off on the wrong foot when we step out in gratitude. We can’t think negatively when we focus on the positive. We’re less judgmental, resentful, or divisive when we’re thankful for our relationships (especially the complicated ones). Sometimes it’s easy to focus on our hurts or sorrows and miss all of the other places that good things are happening.  It’s possible for good things and hard things to co-exist in our lives. We show wisdom when we can focus on being thankful and noticing the good, instead of concentrating on the bad.

Words of gratitude bring us joy.

Those who live in gratitude have the most joyful lives. It’s impossible to miss the joy when we’re on the lookout for blessings. We won’t miss out on the moments when we’re present and rooted in each one as it comes.

Words are powerful. Even words written in a Facebook post.

Let’s make our words a powerful happy mission.

Let’s unleash the power of gratitude.

Gracious Gratitude

Oh my, these last few years. We’ve all been through it. Can I get an “Amen” that we’ve gotten through it?

So, this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to be getting through, grateful to be here, grateful for God, once again, saving my life following my serious medical issues of last year.

Even with all I’ve been through, all the physical challenges, all the emotional heartaches, I’m still a glass-half-full kind of person, a rah-rah, God-is-Faithful believer. I’ve learned to be a believer in giving thanks in all circumstances, in “natural” gratitude and in “gracious” gratitude.

As a college student with a minor in Humanities, I studied the writings of Jonathan Edwards, regarded as a great theologian and philosopher of British American Puritanism and a forerunner of the Great Awakening. He is best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which he preached in 1741.

But he also wrote a book, The Religious Affections, where he distinguished between “natural” gratitude and “gracious” gratitude. Natural gratitude is an appreciation for good gifts—for things that make us happy, like life, family, employment, leisure, freedom, a warm bed, cold drinks, and sunshine. This kind of thankfulness may be displayed by “natural man,” those Edwards referred to as without God’s redeeming grace.

But gracious gratitude starts from a different place. Instead of beginning with WHAT God gives us, this gratitude begins with WHO God is and thanks Him for His character, goodness, love, and power, regardless of particular favors and enjoyments received. This, Edwards said, is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in a life. As we sit down to a Thanksgiving meal, it is perfectly understandable that we will thank God for all the benefits we enjoy, for all that we find to be favorable. But what are we to do with the disappointments and difficulties, the losses and sorrows of the past twelve months? The past two years? By nature, we may express gratitude for all that is pleasurable. Only by grace may we learn to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Taking in the good and being grateful is not about always putting a happy shiny face on everything, nor is it about turning away from the hard things in life. It’s about nourishing gratitude — “natural” gratitude and “gracious” gratitude, for WHAT God gives and for WHO God is—refuges to which you can always return.

This year, especially, I’m all about thankfulness and gratefulness and saluting the goodness of God and the goodness of each day.

We can choose to be thankful and grateful, understanding the fragility of life that makes every moment so meaningful. We often waste too many moments immersing ourselves in needless distractions that steal our attention away from the things that actually matter. We should grasp the precious moments of this life and stop being distracted with the things that don’t really matter.

David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, wrote, “The root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” And that Bible verse which tells us to be grateful “in all circumstances.”

We decide what to look for and what we see. We decide our focus. It’s about learning, studying the ways of contentment and appreciation. I know that by slowing down, by looking differently, I choose to focus on the light, the positive, the greatness of God, and all the reasons I have to be eternally grateful.

Start to see the good, the happy, even in the small in WHAT God gives. Actively search for those moments, develop a posture of looking for and of finding happy. Cultivate this vision: seeing those moments and being grateful for the happy day moments.

Then remember the grace of WHO God is. His character, His love, His holiness. Understand that every day, He can make a difference; His love makes a difference. That life is a gift. That love is a gift. That each day we awaken and breathe is a gift.

And I will be grateful. With natural gratitude. With gracious gratitude.

Essential to living a life with joy, confidence, faith, and hope is remembering to be grateful.

By understanding that every moment of every day in every life does not have to be happy.

Only ONE moment does. ONE glimpse. ONE second. ONE breath.

And choosing to find it. Choosing to hold onto it. Choosing to claim it to redeem any hard messy heartbreaking sorrowful day. It’s our choice. Being naturally grateful and graciously grateful. For life.

 

Baseball + Big Birthday

Dear Grandson (on your milestone Big Birthday),

I know you’re a baseball fan. I know you’re a Cubs fan. Yay, Cubbies!

You know that baseball players in the minor leagues dream of improving their offense – hitting the ball – and improving their defense – fielding the ball – so that one day they will be promoted to a Major League Baseball team.

Right now, you’re like those young players with their big dreams.

Right now, you’re on your way out of the minors – childhood, that is – and you’re now a teenager! You’re still learning, however, growing, developing talents, acquiring new skills. All these are important, but what’s most important as you keep striving for the majors – that grown-up thing – is framing a life that is built on character.

Baseball has NINE players. NINE innings. So, what I want to share with you are NINE fundamentals that I believe will position you to help give you a good eye at the plate, help you field a bad hop, help you wear both competiveness and compassion on your uniform.

1 Show gratitude.

Be thankful for all the good in your life. Talk about being thankful. Show your gratitude to others. Say “thank you” every day. Especially to God.  You’re never off on the wrong foot when you step out in gratitude. You can’t think about bad stuff when you’re thankful and keep your mind on the good stuff.

Whatever happens, in every situation, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the score, be grateful and continually give thanks to God.

2 Show forgiveness.

You will make errors, others will make the errors, but God forgives. We should too. Seek to have powers of forgiveness and love and you’ll be super. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with others, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. Don’t be angry with others but forgive one another. Never hold grudges. Have a loving and understanding heart. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them because that’s what God says.

3 Show faith.

When you keep believing – whether you win or lose – you are choosing to hold on to faith. Stay faithful and trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Keep the words of the King of Managers, Jesus, in your heart when He said to “Have faith in God.” Without faith it’s impossible to play the game of life and walk with God. My all-time favorite verse, the logo on my pennant, is Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

4 Show kindness.

You will be amazed how much of a difference you can make by just smiling every time you talk to someone. You have the power, the gift, to change someone’s life with small gestures:  a tip of the cap, a hello, a thank you. Be kind and patient and understanding to everyone. Clothe yourselves with a uniform of compassion and mercy, gentleness, and patience.

5 Show integrity.

Be honest and true in all you do each day. Play by the rules and do what is right and fair, even when it’s hard, even when you get a bad call. Make your decisions based on the strong values you have learned. Treat all the people you meet that there is something worthwhile in them, because when you play and live with integrity and with moral character, you live securely. Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got. Become a role model of good actions for your teammates. Show integrity, seriousness, and set a good example for everyone. Go out of your way to do what is right and speak the truth. No one can argue with that.

6 Show respect.

Treat everyone with consideration and respect, no matter what team they cheer. People notice how you treat others. Honor others the same way you want to be honored. In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble, and value others more than yourselves.

7 Show friendship.

Be that friend who thinks of others, who is thoughtful and considerate, who nourishes the goodness in another person. Pursue friendship and happiness will happen. Encourage your friends, cheer for them, help them, and tell them how much you care about them. Build up their hope. Be truly loving, for love is the best rule in the playbook. Love your friends, your teammates, deeply. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  Let your love and friendship extend to everyone, especially those on the end of the bench, for love is from God.

8 Show service.

You follow God’s way when you give and serve others. You get energy from following your passions, from committing to people and service and causes. Compassion isn’t waiting; it’s doing. Compassion isn’t watching; it’s helping. You have been blessed with special abilities from God to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. Show generosity, be rich in the good things you do, and share with others.

9 Show the love of Jesus.

The best way to improve your life, your position, your relationships with teammates and with others, is to act like Him. Love doesn’t give up. Love doesn’t lose faith. Love is hopeful, no matter the score. Love endures through all circumstances. And that’s the love of Jesus you show to everyone. Be Like Jesus. When you show love, you share in joy and happiness and wonder and goodness. And that’s always the winning way.

I pray that you will show these NINE fundamentals as you advance into your teen years.

Happy 13th birthday!

I love you! God bless you. Always.

40 Happy Thanks

Happy 40th Anniversary to my extraordinary husband, my sweetheart, my handsome man, my love who is compassionate giving strong intelligent witty quirky generous, my most dreamiest-prayer-answered man. The one I adore who loves God and family and friends with grace and humility and dignity.

1 Thank you for your love. This statement really sums up everything.  Your love has carried me, nourished me, shaped me, encouraged me, comforted me for 40 years. And every day you say it: “I love you.”

2 Thank you for your faith. You have a quiet, unshakable faith in our Lord. You love God and you follow Jesus.

3 Thank you for your wisdom to say, “Plan A is always love and prayer.”

4 Thank you for our sons. What joys, what blessings. And thank you for living by example. Whew, my heart. Infinity emojis.

5 Thank you for your affection. Those kisses! Those hugs! Swoon! And not just for me. For your children. Your grandchildren. Family!

6 Thank you for your belief in me. You never said, “You can’t be a mother. You can’t have a baby. You can’t have another baby” because of my limitations.

7 Thank you for your support.  Because when I wanted to stay at home with the children, you said “yes, you can do it.” Because when I started my business, you were my advocate and encourager.

8 Thank you for your forgiveness. Boy, I sure screw up a lot and it’s a relief that you forgive and we move on.

9 Thank you for lifting me up. Literally, when I’ve stumbled and face-planted. Spiritually, when I’ve doubted what’s next. Emotionally, when I’ve felt flattened. Always, you’re there to pick me up.

10 Thank you for being fun. Your humor. Your imagination. You are my man-kid.

11 Thank you for your brilliance. You are scary smart and I’m in awe that you know so much stuff.  You are the valedictorian of Household Bigger.

12 Thank you for your wit. Like when, just concerning the temperature of the house, I ask, “Are you hot?” Short pause. “Uh, that would be your call, wouldn’t it?” Short pause. Short chuckle.

13 Thank you for your compliments. You are quick to tell me I’m beautiful and sexy. That amazes me. I’ll put on lip gloss for you.

14 Thank you for compromising. I’m the extrovert; you’re the introvert. And yet, you’ll go with me to parties. It’s a gift to me.

15 Thank you for your respect of my individuality. See above. You let me be who God created me to be.

16 Thank you for listening. Because, mercy, I’m a talker. But never once did you say talk to the hand. And never did you say I told you so.

17 Thank you for caring. Oh my, especially during my awful morning sickness. And then there was that whole menopause thing. And now this whole getting old thing.

18 Thank you for (getting better at) communicating. Well, we have to have something to work on. Ha.

19 Thank you for your generosity. Not only do you listen and buy presents of things your family will like, you find little gifts for others, friends, co-workers, and even children of my friends. I love that you’re The Lego Man to many small people.

20 Thank you for your patience. Slowly, she turns. Step by step. Inch by inch. (Embarrassing homage!)

21 Thank you for your compassion. For considering others before yourself. Not being hyperbolic…

22 Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Your kindness. It’s there. For so many. <insert excessive punctuation>

23 Thank you for making ordinary moments into happy moments. Strolling the aisles of Target. Watching Fred Astaire films. Sharing a grilled cheese sandwich. Daily being.

24 Thank you for working things out. When we are mad and frustrated and annoyed with each other. Over big stuff. Over petty stuff. We work it out. Together.

25 Thank you for your quiet steadiness. Your guidance. My North Star.

26 Thank you for protecting me.  And I don’t just mean from spideys and all things crawly, but for protecting my heart.

27 Thank you for providing for your family. You always worked hard, and in jobs that were often challenging. But you went to work every day and rarely complained. I admire that.

28 Thank you for hot beverages. Michigan Cherry Coffee. Vanilla chai.

29 Thank you for facing problems with me. When there are events and circumstances and days that drive me to chocolate and Peeps and gluten and bacon, you held my hand and don’t let go.

30 Thank you for wiping away my tears. I am one leaky, emotional, sentimental, easily bruised, tender, mess of hormones. And you hand me tissues.

31 Thank you for accepting me just the way I am. No lie, I have issues. And you love the tattered package that is me.

32 Thank you for enjoying my company. We are all weird in some way.

33 Thank you for cheering for my teams. Well, at least the Ball State Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts. And all U.S. Olympic teams, especially curling. (And then there’s your teasing/tolerating/tormenting of my obsession with the Chicago Cubs.)

34 Thank you for smiling. And. Those. Blue. Eyes. You still melt my ice cream.

35 Thank you for going with the flow. Your mother’s advice.

36 Thank you for doing housework. It makes me the envy of my friends. High five.

37 Thank you for sanding all my rough edges. I give you a million points.

38 Thank you for your TLC, your attentiveness. Your sweetness to ask: “How can I help you?” “What do you need?”

39 Thank you that your heart is my home. Every place with you is a happy place. I love you so much my heart could explode into a bazillion pieces of joy and happiness.

40 Thank you for your true love/twue wuve. Because it’s not about how many days, months or years we’ve been together, it’s about how much we actually love each other every day.

What could I possibly give you to thank you for so many ways you’ve blessed me with your deep affection, your thoughtfulness, kindness, and praise? What could I possibly offer to thank you for all that you’ve done to brighten my life with your goodness and to make every day so much fun? There is nothing on earth I could give you that could ever be worth even part of all that you are, so what I will give you is all of the love in my heart.