Thursday, October 26, 2017

Day 26-What is Your Happiness Set Point?

  **This is part of a 31 day series on Joy in the Journey. To read the rest click here. ** 
           Did you know people have a genetic set point for happiness? It doesn’t mean we can’t increase our happiness. But to a certain extent our happiness is part of the personality we were born with. Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book, The How of Happiness, says research shows that like our metabolism, intelligence and athleticism, our happiness is determined somewhat by our DNA. That is how God made us. It makes sense. There are people who always seem to be happy. They have an optimistic outlook regardless of their circumstance. There are also those people who never seem happy. Their life can be going great, happy marriage, kids, good job and still, they seem to have no joy.

We are all are born with a happiness set point that accounts for fifty percent of our happiness. Ten percent of our happiness is determined by our circumstances. If you get a promotion at work, find out you are pregnant, or the person in front of you in the drive-thru pays for your coffee – these things can increase our happiness.  If we get a ticket on the way to work, get a call from the high school that our son is suspended (this is hypothetical of course!) or receive a bad report from the doctor, these things can seriously deplete our happiness.

The good news is this leaves forty percent we have control over. Our happiness increases based on what we think about and what we do.  Lyubomirsky writes,

“If we observe genuinely happy people, we shall find that they do not just sit around being contented. They make things happen. They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings. In sum, our intentional, effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above the effects of our set points and our circumstances.”

If this is true, the question is what can we do to increase our happiness? Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of The Happiness Dare, says it depends on what your Happiness Style is. (You can read more about that and take the Happiness Style test by clicking here.)

If your Happiness Style is Doer, Lee says you should get up and do something meaningful. Accomplish something on your to-do list. Do something you have wanted to do for a long time.

If your Happiness Style is Relater you need to be around people. Invite friends over, plan a game night, call someone and talk on the phone. Relaters increase their happiness by investing in relationships.

If you are an Experiencer go outside and make a memory. Take a walk and watch the sun set, go to the zoo, or plan your next vacation. Planning and looking forward to your next adventure will greatly increase your happiness.

If you are a Giver cook a meal and bring it to someone who is sick. Send a care package to a college student, or send an old school card in the mail.

If your Happiness Style is Thinker take time out to be alone with a good book. Read something challenging. Learn a new skill. Contemplate the latest podcast you listened to.

We may be born with a happiness set point, but we have control over what we choose to do and think about. We have the ability to increase our happiness by intentionally doing those things that bring us joy.

What could you do to increase your happiness today?



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Day 25 - Marriage Doesn't Make You Happy

“Marriage doesn’t make you happy. You make your marriage happy.”
Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott

I was talking to a young woman recently who was telling me what went wrong with her relationship of the past two years. One of the first things she said was, “All my friends say he treats me badly.”

That was enough for me. “If everyone is telling you that, then you should run away from that guy.” I told her. She told me some of the rude, self-centered ways he treated her and my Mama Tiger kicked in. “You don’t need that guy. You need a guy who treats you great and thinks you are wonderful. You need a guy who pursues you and wants to be around you, someone who wants to listen to you and do things with you, someone you can have fun with and you don’t have to worry about walking on egg shells around him because he has anger issues. You need someone who is kind and cares about you.
She smiled like I was telling her a fairy tale. “I’ll never find a guy like that,” she said.

Then I gave my standard pre-marriage advice, “Don’t settle. Forever is a long time to be married and you want someone you love and who is head over heels in love with you and treats you like a princess.”

I couldn’t convince her. She shook her head not believing what I said was possible. And then she said something that broke my heart. “I would rather be in a bad relationship than alone.”

No! I couldn’t believe she said that! She was as cute as she could be with long sandy hair, half pulled up in a messy bun, skinny black pants, red blouse and cute pointy red flats. With her flawless skin and beautiful smile she could be a model. Her personality was kind, sweet and endearing. Any guy would love to be with her.

With only fifty percent of marriages making it, we have an obligation to encourage others that there are joyful marriages. It is our duty to instill hope in the next generation that a happy marriage is possible. It’s not a fairy tale. She went on to tell me both her sisters married men who treated them badly. They didn’t hit them but they weren’t nice to them. She said they grew up watching their Dad, who she said wasn’t a bad person, but her Mom almost divorced him because he had a porn addiction. All the guys she knew were like that.

I went off. “There are great guys out there. Don’t settle for someone who treats you badly just because you don’t want to be alone. I’ve been married 30 years to a guy who has loved me and treated me great. We enjoy being together and have fun together.  He is my best friend. He still looks at me like I am the best thing that ever happened to him, even when I am sometimes a hormonal emotional mess.” She smiled.  I kept going, “I’m serious, life is too short to be with a guy who doesn’t cherish you and want the best for you. Thirty years is a long time to be in a miserable marriage. Look for someone who thinks you are amazing and who brings you joy. It is the best going through life with an amazing person who you love and who loves you and treats you well.”

What could she say after that? I had more. I could have kept going, but I hope she got my point. I wanted her to know that marriage can be a beautiful thing with the right person. Marriage doesn't make us happy, but marrying someone who loves God and following His plan for marriage can bring great joy.
Today we've been married 31 years.

Happy Anniversary to the man who loves me,
sees the best in me and makes me feel special everyday!

(This is part of a 31 day writing challenge, to write on the same topic everyday in October. This series is Joy in the Journey. To read others in this series, click here.)


Monday, October 23, 2017

Joy in Trials -Part 2

**(This is Part 2 of Joy in Trials. To read the first part, click here.)**

In addition to James1: 2 “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” There is another verse, First Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Like James, Peter also gives the reason why we should rejoice in trials. He says, “These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  

He is saying trials have come so our faith will grow and that will bring glory and honor to the Lord.  If you are in a difficult circumstance or stressful situation consider the struggle a trial. Then consider it a joy because God allowed it in order to grow and mature us. Trials produce spiritual maturity, which is why they can be considered a gift or a joy.

Kay Warin in her book, Choose Joy, says, “We hate the process that makes us like Christ because it involves pain, sorrow, stress and upheaval. Yet we all want what it produces: spiritual maturity.”

When we persevere through trials, especially when we are able to choose joy in it, our spiritual maturity on the other side not only brings glory to God, but can also help and comfort others. When you or someone you love is going through cancer treatment, who do you want to talk to? Someone who has endured those same treatments. When you are praying for your prodigal teenager, who offers the best advice? Someone who has had a prodigal. Our trials are not for nothing. They have purpose. They benefit us and they can benefit others.

It is rare and inspiring to see people who choose joy in the midst of their trials. When you see this in people you can tell their faith in God is strong. In fact, their joy is evidence the Lord is with them and carrying them through their trial. This is not to say we have to be happy every minute as we go through difficult seasons. It means when given the choice, we are able to keep our eyes on the Lord, know that when we trust and follow Him, He works all things out. The outcome may not be what we wanted or prayed for. But if we keep our focus on the things we know to be true: that God loves us and has a plan and purpose for our lives, and in the end, if we are true believers, we will have our home in heaven. Joyful heaven.

There are many lessons to be learned in trials and much spiritual growth can happen if we allow it. I knew several proud successful people who lost their jobs. This was a devastating loss and brought about a financial crisis for their families. But God used it to teach them humility. They came out on the other side of their trial different. Their arrogance was gone. They were teachable and more dependent on the Lord.

What about you? Has a trial or difficult season changed you for the better? 
Have you ever been refined by fire?

 (This is part of a 31 day writing challenge, to write on the same topic everyday in October. This series is Joy in the Journey. To read all the posts, click here.)


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Joy in Trials

The most well known Bible verse about Joy is James 1:2  
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”

The verse is insightful because it assumes, and rightly so, trials will be a part of every believer’s life. The 'trials of many kinds' range from Christian persecution and martyrdom to the struggles and difficulties of the 21st century. Large or small, we all have trials and challenges.

Thankfully, James gives us the reason why we should consider trials a joy. He says, “because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.”

The Message version of the Bible calls joy a gift.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way."

The part that speaks to me is, “don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.” During stressful or difficult times, I often start to think about quitting.

I have quit diets – it is too hard to lose weight.

I have quit fitness goals – it is exhausting working out and going to the gym everyday.

I quit fasting one day a week – it is hard to starve yourself all day.

I quit gardening – the weeds grew faster than I could pick them. I gave in. They won.

I started writing several books and quit before they were completed. –It is time consuming.

Granted, these are all self- imposed stresses but had I finished them, I would be in better shape in several areas than I am now. In the middle of a trial I think about quitting. I try to figure out how I can escape or remove myself from the situation. In most of them there is no way out, I must finish. I have the choice to go through the trial, test or challenge with a depressed, poor-me attitude, or I can choose to view the situation as a gift that if I keep going through will develop maturity and perseverance in me.  If I choose to lean in to God, trust Him more, keep going knowing I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength, I can come out on the other side with a stronger faith and hopefully more wisdom than I had before.

There is no getting around the fact that life is full of trials. James encourages us to stick it out and finish, knowing that going through difficulties relying on God, builds Christian character in us. I have several situations in my life where I am encouraging myself to push through, finish, take the next step, and persevere. 

How about you?
Are you in a situation where you want to quit?
Can you see where if you stick it out and finish your perseverance will build maturity in you?
I encourage you, like James does, don’t quit prematurely.  Finish strong and choose to be joyful as you go through it.

                             Continued in Part 2 - Click here.

(This is part of a 31 day writing challenge, to write on the same topic everyday in October. This series is Joy in the Journey. To read others in this series, click here.)


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Day 21 - Where Has My Joy Gone?

I hate to admit this but somewhere during this month I lost my joy. I know, here I am writing 31 Days of Joy in the Journey and it has been difficult for me to actually have joy. It’s nothing major, just the normal stress everyone has: running a business, three employees quit, training new employees, teenage boys, teenage girls, teacher’s calls, principal’s office, grades, graduation concerns, urgent care, no doctors, unanswered health issues, daughter with high risk pregnancy, growing ministry, a church merge, meetings, planning an Israel tour, insurance issues from a car accident, totaled car, dieting, lack of sleep, and two food obsessed dogs, you know, just the usual. Anyway, I can’t seem to find my joy.

Then I started reading The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee. In chapter three she issues the actual dare. She says she has taken the challenge and it changed her life, so she wrote the book to challenge others to take the Happiness Dare as well. You will have to get the book to read all the details, but the challenge is huge. It stopped me from reading for a few days wondering if I could really do it. So, here it is. Let me know if you are up for taking the challenge. I would love the company if anyone wants to do it with me.

The Happiness Dare Manifesto

Huge isn’t it? Are you up for it? Do you think you can do this? Reading the book has inspired me. I am taking the challenge. I’m going to do it.

See you tomorrow for a more joyful day!

(This is part of a 31 day writing challenge, to write on the same topic everyday in October. This series is Joy in the Journey. To read others in this series, click here.)


Friday, October 20, 2017

Day 20 - What is Your Happiness Style?

Which one of the following makes you most happy?

a.    Reading a book or listening to a podcast.
b.    Being productive in tasks at home, at the office, or in the yard.
c.    Inviting a friend over.
d.    Taking part in a leisurely activity, such as a walk at a beautiful park, playing a round of golf, or going for a swim.
e.    Doing whatever my family or friends prefer to do.

These are some of the questions to determine your Happiness Style found in Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book, The Happiness Dare. Lee says there are five happiness styles, five ways people primarily experience happiness. It doesn’t mean we are only one style. We can have a combination of several styles. But generally, we have one way we predominantly experience happiness. 

It makes sense; different things make different people happy. Some people get energized when they are having fun with a group of people. Some people need time alone to wind down and recharge in order to be happy. Some people are happiest accomplishing a huge task. Some people are happiest serving others.

We have many group events at our house. Most of them are a combination of church meetings, dinner, games and social activities. It is interesting in a group of 30 or more people what different personality types are drawn to do in that type of setting.

There are always people who are in a group laughing and telling funny stories.
There are people paired off in a corner having serious in-depth conversations.
There are one or two people who will start cleaning, stay late, wash the dishes, bag up the trash and wipe down the kitchen counters. (I LOVE these types of people!)
There was even one woman who sat alone and pulled out a book and started reading. (She only came to one such event.)

The five Happiness Styles are: the Doer, Relater, Experiencer, Giver and Thinker. Lee explains each style more in depth in her book.

The Doer is happiest in purposeful activity. They like to make lists, can juggle several tasks at once, are dependable and goal oriented. They are happiest when they are busy accomplishing something.

The Relater enjoys positive, meaningful relationships. They are inviters, includes, lovers and connectors. They are known for being friendly, kind and warmhearted.

The Experiencer loves adventure. They are curious, want to explore new activities, have a deep sense of wonder and love making memories.

The Giver finds great delight in helping, sharing and serving. They are happiest creating happiness for others. They are known for being thoughtful and selfless.

The Thinker enjoys contemplation, learning, pondering and dreaming. They are curious, notice details, and ask questions.

Do you see yourself in any of these styles?

Our immediate family of six has five extroverts who are a combination of the Doer, the Relater, the Experiencer and the Giver. We have one son who is not. He is graduating from high school this year and like all his siblings we wanted to throw a graduation party for him. When we told him he looked horified. Then I remembered he doesn’t like parties. He is the kid who said when he was little, “I don’t like new people.” He prefers to be with family or a few close friends. It would not bring him any joy to be the center of attention and have a party in his honor where he would be expected to talk to a lot of people. Since it is his graduation, we decided to do something he would enjoy and not have a party just because the rest of us would like it.

It is helpful to know what our Happiness Style is and that of our friends and family members. If you are unsure what yours is you can take the Happiness Style Assessment online at or pick up a copy of the book The Happiness Dare.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:13-14

   (This is part of a 31 day writing challenge, to write on the same topic everyday in October. This series is Joy in the Journey. To read others in this series, click here.)


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Day 19 - Joy at Any Age

            (This is part of a 31 day writing challenge, to write on the same topic everyday in October. This series is Joy in the Journey. To read others in this series, click here.)

They were the cutest couple. A short, white-haired husband and wife probably in their mid 80’s, strolling hand-in-hand. My friend and I were eating lunch outside of a restaurant as we watched this sweet couple walk by. They were looking lovingly at each other and smiling. We assumed they were married many years and still had a flirty, close, joyful relationship. My friend turned to me and said, “That is how I want to be with my husband when we are old.”

I gave her a puzzled look but decided not to say anything. Though decades younger than the couple we watched walk by, I had never seen my friend and her husband act like that. I had never seen them hold hands, act flirty or look lovingly in each other’s eyes. They didn’t have a bad marriage; in fact they seemed to be doing well. I had just never seen them show any physical closeness or affection. I didn’t think my friend and her husband could grow up to be an affectionate, romantic older couple if they weren’t that way when they were young.

In the same way, if we want to avoid the stereotype of being a ‘grumpy old man’ or a ‘mean old lady’ when we are older we have to work hard on not being like that when we are young. Whether old or young, it is special to encounter a person who is truly happy, joyful and quick to give an encouraging word. A person who lights up with a smile when they meet you is fun to be around.

Being in the customer service business, we look forward to seeing our regular customers who are kind, appreciative and positive. We had two new customers recently that we worked with for several weeks. One, we only met on the phone, but just by the way she talked, we could tell she was smiling on the other end. She laughed. She complimented us. She asked about my kids. She took responsibility for her mistakes and was appreciative for the creative quality work we provided for her. Never having seen her in person, we could tell she was filled with joy.

Another new customer came in already disgruntled before she met us. She had been to several online and big box stores and was completely dissatisfied with anything the four other companies had done. Her job was easy enough, but after being with her for an hour listening to her complain, our employee turned to me when she left and said “we are never going to be able to make her happy” which turned out to be true.

Growing old joyfully starts with being joyful now. Life is difficult, busy and stressful for everyone. Choosing to go through life with joy is a habit we need to cultivate now if we want to have joy later in life.

Life is too short to live without joy. We have more joy when we share our joy with others. We can only share our joy with others when we are joyful.

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
    and how good is a timely word!   Proverbs 15:23


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Day 18 - Jamming Our Joy

          (This is part of a 31 day writing challenge, to write on the same topic everyday in October. This series is Joy in the Journey. To read others in this series, click here.)

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

           On Day 11, I wrote about When There is No Joy.  Not counting those times, there are things we do that jam up our own joy. Here are 5 Jams that will keep us from a joyful life.

1.    The Blame Game
We need to own our emotions. It is common for us to blame others for how we feel. We can get angry when someone cuts us off in traffic. We can feel hopeless when we read about the crime in our city. We can feel jealous when someone else gets the promotion, car, position or life we wanted. We can feel frustrated when our teenage sons stay up to all hours of the night leaving a giant mess in the kitchen, living room and bathroom, for us to clean before we go to work. – (These are all theoretical examples of course!) –But it is easy to blame others for our bad mood. We need to own our emotions and not allow other people or situations to determine our frame of mind. It’s like the old saying, ‘The devil made me do it.’ We may not be able to control everything that happens, but we do have control of our emotions and how we choose to react.

2.    Failing to Forgive
Refusing to forgive someone and holding a grudge can eat away at us and seriously jam up our joy. To increase our joy we need to release the burden of holding onto the hurt and rehearsing the wrongs done to us. Forgiveness is not always a one-time event. Sometimes we have to forgive in our mind over and over until we release it so our heart can feel free. Nursing a hurt or holding a grudge is a terrible weight to carry around and hurts us much more than the other person.

3.    Appointing Ourselves as Spiritual Sheriffs
Do we go through life pointing out where others are wrong? Do we critique the sermon, music, people or church on Sunday mornings? Do we question why a group or organization does things that way and not our way? There is so much hate and criticism online and in social media, including among brothers and sisters in Christ. Who made these people the Spiritual Sheriffs? Looking for others mistakes and pointing out what is wrong with the world can jam up our joy everyday.

4.    Inner-directed
Inner-directed is a synonym for all the ‘s’ words: self-centered, self-focused, self-seeking etc. Do you walk into a room and say, “Here I am.” or “There you are?” Are we more concerned about taking selfies than we are sharing with others? As followers of Christ, who laid down His life for us, we need to be more about others than ourselves. Look around. People are starving for some Good News, for someone to care about them, their kids and their situations. Are we so busy talking about ourselves and telling our stories, that we miss opportunities to ask about others and encourage them? Joy blooms when we think about others more than ourselves.

God placed us in communities, families and relationships. We will always be around other people. Let’s not jam up our opportunity for joy by blaming them, failing to forgive, acting as spiritual sheriffs or being self-focused.

Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.   Romans 12:10

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.   1 John 4:7-8


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day 17 - Make Your Own Joy

It happened every year. A group of friends celebrated each other’s birthdays by going out to lunch together. When it came to one friend’s birthday, she always brought gifts for everyone at the lunch, whether it was two or ten of us. These gifts were personal and almost always had our names written in fancy handwriting on them. They were well thought out gifts, not just thrown together. She decorated gift bags and inside there would be a handmade note card, bookmark or ribbon with a hand picked Bible verse beautifully printed on it. There might be something fun like a magnet, plastic sunglasses, tea-party type fans or a candle. Always there was a note telling us we were loved, thought of, prayed for and cheering us on as women, wives and mothers.

             We could tell she spent days planning and putting together the personal touches. She was giddy with joy as she passed out each gift. The rest of us were always surprised. It was a little bit embarrassing. She didn’t have to do that. It was her birthday after all. We should have brought her a gift. The rest of us viewed going out to lunch as the birthday gift, or we didn’t see the need to bring gifts. It was always very nice and made us feel special that she thought so much about us.

Why did she do it?

I think her love language must have been receiving gifts, therefore she showed love to others by giving gifts. Also, and I am just guessing here, she came from a family with all men, who typically did not give gifts, certainly not handmade, personalized, sentimental gifts. She never complained about them, nor did she ever say she missed not receiving gifts. But what she did was inspiring.

She made her own joy!

         She had as much fun giving the gifts and watching our expressions opening them as she would  had she received the gifts. It was an amazing act of love and kindness on her part, but it also brought her much joy.

         It was a huge lesson to me. Why wait for something fun, special or encouraging to happen to us, when we can make our own joy? We can give gifts. We can plan our own party. We can arrange a fun group activity with friends. I have another friend who lives miles away from her extended family. She invites whoever wants to join her for a big Thanksgiving dinner. She cooks everything, sets a beautiful table and always has people from different walks of life join her. The people who are invited are usually single or otherwise alone on Thanksgiving Day. They appreciate being included around her table and she receives joy from serving and feeding a houseful of people.

         I want to encourage you. If you have not had much joy lately, brainstorm what would make you happy at this season of your life. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be with the exact people you want to be around. Open yourself up to new people and experiences and see if making your own joy and bringing joy to others allows you to live the abundant life God has for you.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace
because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope
through the power of the Holy Spirit.     Romans 15:13

  (This is part of a 31 day writing challenge, to write on the same topic everyday in October. This series is Joy in the Journey. To read others in this series, click here.)