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Q&A: How Can I Be a Happier Person?

If happiness eludes you, try practicing these six principles and watch your joy multiply...I received the following message on my “Love Your Husband” Facebook page this week:

I just came across your write up on how to ruin your marriage. I have to say that I am guilty on all counts. However I am not a happy woman and I don’t feel competent enough to be a career woman, a mother, and a wife. I would love to be a very happy person again, if and when you get this message please could you help me out with scriptures that will help me. I desperately need to be a better wife and mother. Thank you and God bless you and your family.

I wanted to respond quickly, so I searched for things I’d already written that might address this reader’s question. I’ve written one post on “Cultivating Contentment,” another on “Creating a Happy Home,” and yet another called “Don’t Let Anything Steal your Joy.”

They are all great articles that address different aspects of this topic, but when it comes to listing specific Scriptures that might help an unhappy person find her way out of the pit, I came up empty.

It’s not that such verses don’t exist — they do! It’s only that I’ve never taken time to create a list of them. Until now.

I know lots of people struggle with being happy, joyful, and content. If you are one of them, I pray these thoughts and verses will help you, as well:

  1. Happiness starts with God.
  2. I’m sure non-believers have happy moments, but I have never met anybody with a deep, abiding sense of joy who does not credit it to a strong, personal relationship with the Creator. God made us, He made our emotions, He gave us the capacity to feel happiness, and He has provided the means by which we can experience happiness, both here on earth and throughout eternity:

    • “The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 28:7, NLT)
    • “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT)
    • “Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.” (Psalm 35:9, NIV)
    • “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10, NLT)

  3. Happiness springs from gratitude.
  4. More often than not, unhappy people are ungrateful people, and vice versa. They focus on what they don’t have instead of being thankful for what they do have. You cannot feel truly grateful and completely miserable at the same time, so rather than enumerating your troubles, practice counting your blessings instead. Offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for each one. Buy a stack of cards and write notes of thanks to people who have helped you along the way. Say thank you in person to those who do kind things for you. Put to death any notions of entitlement and accept every new grace with unmitigated appreciation and delight.

    • “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
    • “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 18-20, NIV)
    • “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (Psalm 95:1-2, NASB)
    • “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:4-5, NASB)

  5. Happiness sees the good.
  6. Focus on the positive. Look on the bright side. Search for the silver lining. As Martha Washington once observed, “The greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” Resolve to maintain a cheerful disposition in whatever circumstance you find yourself.

    • “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, KJV)
    • “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).” (Ephesians 5:8-9, NASB)
    • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB)
    • “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NLT)

  7. Happiness says no to grudges.
  8. Nothing edges happiness out of a heart faster than bitterness. The two cannot co-exist. Whether for major offenses or minor irritations, be quick to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged you. Do not harbor grudges or give place to resentment — doing so will steal your joy.

    • “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25, NIV)
    • “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NASB)
    • “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14, NASB
    • “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NASB)

  9. Happiness serves others gladly.
  10. Deep, abiding joy does not focus on what others can do for me, but on what I can do for others. As a wife and mother, you have built-in others to think about. Ask God to help you tend to their needs with a glad and grateful heart. Recognize that relationships take work, and do it heartily, knowing that God loves a cheerful giver.

    • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” (Colossians 3:23, NIV)
    • “…serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Galatians 5:13-14, NIV)
    • “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10, NIV)
    • Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.” (Psalm 100:2, NASB)

  11. Happiness strives toward the goal.
  12. Keep an eternal perspective. Don’t let doubts or discouragements cloud your perception. Don’t let anything distract you from tending to the things that really matter most…

    • “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10, NASB)
    • “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NASB)
    • Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, NIV)
    • “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corintians 9:24-27, NASB)

What more happiness out of life? These are the principles you’ll need to practice to find it, along with Scriptures to back them up.

I consider myself an extremely happy person, and these are my secrets to maintaining a joyful outlook. If you can think of other ideas that might help, please share them in the comment section below.

The Choice is Yours

Love is not a feeling. It's a choice.Jane Austen once wrote, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” But that doesn’t ring quite true.

Experience has proven time and again that chance has much less to do with happiness than do attitude and outlook. Austen might have more accurately written, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of choice.”

Our success in marriage, as in life, is in large part determined by the choices — large and small — that we make day after day after day

So… what is it going to be? Will you:

 The choice is yours. You decide. 

Quotes - LL - Matter of Choice

Helping Siblings become Friends

How do you encourage siblings to be friends? Here's what works in our family (www.flandersfamily.info)

One of the first things people usually notice about our children is how well they get along. Sure, they have occasional squabbles, but that is the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, they really love and admire one another and enjoy being in each other’s company.

They are friends.

When people ask us how this came to be the case, we’re always quick to credit God’s grace. It’s a heartfelt answer, but not particularly helpful. So for parents who are searching for ways to encourage a deep and lasting friendship between their children, we offer eight practical suggestions:

  1. Turn off the TV
  2. Have you ever noticed how poorly family members treat one another on sitcoms? Yet every snide remark is rewarded with liberal doses of canned laughter. If our children are raised on a steady diet of such fare, it shouldn’t surprise us when they emulate what they’ve been watching.

    Even if the programing is good and wholesome, allowing children to watch too much of it precludes more meaningful, real-life interaction with their own family members. So switch off the set and make your own fun, instead.

  3. Play Games Together
  4. When you enter into your children’s world through play, you send them the message you enjoy being with them, and those warm feelings get sent back to you and shared with one another.

    A few of our family favorites? Puzzles. Zombie tag. Spoons. Knock-Out. Chess. Checkers. Tea parties. Hearts. The Hat Game. Ultimate Frisbee. Putt-Putt Golf. Ping-Pong. Cabo. Bananagrams.

  5. Allow for Kid-Directed Adventures
  6. Sometimes our kids dream up things to do together that don’t include Mom and Dad: Build blanket forts. Ride bikes around the block or to the gas station for a treat. See how deep a hole they can dig in our backyard. Hike through the bamboo forest. Build bicycle ramps. Bake peanut-butter cookies. Sell lemonade on the street corner. Drive to Dallas to see Nana.

    As long as the things our kids are asking to do are feasible and reasonably safe, we try to say yes to their requests. Not only do these sort of adventures build character, maturity, and confidence, but they bond siblings together in a special way that parent-directed activities alone cannot do… ( Read the rest of this post on our family blog.)

The Flanders Family Website: Helping You Build a Happy Home

Virginity: Is It Really Worth Saving?

Is the idea of saving one's virginity for marriage too old-fashioned?When you’re sweet-16-and-never-been-kissed, people write songs about it, but when that status hasn’t changed by your mid-twenties, people begin to look a little askance at you.

That isn’t the way it should be — isn’t the way it’s been for thousands of years — but, unfortunately, that’s the culture our children are growing up in, where virginity is regarded by many as more of a curse than a prize.

What follows is an essay written by my daughter Bethany. She is smart, sweet, beautiful, talented … and single. She is also a member of that seemingly shrinking population of young people determined to save sex for marriage. (Stay tuned for another post next week on why I believe that’s still the best choice.)

Please don’t misconstrue the intent of what she has written here. As she assured her friends when she originally posted this essay on Facebook, she does NOT regret her choices, nor does she think she’d be happier had she chosen a promiscuous lifestyle:

“What I’m saying,” she writes, “is that I don’t know what ‘waiting for marriage’ is supposed to look like if marriage never comes. And I’m not just talking about sex. I’m talking about everything — so much of our identity and purpose in Christian culture is wrapped up in the idea of being a wife and mother.

“I know all about ‘Love & Respect,’ about honoring God by honoring your husband, about following him as he follows the Lord, about being a ‘help-meet.’ All of that was beautifully modeled for me.

“But seeking holiness and meaning as a single woman? Even when that singleness is indefinite? That I am having to learn vastly on my own and without an example. This essay wasn’t intended to condemn abstinence as antiquated and obsolete; it was intended to shed light on the loneliness that often accompanies choosing a path that most others have long-since abandoned.

“And hopefully, by reading this post, others who are in a similar situation will feel a little less alone.”

Mint Condition

I was raised in the age of beanie babies and purity rings. Everyone I knew bought into the hype, with sterling silver rings on their left index fingers and rows and rows of beady-eyed bears lining their shelves. The rings invariably read “True Love Waits” and the pristine, heart-shaped tags on the bears invariably read “ty.”

Labels, you see, are of the utmost importance when you are 12 years old and still discovering what in this world – what in your own self – is of any worth.

I never bought a purity ring. I often wondered if maybe I should get one – you know, so that people would know what a good girl I was. So that people would know how seriously I took my faith (or my virginity, really, since at the time the two seemed interchangeable.)

But I never got one.

Purity rings [in my mind] were for the pretty girls, the ones with the boyfriends, the ones with the opportunities.

I had never been given that sort of offer, so I had no need for a ring to remind me to reject it.

And so I managed to escape puberty with naked fingers and not-naked everything else.

I did not, however, escape the beanie baby hype.

To be fair, I didn’t buy it myself. It was a gift. Brand new with tags and in a box that had never been opened, it came accompanied by a promise and a warning:

A promise that if I left it in the box, left it unopened and un-tampered with, that one day it would be worth a fortune.

And a warning that if I took it out – even for a moment – if I risked getting it dirty or losing those precious tags, it would be utterly worthless.

All my friends had beanie babies, and those beanie babies stayed in their boxes for days, weeks, months, even years. But eventually they all came out of their clear cubic prisons. The beanie babies were played with and shared, just like toys are meant to be. Their tags came off, as had been warned, and the fortune my friends might have had was forever lost.

Oh, but not mine. I heeded those warnings and hid my beanie baby away, safe from all the perils a carefree and careless childhood might bring. And as I watched my friends laughing and sharing and playing, I reminded myself over and over again of the fortune that awaited me if I just waited.

A lifetime has passed since then, a lifetime so very different from what my 12-year-old self imagined it would be. The purity rings and stuffed animals have long since passed out of fashion, ending up in garbage bins and garage sales and goodwill piles. But she is still here: my little brown bear with her heart-shaped tag, hidden safely in her box on my shelf – in perfect mint condition.

When people see her sitting there, their reactions are varied. Some are impressed that I’ve managed to keep her for so long. Some are nostalgic for the time when they, too, believed that a little stuffed animal carried with it all the hopes and dreams and promises of a prosperous future. But more often than not, it’s viewed as strange.

To be a quarter of a century old and in possession of such a novelty is an oddity, to say the least.

But despite all that, I’ve grown sentimental. I’ve had her for so long now that I could never just throw her out or give her away to a stranger like so many others before me have done. And in all honesty, I’m beginning to think that – despite all those pretty promises I was given at 12 – she isn’t worth anything at all anymore. She’s become nothing more than an odd remnant of a lost time that no one really wants to re-visit.

And somehow, by association, so have I.

But a part of me still secretly hopes that some day a collector will show up on my doorstep – an oddity, like me, who clung to those same childhood promises that I did. I imagine him falling to his knees and joyously proclaiming that she’s the one, the rare and unique treasure he’s been searching for his entire life. Then, at long last, she could come off her shelf and be exchanged for the fortune I was promised so long ago.

I wouldn’t mind parting with her then, because I’d know that she was valued. That she’d be cared for and treated with gentleness and respect.

It’s such a silly, pretty dream. With each passing year it becomes a little less realistic, a little more ridiculous.

But the hopeless romantic in me still clings to it, just the same.

So she sits there with me to this day.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.

A symbol of the innocence and hopeful naïvety of a childhood past.

Priceless? Worthless? I suppose that distinction is in the eye of the beholder.

We are both untouched.

Unblemished.

In Mint Condition.

Why God Made Mothers

I woke up this morning with the following verses forming in my head, so in honor of Mother’s Day (and at the risk of stating the obvious) here’s why I think God gave us mothers:

Happy Mother's Day from www.flandersfamily.info

Why God Made Mothers

by Jennifer Flanders

For giving birth — as moms do best,
For nursing babies at her breast,
For singing lullabies at night
For soothing fears and hugging tight,
For wiping teardrops from my eye
And sympathizing when I cry
While kissing boo-boos on my knee,
For bringing out the best in me,
For teaching me to tie a lace,
For using spit to clean my face,
For rocking me upon her lap
Cajoling me to take my nap,
For baking cookies by the batch,
For making sure the doors are latched
At night before she goes to bed,
For placing cold rags on my head
Whenever I am feeling sick
And fetching throw-up buckets, quick!
For bringing me “just one more” drink,
For understanding how I think,
For daily lifting me in prayer,
For combing tangles from my hair,
For teaching me to blow my nose,
For scrubbing stains out of my clothes,
For reading stacks of picture books,
For complimenting my good looks
And calling me endearing names,
For driving me to football games,
For watching o’er me as I play,
For spanking when I disobey,
For letting me help wash the dishes
After dinner — so delicious,
Coaxing me to eat green beans,
For being patient in my teens,
For measuring how fast I grow,
For holding on, for letting go,
For all the many things you do,
I’m grateful, Mom, God gave me you.

Doing Work that Will Endure

Our daily challenge: How can we achieve results that will endure?FROM MY ARCHIVES: I have a friend who refuses to iron more than one piece of clothing at a time. She believes that dying with a closet full of clean, pressed clothes would be testimony to a wasted life. Why bother ironing something you may never get the chance to wear?

“I’d much rather spend my time mowing the lawn,” my friend confides.

I assume she just enjoys being out in the fresh air and sunshine, but no, she explains, the reason she likes cutting the grass is because she knows it won’t need to be cut again for a full week — or at least five or six days.

Not so with any other domestic task.

I can see her point. You can knock yourself out scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, or washing windows, and the results can be completely undone in a matter of minutes. (And the more young children that share your household, the more likely your efforts to keep it clean will be thwarted.)

Even a home-cooked meal is summarily demolished once it’s been brought to the table. No sooner do you wash and dry the last dish from one meal than your famished family is back in the kitchen, asking when they might expect the next or begging for a snack.

But a freshly-mown lawn? Once that job’s done, you can take a well-earned break and enjoy it for awhile. There is something very gratifying about that fact.

As a wife and mother, I must deal with an endless barrage of demands upon my time and energy, of which there is a very limited supply. If I do not choose wisely, I will end up squandering it to achieve results that are fleeting rather than investing it in something longer lasting.

I want to make taking care of people, not possessions, my focus.

Of course, at some point, the laundry does have to be washed, the meals prepared, the floors swept. Life has always been a balancing act and always will be.

The challenge is to tend to the temporal duties in such a way that we achieve lasting results.

Not that the same chores won’t have to be done all over again tomorrow, but that in the doing, we are training children, teaching teamwork, showing appreciation, offering encouragement, modeling diligence, radiating joy, building character, and making memories together.

That kind of time investment will yield results that endure.

It's all about our mindset: tending to temporal duties in a way that achieves lasting results.

Cultivating Contentment

Cultivating Contentment in the Season you're InMy husband used to have a medical colleague with a bad habit of complaining: When work was slow, he’d complain that he couldn’t make any money. When work was busy, he’d complain that he never saw his family.

Doug suggested that all he really needed was an attitude adjustment.

“When you’re working hard, be happy for the opportunity to make money. When your schedule’s light, be happy for the opportunity to spend more time with your family. Just flip-flop your reactions and you’ll have nothing to complain about.”

It occurs to me that a lot of wives and mothers might profit from a similar shift in thinking.

When our children are little, it’s easy to focus on the sleepless nights, the endless messes, the never-having-a-free-minute-to-call-our-own. As they grow, those earlier trials give way to hectic schedules and constant chauffeuring, then attitudes and hormones, then college tuition and car repairs, and then suddenly — in the blink of an eye — they’re grown and gone and you find yourself sitting in an empty house wishing for a do-over.

That’s why it is so important to focus not on the trials of each stage, but on the joys. Savor them, for they are fleeting. Tomorrow that chubby cheeked toddler who wakes you up three times a night will be married with children of his own.

I am so grateful that, when I was just a little girl, my mother warned me of the dangers of wishing one’s life away.

Instead of thinking, I’ll be glad when I’m old enough to wear make up or drive or date or attend college or get married or (fill in the blank), Mom advised me to just enjoy whatever stage of life I was in to the fullest.

The next stage would arrive soon enough, she assured me, but I’d miss the pleasures of the present stage if I spent my time pining for the privileges of the next.

It’s a lesson I carried with me into marriage and motherhood, and my life has been so much richer as a result.

Contentment is not something you should postpone for a more convenient time. If you are ever going to experience it, you must actively cultivate it.

Right now.

Right where you are.

This involves shifting your focus off the things you can’t do in your current season of life, and instead attending with gratitude to those things you can do.

Instead of complaining about the cold all winter and the heat all summer, relish the opportunity to wear sweaters and build fires and drink hot cocoa when temperatures drop, then take joy in wearing flip-flops and eating watermelon and going swimming when the mercury peaks.

This simple solution, consistently applied, has a profound effect on overall happiness and contentment.

One practical thing I do to help keep things in proper perspective is make lists. I’ve written before about the fact I keep a running Empty Nest List and a Do It Now List in my notebook.

These serve as a reminder to do more of what I’ll miss (like cuddling with my little ones, reading them stories, and baking cookies together) and to chill out about stuff that’s relatively inconsequential (there will be time to alphabetize my home library and organize my small parts cabinets when the kids are grown and gone, if those things are even still important to me then).

Of course, your children aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit when you focus on the things you love instead of the things that irritate you — your spouse will appreciate such a shift in thinking, too.

As much as you might like to grow old together, you have no guarantee that will happen, so show him all the love and respect and appreciation you can muster while you still have him with you.

Live in a way that will leave no lingering regrets when he’s gone.

What kinds of things would/should be on your “Do It Now List?” What things might be better postponed for another season, perhaps when your nest is empty?

Revitalize your relationship