One Good Thing

 

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. –Proverbs 4:23 (GNT)

I’d just graduated from college and had gotten my first job teaching junior high English in Punxsutawney. Mom had wanted me to get a job in the Mon Valley and live at home.

“Think of all the money you’ll save,” she said.

Sure, I wouldn’t have to pay rent or cook (I didn’t know how anyway), but it would mean losing the independence I craved.

I did consider it, though. We were both still reeling from my father’s death the previous November. But Mom and I were too much alike, and when we were together, the sparks flew.

So, knowing not a soul, I pored through the “For Rent” ads in the local paper. Although I grew up in a town, my dream was to live in the country. I found a second story furnished apartment in a village about a mile out of town. Not as country as I wanted, but for now it would do.

My fiancé helped me move in – then drove out of my life, shattering my heart and unleashing a flood of grief I’d held in since Dad died.

At night the pain was the most intense. I awoke in the morning emotionally raw. But I didn’t have time to withdraw from life and give full vent to my sorrow. As a first-year teacher, I was learning the school’s curriculum, planning lessons, and dealing with teenagers. I was barely out of my teens myself. I turned 21 that November, a year after Dad died.

I also had my own place and all the responsibilities that went with that. Which included driving three miles every day to my landlady’s for water.

Who in their right mind, you ask, would rent a second story apartment with no water? A 20-year-old, fresh-out-of-college girl desperate to begin her life, that’s who. Who believed her landlady’s promises that she’d have water “tomorrow.”

After a month of lugging the day’s water up the outside stairs, I found another apartment. In town. Furnished. With water.

When I informed my landlady, she dangled what she thought would be a temptation: “What if I rented the apartment across from you to a nice, single state trooper?”

No dice. Through all the heartache, upheaval, and broken promises, I’d done some growing up and had learned a few lessons.

The most important was the attitude of my mind: that what I focused on – what I chose to think about – determined my attitude and consequently my life.

I could choose to wallow in grief, bewail broken promises, lament lugging water, and feel sorry for myself. After all I was going through, I certainly earned the right.

Or I could choose to find one good thing in each day and dwell on that. Just one good thing . . .

I chose the latter. And it turned my life around. By Christmas, I had a comfortable apartment, contact lenses, a new piano and guitar. At the end of January that first year of teaching, I met the true love of my life. Together we built our dream house in the country.

Another, and probably the most important, thing I chose was to go back to church. Eventually that led me to a deeper, higher, more meaningful relationship with my Creator.

It was only years later that I discovered what God’s Word had to say about the attitude of our minds and the quality of our lives:

Our lives are determined by the way we think (Proverbs 4:23).

When we change the way we think – renew our minds – we are transformed from the inside out (Romans 12:2).

We choose the way we think by taking our thoughts captive and making them in line with what God wants us to think (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We are what we think (Proverbs 23:7).

What about you? What do you focus on?

Thank You, Lord, for being with me, guiding me, and showing me the way to a fulfilling life. Amen.

Read and meditate on Philippians 4:8.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Enjoy the Journey

 

Rainbow over Smithport October 16, 2015
Rainbow over Smithport, October 16, 2015

Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour. – Ecclesiastes 11:8 (The Message)

I once read of a woman who wanted to visit some relatives who lived halfway across the country. Since she didn’t like to fly, she decided to take a train. Besides, she figured, she’d see more of the countryside that way. But when she got to her seat, she fiddled around, arranging her things for comfort and convenience. She was never quite satisfied, and, by the time she got situated, she had reached her destination. She never got to enjoy the trip!

On our life journey, we can become so focused on trying to make little, inconsequential details perfect that we miss the best part—the journey itself. We fail to discover the pleasant surprises—the serendipity moments—God has placed around us each day.

A rainbow is a serendipity moment. One summer morning years ago I roused my three children out of bed to see a rainbow. The sleepyheads didn’t appreciate it then, but I hope they remember, and I hope, now that they’re adults, they allow some serendipity in their lives—and teach their children likewise.

Serendipity is more than spontaneity. It’s finding an unexpected joy—a “fortunate happenstance” or pleasant surprise on your life journey. Detailitis blinds us to serendipity.

Or maybe we just get too busy, period, and develop “projectitis.” We become slaves to a list of projects that “just must be done,” and we don’t take time to smell the lilacs, gaze at a rainbow, watch the sunset, dance barefoot in the rain, go on an impromptu picnic, or take a day trip just for fun.

Stopping to appreciate what’s around us isn’t the only way to enjoy life. Don’t just say, “I’ve always wanted to ______” (fill in the blank). Take the time and do it!

Just this past week I listened to a radio host interviewing a man who set out, at the age of 69, to visit each of the 50 states before his seventieth birthday. His visits aren’t just drive through or stop and take a few pictures, either. He plans an adventure in each state—a bike ride, a hike—something physically challenging. He has four states left, one of which is Colorado, where he plans a skiing adventure.

My writing colleague and friend Karen O’Connor, a senior who writes for seniors, is currently on a two-week tour of the national parks in the western states. “This trip has been on my bucket list,” she said. “Now it’s time to pull it out of the bucket.”

Don’t let detailitis blind you to the beauty of the world around you or projectitis snuff out your dreams. Give in to serendipity moments. Pull something out of your bucket.

Remember that happiness is not a destination—it’s the journey itself.

However many years I have, Lord, help me to enjoy them all (Ecclesiastes 11:8 NIV). Open my eyes to the pleasant surprises in this day, and give me the courage to take time to pursue those dreams You’ve placed in my heart. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Luke 10:38–42

1276884_10201492829315470_359539492_o
Dean and me on top of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine, September 2013 (on our 40th wedding anniversary camping trip)