Full of Gratitude: My Birthday Heart


It’s been one of those weeks that is so full you hardly know what to say about it and yet something must be said before the march of days swallows it all.  It’s been a week of thoughtfulness in many directions, of joy and mercy and abundance of the best kind.  Forgive me if the sifting results in a lengthy post!

I received an unexpected visit from a dear friend on Monday night.  She came bearing a yummy treat and a beautifully wrapped gift which she insisted I open in spite of my birthday being the following day.  I was completely stunned to open the gift and find inside it the book you see pictured above filled with letters to me from friends and family near and far.  She, with lots of help from my husband, had secretly worked for weeks with the goal of collecting forty letters from forty friends to mark my 40th birthday.  They got more than seventy.

I sat up late into the night reading letter after letter, more humbled with each one by the generosity of my friends and family.  The kindness of their words lifted my heart in a way nothing else could.  It is true that our Heavenly Father knows our needs far better than we do, and when he meets an unknown need so completely through the work of someone we know the gift is overwhelmingly sweet.  Such was the impact of these letters.    Some of them came from people I lost touch with years ago, and many came from friends I dearly love but whose friendships I’ve neglected in the past few years while trying to find my stride as a mother of eight children.  Some came from people whose friendships are newer and carried a warmth I had not thought yet formed.  Some made me laugh out loud and many sent silent tears down my cheeks.  There was a note from one brother that touched me deeply and countless compliments from people I admire so greatly that I felt I should be the one writing such things about them .  Throughout all of them came the whisper “you are loved, you are accepted, you are good.”  Perhaps the whisper was the best part of all, the golden thread that wove through every word and wrapped it all up with a big bow and left me with the distinct feeling that I’d been given back my friends.  Not that they weren’t there before, but that I’d assumed I was disqualified for a dozen reasons.  It felt like Heavenly Father put it in my lap and said, “I know it’s been long and hard, but here you go.  It’s time to run with this again.”  Which is exactly what I hope to do.

I was surprised by themes that emerged in the letters, by how many times certain qualities were mentioned.  Surprised that I was worth the pause in their too-busy lives to contribute to the project.  Surprised.  Grateful.  Healed.

When at last I put the book down, having read every word, I was also filled.  Filled with determination to arise and be the person they seem to think I am capable of being.  Filled with longing to aim higher and farther.  Filled with wonder at the mercy and generosity of these people I know, who had obviously sifted through much and chose to focus on the best in me.  I want to be like them.  I thought again of my friend Kathy who passed away this summer, of her happiness on her special day last year.  I remembered the smile on her face and realized I was tasting what she felt that windy afternoon.   I am filled with a desire to be more, to do more, to give more, to find whatever energy and strength of will it takes to follow every impulse to do good, to lift, to contribute, to build.  I don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to be a part of strengthening someone as I was strengthened this week.

All the other trappings and trimmings were icing on the cake:  a special birthday breakfast, phone calls, pretty packages, cake, dinner with my husband, balloons, an evening rainstorm.  Then Thursday night I was off for a couple of days for a girls weekend with most of the women in my family and it was awesome in every way.  I’ve learned so much this week, about myself and others, about goodness and kindness, life and dreams.   And we are happy when we are learning, so I feel rich in joy.

So my heart sings out “thank you” in a thousand directions while tonight I sit in a pile with my children who I’ve missed as much as I enjoyed the break.  I look around me at the smiles on faces so very dear and marvel once more that although I am certainly one of the least of God’s daughters, still He chooses to work in my life.  THAT is the gift of a lifetime.


15 Days of Happiness :: Rearrange Something


Today’s happiness task is closely related to my post about painting something.
Sometimes we get going and the beautiful things in our lives become part of the backdrop.  We love and appreciate them, but because they blend into the landscape of our days we fail to really see them.  When we no longer see them, their power to bring joy is diminished.  We can do this both with people and with things, and when it happens it’s easy to start looking around at other people, other things, and think we need THOSE to be happy.

I caught myself being tempted to think this way recently when I saw this picture in the Wisteria catalog:


I love the bright blues against the white.  The painting, rug, lamps and vase I particularly like, but I don’t really need any of them.

I do have a white living room that I love, so I decided to pull a few things from other places and see how it would turn out.   This is what I did:


I moved a pillow from another room and placed my Water and Sky quilt over the arm of the couch.


I pulled vases from other rooms to make an arrangement I liked, then cut my first peonies of the year.


That was it, but it was enough.  All of a sudden I had a splash of the color I wanted, and doing something different gave me new motivation and pride in having my house look nice.  Sometimes that is just what I need to feel energized and willing to clean.  Rearranging things makes me notice them again, and restores the pleasure I find in them as well.  I didn’t need anything new; I just needed new eyes to see what I already had.

What will you rearrange today?  A room?  A shelf?  Or will you do something far greater, like rearrange a schedule to restore a relationship to it’s proper priority in your life?  Whatever it is, may it bring happiness!


15 Days of Happiness :: Memory Lane


One of my goals is to sort through all the photos, school papers and memorabilia that have come with 8 children and almost 17 years of marriage.   I was going through a stack of homework from my oldest son when he was 8 years old and, tucked in all the math assignments, I found these pictures.

I stood there, swept back in time to this photo shoot, done by my neighbor, and felt overwhelmed by how young and innocent they all look.  We only had six then, and they look so little!  In some ways it was so long ago, and in others it was yesterday.  Looking through these photographs softened my heart towards a couple of them who have been a real struggle lately, and generally made the day more precious.  I realized that in another 7 years I’ll be looking at this year’s pictures with the same longing.


I found another folder, full of old family photos.  My grandparents, who are now gone, my mother as an infant, all reminded me that life is always changing.  I’ll never get this stage back so I’d better enjoy it now.


Then came this photo, a gift from a good friend, of my oldest three children when #1 was just a few months older than #8 is now.   As I thumbed through these photographs, all of a sudden I didn’t care how many papers were sorted that day.  I remembered what really matters, and remembered how fun and sweet they all were as babies.

When I walked upstairs a few minutes later, I felt happier.   They are mine and I love them.  Today is a good day.  Right now is the time to smile at them, love them, enjoy them, and treasure the everyday that will someday fade into the past.  My unexpected walk down memory lane changed my heart.

I hope you’ll look through some old photos today.  Let yourself be reminded how many good things your life has been full of, and face what lies ahead of you with new gratitude and determination to enjoy it!

Happy living, Jennifer *This post is part of a short series of posts on happiness.

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