You Can Always Make a Happy Choice

It’s about one year since I started making a “happy list”.

The idea had been in the back of my mind for a few months, but it took awhile until I was ready to commit to actually getting my happy, thankful thoughts down on paper.

Once I started, I loved it. I’ve gotten 1272 blessings listed in my notebook, and I’m still going strong. A minimum of five a night is my goal, but it’s pretty easy to get carried away.;)

Shortly after I started my list, I became aware of how often Anika complained about stuff. I got her going on her own happy list, and it worked beautifully, every time – she transformed before my eyes from a grumpy, sulky-sounding girl into a cheerful, smiling, thankful girl!

Except for one time.

I sent her to her room, told her to come back when she’d listed five things in her Happy Book, and expected the usual transformation. I was extremely confused when she sulked back into the kitchen, and said, “I’m done”, in the same grumpy voice.

I couldn’t understand it. The Happy List had worked every single time before. Was the effect starting to wear off? What had gone wrong?

I grabbed her notebook and flipped to the spot where she’d written, expecting to find that she’d not actually written anything down.

But oh, no. She had written something down. She’d written: Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.” Five times.

NO WONDER it hadn’t worked!

I made her write ten things (and helped her out a little bit), and sure enough, the same old transformation occurred. We were saved.


Just recently, she was having a bit of a rough spot in her day, and the complaining was starting up again. It was rewarded with the opportunity to help me fold a humongous pile of laundry.

(This made the complaining get worse.)

But as we folded laundry together, I started talking to her about the Happy Choice.

I explained to her that in absolutely everything in life, we always have a choice. We can choose to be thankful and have a good attitude, or we can grump and complain.

Laundry is an excellent example. I used to strongly dislike folding laundry. There was so much of it. I would work so hard to fold it all, but after a short time, there it all was again. It felt so pointless.

But somewhere, Ann Voskamp has written, “I forgot that I was washing those clothes for Jesus.”

And if I’m doing laundry for Jesus, it needs to be done cheerfully.

So I made a choice: I chose to think about every single good thing there was to think about folding laundry. Here’s the list I gave Anika:

  1. I love having all of my clothes clean and available for me to choose from when I’m getting dressed in the morning. I always wear my favorites right away, so it’s fun when everything is clean.

  2. There is nothing like getting into fresh, clean sheets at night.

  3. Fluffy, warm towel straight from the dryer are completely wonderful. I bury my nose in them every time.

  4. I’m thankful that I have a family who’s wearing all those clothes.

  5. I’m thankful that I have a washing machine and dryer to do all the hard work for me.

  6. How amazing to have more than enough clothes, towels, and sheets. We are richly blessed.

  7. When you think about it, creating order from chaos can be pretty fun. There is great satisfaction in making that crazy laundry pile disappear into neatly folded stacks, all ready to be put away.


Somewhere around number three of this list, Anika started smiling, and helping me think of things to add. We ended up having a wonderful talk over laundry, and later on at supper, when our family always lists “Favorite Things of the Day”, folding laundry together was a favorite for both of us.

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes,

“The discipline of thanks only comes with practice.”

Find thanks in the little things, the stuff that’s easy to be joyful about, and work up the strength to be thankful in the big things.

What are some practical ways in which you are choosing joy? Any tips for teaching kids how to choose it, too??

One Less Person

Ben is gone for the week. He is up north with the Pursuit students on a missions trip.

Which means, one less person to clean up after.

One less person to cook for.

One less wardrobe’s worth of clothing to wash on laundry day.

One less side of the bed to make.

Too bad I don’t care about any of that stuff. I would rather just have him home!

What I Think About While I’m Cleaning My House

Because I’m sure you’re all dying to know…

But really, people should talk about that kind of thing more, because when I moved out on my own, learning to “keep house” was a bit of an adjustment. My parents taught me to work and I had to do my fair share of chores around the house, but I never had to run the place. My mom was so good at it that she made it look effortless, but when I had to do it on my own, suddenly it wasn’t so effortless anymore.

It was lots of work, and not all of it was very enjoyable. I have to admit that in the beginning, I used the approach of “Let it all go for a week, and then have one massive, intense, dreaded cleaning session on Saturday.”

There are two problems with that: Things can get really messy in a week, and a messy house makes me really grumpy.

I had to clean to stay sane, but I didn’t like to do it. But there was one particular Saturday when everything changed for me…

I was dusting my house one morning when I got a phone call from a friend. She asked what I was doing, so I said I was housecleaning, and she said, “I hate housecleaning, so I’ve decided not to do it anymore. Then I’ll have more time for my hobbies and the things I actually enjoy doing.”

I thought about that a lot that day. And I remember, very clearly, that I came to a decision as I was wiping my window sills. I thought to myself, “If I have to choose between cleaning or hobbies, I would have to choose cleaning. I cannot stand to live in a dirty house. Does that mean that I can never have hobbies?” And I had a moment of inspiration: Cleaning would be my hobby! I would do it till I liked it.

And after that, something changed. Every time I chose to clean, I recognized that I was choosing to do that over something that I enjoyed doing, so that I could have the pleasure of living in a clean house.

I was focusing on the end result rather than on the housework itself, and that is what motivated me. I stopped attaching emotions to the things that I needed to do. Who sits around complaining about how much they hate brushing their teeth? You just do it without attaching emotion.

Since then, I have obviously discovered that there is time for enjoyable activities as well as housework, but I think that what I decided that day still affects my attitude. I don’t allow myself to think, “I don’t like washing dishes,” or “I hate folding laundry,” because I have to do it whether I like it or not. So while I’m doing those things, I think about how much I will enjoy my clean kitchen and my neatly folded laundry.

When I was a little girl, my parents gave me a poster that said, “Lord, help me to do with a smile those things that I have to do anyway.”

I did not appreciate the truth of that back then, but I really like it now.

Today is laundry folding day, and I’m actually looking forward to it – all of my favorite clothes are sitting in a laundry basket, and I can’t wait to have them all neatly folded and put away.

This makes me sound like an extremely positive, upbeat person. I’m not, really. But I’m working on it!