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??

Three Ways to Remain in God’s Will

There’s a verse stuck in my mind these days.

It keeps popping up at the most uncomfortable times – when I’m grumpy and think I have a good excuse, when I’m scared or worried, when I’m frustrated about dreams and goals that seem as though they will never become a reality, and I start wondering what exactly God wants me to be doing with these days of mine:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

How can I think I have a good reason for being grumpy with those words going through my head?

How can I justify any negative thoughts?

How can I wonder what God’s will is for me, if I truly take that verse to heart? It seems pretty clear to me.

But what about all of the big questions? How do I truly know what God is wanting me to do with my life? It seems as though it should be more than this little list, three items long. Sometimes we have really important decisions to make, and I need to know right now what to do.

God's Will

Joy, prayer, and thanks.

That’s it.

It may sound so little sometimes, but I’m realizing that it pretty much covers everything. Because the big issues are made up of the little things, and a long journey is made up of the little steps we take. And maybe moments of great wisdom and clarity are the result of many, many little moments of insight and preparation leading up to the great moment.

This makes me wonder….Does anything significant and important truly take place in only a moment?

Maybe everything is slowly building up over time, even if it’s unnoticed. And maybe, as I try to find joy and thankfulness, and I keep sending up those little prayers…maybe all of it is leading to my big moment of clarity.

Maybe each of these days filled with little acts of faithfulness are all adding up. In the end, I’ll still look back and see that it was God’s will, even without any great moment of enlightenment.

Some things in life seem really complicated, but I think I can manage to seek joy, prayer and thanks. They don’t always come easy, but I know how to try.

So today, I will look for joy and thankfulness to add to my list. I will stick up post-it notes, reminding me to keep praying.

And my guess is that there will always be peace found in these three little acts, because I will be right where God wants me to be, as long as I continually give this life and this day back to Him.