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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 23rd August 2016

The Fastest Way to Make Someone Else Happy — #TellHisStory

One of the surest routes to happiness!

It’s my fourth birthday, and Mom stands on the hem of my memory. I’m playing musical chairs with cherry-cheeked friends in the next room. And I think I see Mom on the edge, putting candles in a cake while standing barefoot in the kitchen. But it’s all so fuzzy.

Fast-forward to another party: I see the faint outline of Mom in the foyer, where she’s taping a paper donkey to the radiator, so we can pin the tail to it. If I squeeze my eyes tight enough, I can feel Mom pulling a dish-towel around my head, tying it in the back like a blindfold. I can’t say for sure, but I think Mom is the person spinning us around three times before we shuffle forward with that tail.

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I remember some details with clarity: gifts, the names of the guests, what I wore, the elaborate cakes made by a neighbor lady. I remember the way our dignified dining room table—with its chunky legs and swollen feet—would humble itself to serve duty for a bunch of frosting-fingered first-graders.

And, whether it’s true or not, I believe there was always a magical snowfall outside the dining room window.

But Mom, the one who loved me most? On the playback of birthdays past, Mom is always this one long blur. She was habitually in the background, I guess, like the butter that made the whole occasion slide from cake to song to gifts.

I’m not sure that I even thanked Mom for making me feel special.

Months later each year, we celebrated Mom’s birthday, right as the summer’s first tomatoes ripened. Truthfully, “celebrate” is too generous a term. My little brother and I would habitually scramble to come up with a present at the last possible moment. Panicked, we would “borrow” a few bucks from Dad’s billfold and then pedal our Schwinn bikes like mad to the hardware store to buy something like a whisk or a ceramic knick-knack. And if we couldn’t find Dad’s billfold? Well, we’d fish an old comb or Avon perfume bottle from the back of a bathroom drawer, wrap it up in newspaper and call it good.

She always thanked us, like we had delivered her a crescent moon on a silver plate.

How to Bless a Giver

Recently, when Mom turned 75, our family of four happened to be with her during her birthday. We were staying with her and Dad at their little cabin on a quiet Minnesota lake.

Before we left for the lake, I hastily purchased a necklace for her. I knew Mom would love the present, but it really felt like an after-thought—a grown-up version of a ceramic bird from the hardware store.

I knew what Mom would love even more than jewelry. I knew that more than anything Mom would love a party. I knew, because Mom scores highly as a Giver. And I knew, because most of the time, people give to others what they themselves would like to receive. 

Because she’s a Giver, Mom’s life motto is this: “The best way to find happiness is to create it for someone else.”

Summer holiday, celebration and present concept: happy young woman holding colorful balloons behind back and gesturing thumb up, standing in full length, city view, outdoors

One of the fastest, surest ways to make someone else happy, is by knowing and nurturing their happiness style. 

So, on a whim, we invited a few of Mom’s friends from church to the cabin for a dinner party. The birthday girl would not be allowed to step one foot on the kitchen floor, or dip one finger into a sudsy sink—rules that are a bit difficult to enforce with a woman whose workplace has always been the home.

But my husband and I insisted she hold down the seat of honor. This was her night, and this was our turn to be the butter in the background, making all the parts slide.

We baked Cornish hens with rosemary. We stirred chives (and extra butter) into the red potatoes. We lit candles and served fresh peaches on ice cream. And we marveled, from the background, as that sparely-styled pine table, with its scrawny legs, made itself a stage for one of life’s simplest and grandest pleasures: the joy of giving.

The dinner was appallingly simple. It was one of those moments when a person stands back, shakes her head, and realizes how easy it is to makes someone truly happy.

All evening, my husband and I watched from the wings as a group of friends celebrated the life of one beautiful woman.

I forgot to take actual pictures, but this time, I made my brain like a camera, snapping each moment, because I didn’t want this birthday party to end up like so many others—with Mom’s part getting fuzzy around the edges.

The guests lingered around that table, while the candles melted down to nubs. And outside that little cabin, a wisp of a crescent moon hung itself in the sky.

What’s Your Happiness Style

Are you a Giver? Or maybe you’re a Doer, Experiencer, Thinker, or Relater. To find your style, take this short test. My assessment will pinpoint what truly makes you happy. Ask your loved ones to take the test, too. It will help you know how to bless them, just as our party blessed my mom, a Giver.

One of the fastest, surest ways to make someone else happy, is by knowing and nurturing their happiness style.

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#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Jen Avellaneda. Truth from her post: “We don’t have to clean ourselves up for our Father in heaven. We are loved not because of our own merit, but just because we are His, created in His image.” Find Jen here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer


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  • Such a perfect gift for your mother, Jennifer, and what beautiful memories you have shared here. Blessings!

    • Thank you, friend. And blessings to you as well.

  • Ever since reading your book Jennifer, I can’t stop looking at people now with a view of who they are via their possible happiness-status… it is changing how I interact with them, and now this post makes me pull up memories very much like you’ve described… so thankful for what your words are changing deep down inside! xxoo

    • I’d love to hear more about that, Christine!

  • Wow Jennifer you are scaring me:) I just had my parent’s and some family over to celebrate my Mother’s birthday this past Sunday. I roasted a wild caught salmon with pineapple glaze and served it over pineapple coleslaw and avocado cream for salmon fish tacos. We topped it off with my homemade Kahlua Cappuccino Cheesecake for dessert. To see the smile on her face and the happiness in her eyes was priceless!(Salmon is her favorite) So I hear you loud and clear what you share in your post and in your book too! I am so proud that you listened to God’s leading when He inspired you to write about Happiness. Your book has truly opened my eyes in not only how I see myself but yet helped me visualize another layer of my Savior! Thank you Jennifer. I hope you know how many people your book has and will help going forward. Continued success. Have a wonderful week and God bless you and yours!

    • Wow, that’s an impressive menu, friend! … And thanks for your kind words about the book. That means a lot to me. I appreciated your help so much on the launch team.

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  • Deborah Will

    Savoring the memories. Mom died just before her 70th and I had a big party planned, but I always did those last few years. ENJOY!

    • Oh, I’m so sorry, Deborah. Reminds me to not take for granted any moment.

  • Laura Hicks

    Beautiful memories!

    • It was fun to walk down memory lane with you!

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  • Beautiful memories of your childhood and the way your mom acted as the butter in your life :). Thank you for sharing (and making me think about how important it is to figure out other people’s happiness styles!).

    • That’s been fun — to learn the styles of others in my life, and to figure out how to nurture them.

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Jennifer,
    I’m a lot like your mom…I truly find happiness when I’m able to give the gift of happiness to someone else. A smile is the most wonderful “thank you” in the world. I’m trying to be a student of happiness styles and love languages…awareness of others is the key – thanks for calling us to look outside ourselves.
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • I totally see you as a giver!

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  • Jennifer, what a beautiful post and such wonderful memories! I loved reading it. Blessings!

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    I loved going back in time here with you, Jennifer. Your mom sounds lovely….my mom is like this too. I have been trying to think of ways to bring my husband happiness, who is a giver also, and it has been a great month of growth in our marriage in one of the most interesting seasons of our lives. Thanks for being a candle in my life!

    • Oh this is exciting to hear. I’d love to know more about this. Did he take the test? Because he’s a giver, are you doing things differently than before? I love this!

      • Meghan Weyerbacher

        Some things we have in common but the things we did not have in common are where I am trying to grow. He loves sports and baseball especially so I have been trying to really listen better to him as he tells me “facts and updates” about the teams etc, instead of “umm hmming” while I multitask so much. I know that sounds bad but I never realized how it sounded on his end. (Yet, if he did that to me in an area I was interested in I would probably get frustrated that he wasn’t really listening or trying to show some form of interest!) Also, I am such a doer and he is so laid back. Add him being gone for a week (only home on weekends) and when he gets home it is tempting to want to thrust the “list” of “toolman” jobs at him right away. BUT we are trying something new for our family in order to cultivate rest and happiness since it looks like (this is year #3) he will be doing this job until God opens a different door. Last week was a new happiness goal that we both came up with together in order to invest into the hearts of the kids and him (and really it helps me because it means I can get more done around the house lol.) He is going to take each kid individually fishing on Sunday afternoons he is home, rotating turns each weekend so they can get some daddy time in. He loves fishing so this is a way for him to experience his sweet spot. We had to do something because he works so much and had to have something to look forward to. Not that we aren’t enough but after 3 years of it, we both needed to allow ourselves to live. We got so caught up in getting out of ruts and becoming “wise” that we forgot to have fun almost! The Happiness Dare has came into our lives at the best time and I hope to somehow put some of this into the posts I am going to share soon when I do the giveaway! Sorry I have not been on the FB page much, with just having moved and starting home school right away it has definitely been an adventure. I am so thankful God is working healing and happiness back into our family though, after a rough last year! Prayers and blessings for you this lovely Friday my friend!! xoxoxo

  • always love your memory-stories. My mom too loved a good gathering with food and laughter and a bit of celebration. It’s a lovely love-filled legacy.

  • oh, and love the lesson here: One of the fastest, surest ways to make someone else happy, is by knowing and nurturing their happiness style.

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  • What a beautiful story. It brings back memories of my own mother. She’s your mom’s age. 🙂 My mom’s a giver and loved celebrating. I’m like her in so many ways. I love your mom’s life motto.

  • Susan

    You have the extraordinary gift of storytelling. Beautiful and I do love the way you honored your mom. Next week I am going to share some stories about my grandma – there are so many to tell!!!

    • Wow! That means so much, Susan! Thank you.

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  • Julie Loos

    What a life motto to live by! Your momma sounds so very special!
    I enjoyed your post!
    Julie

    • Julie, She’s the best. We call her Mama D. She’s lots of people’s Mama D — loved by many.

  • Pam, apples of gold

    Loved this – beautiful as always, Jennifer. Love that last line about the candles and the moon too…

  • Jennifer,
    What a beautiful story about your mother, her life, and your relationship 🙂 Thank you.

    • Thank you so much for your kindness, Dolly.

  • Tara Ulrich

    As a giver, I absolutely loved this post. Nothing I love more than giving to others.

    • yay! so glad these words touched your heart. xo

  • Angela Howard

    You painted such a sweet picture of these special moments with your mom. It inspired me to stop for a moment and be thankful that my home is the “party house.”

    • I love that! I want to be the party house. 🙂

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  • Nancy Ruegg

    Just adding my thanks to these others, Jennifer, for this heart-warming post and the spirit-inspiring truth that happiness is found when we create it for someone else. With Susan (below), I celebrate your extraordinary story-telling ability!

  • Jennifer, What a sweet story about your Mom! Loved it!

  • Lynn Mosher

    So love the story about your precious mom. More importantly capturing it on your brain, you capture the event on your heart. So sweet! And you realize you have started a revolution, don’t you? A happiness revolution! 😀

Looking for a little happy in your Christmas? I've got seven ways for you to find it, pursue it, and embrace it. Find seven videos on my Instagram. 💚❤️💚❤️🌲 pic.twitter.com/DpIBIdb64S