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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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25

Monday 20th February 2017

A Happier Week Begins with This One Word

One of the best ways to hold onto your happiness is simply by saying, “Thanks.”

Sadly, I don’t always.

Instead, I get tripped up by one of the major obstacles standing in the way of happiness: The belief that we would be happy “if only . . . .”

“If only we could have peace in this conflicted world, then I’d be happy.”

“If only winter wasn’t so cold.”

“If only summer wasn’t so hot.”

When the kids are toddlers, we say, “If only the kids were older.”

And when they turn into teenagers with raging hormones, we hear ourselves saying, “If only they were little again.”

I got cured of my own propensity for “if only” during a recent trip to Haiti. Our family has taken several trips there, often staying at an orphanage across the bay from Port-au-Prince. I am always amazed by the children, who demonstrate a sort of gratitude-based happiness that would floor you.

Every night, after dinner, the children lead their friends in prayer. They face the four walls of the orphanage and shout, “Le san de Jezi!” They are praying the words “The blood of Jesus” to the north, south, east, and west. Afterward, they break out in songs of praise.

Maybe somewhere deep inside of them, they are thinking what any of us would naturally think in their circumstances. They might have their own “if onlys”:

I would be happier, if only I had parents.


If only I lived in a safer country.


If only people outside these walls weren’t dying.


But instead of ending their days with if-onlys, they end their days with praise. Their gratitude is contagious.

After witnessing this moving display of gratitude on a recent visit, we watched the following morning as a girl named Nadege instructed her toddler friends to sit down on the bench, just like she’d seen the older kids do the night before. Then Nadege stood up in front of them like a tiny preacher. She tossed back her head, lifting her face to the sky, and stretched out both arms to heaven, shouting, “Alleluia!”

And you know what? Nadege’s gratitude was contagious.

Because this is what happened next: The children did exactly what Nadege did. When Nadege danced in a circle, the children danced in circles. When she shouted alleluia, they did the same.

And you know what else? The toddlers’ gratitude was contagious too.

One morning, just after the roosters began to crow, I sat on the deck, watching the sun rise over the bay. In the room below, I heard tiny voices in a growing chorus. The littlest children of the orphanage had begun to wake up, and they wanted someone to come and get them out of their cribs.

But they didn’t say, “Mama, come get me!”
At first I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but when I opened the door, I heard it clear as day. They were shouting this one word, again and again: “Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Here were all these little humans gripping the edges of their cribs, shouting thanks.

Maybe this is what we could all do every day. It’s at least a good place to start, to live our lives in this repeat cycle of waking up with an alleluia. All day long, we could sing it—with Nadege and the babies—our continual thanksgiving to the heavens. And then, as night falls, we could face north, south, east, and west and pray the blood of Jesus over it all.

Maybe you’ve met happy people like that. Maybe you’ve met them in Haiti or along the red-dirt roads of Uganda.

But maybe you’ve never had to cross an ocean. Maybe you see the happiest people right where you are—in the Deep South, or on the snow-covered plains of North Dakota, or in the soft chairs of your living room. I hope you see them in your carpool lane, on your cul-de-sac. I hope you see them in your own mirror.

Let’s be those people, the ones who make other people talk because they hear us shouting alleluia.

Excerpt taken from The Happiness Dare copyright © 2016 by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Photo by Kari Anne at Thistlewood Farm,
who writes this about The Happiness Dare

“And somewhere in the middle of trying not to buy into the negative …
I picked up the book. I couldn’t put it down.

This wasn’t an intimidating book written by a super happy person with all the answers.
It didn’t make me feel like I should be happier
or that I wasn’t happy enough
or that I needed to wake up every morning
looking for happiness in my fuzzy slippers.

Instead?

She was honest and authentic and real and relatable
and she talked about how we are all on our own happiness journey.”

#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 Tiffany Parry. If you need friendship-related encouragement, I’d love to invite you to read her words. Friendship is worth fighting for, but it’s not always easy, is it? Find Tiffany 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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  • kwood2011

    I meant every. single. word.

    “Thanks” for the shout out rock star. 🙂

  • Lovely example of being thankful, which makes us and those around us happier. My dad was good at this. Everyone he talked to he would try and find one thing to thank the person for. Maybe the story they told him, for doing their daily job, for talking to him. He found something every time. It usually surprised the person, and then the person was smiling bigger. I asked him once why he started doing this, and he said, “Most people don’t hear a thank you very often. It’s one small thing I can do for them.”

  • When I read this chapter in the book I cried–we have so much, yet we so seldom say thanks! I ran a half-marathon on Sunday, and the course went through Luke Air Force Base. I made sure to thank every single airman who showed up to direct traffic, encourage, and cheer the runners on. The fact that they would take time on a drizzly morning to cheer us on took my breath away. We have so much to be thankful for in the men and women who serve our country.

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  • Mary

    The joy on the faces of those children alone makes me smile. I understand what contagious joy is and I found it in Nicaragua when I visited there last year. These people had nothing to seek of but were happier than any of the Americans who came to visit. It is a lesson I was able to carry home with me.

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  • This is so touching, Jennifer. It always awes me how thankful they can be in the midst of such poverty and dying.

    Guess what? I just found out this past weekend that Lydia is a friend of my granddaughter, Julia. 🙂 Love and hugs to you!

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    YES. That story. I will never forget it. It is one way I can remember to just praise regardless. He lifts me up when I do. I think of the verse, “He inhabits the praises of His people.”

    Love you friend. This book is still blessing me.

  • This post brings back the good memory of reading it the first time, nodding my head, and saying, “Yes,” to the one word. May God deliver us from the life of “if only.”

  • Amen Jennifer! I cannot think of a better word to start my day than “thanks.” I thank God from the moment my eyes begin to open each morning . This puts my mind in the right frame before I even begin to think about the tasks for the day. Sounds like your trips to Haiti have illuminated how much we have to be thankful for each day. Thank you for sharing this post and for the opportunity to share. I hope you have a wonderful week and may God bless you and yours.

  • Let the air be filled with alleluias of thanksgiving each and every day!
    Blessings, Jennifer!

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  • Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing that story 🙂 and your words!

  • Love that picture of sweet little ones gripped with gratitude. If they can, we can. And thank you so much for featuring my post, Jennifer. What a beautiful and bright spot in this day!! Grateful for you!!

  • Sometimes I wonder if all I have gets in the way of my seeing the blessings all around. It’s so beautiful to think of these little ones in Haiti living lives of praise. Maybe it’s not about what we have at all. Maybe our happiness, our praise, our gratitude is a choice to look to Jesus instead of the things around us.

  • Liz

    The image of those kids in their cribs crying out Alleluia is seared into my brain. How beautiful! May I be so bold with my gratitude! Blessings.

  • This is a powerful and most beautiful post! May the image of toddlers crying out alleluia as they hold onto their cribs move us to be grateful to our God as well. “And a little child shall lead them …” Grateful to have stopped here this morning!

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  • So true! Just studying this in Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God book – peace from giving thanks! Thanks for the confirmation, Jennifer!

  • Gretchen

    This is so good! Loved the story from Haiti and your application. I worked two different trips in a malnutrition center in Guatemala and could relate to the babies waking up and calling for attention. What a powerful image to picture orphans crying alleluia! I am truly blessed by it and you. Thank you for sharing:)

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  • Julie Loos

    I don’t give thanks enough either. I get stuck in the “if onlys” too. What a beautiful story about the children of Haiti, makes me realign my perspective. I’m so glad these little ones know about Jesus!

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  • Oh, my, this was just what my heart needed today, Jennifer. Thank you. Thank you for reminding us that the simple things are the best things, the richest things, the beautiful things. Even though the praise from the mouth of babes was nothing less than extraordinary, it is because they who literally have nothing are giving themselves to the One they know is everything.

    So Blessed by this today!
    Thank you!
    Love,
    Dawn

  • Nancy Ruegg

    What a glorious way to live–from one alleluia to another all day long. Thank you for the challenge, Jennifer. Indeed, let’s make a difference with our shouts of alleluia!

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