Monday, November 9, 2015

Happy Now

If you want to be happy,

-Leo Tolstoy 

I don't want to burst any bubbles, but I didn't always pay attention in Sunday school when I was a teenager. There is literally one lesson I remember in detail. I remember Coach Steven Fitzhugh discussing the importance of being not only content, but happy, in your current state.

He may not have done this intentionally, & I certainly didn't know at the time, dense & seventeen as I was, but he masterfully employed the public speaking technique of repetition, which is usually a highly effective way to bolster listeners' retention. I guess it worked, because here I sit, eighteen years later, relaying his message to you.

He told us about someone he knew whose signature phrase was happy when. She'd be happy when ______, & there were a hundred different scenarios that filled that blank. We all could easily fill in that blank, repeatedly. I'll be happy when our house is paid off. I'll be happy when Reagan's running better numbers. I'll be happy when I lose another ten pounds. I'll be happy when I have no one's diapers to change. I'll be happy when Obama is out of the White House. I'll be happy when I publish a book. I'll be happy when all the Halloween candy is gone (ruminations on Halloween candy can be found here).

I'll be happy when LSU beats Alabama.

My mood this morning is perhaps not as dour as you were expecting. Much has happened since last we chatted. Sunday before last, the kids & Trey & I ate lunch with my parents after worship services. We saw some old friends while we were eating, Janet & Ken White.

Dr. White was our vet for years, & we've known their family for as long as I can remember. Trey & I spent a memorable New Year's Eve at the White's house about fifteen years ago; in fact, we spent the entire night there because we were snowed in, something I began warning Trey was a possibility around ten o'clock that evening. My warnings were ignored. But that's another story for another blog.

We said our hellos, briefly talked football, & Mr. Ken offered to buy me a new razor for use before the upcoming Alabama game. A graduate of LSU's School of Veterinary Medicine & former member of the Golden Band from Tigerland, he loved the LSU Tigers. This morning, his family will lay him to rest; he passed away unexpectedly last Wednesday night.

He'd have been disappointed in the results of Saturday's game, no doubt, but Mr. Ken was a wise man & it would not have wiped the smile off his face. He was always kind, always thoughtful. I am tempted to use the word genial here, & so I will. Even at eight o'clock on a Saturday morning, he was happy to be at work, happy to be treating cats & treating dogs, even if their owner was grumpy & clearly hadn't bothered with personal grooming rituals before bringing her dog to the vet. Having buried a daughter in 2005, he certainly knew what matters in life, knew the magnitude of every day, every moment. He knew not to waste a second of a day with Happy when . . . sentiments.

In a recent Facebook post, one of his daughters expressed this sentiment: "I can't understand how people navigate loss without Jesus." Wise words from a young woman who has navigated considerable loss.

Be happy today, not when; today may be all you have. Our lives are a vapor, a whisper.

I am happy (no, ecstatic!) with the results of Reagan's school pictures.

I am happy I don't have to shave my legs this Saturday. I'll shave when I please, or not at all. I feel so free.

I am happy - no, thrilled - about the Salted Caramel shot-dispensing thing that was dropped off at the house last week. I was walking through the living room on Friday & saw a box on the front porch.

I was pretty sure I hadn't ordered anything, so I assumed it was something of Trey's. The delivery guy didn't ring the doorbell, of this I am certain, because when the bell rings, the kids & the dog go berzerk. I'm not sure how long the box had been sitting on the front porch.

I brought it inside & opened it. There was a note indicating it was from my mother-in-law, stating that her sister, Donna, suggested this might be something I'd like.

This is what I saw.

My first thought was, "Oh, okay, she's sent me some whiskey." You know, I could've used some Saturday night.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered it's Salted Caramel flavored syrup . . . & it is sweetened with Splenda, so Reagan's winter beverages will also drip with the salted caramel goodness.

I am happy it's November. Here's something that happened Saturday:

Saturday was a long day for me, but not for the reason you may assume. Sophie is due for her yearly shots in the fall. I got the postcard in the mail reminding me of this a few weeks ago. Knowing it would be raining (meaning Trey would not be out shooting with his shooting friends), I'd planned to get up & take Sophie to the vet Saturday morning. I knew this meant I'd miss some (or all) of GameDay, but sometimes you just have to be an adult & do adult things.

It was an emotional trip to the vet's office. On the wall in the exam room where Sophie was inspected & vaccinated hangs a diploma from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine awarded to Carl Kenneth White, III.

When I went to pay,  I waited in line for a few minutes, juggling Sophie & my purse & my credit card (& yanking Sophie away from a large, overly friendly dog whose owner was also waiting to pay). The office was busy, bustling with people & cats & dogs all eager to be seen so they could get home & out of the rain. I could tell the receptionist was frazzled. I signed my credit card receipt & handed her the office's copy along with the pen I'd used & said, "Thank y'all." She apologized for my wait, & I told her no apology was necessary, that I hadn't waited that long, & I knew they'd all had a long week. She thanked me, & by this time we were both sniffling & nodding & just waved goodbye to each other.

Sophie & I jetted through the rain back to the car, where I was reminded of a complication that had arisen on my drive to the vet's office. This large exclamation point was glaring at me from my dash. It looks like this: (!). I consulted my manual & learned that the exclamation point indicates a tire pressure issue.

I got back out of the car (cue an apoplectic Sophie plastering herself to the window) to make sure none of the tires were flat. All four tires appeared to be inflated enough to make the drive home, at least as best I could tell in the second I glanced at them through the driving rain. I got back in the car, buckled my seatbelt, & reassured Sophie I was not playing some weird & cruel game involving leaving her unattended in the car so she could bark at the rain & proceed to have a nervous breakdown over her state of aloneness.

I sat in the car, Sophie in my lap, the low tire pressure indicator staring me down (!), & I cried a little. I said a prayer for Mr. Ken's family, a precious, precious family. When I think of them, two phrases come to mind, & those are, "salt of the earth," & "grace under pressure."

The rest of Saturday was fraught with situations that could've induced further tears, including a trip back to town (with Reagan in tow) so I could put air in my tires (in the rain) & then make a needed trip to Target to return some things & buy various soap related items we need to wash ourselves, our dishes, & our clothes.

Target was crowded, but I was calm. It was raining, & Reagan was with me, but I was calm. I was calm & happy. I loaded Reagan up with insulin & bought her a giant bag of popcorn & she was happy as a lark. I buckled down & exerted some self-discipline & made myself go get the things we truly needed before we began meandering the aisles, oohing & aahing over things & leaving a trail of popcorn in our wake. It was perhaps our best Target outing to date.

I just decided I was going to be happy, despite the rain, & the crowds at Target, & the persistent (!) staring me down even after I put air in my tires. It's so crazy but when I decided to calm down & enjoy the time in Target with Reagan, I did.

I am happy Steven Fitzhugh & his wife, Jana, are still working with youth at church. Like every church, we have flaws, but in the area of "turning out respectful youth who shine for Christ & are not a blight on society," we are faring well. Steven & Jana are two people who make the decision to be happy every day. They've never confided this in me, but it is quite evident.

Finally, I am happy we have hope in Jesus Christ.

Paul says it best.

Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.  
O Death, where is your sting?
 O Hades, where is your victory? 
I Corinthians 15:51-52; 55

Let me tell you what I think is awesome. Both Mr. Ken & his daughter who preceded him in death, Leigh Ann, were organ donors. They knew they would be perfected, that Christ would make them whole again. They knew that we shall all be changed, that the dead will be raised incorruptible. These are some synonyms for incorruptible: indestructible, enduring, everlasting.

We serve a God of restoration. I've read countless books in which one or more characters are consumed by the idea of immortality. The greatest read on immortality is the Bible. Be happy (& thankful & awestruck) that the Creator of the universe wants you, today & forever, & He has dotted every i & crossed every t already to make that possible. Love Him. Love His Son. Love His church. Love His people. Love the family He's given you today & every day you are given opportunity to do so.

Separation is hard, but it is temporary for those who understand that to live is Christ, to die is gain.


These are cause for happiness, even through the tears & the heartache.


1 comment:

  1. You are a wonderful writer, Anna. Today your words were exceptional. Thank you for sharing your gift.