On several occasions I have been asked the question,
"Are you happy?"
Most often it is asked by women who are experiencing challenges in their lives and are considering making life changing decisions. Some are thinking about a career transition, but many are considering relationship changes such as ending a dating relationship or perhaps their marriage. Others may even be pondering entering into a new relationship. In an attempt to answer their question, I used to explain my version of happiness. Once I discovered their inquiry really wasn't about me, I began to answer the question with a question.
I can remember when I struggled with similar thoughts mainly before I made the decision to divorce and before I made the commitment to remarry.
Many songs have been written about the topic, my favorite being "Don't Worry, Be Happy". What's funny is that those are the only words I can remember. Seems like Bob Marley just whistled a happy tune and then sang "Don't worry, be happy."
What is Happiness?
Wikipedia defines happiness as "a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy." Happiness has been defined in biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical terms, most focusing on what a person has or an emotion deriving from a source. Even the Declaration of Independence indicates the "pursuit of happiness" is our fundamental right as citizens.
Psalms 1: 1-2 ESV says, "The truly happy person doesn't follow wicked advice, doesn't stand on the road of sinners, and doesn't sit with the disrespectful. Instead of doing these things, these persons love the Lord's instruction and they recite God's instruction day and night!. They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bears fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don't fade. Whatever they do succeeds."
Now that's a different definition. So as I understand it, happiness is when you don't listen to bad advice and don't hang around with people who are disrespectful and engage in wrongful behavior. Instead, happiness is achieved by seeking Godly advice and making good decisions.
Looking back, as I struggled with marital decisions, listening to the wrong people resulted in sadness and strife, whereas when I sought Godly advice and made my own decisions based on prayer and biblical teaching, I was much more successful.
If you are struggling with the question of happiness, I recommend you speak with someone who understands happiness is not about what you have, but happiness is achieved by your actions and who you are hanging out with and listening to. Don't seek advice from someone who is miserable. Remember, misery loves company. Instead seek out happy people.
One question for you... ARE YOU HAPPY?
On my daughter’s first visit home after she had been to college for a semester, she commented upon entering our home “Ahhhh it smells just like home.” She then asked “Did you know that every home has a smell Mom?’’ Nobody had ever mentioned how our house smelled, so I had to ask the question, "What does our home smell like? Her reply of course was ”I don’t know, it just smells like home.
As I thought about it, I had never paid much attention to the smell of other's homes and would only comment if they smelled like a food I loved. Just recently, I was in my maternal grandparent's home and I suddenly remembered the scents of my childhood memories. I could even imagine my Grandma, "Mom Elsie" standing in the kitchen cooking something on the stove. It seemed like she always wore an apron, meaning she spent a lot of time cooking. I remember her being in the kitchen most of the day, only taking a break to watch "The Young and the Restless". Even though my grandparents passed on and have not lived in the house for the last 24 years, it still smells like Grandma's house. What does it smell like? I can only tell you "it smells like home."
According to an article entitled "How Smell Works" by Sarah Dowdy , data shows that a smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people's moods and even affect their work performance. "Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it's sometimes called the "emotional brain." Smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously. Despite the tight wiring, however, smells would not trigger memories if it weren't for conditioned responses. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory -- associating the smell of chlorine with summers at the pool or lilies with a funeral. When you encounter the smell again, the link is already there, ready to elicit a memory or a mood. Chlorine might call up a specific pool-related memory or simply make you feel content. Lilies might agitate you without your knowing why. This is part of the reason why not everyone likes the same smells."
Because we make most of our olfactory memories as children, what does this mean for stepfamilies? Is the smell of the custodial home associated with happiness, whereas the smell of the noncustodial home associated with bad memories? To test my theory, I asked my daughter what her biological Dad's house smelled like. She said "clean". Not sure what she meant by that, so before I decided to go on a cleaning frenzy, I left it alone. After all she did say "Ahhhh it smells like home" when she came to our house.
Looking back, perhaps the olfactory system may have been responsible for the moods of my children and stepchildren as they travelled from house to house on weekends. It may be worth it to find out what smells are associated with good memories. After all, real estate agents have commented that homes that smell like fresh baked chocolate chip cookies are more attractive and appealing. It gives you something to think about. Try your own experiment and see if it affects the mood in your home. Hey, it's worth a try.
The number one conflict in stepfamilies is related to the children, and the second is money. Early in our marriage we prided ourselves on never having an argument. We were a united force, because it was us against the world. Somewhere around year three, we began to draw biological lines in the sand and were disagreeing regularly, with eighty percent of our discord related to our children. Arguments came when we least expected. Our conversation may have started out very pleasant about what we were planning to prepare for dinner, and before we knew it, we were in a full blown argument about food.
In fact we argued about food from several different angles. Looking back now, we were arguing about FOOD! I could never have imagined arguing with anyone about what to eat, how to cook it, who would cook it, how to eat it, when to eat it, or what to do with the leftovers. But believe it or not, we had arguments about all of the above and then some. In fact I titled a chapter in my book "The Kitchen Wars." I can laugh about some of those conversations now, but at the time, it wasn't funny at all.
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)
Realize, that wherever there are differences, there will be conflict. When conflict comes, and trust me it will come, handle it without causing permanent damage to your relationship with your spouse and your stepchildren. When discussing delicate issues, make sure you are not trying to prove you are right and your spouse is wrong. Accept that you are different and established pattern, behaviors and traditions long before you met one another. Learn to accept the things you cannot change and use discernment when deciding what issues to confront. As my husband says, "figure out which hill to die on!" Happy eating . . .
Have you ever been accused of nagging too much?
Do you know anyone who nags all the time?
Dictionary.com defines nag as: to annoy or irritate (a person) with persistent fault finding or continuous urging.
Nagging according to the Urban Dictionary is: “A form of moaning: primarily used by women to complain about nearly anything and everything.” Sounds like a definition only a man could come up with.
Curiosity got the best of me and I decided to research what the Bible says about nagging. Believe it or not it mentions nagging or quarrelsome seven times. Four of the seven refer to a quarrelsome wife, so heads up ladies. Here are the four mentioned.
· Proverbs 21:9 and 25:24 (ESV) - It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
· Proverbs 21:19 (ESV) - It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
· Proverbs 27:15 (ESV) - A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike.;
Wow, nothing is mentioned about a quarrelsome or nagging husband, only the wife seems to be an issue. Either way, I’m sure I would be bothered by a nagging husband. These scriptures demonstrate that a man prefers peace even at the price of physical discomfort. It is suggested that a man would be better of living in the desert or on the corner of the roof rather than with a nagging woman. I had to laugh because my husband has a fear of heights and has gotten stuck on the roof twice trying to hang Christmas lights before I started bugging him about getting it done.
In expanding on these scriptures, Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary states “what a great affliction it is to a man to have a brawling scolding woman as a wife, who upon every occasion, and often upon no occasion, breaks into a passion, and chides either him or those about her, is fretful to herself and furious to her children and servants, and, is both vexatious to her husband.
A nagging wife is even compared to an annoying drip. My husband has gotten out of the bed to stop a dripping faucet because it irritated him greatly. Early in our marriage as a stepfamily, I found myself asking him several times to tell his children something on my behalf. If I didn't think he was doing as I had asked, I would ask him again, with a little more high pitch in my voice. Even now he has mentioned that I don't ask one question, I rapidly fire them off. Uh oh, is he secretly accusing me of nagging? I better check that out.
So what’s the solution when we need to get information from our spouses or get some things done? You know, if they would just do what they are supposed to do, we wouldn’t have to complain right? The answer is as simple as communication 101 for couples. Learn to communicate in a positive, non-accusatory tone of voice and don’t forget your body language. Remember, it’s not necessarily what you say, it’s how you say it. If you
speak in a tone of voice that indicates quarreling or repeat the same question
over and over or ask questions in a condescending manner you may be accused of
nagging. Better go check the roof.
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach