Marie Alvero is a former missionary to Africa and Mexico. She currently lives a happy, busy life with her husband and children in Central Texas, USA.
I was one of the hopefuls that started last year with a brand-new planner. 2020 was full of promise, and I thought I had some control over the direction of the year. I had a long planned/postponed trip to see my family slotted for early spring, some home improvement plans, a saving/financial plan, plans for family vacations, etc.
Life is a constant stream of contradictions—things to hold on to, to let go of, to fight for, to give up. We’re told to try harder, to give ourselves a break, to loosen up, to make better choices, to just say yes, to just say no, to settle, to not settle. And to make matters worse, there’s always someone saying something like “just listen to your heart.” Right!
As I write this a very good friend of mine is struggling with wave after wave of hard news. Her husband has been laid off from a job he held for 27 years, she had a suspicious mammogram, their home AC has gone out, and they had to put down a family pet. No tragedies, yet, but plenty of hard stuff—the stuff that makes you ask “Why, God?” or “Are You there, God? Do You notice these things? Do You care?”
Not long ago, my social media exploded with the news that a high-profile couple had announced their divorce. This power couple had established a following as “relationship gurus,” with books, websites, videos, podcasts, numerous guest appearances and endorsements, and a very expensive “couple’s conference.” People who had bought into their empire felt betrayed, lied to, and confused.
I read something the other day that’s been running through my mind ever since: “The system you have in place today is set up to get exactly the results you are getting today.” Since then, I’ve tried to challenge myself to have different reactions than I would typically have.
Last Christmas I was a few months into a new job. My new office was an hour from my home, my hours were from 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and I worked on Saturdays. I was always exhausted and out of sync with everyone in my life. And I had to work on Christmas Day!
Who would have thought that I’d be writing an article on the topic of happiness and satisfaction after everything that we have been through this year due to the COVID-19 virus? After having experienced so much insecurity and uncertainty in the air, how could that be a time to think about happiness?
Do you ever feel like, in order to meet your own expectations and those of others, you’d have to work relentlessly, push through the tired, ignore the stress—and you still might come up short? The demands will always outweigh the resources. Just thinking about this is stressful, yet it is under exactly this stress that we spend most of our time.
I was standing in the checkout line at one of our local stores and noticed the lady ahead of me was wearing a brightly colored T-shirt with a Bible verse on it. Then when she thanked the cashier, she said, “Dear, I hope you know Jesus loves you!”
Every year, at Christmastime, my husband has to endure my private tradition of watching Love, Actually.1 The movie weaves together several stories in an entirely predictable, mushy way. But each time I watch it I am touched by a different part of the story. I try to get my husband excited about this, but he is not having it! I know this makes me a bit sappy, but I just don’t get how someone can’t be drawn in by this display of love, tenderness and warmth.