The longest month

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Why does January seem so long?

It’s true there are 31 days in this month, but six other months of the year also possess that amount of days: March, May, July, August, November, and December. Yet those months don’t seem to drag on like January does.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m wishing my life away. No, I’m far from that but it just seems, every year about the third week of January, I’m saying to myself, “January isn’t over yet?”

Okay, let’s imagine some reasons why I feel this way:

  • Maybe it’s the big let-down from Christmas. Other years I might grab onto that for a good reason, but this year, we didn’t take down the Christmas fooferall (decorations) on New Year’s Day like we usually do. Nope, those lights and Christmas finery continued to decorate our house a couple weeks into the month. And the Christmas tree was the last to be dismantled. So, I’m not buying that one.
  • Perhaps it’s the winter weather that makes the month seem like it will never end. But this year, January has been unseasonably warm and almost spring-like until just last week when we received some snow (but not much) and colder temperatures. So, no, we can discount that theory.
  • Perchance it’s the inactivity of the month. Fall months are busy with holidays and preparations. What’s so special about January? No major holiday to make special meals or celebrate with loved ones. Not a lot of events on the calendar even. But I have been busy cleaning out drawers, closets, and sorting through items to discard, donate, or relegate to the garage sale pile accumulating in the basement. So, I don’t think it’s that.
  • Maybe it’s a lack of physical movement. Uh, no…see above. Plus I still take my morning walks outside in the brisk air with my long-time friend. Afraid that’s not it either.

Well, I’ve run out of reasons and have negated all the ones above for why I’m so tired of the month of January. So why does January seem to last so very long??

No wait…I think I figured it out. It just took me a moment to gaze outside the window. What’s that bright orb in the sky that’s making me squint like a mole who just came up for a bit of fresh air from his underground tunnel?

Oh, yes! It’s the sun! Sunshine, the aspect that makes me smile, puts a little jig in my step, and causes me to sing “sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy,” doesn’t occur very often in winter, particularly January in my neck of the woods.

Matter of fact, I recently read an internet article which proclaimed that my nearest city has 162 days of the year WITHOUT sunshine. Officially, there’s documentation to prove that for a good portion of wintertime (from November through January) our area is overcast with cloudy skies and very little sun.  

Now I know there are other cities in the United States that don’t have a lot of sunshine either during the winter months – places in Alaska immediately come to my mind as well as Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon (and I can speak from personal experience for that one as we lived there for six years).

But I finally have figured out why January seems like it lasts forrrrrr-evvvvvvv-errrrrrrrr. It’s dreary, its gray, it’s overcast, it’s lacking sunshine, not to mention the days are short because sunrise arrives late and sunset arrives early.

So on those rare days when the sun shows its happy face, it will make my face happy as well. It’s easy to be grateful for a little ray of sunshine even in the middle of a long, dreary January, but I also will choose to be happy and thankful for these 31 long days of January as well, despite the lack of sunshine.

Sometimes you have to just make your own sunshine because happiness comes from within.

“Men always forget that human happiness is a disposition of mind and not a condition of circumstances.” ~ John Locke





How happy people live

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Giving thanks. It’s not really difficult to do. It’s not daunting to find aspects of life to be grateful for if you truly try. If you look at your blessings instead of your trials.

Priscilla Maurice, an author from the 1800’s, penned this advice:  “Begin with thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise; thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving. If you cannot begin with anything positive, begin with something negative. If your whole lot seems only filled with causes for discontent, at any rate there is some trial that has not been appointed you; and you may thank God for its being withheld from you. It is certain that the more you try to praise, the more you will see how your path and your lying down are beset with mercies, and that the God of love is ever watching to do you good.”

Being thankful, no matter what. It’s how happy people live. It’s how I want to live my life as I reflect on my 30 Days of Thanks Giving.

It’s how the elderly gentleman in the video below lives his life.

Thanks giving is more than a just a holiday. And happy people live lives full of gratitude.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G.K. Chesterton


This monkey is not my imaginary friend

We’ve all heard of the proverbial “monkey on your back,” but have you ever heard of a monkey that has your back?  Maybe one who is like the primate in this commercial from a couple of years ago:

From time to time, I think every one of us humans feels like we have a  monkey on our backs, something that just seems to be a constant burden.  Sometimes we just can’t figure out how to get away from that problem that weighs us down.  Some of us can’t cope with an affliction that is just too difficult a load to carry by ourselves.

That’s where the monkey that has your back can help.

blogDSCN7994A few weekends ago, I attended a Women of Faith Imagine conference with one of my best friends, my life-long gal pal, Annie.  I’ve written about her often and if you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ve read about her before here.

Annie asked me a couple of months ago to attend the uplifting weekend of worship and encouragement with her and since I’ve never attended Women of Faith before, but always heard awesome things about it, I jumped at the opportunity to go.

My friend doesn’t live close to me, so we decided to stay overnight in a fancy, schmancy hotel near the arena where the conference was to be held instead of driving back and forth from the city.  It promised to be a lot of fun, two old friends having a pajama party, just like all those nights we stayed at each other’s houses in our youth.  We both were eager and excited when Annie swung by my house early Friday morning to pick me up for our drive into the city.

Friday morning’s sessions didn’t disappoint us.  The first speaker was Sheila Walsh, a beautiful person with a beautiful voice and message.   My pen flew across my notebook as I jotted down key points I wanted to remember.  Listening to her sing “How Great Thou Art” was simply like hearing an angel – really, she gave me goosebumps.

Next up on the agenda, psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud asked us to imagine a place where we’d find happiness.   Again my pen scurried across the open pages of my notebook.  I nodded in complete agreement when he stated, “Only 10% of your happiness comes from circumstances.”

He imparted much truth to us from God’s Word and the wisdom God has granted him about letting go of the past, making necessary endings to reach our tomorrows, and about pruning areas of our lives.  All of it was great stuff, so insightful and meaningful.

He declared that happy people are connected.  Whoa, that hit home.  I find myself writing a good deal about connections here in my blog and thinking about connections even more.  I realized a long time ago that connections do bring me happiness, especially my real connection, my relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ.

Dr. Cloud also relayed a story that will stick with me for a very long time.  The monkey story(“Aha, there’s the connection!” you’re probably thinking.)

It seems that if you put a single monkey in a cage and bombard it with loud, annoying noises that startle the animal repeatedly and unexpectedly and shake its cage violently, you could frighten a monkey to death.  I imagine the poor thing’s heart rate would rapidly accelerate, blood pressure would rise, and a sense of panic and alarm would overwhelm the creature.

Sounds like everyday life to some of us humans!  But, according to Cloud, research reveals that if you put another monkey in the cage with the first one, continue the noises and frightening occurrences, both monkeys will survive and not be as greatly affected by the disturbances.  Two monkeys will help one another cope, protect one another, support each other.

We need one another, just like those monkeys did, to get through our trials and burdens of life.  So,  Cloud instructed an arena of 8,000 women to  “Go find yourself a  monkey!”

blogIMG_3517If we were at the event with a good friend, he told us to look at her and say, “You’re my monkey!”  Well, that initiated Annie’s and my theme for the weekend.  I glanced at her,  she turned to me, and we both laughed out loud and exclaimed, “You’re my monkey!”  And you guessed it, all weekend we called each other “my monkey.”

The rest of the weekend was great – amazing music by Natalie Grant, Mary, Mary, and WOF worship team.  We heard heartwarming talks from Lisa Harper, Nicole Johnson, Angie Smith, and Luci Swindoll.   So much good food for thought crammed into two days.

But the thing I’m going to remember?  Saturday afternoon, two older ladies we’d never seen before entered the arena after the break and sat down in our row.   Both Annie and I noticed them, looked at each other, and stifled giggles.  These two ladies each had a monkey hanging on them!

They proudly wore those long-armed, long-legged stuffed monkeys, the kind with the Velcro tabs in their hands, wrapped around their necks.  One lady had a bright pink monkey, the other gal had a lavender one.  We overheard them tell someone they had purchased their monkeys in their hotel gift shop.

I have never in my life tried so hard not to just break down in hysterical laughter.  And what made it even funnier?  My dearest friend, Annie, friend of my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood, turned to me and said, “I am NOT wearing a monkey around my neck for you!”

And that doesn’t matter because through thick and thin, youth and middle age, good times and bad, I know she has my back and I have hers.  And that’s something significant that contributes to our happiness – a true friend, one who sticks with you no matter what, is your confidante, and also your accountability partner for life.

And those friends, our “monkeys,” are gifts from God.   He sends us those people to come beside us and help us on our journey through this life.   Many of you fulfill that role for me, and I hope and pray I am one of those gifts for you.  I’m reminded on this 21st page of Chapter 10 in my yearly book of Opportunity that God’s Word tells us two are better than one.

“There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother.  There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.  ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’  This too is meaningless—a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:8-10

My prayer is that we all would have those people in our lives – those dear ones who listen when we struggle, offer encouragement to us in godly ways, and pray for us and with us as we endure the hardships of life.

Who is your monkey?