“Are you happier now than any other time in your life?” she asked.
I never had anyone ask me this question. It made me think. I was amazed. I instantly felt a sense of joy.
“I am happier now than any other time in my life,” I answered.
This conversation came at the conclusion of a Christmas party Kathy and I had for our friends and neighbors. It was such a wonderful time filled with love and cheer.
We have such special long-time friends. And now, having moved into a condo three years ago, we have great neighbors, and many of them have become close friends, too.
Recognizing Life Stages
Suzie-Belle Hembree asked me this question. She has been our interior designer for over 35 years. I was introduced to her when Kathy and I bought our first house back in 1981. We had no idea how to furnish and decorate our house, but God put Suzie-Belle in our lives. She was God’s answer.
Over the years, she has done multiple projects for us. And in the process, she became one of our life guides. She is gifted in the art of decorating but, more importantly, gifted in the art of people and life-stages.
She decorated based on where we were in our lives at the time. She took us from stage to stage, from a family with babies to teens to young adults.
Finally, she has walked with us from being empty nesters to grandparents. She made our homes livable, beautiful, comfortable, and “proper” all at the same time.
Our Best Years
So when she asked me the question, I knew she already knew the answer. She knows me well. She just wanted me to realize it.
The next day after the party, I started to think about why this is the best time of my life. The best time of our lives (Kathy and me). There are five key areas which came to mind. Take a look.
It took me 40 years to get there, but I finally arrived. I got to the end of myself. At 40, I stepped back and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. When I live this way, all is well. When I take control again, I get all twisted up, just like before. This take-back behavior is happening less and less, and that is making life better and better. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the truth. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. I am getting over myself. This is freeing.
Relationships are the richness of life. This Christmas party reminded me of that in spades. The first person to show up was my son Nick. He came to help us get ready and to settle me down. Then my daughter Lisa arrived with my newest grandson, Scotty, and my son-in-law Allen. Then, Julia, my first born, showed up along with her husband, Zack.
Then came the lifelong friends. These are the people we did life with for the last 40 years. We knew each other when we were single. We went to each other’s weddings. We had kids in the same hospital in the same week. We were in business together. Went on family vacations together. Celebrated together. Wept together. Decided big life decisions together. And now we are grandparents together.
Then the people who worked with me for years and years. Companies that worked well and some that didn’t. But in the end, it was about the time we spent together and how we grew up and learned together.
And the new neighbors and their stories. Oh, how we all have stories. Living in this new condo has been such a blessing to Kathy and me. We are surrounded by wonderful people.
We all seem to be around the same stage in life, and we are all quick to connect. Our life experiences are so similar, and we are all still learning and loving together.
Then there are all the fine men and women of our church community, High Tech Ministries, the ATDC, Atlanta Tech Village, and all our friends in Uganda. The size, richness, and truth of these relationships is greater now than any other time.
There are two seasons in my life. The season where nothing is going right and I can’t wait to escape, and the season where there is so much going right that I need to choose where to best spend my time. I am in the second season. How can I not be excited about life? This is the best time.
I once had a friend pray before a meal we were sharing. He prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for giving us meaningful work.” I never forgot that prayer. He was so right.
I am so fortunate to be working with entrepreneurs and angel investors. Every day I am working with people who are filled with a passion for life. They live each day for what can be and not for what is.
They love vision.
They admire persistence.
They are devoted to the hunt for the truth in the market which is yet to be discovered. They are working on solving big problems and building big companies. How cool is that!
Money doesn’t bring happiness, but it does create a sense of security and the ability to give.
I used to look at money differently. Money used to give me the freedom to do anything I wanted to do and to buy anything I wanted to buy. These are good reasons for money, but the happiness this brings is fleeting. These thoughts distance me from relationships.
Wealth gives me the ability to give. And I have learned giving brings happiness. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I used to think that was kind of crazy. After all, I lived the first part of my life seeking the receiving, not the giving. But I learned Jesus was right. I am blessed when I give.
I also learned that giving creates new relationships and strengthens existing relationships. It makes a big difference in the lives of others. When I take part in a giving community, there is a richness and joy which comes from trusting Jesus at his word.
When you have it, you never think about it. When you don’t, it is all you think about.
From time to time, our family and close friends have been experiencing health issues. Some are minor, but others are life-threatening. When this happens, it makes me think two things. When will it be my turn? and What’s important in life?
Right now, Kathy and I are healthy. Our kids are healthy, and so is my sister and Kathy’s family. So it is not only our health but also the health of the people we are closest to which contributes to my happiness. It is our health and theirs which allows for a fuller life and lifestyle.
This Is December 2017
The balance and inter-relationship of all these elements of life could change in an instant. And when one of them changes, my happiness level will also change with it, but not my joy. My faith is the key to prolonged and uninterrupted joy. It goes back to what I said in the beginning, my life not being about me.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I believe I am loved by him no matter what, and I will be with him now and beyond this short life. He is the cornerstone of my happiness and joy. He will always be there, and I will always be his if I choose to be. He never leaves, but sometimes I leave him. I cannot allow myself to choose wrongly. By continuing to choose Jesus, I can always claim his promises.
Jesus said, “I came that you may have life and have it to the full.”