Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Happiness Project

We had a delightful Thanksgiving, and I am truly grateful for what the Lord has been doing here in the Canary Islands, especially in my life.

We have lived on the island of Tenerife now for nearly nine years, and I have often struggled to find a sense of connectedness with the community surrounding us. I never really felt like this was "home" to me and I found myself often longing to be back in the United States.

I have tried to be proactive in my attempt to find purpose, and about a year ago my sister gave me a book titled "The Happiness Project" and I realized I needed to stop making excuses and take a step of faith that as long as we were called to live here, with God's help I would do my best to make the most of it.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

The book gave pointers on small steps you can take--it is not a "Christian" book per say, but there are a lot of Biblical principles in it. Our bodies are our "temple", so I started going to the gym, realizing that I needed to have energy to enjoy life to its fullest.

 Another suggestion was working on relationships. I found myself being overwhelmed with the problems that many of our church people were facing, and the pastor's family can get weighed down by the negativity that often ensues as a result. I needed a woman friend who was also in the ministry that could understand my discouragement, frustrations, and trials that only a missionary or pastor's wife could understand. I called a fellow missionary's wife, who we used to work with a few years back and invited her for coffee at IKEA, and we both enjoyed it so much that we decided we would try to do it once a month. It helped me realize that we had the same type of battles that we face living in a country of people that doesn't always realize their need for God and spiritual life, nor or are seeking it.Having someone to bear our burdens with proved to be cathartic.

Next on my set of goals was to find something that I enjoy, an activity outside of the ministry that could be somewhat of an outlet or "escape" from the day to day routine. Something to take my mind off problems. I saw an add in an English speaking paper looking for volunteers for a charity second hand store in Los Cristianos, about a 45 minute drive from our home. I started working once a week, and it was nice to be with other English speaking people, as in the south there are many British people living and vacationing on the island.

Another desire I had was to teach English part time. I  prayed about it, and one day out of the clear blue sky I got a phone call from a young woman that used to attend our church in Santa Cruz. She was interested in taking English lessons from me. I knew it was an answer to prayer because I used to teach in the US and I love teaching. Mar was my first serious English student here, and that gave me the courage to expand and seek other opportunities.

One day I was at a local hospital for a doctor's appointment, and I decided to take a walk around the block while I waited for Doug to pick me up. As I was walking I looked up, and saw the sign "........School of English.|" They have a satellite school near our home, and it has always  been a dream of mine to work there part time, but once I stopped in the local office and they told me that I needed to go downtown to the Santa Cruz office and speak to the owner/director. I would put it out of my mind, and just never got around to it.....and now there it was right smack dab in front of my face.

The next obstacle for me was to get the courage to walk in the door. I contemplated it for a moment and tried to talk myself out of it. I don't know why I am so backward, whether it be fear of rejection and a lack of confidence--but it will keep you from experiencing all God has for you. Maybe it was the Spirit nudging me, but my inner voice said if you don't go in now you probably never will, so I took the first step into the doorway. I was greeted by a very lovely, friendly woman who welcomed me graciously. She was delighted to speak with me, and then said "Sit down, I want to go get my business partner, and the founder/director of the school. Turns out, we had a really nice conversation and my goals and qualifications fit with the school's as well.

They were able to give me a few classes to teach; some older teens with advanced English skills, younger children just starting out, and intermediate adults. Looking back, I can see where my experience in the past has prepared me--from teaching Sunday school and leading ministries, teaching three year--olds at a bilingual preschool in Mexico, working at Edison Community College as an English tutor/facilitator, , teaching Spanish at a Christian high school, and as an activity director at an Assisted Living facility.  I have had a lot of experience in a lot of different areas, and somehow it all worked together to give me the patience and experience to teach in a classroom environment. (Maybe the patience really came from the stint I did driving a school bus full of junior high students for a year--or having six children might have helped!).

Above all, teaching English in the community is a great way to meet and build bridges with people living here on the island that otherwise I would have never had the opportunity to interact with.

I can honestly say that I have never been happier here in Tenerife, and just taking the initiative to make small changes in your life will result in big dividends. I give God all the glory. We also have seen some positive things happen in our ministry which has given us the boost to continue on in spite of the discouragements and setbacks we face along the way. I write this to perhaps inspire someone else who wants to see changes in their life for the better. If we are willing to step out of our comfort zone, God will help direct our steps.

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