How to Not Feel so Bad

I can’t sing any better than I can do math. Still, I love music. Recently I was thinking of the song, “My favorite things,” sung by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film adaptation of the musical, “The Sound of Music.” I was thinking about it because right now life is wrought with many of my unfavorite things: death, illness, doctors appointments, moody teenagers, indecision, dirty counters, and the swirl of controversy over everything from Covid to the environment.

Sometimes it all gets to be too much. Truly.

As this was the case recently, I found myself obsessing about hydrangeas. Every week this summer I cut two blooms to enjoy inside. It made me happy to see the plump pink flower amid the inevitable sprinkle of paper and crumbs on my counter. Last week, I cut the last two remaining good blooms. And, in the midst of planning funerals and rescheduling appointments and moving my son into his new apartment, and trying to keep up with the ordinary minutia of my day, I felt an urgency to buy more hydrangea plants.

I couldn’t stand the thought of not having any blooms to greet me the following week. More than ever, I needed this simple quiet joy.

Eight hydrangea bushes later (and an exhausted husband that doesn’t understand why I can’t just find joy in something that doesn’t involve him doing manual labor in the hottest month of the year) I’ve thought a lot about being joyful even in the midst of trials.

Part of me wondered if I was looking for joy in the wrong place since I know that lasting joy comes from God not the delicate blooms of flowers. Then I decided that was like ignoring the lifeboat in the middle of the storm. Right now, for me, hydrangeas are a lifeboat.

They are among a few of my favorite things.

I know they won’t solve a single problem or relieve a single ache of my heart. Yet, they remind me how important it is to find joy wherever I can and that no joy is too small or unimportant to make a difference. They remind me that life is precious and we are not promised tomorrow’s bloom. The hydrangeas remind me that even when they will go dormant in the next few months, that like happier days, they will return.

Even during troubled times, perhaps especially during troubled times, it’s important for us to remember the joy that is promised to us as children of God. “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take that joy from you,” (John 16:22).

We have so many opportunities in daily life to experience genuine contentment. In nature and our neighbor, we are reminded that joy isn’t in the perfect; it’s in the perspective. Very often, it’s in the simplest things. Look for it. Hold on to it. Plant it if you must. It’s a great mercy. You are worth whatever effort it takes.

We don’t have to let our worry and hardship spread with the tenacity of strangling weeds. We just have to hold tight to the seeds of our faith that remind us of the promise of his everlasting joy. Until that day, try to remember a few of your favorite things.

And, then you won’t feel so bad.

Hi all~ I felt like a kid waiting to unwrap presents on Christmas day, waiting for my husband to plant my new hydrangeas. Of course, life being life-y, it started raining while we were planting. Determined, we soldiered on (me, in my hooded rain jacket, and him, in his wet muddy clothes — because he refused my merciful offers to get him proper rain attire). When I saw lightning strike a few houses away, I figured the Lord was teaching me patience– again. Like most things, no matter how messy, wet, or tiring the work was, it eventually got done. But now where there was once mud, joy blooms!

I would love to know what brings you joy right now? If perhaps, Simple Mercies is among a few of your favorite things, or even among your “good enough” list of things (I’m not proud), please consider leaving a review on Amazon!



13 thoughts on “How to Not Feel so Bad

  • August 17, 2021 at 11:44 am

    Really really really needed this message today. You always seem to know the right thing to say at the right time, especially now to help focus on what we can… finding joy in beautiful hydrangea blooms is great! I think the little things are all we have to find some peace in maybe even joy! I feel sadness everyday looking at our world and what’s happening. I’ll have to stick to my walks on the beach with my pup, looking for sharks teeth! That makes me happy at least for a moment! Keep writing … love it Lara 🥰

    • August 19, 2021 at 11:33 am

      Thank you, Amy. I think so many of us need this message right now. It just seems like a hard season – a long, hard season. But yes, to walks on the beach and sharks teeth, and dogs because all of that is so peaceful and renewing and IMPORTANT to our hearts! I really am trying to just focus on the positive things and trust that the rest will pass. ( I just picked a new hydrangea this morning!)

  • August 17, 2021 at 10:13 am

    Hello ….. this was so beautifully written and really struck a chord with me. I love flowers and I plant them all over my yard in perennial gardens mostly. And like you, they bring me great joy. It’s a joy in planting, watching it grow, maybe nursing it back to health, and readying them for their winter rest. And I always referred to this as my “Therapy “; however, maybe it’s just that this is one of my simple joys.
    Thank you.

    • August 17, 2021 at 10:55 am

      Pat, I love it too. Working in the yard is one of the few places that time just stops for me. I don’t think about texts or schedules or to-dos. One of the things you mentioned that is part of what I love most is seeing the plants come back from the dead! The ones that some people might just pull up and start over but I cut back to nothing and wait. Those are the best! I am always surprised at what can thrive after looking so bedraggled!

  • August 17, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Lara, your posts always make me smile…thank you!

    Like your hydrangeas, my simple moments of joy come from my bird feeders and the birds that visit! I love that moment of looking out the window and seeing birds hanging out…it is my moment to stop in awe and admire, pushing all the outside noise and sadness away for a brief time.

    And, like you in search of new plants and blooms…I will be in search of a new feeder since one of my broke! 🙂 Oh, the small things!!

    • August 17, 2021 at 10:51 am

      Love this, Julie! I love to watch the birds too — especially the cardinals. They are always such a great reminder of the scripture about God takes care of the birds so have a little faith he will take care of you! (I am obviously paraphrasing here and probably do not need to ever teach scripture!)

  • August 17, 2021 at 8:27 am

    This year so far, one of my favorite things was the Simple Mercies talk by you, Lara, at my home parish.

    Another favorite thing was seeing that same parish community come together in prayer last Friday as we mourn the loss of a beloved parishioner- husband and father of three young children.

    We need these reminders of our favorite things, during time of grief and loss. Thank you, Lara.

    • August 17, 2021 at 10:43 am

      So true, Ann. It is always heart-warming to see fellow Christians come together in love for their neighbor. It’s one of my absolute favorite things about our faith. And, what comfort there is knowing the power of prayer. You are awesome for coordinating it!

  • August 17, 2021 at 7:06 am

    With everything going on today that’s overly stressful, in the world and in my home (caregiving), God is honing my focus on this moment, the “daily bread” of what is good right now, right here with Him. He’s teaching the same to every Christian I talk to.

    • August 17, 2021 at 10:40 am

      Caregiving is such a beautiful (and exhausting) work of mercy. God bless you for your compassion! Yes, the Eucharist is such a balm for everything. Nothing even compares.

  • August 17, 2021 at 6:49 am

    Stupid smart phone translation:
    Magic…. not manic
    You have not….. hi live

  • August 17, 2021 at 6:46 am

    Hi, Laura! Abby in Neptune Beach here!
    Hydrangea are my most favorite flower, too! The mere sight of them, anywhere, make my heart skip a beat! My husband recently brought me 5 deep blue stems from Trader Joe’s and I lost my mind daily, taking in their beauty!
    Kudos to your husband for the planting. I’ve tried and dried and they just won’t grow. Please ask him to share his manic formula?
    I was wondering if you have a St.Paul’s date, yet? We’ll be traveling in September and October and I surly do not want to miss!
    Do you ever get time to go out to lunch?
    I’m retired from Education and have that luxury. Hi live got so many plates in the air I was just wondering if planned enough time ahead maybe we could meet? I absolutely love your book, especially the chapter on loss and death.
    Thank you!

    • August 17, 2021 at 11:45 am

      Hi Abby!

      You know what I think is the magic formula with all plants — finding a spot where they are happy! It’s amazing to me how one plant may thrive in one section and do terribly in another. If there is a plant that is not happy in my yard, I let him go because it’s kind of like with people – I can only try so hard! I’ve been lucky with hydrangeas here.

      I am speaking at St. Paul’s on 10/5 at 6:30. I hope you will be around then!

      The chapter on death never really ends does it? I just lost a good friend two weeks ago and I think gosh here I am again with this aching loss. I guess that’s why we have to find joy wherever we can.

      My schedule is complicated right now but I am hoping it will settle out after this month. I will email you!

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