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simple pleasures

By Michelle Lehnardt

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Whenever my Gabriel is overwhelmed (and often when he’s not), he retreats to his room and pulls Lego guys out of his blue safe. Time stops for him as the ‘guys’ talk and fly, fight and tumble. My 17 year old has a similar ritual– reading a novel in the shade of the front porch. For Mary, it’s reclining on the chaise lounge with a snack after school (be warned: disturbing her reaps volcanic consequences!) and for my missionary Ben it’s a thick piece of toast with cherry jam.

Watching them become completely absorbed and renewed by a simple pleasure brings to mind one of my favorite chapters in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (and if you haven’t read it; repent and get thee to a library!). As you likely know, the book is a series of letters from a senior devil, Screwtape, to his unexperienced apprentice on the art of human temptation. At this junction the junior devil is receiving a scolding for allowing his subject to read a book he truly enjoyed and strolling to the old mill– “two real positive Pleasures!“– and Screwtape complains about how easy it is for God to reach us when we are truly happy, truly ourselves. “When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamor of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”

All this makes me feel much better about my habit of cleaning the kitchen then lying on the couch to read the comics (and we take two newspapers, so that’s a lot of funnies). On days that life’s busyness makes my comic reading impossible I always feel a little picked on and abused.

Seeking simple pleasures isn’t simply a tool for overstressed kids and housewives. My brother Dan, who fought alcoholism for twenty-five years, taught me that seeking beauty and joy in life is a key to sobriety.

“Everyone told me not to drink or do drugs;” he mused, “no one taught me what to do when I was sad or depressed. When life got hard; I got drunk. But all my problems were still there the next morning– plus a hangover and a bar tab.” Two years sober, he now turns to very simple pleasures: reading (he just finished the Hunger Games Trilogy), dark chocolate, walking his dog or downloading the newest Adele remix.

Experts believe that constructive habits can form a protective barrier against damaging temptations like pornography. Most users seek out pornography when they are bored or depressed; identifying and pursuing more wholesome pleasures (think AofF 13— it applies to chocolate as well as MoTab CDs) is a potent weapon against debilitating habits. Certainly these are complex issues; forgive me for oversimplifying.

So don’t feel guilty about your morning hot chocolate, your habit of sunning your feet while you read the newspaper, your secret affinity for mystery novels or your obsession with strawberry Laffy Taffy. God loves your little quirks, your “deepest likings and impulses;” and when you are most you, He finds it easier to whisper to His child.

What are your simple pleasures?

How do you destress?

Have you felt God’s presence at unexpected times?

Has a simple pleasure helped you break a bad habit or avoid self-destructive behavior.

 


 

 

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

25 thoughts on “simple pleasures”

  1. I work full time and one of my favorite simple pleasures is my morning routine. When I get to work I eat my breakfast muffin, scan headlines, and read through my blog roll before starting in on the day's work. I love the quietness and relaxation I feel as I ease into the day.

    Last night my roommate had some friends over for dinner, and while part of me felt the urge to excuse myself right after dinner and get to work on my to do list, I stayed and really enjoyed the good conversation.

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  2. Reading a good novel, a great cookbook like a novel or a inspiring article or podcast.

    In college I used to go find a piano to play whenever I felt overwhelmed, mad or just need the release making music provides me. I haven't had a piano had a piano now for about 10 years and I was missing it. A lot. Finally now that we are done moving all across the country and settling down for the first time, we bought an old piano that I cleaned up, painted to heal the aesthetic issues and I am playing again. Although my skills are weakened and diminished, it is good to be playing again and enjoying the stillness and spirit I feel when I do.

    Thanks for the thoughts today, Michelle.

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  3. "..when you are most you, He finds it easier to whisper to His child."

    Thank you so much for putting into words what I have felt so many times! I've tried to articulate this idea before, but your words have the simple elegance of truth. 🙂

    For me, taking time to talk to people – my husband, my mom, my friends – during the day, even if it's just online or on the phone, helps me feel so much more centered and capable.

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  4. I hadn't ever thought about not being taught what to do when we're sad or depressed. I frequently feel guilty for indulging in simple pleasures because I'm not being "productive" enough, or I'm "wasting time." I'm not sure what my favorites are. I guess it varies from day to day. Thanks for this.

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  5. I love this post! I usually skim the posts and rarely comment, but the point you made that we need to teach our children how to find joy instead of the world teaching them how to run away from problems, really hit home. Thank you for posting this.

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  6. Thank you for your kind comments.

    I just got off the phone with my brother and he said, "Say I'm your brother and say my name. If my experiences can help one person; it's worth it."

    I did worry (and I still do) that this post appears to be oversimplifying some complex problems. Yes, there is certainly more to overcoming addiction than simply finding new hobbies, but enjoying life, finding books and chocolates that make your heart sing are true skills. We were raised to work, work, work; to account for our time. Only in adulthood have I learned to smell the roses. And now, prayer and scripture study (which used to be part of the to-do list) have also become a pleasure.

    I look forward to your comments. There are so, so many ways to find joy in this life, to feel God's love.

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  7. Thank you for this post. Support and love to your brave brother Dan. I did not think your writing oversimplified this complex idea. We often focus on what we should not be doing. Feeling guilt does not motivate me. I have learned that replacing a negative part of my life with something uplifting and positive really can work wonders. Usually that something is very simple. Focusing on the simple joys of life brings a spirit of gratitude into my heart and shows beauty all around me, in the world and especially in others.

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  8. I'm very inspired. Thank you! I've been really, really stressed by life lately. You've reminded to enjoy my simple pleasures and not to overlook the theraputic power that they have.

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  9. Such beautifully written thoughts Michelle, and something that needs to be said. I really like this… "God loves your little quirks". My guilty pleasures start by spending $1.08 in the drive-thru then coming home and immersing myself in my quilting!

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  10. When I am sad or depressed I know I need some sunshine and Vit D. If I am just trying to relax…and maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I listen to Dr Laura phone calls on Podcast. She takes call after call from distressed people….and listening to their problems gets me to be very still and often puts me to sleep. I know, odd as it sounds….

    Good post Michelle!

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  11. I don't think you oversimplified. Your words remind all of us that there is power in simplicity, in seeking out small joys. I love your perspective, as always. And I expect your brother's story is already helping someone.

    As for simple pleasures, I have a few. Orange spice tea in the Fall. Red Vines – they always make me happy. And reading in the sun.

    Loved this post. xo

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  12. My simple pleasures help me to destress as well. Sunrises, sunsets, cello music. Painting my toe nails in my favourite polish.

    I've felt God's presence at unexpected times – once in particular during a spectacular sunset, when we watched, drinking in the colours, and both said "Wow".

    The simple pleasure of learning to paint my toenails helped break the habit of fretting about my problems. My hand-eye coordination is rubbish, so I have to concentrate REALLY HARD on applying the brush, with no room for extra thoughts. Still works, and it gives me enormous pleasure to see my happy toes.

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  13. What a sincerely good post!

    It's mercy from God that he doesn't expect rigid conformity. He loves and is merciful and wants us to develop like a flower opening – peaceful and lovely.

    A nap and a good book. I'm a whole new happy person with regular doses of each.

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  14. Oh, Michelle, I loved this so much. My favorite simple pleasure is finding a patch of sun to sit in while I eat my yummy bowl of cinnamon-vanilla-almond-banana-peach oatmeal every morning.

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  15. Lovely post, Michelle!

    One of my simple pleasures is walking the dog. Another is reading and then taking a nap. And another is eating a large tub of kettle corn with my husband at the movies. What would I do without kettle corn? 🙂

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  16. Beautiful, Michelle. My simple pleasure list is long! When I was young I would walk or run to he hills, or read books or magazines. I love word games. I'm working on making my work (cleaning my house) part of the list to help make each moment more open for those energizing jolts of joy.

    I am grateful for what you shared about your brother as I see I need to be better at teaching my kids to find pleasure in the small, simple things. God bless you, Dan.

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  17. Having my toddler crank the recliner back for me and come to my lap with his daily (almost) stack of books after lunch.

    Being able to find any song from any Brodway musical instantly on Youtube and having it burst through my kitchen.

    P.S. What if chocolate IS the uncontrollable/ unhealthy addiction? Then where do I turn for pleasure?

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  18. Michelle,
    Thank you for this post. I have a 5 year old boy who is abnormally tender, caring and sweet. Along with this comes an unnatural tenderness that gets him deep in thought and worry that is borderline depression (a tendency that I believe comes from my husband's family history of depression). He becomes quiet, distant and introverted at times. I have been trying to find ways to help him express his feelings so I can better understand his moods. However, I never thought to suggest to him an activity that he might take "simple pleasure" in. I am excited to see how this may effect him and help him direct his melancholy ways to a more happier place. Thank you!

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  19. Thank you Michelle–a beautiful way to handle sensitive issues with grace and powerful simplicity. When I lived in Utah, I found my simple pleasures were in visiting with my neighbor's kids. I didn't have any, and the neighbor girls (now 7 and 3) would come over now and then and just play, or run around and laugh and be silly. For me, there's nothing like being able to make a child laugh. I get the same thrill out of visiting the elderly, which sounds very boring, but nobody appreciates a visitor more!

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