Luck? Happiness? or Joy? A day with FUMC Pensacola

March 16, 2020


luck, happiness or joy? What is God's plan for us?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! 

The Coronavirus is the strangest and saddest thing to happen to the world in a long time. Many are fearful, even panicked, and others believe it’s overblown and a conspiracy. I’m not too worried, and believe all of it — and none of it, and am waiting to see how the story unfolds. My faith has kicked in and I’ve turned the frustrations and worry over to God.

Since I also have a weakened immune system, (princess affliction or rheumatoid arthritis and heart issues, I can’t keep it all straight) I’m staying home as much as possible . . . just in case. 

No matter how you’ve decided to handle this situation, my wish is that you feel safe, calm and healthy. 

Leslie Anne Tarabella uck, happiness or joy? What is God's plan for us?
I wore my favorite green coat for the “St. Patrick’s Day” theme. Oh, how I love a good theme! (I also wore it for Christmas and am thinking of throwing a pink dress with it for Easter!

A few weeks ago, I spoke at The First United Methodist Church in Pensacola for their, “Saturday Morning with Friends” event on the topic of, “Luck or Happiness?” I thought in light of the current situation, I’d give you an overview of the message of hope and joy we shared. 

“Luck of the Irish” is a fun thing to say. I know my son’s red head has been rubbed for “good luck” about a million times. Eating Black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day doesn’t bring real luck, does it? It’s more of a “tradition” which is another way of saying, “peer pressure from dead people.” You know . . . granny did it, her granny did it, so I must now do it too. 

Believing in luck often shortchanges God’s powerful involvement in the tiniest parts of our lives. He knows the number of hairs on our head so of course, he’s going to control the small things we often attribute to “luck.” 

Leslie Anne Tarabella uck, happiness or joy? What is God's plan for us?
Of all things, I became emotional and literally choked up and couldn’t stop coughing! Of all times in the history of public speaking to be coughing! They were a class act and ran to offer me throat lozenges. Update for those who were there . . . I’m NOT sick!

We like to think about luck because it brings us happiness. But happiness is dependent upon what is going on around us. If we have a cookie, we’re happy. If we don’t have a cookie, we’re not so happy. 

But more than happiness, what God wants us to have is true joy. He planted it in us as one of the fruits of the spirit, so it is already within us to have great peace and joy. It’s up to us to develop and grow the kind of joy that is present even in times of great trouble, heartbreak and sadness.

Leslie Anne Tarabella uck, happiness or joy? What is God's plan for us?

And how do we grow and develop solid, dependable joy? The same way we grow a relationship with a friend, we spend time with them and learn all we can about them. Bible study, prayer, small group discussions and daily devotions are essential to growing our relationship with God and understanding him better. The more we understand, the more peace and joy we have during terrible times.  

Green vegetable and fruit tray - healthy food - Leslie Anne Tarabella 
uck, happiness or joy? What is God's plan for us?
A green St. Patrick’s day veggie tray I made to serve with cheese and yogurt dip. I always crave healthy food when pandemics roll around.

I shared an example of a time Bob and I felt great shock and sadness (I said it was the worst day we’ve had that didn’t involve someone dying.) But throughout the day of horror, we both felt a strange kind of “beauty” which at first, we couldn’t even name, but later realized it was the hand of God or the Holy Spirit that was giving us peace that passes all understanding and even a glimpse of joy yet to come.

I don’t understand how people deal with terrible times when they don’t have God’s calm peace and joy to see them through. I would have definitely fallen apart without it. 

Joy is an amazing gift. It’s better than run-of-the-mill happiness and much more solid than pretend luck. 

So, on this St. Patrick’s Day, I wish you a day as beautiful as the rolling green hills of Ireland and I also wish you abundant joy. True, real, bonafide joy from God that will carry all of us through the dark troubling times of this world. 

And a quick note about FUMC Pensacola, this is the second time I’ve been with these ladies for their breakfast, and I am so impressed with their United Methodist Women’s group. They use this event, Saturday Morning with Friends, as a major fund raiser for worthy causes that benefit their youth and food assistance program. From the beautiful table decorations, dazzling auction items, music, ticket sales, publicity and delicious food, every detail is well-planned and perfect. I’m honored to have been part of this event and thank these great ladies for their kindness and dedication to their church and the entire Pensacola community. 

Now, let me know how you are handling this Coronavirus crisis. Are you staying at home organizing drawers and reading good books or are you feeling safe enough to go out and about? I’m sure some of you are helping where you can. Tell me where it is you find your joy these days.

  • I am doing exactly what you are doing. I don’t see how anyone makes it through trying times for whatever reason without faith. I am staying home as much as I can, not thinking about what I can’t do but humbly thanking God for a home and the privilege of staying put! Love that green coat……….Take care Leslie Anne………

  • This piece was exquisitely expressed, Leslie Anne. The peace that passes all understanding are surely some of the most powerful words ever written. The last time I was “quarantined” was for 4 months in 2017. I had a broken arm and leg, couldn’t walk, couldn’t do for myself. So to be home and healthy right now seems pretty darn easy peasy! I’m like Pam…when did I get classified as elderly? Ummm…just no. I vote yes to a pink dress under that beautiful green coat!!

    • Spiritual wisdom, practical quarantine advice and fashion tips too! You are a wealth of help! So terrible about your 2017 episode. That must have been horrible. Glad this one is easier. I think we’ll all pull through just fine if we keep a positive attitude, which you seem to be doing. Thanks Roxanne.

  • Very good points. I am trying to not listen to the news all day. It leaves me feeling worse. I am staying put like you. That weakened immune system has made the whole family tell me I am on lockdown. I am trying to go about my usual, cleaning, cooking, and a little stitching and reading mixed in.
    Take care.

    • What would we do without our hobbies? I’ve started reading a friend’s new book (it’s even better when I read it outdoors in this great Spring weather!) I’ll tackle a messy linen closet next. I wish I had your stitching skills. I’m sure you’ll create wonderful things. As a historical project, you could cross stitch the big red ball of coronavirus they keep showing on TV. It would make a charming pillow cover- hahaha!

  • Please stay safe and healthy, I don’t watch the news and that didn’t just start because of what’s happening now. We do listen to the local 6:00 o’clock news.
    I’m ok with the isolation, I’m happy to know I have Gods protection for my family.
    He says be still and know that I am God.
    Im happy to just “BE”.
    Each night I make a list of small things to get done the next day that is needed with out getting out.
    Biggest thing is repotting plants in my green house, small art projects, art journaling,
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! ?????

    • You definitely have the peace that passes all understanding and wisdom on top! You’re a good example to stay busy and content. Thanks for the note Sue, and healthy wishes to you.

  • glenda gravlee says:

    Thanks for sharing an uplifting note and your cute green coat, yes, we all need to be filled with joy and happiness each and everyday and be thankful for our many blessings.

    • Hi Glenda, thanks for the note. Joy is a blessing in times of trouble, and you are right to recognize that thankfulness is a quality of joyful people. All the best to you!

  • Thank you for the uplift Leslie Anne, I LOVE your cute green coat!

    • Thanks Jenna. Since ladies love a good outfit story, I told them about how I found it in Paris – la-de-da and carried it back home. It has deep pockets and I love it! Hope you are hanging in there and whipping up some good stay-at-home recipes!

  • A good word this morning, Leslie Anne! You are so right, Joy does not depend on our circumstances, it is a fruit of the Spirit and of knowing the Giver! You look darling in your green. I didn’t know I was classified in the elderly group until this pandemic. I am staying in as much as possible. Take care of yourself!

    • Thank Pam. I had another friend say the same thing — he didn’t know he was “elderly” until now! What a shock! Hang in there and have a wonderful day of good green fun!

  • I’m staying home as much as I can but not tuning in to the news except for once every eventing. It’s too much and too opinionated. I just want the facts. I like your suggestion of reaching out to Bible study for closeness to God. It’s a good time to get plugged in closer.

    • Glad to hear you’re remaining calm. Limiting news is hard for me, but I think you are wise to do so. It stresses me out.

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