paths tohappiness guidepost

of 23 /23
PATHS TO Happıness Real Life Stories of Personal Growth Self-Improvement and Positive Change 7

Upload: gradeone-henry

Post on 24-Jan-2015



Health & Medicine

3 download

Embed Size (px)




Page 1: Paths tohappiness guidepost

Paths toHappıness

Real Life Stories of Personal Growth

Self-Improvement andPositive Change


Page 2: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happiness

Change happens, but personal growth is a decision, a commitment to be the best you can be. You may want to achieve certain goals, deepen your relationship with god and others. You may want to get out of debt, get in shape, overcome depression or move beyond a troubled past.

If you are committed to personal and spiritual growth, you’ll be inspired by these seven stories of people who struggled with these issues and found courageous and creative ways to overcome them. You too can unlock your potential and find happi-ness and success. Read on!








Rise Up Over Depression By MaRiOn BOnD West, MaRietta, Ga

Worth the WeightBy JUlie HaDDen, JaCksOnville, Fl

Junk Junkie By kaRen BaRBeR, alpHaRetta, GeORGia

the Best Dream Of all By Jill BURGin, BRentWOOD, tn

Unburdened By DUstin allen, CHanUte, kansas

a stitch in time By FRan HaRt, ROUnD ROCk, texas

the Courage to Change By DaRRen “Jaz” vinCent, CHaRlOtte, nORtH CaROlina

get inspired with Guideposts magazine’s monthly collection of true stories from ordinary people talking about everything from living a more spiritual life to pets, cooking, relationships, how to stay healthy and much more! Celebri-ties like Denzel Washington and Dolly parton share their own personal stories exclusively with Guideposts.

Click here to subscribe or visit!

Ordering Information

Page 3: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happiness

Rise Up Over Depression

By MaRiOn BOnD West, MaRietta, Ga

How helping others helped one woman heal

When I appRoaCheD my third year of widowhood and the last of my four children were about to leave home, I felt very melancholy. It wasn’t the first time I had felt depressed, but it was bad enough to keep me awake for entire nights. I seldom laughed and I seemed haunted by thoughts of “how it used to be.” all my anticipation for

life was gone. Finally, like a drowning person, I cried out, “Do something, god!”the next day I happened to see a small ad in my church paper for a secretary at the

church counseling center. I had the strangest feeling that god was telling me to answer that ad. My church was 25 miles away, in downtown atlanta, and I hated driving down-town. Furthermore, I wasn’t a secretary and hadn’t worked outside the home in 28 years. but in spite of my reluctance, I still felt god nudging me.

I got the job. and I was a disaster. I made one mistake after another—even wrote down phone numbers wrong! I had the feeling that everyone would be relieved if I quit—in-cluding me. the one good thing about it was that I began to take an interest in the people who came in for counseling. I prayed for them. I began to notice their progress and rejoice over their victories.

slowly things changed for me. I was exhausted when I got home, but content at night, and sleep came again. so did laughter. I began to anticipate the next day. after several months I began to understand why god had wanted me to take the job. Doing something difficult—something for which maybe I wasn’t even qualified—had helped me because I was helping someone else.

I’ve learned some things about depression since then: that you can’t escape by running away, that it can attack men and even children. I know too that if depression persists, it’s wise to seek professional help.

Page 4: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessRise Up Over Depression

but I’ve also learned there are things you can do on your own to confront depression:

1. arm yourself for the battle. I read encouraging passages of scripture and try to memorize them (Isaiah 61:3 or 40:31, or psalm 34:17, for instance). I also read from a favorite book, My Utmost for His High-est, by oswald Chambers. or I listen to inspirational music, sometimes singing along. of course, I don’t feel like turning on the music. but this is a battle.

2. try to pinpoint why you are depressed. For instance, I miss being a wife, and I think that if I were a wife again, I wouldn’t be depressed. but I must remember that I was a wife for 25 years, and there were often times when I felt depressed then. I explain to myself that people, circumstances and things don’t make one really happy. Joy comes from choosing to believe that god is working in my life in all circumstances.

3. Do something for someone else. Dr. Karl Menninger of the famous Menninger Clinic once said there’s one sure way to avoid having a breakdown, a solution so simple that almost no one will believe it works. You simply walk out your front door and find someone—anyone—who needs help, and you help him or her.

Reaching out, reminding ourselves that we’re not alone, is the first step back. We may not be immune from ever feeling depressed, but our powerful god is always stand-ing ready to help us fight the battle against it. after all, he promises us that “sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).

Page 5: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happiness

Worth the Weight

By JUlie HaDDen, JaCksOnville, Fl

The Biggest Loser helped this contestant and suburban mom drop the pounds.

Something else helped her keep them off.

i tooK a Deep breath and pushed the dumbbells up from my chest. My arms shook uncontrollably and I felt like I’d break in two.

I signed up for this, I reminded myself, when I became a contestant on the biggest Loser—four months away from my family, suffering through the most intense workouts and dieting I’d ever done, competing with 17 others to lose the most weight.

I knew it would be a challenge, but here it was, my first week, and already I was cracking under the strain. Quickly, I brought my arms back down and let the weights fall to the ground with a crash. “It’s too heavy,” I gasped. “I can’t do it.”

Jillian, my trainer, glared at me. “Why are you here, Julie?”“to lose weight,” I answered.she shook her head. “get out of my gym,” she snapped.“What, why?”“Don’t come back until you can tell me why you’re really here.” I trudged back to my room, wiping the tears from my eyes. god, what’s the right answer? It

seemed like all my life, when it came to losing weight, I only knew the wrong ones.that’s how I’d ended up 5 foot 2, 218 pounds, at age 34. a few months earlier I’d been in

my kitchen when my friend Melissa called. “You’ll never guess who’s in town,” she said. “the biggest Loser. they’re holding auditions.”

Melissa and I were both addicted to the show, but for different reasons. Melissa was thin—she just watched for entertainment’s sake. For me, watching those people go through such an intense weight-loss program—and succeed—was like watching an impossible dream.

as out of reach as having another child, something my husband, Mike, and I had been talk-ing about. the doctor told us that pregnancy would be too risky at my weight and with my

Page 6: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessWorth the Weight

existing health conditions. We considered adoption, but I doubted I’d even be able to handle raising another kid.

our noah was a rambunctious six-year-old. I didn’t have the energy to keep up with him. at the playground, I’d sit swathed in my baggy black clothes, watching him from afar. I’d grab fast food for dinner, too tired to cook. When I did find time in the kitchen, I usually baked chocolate chip cookies—hardly healthy (but my favorite!). My weight had gotten so out of hand I refused to go to my husband’s company Christmas party for the past five years.

Mike had a picture on his desk from our wedding day, the last time I could remember being thin. I didn’t want to face the embarrassment of hearing his coworkers ask him, “What hap-pened to your wife?”

i saID gooDbYe to Melissa and went to the mirror—one of several half mirrors we had in the house, which hid the reflection of my full figure. What had happened to Mike’s wife? noah’s mom? all that was left was a worthless failure. the biggest Loser? this could be my last chance, I thought.

I went to the auditions and made it on the show. our first challenge was a race across California’s Mojave Desert. First two contestants to get to the trainers bob and Kim would get to choose their weight-loss teammates. those not picked would have to go home—and lose weight without the show’s help. It must be a hundred degrees out here, I thought, looking at the sandy stretch in front of me that seemed to go on for miles. I’ll never make it. huffing and puffing, eyes blinded with sweat, I finally reached the finish line. but I wasn’t picked for either team. I’d blown my chance.

then I heard the roar of a motorcycle. Jillian, the third trainer on the show, rode up to me and the rest of the rejects. “the others don’t think you can lose the weight,” she said. “We’re going to prove them wrong.” I could barely contain my happiness. our group worked out for a week in the desert, staying in spartan dorms, away from the comfy confines of the other teams. the happiness I’d felt quickly faded. Jillian’s workouts were unforgiving, every part of me burned. and now she’d kicked me out of the gym.

I collapsed on the bed in my dorm room. I pulled off my sneakers and threw them to the ground. sand flew everywhere—picked up from all our time running in the desert. I grabbed one shoe and flipped it over. the grains of sand sifted through my fingers, too many to count. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God. They cannot be numbered…they outnumber the grains of sand. one of my favorite psalms.

I watched the sand settle onto the floor, and for the first time, I thought about what those words really meant. My weight didn’t make me worthless. I may have failed before, and failed often, but I wasn’t a failure. I was precious to god—didn’t that mean I deserved the best life he had to offer? a long, happy, active life with Mike, noah and the child we hoped to add to

Page 7: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessWorth the Weight

our family. a life that god wanted for me as much as I did.I put my sneakers on again and marched back to the gym. “I’m not just here to lose weight,”

I told Jillian. “My goal is to live my life the way I deserve to live it.”“that,” she said, “is the right answer!”Jillian’s workouts were worth it—punishing, but worth it. our team surprised the others

at the first weigh-in, losing the most weight. but it wasn’t clear sailing. one week we walked into the gym and found none of the equipment was working. not the treadmills, the ellipti-cals, the rowing machines. “It’s green Week,” Jillian announced. “We’re going to exercise the old-fashioned way.”

JuMp Rope, huLa hoop, push-ups, and pull-ups. I couldn’t do a single pull-up without Jillian’s help. My arms felt like they were about to pop from their sock-ets. but this time, I didn’t give up. god doesn’t think I’m a failure. he wants the best for me. I’ve got to keep working toward it. by the end of the week, I was able to do a few by myself.

I made it to the finals. now I’d have to spend four more months at home, working out for hours every day to ready myself for that final weigh-in to determine the winner. the second I came through the door, noah ran up and gave me a hug. I looked at noah’s arms around my waist, all the way around. something I thought I’d never see. part of that life I deserved to have. “I’m hungry, Mommy,” he said. “Could you bake some chocolate chip cookies?”

I stopped in my tracks. how could I say no? I hadn’t exactly been around for him lately. I had to go back to being a good mom. so I went to the kitchen and got out my big mixing bowl. I stirred in the flour, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate chips. slowly they blended into that famil-iar golden batter I used to love. I licked a tiny bit off the spoon. a chunk landed on the counter. I scooped that up too. then I took another taste. soon I was scraping the bottom of the bowl, wanting just one more sweet, gooey bite.

stop! the alarm sounded in my head. I looked at the cookie sheet—I hadn’t even baked them yet, and already half the cookies were gone. I thought about that time in the desert. the prophets in the bible often went there for purification—and to resist temptation.

one thing I was happy to be away from were temptations like these cookies. now I had to hold myself accountable—not just to god but to the new life I wanted. I can’t move out to the desert. but I can move out dessert. I dumped the cookies in the trash. “I’m sorry, noah,” I said, “but Mommy just can’t have chocolate chip cookies in the house right now. Let’s go to the mall and get you one of those hot fresh ones.”

“Yeah!” he shouted.I spent the rest of the day going through the cabinets and the fridge. anything that wasn’t

healthy I threw out or set aside to give away. From now on, I’d only keep healthy food in

Page 8: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessWorth the Weight

the house. I looked at all those half mirrors—ways to avoid holding myself accountable. I bought some full-length—no hiding now. When I took noah to the playground, I didn’t sit idly by. I did pull-ups on the monkey bars, sprinting in a game of “Red Light, green Light”—it was like green Week, without Jillian.

the day of the final weigh-in, I thought I’d be nervous. Instead, I felt a strange calm. I’d already accomplished my goal. It turned out I’d lost the highest percentage of body weight among the women. I was a healthy, strong 121 pounds. I finished second, and believe me, second place never felt so good!

a few months later was the show’s finale. It happened to fall on the same night as Mike’s company Christmas party. this time I was sad to miss it. but I won’t miss it this year!

and last January, we adopted a baby boy, Jaxon. I lay him on his back and do my push-ups over him. he giggles every time I come down and kiss him. then I lie on my back and raise him up and down above me, 20 pounds of love. It sure beats lifting dumbbells.

Page 9: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happiness

Junk JunkieCompulsive? Not me! I just couldn’t resist a garage sale.

FIRst thIng FRIDaY morning I spot the “garage sale” sign taped to the mailbox in front of a cluttered driveway, and make a snappy u-turn, pulling my van to the curb and jumping out, hoping to beat the gray-haired woman parked in front of me.

My fanny pack is well-stocked with ones and fives so I have exact change. My eyes race across the rusty bikes, baskets, bedspreads and old board games, search-ing…then I see it. a lamp, one of the most unusual lamps I have ever seen.

the shade’s a bit faded and torn—easy to replace—but the base is a huge hunk of wood with rusted metal bands around it like the hub of an old wag-on wheel. Maybe even an antique.

everything about it screams, “take me. I’m yours!”the masking tape on the base reads “$10.” I’m sure I can get it for less. I hoist it up—it

weighs a ton—and lug it along with me as I rummage through a box of tarnished Christ-mas decorations.

I scan a table of costume jewelry and beat-up handbags. “Can I hold that for you?” asks the helpful woman running the sale. “We’ll keep it for you in front until you’re ready to go.”

“no, thanks,” I say briskly. no telling who might snatch it up before I have my chance. “It’s not really in great shape.” I point out its flaws. Meanwhile I unzip my fanny pack with my free hand and fish out eight ones. “Will you take eight dollars for it?” this lamp would cost at least fifty bucks at an antique store, I tell myself. Maybe more.

“sure,” the woman says brightly. her quick reply irks me. I could have gotten her down even more. too late now. I carry the lamp out to the van and head off. I have at least 10 more garage sales to hit. It’s Friday, after all.

Monday through thursday I worked hard as a writer. Currently, I was putting to-gether a book on my experience with prayer. but in spare minutes I scanned ads for sales in the local paper, reading carefully. If it said “estate sale” things would be overpriced. a “multi-family sale” had more variety and a “moving sale” was best, full of motivated sellers, ready to bargain.

Fridays I set my alarm early, threw on my sweat suit, pulled a brush through my hair,

By kaRen BaRBeR, alpHaRetta, GeORGia

Page 10: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessJunk Junkie

maybe dabbed on some eyeliner. In the back of my head I could hear my husband, gor-don, groan, “Do you really need all this stuff?” I didn’t have an answer for that question, so I ignored it.

that Friday at the end of my route I congratulated myself on my success. the back of the van was filled with quirky knick-knacks. I’ll have to stash them around the house so gordon won’t notice them, I reminded myself. I carried boxes inside and arrayed the small things on tables and shelves, so they’d blend in. but what to do with the wagon-hub lamp?

as I lugged it around the house, I realized that it didn’t really fit in with anything we owned. It’s not like we had a Western-themed home. Maybe if I put it in my office. gordon wouldn’t see it there. I swept aside some books and set it on my desk. I screwed in a new lightbulb and snapped the switch. nothing. I jiggled the cord a little and tried again. nothing.

no WonDeR that woman was so quick to take my eight bucks! Why, I hadn’t even asked her if the thing worked. Dumb. I lugged it down to the basement where it could sit with five other lamps that needed to be fixed—along with all the other junk I’d accumulated.

Monday morning I was back at work on my prayer book. Writing required concentration, yet all I could concentrate on was that silly lamp. Why had I wanted it so much? because it was a good deal? Well, if a bargain ended up gathering dust in the basement, what kind of bargain was that?

no, something else was behind this bad feeling I’d had since my latest garage-sale foray. there was something about the urgency of my need to acquire things I didn’t need that really bothered me. beating little old ladies to the bargains, fighting for the lowest price even when it didn’t really make much difference.

My eyes fell on my open bible to a passage from Luke: “Watch out! be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his posses-sions.” there was nothing wrong with garage sales, but there was something wrong with me. had I turned the fun of shopping for meaningful and unusual stuff—stuff I might actually use—into an exercise in excess? Was I becoming a junk junkie?

I have now drafted a set of rules for shopping that I live by. I ask myself if I—or some-one I know—will actually use the item. I make sure it works. I see if I can afford it and if I actually have a place for it in my house and in my life. I don’t buy anything that I will need to hide from my husband. and I always ask, “Why do I really want this thing?” Mean-while, know of anyone who could use a wagon-wheel lamp?

Page 11: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happiness

the Best Dream Of all

By Jill BURGin, BRentWOOD, tn

A family learns that bigger isn’t always better.

Boxes FILLeD the living room, the kitchen, the bedrooms. the walls were bare. Furniture clumped in corners. I watched movers haul in a sofa and stared out a window at the grassy backyard. It should have been such an exciting day, moving into our new house, the place our kids would grow up.

Don’t get me wrong, I was excited. but not the way I once thought I’d be. this house, in fact, was smaller than the one we’d just left. so small, I was already noticing things—boxes of pottery, silk plants—we had no room for. I remembered the second-story view we’d had at our last place. not here.

this house was a single-story ranch, smaller than any house we’d lived in before, smaller than just about any of our friends’. no more big sunday school parties, I told myself. at least not indoors. We did have a big backyard, after all. and a playroom for the kids—though, of course, that was in a converted garage.

Well, at least we were still in the neighborhood we loved. My husband tim had taken a pay cut with a new job that had more family-friendly hours, and we’d had to choose—stay in this zip code in an older house with less room or look for something new but more affordable 45 minutes out of town. We’d chosen proximity to grandparents a few miles away and our kids’ good schools.

still, I couldn’t help thinking how different it all looked from the dreams we’d nurtured through 13 years of marriage—our american dream of a big house, nice cars, raises, pro-motions, a comfortable retirement.

Just a few years before, tim and I had been poring over blueprints for a 5,500-square-foot house we’d planned to build. We’d imagined stone fireplaces and granite counter-tops.

now we had motel-sized bathrooms and a vinyl kitchen floor. I worry, God, I said to myself, peering into a box of Christmas decorations I realized we had no room for either. Did we make the right choice?

Page 12: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessthe Best Dream Of all

tim and I had dated five years before marrying, waiting until we were settled enough and had enough money to buy a house in a nashville suburb not too far from where tim had grown up. that was important to us: buying, not renting. We intended to be home-owners, and to trade up as soon as we could.

two years later we moved into a two-story, three-bedroom brick house on a cul-de-sac surrounded by hackberry and cherry trees. all the doorways were arched. Light poured into the kitchen. We built a deck and installed French doors leading out to it.

We bought an antique bedroom set for the spacious master bedroom. My parents, who lived in Memphis at the time, had their own room whenever they visited. the other bed-room went to our twin boys, born two years after we moved in.

Quickly we made friends with other young couples at our Methodist church, the church tim had grown up in. everyone had good jobs, high hopes—and nice houses. par-ties for sunday school teachers doubled as ooh- and ahh-filled home tours.

i CouLDn’t heLp notICIng the palatial playrooms—more than twice the size of ours—the tall, elegant cabinets, the family rooms flowing straight from the kitchen.

I pictured it—tim watching football, me cooking dinner on granite countertops, the kids playing on the floor, all of us in the same big room. We began house-hunt-ing on weekends, visiting new construction projects, meeting with builders.

tim’s company was flush and, with the kids starting school, I’d gone back to work part-time writing a column for the local newspaper. We were ready to realize our american dream.

We put a down payment on a lot in a new subdivision closer to the church and our friends’ houses. We began going over custom-home plans, picking out light fixtures, crown moldings, toilet-seat handles.

“I want this to be the last house we move to,” tim said. “a place the kids will remember growing up in.” I took that to mean it had to be perfect. tim’s work hours kept expanding, so I shouldered much of the house planning. I went blurry looking at blueprints, drove to far-flung hardware stores to examine cupboard surfaces. Remember, perfect, I urged myself, imagining the housewarming party.

It never got perfect. Choices and decisions multiplied. every time we met with the builder, new costs crept in. “You’re not taking on too much, are you?” my dad asked anx-iously. “oh no,” I replied breezily, “everything just gets folded into the mortgage.”

Deep down, though, I worried. Rumblings sounded at tim’s work about a possible sale of the company. I began waking up exhausted, numb and tingly in my limbs. “You’re stressed,” my doctor told me. “Whatever you’re doing, you need to take a break from it.”

tim accompanied me to that appointment—a sign of his concern, since he almost nev-

Page 13: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessthe Best Dream Of all

er managed to leave work in the middle of the day. We drove to a McDonald’s afterward for lunch—the only place we had time for.

approaching the drive-through window, we looked at each other. anxiety and dread lined our faces. a few days later, we called the builder and cancelled.

Well, I thought, putting the Christmas ornaments back into the moving box, better start figuring out how to make this house a home. I looked around at the den, once wood-paneled, now painted over.

no more French doors to the deck. no more cherry trees and hackberry trees. no more waking up in the big master bedroom, looking down on the lawn. no more quiet cul-de-sac.

Wait, I thought, looking more closely at the den. It was open, flowing straight from the kitchen. We could put the tV there, a sofa there, and—yes, I could cook, tim could watch football and the kids could be playing on the floor. all in one big room.

so What IF the countertops were laminate? here I was, missing my old house, the house I’d yearned to move on from—and yet, in its own way, this house had just what we needed too.

I looked out back. no deck—but a big screened-in porch. past it was a lawn, more open than our old lawn. I could send the kids out there know-

ing I’d always be able to see them. a tall, thick-branched maple swayed in an afternoon breeze. perfect for a swing.

I walked into the master bedroom. the bedroom set had been deposited there. a tight fit, but it fit. I went back to the den. built-in bookshelves, such a homey touch. I looked at the Christmas-ornaments box, the pottery and silk plants. half of this stuff I bought just to fill up space, I thought. What was I thinking?

and suddenly I knew what I’d been thinking. I’d been thinking that bigger is the only better, that dreams come true only if they come true my way—and that anything else is disappointment. Well, I asked myself—or was it god asking—was I disappointed? had we made the right choice?

Certainly I wouldn’t be impressing friends with a splashy housewarming party. Maybe my own kids would even ask one day why our house didn’t measure up to their friends’. What would I tell them?

already I knew the answer. It was exactly what I needed to tell myself. that bigger isn’t always better. and that a happy family life and a roof to live it under is the best dream of all. truly, we had nothing to be disappointed about. We had made the exact right choice.

Page 14: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happiness

UnburdenedCredit cards? Maxed out. Financial security? Paycheck

to paycheck. Something had to give.

You KnoW that expression, “When trouble comes knocking”? Well, it came knocking, all right, one night in 2006, not at my door but under the hood of my Ford Crown Vic.

I was driving home from work and, at first, I didn’t want to hear the strange knock, knock coming from my car—the way I didn’t want to hear a

lot of things then. I turned up the radio to drown it out. but the noise just got louder.too loud to ignore. Man, engine repairs could mean a couple thousand dollars. Way

more than we had.I groaned, dreading what my wife, Christy, would say when I told her my muscle

car, the grown-up toy she’d warned me not to buy, was going to put us even deeper in the hole.

We were already saddled with car and house payments, maxed out on our credit cards. We lived paycheck to paycheck—Christy, me and our four kids—and without my car to get to my job as an electronics repair tech 40 miles away, that paycheck would be in jeopardy.

Money worries were such a part of my daily existence that it was hard to believe there once was a time I never gave finances a thought. back when I was single, in my twenties, I bought whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I would fixate on something and go after it like it was a quest.

one year I decided I was going to master the game of golf. I shelled out big bucks for a set of Callaway clubs, got shoes, outfits, magazines, video games, private lessons. played big-name courses, took golf vacations. sure, I owed a lot on my credit cards, but I never missed a payment, at least the minimum. I was fine, right?

then I met Christy, a single mom with two kids, and fell in love. We got married, moved into a fixer-upper and started adding to our family. and to our debt. there were always things we needed (or I felt like we deserved)—new carpeting, a paint job, appli-ances, clothes, bikes, toys, dinners out.

Christy tried to economize, but every time she got us on a budget, I’d come across something I just had to have—collector’s baseball cards, a five-hundred-dollar driver, a

By DUstin allen, CHanUte, kansas

Page 15: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessUnburdened

muscle car. I’d lobby Christy until she gave in. “If it’ll make you happy,” she’d say, “then go ahead and buy it.”

I guess I liked being surrounded by possessions—they made me feel more secure somehow, like I’d staked my place in the world. besides, as long as we had room on a card, I figured we were okay.

Christy didn’t think so, and it got so that we couldn’t discuss money without getting into a fight. “We can’t keep spending like this,” she warned.

“You worry too much,” I retorted. “We’ve got everything under control.” Yet even as I said those words, I knew Christy was right. We’d gone from treading water to drowning in debt.

OuR tRoubLes Must have been really obvious because one day my mom gave me a book, The Total Money Makeover. It was all about how to achieve financial fitness.

Like some finance book is really going to get us out of debt, I thought, tossing it aside.

Christy, who was more spiritual than I was, also gave me a book—a bible. I respected her faith, but those were ancient stories, and this was real life. “the bible’s not going to fix our problems,” I said. “We’ll manage on our own.” and I truly thought we could.

until the night the Crown Vic started knocking. I made it home, but I knew the car would have to be fixed right away. I hardly spoke at dinner. all I could think of was this horrible pit of debt we’d fallen into. how in the world were we going to get ourselves out?

once the kids were in bed, Christy came back in and planted herself in a chair across from me. “tell me what’s the matter,” she said.

“It’s the Crown Vic,” I said. “It has to have repairs.”“how will you get to work?” she cried. “and if we use our money for the car, what

about all our other bills?”I tried to reassure her. “We’ll find a way. We’ll get a bank loan or another credit card.”

but the words sounded hollow, even to me. Desperate.that night I lay awake, restless, panicky. We were one crisis away from foreclosure. My

eyes skittered from the ceiling to the window to my sleeping wife. then to the nightstand. that financial book Mom had given me sat there, like it was staring me down. Fine. If anyone needed a total money makeover, it was me. I picked it up and started reading.

the guy had a lot of commonsense advice: no more buying on credit. no nonessential purchases of any kind. sell what you don’t need. Make a bare-bones budget and don’t waver from it till you’re debt-free. Was that possible? Christy and I couldn’t even get through one trip to the grocery store without spending more than we had.

Page 16: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessUnburdened

the next morning I called my dad and asked if I could borrow his car to get to work. “sure,” he said, then added, “and I’ll loan you the money to get your car fixed.”

It was humiliating—a grown man capable of earning a living taking charity from his father. but what choice did I have? Dad followed me to the service station. the problem was a broken timing belt. It would cost a bundle to replace. Dad wrote me a check. I took him home and headed to work in his car.

on my 40-mile drive, I did something I hadn’t done since I was a little kid, something I’d been aching to do ever since Christy gave me that bible; I just didn’t know it. pray.

the words came out in a rush. not eloquent but honest. “I can’t put my family at risk anymore,” I told god. “I got us into this mess, but I need you to help get us out. please help me, Lord. I’ll listen, I promise.”

aLL DaY at work my mind circled back to the book’s advice. the author and his wife had struggled to get out of debt too. the first thing to do, he said, was to put aside one thousand dollars for an emergency fund.

next, pay off the credit cards one at a time from smallest to largest. I could work overtime to raise some money, but we would have to take

more drastic measures. one piece of advice kept repeating itself to me: “sell what you don’t need.”

all that stuff! all that expensive junk I just thought I had to have. It was killing me. as soon as I got home, I went to the hall closet. My baseball card collection was there gath-ering dust. so was my golf gear. It’s not like I was spending saturdays out on the links. Weekends were family time. Wasn’t that what mattered most?

I almost ran into the kitchen, I was so fired up. Christy was fixing dinner. “hey, let’s have a garage sale!” I said.

she looked surprised. “What do you want to get rid of?”“everything.”We didn’t stop with the garage sale. It became an adventure, finding the best way to

sell stuff. I put some things up on ebay, listed others on dirt-cheap radio classifieds. every dollar we got went straight into the bank for that emergency fund.

on my commute I kept talking to god. the conversations evolved. Instead of just begging him for help, I was able to give thanks for each item we found a buyer for, and eventually, each credit card we paid off.

I actually read that other book too, the bible. turned out the scriptures were filled with timeless wisdom about manna, not where to invest or which bank to go to, but about the emotions that we can attach to owning things, the illusory power money can make you feel. “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

Page 17: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessUnburdened

I’d thought material possessions would make me more sure of my place in the world, when really what I needed was a spiritual foundation. It felt so good—so freeing—to shed all of those things that had weighed down our lives.

We’ve since slashed our debt by thirty-six thousand dollars. We just have our mortgage left, and that we can handle. the Crown Vic has almost a hundred thousand miles on it now, but it runs well and if it needs repairs, we’ve got enough tucked away to cover it.

besides, it gets pretty decent mileage if I stick to the slow lane on the highway. I don’t mind. gives me more time to talk to my Financial advisor. to thank him for keeping at me until I finally wised up and listened. I mean, who do you think really came knocking that night in 2006?

Page 18: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happiness

a stitch intimeBy FRan HaRt, ROUnD ROCk, texas

Finishing what I started…

i sat on MY bedroom floor surrounded by skeins of yarn, piles of red, white and blue granny squares.

pieces of an afghan my husband, Jim, and I started crocheting years ago, forgot-ten until I unearthed it from my closet in a bout of cleaning.

I picked up a square and ran the soft threads between my fingers. Why hadn’t I finished the afghan? Why did it seem I never finished anything?

that’s what working 60 hours a week at a computer company, teaching sunday school, sitting on the church vestry and raising kids will do to you, I guess. I just wished I felt more fulfilled, more connected to a deeper purpose instead of scattered like those afghan squares.

“What’s that?” Jim asked, walking into the bedroom.“Remember that afghan we started?” I replied.“Wow, that was ages ago,” Jim said. “You’re finally going to finish it?”I stared at him. Finish it! Who had time? and yet—could I really just shove all these

squares, some already discolored with age, back in the closet? Maybe I could squeeze it in somehow.

Work really wore me out the next day. that night I plopped down in front of the tV, ready to zone out. then I remembered the afghan. half annoyed, I grabbed some yarn and a crochet hook. I draped a strand of yarn over my left hand and clutched my crochet hook in the other. First, a slipknot. then over, under. I led the yarn through one loop, then the next.

I fell into a rhythm, my fingers moving by themselves. My mind wandered. I imagined the finished product—a checkerboard of red, white and blue, thick and soft, keeping Jim and me warm on cold nights.

that got me thinking about our kids. our oldest was grown, living in houston; Jim and I were planning a trip there soon. our younger son was excited about going to summer camp. god has truly blessed us, I thought. When was the last time I’d felt this

Page 19: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessa stitch in time

abiding sense of gratitude?I took to crocheting squares every chance I got. In the evenings. While Jim drove us to

visit our daughter in houston and to drop our son off at camp. In sunday school, when the kids were working on a project. For once I wasn’t spending those moments thinking about calls and e-mails I had to return, or next week’s sunday school lesson plan. It felt so peaceful watching that afghan take shape.

i hIt a FeW snags, like when I realized I needed to make twice as many squares as I’d planned. and when I figured out I’d have to trim each square in white to make them easier to assemble. It took more time, but I didn’t mind. every moment carved out to crochet was time to reflect, to pray, to grow closer to god. that was the connection I’d been missing.

Finally I was able to admire my creation. I wrapped the blanket around myself, enjoy-ing its warmth. It had seemed so impossible that day I found it in the closet two months earlier. one granny square at a time, though, it came together.

Like life, I thought. I couldn’t transform my busy schedule all at once. but by making room for god, making room for moments to appreciate his blessings day by day, I could start to get closer. one granny square, one prayer, at a time.

Page 20: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happiness

the Courage to Change

By DaRRen “Jaz” vinCent, CHaRlOtte, nORtH CaROlina

I had spent years fighting everyone. But with help from friends and God, I fought my own

demons and found solace in books.

LooKIng baCK noW, I can see it was fear that was holding me back. not fear of dying. Fear of trying. I was afraid to succeed. I was afraid to be different. I was afraid to walk away from a fight. Why? because for most of my life, I didn’t know any other way to be.

I’m from niagara Falls. a beautiful place, you think. and you’d be right, if you were talking about the Canadian side, the part that tourists flock to.

but I’m from the other side of the Falls, the new York side, which—there’s no nice way to put it—is a big ghetto. the city used to be booming, with steel, chemical and manufac-turing plants. but then came layoffs. the plants closed. poverty and crime rose.

there aren’t a lot of opportunities for kids from the Falls. I grew up kind of rough. My mom had me when she was 16 and not really ready for the responsibility of motherhood. My dad wasn’t around.

since I was the oldest of us four kids, I ended up being the man of the house. It fell to me to protect my siblings, and even my mom, and I got into a lot of fights, too many to count.

I left my mom’s house by the time I was 16, dropped out of high school, got my own place at 17. I had a son at 19.

that was kind of a wake-up call to get my act together. I got my geD. then my associ-ate’s degree, doing work-study to pay for tuition. I decided to major in communications because the courses—speech, mass communication, psychology, human behavior—gave me a better understanding of how people’s minds worked.

even though the material was interesting, I didn’t put a lot of effort into my classes. I was too cool for school. too cool to raise my hand in class. too cool to read a book.

Page 21: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessthe Courage to Change

I got away with it because I have a really good memory. I retained a lot of what I heard in class. and I’d ask other students to summarize the readings and get professors to re-view what was going to be on their tests.

the degree helped me land a job as a computer technician. not the most exciting work, but it was legit. that didn’t mean I stopped fighting, though. I mean, I had to show the drug dealers I was just as bad as they were.

the fact that I’m six-one, 215, had something to do with it. people took one look at me and expected me to use my size, be a thug. Like a lot of guys in the ‘hood, I wanted to be a rapper. I wrote my own stuff, played some local clubs. because I dressed nice—I wasn’t into the baggy jeans look—people called me Jaz.

they wanted me to show my tattoos, look meaner. said I should walk like this, talk like that. I did it too. I let other people tell me how to be, let them define me. and then I started to wonder, okay, who am I really?

I felt a pull to leave home, but I was afraid. Would I be accepted someplace else, outside the Falls? I had the scars, the tats, the bald head. I fit the stereotype of a guy from the ‘hood, the kind they show on tV. the guy who looks like he’s going to flip at any moment.

One satuRDaY In the summer of 2001, my brother and I went out. We went to a bar across the border in hamilton, ontario, where some friends were hanging out. a fight broke out. I got hit over the head with a beer bottle. I stood there, blood dripping down my face. My friends were yell-ing, “C’mon, Jaz. Let’s get those guys!”

then I heard someone else talking to me through all the noise, saying, “stop.” some-one way bigger than I was. It was like he was holding me back, keeping me still.

I walked away from the fight. that was the first time in my life I became submissive, and surrendered to the will of a higher being. I went home and prayed. I asked, What do you want me to do?

Later that night, a friend I hadn’t heard from in a couple years called. she was living in Charlotte, north Carolina. “Why don’t you come down here?” she said.

no joke. I pray for direction and out of the blue, I get this call. It was pretty obvious what I needed to do. I set a date in october to move. but I was still scared. I kept spending all my money in the Falls, using it as an excuse why I couldn’t leave.

october came, and I couldn’t afford a moving truck. My friend in Charlotte said her parents were moving down south and arranged for me to share their truck. no more excuses.

I left home, left the Falls. I should have failed when I got to Charlotte. I only knew one person in the city. I didn’t have a job lined up, and after 9/11, a lot of opportunities dried up.

Page 22: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessthe Courage to Change

the one job I found was at a call center run by onstar. Maybe you’ve seen the com-mercials. It’s that in-vehicle safety and security system you can get in gM cars, where you press a button and are automatically connected with a person who can tell you the car needs an oil change, for example, or send police and eMts to you in an emergency.

Well, I was one of those people answering calls. I was grateful to have the job on a prac-tical level. I needed some way to pay the rent. on a deeper level, though, I was confused. I prayed a lot that first year in Charlotte. I’d say, God, I don’t understand why you brought me down here to work at a call center.

now, in retrospect, I think it was because I needed to be there. since the call center was staffed 24-7, hundreds of people worked there. people I never would’ve met other-wise. We’d talk during breaks and guess what? every one of them was interesting. every-body had a dream.

I learned customer service. at first I thought the callers were all uppity rich people in fancy cars. then I started listening to them, and I could tell they weren’t all that different from anyone else. they had their problems too, and they wanted help.

When theY CaLLeD onstar to complain about something, I knew it wasn’t me they were mad at. so I learned not to take things per-sonally. Me, the guy who used to beat people up if I thought they were disrespecting me.

but the biggest thing that I learned came out of an argument I had in the cafeteria one day with a coworker. I’d been at onstar for a year by then. My coworker, a manager, used to be a teacher in Canada, so I liked to call him the professor.

We got into it talking about african american males. I said guys like me just didn’t get the same opportunities others did. the professor contended that people of any race felt stuck in their circumstances because they were afraid to change.

he gave me a book, a paperback. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by susan Jeffers. “promise me you’ll read it from front to back,” he said.

here was someone who couldn’t have been more different from me—older, white, Ca-nadian, educated, management—and yet he really cared about my well-being. I’d never finished a book in my life, but I felt moved to read this one.

so I did, cover to cover. It really opened my eyes. I saw what I was afraid of and why. I saw that I could face my fears and push through them. I saw that I could go from feeling like a victim of circumstances to being a creator of a meaningful life.

the book totally changed me. I thought I knew everything, but I didn’t know anything. I was hungry to learn. I started seeking information, buying books at goodwill, picking people’s brains.

Page 23: Paths tohappiness guidepost


paths to happinessthe Courage to Change

My imagination was on fire. I would open a bookstore, I decided. I wanted to open oth-er people’s eyes, to feed their minds. I talked to my coworkers about my dream in Febru-ary 2004. I had six books to my name. by the end of March, I had 3,000. every night I was carrying boxes of books—from goodwill or donated by coworkers—up to my apartment.

a friend from work took me to noDa, an area of Charlotte with a real laid-back vibe, people of different backgrounds all getting along. this was where I wanted my bookstore to be. I saved up money, got two small-business loans with a partner’s help, and leased a retail space.

Realeyes opened its doors that December. I sell new and used books, and two years ago I started the Charlotte Literary Festival to get even more people reading. I put in 50, 60 hours a week. It’s hard work keeping a dream alive, but you know what? I’m not afraid to try.