Circle the Happy, Cross Out the Sad

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Today’s article appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of The Gospel News in the Word Up column.

“Your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John 16:22)

I was fully engaged in the adult Sunday School class, but my attention was interrupted by a sweet voice behind me. My children were receiving their class assignment just beyond the partition, “Circle the happy and cross out the sad.”

When my daughters returned from their class, Courtney and Aubrey confirmed what I had thought, showing me a picture with 12 faces, some smiling and some frowning. The happy faces were encircled in crayon and the sad faces had X’s marked through them.

A passing assignment for the kids, but a game changer for me. For 28-and-a-half years I have carried a laminated card in my wallet, reading:

“CIRCLE THE HAPPY…CROSS OUT THE SAD”
– Susan Moraco, Sunday School Class January 26, 1992”

This dear sister’s phrase had provided enough direction for my girls to complete their assignment, but her words of wisdom have guided me for nearly 30 years. I hear her voice whispering to me, providing a clear choice, with a strong reminder which is the better, wiser decision.

When situations present themselves to me, I don’t relinquish emotional control. When alternatives are before me, I don’t succumb to fear. When face-to-face with dilemma, I cling to the empowerment given me by Jesus Christ, and beg Him for direction and the courage to follow His lead. As painful experiences, distress, and even discouragement threaten to overtake me, I return to my seat in the back pew in the Hollywood Branch in South Florida, when I heard God’s confident command in Sister Susan’s gentle voice, “Circle the happy and cross out the sad.”

We all have options. It’s possible they’ve never been more obvious for such a sustained period as right now. Yes, these times are challenging, even difficult. This virus has robbed many from far more joyful experiences, such as graduations, weddings, family gatherings, and in-person church services. We can each list valid reasons to be upset, frustrated, angry, and even discouraged by such goings on.

Or we can choose to find the purpose in these times. Maybe, even our purpose.

Brother Alvin Swanson, one of my first life-mentors, taught my family, “Listen for God’s voice in everything. He’ll speak to you in the message or a testimony on Sunday, in a lesson or comment on Wednesday night, or in a life experience on any given day.”

There have certainly been great disappointments over these three months, but there have also been great moments of elation. Example: Oldham County Mission meetings have enjoyed growing from 15-20 people in February to 50-75 people on countless Sunday mornings.

My dear Brother Alvin, I am still listening.

My dear Sister Susan, I apologize for eavesdropping on your class 28-and-a-half years ago, but I want to update my report to you: I have attempted to complete your assignment, submit to Jesus’ encouragement to allow my heart to “rejoice,” and permit no one to “taketh” my joy from me.

My dear brothers, sisters, and friends — Please find a card, write these words, and let them remind you of our sister’s wonderful life-counsel: “Circle the happy and cross out the sad.”

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.

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