The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go. —Martha Washington

Years ago, my husband and I sold our home and moved to another community. There we rented a small two-bedroom apartment until we could find some land to build on (something we never did do).

Our new place resembled a storage shed more than a home. Boxes were stacked to the ceiling along one wall of the living room, where I hung a piece of fabric to cover them, shrinking the room considerably. The apartment-size dining room shared space with a wall of food storage on one side of the table and an office desk on the other. I set up my wheat grinder on the desk. Every spare space was utilized.

Then we took a deep breath and said, “It’s just temporary.”

A few months into this elbow-to-elbow living, I was sitting in Relief Society one day when I heard a saying that made me sit up. Today the same thought might pass by unnoticed in a cute little box on Facebook, but that day it changed me. It was, “Life is what happens while you’re waiting for your dreams to come true.”

I realized that every day with my children was precious and that waiting for “someday” was a ridiculous way to live. The next day, I dug through my stacks of boxes and emerged with the brightly flowered china dishes we had purchased for when we had our “dream home.” I washed them up and from that day on, we ate every meal on them. To me it was symbolic of my determination to enjoy life each day, not just the ideal ones.

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go,” Martha Washington said.

Lately, with the economic challenges that are embracing the world, I’ve often thought of that time in our small apartment, and those china dishes.

My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. They understood being frugal. When we moved them once, we found stacks of egg cartons and green strawberry baskets. From their era comes another saying: “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”

I used to recite that mantra to my children as a sign that I was a woman with a noble, pioneer spirit. But today, I rebel against the feel of deprivation the message conveys to me. Yes, I agree with the sentiment of each principle, but I disagree with focusing on making do or doing without. I no longer hold my breath, grit my teeth and determine to “endure to the end.”

Our Father in Heaven wants us to be happy every day, not just the ideal ones.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived amidst abundance. They were blessed, were given dominion over all living things, were surrounded by food (Genesis 1:28-29), had responsibilities (Genesis 2:15) and were often visited by God (Moses 4:14). But they did not progress.

When they left the garden, life became difficult. The earth brought forth thorns and thistles. In the sweat of his face, Adam had to provide food. In discomfort and suffering, Eve bore children.

But she bore children. And though Adam was given authority over animals in the garden, Moses 5:1 teaches that after “the Lord God had driven them out that Adam began … to have dominion over all the beasts.”

I am also intrigued with the language “cursed shall be the ground for thy sake” (Moses 4:23, see also Genesis 3:17). For his sake, his benefit, he would have difficult times. In their new mortal life, they were taught in the language of God to write and keep a record. He learned to raise his own food. He learned about sacrifice. They were blessed with experiences and knowledge they had not had in Eden. They grew intellectually, spiritually and became physically stronger.

It was beyond Eden that Jacob taught, “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

While being frugal and responsible, rather than “making do” make memories. Find abundance of joy and goodness in the blessings you have. Have your family unplug from electronic entertainment and be together. Keep the focus on the endless carpetbag of ideas that can be enjoyed and not on the tightness of the budget.

For example:

  • Play music while everyone does chores.
  • Dance in the kitchen — teach your family to “swing.”
  • Make blanket tents over chairs that are moved off a floor that is to be mopped.
  • Make cookies together from “scratch.”
  • Read stories together every night.
  • Go on picnics or hikes.
  • Play hide ’n’ seek with all the lights out.
  • Get a jump rope and teach your children rhymes. “Not last night, but the night before, 24 robbers came knocking at my door ….
  • Play kickball.
  • Have a picnic on the living room floor on a rainy day.
  • Make treasure hunts often.
  • Gather around the piano and sing together.
  • Play board games.
  • Have a puppet show behind the couch.
  • Pretend the electricity went out, light candles, eat sandwiches for supper and tell stories about when you were a child.
Don’t be afraid of what lies beyond Eden. We know that this life is given to us that we may prepare to return to our Father in Heaven (Alma 34:32), but in the midst of doing good, striving, struggling, learning and even enduring, remember as Moroni taught, “And then cometh the judgment of the Holy One upon them, and then cometh the time that he that is … happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still” (Mormon 9:14).

Create an atmosphere of abundance: an abundance of family, the gospel, love, good times, faith and happiness.

Susan Dayley is the author of various books and blogs regularly at http://susandayley.wordpress.com