Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gratitude Is the Best Filter

Over and over these last few days, I keep coming back to how perspective changes everything.

Friday I woke up and immediately knew I felt different.  It actually took me a few minutes to pinpoint what "that" feeling was.  Then it hit me that I actually felt GOOD.  I honestly hadn't physically had a "good" day since October.  Over three months is a long time to wake up feeling weighted down and enslaved to lupus, knowing that the flare you are in is just not going to give you any reprieve. Or sick from whatever germs the family has been sharing. It had been so long since I'd felt good that I didn't remember what it felt like. Yucky, in pain, swimming through peanut butter with concrete blocks on your limbs, lack of mental clarity, and depression nagging to take over.  Those things had become the normal and I just dealt with it.  But, to wake up, feeling ALIVE gave me a new found perspective. IT reminded me what good felt like, how much more I could accomplish with less effort, and the need to not have to plan EVERY little moment around what part of the day I'd feel the best, in order to give what best I could.  My perspective is once again changed by gratitude.  The good days, when they come are that much sweeter when you've been through struggles.

Today I was literally overcome with tears to be cleaning our bathroom.  While it's not a task I hate, it is something that is typically done out of habit and need.  I don't necessarily jump for joy at the thought of cleaning it.  However, today, as I cleaned it for the first time since we finished remodeling it, my heart was just extra grateful.  I was reflecting on how God brought us through every step of starting over, providing in countless ways.  I was thankful to have a husband that could tackle such a big project and was WILLING to do so, even multiple nights still at it at midnight despite the fact he goes to work at 4 AM.  Gratitude changes perspective.  A not so joyful task can be filled with joy when you remember where you've been, where you're going, and WHO brought you through it.

Today at church we were reminded of what a PRIVILEGE it is to be able to pray and personally have a relationship with God.  Reminded how God desires that connection with us.  Our Pastor, also with sons in the military, related it to how he felt in recent days of being on base and welcoming his son home from a long deployment.  As much as it was an overwhelming joy, such an overwhelming moment to hug him, it's the same way when we go to God and connect with Him.  It's as if He is waiting there with that same enthusiasm and open arms to embrace us.  Prayer can be just a habit, half-hearted, a quick check mark, or even dropped so low on our priority list that it is ignored until it is a last resort or we're desperate. However, when we frame it from the perspective of gratitude, a new passion arises.  We remember that it is not only a privilege, but it's a life-giving force. WE become changed when we've been in His presence.

I read tonight that "Gratitude is the best filter".  I LOVE that.  When we look at life through the filter of gratitude, our eyes are truly opened and our hearts can overflow with true joy.  Not finicky happiness.  True Joy.

May this week we all look through that filter.  You only need to spend .2 seconds on social media to quickly find yourself overwhelmed with darkness, frustration, division, vulgarity, hatred, etc...  Look away from the screen this week.  It's not about putting your head in the sand or being silent on important matters, but it is about choosing where to focus and remaining in a state of gratitude. Focus on how you are fueling your thoughts.  Be grateful.  Change your filter.

Oh boy---change your filter---I KNEW there was something I was supposed to buy on our multi trips out to the big box DIY stores this weekend.  Ugh.  :)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why Hello, 2017

Hello, 2017, I'm happy to see you.  I really am.

You see, 2017, I saw you roll around and I knew I was supposed to traditionally make some resolutions.  I was supposed to pick apart my life and find those things that I needed to do better or weren't working and commit to a long list, or even just one, and resolve to "fix" it.  Oh yes, I need to eat better, lose weight, exercise, etc...  Oh yes, I need to spend less time wrapped up in technology. Yes, yes, yes.

But, I didn't make any resolutions.

Wasn't setting myself up for failure.  Wasn't going to be one of those January people that pack the gym and then leave it empty in February.

But, 2017, without realizing it, I apparently made some resolutions about you.

The one thing I did do was choose a word focus of the year.  I've done that and blogged about it for many years now.  Some years that word was hard to come by and I wouldn't settle on it until several weeks into the year.  However, this year, I knew my word weeks before the year rolled around.  It just was whispered audibly to my heart in a way that was an instant perfect fit.


Five little letters.  Life changing word.

Abiding in Him is changing me.  I had reached the point that everything seemed scheduled, a to-do, or just forced.  I prayed because it was necessary, the right thing to do, or habitual.  I read my Bible or participated in a study because it was what I had always done or what I knew the "wise" women did. Right actions, but wrong motivations.

Reframing everything from the point of "abiding" really has changed everything.  Spending time with Him because I want to know Him, hear Him, see what He has for me has restored vitality to my soul. Reawakening and rejuvenating. From a chore to a deep desire.

In doing so, He is changing my hardened heart.  Showing me things I need to change, let go of, or things I may have been approaching from the wrong viewpoint.  Sometimes He's showing me things about me that others may not like, but He is pleased with.

Along the way, I've noticed that maybe I did throw in some resolutions without actually saying, "In 2017, I'm going to.....".

By "Abiding" and growing closer to Him, it has trickled down into making differences in my life.

For one, He's given me a contentment and peace like never before.  I can now much better focus on today.  Just today.  The to-do list of tomorrow doesn't paralyze me or leave me in overwhelming anxiety.  I am definitely a list maker, have planners and notebooks to the extreme, and plan ahead A LOT.  Probably to the extreme if I'm being honest. Though those things always kept me on track and let me know where I'm going, worry and anxiety still plagued me.  When I'm in a lupus flare mode or life is really busy, I'd get overwhelmed with how in the world I'm a going to pull so and so off, get this or that done, etc... Always worrying about the next day, the next week, or even the next month.  "Abiding" has given me a contentment to just focus on right now.  Get through and conquer today.  He's with me in the middle of my chaos, right now, and I can be assured He'll be with me in it tomorrow.  When tomorrow becomes today, I will focus on it.  Even as we've just finished moving and are in the middle of multiple remodel projects, I have a contentment instead of panic and anxiety. Today is what matters.  When I focus on just getting through what needs to be done today or even just this hour, I have the freedom to do it instead of carrying the weight of the next thing.  "Abiding" in Him has reminded me of His faithfulness, His promises, and His track record.  Plus, when I'm going through a hard day, I can remember this:  So far, I'm 100% in surviving my hardest days. Let tomorrow worry with itself.

Secondly, oh this is a BIG one, I've found the strength and self-worth to let go of one sided relationships and the heavy burdens of others.  Not necessarily "written them off" or turning my back, but releasing them from my grasp.  I'm fiercely loyal, sometimes to a fault.  My tender-hearted, sensitive to the needs of others, and the giving nature of my personality often leaves me depleted and empty.  Because I'm empathetic and deeply intuitive, I often expect that from others.  I've often deeply taken on the idea that it's the Christian thing to give and give of yourself.  Yes, it is necessary and yes it is the right thing to do at times, BUT there is a healthy boundary.  "Abiding" in Him is helping me to find that boundary.  I'm finding it is ok to not be stepped on.  It's ok to not completely give and give of myself.  It's ok to let God do HIS part.  I'm not Him and I'm not the Holy Spirit.  Obedience is my part, results are His.  I can encourage someone in my life and do it again and again, but I can't then put the weight of their actions or inactions on my shoulders.

One sided relationships were suffocating me.  I kept finding myself in the place of being there on demand for others, as soon as they needed something, but then when I would share something on my heart, there'd be no response.  He's been helping me see the difference in supporting a friend or acquaintance through a hard season and needing NOTHING in return from them and on the flip side being in a relationship of only a "taker".  Sometimes you really don't need a response back from a friend because in this particular season they are in NEED and your best gift to them is to just keep encouraging them and lifting them up.  That's perfectly ok.  But in others, you do have to learn to step back and release, when habitually they expect things of you that they aren't also willing to give a fraction of.  Or even those friends that you constantly support in social media by interacting with them, but out on the street you don't exist. Or they can't reciprocate and take a fraction of a second to share in your highs and lows.  What about those that make it obvious that you only exist when they need something, want you to buy something or support their newest fundraiser, or just want to complain.  "Abiding" in Him is giving me the confidence to LET IT GO, CUT IT LOOSE.  At first, my tender nature just couldn't do it.  How dare I step back, change direction, or even completely walk away?  That isn't the right thing to do, right?  Wrong---sometimes it's the VERY right thing to do.  As a result, my joy is getting deeper, the dark voices of defeat aren't as loud, my self-worth is restoring and I'm finding freedom to DIG deeper and invest my heart in the RIGHT places.  When I sit down to work on something that demands attention, I have more clarity and peace in my heart.  Not so weighed down.

You know what else, it's taking the pressure off.  The pressure to be "just right" for someone.  The pressure to perform.  The pressure of unmet expectations.  It's also taking some of the pressure off of my HEALTHY relationships.  I'm finding as each day goes by, I'm less distrustful or looking for the "catch" less often.  More present in the moment. My disappointment in others and hurt I feel from them is not trickling over in my healthy relationships because it's much easier to differentiate the two.  I'm also less likely to expect those healthy relationship to fill in the gaps the unhealthy ones had been creating.  Whoa.  Light bulb, a-ha moment.

So, 2017, I guess I did have some resolutions.  I guess I resolved to live in today, not tomorrow.  I guess I also resolved to find healthy boundaries in giving of my heart and time.

You know, those are pretty great resolutions because they snowball into many other areas.  They also help to keep priorities on track and my heart free to be obedient to Him.

Oh, I guess I also resolved to kick the HORRID habit of a gallon a day diet coke as well.  I didn't plan on it.  I just decided one night to say, "No Thanks", when my husband offered to bring one home while he was out.  Don't know where that came from because my typical response is, "Well, duh!".  As in, do you really need to ask. Apparently that one unplanned "no thanks" was all that was needed to snowball a much needed kicking of a bad habit (once again!).  I think my family has survived my getting over the hump.  One, two, three, four, five....yep, I think we're all here and still alive. :)

So, 2017, I do welcome you.  I look forward to seeing what you have in store and where this adventure goes.