Tag Archives: gratitude

Where I’ve Been + Where I’m Going

9 Jan

Where I’ve Been

At the beginning of last year, I set the goal of writing down one thing each day that I was thankful for. Well, after March 11, I failed. Miserably.

But all is not lost, because I did spend the year learning how to be thankful when life is hard. Becoming a mom has challenged me in more ways than anything ever has – even more than getting married. It has forced me to let go of my to-do list and agenda daily. It has changed my identity. It has changed how I spend my free time (what’s free time again?). It changed my marriage. It changed my career. It changed my home.

I’ve discovered, though, that no matter how much in my life changes, or what season I’m going through, whether things are easy or hard, whether I’m satisfied or discontent, giving God thanks is always the path to joy. Because in giving thanks, I accept the life God has given me and deem it Good.

I admit, it is HARD to give thanks when you want to yell and scream and kick against the circumstances God has allowed. When you want to send the meal of your life back to the kitchen and order something else. But because we Christians have the promise of eternity with God, and a purpose for things that is bigger than this visible world, we can be thankful for ALL THINGS.

Where I’m Going

I thought that making one goal for the year would increase my odds of actually achieving it. But I proved that theory wrong last year. So for 2014, I’m aiming a bit lower with ‘areas of focus.’ Ha. Mostly the New Year just coincides with me finally deciding to get my act together and stop making excuses. So without further adieu, here are my 4 ‘areas of focus’ for 2014 (in order of importance):

1) Spend time with God daily. God is the most important aspect of my life. If I can make time for anything else, I can make time for Him. It doesn’t have to be sitting down and reading the Bible, though that’s usually what it looks like. It could be listening to a sermon while running, just praying for an extended amount of time, soaking in worship music on the way to work, etc. Just something that gets me engaging with God and reminding my soul of truth every day.

2) Eat healthy foods. Over the past year or so, I have found myself regularly eating things that before getting pregnant, I would have only eaten once in a blue moon. I’ve also been slacking on eating the healthy stuff. So what this ‘area of focus’ entails is:

  • Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack.
  • Drink wine only one day a week.
  • Eat only one sweet a day, if any.

3) Exercise. I say that this is one of my passions, but looking at my tracking in MapMyRun, you would never know it! I’ve been thinking recently about the reasons why I haven’t gotten back in the groove, and my ‘reasons’ are pathetic. If I can find time to go to Target 3 times a week, I can find time to work out! So no more excuses. I just need to do it. Already this week, I’ve gone on my first run since Thanksgiving, my first swim since May 2012 and done an 8-minute Tabata workout that made me sore. Man, I am so out of shape. But fortunately, I just enjoy being active, even if it’s a pale comparison to my pre-pregnancy fitness.

4) Stick to a budget. God has blessed Travis and I with abundance, and until Emma, we were a DINK (Dual Income No Kids) family, so while we’ve had a budget for the past couple of years, I don’t think we’ve actually stuck to it. Ever. However, since I’ll probably no longer be working when we move, and we plan to have more kids in the next several years, we will need to learn how to! I also feel convicted that we aren’t being the best stewards of God’s money by not knowing more about where all our money goes.

Our main problem with sticking to a budget is that even though we are fairly practical in what we buy, we make a lot of purchases that aren’t planned for. They’re usually paid for out of what we call the ‘slop’ in our budget (a.k.a. the money we’ve budgeted for other things that we didn’t use this month, but might need next month). So we will definitely need to learn delayed gratification.

On a similar note, we’ve recently decided that I am going to take over handling our finances, paying bills, etc. (GULP) since I’m the one who spends most of our money. I’m toying with the idea of going back to using envelopes of cash (Dave Ramsey style). Best part of this is that I am now in control of the (nonexistent) Gun Fund. 😉

So there you have it!

Life lately.

12 Oct

It’s that time of year: elk hunting. Travis and his parents headed up this morning and I’ll head up right after work. Since I spent pretty much all of my PTO going to Alaska for two weeks and I can’t take unpaid time off without VP approval (stupid corporate policy), I will only be going up for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, heading down Monday night. Everyone else will come back down Wednesday. If you’re wondering, I don’t hunt. I hang out with my mother-in-law and we do fun stuff. 🙂

Read about our trip last year here.

Even though I’m going to freeze my butt off and I am really not looking forward to heading out to the lug-able loo at 2 am (thanks to pregnancy), I am looking forward to doing some hiking and lots of reading. The forecast calls for snow near us so we may or may not see any snow. Luckily, I have my warm boots this year. No more cold toes for me!

One more thing I’m excited about – driving my new car!

After 3 trips to the dealer and much hemming and hawing, we finally signed the paperwork for a 2008 Mazda Tribute. The Tribute is just the Mazda (and slightly less expensive) version of a Ford Escape.

I absolutely love it! It handles like a car and accelerates really fast (thanks to the V6 engine). And best part, I won’t have to spend 20 minutes on a Friday afternoon sitting in the parking lot at work because my car won’t start. (Yes, that happened last week.)

This past Monday night, while Travis was heckling with the dealer, I went to Starbucks (car shopping stresses me out because Travis and I have opposite buying personalities) to read my book Unbroken and have a good hour-long phone chat with my dear friend Holly who lives in Minnesota. It was so enjoyable. (Oh and Unbroken is a good book too!)

I tried the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. It was ok, but I wouldn’t order it again. Too rich.

Last week, we awoke one morning to a light dusting of snow. Now I know that the weather (especially that of a week ago) is not breaking news but I bring it up because I am LOVING Denver’s weather this fall. It’s been cold, dreary and rainy – reminds me so much of Minnesota.

 

This next picture is kind of dark but you can just barely make out a pile of grass sitting on the carpet in our living room. What is it doing there? Charlie puked it up. We’re convinced that she’s part cow. Who eats that much grass? No wonder it didn’t agree with her. (I promise she gets plenty of dog food to eat and is not starving to death.)

 

And lastly, a quick thought I had this past Sunday at church – I was standing in the sanctuary during worship and thinking about how amazing everything is in my life right now. It’s not perfect by any means but I can honestly say that 90% of the time I am completely content and grateful for all of the things God has blessed us with. At the same time, I recognize that my joy is partly because God has worked everything out with Travis’ school and PE, getting pregnant, finances, house stuff, a new car, etc. exactly how I wanted Him to. But He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to make everything happen this way. And yet, He did. He chose these circumstances for us, as much as we so do not deserve them. So I am praising and thanking Him for this season of excitement and joy, knowing that it won’t last for the rest of my life, but embracing the wonderful reality of NOW for the gift that it is.

I also recognize that this attitude of contentment in my heart is God’s doing – on my own, I am naturally bent toward discontentment and ingratitude. Like Ann Voskamp says, “Ingratitude was the fall – humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives.” Without God, I would find something to be discontent about even in this season of abundance. So I am doubly thankful, not only for God’s blessings, but also for His allowing me to recognize them as such.

We sang this song in care group the other night and I think it sums up these ideas well:

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

 

Have a great weekend!

 

 

Wise words.

23 May

Living in the moment, trusting, thanking.

21 Feb

As I started my “day off” yesterday with reading the Bible, I kept thinking of things that I wanted to accomplish. Clean the house, run 3 miles, have lunch with Travis, work on my book, write a blog post, get my bike set up, go through old books, spend time relaxing with a book, catch up on DVR-ed TV episodes, get files off old computer… With each new thought surged the threat of being overwhelmed. There are too many things to get done! But I wanted this day to be relaxing! 

My ability to turn a day off into a stressful situation really is a remarkable talent.

I was able to stifle those thoughts, though, because of something God has been teaching me over the past couple of months. You see, I used to live my whole life like that. I was paralyzed by all the things I wanted to accomplish, and overwhelmed by the things I hadn’t even started. Just like with running, negative thoughts were my companion then too.

I’m too tired to accomplish all of this.

If I do this, I won’t have time to do what I really want to do.

Why am I always the one who has to do this? 

I don’t have enough time to get everything done.

I can’t do what I really want because that’s wasting precious time.

But God has kindly called me back to the present, time and time again, saying, Don’t look at the whole week, the whole day or even the whole hour. Live in the moment and do what is right before you now.

So yesterday, I continued on with my Bible reading, then worked on my book for 45 minutes, went on my run, did strength training, had lunch with Travis, made 3 runs to my local bike shop, and then relaxed. I watched Desperate Housewives, blogged and caught up on quite a few posts in my Google Reader. Did I accomplish everything I had thought about at the beginning of the day? No. But I went through the day peaceful –  because I was trusting God, instead of my own agenda.

Doesn’t this sound very similar to the idea behind running long distances? Don’t focus on the whole distance at once, or how many miles you have left to go. Focus on the present moment. Put one foot in front of the other. Trust your training.

As I was driving to work this morning with a feeling of dread, I was telling God about why I wasn’t excited to go to work, and it dawned on me that my feeling of dread comes from a fear that I’m insufficient. That I’ll be given a task that I can’t handle. I’ve joked about most of my jobs, “A monkey could do it.” But this job? And the job that I had in 2010 that made me so stressed? Definitely not monkey jobs. My job is challenging. And that’s why I don’t like it.

Not that I don’t appreciate a good challenge (hey, I’m training for a full marathon, right?), but I’m terrified of failure. Again, negative thoughts abound.

I won’t have the energy to focus when I need to.

I don’t know how to make the project go better.

I won’t write what they’re looking for.

I don’t have the know-how to be a marketing professional.

When I realized that, and started connecting the dots between the negative thoughts I have while running, relaxing, working, and just being, I was in awe. How did I not know that negative, self-defeating thoughts were so much a part of my life? They’re everywhere!

This is something that still stuns me: I’m a pessimist. All my life, I had been confused by the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” (What kind of question is that anyway?) I just assumed I was an optimist because that was the good thing to be. Everyone likes an optimist. Pessimists are annoying. But that’s me.

{see the irony?}

But God has been doing a work in my heart for the past couple of months, ever since I started reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. On Christmas morning, I stood in our church sanctuary, my soul drowning in ingratitude, only focused on how much I wished my life were different. I started reading Ann’s book after that service. In the second chapter, she laid my heart bare: “Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall — humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives.”

After reading that, I saw ingratitude everywhere in my life. In fact, every single one of my struggles could be traced back to being ungrateful. When my schedule was busy, I focused on the one thing I didn’t have: rest. When I was reading blogs, I focused on my lack of readers and popularity. When I was running, I focused on my lack of speed. When I was hiking, I focused on my lack of breath. When I got Christmas gifts, I only focused on what I didn’t get. Instead of being thankful for a free schedule, I focused on not having a baby. I focused on not being busy when I was and on being busy when I wasn’t. I was never satisfied.

And I see all the threads of these struggles intertwining – my perfectionist tendencies, how easily I get overwhelmed, my negative thought patterns, my constant dissatisfaction, my judgment of myself and others, my fear of the future, my confusion about life. All these struggles are just different facets of one struggle: trusting God.

When I worry that I won’t be enough or that I’ll fail, I’m not trusting God to provide grace to me in my moment of need.

When I analyze my life and worry that I’m not living up to God’s expectations for me, I’m not trusting that He’s the One ordaining my circumstances. My days are in His book.

When I whine about my slow running pace or curvy body shape, I’m not trusting God’s loving providence of making me slow and curvy.

When I get overwhelmed by my to-do list and all the things I think I *should* be doing, I’m not trusting that God is intimately involved in my life, and working everything together for my good.

As I learned while reading Ann’s book, being thankful in all circumstances requires us to trust God – to open our hands to “all that God freely gives.” We don’t get to judge what we get, and determine whether or not it’s what we wanted or would have chosen. Instead, we get down on humble knees and receive everything that our loving, wise, faithful, good Lord ordains to give us. And then we trust that He will sustain us and give us strength to be faithful in everything He has allowed.

I have seen over the past 2 months that this actually works. Being thankful in all circumstances – actually being intentionally, mindfully thankful for specific things – produces joy, gratitude and contentment. I’m serious. Try it.

So today, I’m grateful that I have a job writing, and that God has promised to bless me in all that I do.

I rejoice that I have two legs that can run, and without pain! Who cares about speed?

I praise God for guiding me through each day, and for guiding my life as a whole, and for giving me these verses to savor:

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)

“My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.” (Psalm 59:10)
 What are you thankful for today?

Yes, enough.

6 Jan

At our church’s Christmas service two weeks ago, I couldn’t concentrate. I had been listening to Christmas hymns, reading the Christmas story, researching Jesus’ genealogy, and preparing my heart for what I expected to be a beautiful and captivating service. And while the service was that, my heart was MIA. I couldn’t even focus on the truth we were celebrating.

Instead, I was brimming with ingratitude. It took me a little while to recognize it as such. At first, I just felt unhappy. I wished my outfit was cuter, and wondered how much other women spend on their clothes. I wished I had only put things on my Christmas list that I really wanted, since I received other things. I wished for the life of a stay-at-home mom who didn’t have to go to work everyday. I wished for a body that was naturally thinner. I wished for longer, prettier hair. I wished to be more outgoing, to have more friends, to be more encouraging.

As the service went on, I grew sick with discontent, like I had been reading in a car winding down the road for hours.

I tried to turn my thoughts back to God. Back to Jesus. He’s human! Celebrate!

But even on Christmas, I couldn’t forget self.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Everything I need for life and godliness. I said it wasn’t enough, much like Eve in the garden who ignored every blessing to focus on the one thing withheld.

Ingratitude chokes the heart.

Since that morning, this knowledge has seeped into the pages of my life, revealing ingratitude written with invisible ink. Putting all struggles in their proper context, like beams of light through cobwebs of issues I thought had been put to rest.

That’s why…

Imagining God as my parent or husband, delighted in having spent hours upon hours picking out the perfect gift for me. Imagining me scoffing, stomping, and demanding more.

Isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Hasn’t God perfectly and lovingly hand-picked every circumstance, aspect, and facet of my life?

My throat swells when I think of how I’ve shunned Him and His blessings. How I’ve said No, not enough.

But Grace…

All is not lost. He does not withdraw His blessings from the ungrateful recipient. This God pours out more, so that we might know the truth of Who He is and who we are.

More… always more.

Gratefulness for repentance spills over into watercolor sunsets, fast runs on warm evenings, personality quirks, quiet moments to read, unique tastes, and Jesus, human and humble.

“The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD…”

…by saying Yes, enough.

…by trustfully accepting their divine appointment in life.

…by accepting their reality as God’s deliberate and loving gift.

Ingratitude makes us miss the gift.

God has seen my lifelong ungratefulness. He stayed. He drew closer. He gave more grace. And now I see it too.

So this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing – Finding new ways to thank Him. New things to praise Him for. New blessings to pass on to others.

………………………………..

If you want more thoughts on thanksgiving, I highly recommend reading One Thousands Gifts by Ann Voskamp, who influenced many of my thoughts above.

Faithful with the small things

18 Apr

Just a few weeks ago, I was sitting in bed accusing God of being silent about my life and what He wanted from me. The verse that crumbled my anger that night was 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

He is faithful indeed.

Since that night, when I realized I had been measuring my life by what I do for God rather than by what He has done for me, I have felt like every message, discussion, song, and verse has been tailored for me, meeting me right where I am and giving me the exact encouragement I need in that moment.

Like last week, our care group discussion was about how Christians can make a radical difference in very “un-radical” circumstances. How do we live so that others notice we are different than the world? Very interesting conversation indeed.

My study of Romans has shown me that God had a purpose for my life even before the foundation of the world.

The book I’m reading, You Matter More Than You Think: What Every Woman Needs to Know About the Difference She Makes by Dr. Leslie Parrott, has reinforced what I have been learning about what makes life significant and meaningful.

And then Greg’s message last Wednesday during chapel was about how to continuously improve, not just in our spiritual lives but in our everyday lives.

Since all of these sources have impacted the thoughts running around in my head lately, this post may seem a jumbled mess of ah-ha moments. I will try to communicate as logically as my brain thinks (that’s a joke…)

In the post following my aforementioned revelation, I typed out a conversation I had had with God that morning. As a person who is usually skeptical of anything super-spiritual like hearing God actually speak, I have wondered if those words were contrived out of my own mind or if it was really God. While it did sound like me talking to myself in my head, the answers were immediate and formed like a response to my question. So I have to assume that the Holy Spirit was at least involved.

Because I like the conversation so much, I’m going to cut and paste it again here:

“But God, I still want my life to matter,” I said.

“My child, it already matters. I was willing to send my only Son to die for you and your life,” God replied.

“But I still want to do big things for you.”

“I know, Kathy, I know you do. Just be patient. I’ll open the doors for you.”

“So what do I do in the meantime?”

“Live your life for me and for others.”

“What does that look like?”

“Draw close to me and you’ll see.”

That little line “Live your life for me and others” is the key to a meaningful life, I believe. I think back over all the things I’ve struggled with over the past year or so…being convicted that I don’t share my faith enough, being self-conscious and lonely living in a new state, feeling lazy and self-centered in my hobbies and free time, wanting to see a tangible way that I am making a difference. All are solved by living a life of love for God and for others.

In her book, Leslie Parrott writes, “One of the fundamental truths I’ve learned about making a difference on this planet is that the road less traveled is not actually found in Calcutta or on the mean streets with the down and out. The road less traveled is ultimately found in the heart. It’s found in the heart of every woman who wants her life to make a difference and realizes that the difference is found, quite simply, in love. You walk the road less traveled whenever and wherever you bring more grace, compassion, understanding, patience, and empathy. More love. Why? Because a life of love is rare” (22-23).

Women, by nature, are designed to be relational and nurturing. We are designed to be intimate, intuitive, and loving. We are detail-oriented so that we can notice changes in a friend’s mood, sense a child’s hurt spirit, or remember our husband’s favorite dessert. We are multi-taskers so that we can run households full of children, dirty laundry, piles of dishes, and meals to cook.

But women can also feel incredibly under-appreciated. Though my husband does a wonderful job of thanking me for cleaning and cooking, I still have those moments when he does something inconsiderate (in my eyes) without his being aware of it. I have discovered the truth in Leslie Parrott’s words, “A woman’s pain either makes her bitter or makes her better.” And how do we women use pain or suffering to make us better instead of bitter? Gratitude.

A few more phrases from Leslie’s book: “…The more gratitude I cultivate for the suffering I endure, the less tethered I am to its weight…Gratitude unlocks a loving heart…The more gratitude you cultivate, the more grace you have for others…Grace and humility are two key components of gratitude and essential ingredients of love.”

[Good stuff, no?]

So the way I bring the most glory to God is by loving the people in my life, the people I come in contact with every day. These principles about gratitude, grace, humility, and love are biblical: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

I would be tempted to think “Ok, so now I know that I should be loving people. But who? And how?”

That was the question answered by Greg on Wednesday. In essence, the part of his  message that was most poignant to me was this: “Make the most of now. Be faithful with your slice of the kingdom pie, which is what God has called you to do right now. You may not be called to whatever you’re doing for the rest of your life, but it’s what you’re called to do now. We miss out on God’s future vision for us because we don’t make the best of our current situation. Be faithful now and God will open up other doors down the road.”

Amen, brother. This puts into words what God has put on my soul for the past several months. And reassures me that I am where I am for a reason. Right now, I am living God’s purpose for me. God has given me today. He has asked me to be faithful with this day. To strive with every fiber of my being to live a life of love in order to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus.

Greg also talked about pain, like Leslie Parrott does in her book. She writes, “Ultimately, the pain we carry in our hearts [or experience in our days] is the grinding stone that shapes us to love. It sharpens our capacity to be tender with another’s wounds and to empathize without judgment.” Greg said, “Pain is spiritual protein for us. It develops our spiritual muscles. So we should be grateful for every experience. If you are feeling frustrated at your job, slighted by someone, persecuted or mocked, the pain makes us stronger. Pain, it’s what’s for dinner.”

When I view struggles as contributing to my ability to love, then I can indeed be grateful for their presence in my life. And gratitude unlocks a loving heart.

I’ve already been able to put these realizations into action. Even though the non-profit ministry I work for is small (around 25 employees), there can be some tension between what we call the “sides” of the office (because we literally have 2 different offices that are across the hall from each other–admin/donors/events on one side, sales/marketing on the other side). After having some drama this past week between sides, I thought maybe Admin felt underappreciated, like the Mktg department always expects them to bend over backwards while jumping through hoops to do whatever we want done. So instead of getting angry and frustrated, or gossiping about how they’re not acting like Christians, I suggested our side throw their side an appreciation breakfast. Just so they know that we really couldn’t do what we do without them. My team liked the idea so Phil is going to bring it up to Debb and Jason (VP and Director of Sales). Hopefully it’ll work out…

Compelled to be grateful

5 Jan

For the past several months, the non-profit ministry I work at, Dare 2 Share Ministries, has been struggling financially. We’ve watched our donations and conference registrations significantly go down…and stay down. To stay afloat, we stopped buying kitchen supplies, eliminated 2 conference cities, permanently cut the not-absolutely-necessary spending from our budget, and prayed earnestly for God to provide for our ministry. In the course of 6 months, about 12 people left on their own accord to pursue other opportunities, which, by God’s grace, prevented today’s events from happening any sooner

But the lagging economy and lack of donations caught up with us…4 people were laid off today. They determined it according to which jobs could be absorbed the easiest.

I can’t help but thinking that my job would be eliminated if I weren’t the only full-time person left in the Marketing dept (besides our web guy, but he just does web). As I sat there thinking about how it would feel to have the rug pulled out from under you like this, to have a family to support, to try to find a job in this economy, I felt amazingly grateful and relieved that I still have my job. Then the guilt set in: how can I sit at my desk, not doing work (because there isn’t any!), when 4 people from the ministry no longer have a job? How can I do that?

I can’t. I have to find work to do and be productive with my time. It’s frustrating at time because I think of the things that I could change or create or do and then realize that I’d have to get approval, jump through hoops, sign paperwork, etc just to make it happen. I feel trapped at times, like I can’t make any professional decisions without asking permission from my superior. But such is life and that can’t be my excuse keeping me from working as if I’m working for the Lord and not for man.

As my team and I were praying this morning for those who were laid off, I pondered my surge of gratitude and how it illustrates the gospel. I really feel like I don’t deserve to keep my job; I don’t feel like I’ve been “earning my keep” so to speak. So I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed to still have it–like I’ve been spared something awful. It puts into sharp clarity the kind of gratitude I should constantly feel as a result of the gospel. All of my words and deeds were setting me up for an eternity in hell–that was what I deserved. Instead, I received eternal life through absolutely no accomplishment or merit of my own. I have been ultimately spared. And just as I feel my gratitude at still having a job overflow into a desire to be productive and useful, so should my gratitude at being spared from hell overflow into a desire to make my life meaningful and to live it for Jesus and what brings Him glory.

I love seeing everyday events frame the gospel in an eye-opening way. My heart grows so insensitive and cold to the amazing truth of the gospel that I become cynical and unbelieving. I ask “Why should this matter to me?” instead of “Why would God choose me?” I am humbled. I am blessed. And I feel like God has proverbially hit me on the nose and told me to pay attention to what has been so graciously and undeservedly given to me. Thanks for the wakeup call God.