Tag Archives: thankfulness

Behold Your God {2016 Focus}

5 Jan

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“How we behold determines if we hold joy. Behold glory and be held by God.

“I know what I want: to see deeply, to thank deeply, to feel joy deeply.

“Don’t I give God most glory when I am fully alive? And I am most fully alive beholding God!”  (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pages 113 & 118)

……………

“I don’t want a new better life in 2016. I just want new eyes to see that my life is already staggeringly beautiful.”  (Glennon Melton, Momastery, Best New Year’s Ever)

……………

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)

“They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.'” (Isaiah 35:2c-4)

“Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the LORD God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:9-10)

……………

Over the past few days, God has spoken to me. Through the Tim Keller sermon we listened to on our drive home from Grand Rapids. Through a song we sang in church on Sunday. Through a blog. Through Ann Voskamp’s book that I can still quote verbatim though I haven’t read it in several years. Through Bible verses.

And He’s saying: This year, BEHOLD ME. Behold My Power and My Glory.

Because honestly, as I stare down another year, I am fearful. I am scared about what this year has in store for me and my family. Usually, a new year brings excitement and freshness, a renewed commitment to priorities, a chance to start again. And while I do feel that, I also feel SCARED.

It’s not a mystery as to why I feel this way. My mom’s battle against cancer has been sobering and shown me how not-in-control of our lives we really are — making the idea of New Years resolutions seem rather petty and laughable. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'” (James 4:13-15)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

I think these passages in James and Proverbs show that it’s not wrong to make plans. It’s just wrong to trust our plans more than God, and to live like we know what’s best for us. We may have ideas about what good things we want to happen in 2016, but we don’t know what’s best — because often, God giving us what’s best looks nothing like we expect it to, and truthfully, it’s not what we, in our limited insight and vantage point, would choose. Yet, the truth remains that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

So I feel God prompting me to hold this year — and all it will contain, whether good or bad — with open hands, to wait and watch expectantly for Him to prove Himself faithful, and to behold His power and glory. I believe, in the depth of my being, that God’s way is the best way. It has to be, if He is the God the Bible says He is, and the God I believe He is.

But it takes FAITH, oodles and oodles of faith, to believe this day in and day out, in the mundane mediocrity of the everyday and the heart-wrenching trials of the hardest times. I need new eyes and new ears to see and hear God’s glory and power in my life. The glory of His presence already surrounds me; I just need help recognizing it.

So that’s what I’m praying and hoping for in 2016 — new eyes to see how staggeringly beautiful my life already is, because no matter what happens this year, my greatest need is already met: I have a Savior.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Choosing Joy in Exhaustion

19 Dec

snoozeMy blog has kind of turned into a weekly pregnancy update and nothing more. What can I say? I would love to blog. I have time to blog. But I have nothing to blog about. The only reason why I blog once a week is because of the whole “counting down the weeks” thing. Otherwise, my brain is useless.

I partly blame being tired. For the past week or two, I get up early enough to spend some time reading the Bible but my mind just won’t engage. I zone out in front of my open Bible until I concede that it’s useless and either start getting ready early or use that time to take a mini nap. (Usually the latter.) I finally understand what it feels like to not be a morning person. You stumble around in a half-conscious daze for the first three hours you’re out of bed. By noon, you feel mostly normal.

When I’m tired, I let everything slide. Making the bed sounds like too much work. Cooking dinner – too much work. I have energy for one thing and one thing only: doing nothing. Even the things that I enjoy doing and am always glad for doing later, are still thrown out the window with the excuse, “But I’m sooooo tired.” 

I know you’re probably thinking, “She’s totally screwed when she actually has her baby.” I’ve had that same thought. And that has spurred me to the realization that I need to learn how to live tired. Not survive tired. Not make it through another day tired. LIVE tired.

As a human, I love comfort. I love ease. I run from struggle, challenge and difficulty (unless its one I have intentionally chosen, like running a marathon). Being tired brings this all into the forefront because it’s a constant “I don’t like this!” feeling. My natural tendency is to focus all my available energy on wishing I wasn’t tired and to heck with the rest.

But I don’t want to look back on any time in my life and see that I sacrificed all of my priorities because I was tired. I don’t want to wish away the first months of my daughter’s life with longing to not be tired. That’s allowing my circumstances to dictate my response. It’s me playing the self-pity card and refusing to contemplate anyone else’s needs but mine. It’s a waste of life.

As I thought about this Monday on my way to work, I was brought back yet again to this:

“Life change happens when we accept life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

I can acknowledge that operating with insufficient sleep is challenging. It is challenging. But like with any other circumstance, I can rise above it and refuse to let it have the final say. I can determine my attitude instead of allowing my circumstances to do so. But it won’t just happen – I have to be intentional. With every moment, I have the option to choose ease or to choose joy.

I CHOOSE JOY.

And maybe an afternoon nap.

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?

Holiday musings

26 Nov

I’m so glad that I have the next 2 days off from work. Not only do I still feel under the weather, there’s not much work to do (can you tell how my job is a rollercoaster–nothing to do one minute, overwhelming the next…don’t even get me started)?

Tonight, Travis and I are getting together with some friends from church for dinner and game night. It is the night we usually have our care group but with a lot of people out of town, we decided to just do an informal get-together. We are having stirfry with (I hope) couscous. Two things I have been craving lately: butternut squash and couscous. I know, it’s weird. And no, I’m not pregnant.

Tomorrow, I plan on sleeping in. Then I will have to cut vegetables for our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. We are going to my old boss Carol Ann’s sister-in-law’s house. 2 of my other co-workers (who are married) are coming as well. But we’re not the only ones…there will be 47 of us there. It’s good I grew up with a big, loud family I guess or that might be overwhelming! 

But I still always get a little nervous before meeting a lot of new people at one time. Luckily, I relax after about 10 minutes or so. And if they’re all as friendly and welcoming as Carol Ann, then we’ll have no problem fitting right in!

The day I’m really excited for is Friday though. Travis and I are going to get up early and go shopping for a new DVD player. We saw one at Big Lots for $35 and it’s a VCR/DVD combo, which would be great (we currently have to switch the wires back and forth from the DVD and VCR…yes, I still have VHS tapes. Thanks.) I wish we had everyone’s Christmas list now so that we could do our Christmas shopping when all the deals are going on. But we don’t.

After shopping, we’re going to decorate for Christmas. I already started a little (I love Christmas way too much to have it last for only a month!) but we still need to put up our tree and hang the lights outside. We’re going to decorate our lone tree in our backyard because we look out at the backyard a lot. It’s my family’s tradition that we listen to Manheim Steamroller while decorating for Christmas and opening presents. I told Travis that we must carry on the tradition. Maybe we should start our own tradition as well…something like hot chocolate with a little Peppermint Schnapps? 🙂

Saturday we’re going to The Nutcracker with our friends Paul and Carrie. Our other friend Amy is performing in the ballet, which is the main reason why we’re going. I’m really excited (I love doing Christmas-y things! And I love the ballet!) but Travis wishes we were going to see The Nutcracker on ice. Maybe next year…

Sunday we work in the Toddler classroom again (we did last Sunday too) and then the day is pretty much wide open. I will be baking a cake though because it is Travis’ 24th birthday on December 2nd.

I am very thankful for Thanksgiving and the break that it brings from the daily grind. I am thankful that we decided to say here instead of doing the weekend marathon, driving to MN and trying to see both families. Whew! I get tired just thinking about that. I am thankful most of all for my husband, who makes life just that much sweeter. I am so blessed by him.

Another great thing about Thanksgiving is that it means Christmas is almost here. Yay! It is seriously one of my favorite times of year (and now that I live in Colorado, it may just be my #1 favorite, since the previous #1 was fall and well…they don’t really have fall out here–at least, not MN fall). I love the excitement, the coziness, the family, the cheer, the generosity, the colors, the snow, the cold, the songs, the services. I love that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth because the atmosphere of the season is so fitting. It breaks my heart to know that not every one in the world can celebrate Christmas like we do–and I’m not talking about the presents. I’m talking about the family, the food, the togetherness, the warmth.

Travis and I donated 2 shoeboxes full of toys and school supplies to Operation Christmas Child this year again (though we were a little more prepared than we were last year, when we ran around buying our stuff before church the day it was due). Last year, we got to go volunteer at one of their processing centers in Denver. We missed the boat on that this year, which is a bummer, but hopefully next year, we’ll do it again. 

The Lord miraculously worked it out that Travis and I get to go back to Minnesota for 10 days over Christmas. We’re leaving on the 19th (driving) and coming back on the 29th. Because we want to go to Mexico with my family in March, we were planning on taking a shorter Christmas vacation (I have only 10 days of vacation a year…and I have to accumulate them). But I have 3 holidays (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after). So yay for us!

After hearing tragic stories of people losing their jobs, being foreclosed on, and the other sad things that are happening, I am reminded of all the little things that I have to be thankful for: a roof over my head, food on the table, friends and family who care about me, a loving husband, a job that pays the bills (and is rewarding too!), and most of all, a Savior in heaven and a Father who loves me more than I can fathom.