Friday, June 24, 2011

My Gratitude Journal, Days 1-4

I have decided to start posting the contents of my gratitude journal, hopefully daily. Occasionally I may include a quote or scripture as well. I try to write an average of 10 blessings each day. I plan to go to 1000, but I anticipate that I won't stop there. So here are the contents thus far...

I've entitled it: "Things For Which I am Thankful or Ways That Jesus Loves Me"

       1.  Salvation
       2.  Repentance and forgiveness
       3.  Blue orbs peeking out beneath spiraled blonde tendrils
       4.  The crocodile smile embracing the face of the first-born
       5.  The boy’s unabated curiosity 
       6.  The privilege to mother kids with special needs
       7.  The man with whom God has joined me 
       8.  Heaven’s great assembly—my FAMILY—cheering me on from Heaven’s
            grandstands. Lord, allow me not to disappoint. 
       9.  His grace, His strength, His breath, His beauty.
     10. Air’s substance filling my lungs
     11.  The enablement of determination 
     12.  The curious mind of the seven-year-old and her eagerness to learn 
     13.  The crying eyes that seek me out for comfort 
     14.  Eighteen-inch arms that wrap me in a tight embrace 
     15.  Blue eyes with short, sometimes spikey, hair that shine with pride over 
            accomplishments small and great. 
     16.  My husband’s leadership into this next phase of our journey 
     17.  The changes that will take place during this next phase 
     18.  Renewing minds, cleansing Word water, changed hearts 
     19.  Four-legged tail-wagger that starts each day with her eager greeting 
     20.  Gentle purrs from the soft, black-as-night kitten 
     21.  Silly Bandz on the floor—each a uniquely shaped footprint—each a 
            reminder of the beautiful little lives sleeping aloft 
     22.  The charger plug that keeps falling out of the back of my computer—a 
            reminder that I have a laptop computer that needs to be plugged in. 
     23.  The discovery and implementation of this gratitude journal 
     24.  Little man’s good-morning cuddles 
     25.  How smoothly the packing has gone so far for this move 
     26.  The chance to live a God story 
     27.  Clean, folded, and put away laundry 
     28.  The father of my children 
     29.  The power of life in the seed 
     30.  Big girl’s easy ability in friend-making 
     31.  Curly girly’s uncanny talent for sleep

"God's finger can touch nothing but to mold it into loveliness.  "
~ George MacDonald

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Learning to Live a God Story

I can’t believe it’s almost here. Two more days… Two more days. It’s been difficult to watch my life be packed away, one box at a time. Rooms that were once filled are now emptied caverns, echoing with the memories of days past. A simple sign placed in the yard, "For Sale", the signal to all that we're living in someone else's home. And now the tears that have been held back for months fall – warm, wet kisses on my cheeks.

The purging and packing has been good for us. We’ve reduced the quantity of extra baggage, unneeded things, parts of our lives that once were, but are no longer. I had a four-drawer file cabinet that was completely full that I was able to reduce to one file box. Ten years ago it seemed necessary to keep every article I had photocopied for grad school research papers. Ten years… really? I’m not sure what’s worse, that it’s been 10 years, or that I held onto that stuff, that clutter, that chaos, those space bandits, for 10 years.

A new life will begin soon; one that, frankly, scares me. We will be living in a new place. A place largely unfamiliar. Once again we must change our address and go through the rigors of procuring a new church home, doctors, a dentist, an optometrist, library cards, places to shop for healthy, wholesome foods, IEPs, advocates, therapists... The list seems as long as a country road.

We will be consolidating from a wonderful, spacious house to two bedrooms, one bath, a living area, spare room, and kitchenette in a finished basement. A sacrifice for the future. A way to ease the transition. A temporary stop on a journey to our new home. For a (hopefully short) time we will no longer be living autonomously, but will be sharing space at the charity of my in-laws. I am so grateful for their generosity in this, but I now realize how I’ve taken our house and this little community for granted. I know now that I haven’t truly appreciated it, haven’t truly been thankful for the gracious gift from our Father. And, I wasn’t done with it… I had plans – plans for a wonderful garden, beautiful renovations, needed improvements. But God has said, “Not now. Not here.” I am so thankful for the time He has given us here, for His provision, for the memories made here. So it is with gratitude that I will move on.

Honestly, though, there is some trepidation about sharing space, living in someone else’s house. Our personalities have been known to clash – a human grappling for control that often seems so necessary in the moment, but in reality is an attempt to usurp God’s authority, to live our own stories rather than His story. I recently heard Todd Nighswonger of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA say, “The greatest way to be shaped by the renewing of your mind…is living among people that you don’t get along with well.” I know God will work through these relationships to strengthen all of us and to make us more like Him.

But, what scares me most? Daily life without my husband for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. I love, and I have taken advantage of him working from home for the last couple of years. To have his presence, his stability, his help at home has been such an amazing blessing. That he will be traveling four hours a day is unnerving. So much could happen. I long for his safety. To spend those twelve hours a day while taking care of the kids and the home, while homeschooling our three children is terrifying. Yes, I know many women do it daily, but just like everyone else, I am myself with my unique challenges. I know how poorly I’ve handled his occasional absences in the past, and now he will be away from home more than he is at home, during the waking hours at least. He’ll be gone 60 hours a week, asleep for 56, leaving 52 hours out of 168 to be with us. I know how I have handled things in the past, and I don’t want to continue with that conduct in the future.

But this new venture is not without hope. God has told me, “Fear not. Only have faith.” He has said that this is an opportunity to learn to rely on Him as I never have before, to learn how to stand on my knees. Frank Bishoff, the pastor at the church we’ve been attending for the last few weeks, Awaken City Church (another refreshing stop on a long journey), spoke a couple of weeks ago about living out of a revelation of how much Jesus loves us rather than striving to live a godly life because of how much we love Jesus. Sound simple? What’s the difference? Really it’s a profound, life-changing difference. If you live out of a revelation of His love for you, you will have true freedom and your love for Him will be effortless. In my own life I have struggled with God’s love for me, and have striven to live a godly life out of my own strength, out of my finite love. I want to learn how to let His infinite love become the foundation and strength of my love for Him. I want to walk in the revelation of how much God loves me. I have recently come across Ann Voskamp’s blog A Holy Experience, and book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Already I am approaching this move with a different attitude than I would have in the past. Both, Frank’s sermon, and Ann’s testimony, have convicted me that I need to begin keeping a gratitude journal in which I write down thanks to God for all the ways He shows me that He loves me.

I love it when God speaks the same thing to me over and over again from several different channels. Perhaps I’m too dense to listen at first so that He needs to repeat things to me until I start to pay attention, but I love the sound of the echo of His voice in the voices of His children. The Bible says that His voice is like the sound of many rushing waters. You know the sound of a large crowd saying the same thing in unison? That is like the sound of His voice. We, His children, are His voice in the earth, speaking together as with one voice as the Spirit directs.

So, I have heard His voice, and I am taking to heart the love message delivered. I have begun my gratitude journal. Even now I can feel my attitude changing. I am little by little seeing things from the positive, beautiful angle. My tendency is toward pessimism. But I’m learning to see through the lens of the half-full glass. Again, it seems so simple. But really, it is so very profound.

I have no doubt that I will encounter many difficulties as we move and take residence in our new life. Yet, I know that with God all things are possible. I know that His plans are to give me a hope and a future, and to prosper me in all areas of my life. I know He has many things for me to learn, many ways for me to grow, many ways for me to change. I know He is preparing us for an amazing future and a wonderful present. To quote Master Oogway, “The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift – that’s why they call it ‘the present.’” I’m finally learning how to be content with what God has given me now instead of focusing on the things I do not have or betting on a future that I assume will be better. I am learning to truly accept everything life brings me, both “the good” and “the bad”, knowing that what we assume to be good is not always good, nor is what we assume to be bad always indeed bad. Often the blessings of God are a double-edged sword and the goodness does not always reveal itself at first glance. We have to search out the true good. We have to learn to hone our focus and filter out the superfluity of distractions the enemy of our souls throws along the path to trip us up.

So why is God doing this for me? So my life can be more blessed? So I can be happier? No! It’s so I can become a better teller of His story with my life. The blessings and happiness are side effects to His grace working and moving in my life. I can read tons of books, listen to sermons and worship music 24 hours a day, seven days a weeks, 365 days a year, and never really change. Change must come from within, through the inner workings of the Holy Spirit from my heart, into my thoughts, and out through my life, my hands, my feet, my mouth. Now, I gladly take His hand and walk with Him along this path on this phase of my life’s journey, the journey of transforming my life into a God story.