Sunday, October 29, 2017

Practice In The Small Stuff

Hey Friend,

I was getting ready to meet up with two writer friends of mine.  One by one, I whipped pairs of pants off their long untouched hangers.  This pair wouldn't zip.  That pair wouldn't snap.  I began tossing the too snug options onto the floor with utter frustration.

I hadn't gone out much since my 4th surgery.  Yoga pants had been my friend for the two non weight bearing months and the additional two months of virtual non activity.  The clock was ticking and the clothing options were running out.

About then, my daughter texted me on my slowly dying phone.  She was tired and frustrated after a slow and humbling first workout at the gym after a scary hospitalization.  I immediately wanted to text her back and say, "Be thankful you're alive and even able to get to the gym."  I wanted to point out the positive....the blessing, but I was struck by the irony that, as I stood there sweating from my clothing-fail temper tantrum, it would be like the pot calling the kettle black.  I texted back that it must be hard.  I validated her feelings.

How could I encourage her to move past validation to victorious thinking when, I too, was stuck in the muck?

At coffee, my sweet friend gave me a lovely journal.  Since I've really been dedicated to writing scripture that really speaks to me as I read it, I thought the journal would go to that purpose. 

Unfortunately, I allowed my delightful morning out to be spoiled once again when the screen in my car told me I didn't have a GPS.  I had used the GPS to get to my destination.  How fitting that my car was having a tantrum of its own - refusing to admit it had GPS mode.  By the time I reached home, after driving in circles, it was evident I still had a bad case of the "grumpies".

None of the things I had experienced that morning would stop the earth from spinning, but they had succeeded in their ability to stymie my gratitude.  God, in a grace moment, suggested that the best use of that journal would be to revisit a practice of keeping a "Gratitude Journal".  

It's a proven fact that Gratitude kills the Grumpies. 

Writing our blessings down acts to further solidify them in our mind.

I also realized that I had gotten lazy and if I wanted to be able to have an "attitude of gratitude" when the big trials came along...

I clearly needed to practice in the small stuff.

My praise and gratitude muscles obviously had gotten flabby and needed strengthening.  Complaining may feel cathartic in the moment, but gratitude is needed to go for the long haul.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  (Philippians 4:8)

Whatever I dwell on....there goes my mind.  The more I dwell on my problems, the more I cycle downward, but if I choose to focus on what is right and good in my life, then so go my thoughts.  It's a conscientious choice. 

WARNING:  The enemy would like nothing more than for us to live in a state of defeat and despair. 

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Note that the scripture says, "IN" every thing give thanks, not "FOR" every thing.  When my husband left us, I did not, could not give thanks for that.  That would be crazy.  I'm also not so Pollyanna-like to think that in tough times like these that giving thanks "IN" the midst of heartache will magically make everything alright. 

I have to admit, it was very hard in those dark times to acknowledge my blessings.  I do believe God honors the periods of our hearts groaning and pouring out to Him in despair.  There is a season for everything.  

I think of David pouring out his angst before God in the Psalms.  David didn't pull any punches with God, but he did, however, end every Psalm with praise and thanksgiving.

I believe that pain, praise, and gratitude can coexist.

Gratitude may not magically make our pain disappear, but over time, if we keep continuing to praise God and thank Him for our blessings, we find our hearts begin to gravitate toward gratitude, joy, and eventually hope again.  This was my experience as I navigated those heartbreaking and tumultuous waters of divorce.  

But, I know that to be ready for the big stuff, I have to continually practice in the small stuff.  I need to choose gratitude over the grumpies.  

God, in His goodness, tells us to give thanks with a grateful heart for OUR benefit, not for His.

As I shift my focus from my circumstances to Him, as I give thanks, as I lift my eyes to the hills, then and only then do I see from where my HOPE comes from.

My hope comes from the Lord, but I need to practice choosing gratitude in the small stuff.  Only I can make that choice in God's strength.

Dear Heavenly Father, Oh how I need your supernatural enabling to be able to choose an attitude of gratitude.  It is so easy for my heart to become downcast and disappointed.  Help me to see that this is where the enemy wants me to dwell, but not where you want me to.  When small trials come, nudge me to grab my journal and write of your goodness and my blessings.  Let me, with gratitude, number your gifts one by one.  Let the words on my lips be ones of praise and thanksgiving- not "for" my trials, but "in" the midst of them.  Thank you that you are the lifter of my head.  Thank you for being my hope.  Enable me to keep lifting my eyes to your hills from where you come to me with grace and love.  In Jesus name I pray,  Amen.

How can you practice in the "small stuff"?  How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude?  Where are you struggling?  Can you ask God for His enabling to choose gratitude?

Be blessed.......