Unexpected Graces

 

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Well, here I am sitting in the saddle.  It feels good!  I have missed this place! I’m glad to be back.

It’s been a rough and tumble couple of months since I last sat down.  When I took a break right before Christmas, I never anticipated the journey I would embark upon.  Frankly, it was like someone gave a monkey a match.  It has been quite a ride.

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I needed this time to regroup and set my heart and mind right.  I have been too afraid to write, honestly.  Afraid of what just might come out.  But, it is time.  And, I am grateful.

In an effort to cope with our pain and lighten the mood, our family began to refer to this season as a “plot twist”.   In stark reality, our lives have dramatically changed.  Due to painful circumstances, my Love resigned his position at the church we pastored for over seven years.  Sometimes, it is just time to move on.  There comes a time when you realize the odds are not in your favor and for everyone’s sake, you have to make an exit.  You just hope to do so with grace.

I do believe it has been one of the most hurtful seasons we have experienced in life and ministry.  After 25 years, we have experienced our share of disappointments and set backs.  But, this, by far, was the one of the biggest gut punches of them all.  The only other to compare would be the sexual abuse of our son by a trusted friend and church worker.

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I have learned quite a few lessons in our time here in Virginia.  Some are pretty tough.  But all have been for my good.

Our time in Virginia has been anything but easy.  We have endured some losses.  But, I also can look and see some beautiful gains.  I would be shallow if I didn’t recognize them.

A few years back I began my own One Thousand Gifts journey.  It was a life saver, really. Each day I would count out my gratitude, line by line.  I am beginning a new one.  It’s important to remember the gifts from our journeys.  If not, it could get terribly discouraging!  So, it is time.  Time to refocus my attention.

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One lesson I’ve learned is, “God gives good gifts.”  Some seasons we just have to look a little harder.  Many times they are hard gifts.  I look back at our journey…it is unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever experienced…yet, I still find beauty in the charred rubble.

Light only shines through cracked vessels. 

So, when people ask me if I had known then what I know now, would I still have relocated to Virginia, I’m never sure how to answer.  In the natural, it does not seem worth it.  We have paid quite a high price.  We certainly didn’t know all we were taking on.

Truthfully, I don’t like that question at all.  My first instinct is to scream NO, of course not!

Injustice,

hatred,

jealousy,

abuse,

unfair expectations,

rejection,

financial loss,

illness,

anxiety and depression,

plots and schemes,

abandonment,

betrayal.

Who would?

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When I look at that list of pain, it would seem hardly worth it.  I could easily drown in that sea of loss and hurt.  I do see, however, the gifts from God’s hand that He gave in the middle of such ugly hard.

So, I choose to look at the gifts.  It is time. 

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Friendships,

children discovered their gifting,

memories made,

bound family ties,

new dreams inspired,

spiritual growth,

loyalty,

a sweet canine companion,

hope,

peace,

increased faith,

grace from unexpected places,

deep kindness,

lessons learned,

lives changed,

wisdom,

provision,

protection,

opportunity,

divine encouragement.

I am most certain I have forgotten many other blessings.

I have a sneaky suspicion I am not alone in this listing.  We are not unique.

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We all have experienced our share of pain and loss.  I simply refuse to get stuck here.  I don’t want to live in the muck and mire.  I will not suffer needlessly.  I want free of it.  And, the only place I know to start is with gratitude. 

Christ does not promise a trouble-free life.  No, indeed.

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This world is fallen and is coming undone.  People disappoint.  No amount of dancing can undo that fact.  But, I have learned something else.

Light shines out of my broken places.

God is mending in such a way that light will warmly glow and draw others in.  They will meet Him there.  It isn’t about pretending to have it all together.  No one understands such living.  It is a fairy tale and too great a weight to drag around.

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So, once again, I have picked up pen and tablet and will scribe my gratitude.

I won’t forget our pain, for it has left a mark.  But, mostly I will remember with a heart of gratitude all God is and was to me in the pain.  The strong arms that have held and carried.  I will remember.  All that was meant for my harm, is turned to good.  Nothing can ever take me from His hand.

That is what I will remember.  That will be my focus.  There is beauty to out-sing the ugly.  For it is well with my soul.

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Sweet, Simple Life

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I am thankful for the small graces in my every day.

Sometimes, it seems as if a whole host of things can go wrong at the same time.  You know, you’ve had it happen to you.   You’re busy running around marking off your to-do list, trying to go out of town and the lawnmower and trimmer break down and the yard police are watching.  The equipment is new, mind you!  Or maybe your child (or as they blame the sibling) has lost their phone.  Thorough searching has gone on without success, but it is imperative for the child to have one, since they are going on a trip without you.  So, the race is on to find a replacement that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. (Because, of course, the child is not due for an upgrade.)

Sometimes, there is just so much to do.  Just do the normal day to day responsibilities, but throw in some hiccups and you feel up to your eyeballs trying to squeeze it all in.  But, I’m thankful.

I’ll be candid with you.  I deal with some anxiety issues.  I’m well aware of what it feels like for me and some of my triggers.  So, today, amid all the running and preparing for the five of us to travel, and make sure our four-legged fur baby is taken care of, I was feeling the effects of anxiety.  I usually call my husband and clue him in on my anxiety.  Instead of trying to ignore it, hoping it will go away, I recognize it at the start and have learned to handle it head on, right at the beginning.  I knew he would pray for me.

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I also had to remind myself that this life is beautiful.  While the responsibilities sometimes feel overwhelming, compared to what others are facing, this is simply life.  One important lesson I learned in counseling is to learn the difference between a crisis and everyday glitches in life.

Broken lawnmowers and lost phones aren’t crises, just life to be managed.  I’m blessed to have a family of my own to care for and nurture.  I remind myself these days are truly short.  While I taxi and run errands, I am caring for my family.  All of this is life.  Beautiful life.

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It takes careful mindfulness to control our thoughts and harness them for power.  I’m learning to not spin into sidewise energy, by not focusing on the glitches and hiccups along the way.  Yikes!  I am not always so good, so I am talking to me today, too.  But, amid the shopping and working through my list of to-do’s, my anxiety disappeared.  (I also think my Honey’s prayers made a difference, too.)  About an hour later, my husband called to check in on me, and I realized my anxiety was gone.  I didn’t let it derail me or steal my joy.

Here are a few ideas for dealing with anxiety:

  1. Stop and look for the source of the anxiety.  See if there is any merit to it. 
  2. Invite someone you trust into your moment.
  3. Pray.
  4. Remind yourself to slow down and enjoy the process.
  5. Be mindful of your thoughts and words.

Life runs at breakneck speeds and sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that all is well.  Remember what is truly a crisis and what is an annoyance or mere, every day stuff.  This is what life is about.  It isn’t all the big, splashy moments.  Most of our days are made up of ordinary life stuff.

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I am learning to appreciate the simpleness of everyday living.   At this point in my life, I am thankful to  just live normal, everyday life.  It is beautiful–complete with bumps and hiccups.  Finding beauty in the simple, and even in the middle of challenging annoyances, is the key to living more fully and peacefully in the everyday.

 

 

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Strong Medicine

I sat on the bed.  Everything I believed was in the middle of a free fall.  This was my parachute.  It deployed and my descent slowed.  So, I sat there and started crying.  Not the gentle tear, but the rolling, sobbing kind.  

 

If you asked me, I would have done away with our current course. There was so much to wade through and sometimes I just wasn’t sure about much.  Trust of everything and most everybody was at a devastating low.

I had picked up a book I had some months earlier stuck in a corner.  I had seen it advertised, it looked interesting, but when it came, it underwhelmed me.  So, there it sat, forgotten, actually.  Until one night in small group, the book came up in discussion.  It rang familiar….I went home, dug it out and started to devour it.   It’s funny how that happens.  Not a coincidence, by any stretch of the imagination.

I had NO idea.  God knew that it would be required reading for the journey I was about to take. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp changed my life forever.

As I was reading, God nudged me and began to un-bandage my wound.  He was always so gentle with me.  His gentleness wooed my worn out soul.  He knew me and the brokenness of my heart.

He was always so full of grace.  And, He began to speak through the words on the page.  What was I going to do with it?

God was there in all the ugly pain.  He was there and heard my child’s desperate cries for help and rescue.  He made a way out.  He was with us in the counseling moments.  The hours upon hours of healing that took place through a dedicated mouthpiece.  The darkness that seemed to hover over the waiting room would take my breath away.  The grief that never seemed to run out.  He was there.

In that moment, I had a choice to make.

I could either trust Him enough to be grateful in spite of the pain and destruction or….not. 

Was I going to continue feeling as if He couldn’t be trusted? Was I going to keep on feeling as if He didn’t know what He as doing and certainly not keeping an eye on my family? He held out the medicine for my soul.  Right there. Within my reach.  Trust and Gratitude.

Gratitude makes my life a sanctuary.

Gratitude invites God into the pain and opens the door to beauty.  Gratitude changes the lens of of our view.  Thanksgiving lifts my head off of the present, shattered mess and on to the One who leads me forward.  I can trust that He will lead me safely on and be right by my side.  I could focus on my desperate thoughts of wishing this had never happened; or wondering where God was on the nights my child had no escape; or the fears of my child never being whole and happy.  At that moment, the view was pretty tragic and desperate.

God knew my life was meant for more than that.  There was nothing I could do to change the circumstances, but I could change my view.  That was entirely up to me!  Gratitude invites grace into the dark and transforms it into light.  The light shines bright and life is breathed back into the dead.

It’s not easy or everyone would do it!

If it came naturally, this world would be transformed beyond recognition.  I’m not saying we have to be grateful for the ugly destruction.  I’m certainly not there yet or sure I ever will be.

But I’m choosing to not focus on it.  It isn’t my daily diet and I am not going to let it eat me alive!  BUT, I am trying daily to focus on the everyday miracles and answered prayers. 

The hand of God moves and reveals Himself in the mundane and in the grand.

Beauty in the sunlight

Chai tea lattes in the morning

Family dinner

Little girls kisses

A Saturday with no commitments

God loves my children even more than I do

Friends who understand

Honest and open conversations

God speaking to my children

A day with lessened pain

Darkness is destroyed

Date night with my love

Libraries!!!

In my brokenness, I can still worship….a sacrifice to the One who is always there

A smile

Love expressed in simply kind ways

Candles on a cold day

Sweet sibling prayers

 

So, here I am….1,122 gratitudes strong….written down.

And it will keep going.

I’m just one woman working to live at peace on this journey I am on.  Unfortunately, at times I’ve bogged down and some days have been very gratitude silent.

But, I don’t want to be that….for what has the Love of my Savior done to be ignored and unrecognized?  He faced darkness head on so that I can have Light in my own darkness.  

 

What gratitude do you need to start voicing?  Where is the mundane or grand that needs acknowledgement in your life? A lack of gratitude will choke the very life out of your heart.  But, thankfulness will keep your eyes off the dark and on the Light!

Gratitude = Great Attitude

Kind of a cheesy title.  Sorry about that!  But it struck me once again as I sit here and love on my four-legged, furry baby!  I’m grateful for Kingsley Rose!

 

 

Gratitude  is  the  one  guaranteed  life  changer ….. or  at  least  change  how you  view  it!

This gal’s sole purpose is to love and be loved.  She is nothing but a lover!  We affectionately refer to her as our PTSD dog.  For years, I was set against getting a dog.  I certainly didn’t understand the super dog lovers.  They were dirty, smelly animals that chewed up things and got into trouble and would probably meet an untimely end like all my childhood dogs.  Nope! Not gonna do it.  I didn’t get it.

When we were going through our crisis, somehow the stars aligned and my heart was softened.  I remember it very clearly.  The door of my heart cracked open and my Honey pounced on it like LIFE depended on it!  Money was exchanged and before I knew it we were the humans to a very cute, very spunky, very fluffy, very loving, little white dog.  I laugh, because God knew what we needed.  And sometimes it is the smallest of things that blesses you the most.  In her small little package comes more healing and laughter and peace than you might imagine of a little, fluffy dog.

It is from the unlikeliest of places that God brings the greatest of joys.  Sometimes the greatest gifts come wrapped in unusual packaging.  During that time, I was learning I had to get my eyes off our crisis and refocus my attention on the many things to be thankful for.  I wasn’t called to be thankful FOR the pain that rocked my family.  But, I was called to be thankful IN the pain.

I took the challenge to keep a running list of gratitude. Whether big or small, it went into my gratitude journal.  If you start intentionally looking for the gifts you’ve been given, you will be surprised how many there really are.

Even in the seemingly starkest and most desolate circumstances you might be facing, God reveals his grace.  journal

In the early days of my journaling of the gifts, it was hard.  Some days were easier.  Some days the page laid blank because I could’t find one single, solitary thing to be thankful for.  As I looked back over my list and neared 1,000 reasons to be thankful, the one thing that popped up over and over was…you guessed it!  Our sweet, loving, lovable four-legged friend. She soothed our souls and made us belly laugh.  She knew when there were tears and she nuzzled up to check on us.  And so many times, she just knew WE needed to play with her.

So, you see, it is quite comical.

When we do what seems to be the most impossible thing to do

—like being grateful in the really ugly times—

God has a way of surprising us with the greatest joy!

In order to get the biggest pay off, you have to find the gratitude in the hardest hard.  It literally saved my life.  It got my attention off of the loss and pain and onto the gifts God had already given in the every day.

I  soon  realized  that  the  simple-magnificent  was  right  before  me.  

 

You too might just save your life, or maybe just your mind, but nonetheless, you can’t lose if you focus on the graces you are given each day.  I challenge you to start a running gratitude list for each and every day.  I think you will be surprised at what you find. I dare you!

I’d love to hear your gratitude!  Please share with me and we can smile together!

 

PS.  If you need further inspiration, I highly recommend this resource.  It challenged me and changed my life. http://www.aholyexperience.com/one-thousand-gifts-book/