Heart in the Clouds

Monday, June 28, 2010

Grateful - June 28, 2010

Matthew 7:3-5

 3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

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Lately, God has been making me more aware of the concept of "the speck vs. the plank". I learn through my own life and my own mistakes, obviously, but I also learn by watching other people. It's so easy to look at someone and think, "Boy, they really need to get themselves together," all the while, neglecting to address the glaring issues in my own life.

*Raises hand* Guilty as charged! But I am quietly learning, and God is teaching me to stop and think before I make judgments or snide remarks about issues in others' lives when I haven't bothered addressing what's in my own. Making snide remarks or judgments shows that I think more highly of myself than I ought to, like I'm somehow better than the person who is the object of my judgment. I'm no better. None of us are better than anyone else. If we're making those haughty remarks, it shows plainly that we haven't learned humility.

The murderer, the rapist, the abuser, the alcoholic, the prostitute, the cheater, the prophet, the police officer, the banker, the nice old lady at the grocery store, myself--we all have two things in common. First, we are all human and, second, we've all done things to cause hurt. God loves me no more than he loves a murderer. Boy, if that won't teach a person humility, I don't know what will. But that's grace. Grace is about favor we don't deserve.

I know we all struggle with this at times--the problem of thinking of ourselves as though we're better or wiser than someone else. Know where that comes from? Insecurity, pride and the sin of comparison--plain and simple. Comparing yourselves to others in either good ways or bad ways is wrong...it takes the focus off of who our true standard for living should really be. Whether we are putting other people up on the pedestal or we are putting ourselves up on the pedestal, everyone eventually falls off of it. "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).

I'm grateful that God cares enough about me to put me in my place. You have to do that with your young children sometimes. Like little children, we are all self-centered and think we've got it all figured out. In fact, we have only become experts about the tip of the iceberg, forgetting that there's a whole bunch of things we can't see and know nothing about. God is faithful to teach us these things in a loving and gracious way if we're open to learning. It's when we're not open to learning certain things that we need to watch out for the hardest life lessons. Everyone goes through junk in their lives, but the hardest lessons are meant to bring out the good things in us and get rid of the bad.

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I'm grateful for...

Dark movie theaters and a 4-year-old snuggling, and occasionally burying his face, on my arm. I was watching Toy Story 3 with my husband and kids yesterday and I looked over at them every so often and thought, "This is the life."

Lessons learned. Through both observation and experience, you can really catch on if you're aware enough to apply the lessons.

Steelers tickets. I am so excited to get them, even though they're for our chilly December game against Cincinnati. It's going to be a good game and I'm going to freeze my patootie off. It's okay, though, because I could do with a little less patootie. Plus, I can go with my brother, so that makes it even better. :)

A cloudy day. It would be sweltering outside if it weren't cloudy...thank you, God, for a respite from the heat.

Green. Summer is wonderful. I don't care how hot it is, because at least it's not snowing and I can see the green. Hooray!

Rental cars. I am so glad we bought the warranty on my car. Even though the part for my car is still not in at the dealerhsip, I had a free, fun rental TRUCK for 6 days. Now that I turned in the rental, my parents have let me borrow one of their cars until mine is fixed this week...thankful for that, too. Not sure where I'd be without help. :)

Creative juices. There's something about flowing in creativity that gives you a sense of the divine. Love that. We were meant to create and when we're not, we get into ruts and bouts of depression. We are creative beings because we were made in God's image. If you're not creating something or doing something that brings you joy, find it and do it. You'll be happier for it (and so will the people around you, I might add).

My hope is that you learn both from your own mistakes and from the ones you observe. Learning from something doesn't make you more enlightened than someone else, it makes you more humble. If you aren't humble, you haven't learned. "You ain't all that, plus tax", as a friend of mine used to say!

If you're in a rough spot right now, remember that things WILL get better and that you'll be okay. Learn what you need to learn from the situation and then move past it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Grateful - June 16, 2010

Ah, vacation. We were at the beach, home of the eternal object lesson. God spoke to me a lot there and I'm still processing much of what he said. The weather was amazing, the water was warm and it was great to be around family we haven't seen in a while.

Something that struck me as I was on a shell-gathering walk one morning was that the broken shells are often more beautiful than the "perfect" ones. I'm a person who gravitates toward visual symmetry, but seeing all the colorful, patterned, textured pieces of shells, and the sea glass that comes from pieces of matter breaking off and being tossed around in the ocean gave me something to think about.

Brokenness can be beautiful. I've been in broken places more times than I care to mention, but I have come to realize that God allows us to reach those places so that we can begin to see the beauty inside ourselves. My journey into gratitude, which has totally changed my life and my perspective, began when I was feeling broken. However, embracing my brokenness, being honest with myself and with God about what was in my heart, and then turning my focus outside of myself was what brought about a change.

It's true. There's an ugly side to brokenness, as well. By choosing to wallow in it, I've made it UGLY quite a few times. Been there, done that. I've learned that it's all about what you do with it. If you allow yourself to sink into depression or bitterness or a broken heart, it can envelop everything. Wallowing is a black hole. Someone gave me a tip a while back about wallowing...give yourself a chance to feel what you feel, wallow a bit, but set a time limit on it. When the time limit is up, pull yourself up and focus on the good.

It's in the moments when I have truly felt what I was feeling and have sunk to the depths, but then have chosen to look outside myself and focus on the good that the beauty of brokenness has really shone in my life. God can take anything broken and make it beautiful. That means YOU *points at you for effect*. We're all broken. I've said it before, but the people who are the most humble, most kind and the most emotionally wealthy are the ones who realize how broken they are, but they know that they are loved anyway.

So embrace the pieces of yourself. God can put you back together because he's the glue. You will likely not look the same, but that's probably a good thing. Brokenness can change you for the better, or you can choose to let it change you for the worse. Don't make the mistake I've made in the past by wallowing endlessly...it's not good for the body, soul OR spirit.

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I'm grateful for...

The beach. Seriously, it's my "happy place" and I go there in my mind when I'm stressed or upset. It was great to absorb to the constancy of the ocean, the tides, the birds, the warm sunshine, the salty air, the feel of the sand between my toes...all of it.

Another day of life. While I was away on vacation, I heard about a man we knew back home who had a sudden heart attack and passed away. He was fairly well-known in the local Christian circles. The last time I saw him, he was out walking somewhere, holding his grandchild's hand. I thought about that moment when I heard the news and I got a little teary-eyed, even though I wasn't all that close to the man. But it made me grateful that I'm alive and have another day to live and breathe and love my family.

Family. We had a great time with my parents and Sean's family. Reconnecting is a good thing...and a "God thing".

My encounter with the giant sea turtle. I'm still in awe and I smile every time I think about it. God makes amazing things.

The broken shells and sea glass and shark teeth.

Object lessons a'plenty...I needed a bit of a refocus.

Boogie boards and riding waves. You could attempt to ride 1,000 waves, but the one you get that takes you all the way in to shore is the one that keeps you coming back and attempting 1,000 more. I love it. I'm a beach girl.

Friends. You know who you are. You've gotten me through some hard times and I appreciate the handful of people who have loved me despite the fact that I'm not easy to love. You, who have sent me e-mails or phone messages that I've kept and re-read or listened to over and over. I'm proud to say I have some quality people in my life. I've learned to separate who is an acquaintance and who is a friend and I NEVER use the term "best friend" because I consider it to be exclusive. I have more than one person who is important or who I turn to to talk. But I'm grateful for the people God brings across my path or back INTO my path. Purely selfish of me, but it is what it is. :)

Long walks. Whether they're on the beach or around my town, I am grateful to have the ability to walk off my problems or my emotions or to just breathe some fresh air. Exercise is a good thing.

Refocusing. I'm in the process of a refocus. I'll share more on it later, but it's the times when you feel like you're in a rut that are a clue to your need for a refocus. More to come...

My hope is that you refocus yourself. Embrace the fact that you're broken. Everyone is. We're hopeless as lonely humans. God is good, though, and can make beauty from the ashes.


Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm on vacation...

Just so you know! Hee hee...I'm on the beach and having a blast. That's something to be incredibly grateful for! I'll write when I get back. :)