Heart in the Clouds

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thoughts on 2011 and 2012

So it’s New Year’s Eve and while I’m not big on making the new year into something bigger than it is…it’s really only a day on the calendar…I have some changes I want to make in my life. I guess the transition from one year to the next is as good a time to start as any, right?

2011 has been a really difficult year for me in so many ways. I lost “me” and I lost my focus. I’ve been trying to think of some changes I need to make in the coming year. Not resolutions so much, but ideas for making adjustments to the way I’ve been living.

I’m going to continue to cut drama from my life, including the people who create it. I don’t have time to allow people to put unrealistic expectations on me or on others. I don’t have the desire to please people who will never be pleased with anything.

If you’re with me, you’re with me. If you’re not, buh-bye.

Something you learn over time as a Christian is that you should love everyone, but you don’t have to like everyone or be friends with everyone. And sometimes loving people, especially toxic people, means letting them go. It’s just as important to love YOU as it is to love others. I plan to focus my energy and time on people who also want to live drama-free.

Forgiveness. I want to give it and ask for it more often.

New dreams. It’s easy to live in the past or to focus too much on the future. Living in regret is the easy way out of moving forward. I think it’s a good thing to sometimes let go of old dreams to take hold of new ones.

I’m SO ready for new ones.

Getting back to gratitude. Out of the last decade, the best years were the two years where I took time each day to think of the gifts in my life. Circumstances weren’t always peachy keen, but I felt more at peace and more content because I wasn’t directing all of my attention to the bad things.
For me, 2011 has been the year of losing focus, but I’ve learned some important lessons.

This whole “losing focus” thing has to change, and gratitude is going to be added back into my daily spiritual diet in many different forms.

I’m going to continue to work on my health. I have done well in the latter half of this year by changing my eating habits and my exercise goals. If nothing else, that’s one thing I’m proud of from this year.

I’m going to be asking God to direct my desires for meaningful living and deliberate giving. I went through a little crisis earlier this year where I had this weird, panicky feeling that I wasn’t participating in anything fulfilling or meaningful. 

Devoting my time to something that challenges me and makes me want to live life is what I need to do. We’ll see what happens.

Also, I want to spend more one-on-one time with each of the important people in my life. How that will look, I don’t know, but I do know that it’s a desire in my heart. My love language is quality time, so I need to take the time to get my “love tank” filled.

Last, at least for now, I want to get out into the world more. I want to take more family road trips, but also experience more things on my own.  I think I’ll wait less for people to do things with me because it’s often just as important to set out on my own once in a while.

Life’s too short. That’s my phrase for this year.

(Sunrise in the New Brunswick woods)

What are the tweaks you’re going to make in your life?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Grateful

The week before Christmas is usually one of my favorite weeks of the year. But this time I have felt preoccupied with so many things. Today has been good, though, as I learn to make important choices.

Today I'm grateful for...

Well-behaved little boys. It doesn't happen all the time, but I'm thankful that it happens most of the time.

Knowing I can rest. I can let go of my fears and just trust. Today that was something God was speaking to me from the moment I woke up -- rest and trust.

Waiting for the Lord. He shows up at the right time, all the time.
(Psalm 27:14--"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.")

The flexibility of cyber school. It's made life easier in some ways because I don't have to worry about timing everything in the day, or making sure I'm here or there at a particular moment. As I've said, like every parent, I have days where I want to fork myself in the eye, but on most days I'm grateful for the opportunity to be an integral part of my children's education and to be the one to see the light in their eyes when they learn something new.

Friends and family who pray for me. It's comforting to know I have the thoughts and prayers of people who genuinely care about what happens to me. I feel the same way about them.

Reaching another little weight loss goal. I'm back in the 140s and I hope to stay here! When I returned to a more normal eating style after the veggie cleanse, I gained back some of the weight I had lost (as was expected and considered normal). Not much, but enough to make me want to continue making healthier choices. I don't want to ever get back to the place where going up a flight of stairs makes me breathless or I can't fit into last year's jeans.

My long-term goal--I want to be a healthy elderly woman. I don't want to be on a bunch of medications or to need constant care. I want to do my part in keeping myself in decent shape, so I'm trying to make deliberate choices to reach that goal. I can't say what will happen to me in the future, but I can say I'm training myself to do my part. (Not to say I won't eat the occasional chocolates or junk food, though. Nothing wrong with a little junk food now and then...)

I hope you're joining me in learning to make better choices. I don't just mean the way you eat or the way you look at life. Making better choices can be a TOTAL life makeover.

It's about learning to speak kindly (to yourself, as well as others).

It's about learning to be truly thankful (instead of focusing on your "First World Problems").

It's about learning to be content, no matter the circumstances.

It's about remembering that God is always good, and that you're totally and completely loved and held at all times.



In the doctor's office...AGAIN!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gratitude

And so it continues...there are always things I could let distract me from light and truth and God's love. Fear is one of those things. I am a person who struggles with fear. I'm not afraid of people. I'm not afraid of standing up for what I think or believe. But I have little fears that plague me sometimes. They are intended to distract me and they do. They preoccupy my thoughts. They snowball. They pop up whenever I have happy moments. Honestly, it's annoying.

I wish there were a way to rid myself of these fears completely. I wish I could just snap my fingers and *poof* they would disappear. The only ways I've found to really battle fear are to focus on God and to be thankful. So I'm doing that right now.

I'm going to tell you about my blessings.

1. Family. I have a great family made up of wonderful people. I know that I'm supported in love and in prayer.
2. Friends. I have so many people in my life whom I can consider friends. Not everyone can say that.
3. First world problems. Most of my so-called "problems" are what the ladies who write Rants from Mommyland would call "first world problems". Here's their hilarious blog post on that topic: http://www.rantsfrommommyland.com/search?q=first+world+problems I have crises in my life. Don't we all? But aside from the occasional real crisis, the majority of my issues stem from my self-focused human nature and my inability to see my blessings for what they are.
4. Food. I have a friend who says that when she gets really down, sometimes the only thing she can do to battle it is focus on the little things. "I'm thankful for these dishes that I am washing in my kitchen sink. I'm thankful for the soap I have to clean them with. I'm thankful for the fact that I can have food on these dishes whenever I want it there. Etc." So I'm thankful that I have the ability to feed my family and to eat whenever I want to.
5. Fresh starts. I've had plenty of chances to start over--with people, with situations, with locations. Not everyone can say that.
6. Framework. I know that God is setting up the framework in my life. Around it, he's going to put together all the little pieces that seem to be floating, and the end product will look like something. Right now, it doesn't, but it will.
7. Freedom. Living a life without the constraint of "religion" (the bad connotation) is a goal I have. The only way I can do it is with God's help. He has nothing to do with religion, so I don't want to have anything to do with it, either.

That's enough for now. See? I'm already focusing on good things again. I know there are so many positive things going on in my life and I want to choose to keep my eyes on God and what he's doing in me. I hope you choose to do the same.

Psalm 145:8--"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love."

Check out this book!

Pagan Christianity is one of my favorite Christian books. I found the history in it very thought-provoking. Through this book, Frank Viola and George Barna made me stop and think about why I did what I did when it came to church. Good stuff and I highly recommend it!
http://www.paganchristianity.org/

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gratitudes

It was a crazy week, but here I am on a Sunday evening. I'm freshly bubble-bathed and already cozy in my pajamas. I'm looking forward to the next three weeks because they will be busy, but "fun busy", which is the BEST kind of busy. So I'm taking my last evening of non-busyness and chillaxin'.

I'm grateful for...

1. Pushing through it. I did NOT feel like exercising today. In fact, I spent all morning and some of the afternoon in my PJs, just sitting on the couch and not moving. To me that's the nice thing about a Sunday. But I knew that I should be getting at least a little exercise, so I jogged on out of here and took a 45 minute run/walk. It was a good thing that I did. Exercise is good for the mind, as well as the body and it got me moving. After I got back, I ended up going out to do some grocery shopping because I had energy. Good times.

2. A discussion about gratitude. Last night's discussion at church was about gratitude. It's my favorite subject and it was really cool to hear everyone's take on it.

3. Roof insurance. Glad we have it. Glad they're paying for two new roofs for us (our house and House #2). Hail damage...didn't know we had any, but I'm glad we asked about it.

4. Thinking before I speak. Sometimes I don't and I always regret it. God is teaching me just to shut my pie hole sometimes and let HIM do the talking instead. He's better at it anyway.

5. Stuff to look forward to. The next three weeks have a lot in store--Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday); a visit from Norrain, our friend from across the ocean; I'm going to Kansas City to visit Jai and all my other friends there; my oldest child will be turning 9 and starting his last year of single digits (sniff sniff); and I'm going on a trip with my dad to attend his brother's memorial service in Austin--not a happy occasion, but I am glad I can go along with him to offer support.


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Gratitude is so important for so many reasons and I hope you're able to get yourself to experience it often. For me, gratitude is humbling because it makes me realize how much I've been given, even though I don't deserve it. I know I don't. But that's the beauty of the love of God. It's lavish and extravagant and pours out blessings on a wretched, rotten person like me. I KNOW I don't deserve it and I never will.

I have darkness inside me and I don't often do or say the things I should. I'm not always a good example of a Christian. I'm not always a good mother. I'm not always a good wife, a good friend...or a good person, for that matter. I'm selfish. I'm prone to holding grudges. But God isn't...and I'm so very grateful for that. He always accepts me with open arms and holds me there next to his heart, no matter how many times I've pushed him away in the past. I'll never be able to repay Jesus for what he did for me, but I'm grateful that he doesn't expect me to. His gifts are always free.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Gratitude Improves Your Health

I found this article very interesting. There have actually been studies done about how the act of being grateful (and it IS a real act) is shown to improve your health. Check it out and tell me what you think.



http://www.cfidsselfhelp.org/library/counting-your-blessings-how-gratitude-improves-your-health


Counting Your Blessings: How Gratitude Improves Your Health

Gratitude has long been extolled by religion and in recent years, has drawn attention through books such as The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude. Now, thanks to new research, there is scientific evidence that gratitude produces health benefits.
The research is summarized in Robert Emmons' new book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Emmons and his colleagues at the University of California at Davis are among the pioneers in research on gratitude, part of a larger movement called positive psychology. Positive psychology, instead of focusing on illness and emotional problems, studies health-promoting behavior and the pleasurable parts of life.
Emmons' book reports on several studies. In the first, he and his colleagues divided participants into three groups, each of which made weekly entries in a journal. One group wrote five things they were grateful for. Another group described five daily hassles and a control group listed five events that had affected them in some way. Those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems than the other participants. Results from a second study suggested that daily writing led to a greater increase in gratitude than weekly practice.
A third study reproduced the results among a group of people suffering from various neuromuscular diseases, including post-polio syndrome, which has symptoms similar to those in CFS. People using daily gratitude journals reported more satisfaction with their lives and were more optimistic about the future than the control group. Interestingly, the gratitude group also reported getting more sleep, spending less time awake before falling asleep and feeling more refreshed in the morning.
In a related study, researchers at the University of Connecticut found that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks. Studying people who had experienced one heart attack, the researchers found that those patients who saw benefits and gains from their heart attack, such as becoming more appreciative of life, experienced a lower risk of having another heart attack.
The research on gratitude challenges the idea of a "set point" for happiness, a belief that, just as our body has a set point for weight, each person may have a genetically-determined level of happiness. The set point concept is supported by research that shows that people return to a characteristic level of happiness a short time after both unusually good and unusually bad events. But the research on gratitude suggests that people can move their set point upward to some degree, enough to have a measurable effect on both their outlook and their health.
Summarizing the findings from studies to date, Emmons says that those who practice grateful thinking "reap emotional, physical and interpersonal benefits." People who regularly keep a gratitude journal report fewer illness symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the future. Emmons conclusion is that gratitude is a choice, one possible response to our life experiences.

Getting Started

If you would like to increase the level of gratitude in your life, here are five suggestions for getting started.

1) Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal

This is probably the most effective strategy for increasing your level of gratitude. Set aside time daily to record several things that you are grateful for. (Typically, people list three to five.) You can write when you get up or at the end of the day. Pick a time that you will consistently have available. You can use a book like the Journal of Gratitude or write on loose-leaf paper or a notebook. The important thing is to establish the daily practice of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events and to write them down. In Emmons' words, the act of writing "allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life." For an example of the use of a gratitude journal, see Joan Buchman's article The Healing Power of Gratitude.

2) Use Visual Reminders

Two obstacles to being grateful are forgetfulness and lack of awareness. You can counter them by giving yourself visual cues that trigger thoughts of gratitude. Emmons says he puts Post-It notes listing his blessings in many places, including on his refrigerator, mirrors and the steering wheel of his car. Another strategy is to set a pager, computer or PDA to signal you at random times during the day and to use the signal to pause and count blessings.

3) Have a Gratitude Partner

Social support encourages healthy behaviors, because we often lack the discipline to do things on our own. Just as you may be more likely to exercise if you have an exercise partner or participate in a class, you may be able to maintain the discipline of gratitude more easily if you have a partner with whom to share gratitude lists and to discuss the effects of gratitude in your life. Emmons says, "If we hang out with ungrateful people, we will ‘catch' one set of emotions; if we choose to associate with more grateful individuals, the influence will be in another direction. Find a grateful person and spend more time with him or her."

4) Make a Public Commitment

We feel accountable when we make commitments to others. In our self-help course, we have people set weekly goals for themselves. The fact that the goal is made publicly to a group, makes it more likely that people will follow through. For a discussion of how to achieve short-term goals, see the Chapter 6 in our course textbook: Goals and Targets.

5) Change Your Self-Talk

We all carry on an inner dialogue with ourselves that is often called "self-talk." When this inner conversation is negative, our mood is usually low. Research has shown that we can change our mood by changing the tone of the things we say to ourselves. For an introduction to this approach, called cognitive therapy, and a description of a three-step process to change your self-talk, see the article "Taming Stressful Thoughts" (reference below).  

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It may be too soon, but the kids were begging...so we gave in and put up the Christmas trees.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day! 11/11/11

Thank you to all of the men and women who have served our country, as well as those who are currently serving. This nation would no longer exist if it were not for all of those who have fought and all those who have laid their lives down. The history of this country is one of struggle and I am so grateful that so many men and women thought my future, and the future of each of us, was important enough to pay for it with their own lives.

I will never be able to repay you all for your bravery and sacrifice. But I will try in my own way by paying respect to your love of your country and your families; by remembering how much I have to be grateful for with thanks, in large part, to all of you; and by doing what I can, though I am only one person, to be a good steward of the country you fought for.


My grandpa, Air Force Lt. Col. Vinton A. Fish (back row, 2nd from right)








Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day!

Today I'm thankful for...

1. Last night's girls night. We went to Persichetti's Restaurant in Jeannette, PA for Wednesday night wings. Best wings on the planet and 17 flavors to choose from. So good, as always. Great time with friends and a lovely evening.




2. A surprise date night with my husband. Last night, he told me he wanted to take me out tonight and he had already arranged for my parents to watch the kids all evening. That's every woman's dream, to not have to plan dates herself...am I right? I'm blessed to have a good man who thinks of things like that. We went out to dinner, did some shopping and enjoyed each other's company. My love language is "Quality Time", so I am a happy girl after tonight.



3. Making better choices. In many ways I find I'm gradually growing into a person who makes better choices, especially about food. I have my occasional times where I really want something greasy or something sugary, but generally I've begun to shy away from eating things that I know won't make me feel good. That's a good thing. It means I'm finally learning from at least some of my mistakes. (Although, I did finish off the night with a Peppermint Chocolate Chip milkshake...mmmm. Won't do that again for a long time, but the discomfort was worth the mintyness.)



4. My kids' laughter. Today, during a little break in school time, we were taking funny photos on my iPhone and they were laughing those loud, gutteral laughs. I love to make them laugh because it warms my heart to hear it. I think God feels that way when we laugh.



5. Having the right words at the right time. It doesn't feel like it happens often for me, but when it does it's awesome. Sometimes people need encouragement or an uplifting word at critical moment...I know I do. So it's amazing to see the results when God points you toward someone who needs his love and you are able to let it flow through you. I want to try to be ready for those moments more often.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day!

Today I'm grateful for...

1. Warm, sunny weather. It felt like Spring today. On the coldest Winter days, I will think back to how lovely this day was, and remember that the warmer weather will be here again sooner than I think.

2. Happy boys. Last night I bought them another little pig for their Angry Birds plush toys collection. They earned it. The deal was that they had to earn $25 in Colligan Cash in order to get their small pig. They earned their Colligan Cash by doing chores, showing a good attitude during school, listening the first time they were asked to do something, etc. Anyway, I didn't sleep well last night, but this morning I heard excited whispering downstairs and realized they'd found the pig. I heard the pitter-patter of their little feet coming upstairs and they came into my room to thank me, trying hard not to squeal. Then Brendan excitedly whispered, "Mama, you're the best mama in space!!!" That was his way of saying that I pretty much rock the universe. Can't beat that.

3. Getting our roofs repaired. Our home insurance company came through and it looks like we will not only get our home's roof replaced from the hail damage we sustained in the spring, but we will also have the rental house roof replaced! Yay! The guys who are renting the house will be happy to have a new, well-insulated roof on their place.

4. Conan. He and Ellen make me laugh. You know how I feel about sparkly people and they make me happy. It's a true gift to be able to make people laugh, and it requires a keen sense of timing and a quick-wittedness that not a lot of people have. I appreciate people who make me laugh.

5. Letting it go. You know, it would be really easy to give in to worry, but I'm choosing to listen to the still, small voice that's saying, "Peace, be still." I will be okay. God is in control.


Morning Me

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day!

In the spirit of continuing my November daily gratitudes and practicing my thankfulness, here goes!

Today I'm grateful for...

1. A beautiful sunrise. It was a frosty morning and I stood outside in my bare feet watching the orange clouds roll by. It was a nice, quiet moment.

2. Alone time this evening. It's been a while since I've been out of the house alone, so I enjoyed every minute of it. I ran errands, I took my time at Gabriel Brothers (my favorite discount clothing store), I got the kids a new Angry Birds pig that I know they'll scream about when they wake up. Just a nice evening. I needed that.

3. Knowing it could be worse. I got a not-so-good result on one of the blood tests that the rheumatologist took. It said my thyroid antibodies are elevated...I wasn't sure what that meant, but it didn't sound good. But after hearing from a few friends and from my cousin, who is a nurse, I feel a lot better. Seriously, there are worse things and I'm keeping my perspective this time around.

4. Encouragement. God encourages us in many ways, directly or indirectly, but it's mean to uplift us and help us to lift our heads. If you're feeling or hearing something that is the opposite of encouragement, it ain't God talkin', honey. Ignore it and speak the truth over yourself.

5. Not knowing what to pray. I like knowing that God knows my heart and he hears even the things I can't bring myself to utter. There's nothing wrong with not saying anything. Often the best way to hear from God is to shut up.

Romans 8:26 -
"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans."



Friday, November 4, 2011

Gratitudes of the Day!

It's the little things.

1. My coughing is more "productive" today. (Disgusting and TMI, but it's something, right?)

2. Sunshine and blue sky. Once November hits, if you live in Pennsylvania you'll take every sunny day you can get!

3. Girls Night Out!

4. Some of my photos have been used in an ebook by Frank Viola . Pretty cool! Check it out!
http://frankviola.org/2011/11/01/epicjesus/

5. Veggies. Whenever I don't eat them as much, my body lets me know it's not happy. Veggies are yum.

6. I'm gradually learning to be a better person. Thank you, God, for teaching me every day, no matter how many mistakes or missteps I make. I want to be like You.

7. My parents. They are always so helpful to us in so many ways, and they get along really well with my husband. I know not everyone can say the same of their parents, so I'm grateful for that.

8. Cough drops. I should buy stock in Halls.

9. Hoodie sweatshirts.

10. Flavored coffee creamer. Although I'm trying to continue to go sugar-free as much as possible, the occasional spot of Peppermint Mocha in my daily decaf is lovely.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November is Gratitude Month!

Gratitudes of the Day (in no particular order):




1. Seeing the sun rise. It means I'm alive.



2. I can breathe out of one nostril now instead of none. :)




3. I have awesome friends, near and far.




4. I agree with a friend of mine...the raspy voice does sound kind of sexy if you ignore the 



sinusy/nasally aspect.



5. God is always teaching me if I'm open to learning.




6. A lull in the busy-ness.




7. One more day until GIRLS' NIGHT at Embassy Suites! Hot tub, snacks, Say Yes to the


Dress, making crafty cards and eating a huge, free breakfast the next morning.



8. My husband. 'Nuff said.




9. Hot coffee. Feels great on my throat...ah.




10. PA Cyber. Though there are days where I feel like I want to take a fork to my eyeball, 



it's one of the best decisions we've made thus far in regards to our children's education.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Instagram of the Day

I was just imagining myself back on the beach, looking out at the ocean, feeling the breeze in my face, smelling the salty air...it's my go-to fantasy, and it's still fresh because we've only been back home for two weeks.

Thought I'd share it with you.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thoughts and Thanks - September 7, 2011


Since I woke up on the wrong side of the bed (probably because my wake-up call was the sound of Brendan yelling about something Liam was doing that he didn't like), I figured now is as good a time as any to focus on gratitude.

I have found the best way to turn a bad mood around is to think positive thoughts and turn my attention to the good and the lovely things. So here goes...

Today I am grateful for...

--Encouragement. While I was busy being impatient with my kids, Brendan was busy making little signs on Post-it Notes. Here's what they said...


So I felt stupid. But I realized that my little boys love their mama, whether their mama deserves it or not. God loves me that way, too. :)

--The fact that my "skinny" jeans (you know, the pair of jeans many women keep in their drawer just in case they lose a little weight) are actually fitting me perfectly...and they're a little bit loose. That's a great motivator!

--Not having time to think about negative things. There's one great thing about suddenly being busy--I don't have time to think about my health issues or the things that were stressing me out before. There's something to be said for having brand new stressors...lol.

--My in-laws are visiting for the month of September. It's nice having adults around to talk to during the day, and it's great to see them after such a long time. They're very sweet people.

--Having a vacation to look forward to. I hope it happens...the hurricanes are scaring me a little bit, but I am choosing to be positive in the hopes that we will still be able to get away for our trip in 10 days!

--Another day to be alive.

--My children. They are wonderful boys, despite their occasional penchant for scamp-ish behavior. :)

--Myself. I'm learning to be grateful for me and I'm learning to see myself the way God sees me. That can't be bad, right?

I hope you feel encouraged today and that you know that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for, no matter how "blah" you may feel. Try focusing on those good things and keeping your mind on things above.

The Scripture for the day...

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things."
Philippians 4:8

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thoughts and Thanks - August 30, 2011


Throughout this whole time that I've been struggling with the roller coaster emotions that go along with uncertainty, I've had a thought in the back of my mind. How can I best honor God in the middle of my circumstances? I have found the only way to keep myself sane and to keep from going off the deep end every day is to focus myself on him and on being thankful for my many blessings. Because they truly are many.

It's easy to say, "Everything would be better if I only had this" or "I would truly be happy if that one thing was going right." But I know that that's not really true. The grass is always greener, right? 

So a couple of days ago in the middle of one of my self-focused pity parties, I was reading TIME magazine about the famine in Africa. I came upon a photo of a dead seven-year-old child wrapped in a cloth. It brought me to tears because, really, how can I complain about my life? In that moment, I felt stupid. My children are happy and healthy. I have uncertainty about my health in some areas, but I'm healthy. I'm not watching my loved ones die from preventable diseases or starvation. I live in one of the richest countries in the world. I have everything I need and so many opportunities are open to me. Who am I to complain?

Sometimes I need a little slap in the emotions now and then. I really want to choose to focus on how I can honor God in the middle of my roller coaster, rather than focusing on my petty worries. Whenever I focus on him, on his love, on the knowledge that he is with me through everything and that I have nothing to fear, I feel that blanket of peace again.

When trying times come, it's like the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33)--as soon as I take my eyes off of Jesus, I sink. I become fixed on my stormy surroundings and on the things I see as impossible or uncertain, rather than on the fact that HE called me to step out of the boat and walk with him on the water. He doesn't call us to walk with him just to let us drown. In the low moments where I lose vision and I feel like I'm sinking, he ALWAYS reaches down and lifts me back up. I just have to reach up and grab on to his hand. 

So if you're going through a rough time, too, I want to encourage both of us. :) God is calling us to a season of trust. He is calling us to totally lean on him. The best way to honor him in the middle of a trying time is to be thankful for what we DO have, rather than thinking about what we DON'T have. I could do everything on my own if I wanted to. People try to do it every day. But I know that I need God. So I want to encourage you to grab on to his hand, too. There's room enough in his hands for all of us.



Today I'm thankful for...

What my friend Heather calls a cleansing meltdown. I'm having one now and it seems to be working.

Resting in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)

My children. For all my faults as a mother, they are turning out to be two awesome little men. They are sweet, caring and they love each other fiercely, despite all their fighting.

My husband. He's a hard-working man who lives for God and his family. Can't ask for better than that!

Sunshine and mild weather. Seriously, this is some glorious weather and it's always a mood-booster.

Learning lessons.

My cameras. They can be great therapy. I think I'll go pick them up again.

Friends. I have so many great people in my life. Some are nearby. Many are far away. They have encouraged me in so many ways and I'm so grateful for each one.

So I want to leave you with Psalm 91. It's awesome to read it when I feel like I'm surrounded by craziness, as many of us are from time to time, especially with everything going on in the world. Read it over and over and ponder it in your heart because it's all about how God protects those who trust him. I'm learning to trust more and more, and I hope you are, too.

Psalm 91
 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High 
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a] 
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, 
   my God, in whom I trust.”

 3 Surely he will save you 
   from the fowler’s snare 
   and from the deadly pestilence. 
4 He will cover you with his feathers, 
   and under his wings you will find refuge; 
   his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
5 You will not fear the terror of night, 
   nor the arrow that flies by day, 
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, 
   nor the plague that destroys at midday. 
7 A thousand may fall at your side, 
   ten thousand at your right hand, 
   but it will not come near you. 
8 You will only observe with your eyes 
   and see the punishment of the wicked.

 9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” 
   and you make the Most High your dwelling, 
10 no harm will overtake you, 
   no disaster will come near your tent. 
11 For he will command his angels concerning you 
   to guard you in all your ways; 
12 they will lift you up in their hands, 
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; 
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; 
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; 
   I will be with him in trouble, 
   I will deliver him and honor him. 
16 With long life I will satisfy him 
   and show him my salvation.”



Monday, August 15, 2011

Thoughts and Thanks - August 15, 2011


Yeah. 

So I have had a lot of time to think about a lot of things. I think when I go through times of worry or I let fear creep into my life, my vision becomes clouded.

I get the feeling that God sometimes lets me go through times like this because he wants ME to see where my trust lies. He doesn't need me to prove anything to him because he already knows my heart. He isn't angry with me and he doesn't have an "I'll show you!" kind of attitude, but he wants me to open my eyes. I know for a fact what he's capable of doing, having seen many amazing things that can't be attributed to anything other than his divine hand. But when it comes to my life and my health, I somehow forget all the things I've seen and I allow myself to freak out.

I am learning through this time that my faith and trust aren't always in God. I am realizing that I need to change my perspective and that I need to begin to learn from this experience.

Do I know what's around the bend? No. Do I know what the doctors will say? No. But I DO know that God is faithful to me. He always has been. He always will be. It doesn't mean I'll never be sick or have problems or have stressful situations arise, but it does mean that he will be with me through all of it and will help me become a better person because of what I'll learn in every circumstance.

So many of you have encouraged me during this time and I appreciate your thoughts and love. I have also watched many of you, my encouraging friends, go through terrible trials of your own and come out the other side wiser and stronger. I want to learn from all of you. (Please feel free to give advice if you can!)

I'm stressed about things right now and I feel like everything is swirling around me while I am fading in and out of my own life. I don't want my existence to be like that, though. Life is too short and too much of a treasure to waste on worry or on any other sort of negative attitude. So I'm going to ask God's help to turn my perspective around.



So today I'm grateful for...

Waking up and seeing my husband. Yeah, he's laid off again, but it means so much to me to have him with me when I'm going through rough patches. Maybe the timing was God-orchestrated. :)

Encouraging friends and family.

My veggie cleanse. I feel so much better, physically. I've lost some weight that I needed to lose. I have been exercising again, taking vitamins, eating healthy foods, making natural juice in the juicer, and have just been more conscious of my health overall. That can't be bad. I have 6 days left on the cleanse. I had intended to only do 10 days, but I felt so good after the 10 days that I wanted to keep going. When we finish the cleanse, I will be right about at the 1 month mark. I am sleeping better (when I'm not allowing myself to be stressed), eating better, feeling better and my skin has cleared up. All good things.

Being forced to remember that the value of life doesn't just rest in the NOW, it rests in the eternal.

Jesus. By his wounds I am healed. I'm grateful to him for those wounds.

An extra week of summer vacation! I thought cyber school was starting a week before it actually is. Kind of nice to extend summer an extra week. :)

My neighbor, Julie, who is in her late 70s. She is such a strong lady. She has endured a lot in her life, but she doesn't give up. She does all her own gardening, cooking, cleaning and housework and will probably keep going at it all for the rest of her life. She is content with a simple life. She takes care of other people and is concerned about them. She treats my kids like her own great-grandkids. She is hospitable. She is funny. She prioritizes faith, and I want to grow up to be like her. I've learned a lot from living next door to such a woman and I'm glad I can call her my friend.

Letting it go. There've been moments in the last while where I can feel my stress level rising. I can hear the fearful thoughts swirling in my head. But when I've quieted myself and listened for God's voice in the chaos, I have heard him whisper, "Let it go." I can't add another day to my life by worrying. So I'm continuously having to choose to let it go. God has his hand on me.

---------------------------------------------------

One of the dangers of stressful situations or worrisome, depressing times in life is that it becomes easy to block out the world and only focus on myself. Bad idea. There's a huge difference between taking care of myself and focusing on myself. I lose my ability to love and live a compassionate life if I'm only focused on myself and my own problems. So I am asking God to help me keep my eyes on the important things. I'm asking that he show me ways in which I can encourage other people and be his fragrance in the world. God, help me. :)


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer thoughts and thanks...

Just checking in!

As I said before, I have been taking a little break from writing the last while and it's been good. I am taking lots of photos and enjoying the summer with my kids. I have been editing my wedding work and also attempting to satiate my Instagram addiction...not happening. ;)

I am doing well, though. I got over the downturn I took not long ago...God is good about letting me wallow and then helping me get back up. I can't let the things other people do or say control me. If I do, I am putting them at a higher place in my life than God has - obviously not right. I have been pondering this scripture for a while, as well...

"He has shown you, O man, what is good; 
And what does the LORD require of you 
But to do justice, to love mercy, 
And to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah 6:8


So I am thinking that if those are the things that God requires, He isn't asking me to please everyone. He isn't asking me to worry about what others think of me. He wants me to think about justice and do the right things in His eyes. He wants me to be merciful, even to those whom I don't think deserve it (He has always been merciful to me, and I don't deserve it). He wants me to put Him first and just to walk with Him. Those are the keys to living a simple life.


I know I will never be able to fully rid my life of drama and those who create it because humans are humans, but I will continue to trust Him and listen to what He has to say about the people in my life. He has people in this world with whom He wants me to connect - some are close by, some are far away. He has things for me to do and be, and He is continuing the work in me.

So today I want to encourage you to sit back and look at your life. Look past the drama and the conflict. Look past the dark cloud days and see life for what it really is - a gift. We only get one go at it and it's a short one. We do reap what we sow, so try to sow encouragement, forgiveness and love. I am trying to do those things in my own life. I don't want to waste precious time on negativity. I'm not always successful, but God knows the motives of my heart. And He knows yours, too. That's all that matters.

Today, I'm thankful for...

Instagram. It's becoming a serious addiction, but I love that I can see other people's iPhone photos from all over the world instantly. Now all I need is an iPhone4...lol. Okay, so it's a want and not a need, but it would still be pretty fun.

My iPad2...I have been enjoying the crap out of the thing. So awesome and it was so thoughtful of my husband to get me something like that. It was unexpected, but it was a big blessing. He knows I'm not a "flowers and chocolates" girl when it comes to gifts. I like it when someone sees something simple and thinks of me, but I also like it when Sean sees something high-tech and thinks of me. Hee hee...(I'm a gadget girl and I've never been typical when it comes to anniversaries or birthdays. One year, all I wanted was a vacuum cleaner...albeit it was a Dyson, but still a vacuum. Another year, it was a fishing rod.)

Sean's job. He likes it and it gets him home from work by 4pm at the latest. How cool is that? I miss him being laid off, but I know he's a work-with-your-hands and keep busy kind of man. He's a hard worker and a conscientious one and I appreciate that about him.

A break. While homeschooling/cyber schooling can be an awesome thing, sometimes a family just needs a break. Thank goodness for summer! We are still doing educational activities here and there, but it feels nice to let it all go for a while.

Alone time. A few weeks ago, Sean took the boys to Canada for a week. At first, I was a little teary-eyed, but I decided to change my perspective. I realized that I could be sad or I could see the time as an opportunity to do things I didn't normally get to do. So I sat in silence as much as I could, I took a little road trip, I went out with friends almost every night. It turned out to be a lovely week and it was a great time. I spent a whole block of time with ME and I almost never get to do that.

Life isn't all about fun, obviously, but making the most of every day is so important. This is a reminder for myself as much as it is for you.