Heart in the Clouds

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gratitudes 2011 - #4

There's a lot I could say. If you know me, you know that's true. :)

I've been thinking about the shortness of life. I've been wondering about why people waste their time on bitterness and regret and sadness, choosing to die a little more every day. I've been there, so I know what it's like to waste that time. But I'm also learning about what it takes to reverse that slow death process. I know we start dying from the moment we're born, but you can guarantee you'll die sooner (in more ways than one) if you're missing one big thing. Gratitude. It gets your focus off of the big, scary traumas and off of the little aggravations. Instead of keeping your eyes on the dark cloud above you, you begin to see the sun that is always above the storm and that God is always there. That's what happens when you choose to make that shift from the darkness to the light.

Living in the "what could have beens" is a really unhealthy thing. I know people who live that way and I've seen what it does to them. They are never happy with what they have or with who they are. They live with regret instead of being thankful for the short life they've been blessed with. They are unable to appreciate what is right in front of them because they are so focused on what they didn't do or what they don't have or where they haven't gone in life. It's pitiful, really. Regret profits you nothing and gets you nowhere. In fact, the people who live in regret and bitterness often have progressive health problems. Negativity produces negative results.

I think gratitude is one of the keys to a longer, happier life. As a part of doing volunteer work with the elderly for many years, beginning in my childhood, I met lots of people from different backgrounds and different circumstances. However, the ones who were the happiest were the ones who knew what a gift life was. They learned to be grateful for what they had, and by the stories they'd tell you'd know that they "got it". They had grasped the truth that a thankful heart is a healthy heart.

When you replace your bitterness and anger and regret with thankfulness, everything changes. I, personally, have learned so many life lessons just from getting more acquainted with the topic of gratitude. I'm still learning, too. Making the choice to be grateful and to keep being grateful was the best decision I have ever made. The thankful thoughts and emotions haven't always come easily, and there have been many times when I've lost the battle with myself. But I know through everything that God has been and always will be faithful to me, even though I don't deserve it. I think that knowing that one thing above all else, keeps me returning to my gratitude track. I hope I always return to gratitude, even after those times when I've allowed myself the occasional two-day wallow. Even in those times, I know that God loves me and will help me pick myself back up again. Part of gratitude is learning to look outside yourself. I hope to learn to do that more often as time goes on. Want to join me?

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Today, I'm grateful for...

Union layoffs. I would personally like to thank God and the Union for the layoff. Thank you, God, and thank you, Union. Because of you, I have gotten to spend more time with my husband. I think this period of time, despite a few random difficult moments, has been one of the best in the last decade. We have all spent quality time together and we've made some great family memories. The kids have gotten to know Sean better, and he has gotten to know them better.

Good news. As my friends' daughter recovers from a head trauma, I watch in amazement at the news of her speedy recovery. Miracles DO happen.

Kids who are good at doing bedtime. I have heard horror stories, so having kids who don't give me trouble when it comes time to get in bed is priceless.

Lunch dates. I am grateful that I've had more one-on-one time with my husband recently. Today it was Indian food. Mmmm... I'm thankful to have such helpful, supportive parents. They are always offering their help us out with the kids when we need it. We don't take them up on their offers as often as we could, I guess, but I appreciate knowing that help is there.

My view of God. Not long ago, I heard someone say that many people feel that God is up there somewhere, distant and just waiting for us to mess up. I sat there and thought about that for a minute. I realized that I have never, ever felt that way about God. I've never felt like he was out to get me or that he was waiting to punish me for every mistake. Instead, since I was a little girl, I've always felt loved by God and I'm grateful that, though I have had more than my share of issues, I've never had to deal with that one. It's a biggie.

Using my brain. I'm glad I've had the opportunity to use the critical thinking part of my brain. It's been a little stagnant in recent years, so I am enjoying working on something that forces me to manage my time and energy more efficiently. Having a project is a good thing. :)

I hope you know that you're loved. I hope you know that life is too short to waste on wondering what you could have done differently. Get past that. You can't change the past, but you can choose to start being thankful for what you have now. It will change the direction of your future. You would not believe the changes in my life since I've decided to start this gratitude journey. I am looking forward to seeing what else can happen as I learn more about redirecting my energy from the bad to the good.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gratitudes 2011 - PLEASE PRAY!

Tonight, I was going to post a long note about all the things I'm grateful for, but right now I'm scrapping that because I just want you to pray.

My friend and fellow "Kitten", Beth, who was the catalyst that sparked the beginning of my gratitude journey, is currently sitting in a Florida hospital ICU, waiting and watching as her youngest daughter is tested hourly for a brain injury. Her daughter had an accident this afternoon, and the base of her skull is cracked and fluid is leaking out. The doctors have said that they will have to wait 48 hours to know what type of damage they're looking at.

Everyone, please pray right now for Beth's daughter and for their whole family. Please also pray specifically for Beth because I'm sure she is in shock right now.

Father, surround them all tonight with your arms of love, and I ask that you completely heal any injury that may have been caused by this accident.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gratitudes 2011 - #2

It's still snowing. Yes, it's cold and you know how I don't like snow, but I am actually starting to appreciate it. Not sure why. Maybe it's because I've been thinking about the object lesson associated with snowflakes...you know, the one about how everyone is unique and beautiful in their own way. Yeah, that one.

Well, then I realized that perhaps by creating snowflakes, God also wanted to give us a glimpse into himself. Maybe he wants us to remember what he's capable of. Maybe he wants us to think about the fact that we'll never be able to know him fully because there are so many different facets to His personality. All we can do is watch in wonder and wait for more.

Yesterday, just for fun, I was taking photos of the snowflakes. Sometimes there's a certain type of snow that falls where you can actually see the crystals in each snowflake. That's what we had yesterday--the big, fat, fluffy ones. They were beautiful, every single one. Even the ones that weren't "perfect", which was pretty much all of them. I guess there's a lot you can learn from a teeny, tiny snowflake, isn't there?

Think about it.

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Today, I'm grateful for...

My husband. Yes, I'm STILL thankful that he's laid off. We've had a lot of family fun, and I can see his relationship with the boys is growing even more. It makes me happy to see them play together and laugh...even though I hate Nerf guns.

Cyber school. One of the best decisions I ever made, albeit one of the hardest decisions in the follow-through, was taking my son, Liam, out of elementary school and choosing to teach him at home. I never thought I'd be one of "those" people. Hee hee...I've seen his brain blossom. I've seen him learn things he never would have learned in school. Cyber school is also nice because not everything relies on the parent. I don't have to do lesson plans. I don't have to buy materials. It's all supplied, and then some! AND IT'S FREE! Yeah. I'm so thankful that God planted the idea in my head because it's not something I would have immediately thought of. God knows what our kids need and every kid is different...kind of like a snowflake, ya know? :)

Using my brain. I've kind of let my mind go to mush in the last few years. I don't make a lot of time to read, even though I go through reading sprees where I can't get enough of books. I don't get much in the way of intellectual discussion or debate, except through The Debate Kittens (who, by the way, are all awesome women). I guess I have I have let myself go a bit in the brain department. So having more opportunities to stretch my noggin recently has been really nice...and incredibly difficult.

Coffee. Yep, it's the little things.

Remembering that God is always at work in my life. You know how you get to a place, now and then, where you kind of feel like you're hidden somehow...that's what I've been feeling. I'm learning that there are times where God "hides" us. Maybe it's because he's preparing us for something. Maybe it's because he is giving us emotional recovery time or giving us a chance to put our feet up. Maybe it's happening so that we can be sure that when a door opens, it wasn't by our own hand. I don't know WHY I feel "hidden" right now, but I know that God's stirring the pot. :)

The Steelers. Yes, football is one of the things that helps to keep me sane in the mid-winter season. Don't roll your eyes at me, people! I can be grateful for football if I want to be. So there (crosses arms in a huff)! Once we win the Super Bowl (again), I'm going to have to get into hockey. I like hockey right now, but I know I'm going to need my sports fix once football is over.

Not having to act spiritual. My mom wrote a book quite a few years back called, "I'm So Tired of Acting Spiritual". I HATE when I'm in a situation where I feel like I have to act spiritual, when God really only calls us to be ourselves, to love Him and to love our neighbor. I've been in fewer and fewer situations like that as time as gone on (probably because I've learned how to avoid them). Over time, it's dawned on me that God doesn't care how spiritual we act. He can see right through our facades. He loves us for who we are, so we need to get comfortable with that person inside of us that he loves so much. He doesn't love our attempts at appearing holy or how we try to gain approval based on what we do. The more we know about him, the less we will try to hide behind fake spirituality. Just be yourself. God loves you as you are.

I hope that you remember today that you can never get bored with God. There's always something new to learn about Him. I hope you know that he knows you and loves you just the way you are, so you now have no excuse not to love yourself. If the God of the universe (who, by the way, created every living thing), thinks you're amazing...well, that means you're pretty amazing! There is something valuable inside of you that nobody else has. Something only you have to share with the world. God sees that piece of rock in there, and he's more than able to coax it to the surface, cut it, polish it and make something beautiful out of it.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Gratitudes 2011 - #1

So here we are. The 1st week of 2011 comes to a close.

I have been trying to decide what I want to do with this year's Gratitudes. Do I want to keep it going the way it's been, or do I want to change it up a little bit? I haven't decided for sure, but I DO know that I want to add in more photography. Maybe now and then I'll do an all-photo gratitude list. It's easy to do because I have things all around me to be thankful for. Also, I'm thinking that I'll blog about things outside of the "sphere of gratitude"--thoughts and dreams and projects and people and places.

I guess I'm wanting some sort of good change in EVERY area of my life. I have no delusion that my blog is being read by a lot of people. I know I have a couple of people who read every post, but I know this is something most people, even those on my FB friends list, will never see. Thus, this blog is more for my benefit than it is for anyone else. I hope it's encouraging, though, if you DO happen to read it.

I've been thinking a lot about my life recently and the things I want to see happen in my life this year. So maybe this blog will also be a place where I can work out my thoughts and experiences. But I hope you know that you are free to comment and give your own thoughts on different topics that come up.

Bear with me while I work it all out. I am, and always will be, grateful and I hope that I reflect that in my life and my words...and my photos, for that matter. :)

This week, I'm grateful for...

Tourtiere. Sean made it from scratch. In fact, he made a few. It turned out great and the crust is fabulous and I know have a freezer full of tourtiere awaiting future meals. So good.

Family time. A layoff allows for that time and I'm so grateful that we're getting to have time with Sean, even though that means our bank account is a little lower than usual. God is good and we know that there is a purpose for everything. So we're taking advantage of the time we have together.

Playdates--with and without kids. :) Recently, I've had some time with friends by myself and I've had time with friends WITH my kids. Both ways it's been good and I'm thankful for quality time in any form.

Snow. Yes, I'm trying. If you know me, you know that I HATE snow and Winter is my hibernation period. However, in an effort to really live in every season of life...and in every season of the year...I'm choosing to be thankful for the snow. It's really beautiful when it sparkels in the sun, and I love the thought that there are diamonds hidden in there for me.

New mercies every morning. I don't deserve them, but God gives them to me anyway.

A wonderful Christmas season. This is the first time in a while where, when people ask me how my holidays were, I can say sincerely that they were easy and mellow and enjoyable. There was no "rush-rush", as there tends to be. There was no insane focus on buying things and spending money. I decided after Thanksgiving that I wanted to take it easy and really enjoy the real reason for the Christmas celebration. It worked and I am so thankful that I got to really experience Christmas for the first time in a long time.

The Shawshank Redemption. I love that movie. I love it. I love it. I love it. It's a story about how you can choose to let institutionalization overtake you, or you can hold on to hope that the strength inside you can't be choked out if you don't let it. We watched it last night and it was a good reminder for me to continue to hope. God knows what he's doing.

I hope that you really think about the direction you want your life to take, especially in this new year. I hate making resolutions, but I do know that everyone has dreams. So I hope that some of your dreams come true this year. Keep your chin up. One of my FB friends, Heather Sanders, posted this as her status: "When you are down to nothing, God is up to something. The faithful see the invisible, believe the incredible and receive the impossible." It reminded me that I shouldn't give up or lose hope just because I've been feeling like I'm down to nothing. God has a plan and he's never failed me. God has a plan for you, too, and don't forget it. :) 

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."