Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thankful Thursday

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?”  -- C.S. Lewis

Tonight I am sitting here, filled with so much gratitude that I literally could bust at the seams.

I have been so blessed in this life with such amazing and faithful friends.  

Friends who have seen me at my worst and still loved me in spite of myself.  Friends who, no matter what, have come and helped me when I have needed them.  Friends who I couldn't imagine living this life without.  Honest, compassionate, loving, and generous friends.

I'd love to tell you about what a great friend I've been to them, too.
But I can't do that.  

Over the years, I've been hateful, self-centered, and just plain rude to each of them at one time or another.  I've  been so miserable inside of myself that I've taken it out on them.

For what?

What did I gain from those actions?

What did I change?

What in the world was I thinking?

Today my friend Edith and I spent almost three hours chatting while our kiddos played at CEC.  It's our little get-away, our chance to catch up and reconnect and we try to do it whenever school is out, such as Christmas vacation or Spring Break.  I treasure her and her friendship more than she probably knows.  I've not done a good job telling her what she means to me, but it's something I am working on.  I want her to know without a doubt that they she holds an important spot in my heart.

Later tonight, my friend Loretta and I went to see the new movie, New Year's Eve.  She and I have seen many movies together over the course of our friendship and I realized tonight that I have neglected our friendship lately.  She has always been so kind to me and has never judged me no matter what I have said or done to her and for that I am so grateful.  We made a pact tonight to see more movies together in 2012. Kind of a new year's resolution for our friendship, you could say. I'm looking forward to us reconnecting through movies and dinners over the next several weeks/months.

So, tonight, on this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for my friends... the ones I was blessed to spend time with today and those who were with me in my heart.

I'm so blessed and it's about time I give thanks for the blessings which I have been given.

What are YOU thankful for this last Thursday of 2011?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What a Difference

What a difference a year makes...

This time last year, I was immersed in an ocean of self-loathing.
A miserable and depressing pile of a person, not any fun to be around at all.
Convinced that my life was not meant to be what I used to dream it would be.
Determined to accept the lonliness and despair I was feeling, to actually embrace it as being "as good as it was going to get"
Waving the proverbial "white flag" of surrender to all that I wanted and always thought my life would be.

I'd decided that this was as good as it was going to get and that I needed to just accept it and move on.  I'd given up on ever being truly happy in this life.  My "woulda, shoulda, coulda" list was endless.

My life seemed empty and I honestly couldn't see how it would ever be full like so many other people I know lives were full, full of friends, family, peace, happiness, joy...

I just figured I'd made too many mistakes and that I just simply didn't deserve what everyone else had.

Fast forward to this year. 

The difference is astounding, immeasurable...

Last year, I was going through the motions of Christmas.
This year, I was directly involved in our church's children's musical.
Last year, I was on the verge of giving up all hope.
This year, I saw the hope that Jesus gave to the world when he was born.
Last year, I was spending my free time on the computer, wasting my days away.
This year, I spent my free time in my garage, painting the backdrop for the kiddos' play at church.
Last year, I was crying about how pathetic I thought my life was.
This year, I was crying as Myddle H told me the story of how she felt "different" lately.  Of how one day, at the end of church, she felt something she's never felt before.  How she knew it was the right time to pray the prayer at the end of church and ask Jesus into her heart.  Of how she was saved.

What a difference a year makes.  

I'm sitting here today, living proof that if you give your heart to God and give up control of your life, He will make it better. He made the sorrow inside of me turn into joy.  He changed my self-loathing into self-acceptance.  He has already made my life so much better and I can see the effect He is having on every member of our family, too.

I'm struggling with how to share this good news with people I know.  I'm worried they will see me as a "fake" a "hypocrite" a "phony" -- Those people who know me and who have known me all these years would probably have a hard time believing what I am feeling is honest and sincere.

However,I want to share this thought with anyone who is currently where I was last year, it would be this:

If He can change my heart, imagine what He will do with yours.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Green Grass

I just had a text conversation with a friend of mine from elementary school.  Thanks to Facebook, we reconnected more than two years ago.  The conversation was simple enough and started with a simple question:

"What are your plans this week?"

Well, my plans involve cleaning and organizing my house and getting ready to start the new year off on the right foot.  If I am being honest, I have to admit that the clutter and rush and disorganization of the month of December almost pushes me over the edge.  My house is in a constant state of disarray, and I don't handle it well at all.  The older I get, the more I allow myself to surrender to the chaos, telling myself that what matters right now is the most amazing of holidays.  Three amazed faces stare in disbelief because the big guy, Mr. Claus, once again delivered their wishes.  This year, however, we also soaked in the amazing miracle of the birth of Jesus. The Son of God who was sent to save us all.  I am learning to live in the moment more and crave control less and less.  But, I am still a work in progress and therefore I crave order.

When I texted back that I was planning on cleaning and organizing, she reminded me that she was headed to Pigeon Forge with her family for their traditional week after Christmas escape together.  Immediately, I felt a twinge of jealousy.  Then, I was quickly reminded that not only do I have no reason to be jealous, it is sinful for me to feel that way.  She is my friend and I love her and I am happy for her.  Do I wish I was headed somewhere to meet with my parents and Daddy H's parents for a week together? Absolutely.  Is that possible? No.  My peace and joy in that moment came from the promise that was made that we will all be reunited in Heaven one day.  And what a glorious and beautiful moment that will be, right?

So, I made a choice right then and there.  I texted her back and told her how geniunely happy I was for her and   I prayed for her and her family to have a safe and enjoyable trip together.  I also gave thanks that the jealousy I initially felt had been removed from my heart and replaced by a peace... Rather than focus on what was behind me that I can no longer have, I must keep my eyes on the prize that is ahead of me one sweet day.  I told my friend that I was grateful for my Mom and that I realized that there are so many others that would have given anything this weekend to spend time with their mom or other loved one; people who celebrated the birth of our Savior alone, hungry, cold... those that celebrated without a warm coat, food in their bellies, or a roof over their heads.

Her reply shocked me: "I'd love to be home cleaning and organizing this week instead of facing a messy house when we get back home."

WHAT?  How ironic is it that we both want what the other has?

It immediately reminded of that old cliche:
"The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence"

We exchanged a few more texts and then we said goodbye for the night...

That's when I realized, even though we both want what the other has,
We both are so blessed. 

And we are, aren't we?
For that, I give thanks

Do you ever do what we did tonight and fall into the trap of comparing your "grass" with the "grass" of your neighbors/friends/co-workers/etc... I know I am guilty of it a million times over.

I find myself asking things like:

Is my house "nice enough/big enough/clean enough"?
Do my kids have the "right" clothes/shoes/toys?
Are my lessons at school "fun/interesting/creative" enough?

It's a horrible trap and it sets us up for disappointment and frustration.

I found this quote online and created this little graphic:

It's a good reminder to me that I don't need to focus on other people's grass in comparison with ours.
I need to be sure I am "fertilizing" our garden with what it needs to truly grow and prosper.

This is my prayer tonight:

Rather than worrying about the labels on my kids' clothes/toys/shoes, let me be concerned enough with their hearts that I pray with them each night.
What's in their hearts matters more than what's on their backs.
Instead of worrying if my car/house/neighborhood is as nice as someone else's, let me pray for their health and happiness.
If something happened to them, would I even care about what kind of car they had?
When I begin to feel sorry for myself and what I don't have, let me give thanks for all that You have given to me and to everyone I love.
Without You, I would be nothing.
Fill my heart with gratitude, not envy.
Jealousy does not help, it hurts.
Fill my mouth with kind and thoughtful words.
My sharp tongue has never helped anyone.
Place a burden upon my heart to always remember where I came from and where I am headed.
I cannot do this alone, but I know with You, anything is possible.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Time

What an amazing Christmas season this has been.

Why? Well, since you asked... 

Usually, I am so wrapped up (pardon the pun) in trying to make the holiday "perfect" on the outside that I end up miserable on the inside...

I sit here feeling sorry for myself that I don't have a huge family coming over, a house busting at the seams with uncles, cousins, grandparents, and all of that...

I feel anxious waiting for the credit card bills to arrive, wondering how I will once again juggle paying our regular bills in addition to the debt we accrued trying to make magic out of worldly things like the newest video game or nice tennis shoes.

I feel lonely because from where I sit, everyone else I know has picture perfect Christmases resembling a Norman Rockwell painting.

I feel exhausted from the hours I spend cooking, cleaning, arranging, decorating, rearranging, etc... you get the picture. Maybe you even know what I mean because you do the same thing.

This year, something is different inside of me.  

I honestly don't care that the bins and bins and bins of Christmas paraphenalia haven't been laid out over every square inch of our house.  Sure, I've decorated our tree and I put out the ceramic Christmas village that Daddy H and I bought at Walmart the first Christmas we were married and I've got a special place for the snowman that my dad's mom made oh-so-many years ago.  I haven't spent hours stressing out though.  I've been able to sit back and enjoy the season this year.

I'm totally okay with the fact that the kiddos aren't getting new iPads, laptops or televisions or anything else ridiculous that they asked Santa for because we don't have the money for those things.  Almost all of our presents are wrapped if for no other reason than there just aren't as many as there have been in previous years.  That's not to say that kiddos aren't going to have a great Christmas, it's that Mama H won't lose night after night of sleep wondering and worrying how she'll pay for it all come January.

I don't have a kitchen full of excess food that will inevitably go to waste because I've finally learned that just because I bake/cook, doesn't mean people will magically appear at my doorstep to eat it.  I've made a few of the kiddos' and Daddy H's favorites (and mine, too) and I'm satisfied with that.  We've got everything we could ever want/need to eat and I realize that's more than most people in this world can say on any given day.

Christmas is so real to me this year.  
The true meaning of Christmas.  

"Jesus is the reason for the season."

People say this every year.
You see it on signs outside of churches.
You see people on television claiming to be offended by the "religious" nature of this holiday.  I've always believed it, but I haven't lived it.  I've never doubted that Jesus was the son of God and that He was born on Christmas, but I also never truly understood what that actually meant.  I didn't walk the walk or talk the talk.  I didn't "get" it.

All these years, I didn't get it.

This year is different.

There are so many Christmas songs that I've heard on the radio, the ones I've sung since I was a child.  The ones whose lyrics are so familiar, that for many years, I sang right along with them, not hearing what was being sung, just singing along robotically, going through the motions just like I was when decorating my house, cooking holiday favorites, or shopping for the newest "must-have" toy for hours on end. Making a list of what needed to be done since it was December, and ticking away at the list, hoping that if I did it perfectly enough, the emptiness in my heart would disappear.  If only I had the perfect tree, a full house of friends and family, an endless supply of money, my heart would finally feel peace.

Of course, that didn't work.  Year after year, I tried to make it work, convinced that if I would just work harder, shop longer, cook more, then my heart would be happy.

This year, however, the lyrics to some of the oldest songs have stopped me in my tracks. Other, newer Christmas songs have brought me to tears as I listen and understand what is being said.  I don't know how to describe it other than to say that I've found myself fighting the urge to scream out loud to the world:

" I really, really GET IT!!!"

God sent his Son to save me.
To save each of us.  
Even though we weren't worthy of being saved.

This is the reason my heart is so full this year.  

I am not sad.

Peace and happiness fill the empty places within me.

Grateful doesn't even begin 
to describe how I feel this Christmas.  

There is no other gift 
I could ever imagine
 that could even come close 
to comparing to the 
Greatest Gift of All:

John 14:27 
 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beginning Again

Nearly three years ago, I started this blog in an attempt to become more grateful for the blessings in my life.  I thought the title was clever for many reasons -- first of all, it's a play off of the common phrase "attitude adjustment"  -- I've needed one of those for a long, long time.  It also shows the desire for my heart to change, to go from being someone who complains at the drop of a hat to someone who gives sincere thanks for everything, even those things which seem inconvenient or insigificant. 

I didn't realize it then, but back in 2009, a seed had been planted in my heart to make this change in my outlook on life.  I can't remember exactly how or when it was, but I had been feeling for a while that I needed to make a conscious effort to offer thanks for all that I've been given. So, I started the blog as a New Year's resolution and posted frequently for a while.

As New Year's Resolutions go, I started strong and then slowly, but inevitably, I fell back into the trap of working too much, griping and complaining just as much, and taking for granted those things that people in different circumstances would give all they had for.

Since I first started this blog, I've grown older and I'd like to think wiser. Amazingly over the past three years, and especially within the last six months, I've accepted who I am and what gifts and challenges I've been given in this life.  I've been transformed from the inside out -- I am no longer a depressed, ungrateful, self-loathing wife, mom, and teacher. I am a new me, a calm and peaceful person who actually looks in the mirror in the morning and gives thanks for another day to live this life I'm blessed to live.

People I've known for a over a decade now have noticed this change in me and some have even asked me what I attribute the difference to... Maybe it's a new medication or an inspiring book, or even a magic formula. 

I am more than happy to share my "secret" with anyone who asks:

My new medication is Jesus, the book I'm reading is the Holy Bible, and the formula to happiness and peace is giving all that I am and all that I have to the One who created me. 

A flame has been lit inside of me that cannot be extinguished.
I've totally and completely surrended myself to Him. 

My mind and heart are so full of thoughts, questions, examples, and so much, much more that relates to the amazing mercy that was shown to each of us at the cross.  I am going to use this blog as a way of documenting my continued transformation towards being truly and completely grateful for every single thing. 

Now I understand. 
Now I know. 
Everything that happens and everyone I encounter in this life happens for a reason. 

And I choose to be grateful for every single blessing, especially those which don't seem like "my idea" of a blessing at the time.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thankful Thursday

I'm thankful that summer is getting closer by the day...

... and that with summer comes sunshine...

... and with sunshine comes suntans...

... and with all of that, comes

most of all

time together
as a family...