Saturday, July 31, 2010

Choosing Gratitude

It's been an interesting week. And by interesting, I mean financially stressful.

Several weeks ago, we took our van to the shop to have the air conditioning repaired, which turned out to require much more work than we'd thought. Also, our weed-eater breathed its last.

This week, the lawn mower completely died. And the brakes went out in the van, requiring a brake job and new sensor. Also, I received my second ticket in 4 months for failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign - in the park, no less.

Needless to say, my attitude regarding all of this has been considerably less than sanctified. I was frustrated with our van and its seemingly constant issues; angry with small-town cops (have they nothing better to do?); fed up with my darling children, who have continued to fight, whine, and argue their way through the week; and discontent with life in general. I was even upset with God: Why all of this all at once? When is He ever going to give me a GOOD day? I found myself thinking, I deserve better than this!

Numerous times throughout the past several days, I heard a still, small voice: Give thanks in all things! but I quickly dismissed it. I didn't want to give thanks. I wanted to be mad.

Today the voice was impossible to ignore. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!. . . be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:4,6)

And the truth is, I have much to be thankful for:

a van that generally gets us where we need to go
mechanics who know what they're doing
the money to cover unexpected expenses and still provide for our needs
the fact that the lawnmower broke when Danny was using it and not when I was using it
a lot of "friend time" this week - an unexpected blessing
a husband who works hard at his job and also works hard at home
encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ
a church family I absolutely love
four very un-boring children

And yes, I am even thankful that God loves me enough to humble me at the park by showing me that I am not above the law - even at a stop sign.

It's a choice, you see. I can choose to be angry and bitter and discontent. I can choose to bathe in self-pity. OR I can choose to train my thoughts on the gift of grace and eternal life I've been given, when I deserve eternal condemnation and death. I can choose to repent of my selfish attitude and praise God for the many, many blessings He lavishes on me every day.

And that is exactly what I choose to do, by His grace. God, I thank you that life is sometimes frustrating and hard. I thank you for the daily trials, which serve to show me my need for You. And I thank you that even though I sometimes have a bad day, or a bad week, I always serve a GOOD God.

. . . always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father (Ephesians 5:20)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Confessions from the Road

I sat down to put together an account, complete with pictures, of our recent trip to Westboro, WI. But as I've thought through the past 9 days, I've realized something: this week has not turned out the way I thought it would. Not even close. And I've a few thoughts I feel compelled to share, more important than pictures and a rundown of the week's activities (although these are sure to follow at some point!)

We spent most of the week in a beautiful wooded, hilly setting. Although it rained the first 2 days, the storm clouds eventually blew over to reveal a brilliant blue sky, studded with fluffy white clouds. The air was crisp and clean; the lake sparkled in the sun; the wooded paths beckoned. In so many ways, it was a wonderful getaway. I got to listen to Danny preach from the Word in 9 sessions (I guess it was more like 6 or 7 - the kiddos didn't always do so well and we missed a few). We spent time with good friends and even got to set off a few fireworks. We swam, climbed a rock wall, went boating, hiked, met new friends, laughed, played games, and had some really great family time. I didn't cook one meal or clean the house for 9 days! It doesn't get much better than that.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, used the week in an entirely different way than I had imagined: He pretty much gave me a spiritual smack down!

Whether or not you have kids, you can imagine that a week spent traveling with them can bring out the best AND the worst - in the whole family. And for the first few days, it definitely brought out the worst. They fought. They whined. They cried. We yelled. We spanked. We cried. It was awful. Do you ever have those times when you wonder: what am I doing wrong, and how on earth do I correct it?? We were at our wits' end.

But God used the week to reveal my need for Him. It was like He held up a giant mirror and showed me the frightfully vivid image of my ungrateful, critical, complaining spirit, especially when it came to the way I responded to Danny and the kiddos. He reminded me that I haven't made time with Him a priority lately, and that this isn't just due to the busyness of daily life. Even in that setting, with all the time in the world, I failed to rise early and spend time with Him in the beauty of the nature all around us. And when I don't spend time with Him, my thoughts and responses are according to the flesh.

So . . . It was a GOOD week, because it made me hungry. Hungry to soak up truth from God's Word. Hungry to spend time at His feet. And hungry to live a life worthy of the calling I've received because of Christ. Hungry for HIM. When He is not my priority, everything gets messed up, and I only end up depriving myself of the greatest possible joy. I focus on myself, instead of on the One whose blood flung my sins to the farthest corners of the universe and clothed me with His righteousness.

I am putting this out there because I came home with a new resolve: to make Christ my first priority. To put Him ahead of my personal agenda, ahead of TV, ahead of running, ahead of other relationships, ahead of the all-too-urgent demands on my time which will always be part of life on this earth. I came home with a resolve to lean on Christ for a heart of gratitude, gentleness, and love. If I try to lean on myself for these things, which has been the case recently, I'm attempting to draw water from an empty cistern. He alone can restore my joy. He alone can provide the promise of hope. He alone can give me the patience to deal with whining, fighting children in a way that doesn't discredit the gospel!!

It's frustrating, but GOOD, to know that God's plan isn't my plan. It's more painful, and it's ultimately better, because the pain and frustration draw me to Him. And that's always a good thing!