The Gratitude Initiative, Day 15

It has taken some intense patience for me to resist posting this day early. I’ve wanted badly to skip ahead, because I’m a bit of a masochist.

Psalm 50:14-15, 23

14 Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,

15 and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

23 He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

At this stage in her book, Ms. Demoss invites her readers to make a list of hard things they are/have experienced and look upon them as reasons to give thanks. I know, sick, right?

Have you ever heard that song, “we bring a sacrifice of praise/into the house of the Lord?” It’s super upbeat and cheerful, and everyone gets really into it, and I always want to square dance in the aisle when we sing it.

It’s a fun little number, but it seems kind of absurd. While I understand that there is joy to be found in a Christian’s suffering, I also know it has the capacity to hurt like. . .um. . .really, really bad pain. Like lemon juice in spiritual paper cuts, or something. A sacrifice of praise is hard-fought. It occurs in that moment when you’re able to fight back everything in you that screams, “BUT IT’S NOT FAIR!” and instead choose to say, “Not my will, but Yours.” Those are usually gritted teeth moments for me, moments when I’m not necessarily happy about what I’m doing, but I know that my feelings will eventually follow my actions.

I wrote all of the above several days ago, while preparing this post. In that moment, I was excited to look at the hard parts of my life and choose gratitude. But God wasn’t about to let me get away that easily, and while I cheerfully planned clever hardships about which to be grateful (ie: “I will never meet Tim Tebow, which means I will never make a fool out of myself in front of Tim Tebow”. . .see how easy?), the aggregated effect of the past few months of my life has started to weigh heavily on my heart. So writing this post was difficult. I figured I needed to be done faking the gratitude thing. This one, by its very nature, had to be genuine.

Difficulties for which I am and will be grateful:

1) This summer. It’s been surprisingly hard. The job for which I’d been hired ended up not working out, which means that this summer has been, among other things, a fascinating case study in ‘hermiting.’ (I started the summer with maybe 3 social skills, and I think I’m down to 0.5 now). But this experience has not only given me a great amount of rest from the valley of the shadow of death that was my last semester, it has caused me to appreciate the busy seasons of life. Plus, I know that by November, I’ll be looking back on this summer and pining for it, because discontent is like hope in that it springs eternal in the human breast. So maybe I should just be grateful for it now, eh?

2) Loans and budgeting. Loans grate on me. I really hate owing anything to anybody. But if I didn’t have loans, it would take me forever to get through school, and I would probably drop out. And budgeting. . .well, let’s just say that I thought I was not materialistic before I had a budget. And while I’m not materialistic in the sense of wanting materials, I’m wildly extravagant when it comes to learning and experiences. I’ll shell out hundreds for a cool martial arts class, to go bungee jumping, to set up an organic garden or buy a chicken. Of course, I haven’t done any of these things yet because I haven’t had hundreds to shell out, courtesy of le budget. But it’s a good thing that I have a budget. First, it keeps me from getting further into debt. Secondly, it helps push me to be creative with what I do have. And thirdly, it relieves all sense of guilt if I do manage to save up a little and spend it on something cool. Therefore, I am grateful for my tiny bank account–it exists.

3) This time period. I’m being pushed. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s like my dear friend Chelsea said one time, “If you’re gonna pray for humility, you may as well just pray to have a terrible day.” True dat, my love. I haven’t yet had the courage to pray for humility, but I prayed for a lot of other stuff that I assume is taking place right now. And, let’s be frank–on one of my dramatic days,  I would describe it as “the worst thing EVER.” But a) it’s an answer to prayer, though I really need to be more careful next time, and b) it’s definitely for my own good. When I’m humble enough to not be ticked off about it, this time is showing me a lot about myself. Stuff that needs to be changed. And that’s a good thing, even if it feels a bit like having an emotional root canal, without anesthesia or a cute dentist.

4) Columbia. I’ve been a bit of a poop-face about Columbia since moving here. I compared it to Ankara and Chicago and found it lacking in. . .I don’t know exactly. But I am realizing that most of the lack is within me. If I’m not having fun or growing or doing whatever it is I think I’d be doing elsewhere, it’s because I’m sitting home picking my nose on Friday nights, not because the city isn’t offering me anything. Also, Columbia has some real gems–there are tons of farms around here that offer awesome produce and ethically raised meat (and the growing season is relatively long). It’s close to a lot of awesome tourist places, like Charleston, Asheville, and Savannah, not to mention flanked by the beach and mountains. It’s warm–my snot didn’t freeze once this whole winter! And Columbia has tons of mom and pop stores just waiting to be explored, which just makes my heart sing. I love moms. And pops.

5) Loneliness. After having made this transition, I’m realizing how much my friends over the years have meant to me, and how much I (like everyone else in the world) thrive when I have a stable support network of deep friendships. It usually takes me a couple years to build said support system, and while I expected it coming to Columbia, I am still staggered by the depth of the loneliness that sometimes sweeps over me. But I will choose to be grateful for it, because I am learning through it. I’m learning to be productive with pain, rather than stagnating in it (and by “learning,” I mean “failing, but still hopeful”). I’m developing a deeper gratitude for the friends I’ve developed over the years, friends I honestly don’t deserve and have often undervalued. And once again, I think there’ll be some pretty great spiritual pay off to this whole thing, if I can just make it through.

Wow. This post is long, and relatively unedited; but it’s bedtime, and sleep is one of my favorite blessings, so I apologize for the rough vernacular and long ramblings, but. . .oh well.

Ok, y’all, you’re up. You can go with the theme or just be grateful for good things; I’m not the Gratitude Police. And PS: You guys are awesome. Truly.

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3 thoughts on “The Gratitude Initiative, Day 15

  1. First, because you said something that reminded me of it and I can, I want to say that I have never had a root canal without anesthesia. But I have had an anesthetic-less cavity drilling that turned out to be a precursor to a root canal four years later. Well, technically I had a form of anesthesia, I just happen to be part of a very small percentage of the population on which it had no effect. So when the dentist took a break halfway through the drilling to give my nerve a rest so it wouldn’t get permanently irritated, I was feeling it all. Yet never said a thing because I assumed that everyone felt that pain and to mention it would be proof that I was unable to cope with common pain. I later refused to wear a coat during the German winters because I decided that cold was a psychosomatic symptom. Seeing a pattern, oh wise counselor?

    1) Before getting to the “theme,” I’m going to write what I thought of when I had read the verse but not your summary of what Ms. Demoss wanted her readers to do with it: I am thankful that God is honored by thank offerings. Seeing God honored and glorified is one of my obsessions. I desperately want to please him. But for him to be honored by my actions would top that by far. But I don’t even know how to please him. Should I do this or the alternative. Should I pursue this or try to stifle that? While I was trying to figure this out, he told me that it’s not about the actions, it’s the intent. My desire is to please him and I am actively pursuing that. Which I choose doesn’t really matter to him, just the heart with which I chose it. And now I see this verse. Which says that he is honored by my sacrifice of thanks offerings. He is honored by my sacrifice of a two year break in my education and career plans, of leaving the community where I have come to know him in a completely new way, of returning to BFA in a different capacity despite the scary potential of having it severely disfigure my memory of one of the best times of my life. I have worried that this is just something I’ve made up, that he hasn’t “called” me to this and could have other plans that I’m missing as I proudly take my own road and tell him I’m doing this for him. But no. I am sacrificing these things as a thank offering to him for who he is and what he has done. And he is honored by that, just as he is pleased by my intent to please him, rather than by the actions that come out of that intent. I, a little human with major issues, am bringing him honor. Whoa.

    2) Since you already said we can’t do duplicates, I’m going to pull a fast one on you and refer to my first gratitude on yesterday’s post as one of my difficulties that I am thankful for. I mean, I haven’t gone to bed yet since writing that one so, in a way, it should still count for today’s, right?

    3) It says past or present hard things so I’m also going to say leaving Turkey. Not that I’m thankful for no longer living in Turkey. But rather for what he put in me by taking me out of Turkey. That year was the first time that I really understood and could truthfully say “better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere.”

    4) The writing of my thesis. By which he taught me what it means to rely on him rather than the strength of horses and the balance between relying on him and his faithfulness while still being faithful in carrying out the tasks assigned to me. Or rather began to teach me that. Gave me a tiny but overwhelming taste of what it could look like.

    5) I am going to claim what I hope to be true as being true and say I am thankful that you don’t mind me posting such an insanely long comment.

  2. I like the theme! Hard tho for real. I’ve already found myself on previous days looking at random objects and almost writing “Scissors… yeah, I”m grateful for those.” But I shall try. 🙂

    1) Joel deploying Monday to be gone for 6 months. There seemed to be almost no “up” side to this until about a month ago when God started working in Joel and me, showing us seperately and then together that this time would be so unique, possibly one of a kind in our lifetime event (since we’re considering leaving military) and so we should be ready to soak up the unique spritual benefits to be gained from it. Believe it or not, I am actually a bit excited.

    2) Headaches. For one, it makes me appreciate the times I don’t have them and for two, it keeps me focused on eternity, that better place of no pain.

    3) Distance from family. This one is so hard, but I have absolutely seen the fruits of this to be grateful for. I guess you never know how much you are leaning on someone until you can’t. Thankfully, the Lord has taken over and (shocker) overwhelmingly delivered.

    4) Child-bearing. Obviously, the biggest thing to be grateful for after months of PAIN and a few hours of OHMYGAH*INSANE*PAIN is the product, my beautiful kids. But not so much the lingering and ugly changes to my body. Humility and perspective on whats important are two things I’ve gained from that… but yeah, it’s still hard.

    5) Wow, I’m gonna have to break the trend on these last four because I’m having SUCH a hard time thinking of ANY more difficulties in my life! Which is something to be immensely grateful for. So there’s #5.

  3. “Difficulties for which I am and will be grateful:”

    I like your determination in the “I am and WILL be grateful.”

    1. This is so shallow. I am thankful for the bull frog that is going crazy in my back yard right now. I mean it is the most annoying sound, but there are now tiny frog eggs growing in our pond. My son proceeded to tell me all about them and when I said, “son, how do you know all of this?” He replied, “Well, mom I read the book about the life cycles of frogs.” So, every time I hear that bull frog, I smile because my boy loves nature. I mean really loves nature and I thankful for his excitement over God’s creation. (It really is amazing….stay tuned because I am going to take pics and put them on my blog:))

    2. I am thankful for my real father. Even though we don’t talk and most likely never will. The Lord has really used him to teach me what a Real Father is like and for that I am eternally thankful. My heart has been broken more times than I care to even think about. But, the joy, peace and love from the Lord are the Best Band-Aid ever. He is the best wound Healer.

    3. Through all the difficulties, He teaches me so much. It never ceases to amaze me at all He has us His sleeves. So, I am thankful for sanctification.

    4. I am thankful that even though it was hard for me to get pregnant and many tears were shed, I was able to have a baby. And He gave me the sweetest boy ever. I am thankful that M is such an affectionate child. He has taught me a lot about accepting love and not turning it away or running from love.

    5. I am thankful for the trials that my husband and I have had in the past. These trials were not fun, but they have played a part in the restoration of our relationship. HE has redeemed our broken marriage and made it something beautiful.

    I am too tired to proof read. Please forgive me:)

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