Treasuring Today

img_0579.jpgEach and every day is a gift.

What if it continues to be rainy and cloudy and miserable for weeks on end?  It’s a gift.

What if I lose my job and I don’t know how I’m going to make my next mortgage payment?  Still a gift.

What if my spouse cheats, the cancer spreads, my children fail, and I can’t see the purpose in any of it? (Ah, this is where faith becomes so important– ) This day too is a gift.  Are you treasuring it?

Still working on the concept of ABUNDANCE, I’ve realized that we also miss it when we’re tied up with worry about the past, complaining about our present, or freaked out about our future.  What if instead we took even a moment, every day, to just focus on the good, our growth, and to be grateful?

I know, I know, some of you are already thinking, “But I don’t have a moment!  or “I can’t afford to do that!” or “Then I would just be lying to myself!”  In actuality, it is the lies in our over-stressed, over-worked, over-stimulated culture that convince us we are somehow less than what we should be when every minute isn’t scheduled with plans and oh so important things to do…  We’re a fearful bunch, really, and we believe the lies that tell us we won’t be valued if we’re not constantly on the move, or that we’ll get bored when we take time out for reflection, or that only “weirdo, hippie types” and artistic people have the freedom to experience life this way.

A friend of mine has been talking about the beauty of leaving a little margin in our lives, and in a community he is working to create.  You remember margins?in the margin That space around the edges in books and papers that gave us room to interact with what we were reading and to form relationship connections that furthered understanding…

Imagine what a little life margin could do– We could actually be fully present and available when a friend, neighbor, child, husband actually wanted to go a little deeper in conversation, or needed some help and were reluctant to ask.  We could actually be aware and notice God showing up to bless us throughout the day– splashes of color in the dreary gloom, and the coolness of a shady tree when we have to stand in the heat.  We could be people who appreciated the gift of today.

Instead we run around like the proverbial hamster on a wheel.  Constantly checking our smart phones for emails, updates, appointments, and the like, we are scheduled to the max and regularly running on fumes.

And then, the unthinkable happens and we’re forced to STOP.  We dip into reserves we didn’t save, either in time or money (lack of margin again) to attend a funeral out of state.

Life is short.  We have no guarantees about tomorrow.  But in the right frame of mind and with gratitude, we CAN treasure the gift of today.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

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“Don’t Be a Sphincter”- learning about Abundance

dog's lifeWhat? You were expecting a photo of something else? 😉

This is our family dog, Cosmo.  In dog years he is nearly 63, and yet every day he wholeheartedly gives special attention to each member of the family without holding back– from wrestling with the boys over dirty socks, to greeting my husband with a paws-on-knees ritual when Tim gets home from work, to “singing” at me as we prepare to go on our walk.  He is the living embodiment of Loyalty, even when we take him to the “dreaded “groomers, and  no matter how many times we’ve left him behind with a sitter to go on vacation.  To put it simply, Cosmo loves with everything he’s got.  When was the last time your tail wagged joyfully with each person you encountered, and throughout your entire day?

Now, I certainly don’t want to be flippant or carry the analogy further, but I have learned something from paying attention to this behavior.   When we give of ourselves– whether it’s our time, our money, our love, our service– we should be giving fully, freely, and without reservation.  Don’t you think in part this is what is meant by living a life of Abundance?  Rewards would include great freedom and joy, acceptance, and a growing awareness of one’s true purpose in life!  Unfortunately, however, many of us function more like sphincter muscles, holding back with a tight grip, and ever so cautiously, rationing out our giving.  This isn’t living out of Abundance, this is getting by from a place of Lack.

Sometimes we do suffer from an actual shortfall: an illness robs us of a long life; the loss of a job wipes out our savings, or our marriage ends and we wonder if we’ll ever have love again.  The thing is, even in these circumstances, there are countless cases where the people facing such hardships still don’t abide in lack.  This sense of depletion or “have not” is often more of an attitude than an actual condition.   Lack comes from fear, and old baggage, and bitter disappointment.  Lack tells us that if we give away, there won’t be enough left for us.  It tells us when we love, we’ll be hurt, and it reminds us of all the things we wanted that never came true.  Lack makes us feel that we’ll never keep up with the Jones’, and most significantly, it makes us question whether God (or His love) is even real.

Fortunately there is an anecdote to Lack and it can be practiced immediately, ushering in good health and Abundant living!! A thankful spirit and a grateful attitude reminds us of God’s promises and His presence.  Gratitude tells us we can trust in Him, because He has already shown His faithfulness and provision.  Gratitude shows us miracles all around us, happening every day.  When we’re truly thankful, we know how blessed we are, and out of that joyful Abundance, we can generously pour ourselves into others, filling them as well!

Happy tail-wagging, Everyone!  🙂

Teetering on the Crevasse of Complaint

How was your Thanksgiving?  Mine ended up to be a good, quiet, family-focused kind of day– with appropriate gratitude thrown into the mix– but it COULD have been very different!  It’s humbling to admit it, but as a Christ follower I think it’s important to come clean on this one.  See, within just one busy week, I all too well had a deeper understanding of the foibles of the Israelites wandering in the desert.

For those of you who don’t know the story: after God chooses Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, they lose focus, don’t trust God, and end up wandering for 40 years before they can enter the promised land.  What I never could grasp was how they could literally see the presence of God guiding them with a pillar of fire at night, and a pillar of clouds by day, and yet still they whined and complained and wanted to return to the bondage they had left. And then last week happened…

It wasn’t a storm, an accident, or any kind of tragedy that inserted itself into my thinking.  In fact, trials are times my faith kicks in high gear!  Life is actually going relatively well for me at the moment, and I KNOW how blessed I am.  Yet early one morning, battling insomnia, I decided I might as well get up and write:

‘Twas the week of Thanksgiving and all through the home, not a creature was stirring, except of course for the Mom who couldn’t sleep                                                         The stockings were in the laundry basket with care, along with the other clean whites waiting to be brought back upstairs, but currently sitting on the couch                              And Dad still asleep, and Mom heading downstairs… Her brain wasn’t settling down for a winter’s nap; there was too much to do                                                                     With counters and tables all covered in clutter ( excessive junk mail- thanks to the recent elections) She looked around at the piles and under her breath began to mutter…

Wow.  Can’t you just hear the pity party?  Had I stayed on that track, my Thanksgiving might have been ruined by my own poor attitude, and this could have been a very different blog entry.

So what happened to bring me into such a funk?  After all, though I might not see pillars of fire and clouds, I have experienced God working in my life!   (Drawing Water even just had a wonderful ministry opportunity on Saturday.)  The sad truth of it is, a dangerous stronghold for me is an old spirit of independence.  I get busier and busier with a to-do list, and pretty soon I start believing the lie that I have to do everything on my own.  At these times I still talk to God, but I sure don’t “have time” to slow down and listen to Him.  Maybe the Israelites were tired too; maybe they were stressed about upcoming holidays.  Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the holidays (and the growing hype about Black Friday Sales) tend to pull Christ followers out of alignment- what better way to say to the world, that “Peace” is a myth?

Anyway, I put on the brakes and have spent more time counting my blessings, and I can’t tell you how genuinely grateful I am that the Holy Spirit convicted me mid-complaint!

And now I’m here to exclaim, ere I wrap up this post-
A time of TRUE Thanksgiving, I wish for you most. 🙂

The Things I Don’t Have (for which I am still grateful)

Lately it seems I’m living in the land of whiners– Seriously Pacific Northwesterners, must you complain about every cloud and raindrop and temperature dip “below normal” for this time of year?  And what about all of the negative news the media bombards us with each day?  I think I remember reading a statistic that said if events in the world were proportionate to the way news is covered, (negative stories to positive stories) we would have destroyed the planet by now!  Is it any wonder people have a hard time with the concept of experiencing true joy?  I’m not just talking about “glass half-full” optimism, or happiness in fortunate circumstances, or even a giddy, childlike emotion; I’m talking about finding joy even at the bottom, & having a really tough time…

It so happens a couple of women’s book study groups at my church are reading Kay Warren’s book, “Choose Joy”, (I highly recommend it!!) and our discussions have got me thinking.  Many people will talk about creating a gratitude list of our blessings, and to add to it regularly. While this makes great sense, doesn’t it also add to the myth that joyful feelings follow positive thoughts and circumstances only? What if, I wondered, we created a list of the things we don’t have– traditionally the negative or painful things of life and chose to be grateful for them as well?  Well, I’ve started my list (below) and would love to hear your thoughts / additions in the comments! Feel free to forward it to your friends too!! Who knows?  Maybe together we can help inspire people to put a stop to their whining and begin celebrating all they have, and ALL THEY DON’T!!

I’ve lost my mom, wrecked my knee, struggled with depression, and battled chronic aches and pains –these make me compassionate

I’ve let go of lofty aspirations for myself and my children, owned my baggage, peeled away the cover of denial, and accepted trials as opportunities to grow– these build my character 

I’ve got a limited wardrobe, an 11 year old Subaru that I share with my son, and I am woefully lacking skills in gardening, housecleaning, and technology–these keep me humble

I’ve experienced rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and a long-held belief that I was unlovable–these drew me to seek Jesus

And now in the hard stuff, I have a life of joy I never imagined was possible.

Nothing Beige About It

I am SO grateful for the colorful world we live in!  (True, sometimes living in the Pacific Northwest after a particularly lengthy gray winter we forget about the vibrant beauty all around us, but then come the SUN BREAKS, ahhhh…)

On this particular day however, it’s not just the colors of the blooming tulips, daffodils, & delicate lacy cherry trees that are inspiring me.  In fact, just driving past a bunch of balloons announcing an open house on my way home this morning, and then catching the new Target ad with the acrobats descending from a hot air balloon to “color our world”  sent my soul soaring :-).  While I have always admired women who carry off the classic monochromatic beige or white ensemble (think Diane Keaton), my style has always been more …out there.  Nothing lifts my spirits like a sunny yellow top or a raspberry handbag!

In my view, bright bold color belongs everywhere- just as we find it in nature.  Seriously,  what fun is a beige car? beige walls? beige food on a plate?  And where would we be without the colorful people who explore, invent, create, amuse, and just plain make a statement?  I’ll never forget the advice from acting teacher (Michael Shurtleff) who warned us about boring, uninteresting performances when we took no risks and “played vanilla” on stage.  Can’t we also just as easily live boring, uninteresting BEIGE-filled lives? What a waste of the unique gifts each one of us was given to share with the world!

Now I know  there are those who are afraid to stand out… afraid to be noticed; but if I could encourage you to add even a little “splash of color”… We all miss out whenever one of us chooses to live a life in which s/he settles for blending in, and never “pops” with the special something s/he was meant to share with the world.  Color is about surprise, excitement, joy- a feast for the senses.  We laugh at a clown’s red nose, admire the dense multi-colored plumes of a peacock, and feel refreshed under the cool green canopy of leafy trees. Granted, we might not all appreciate the giant, 84 colors to a box kind of crayon set, but even with just a few crayons, great beauty, and variety, and a richness follow :-).

Each time clouds have covered the sun while I’ve been writing today, my awareness of the importance of bright, bold, vivacious color in my life has become increasingly heightened,  and I’m truly grateful of the times I can experience it in fullness.  It’s the small things really, that add up to a life well-lived.  Taking the time to move past the safety of beige and relish in the unexpected is one of them.  (chips and salsa sound so good to me right now!! ;-))