Sunday, March 17, 2013

More Sunflowers and a little Vulnerability

I wrote you about how the sunflower icon on my gratitude app inspired me to begin to be grateful every time I see one anywhere. You need to know that I’ve not been into sunflowers so I’ve never noticed how truly ubiquitous they are. My chiropractor has a painting of one in his office because he’s from the Sunflower Capital of Canada.(photo above) Last night I noticed that one of my friends has canisters with a sunflowers. A number of commercials have them. A couple of weeks ago I went to a conference and one of the speakers used a sunflower as her Powerpoint graphic. Sunflowers are everywhere!

At first it felt like pressure to have to think of something to be grateful for each time I saw one. If you know me at all then you probably know that I’m prone to seeing the negatives in a new situation, and that I begin to see the positives only when I’ve warmed up to said situation…a sort of self protective defense mechanism. With this new practice, I’m now getting to the point where I’m looking for things to be grateful for…with or without the presence of a sunflower. I’m also making quick notes about what I want to remember to put on the app when I have the time. I’m consciously looking for and thinking of things that I am thankful for.

Some of my basic beliefs may be different than hers but Brene Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, has valuable insights to share resulting from her research on Wholehearted living. She says that gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works--it’s not alive. For example, people may talk about having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a behaviour or action.

Brene writes that joy and gratitude can be very vulnerable and intense experiences…many of us have very little tolerance for vulnerability. So we think to ourselves: “I’m not going to allow myself to feel this joy because it won’t last.” Or “Acknowledging how grateful I am is an invitation for disaster.” And yet again, “I’d rather not be joyful than have to wait for the other shoe to drop.” Most of us, she says, have experienced being on the edge of joy only to be overcome by vulnerability and thrown into fear. Until we can tolerate vulnerability and transform it into gratitude, intense feelings of love will often bring up fear of loss.

On the face of it, who would have thought that choosing gratitude would bring out vulnerabilities. But it resonates with me as I think of how I’ve chosen that aforementioned negative attitude so much of my life. At the risk of vulnerability, and fear creeping in, I’m gradually learning to acknowledge the fear and then consciously lean into the situation, choosing gratitude. It feels good to be building this new habit.

How about you?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ubiquitous Gratefulness...

Who knew that there were so many of them…and everywhere!!

I didn’t start a Gratitude Jar on January 1 as planned. Part way through the month a friend posted about having a gratitude reminder on her cell. I thought she was talking about an ‘app’ so I searched for one. There were a couple but the one that I downloaded to my smart phone has a Sunflower as the ‘icon’. With each sunflower seed I plant I’m prompted to write what I’m grateful for. I decided that besides writing what I’m grateful for at this app I will also think of something that I’m grateful for each time I see a sunflower around me.

It just so happens that the last piece I painted at ‘Color Me Mine’ is…you guessed it…a sunflower…which is now on my kitchen table. So each time I walk through my kitchen…I’ve got to think of something to be grateful for.

Then today, I noticed that the little photo above my password prompt on my startup screen is also a photo of a sunflower plant that my ‘daughter’ had me buy a couple of years ago. I chuckled when I noticed that today since this means that each time I go to log into my computer after having been away from it…I’ve got to think of something to be grateful for.

And is it just me, or does it seem like there are a lot of commercials with sunflowers in them? Now I’ve got to think of things I’m grateful for while watching commercials?!

Who knew that there were so many sunflowers…and everywhere!

If this keeps up I’m going to be grateful all the time soon!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Saturday Work" in a Mennonite Home

For those of you who have enjoyed my writings about what it was like growing up Mennonite, you will appreciate this post by one of the "Mennonite Girls Can Cook" ladies: Saturday in Julie's Kitchen. We are from different parts of the country and even the world, but all related to this Saturday routine.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Fall Down, I Get Up...

I’ve been letting you in on the good parts of my Daniel Fast journey. Now I also want to confess the struggles.

All day yesterday and first thing this morning I was feeling weak in this fast thing…I felt like tossing it…I cheated on the eating…I was trying not to but I was giving in to the doubting thoughts which had crept into my mind. I didn’t know where those thoughts were coming from.

Driving to McD's to get breakfast early this morning (I told you I cheated…hehe) I was thinking about these thoughts of quitting…knowing I didn’t really want to…and all the while singing :

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong...

As I prayed my confused prayers, as I sang…and yes, as I ate my McD’s breakfast (which didn’t taste nearly as good as I’d imagined) I started to realize a few things.

The Daniel Fast is about petitioning God for specific things. I’ve asked Him for something very specific that’s been an albatross since my youth. It hinders me at times not only in my personal life but in my ministry for Him. I’ve not been able to breakthrough on my own in the 50ish years that it has been there. It’s a biggie.

All of a sudden I realized that my niggling thoughts of quitting, of hopelessness, of not trusting that even God could break through, started when I saw the definition of a word which spoke directly to the petition that is before the LORD at this time. These thoughts were strengthened when, around the same time, I saw a photo on someone’s blog which triggered memories of where I first got stuck with this issue. Two triggers…that stayed in the shadows until I chose to acknowledge them for what they were this morning. I realize now that the timing of these triggers were from the LORD, that they are getting me to go to the root of this issue that I am asking His help for.

This morning, I put it all down in writing in my journal, I confessed my doubts, I acknowledged my fear, and I let Him take my hand in His once again. In the midst of it all, I was able to be gracious with myself in my slip. Instead of getting into ‘all or nothing’ thinking, instead of seeing my fast as a failure now, I saw it for what it was, forgave myself…and I’m back on track.

I don’t know how God will answer my petition. I can relate to Sarah of Old Testament fame. She waited for years for God to answer her plea for a child…she took things into her own hands at one point…and had pretty much given up on ever having one of her own. Lest you think that I’m pining for a child, let me be quick to assure you that my petition isn’t the same as hers. But the concept is the same. I don't know how He will answer...or when...but I am going to choose to trust Him, to trust that even though I’ve not been able to break through in all these years…He can and will…in His time…in His way.

Psalm 27: 14 Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

He Comes to Me Singing.

Songs. He often speaks to me in songs. Ministers to me in songs. And I love it!!

I first remember getting exactly the right song at the right time with words that ministered to me when I was a teenager. My friend Jeanette and I were out in a field, perhaps picking strawberries as a summer job. She and I were having a serious discussion about something. When I went to the ‘john’ aka ‘outhouse’ the LORD gave me a song that spoke directly to what the issue was. I recall talking to her about this as soon as I got back to my row. I was excited that I had heard from Him in this way.

Sometimes the song is asking a question, like when I went on a silent retreat a number of years ago. He sang Anne Murray’s, “Can I have this dance for the rest of my life, would you be my partner every night?” I won’t go into the details of how that set the tone for my retreat but it did.

This past week I awoke at least three nights with a song in my heart that was speaking precisely to the questions/thoughts in my heart at that moment. One song I really couldn’t remember the words to, just the concept. It was one that I was surprised to have in my head. So I journaled all my thoughts and afterwards I looked up the lyrics. It choked me up a little when I saw that the first two lines were almost verbatim what I had just expressed in my journal. And the refrain reminded my spirit of a change in focus.

There is another song that came one morning which has remained with me on a daily, hourly basis. God is teaching me to ask continually for more grace. So the song I’m singing daily is:

‘He giveth more grace…He giveth and giveth and giveth again…'

Aside from His Word, the Bible, is there a special way in which He speaks to you?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Becoming Like Him

IN the Jesus Calling Devotional this morning the writer had me turn to I Peter 2: 22-24:
“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Jesus didn't retaliate. He didn't make threats. He didn't blubber to friends about how wrongfully he'd been treated. He didn't take it into His own hands but He gave the responsibility over to God the Father who judges fairly.

As I read this today my mind went to specific places where I've been deeply hurt in the past 20 years. I also thought of the verse that for many years now has been one of my life verses Philippians 3:10: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

It's a slow learning process...a lifelong one to my way of thinking...this becoming like Him. I've suffered things at the hands of others who misunderstood, who gossiped, who never checked their perceptions with me. Much of my reaction in this suffering has not been like Christ's was. But I also see how the LORD honors my prayer when I ask Him to continue to teach me, to continue to change my heart in this area. Sometimes it's hard to pray that prayer because I KNOW that He will then set up a situation in which I learn in a deeper way what this life verse means. Sometimes it takes a long time for me to be willing to pray it...

But, even before seeing this verse today, I'd been praying for relational healing during this Daniel Fast...and He has set up a situation...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Fog is Almost gone...

It’s been an interesting first couple of days of the Daniel fast. The key focus of the first three days was withdrawal from sugar/gluten and withdrawal from Facebook. I’ve typically not been consuming much sugar or gluten. But I had fallen off the wagon after being in Ontario in June to visit family. My mother made her famous chocolate pie-by-the-yard, roll kuchen, and other items that I at first resisted and then downed with pleasure. Since then I’d not really climbed back on the wagon, so withdrawals on that score have been much worse this time than when I did the fast previously.

I was surprised to realize how often my mind went to Facebook and how much I missed checking in first thing in the morning as well as at night.

Today, I feel great! A little foggy and tired still from the sugar/gluten withdrawal but good otherwise.

One of my brothers forwarded me a devotional this morning. This section of the devotional in particular struck me: James 1:14 says that sin “lures” and “entices” us into believing it provides life, gives pleasure, or fills needs.

As I said in my earlier post , I don't think that there is anything wrong with Facebook per se but my focus and attitude were no longer right...I was seeing it too much as a 'source of life' rather than going to the true Source and/or connecting with people directly. Yesterday morning I was back on schedule in having my morning time with God as I used to. It had become too much of a habit to quickly check work emails and then scroll on FB for awhile. By that time it was usually too late to do my devotions or when I did it was a quick perusal of the reading for the day and minimal prayer. How good it felt to start the day properly with Him! How I have missed that!

I expect that I will still be on FB when I’m done the 21 day fast (unless I hear clear direction to do otherwise) but I plan to be more disciplined in my viewing habits...and I want to be more disciplined both in my time with God and in making personal contact one on one with people I care about rather than relying so much on the false ‘intimacy’ of FB.

I've also started back at the gym and have done the circuit a few times. I've always walked a lot but had not been doing anything else regularly for awhile. Feels so good.

It’s interesting how the fast and my One Word for 2013, ‘discipline’, are much intertwined.

The fast continues…

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Look and See

Today my friend Cyndi posted a good blog with the following Psalm in it that struck a chord for me during this time of the Daniel Fast (and, as stated in yesterday's post, fasting from Facebook as well.) Here is a portion of it:

Psalm 34
1 I will thank the Lord at all times.
My lips will always praise him.
2 I will honor the Lord.
Let those who are hurting hear and be joyful.
3 Join me in giving glory to the Lord.
Let us honor him together.

4 I looked to the Lord, and he answered me.
He saved me from everything I was afraid of.
5 Those who look to him beam with joy.
They are never put to shame.

6 This poor man called out, and the Lord heard him.
He saved him out of all of his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord stands guard
around those who have respect for him.
And he saves them.

8 Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Blessed is the man who goes to him for safety
9 You people of God, have respect for the Lord.
Those who respect him have everything they need.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry.
But those who look to the Lord have every good thing they need.

17 Godly people cry out, and the Lord hears them.
He saves them from all of their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken.
He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.

19 Anyone who does what is right may have many troubles.
But the Lord saves him from all of them
20 The Lord watches over all of his bones.
Not one of them will be broken.

22 The Lord sets those who serve him free.
No one who goes to him for safety will be judged.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Face Off: Facebook or His Face.

I’m doing the Daniel Fast again this year.

Some of you may remember that I did it a couple of years ago. I did it for spiritual reasons that time which in itself was a tremendous blessing. But I also benefited in ways that I’d not expected. Namely, my badly sprained ankle was much better after those 21 days of clean eating.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was preparing for the fast I had the fleeting thought that I should perhaps go off Facebook during this time but then completely forgot about it.

Until last night.

Last night I was talking to God, telling Him that I really wanted to hear Him during this time. Immediately, I heard in my mind, ‘Then turn off Facebook.’

Shoot!! Can you say: Ambivalence?

I DO want to hear him.

But as someone who is an extrovert living alone and working 100% from home I’ve often said that my friends and family on Facebook are my ‘water cooler chat’ people. It’s my out let, my connection to the world in between sessions with clients. I haven’t even turned it off yet but I’m already going through withdrawals…seriously. So, while there is nothing wrong with being on Facebook per se this tells me that I’ve made it a little too much of a source of life.

I do want to hear Him. With no “But…” I want Him to be my sole source of life. I am looking forward to how He will change my heart as I am obedient to Him in this time.

“Turn off Facebook and seek My Face.”

“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4

(I’m sure that I will be blogging during this time as God opens my heart and eyes to the things that He wants to teach me. But…I will not be sharing those blogs on Facebook during this time.)

Here goes...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My One Word for 2013: Discipline

Having grown up in a legalistic environment the word “discipline” has been somewhat of a tricky one for me. Intellectually I've grasped the concept. Historically it has been a word which connotes harsh punishment and strict obedience of rules. It’s a word which makes me feel like I am only loved if I do all the right things. It's a place where there is little room for loving, accepting relationship. As one who loves the LORD, and as one whose goal it has been to be pleasing to God, I used to work diligently to do it all perfectly. The consequences of this view of being disciplined was a burnout in my late 30’s.

Needless to say then, I feel slightly ambivalent as I’ve realized that my One Word for 2013 is indeed the word “Discipline”. It feels like a slippery slope back to strict adherence to rules at the expense of relationship and grace. But thankfully I have continued to grow in the grace of God. He has taught me so much about his unconditional love and his acceptance of me. I know my FATHER. So I also feel excited about the prospect of truly internalizing and appropriating this word in the context of his love for me as his daughter. (see: Hebrews 12:5-11)

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