Monday, October 31, 2011

Reformation Day!

This morning I was going along my merry way of getting ready for work.  I was thinking about tonight and the great Halloween trick-or-treating bonanza.  Then I saw a friend's Facebook status: "Happy Reformation Day :) On this day Martin Luther forever changed the future of the church."  I can't believe that I had almost forgotten one of THE most important dates in church history.

Here's a little blurb I found on this site: Reformation Day is an important liturgical festival that is celebrated by Lutherans and Christians of many Protestant denominations.  It commemorates Dr. Martin Luther's posting of his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517.  This act triggered the movement in world history known as the Reformation.  While the historical date for the observance of Reformation is October 31st, most churches celebrate it on the last Sunday in October.  

What a moment to remember!  If he hadn't done this, would I now have the opportunity to worship in a church of my choice today?  It's something to think about that's for sure.

In honor of Reformation Day, let me give you a chance to listen to this fine piece of music by Phil Driscoll, penned by Martin Luther.

Here are the lyrics:

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord Sabboth, his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers
Not thanks to them, abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill,
God's truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blessed Are The Meek...

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

All of the Beatitudes are fairly counter-intuitive when held in light of our culture. This third one given by Jesus is no different. In fact, it’s this third one where one might begin to wonder if Jesus is biting off a little more than He can chew, so to speak. After all, thousands of years of human history have seemingly shown us that the meek do not inherit the earth.

Based on history… we see that conquerors are the ones who inherit the earth. The affluent inherit the earth. Those with power and position inherit the earth. Those with a specific birthright inherit the earth. The meek? Not so much.

Part of the problem with understanding this beatitude, however, is that we might not really know what ‘meek’ means. I hardly ever use the word ‘meek’ in conversation… I hardly ever hear the word ‘meek’ used by others in conversation. I think many of us, when we hear the word ‘meek,’ immediately translate it or associate it with the word ‘weak.’

So it’s tempting… when Jesus says: “Blessed are the meek…” for us to read into the passage: Blessed are the weak. And then just assume that Jesus is trying to make those of us who really don’t have the power and authority to make any significant changes to how the world operates feel better about ourselves. But that’s NOT what Jesus is talking about here. He’s not talking about weakness here.

The word meekness has a very peculiar meaning behind it. Perhaps the best definition I’ve heard used to describe meekness is this one: ‘Controlled strength.’ It’s not a lack of strength. It’s not an absence of strength. It’s not a lack of courage or ability or power. Meekness actually assumes strength… but that strength is under the will of the one who is entrusted with that power.

The word meek actually comes from a word that means ‘liquid.’ An interesting definition. Take a regular egg as an example. If you want to crush the shell… you will have no problem with breaking it down. If you want to crush the yoke… then you are going to have a harder time accomplishing that. That liquid, adaptable yoke… will just press around your resistance.

Maybe what Jesus is trying to teach us is that there is a strength that comes when we move towards humility and gentleness and when we learn how to control our strength. So again… meekness is not weakness. In fact, meekness can’t be weakness. You have to actually have strength that is harnessed in order to be meek. So this isn’t about losing confidence or lacking power or courage or strength.

In fact, it’s about capturing it. This isn’t Jesus condoning a life of indifference… or laziness… or passivity. He isn’t inviting us to be uninvolved… or just sit back and let the world pass us by. He’s actually inviting us to take all of our strength and place it under His submission… He’s inviting us to take all our energy and power and use it for good… to use it for love… to use it for God’s kingdom.

By the way, whether you know it or not, I bet just about everybody who is reading this article has displayed meekness recently. How many of you stopped at a red light sometime this past week? All of you, hopefully. And when you stop at a red light… you have the power to run that light. All you have to do is take your foot off the brake… hit the gas… and you are on your way through the red light. You actually have the capacity to act on that decision.

But you choose not to. And when you stop… you are basically yielding to someone else so they can get to where they are going. And in turn, others will do the same for you so that you can get where you are going. And this creates a better and safer system of travel… and this principle leads to a better society. When we yield ourselves… this actually promotes the most good.

We understand that if you choose to run the red light… and someone else chooses to run the red light… and if that behavior becomes consistent… anarchy would be the rule on the road and eventually someone would be needlessly killed. This leads to an important truth: If you always do everything you could do… you would actually bring more harm to the world than good.

And what we have to do… is come to a place in our lives where we ask the right question. That we get beyond asking: What is my entitlement? What is my right? But rather we ask: What can I do that would lead to the most amount of good?

Meekness is not a life without strength… it is a life of controlled strength. It is a life which never uses strength to overpower others… but rather to empower others.

So I say we take Jesus at his word. Let’s resist our ambition and let’s resist the temptation to use our talents, and strength, and our intelligence to overpower and control others. And let’s take all that we have… all we are… all our strength and passion… and bring it under control. Specifically, that we bring it under His will. And let’s use all that he gives us to serve humanity. Let’s use all that he gives us to empower others. Let’s use all that he trusts us with to accomplish the most good in the world.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lessons From an Unwanted Plant

Last year, Bill's mom gave us a flat of plants. I think some were pansies and the rest were dusty millers.  I was not going to use any of the plants in any landscaping that I had planned to do, but at that time, we had adopted the mentality that we would take anything that the in-laws offered and toss it ourselves.  (This was during the time that they were trying to get all their stuff out of the parsonage so they could move on with retirement.)

I don't normally toss live plants in the garbage, so I asked around at the office to see if anyone could use these plants, and a co-worker was more than willing to take them off my hands.  I gave her all the plants I had been given - or so I thought.  A couple days later I noticed one remaining plant sitting in its little plastic container next to a transplanted hosta, and I mentally noted that I should probably give that one to my co-worker as well.  I never did.

That plant (I'm going to call him Dusty - creative, I know), amazingly enough to me, started growing - and growing - and growing.  Please keep in mind, he was in the original plastic container that it came with.  He outgrew my transplanted hosta, to the point that he  overshadowed the hosta.  I did not water him, I did not weed around him, heck I didn't even plan to plant him!  He grew anyways.  He pushed his roots through the plastic and was firmly planted in the ground. AND he flourished.  It's not the ideal planting for him, but he made do with what he was given. 

Shouldn't we be doing that?  The saying goes "Bloom where you're planted."  Granted, we may have a bit more control over where we are than Dusty did, but sometimes we don't.  It's how we deal with what we consider to be the "not-so-perfect" garden we're in that matters.  Dusty put his roots down right where I left him, and he grew.   We may not be in a job that showcases our talents, we may not think we even have talents to showcase.  We may not be living where we would prefer, or be relationally where we would rather be.  Based on Dusty, I  think these are just excuses.  He was in a plastic container (the flimsy, one of many on a flat of others type container) - not even a pot!  He'd much rather be actually planted in the ground.

We're usually so concerned about blooming that we forget to put our roots down.  Unfortunately, we can't bloom without our roots being firmly entrenched in the soil.  Busy-ness prohibits a lot of growth, and certainly there must be growth before anything can bloom.  We are where we are for a purpose, and trying to move to a new place could prove disasterous, if done incorrectly.  Dusty had roots in the soil, so I couldn't just pick him up and take him out of his plastic container, it would have killed him.  I could have attempted "plastic container surgery" and cut the plastic away, but even that could have harmed him, so I will leave him be. He did fine enough without me.

Here's to growing some roots, regardless of our container!

Enjoy the picture of Dusty below:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bad Habits Rearing their Ugly Heads or The Joy of Submitting to my Husband

I love the way the Lord has designed the family. I realize that any woman who subscribes to the mantras of the feminist regime is probably cringing at this very idea of a woman being submissive to her husband, but I  love it. Putting into place the proper order of authority in a household brings blessing to everyone in the family. 

In the past, we have had this hierarchy of responsibility wrong in our house, which is why I can say that things are so much better the way they are now, with Eric submitting to the Lord and me submitting to him and the Lord. It takes an immense burden off my shoulders. If only other women knew how much of a burden they are carrying by not doing things this way! It's amazing how much less stress you will feel if you work at submitting to your husband (although, it didn't feel like less stress at first for me). Sometimes, if I'm telling the whole truth, I have to admit that I fall into old habits, and that is where this story comes into play.

Eric has always helped me to choose our homeschooling curriculum, but this year he helped even more than usual. I especially wanted to seek his opinion of our Bible curriculum. We didn't have a lot of money to spend. I wasn't able to purchase the material that I had hoped to purchase for this school year, but we have so many resources on hand that this didn't matter. One way or another, our Bible curriculum was covered.

The week before school started, Eric suggested that we simply continue where we left off last year, studying the Old Testament and correlating it with Victory Journey Through the Bible. Being always submissive of heart, I, of course, accepted this idea immediately and determined to do it even if I didn't want to. I flitted to the bookshelves, pulled out the book and began to absorb the material with fervor, getting more and more excited about how much the kids were going to love it. 

Ok. That's not true. If it was, I wouldn't be telling you this story.

I did my let's-discuss-this-til-we-agree thing that I do (did I just write that?) which really means let's-discuss-this-til-you-agree-with-me (again, did I say that?), and Eric said something like, "Well, you can try that devotional that you like if you want since you're the one teaching it, but this is what I think is going to be the best thing for our kids." Right. I looked through both books. I remembered our last school year and how much I wanted to distance myself from it. Victory Journey Through the Bible was one of last year's books, and I wanted a completely fresh start. Still, this book is a great book. Not all of last school year was terrible. I thought about it. I prayed. I listened to the Holy Spirit.

I don't remember the name of the devotional now because I ended up submitting to Eric's authority on this one. It only took the Lord about half a day to remind me that I was supposed to allow my husband to lead on issues such as this one even if I didn't agree. The thing is, I didn't actually disagree with Eric. I was just falling into my old, very bad habit of not trusting my husband to be the leader God designed him to be.

What did God do with my submission? My kids are absolutely loving our morning Bible lesson. On the days when I have chosen to plan to read half a passage(because some of the passages are several chapters in length), thus eliminating the need to read from Victory Journey Through the Bible until we've read the other half the next day, they are disappointed. They love it. LOVE!

And me? I'm enjoying it too. Watching the kids gleaning information straight from the Word without anyone watering it down or needing to explain every single detail is amazing. Amazing! I'm so glad for Eric's leadership in our home. Next time, I'll just listen to my husband in the first place and save myself a lot of time and energy. I hope. That is the way the Lord intended things to be after all, and I find that doing things His way is always best.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lesson from Dad

Quite a bit has happened since my last post, most noteworthy, the death of my father. Dad had been sick for about 20 months with an inoperable brain tumor. His last year-and-a-half were not horrible although he lost his ability to walk and near the end began to exhibit some symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The biggest disappointment to dad was that he lost his ability to do the thing he loved most in the world…preach.

I learned much about life from my dad, but learned even more about death as I watched him deteriorate those few months and then held his hand and stroked his brow for the last five days of his life here on earth. For the last six weeks, while processing his death, I’ve been trying to decide what the most important lesson I learned from dad really was. Last night it came to me.

My dad was raised in Southeastern Kentucky. He was the oldest of seven children, the son of a coal miner, and was as poor as they came. He learned to work as a young boy by gathering the coal that had fallen from the coal cars and hauled it in a wheelbarrow down the mountain for twenty-five cents a load. He worked as a dishwasher in Harlan, Kentucky long enough to save bus fare to Cincinnati, Ohio where he finished high school by attending night classes while working in a uniform factory during the day. Most of my life he worked two jobs; a secular job like Montgomery Wards or J C Penneys and pastored a church. He was good with the money he had, which was never very much, and saved what he could along the way. 

Because of my mother’s ill health my parents never got to enjoy the retirement they looked forward to.  Medical bills and dad’s short retirement which he spent taking care of my mother used up most of what they had and when he died six weeks ago at seventy-six years old, he had a net worth of $1500, just what Medicaid allowed.  He owned a house which will soon be given back to Medicaid to pay for my parents’ care. 

The lesson I’ve learned is this: My father’s legacy does not have a net worth, it has only an eternal value. Only what my father did with his Savior in mind will outlast his life. Only those things whose value cannot be calculated on a ledger sheet will live on for years to come. Therefore, I have made the conscious decision to begin living my life in a way that reflects eternal values more than temporal ones. In other words, when given the choice between making my life more comfortable or blessing someone else, when choosing between more stuff for me or showing someone else God’s love in a practical way, when deciding what is really important and what is not, I’ll think of my dad, and the most important lesson he ever taught me.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Discipline and Growing Adults

When I was a little girl and I would go out to play with friends in the evening I had to be home before dark. I would test this and get home at dusk some nights until my mother told me about a little girl that was abducted going home from her neighbor's house after dark. I'm not sure if that was a true story, but I wasn't willing to test the theory. So usually I made it before dusk. Once I discovered Ricky Schroeder on Silver Spoons it was a non issue because I had to be home to see my show.

I had my first job when I was probably 11 years old selling discount cards for General Tire. My next job came at 15 when I started working at the mall. Plus I cleaned our house for as long as I can remember. While I was always taught that you work then you get paid if you don't work you don't get paid, I wasn't taught what to do with the money once I had it. So of course I spent it till it was gone. When I was sixteen I was given a car with the stipulation that I would have to work to pay for the insurance and gas.

I wasn't allowed to date till I was sixteen. Even group dates were a resounding no until then. My bedtime on school nights was 9:00 P.M. Until I graduated from high school. When I started dating I was allowed to be out on the weekend until 11:00 P.M.  It wasn't until college, and I was dating the man I eventually married when my curfew moved to 12:00 A.M. And then eventually to 1:00 A.M. But I am not sure that actually counted because usually I fell asleep in the car on the way home anyway, so really it was pointless.

My mother was fairly strict by some people's standards I suppose. She didn't tolerate disrespect and I don't think time outs were invented yet because I just got my hind end beat. She got her message across and eventually I learned how far I could go without pushing her to the edge. Not that I always stopped in time, but I knew that there were consequences to my behavior. I didn't have my first drink of alcohol until I was 21. My entire family on my mother's side and half of them on my father's side were smokers and I never once picked up a cigarette. I never got into any trouble in school and while my mouth would get me into trouble at home at times, I was a good kid.

All of those same rules apply in my household. With the exception being that I would prefer if they didn't date until they were out of college. We do not buy our children things whenever they want them. They work to pay for them and save birthday money for the things they want. If they don't do chores they don't get paid. Because the reality of life is if you don't work you don't get paid. It's simple and it's a life lesson every kid needs to learn. My children hear the word “no” regularly and learn that they can't always get their way or the things they want. We do not drink in front of our children and we maybe have a handful of drinks in a year. My husband nor I smoke. They know that there are alcoholics in my family and that grandma died from cancer caused from smoking.

When they get too big for their britches I remind them that they are the children and not the adults. I also know that as Dave Ramsey once said I am raising them to be adults not children. If we raise our children to continue to be children we are going to raise an entire generation of 40 year old “kids” living in their parent's basements and sponging off of them for money till the parents eventually die. Well I don't have a basement and while they are sure to receive an inheritance when we die, we aren't working hard so they can not work when they are old enough to take care of themselves. I believe that too many parents today try so hard to be friends with their kids they forget that their main job is to parent them. When my children were younger and were mad at me they would say “you're not my friend anymore!” To which I would say “God did not put me on this earth to be your friend. He put me here to be your mother. He has given you friends and me friends and when you are grown to the person God wants you to be, THEN we will be friends. Until then, I am you mother and my job is to educate you and care for you. You are getting a free education. Say thank you!” The last line was taken from a very dear friend of mine. She uses that one and I have taken to using it with my own kids.

I am not sure when it became the custom to not discipline our kids. When parents all got so worried about hurting their feelings that they lost that simple ancient two letter word of “no”. Perhaps if more parents used the word we would have fewer boys walking around with their pants sagging down so low that a strong breeze would make them fall down.

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” In Proverbs 29: 15 “The rod and the rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” The instructions are in the Bible. I don't want to raise 40 year old children who never leave home and can't provide for themselves. As much as I love my children and feel sorrow in thinking about their one day growing up and leaving the nest, I want them to experience their own lives more. I want them to respect authority. I want them to work hard for the things they want and need and to know that just as the Bible says in Proverbs 22:7 "...the borrower is slave to the lender."  I want them to be everything God created them to be. They need to know that disappointments come with the territory. There are no silver platters that are going to be handed to them with all of their dreams come true. They are going to have to work for them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What's In a Name?

If I introduced myself to you as Beth Bowen Vedvik, you would learn a little bit about me. You would most likely address me or think of me by my first name, Beth. My maiden name, Bowen, would tell you of my father's Welsh heritage; Vedvik reflects my husband's Norwegian heritage and that his religious background was likely Lutheran (which it was). But unless I told you more specifically about my family history, there's not much more you could learn from my name alone.

I read a similar intro in a Bible study book I'm working through, and I applied my information to it to hopefully spark some self-reflection in you as well. I have always been somewhat fascinated by my family's heritage but even more so now that three of my grandparents have passed away. I am thirsty to hear stories and learn more about where we came from so that I can pass that information down to my girls. My current Bible study delves into the life of Joseph, and I never before deeply considered the tradition of names in the Hebrew culture at that time. Jacob's twelve sons and one daughter were named in the Hebrew tradition of identity and purpose. Each name reflects the emotional state of the mother. Man! What a list.

At the end of one of the devotions, the author encourages the reader to look up the meanings of his/her own first and middle names and to find out if there were any special circumstances surrounding birth and/or the choosing of a name. Honestly, this exercise started out as an afterthought for me -- something I accomplished a couple of days later -- but it has been the most thought-provoking. Beth is Hebrew in origin and means "house." Anne is also Hebrew in origin and means "grace, favor." Wow! All of a sudden my eyes were opened to an unknown spiritual heritage that I had never wondered about.

When I looked up Beth first and saw "house," I immediately thought "Makes sense." I long to be a house for God. That is, I desire for the Holy Spirit to make a home in me, to dwell in me and guide me. That's hefty but not anything new for Christians. However, when I put it together with the meaning for Anne, I started thinking about "House of Grace." These questions have been running through my head constantly: Do I provide a house of grace for my family? for my friends? Do I practice granting grace to my husband? to my kids? to myself? I have freely -- and gladly!--accepted grace from Jesus Christ, from my parents, from my husband, from my girls, and from my friends. Do I give it quite so freely? And I can't remember a time that I prayed specifically for enlightenment concerning grace, that I would gain a deeper understanding of all it entails and then apply it to my life.

"Grace" is defined as "a manifestation of favor" and also means "mercy, clemency, pardon." Grace comes in many forms: the Bible talks about discovering grace, powerful grace, receiving grace, and the eternal gift of grace. God's greatest act of grace is the gift of salvation that is available to everyone through faith. Jesus purchased every sinner -- ME! -- with his own blood on the cross. I don't want to ever take that for granted, and I don't want its full weight to grow light over time. I desire a deeper understanding of grace; I want it to spring from me freely, the outpouring of Christ who is alive in me. I don't want to give it begrudgingly, because I "have to." I want to evidence grace as it was evidenced to me. Proverbs 22:1a says "A good name is to be more desired than great wealth." I have a wonderful name. I want to live up to it.


The Bible study is called: Joseph:Beyond the Coat of Many Colors by Mary Englund Murphy.
It is available to purchase at  Click HERE if you wish to purchase.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Hardest Decision

It started when he was only two.  J had been a normal little boy…growing, talking, walking…just like every other kid.  Just like normal we took him to his well-baby checkup and he got his shots and then everything changed.  We are not sure what changed, but we know that within a few days, J stopped talking completely and changed into a different kid. 

Where we once had a fun, talkative child, we now had a child that would melt down at any second, slamming his head and face into walls, floors or anything else that was close to him.  Every day became about trying to keep him from creating black eyes and bloody noses because of his head butting.  Where we had once heard sweet little “mamma’s” and “daddy’s”, we suddenly heard nothing but screams and fighting.  If he didn’t get his way he would punch, hit and bite everyone within striking distance. 

After a few months of this, we talked to his pediatrician who recommended him for speech therapy and we had him tested and started therapy and special needs preschool.

Just recently I looked back at a calendar and found where I had written, a couple months after his 3rd birthday that J had said “I want”.  What a huge step that felt like at the time.  I was so excited that he put two words together.

Eventually, J started making HUGE strides through preschool, and before his 4th birthday, he graduated from the special needs preschool and we put him in regular preschool.
I wish that I could say that from that moment forward everything was a bed of roses, but J’s acting out continued.  Several times a week we would get called or notes about some fighting or another event that happened. 

J started kindergarten and it was more of the same, but nothing that we did seemed to help.  We could punish him until our faces were blue, but still the fits, hitting and screaming happened.
As the first day of his 1st grade year approached, we searched for some help.  We had always resisted the thought of putting him on meds, because, we felt, he was just being a little boy.  So in August we took him to a Christian counseling center and talked with one of the counselors.   He gave us tests to fill out and test to take to his teachers to have them fill out.

Through these tests, the counselor said that J was ADHD and needed to go on meds.  Still, we resisted.  Surely there was SOMETHING else that we could do.  As we talked about the results of the tests I cried.  I was so tired.  I was tired of being looked at as bad parents because we could not control J.  I was tired of J being pegged as a “bad kid” at school and at church.  I wanted others to be able to see the amazing child that I had, and that I saw rare glimpses of every now and then. 

We left that appointment even more determined not to put J on Meds.  We started taking all red dye out of his diet (have you ever realized how many things have Red Dye 40 in them?).  We tried more behavior modification through chore charts, reward systems and tougher penalties…but still, J struggled daily.
Then, one day, my husband was told when he went to pick up J from school that they wanted to change the class that he was in because of his outbursts and his issues.  For me, it was like we had failed, and that nothing we could do was helping.  We called the doctor and got a prescription filled for the medication that they had wanted to put him on. 

Even then, with the filled bottle in my hand, I struggled with feeling like a total failure as a parent.  Surely there was more that I could be doing, surely I should be able to control my own child.  But we had tried everything we knew to do, so I gave him the pill first thing in the morning and coaxed him to swallow it
We sent him to school excited for the changes that we hoped to see in the day.  It only took about 3 hours for that excitement to crumble to dust.  Just a little bit before 11 a.m., I got a call that J was crying and was inconsolable.  I jumped in the car and was at the school in minutes.  I talked with him and he said that someone had hurt his feelings and that he couldn’t stop crying.  After he got calmed down, I tried to take him back to his class…only to have him freak out and start crying the moment I got out of sight.   For 30 minutes this went on, with him wailing whenever I was out of his sight.  It was finally decided that I should just take him home for the day.   We put him to bed at the normal time that night, but he could not sleep.  He got up several times throughout the night and came into the room with us, and I tried to get him to sleep in the recliner there, but he always ended up getting up and doing something in the house again.  When I got up the next morning, I found J downstairs in the kitchen.  He had fixed three bowl of cereal and three plates of toast for him and his siblings.  Throughout the night he had put together an AMAZING train track in his room, and cleaned up his room.  He had not slept at all. 

I kept him home from school, expecting that eventually he would collapse, but he did not.  I took him back to the doctor, and they said NOT to give him that medication ANY MORE.  It took him 48 hours to finally sleep. 

For me, it confirmed my worst fears.  I was convinced that we had done the most horrible thing ever to our child.  I worried that he would never trust us as parents again.  The doctor changed him to a NON stimulant medication and we tried again.

Since then, things have gotten a little better.  J got his first Blue Smiley face at school (meaning no problems) but most days he is still having issues.  Somehow, I think that in the back of my mind I was hoping that there would be a LOT more and quicker changes than has happened.  But I have to look at each day when there is only a few words, rather than a entire paragraph, written on his behavior report from school as a success.  We are still working on his behavior at home, and trying to help get him where he should be.

Never in all my life have I had anything that was so hard to decide. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

Hello Friends!

A couple weeks back, I heard one of those brilliant little sayings that will forever stick with me:  "What if you woke up this morning with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"   It was so profound for me.  I am generally very on top of thanking my Heavenly Father for the things I am grateful for, but it still really struck me that there is so much that I am truly thankful for which I don't express thanks.  I always thank Him for my family and friends, but I'm not so good about being thankful for each person I am grateful for.  I'm not good about expressing my wonder that my three boys are amazing, each completely different but equally wonderful.  Each of them demonstrates their God-given personality every minute of every day and I often am so busy and caught up in life that I forget to breathe in the astonishing work of God's Hand in my amazing little people.

In my life, I try very hard to maintain an attitude of gratitude.  I know that I am prone to slipping into the monotony of life.  Perspective, for me, is the great equalizer.  Someone can have all of the privileges that life has to offer, but without God, or without a healthy perspective, I know they must be prone to depression and self- pity.  I don't know how anyone can get through life's struggles without being thankful and expressing thanks for all they have.  Our success in life is not determined by how much we have or what we do, perhaps, but what if we could have the perspective that our success is much more determined by what we do with what we have.  Life, for me, has thrown more curve balls and I feel sometimes like I've taken more than my fair share of hits.  Each of these "hits", however, have had their toll in shaping the person I've become.   Some of these "hits" have created circumstances that I continue to struggle with and work through, and some have molded a stronger and more resilient me.

I know that I will never be thankful that my sister died at age 33.  It is fresh in my mind still, but I know that it is a life-altering event for which I won't be able to give thanks.  I am, however, already giving thanks for the changes in me that were brought about as a direct result of her passing.

At this point in my life, I am thankful for my children.  I've always been thankful for them, but when they were infants, high needs infants with extreme medical needs causing sleep deprivation to a degree I didn't know was humanly possible...there was not an attitude of gratitude within my heart.  Today, I am so very thankful for them, not in spite of their needs, but because those very needs have instilled strength, determination, intuitiveness, creativity and an amazing capacity to give and receive love within their very beings.  I find it astonishing that God has given each of them exactly what they need to make it through their lives.  I see this at such a young age and am in awe of His Provision.  My sensitive and loving boy is the most healthy, rarely having any physical issues.  His twin, the most medically involved, is feisty, ornery (in the most lovable way), a fighter and very empathetic.  He has the fight within him to get angry at the situation but the empathy to suspend his reality for long enough to cuddle with Mama when things are so hard - he knows that when he is suffering, I am suffering.  And I, in turn, have learned that God, my Father, is so sad that I am struggling.  He is holding me when I am holding my baby.  And my youngest... well... we do love him.  He is the youngest child and plays the role to the hilt.  He has some physical challenges, just enough to keep things interesting, but not so much that he has to fight and get out of his comfort zone too much.  It astounds me that their personalities are exactly what they need and I am grateful for a God who has it all in His hands and knew, far ahead of any person, what they would need to walk their journeys. 

  And then, at the end of the evening, when all has calmed...  I'm sipping a cup of mint tea, looking forward to restorative rest, little boy people sleeping after a long, busy day, hubby on his computer, watching a baseball game (or football?  I'm never really entirely sure what any of it is...), I realize... God has continually blessed me with exactly what I need to get through.  All of the "hits", all of the "unfairness", all of the calamity... those things are perceived.  I am human and occasionally get lost in the midst of it all, but my perspective is one of thankfulness and appreciation.  I don't view my life as a study of struggle.  My perspective is such that these things happen to everyone.  Life is not easy.  We live in a fallen world, things are going to be tough sometimes.  I'm grateful for a perspective that allows me to live joyfully and feel peace in the midst of the storm.  I'm grateful that I can feel joy and calm when things are difficult.  Sometimes life is hard, but an attitude of gratitude makes the difference between perpetual struggle and a joyful life lived despite struggles.