For those who don’t give up

Please enjoy this post from guest writer Amy Driskill, who was kind enough to share her gratitude transformation with us.

I have a confession.  I am not sure I am qualified to write about gratitude.  Recently, my husband and I got into an argument.  In the middle of it, I felt that I was living a lie.  I felt like he was attacking my character.  I wanted to run and hide.  You see, I do not tolerate lies from other people.  I cannot stand it.  I want to run, or in this case drive, away.  I live this hypocrisy because, while I abhor lying, I can somehow tolerate it within myself.  I tell myself lies every day.   I tell myself I am not good enough or that I’m not likeable enough.  I think other people are more qualified to write articles for great blogs such as this.  I let myself get away with lies!  It is a struggle I continue to deal with.  Old habits and hang-ups rear their heads from a childhood effected by abuse.

After our argument, my husband called over a great Christian friend of mine.  Emily is one of those no-nonsense people.  She’s a steady rock for her children, and I do not have to dance around the whole friendship issue.  I know she doesn’t play games.  Emily sat down with me and helped me see the old patterns I hold onto.  I knew what I was doing in the back of my head, but I had a hard time getting past the hurt.  We sat and talked for a while, and then she took care of my children as my husband and I talked.  It is such a blessing to have friends to depend on.

It’s also great to have a husband who can see past the hurt and habits.  He knows how I react, and he does not give up on me.  I have this underlying fear of abandonment, so he gets pretty stubborn with me.  I know he’s here to stay.  I know it’s just Satan telling me lies.  Obviously, I am a work in progress.  I wish you could have seen me years ago.  Ok, maybe not.  On the outside, I functioned, but I think that was about it.  I was a complete mess on the inside.  I also did not know the love of a Risen Savior.

I write to you today because of gratitude.  I am grateful for the love of my Heavenly Father.  He saved me from myself.  I’m grateful for a loving husband, who refuses to give up.  Finally, I am grateful for friends who hold me accountable and show their authentic selves without playing games or thinking they have to compete with other women.

Special thanks to Amy Driskill, today’s guest writer, for sharing her story.

Thank God for dental hygiene!

“There are kids in other countries who would love to get their teeth cleaned, Bethany.”

Really, Mom? There are kids who’d love to have bubble gum scented paste (I say “scented” because it certainly doesn’t taste anything like bubble gum) spread across their gums and teeth and sandblasted around, with the chance to spit into a tube every few seconds? I doubt it. But if there are, they are welcome to take my place.

And so it went.

My mom, in an effort to encourage us to whine less and say thank you more often, compared our situations in life to those of others. You don’t like supper? Well, think about those kids in X country who have no supper. You wish you had a denim skirt to wear to the party? Some people don’t even have clean clothes at all.

While I can now laugh at my insolence and appreciate my mom’s efforts, I have also learned lately that the admonishment, “Don’t think about what they have. Just be grateful for what YOU have” only works if I DON’T think about what they have.

When I look around at my friends and start wishing I were engaged, or see another friend newly pregnant and rejoice for her but inwardly feel a little sad that it’s not me, then I’m not living in gratitude. I’m just playing the comparison game, and in that game, I can never always win. Sometimes I might. Sometimes I might compare myself to my co-worker and be extremely grateful that I don’t have to deal with X or Y problems. Most of the time, though, I’ll find myself dwelling on the objects of my gratitude (or lack thereof) and not on the Giver.

How can I become more grateful? Focus more on what God’s doing in my life and on the gifts I’m given every day in all different guises. If I focus on this, there’s not time to compare myself to anyone else. If I don’t compare myself to anyone else, I find that I’m more grateful.

And that leads me right to the Giver.

Trading the attitude for gratitude

Thanks to Linda Unger for sharing her gratitude in today’s post as a guest contributor through her writing and photography gifts.

"Burnet Tree" by Linda Unger

I come from a family where sarcasm rules. I zing you, you zing me. Whoever zings the fastest and the loudest is the winner! There is little time for compliments and kindness. I have to keep on guard, don’t ya know! A chink in the armor could mean a total zinger attack from every member in the family. My sisters and I joke often that we are the “Loud Family”. If we can’t win with our humor and frontal attacks, we will certainly drown you out with volume! The world isn’t a safe place when “The Sisters” are together! Today I find it funny. Long ago it was quite a source of anger for me.

A life lived for too long like this creates bitterness and anger that steals every ounce of joy out of life. The agitating and picking on each other divided us for many years. There was no “being there for each other” because the family was always on guard. We went through some hard times. One sister ran away from home for a few years. The other sister was addicted to medications that separated us all further.  My life was lived with a man who was abusive, so my attitude toward life became even more sarcastic as the years went by. It seemed we were spiraling into a whirlpool in which we would all surely drown.

There came a time in my life when things had to change. I had pretty much lost my last friend. I had a few friends out-of-town who only saw me for small amounts of time. But being in a committed loving relationship with a friend was next to impossible with my anger and sarcastic attitude. I began to shut it all down, withdrawing from life, and my marriage was falling apart. For me, I felt there was no hope.

I remember asking God for help, somewhere in all that. I began to meet with a group of people who smiled all the time. They seemed to have the incredible ability to give and receive love and not be on guard! One suggested I start a “gratitude list”. What was that? She explained that I had to write, every day, 3 things to be grateful for. In my current state of mind I could not think of a single thing. That is where it helped SO much to have someone to walk with me through this process. She suggested a toothbrush! I didn’t realize that MOST of the people on Earth do NOT have toothbrushes and how small it was to me, but how big it would be if I didn’t have one. Once I got the idea of it, I found that the more things I listed, the more grateful I got. It seemed to remove the pain I was feeling for that day.

Today I am part of a 365 Gratitude Project online. I have to post a photo everyday of something I am grateful for. Some days I really have to work at finding something NEW since I can’t keep doing the same old toothbrush! My favorite thing to be grateful for is my God, light, my children, my job, my friends, my husband. And some days I find that I am grateful for rain. There have been times when I have chosen to “skip” out on the gratitude, and my day really shows it. For this girl, I have to stay in, or I slide back to the person I used to be.

My family has noticed the changes in me. In fact, today, my sisters and I are closer than ever…without losing the wonderful humor that we all share. That is something else to be grateful for!

To view more of Linda’s beautiful photography, check out her page at http://www.treklens.com/members/shelbeesmom/photos/

To purchase Linda’s new book, Spiritual Recovery Through God’s Eyes, visit http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Recovery-Through-Gods-ebook/dp/B006X5Z7OU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329234908&sr=8-1

Check out her Facebook page for excerpts from the book at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Recovery-Through-Gods-Eyes-the-book/368219286524857

 

 

 

Amazing grace

Special thanks to today’s guest writer, Shelli White, of www.brandnewchurch.com.

As I sit here at my church answering phone call after phone call from people in my community needing assistance with food and clothing, I think, “Goodness! Can’t I catch a break? I have a lot of work to complete for our media team.” For a moment, I sit in silence. This is my break! I look around me, and think back to a couple of years ago when I was that person on the other end of the line. When I truly asked for God’s grace, it was given with no hesitations and no conditions.

My family and my church gave me every tool I needed to pull myself back up from a very dark place in my life, and they wanted nothing in return. They simply shared with me what they had……. God’s Amazing Grace! There is no doubt in my mind you have heard the song, but have you truly experienced the song? It’s much more fulfilling than words could ever describe! If taking these 10 phone calls can change just one person’s life in the way my life has changed, then that’s exactly why I am here. I’m not just here to schedule, plan, and send out emails; I’m here to inspire and change lives.

I get to go home this evening, open my closet door, and look at my shoes. But I look at them completely differently now. When I see my multiple pairs of shoes, I am thinking, “Which shoes can I donate to a person who needs them more than I do?”

I encourage you to open that door, not only for yourself, but for those around you in need. Pay for someone else’s gas before they get to the checkout, or buy food for that person standing behind you in the McDonald’s line. Better yet, pick up your phone and call that person who is in a dark place and offer true, selfless friendship. Not only will it change their lives, but it will change yours, too! God’s Amazing Grace can move mountains to let light shine on those dark places. Let Him shine through you so that you can experience more than just a song.

 

 

Like snow

Our state is about to be blanketed in snow (or at least sleet). It doesn’t happen often, so when it does, it’s a big deal. The bread aisle becomes a wasteland. A few unlucky shoppers wind up with stitches over gallons of milk. The highway department suffers from a massive panic attack. But most of us settle in and enjoy the way the snow quietly covers up our busy little lives temporarily.

As I thought about the tranquility that came with the snow today, I remembered a song I love by Ingrid Michaelson. It’s not a spiritual song; it’s a love song. But as my friend Amie says, sometimes God speaks to her more strongly through love songs than through church songs, reminding her something of the ways He loves her.

Today I hope you’ll take a second to let Him quiet your world.

http://youtu.be/RKscYJAksPs

 

Normal days

Special thanks to guest writer Zeda Wilkerson for reminding me that I have plenty to be grateful for, even on my normal bad days.

We all have bad days. The days we wake up with a headache, days we just don’t feel like we look our best, flat-tire days, stir-crazy days, someone peed-in-our-Cheerios days, days we just want to crawl back under the covers, deadline missed days, my kids must hate each other days, forgot to run important errand days, nothing went right, the world is out to get me – normal days. I have learned to appreciate those normal days with a new respect.

A friend’s child has been battling leukemia the past couple of years. For them, normal has become weekly trips to St. Jude’s for his treatment. She recently wrote about a brother and sister they met during their time there. Both siblings have leukemia. I can’t wrap my mind around having one very sick child, much less two. My friend, I will add, battles chronic pain due to a car accident a few years ago, and her once very active lifestyle has become one of surgeries, walkers, and limited mobility. She is an inspiration to me though. Through it all, she has maintained a positive attitude and taken on each new challenge with fierce determination. If asked though, I’m certain, she would love to have just one “normal” day, when the worst thing to face that day is a flat tire.

It’s what you do on the bad days that matters. Do you take it out on those around you, and let your sour mood affect the people you love or those whom you work with? Do you call the day a wash and decide that because your day started out bad the rest of the day will probably follow?  I have been guilty of this, and it’s something I continually work on.

Normal days, whether good or bad, are the days that make up our lives. I love the days that start out quietly with a cup of coffee, a beautiful sunrise, and smiles from my kids. Days when I’m able to cross several things off my list at work. Days free of time commitments, days my husband and I can relax. If it weren’t for the good days, it would be easy to let the bad days completely overtake us, and bad days would become bad weeks.

We can wish for a big adventure, or for something unexpectedly wonderful and exciting to happen, but really any “normal” day, good or bad, is a small miracle, a gift to be appreciated. The next time you have a day when nothing seems to go right or when you wish you were somewhere else, be grateful for that day, and appreciate it for what it is – a day you have been blessed with, and say a quick prayer for anyone out there whose day may be going worse than yours, or who wishes for a life filled with normal days.

I’m especially grateful for our guest writer, Zeda Wilkerson, who has been a friend of mine for 15 years and has consistently brought joy and optimism to my life. 

Now versus then

It’s not that who I was is all bad. But when I compare who God has molded me into over the past few years versus who I was before, I’m so grateful for who I am now.

It helps me to appreciate changes in myself when people verbalize what they see in me now. A few days ago, a friend of about 14 years sent me a message telling me that “you’re much healthier than maybe I’d expected back in the day.” It encouraged me to know that someone with more objectivity than I have sees a different Bethany than I once was, particularly someone who met me at one of the lowest points in my life.

It also challenges me to be brave enough to say similar things to my friends when given the opportunity. This morning as I edited a document for a life-long friend (really, someone I’ve known longer than anyone else besides my family), I took a few minutes in my reply to put some gratitude for that person in writing. It’s one thing to think about how much I appreciate people. It’s another to tell them. It might make a huge difference when I tell people that I’m grateful for them and take the time to explain why.

Even if it doesn’t amount to much for them, it changes me.

Who you are is who they were

Yesterday, I sat in a quiet room for five hours, surrounded by musty old books and newspapers.

As I conducted research at the mecca for Methodism in our state for one of my grad school courses, I was lucky enough to meet two kind women who run that section of the library. They volunteer hours of their time each week to help people like me find what they’re looking for.

Both women offered to make copies for me, gave me a free download of three out-of-print history books, and even tried to convince me to eat what they’d brought for lunch because they thought I needed a snack. They were working and giving out of their hearts and serving in a way that many people don’t want to. One of them has been working in the archives for over 20 years.

Why would someone do that–spend all those days spent amongst old books, scanning documents, placing photos in protective pockets?

The woman who has been there for over 20 years told me, as I was leaving, that she loves history, particularly the history of her faith. She said, as she pointed to her desk, “See, I keep that sign with me. It says, ‘who you are is who they were.’ We can’t forget that. We have to know who they were.”

As I left the library, I felt grateful for the opportunity to learn a little about who she was: a grateful, diligent, hard-working, patient, giving, and passionate woman.

I’m hoping her quote will ring true for me someday.Photo by Phoopla

 

I get to!

*Today’s post is written by yesterday’s featured vlogger, Henry Petty. Thank you, Henry, for sharing your experience with us!*

I work in an office.  You would think this would be the end of the post, as “working in an office” is synonymous with “living happily ever after,” but you’d be wrong.  No, I’m not being sarcastic or cynical – I am living happily ever after right now inside the 3 ½ walls that is the cubicle I spend roughly 10 hours a day in.  My environment is littered with circulating illness, small talk around the coffee pot, clashing personalities (I’ll get into that in a second), and awkward rides in the elevator.  I’m a happy camper and couldn’t be more grateful.

Before I began my office job, I had spent 6 years at a giant orange store that sells hardware.  I spent most of my days toiling around lugging heavy appliances, Quikrete, mulch, lumber and other heavy objects for a customers’ do-it-yourself project.   I would come home with aches and pains, sometimes blood here and there and smelling of pesticides and saw dust.  Tony Stewart, the famed NASCAR driver, was the spokesman for this store for a reason:  he didn’t work there, and anyone who had wouldn’t endorse the product.

The first day I started at the office, I made a remark to one of the supervisors, “Wow, cubicles.  This is awesome!”  I had said this with much excitement to puzzling glares in my direction.  I was genuinely excited to be able to dress nicely, sit at a desk with a computer, and work with my mind instead of my back.  My grandma had always preached to me this notion, to work smarter and not harder.  I know she’d be proud.

When I’m having even the slightest bad day, I always tell myself that my worst day at the office is better than my best day at the orange big box store.  I even keep my tattered work apron hanging my closet to remind me of how grateful I am.

In my environment, people wish their lives away.  They arrive on Monday wishing it were Friday, and celebrate Friday until it is Monday.  Even on Friday, they dread the next two days because it will be Monday.  Some can’t even allow themselves to ENJOY their weekend that they so wished the other 5 days away to have.  I, on the other hand, tell my co-workers that I’m actually sad it’s 5 o’clock on Friday, because I’ll have to leave work for two whole days before I get to come back Monday to my awesome job!  I don’t win over many crowds, obviously.

Did you catch what I just said?  “I GET to come back to work.”  I GET to wake up in the morning, as opposed to the common Debbie Downer’s mantra of, “I have to go to work today.”  I GET to wake up with the Lord’s blessing of giving me one more day to do what I can to be the best Henry Petty I can be.  Living a life of gratitude will allow you to go places you’ve never been, and maintain a state of constant happiness and optimum performance.

It’s this attitude of being absolutely grateful for what I have that has gotten me very far and successful in the business I’m in.  I am so appreciative of what I have, that I do what I can to earn my keep.  It’s been 4 years since I began working in an office, and I’ve achieved massive success and been recognized on a large platform by the CEO and Executive staff of our company.

One of my co-workers favorite sayings when they sit down at 8 a.m. is,”ooh, I’m ready to go.”  My reply to this individual is always, “I can’t wait to get started!” followed by her retort, “Shut up, Henry!”   It sounds like someone’s got a case of the Mondays.  My remedy:  A teaspoon of gratitude… and a cup of coffee.

*To subscribe to Henry’s vlog, visit http://www.youtube.com/henryblazer20 *

 

Joy and gratitude: my friend, Henry Petty

My friend since college, Henry Petty, is one of the most light-hearted, joyful people I know.

It’s not because his life has been easy or because he’s achieved every single goal he set for himself  or because he is  spoiled rotten.

It’s because he chooses to be joyful and to be grateful for what God’s given him, and for God, in spite of life itself. He allows himself permission to be himself, make mistakes, experience new things, and hope for the best. He takes chances and opens himself to God and has been on a very exciting spiritual journey.

Henry once told me he started a vlog (video blog) http://www.youtube.com/henryblazer20  and hoped that someday it would bring people laughter and joy. His vlog has now been viewed nearly 100,000 times, and advertisers contact him because they recognize that people WANT to enjoy life, even if it’s just for a few minutes via YouTube.

Take a few minutes and check out Henry’s vlog.

Can you take an additional 3 minutes today to bring joy to others in your own life out of the gratitude stored up inside you? I’ve watched it transform Henry into a stronger, more outgoing, more successful, and more joyful person. Start practicing gratitude–and sharing joy–and maybe the same will be true for you.

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