gratitude

Sitting comfortably: Gratitude & couches

Last night, my friend Janet and I shared our dreams with one another.

I’m not talking about lofty dreams about life goals. No. I’m talking about couches. Yes. Couches. #MomGoals

“I just want a deep, rich blue couch. I love blue. Royal blue, you know, and textures. Lots of textures.” I think Janet might have begun drooling at this point. Pretty sure.

“I’ve always wanted an emerald-green couch, like dark emerald green… Oh! There! That color right behind you on that metal wheel. That’s it!” I, too, salivated a little while sipping my 8 p.m. cup of coffee while sitting on Janet’s floral sofa. The same sofa cushion Janet admittedly accidentally scorched on her wood stove that very week after one of her children peed atop it.

Yeah. Our lives are super glam.

While we dreamed about couches, we both recognized that we lacked gratitude for our current couches. Sure, the couches are worn. Our children have peed on the cushions. Do you know how to remove urine from couch cushions? It isn’t easy, and honestly, the smell never fully dissipates. And milk? Same. Then there’s the glue, the markers, the Sharpies, for the love of parenting.

But at the end of the day, we both own two couches. We can sit on the couches and even sleep on them if we must. The couches serve a purpose, right? Yep. So even though we dream about luxe versions, we’re okay with what we have, ultimately.

Sometimes it helps to sound off to a friend. And sometimes it helps to have a friend remind you that she wants your worn floral sofa! Here’s a video capturing some of our conversation from last night.


If the video is not playing click here.

Maybe you can relate if you’re a mom struggling to get by with your crusty old couch for a few more years while your kids continue to trample over it. Or maybe you can relate because you don’t own a couch. You don’t own a home. You don’t even have a place to call home, and you’re reading this blog on a computer in the public library, wondering why this pretentious woman would ever find room to complain about a crusty old couch at all.

That’s exactly why I’m writing this blog. Because I need to remember to maintain perspective. What I have really is enough. It’s not enough for me to accept that “it is what it is.” I must sink into my couch, smell its stench, and remember that it stinks because we’ve lived here. WE LIVE here. And thank God for our lives.

And then, only then, can I live in contentment and peace. In gratitude.

gratitude

Gratitude on a cardboard sign

Today’s post is written by one of my current college students, Kaleb Mendoza. I love his expression of gratitude in this essay. 

In everything you do and everything you accomplish, you should give grace for the opportunities you get in life. I am a very religious man, raised from two great parents who taught me the right way to life and to follow God. This one day changed my life for the greater good; it taught me to be thankful and to cherish my life, for some are struggling.

homeless-845709_1280In 2008, on a windy Thanksgiving morning, I was in a car with my family driving to my Grandma’s house. Like always, I had my headset on listing to old school hip-hop, preferably Notorious B.I.G. We finally came to a stop light after about 20 minutes, and I didn’t notice at first but saw a homeless man sitting there with a cardboard sign in his hand. As always, I really didn’t pay any attention to him. The light was taking forever to turn green. Then I noticed the man stand up from where he was at. As he stood up with his dirty blue pants, holey brown socks, red champion sweater, and a black beanie, I noticed him showing everyone his sign. While sitting in the car, I looked really carefully at the sign. I even squinted my eyes a little to get a good view. In light green sharpie, the sign said, “Be thankful, for some will do anything to be where you’re at.” Even though it was just some writing on a cardboard sign, that quote hit me real hard.

During the rest of the ride to my Grandma’s house, I sat there thinking about it. I started to wonder how that man had gotten to where he is at right now, or how much stuff he has been through. I then looked around in my car to see my sister asleep, then looked to my parents in the two front seats while they were talking. I couldn’t tell what they were talking about, because I was still jamming out to my music. Then I realized how blessed I was to have this wonderful family, blessed to be where I am at right now in my life. I could be in that homeless man’s position, watching families drive by on a Thanksgiving morning, lonely.

This one thing was running through my head the whole day, going from one family member’s house to another. I kept thinking about how blessed I was to have my whole family safe, in one place, healthy as can be. At the end of the day, I spoke to my mom about it. She told me, “There are some things that can’t be replaced, and you can’t take these things for granted. Be grateful, son, and give praise to the one who makes it all happen.”

Ever since that day, I have been so grateful for the things in my life that cannot be replaced. I see things differently now; I cherish life a lot more than I used to. I give praise to God, for he makes everything possible in my life.

This life-changing experience was one I will always remember. The outcome of this was very positive, and it affected me in a very strong way. It is positive for many reasons. It changed the way I viewed life, to not take things for granted. To love others, even though they don’t love you. For the rest of my life, I will tell this experience to my friends, family, and my kids so that they can see what I see in life.

 

 

 

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#firstworldprobs

One in 10 children lives in a country or region defined by armed conflict. This means about 230 million children grow up in the midst of war and serious conflict, according to the 2015 UNICEF Report. Many of these children experience bomb attacks in their schools and homes. Many of them are kidnapped, raped, sexually abused, recruited as soldiers before the age of 12, if they’re not killed. MANY of 230 million children live this way.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

From 2013-2015, at least 70,000 children were born on the floors of refugee camps. These floors are typically dirt floors.

In 1993, the UN General Assembly declared an elimination of violence against women and created an action plan. 20+ years later, one in three women still experience physical or sexual violence.

At least 200 million women and girls have experienced female genital mutilation in 30 countries, most of them experiencing infection as a result. Almost all experienced this mutilation before the age of 5.

As of 2012, according to UNICEF, 2 million children were subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade. It is estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 women, children, and men are bought and sold across international borders every year and are exploited for forced labor or commercial sex (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).

I don’t always get what I want in life. My life has not always been a cake walk. Yet when I reflect on the reality of the world around me—the WORLD around me—it helps me regain a realistic perspective.

I don’t know why, but I have nothing but #firstworldproblems.

God forbid I ever forget that and unjustly spend my time focusing on or whining about problems—including politics in this relatively peaceful country of mine–which are not really problems at all.

 

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#bestprobs

Let me give you guys a quick snapshot of my life right now.

11358743_1402053633454392_799305827_nI’m wrapping up my position as a full-time faculty member at a community college, grading finals like a demon while saying plenty of sad goodbyes to colleagues and students. I receive daily emails which I print  out to add to my “kudos” folder, all the while contributing to my guilty conscience (teacher guilt is a lot like mommy guilt, in case you hadn’t heard). In addition, I’m completing the most atrocious pile of exit paperwork I’ve ever seen in my life. Quitting this job is complicated!

Through a strange sequence of events, which I believe were divinely ordained, I obtained an amazing new job as content manager for an online job board. I have been working part-time this semester, which has been quite an impressive and comical juggling act, and I begin full-time in January. One of the best perks of the gig is working from home. However, I learned that I can’t actually work from my home; we can’t access broadband internet service here since we live in The Sticks. Thus began the speedy, desperate search for a small, affordable office space. My search ended soon after it began, and thanks to a local business owner, my husband and I have been working to order equipment and furniture and help prepare a space.

In the midst of this work-related hubbub this semester, I’ve been grieving some losses–losses by death of people I loved who’ve passed on, and losses of people who moved to other cities this year and who moved out of my life, too. It has simply been a heavy year in terms of loss. Carrying this weight while trying to “keep on the sunny side of life” has been a tough balancing act, to say the least.

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And then there’s Maggie, who turned three last month. She’s a beautiful child and full of life, but she’s also full of pee, and I find myself needing to Google things like, “how to remove urine smell from couch cushions.” So it’s come to this, eh?

Apparently so.

But here’s the deal.

While everything I have written thus far, which is approximately 367 words, is true, it is also only one side of the truth.

Here’s the other side I haven’t told you about yet. I hoped you decided to wait for it.

I do have problems.

But I have the best problems.

I wrote this portion of an email to a friend of mine over the weekend.

Tonight I felt really stressed and was praying, and God somehow revealed to me a change of perception, and I said to God, “Thank you so much that I have the BEST problems.” My problems are so good. Genuinely, they are. I have all this office equipment I could afford sitting around my house ready to be put together taking up space, and I need help with it. That’s my “problem.” I have stuff to grade by students who love me and are sending me the nicest emails that I am printing out and saving. I have too many people who want to spend time with me and not enough time to fit them all in before I quit working at the college. I got to move my retirement into an IRA and had to find time to go to the bank and felt grumbly about it today! But I got to keep my money instead of losing my retirement funds! I mean, I could keep going, but really…. I needed this reality check and change of perception tonight, and after God snapped me back into reality, I felt about 400% better.

I talked to my boss on the phone a few days ago, and she genuinely sounded excited about my upcoming training visit. Of course I’m excited, but it floored me to hear so much excitement in her voice. Quite honestly, it brought tears to my eyes. How lucky am I to be working for people who can’t wait to see me?

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My three year-old daughter asked me to rock her tonight and sing songs to her. That rarely happens. Yes, I have a urinary tract infection, and the weight of her 35 pound body on my bladder didn’t really help with the urgency/frequency vibe I’ve got going on, but somehow I was able to be where my hands were rather than where my bladder was at that moment and look into her big, sleepy, hazel eyes for as long as she’d let me.

I have the best problems.

The only real problem I ever have is when I lose my ability to see things the way they really are.

There’s a lot of clarity in gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gratitude

Not-so-manic Mondays

Thanks for serving as today’s guest contributor, Henry Petty! For more from Henry, check out his blog and vlog.

http://youtu.be/s48kuKLf0mE

While going up in the elevator at work this morning, it was a bit overcrowded and one person didn’t want to join us, yet there was clearly room for one more.

I chalk it up to either that person being claustrophobic or in a sour mood.  I guess we’ll never know.  As the elevator proceeded to rise, I said, “Well, I guess he’s missing on the PARTY CITY that’s going on in here!”  One person snickered as they stared at the elevator buttons highlighting each floor we were passing.

Mondays are a great way to refresh and get excited for the week that’s coming up and opportunities that we get to face.  For Mondays, I’m truly grateful.

I’m glad that I’m not the only one who hasn’t caught “A Case of the Mondays.”

Monday is just like any other day to me; it’s just how one chooses to see it that determines how good or bad it will turn out for him. When Monday rolls around, I’m ready to get after it!

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The tree line

Thank you, Debra Dickey-Liang, for sharing your insights and writing with us today!

When my dog Maddie and I go for walks on the weekends, I typically choose a route that meanders through my Dad’s pastures behind my house.  Not only does Maddie enjoy all the things that dogs enjoy out in a pasture, but I myself have the opportunity to soak up all the beauty and wonder that God has created.

Once in a particular Bible study lesson, I came across this perspective:  “Just as parents love watching the expression on the faces of their children when they give them gifts, so God enjoys giving His children gifts for the same reason!”  Profound, huh?  And so true!

Every day, but most especially on those walks through the meadows, I have the pleasure of receiving His gifts:  the greenest green ever of the carpeted grass, the subtle differences in the shading of new leaves budding on the towering trees, the vibrant pink of the redbud or the brilliant white of the dogwood and pear trees.  I am forever delighted when He puts a family of deer in my line of vision, or a gaggle of wild turkeys that run for cover in the underbrush and trees. Even the plops of the turtles that jump into the pond as we pass by and the quacking of the ducks that take flight as we get too close for their comfort never cease to thrill me!  I can’t even begin to describe how exultant I am when the large patches of bright yellow jonquils are in full bloom in all their purest glory.  It is so peaceful out there, yet amazingly I am surrounded by a cacophony of wonderful sights and sounds.  I am definitely a country girl (just in case you hadn’t picked up on that by now).

Now you would think that in itself would be enough to decompress, de-stress, and restore faith for anyone, even for a person who carries around worries, fears, and concerns, most especially the kind that she has no control over and for the moment, cannot do anything about!  And truly it is.  But just recently, I was given the incredible opportunity to re-appreciate and reiterate “a walk by faith” in my own life through ‘The Analogy of the Tree Line’.

Let me set the scene:  On a typical walk through the wide open spaces of the pasture, Maddie and I navigate hills, valleys, fence lines, gullies, creeks, and creek branches.  All along the fences and creeks and encircling the gullies are stand of trees and underbrush.  From a distance, these stands of trees appear impenetrable, having no breaks, openings, gaps, or places to pass through to get to the other side.  So much so that I am concerned that I cannot get from where I am now to where I need to be because of these looming obstacles.  Yet, I am confident of the direction that I need to go and where I will certainly emerge if I can just get through those trees!

On this particular day, after tramping through underbrush and crossing the creek, we began walking up a hill in the direction of home.  Seeing the stand of trees ahead of us, my first thought was, “Wonder how we can get through there?!?”  The second thought that entered my mind was, “Well, I guess I’ll figure it out!” and we continued walking in the direction that I knew would eventually lead us home.

After 10-15 minutes more walking, we begin to approach the edge of the tree line.  At this point, I can now see that the spaces between the trees are actually farther apart than they had appeared to be from the distance.  As we walk even closer, I can also see paths that the cows have made into this section of the trees, (and as any genuine country girl can tell you, cows have an innate ability to walk the most instinctive and direct route from any once place to another), so if a cow can do it, so can we!  But imagine my surprise as we topped the hill, and there to my right was a wide and complete open span of green just where the one section of trees ended and the next began!  Even though it had been there all along, the opening that I had been seeking had not discernible from far away.  You see, it was my visual limitations that had kept it hidden from my view until my walk took me close enough for it to be revealed to me.  Do you think that if I had only been taller, perhaps I would have been able to see it sooner?

Be that as it may, I am never going to be tall enough (nor strong enough or wise enough or anything enough!) to see far enough ahead of me to know the whole way before I get there.  So I hang on to this analogy as a reminder that even though for the moment I cannot see all that lies in front of me, I will continue to walk in the direction I know that I should go, and trust that God will supply the open paths at exactly the right time for me to go through them.  Because, after all, they are already there!

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Just

I sat across from a friend a few weeks ago, watching huge tears well up in her eyes. She’d had one of those magic yet painful moments when God connects all the dots and shows you exactly what He meant when He urged you to X, Y, or Z. She was also hurting. Feeling overwhelmed by life, her responsibilities, and her inability to fix everything around her and inside her. She didn’t feel good enough. She felt like “just a mom” and “just a wife.” She wasn’t sure if she should spend time mending her broken spirit because, after all, what happened in the past was “just not that big of a deal.”

She admitted that God has been pointing out to her the power of “just,” and just how often the tiny word had twisted truths around in her heart.

I held her hand and told her I wished that she could see herself through my eyes–beautiful, priceless, loving, compassionate, passionate, giving, and determined. Against all odds, pursuing God like salmon fighting their way against the current. Refusing to give up or give in to the easier route. This woman–my friend–is one of the very few people I can say that I truly admire. I’m grateful for her. I want to be like her. She fights the good fight, and it drives me to do the same.

She is not just a friend.

I wish she could see herself the way I see her. But even more, I wish she could see herself the way God sees her. Sitting across the room, cheering her on as she sings while doing the laundry, searches for the best ways to raise her children, and texts her friend a verse that might help her through the day. Sending her hugs, words, sunsets, and songs to fill just the right holes in her soul at just the right time. Fighting against the Forces feeding her lies about how all these things are just not that important in the grand scheme of things. Feeling tears well up in His own eyes when He sees her own.

He is just overwhelmed with love for her.

And for the rest of us, too.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened.” -Ephesians 1:18