awareness, Brokenness, Change, Faith/Spirituality, Growth

You are aware….(or are you?)

I started off thinking I was going to talk about attitude adjustment. Not that I need one, or anything. Just in case someone else might need one and hey, I’m here to serve. 😉 But as I did a few readings, I realized I need to back it up a bit and talk about the first step in adjusting and attitude: awareness. It’s been awhile since I read the way I used to, where I read 3 dated entries from 3 different books. Today I decided to do that and as you can probably guess, the word aware/awareness literally popped up in every single one. It makes me smile when God makes the message so obvious. He must’ve known I needed extra assistance today…

AWARENESS: That’s the word of the day. Write it down and then ask yourself, or a few friends, family members or co-workers, “how aware are you?”. Are you aware of the areas of your character, your behavior, your perspective on your circumstances that need attention?  Would you or those you ask say that maybe, just maybe, there are one or two things about your attitude that could use some tweaking?

Until we are aware of what needs to change in us, there will be no growth. Becoming aware isn’t easy. The best, or at least the most preferred and softest way, to spur change is through a gentle whisper or nudge from God to pursue it. Sometimes that is called feeling “convicted”. God has some work to do on you and he has let you know in a way you are ready to accept and spend time working on.

But alas, most of us have to come to this awareness by being jolted out of our ignorant stupor by something akin to being hit by a Mack Truck. We are going along, feeling like we are pretty awesome, when a spouse, a child, a friend or mentor expresses concern or displeasure about a particular character defect in us. It stings and we are wounded at first, then angry and defensive, but in the end are at least willing to entertain the possibility that we aren’t as awesome as we thought. The process of rooting out, fine tuning and tweaking our weaknesses begins.

Probably the most effective and horrific way we become aware of our messed-up-selves, is through an enemy. This just makes my skin crawl. it’s excruciating to be sent truth through the mouth of someone who doesn’t love us or want the best for us. There goal is to hurt or maim, but if we are able to ask ourselves the hard question, “is there any truth to what they are saying about me?”, we might see, or become aware, that our selfishness, arrogance, impatience, abruptness, indifference, or thoughtless words were part of what sculpted this enemy.

Sometimes, when I read over past blog posts or a few chapters of my book, I see strong, repeated patterns regarding worry, fear, control, judmentalism. I think, “What is wrong with me that I don’t seem to be able to apply the truths I write about and get better once and for all!?”. I am a work in progress for sure. But without being confronted with the hard circumstances of betrayal, addiction, cancer and other challenges that have come my way over the past few years, I don’t think I would even be aware that those demons were lurking inside me. And without awareness there is no hope of transformation. And even though change is hard, and often slow, I would rather be aware of where my life-attitudes need adjustment than to be clueless, ignorant and in denial.

All this change and growth takes time. And usually they are tiny and subtle. But as my recovery book says, “gradually, and at first imperceptibly, our outlook (attitude) shifts”. But time is a gift. “Time offers me evidence” that what I am doing is working. This evidence of changed behavior over time, provides reinforcement and “strong support in times of doubt and helps boost my courage in times of fear.”

It gave me chills when, reading with great anticipation, I came across the word “awareness” in my September 18th entry of Jesus calling. I knew immediately that this line was offering the principle that makes all of the above possible. Author Sarah Young uses Jesus’ words in scripture to say “It is so important to stay in communication with Me, living in thankful awareness of My Presence.” Without a dependent and grateful relationship with a Being who can do miracles, even in me, I will just be spinning my wheels and remain indefinitely stuck in my oblivion.

Addiction, Cancer, Faith/Spirituality

English as a second language…

Tonight I am teaching a portion of an “English as a second language” class at a local community college. I am excited and nervous due to the obvious fact that I am not an English teacher and still battle being convinced that I am a “real writer”.

I have gone around and around in my mind about what to say, what to read and whether I should just feign illness and save us all a lot of embarrassment. But, alas, I think I have settled on a couple things I write about that I find to be universally true, regardless of what language you are fluent in.

First, and I plan to test this tonight with college students from around the world, I believe that we are all affected by the disease of cancer, addiction and plages of the heart. I am fairly certain that we don’t get a pass just because we don’t live in America. In fact, it is precisely because some don’t live in America that they may battle these diseases and then some. We are, as we know, pretty spoiled here in America when it comes right down to it. But the comradery that comes from shared pain or trials bridges any language barrier. As different as our cultures might be from one another, our humanity, our longings, our sorrows and our dreams bond us at our roots, where all growth and fresh life begins.

And second, I want to impress upon them, and upon all my readers, that their “voice”, in any language, has the power to influence their own personal world and the world at large. Last month I read a creepy little book by Stephen King called “Gwendy’s Button Box”. I haven’t done any research, on purpose, to find out what statement King was trying to make about the Box covered in buttons (buttons Gwendy could push at her discretion to make good, bad or tragic things happen). But here is what it represents to me: power to influence. The button box, which on the last page King reveals is symbolic of the girl’s typewriter, is a tool that can be used to share words, stories and insights that are positive, negative or downright terrible.

No matter what language you speak, the language of your heart will always shine through. What message are you sending when you type? When you text? When you post? Is it a positive one that gives strength and life to the receiver? Or is it a terrible one, shredding someone’s reputation or stealing joy and hope from those who read? From your very fingertips you proclaim edicts that have power to wound or heal.

Learning to speak English if you live in an English speaking country (just like anyone living in a country that doesn’t speak English should follow suit and learn the native tongue) is important because your “voice” is important. What you have to say and being clear in how you say it matters.

But your soul-message, which comes from the heart of who you are, matters above all things. The reason I keep writing and speaking wherever and whenever I am asked, is to help all people find and stay connected to their own personal message, no matter where they live or what their dialect.
***(This post is being posted post event…and remember the “test” I told you about? They passed with flying colors. It has been confirmed that people from Thailand, Venezuela, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, the Congo and the Ivory Coast have also been affected by the diseases of alcoholism, cancer and plagues of the heart.

We are indeed all in this together.

Anxiety/Worry, Control, Faith/Spirituality, Patience/waiting, Trust

“Sick and tired…”

Regardless of what you think of Bill Cosby, you have to admit that he has some pretty hilarious insights into parenting. When I was little we had a cassette tape of Bill Cosby, “Himself”. He did a little bit about How his mother was always “sick and tired” of this and “sick and tired” of that. And how tired always followed sick. He said, “worst beating of my life, my mother said ‘I am just sick…’ and I added ‘…and tired’. 😬

Well, I too am “sick and tired”. I am sick and tired of waiting (see previous blogs on Waiting to get a fuller picture of my battle with waiting) Because even though waiting implies that one is inactive and biding one’s time, it is actually much more involved and requires a lot of energy that I don’t always have. One definition of waiting is “to remain stationary in readiness or expectation.” Another is “to look forward expectantly or hold back expectantly.” Did you catch the repetition of the word expectant? In other words, you are waiting for what is being waited on. You might be waiting for a train that is coming (looking forward expectantly) or waiting for a chance to strike (holding back expectantly). Either way you look at it, waiting is actually a pretty intentional and intense state of being.

You may be wondering what I am sick and tired of waiting for. On the surface, it has to do with the fact that for 5 whole days I have been exercising and watching what I eat and drink to the point of sacrifice-and I haven’t shed one single solitary pound. Some might argue that it isn’t all about the weight. I had that argument as well. So I measured my arms, legs, belly, etc. Nope. Nada. Exactly the same. And sheesh, after 5 days, shouldn’t their be some reward? But like I said, that’s just the surface stuff. There are several other areas of my life that I am starting to getting impatient about. My timing and God’s timing just don’t seem to be coinciding. Most likely because my timing is always “by the weekend”.

As I mentioned, another component of waiting is the thing we are waiting for. Unfortunately, we usually have hopes and desires for what that will look like, but know that ultimately we can’t control the outcome. At least when it comes to changing ourselves. All we can do is the footwork, the inner-self-soul-work and see what happens. Just because we read, pray, study, and practice living a spiritually and emotionally healthy lifestyle, it doesn’t guarantee that the results will meet our expectations. Our marriage may not improve in the areas we want it to. Our friendships might need to be altered or abandoned. Our job might not be salvageable. Our kids may still rebel or refuse to reconcile with us. We simply can’t control that “thing” that is being waited for; the results that are yet unrealized.

Boy. Now we are all super-depressed. 😔

It’s just a truth of life that “time takes time” and even as we wait for the fulfillment of that “time”, we wait with expectation. It doesn’t mean we need to stew and worry about what is to come, it means we do what we can and leave the results up to God. Trusting that His timing is perfect and remembering that there are other people in the world whose lives might depend on the timing of mine (Imagine that! The world doesn’t revolve around me?!?!) are a couple practices that bring me to a place of acceptance for where my life is today.

I don’t have to like waiting for positive changes. But I can choose to live with a state of mind that accepts that time can’t be rushed.  That I have very little control over the exact results, but that I can continue to participate in the practices that might eventually bring about positive changes in my own little world.

Without the perspective that comes from trusting that a Power greater than ourselves (who I call God) has a plan that weaves my little Heather-plans together with all of your plans to fulfill His plans, we will indeed be “sick and tired.”

Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, gratitude, Serenity, Trust

Grateful for air-conditioning

Maybe if I just start typing my brain will untangle itself about what I want to say today. God must be trying pretty hard to teach me about living in the moment, because my brain continues continue to circle back around to that lesson I have yet to learn, apparently. Or maybe he just knows that in most cases, I need lots of reminders.

This morning, while driving my kids to school I was chuckling to myself (since no students in my car are interested in hearing my insights before school or before 8:00am-go figure) about a conversation I had with my oldest son who is currently renting a room out in California. He doesn’t want to commit to an apartment until he decides where he is going to land once he finds a job that can help him along in his career path. Unfortunately, California is running at about 110 degrees lately and since he is only renting a room, he has no control over the thermostat. And even more unfortunately, the person who does have control is the one who pays the bills and they seem to feel that 85 or 90 degrees is a reasonable temperature to keep the house. I say all that to tell you about my (in my head) response to all that: “I bet he wishes he had been more grateful for that annoying dorm life last year!” For the air conditioning control privileges. If only he had known what was coming, he would have cranked it up to 72 and relished what he would one day long for as he lay dripping sweat in his bed (my poor baby!).

But isn’t that how it works? We don’t know what we’ve got til’ it’s gone? I have lost track of how many times I have kicked myself for not wearing a bikini when I was 20 and size 4! I just couldn’t enjoy my body because it wasn’t “enough” of where I wanted it to be. Now I think, I should have been grateful that I looked the way I did instead of wishing I had “that girls” body.

It gets more serious than fat vs. skinny, too. I remember wishing I had a bigger house or better car or job. And I am ashamed to admit that though I haven’t wished for different kids or a different spouse, I have wished for a kid who minded better (when they were toddlers) or talked sooner (when they were babies) or did more or less of what our society deems successful and well-rounded. I have wished my husband was as attentive or romantic as men in movies who are paid to act that way or as financially successful as so and so’s husband. I am not proud of these thoughts. Mostly because it shouts that I am living in the past or the future. Regretting that I didn’t embrace what I used to have or pining for what has not yet come.

Both of these states of mind keep me from being present. From being grateful for this day. this moment. This one and only precious life. If we can learn to say “thank you” to God, to ourselves and those around us for contributing to where we are at today, we can avoid living in the past or waiting for our lives to change so we can be happy. Today Is all we’ve got. It’s time to stop feeling sorry about what was or for what isn’t and start being grateful for what is.

Addiction, Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Cancer, Faith/Spirituality, fear

An exception to the yoga rule

I don’t have any hard evidence for this, but I believe it to be true in most cases; for every rule/principle, there is an exception. And here’s mine in regards to the Yoga blog I wrote a couple days ago (read now if you missed it or this will make no sense): Even though that blog implored you to be fully present in your moments, there are simply some moments (phases, stretches, seasons) in your life when you need to be somewhere else. In your mind, that is.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to explain it, but as I was playing the devil’s advocate to being fully engaged in our lives as they are happening, I realized that there have been some experiences in my own life that were I not able to get outside of and beyond my immediate circumstances by going somewhere else in my mind, I would have shriveled up, withered away or been left for dead.

When I was diagnosed with Leukemia is obviously the biggest exception to this rule. I still accepted the reality of my circumstances (which is vital for living differently in spite of them), but I chose to focus and spend my energy hoping for the future and making beauty out of the pile of ashes that was handed to me. When negative, cruel or hurtful people spoke words to me (or about me or my family members) I chose to listen to anything that I needed to address in myself and discard the rest. I could decide to not embrace or receive hate and instead listen to the words of grace and mercy that God and those I love “speak” over me.

Maybe a parent or a spouse has abused you verbally or physically. Do not live in those moments. Accept them as reality, get outside help when necessary, and by every and all means, reject those attempts to damage and scar your soul and self-worth. Or maybe it’s more subtle. Maybe a boss or coworker or a so-called friend regularly criticizes, critiques or oppresses you. Do not engage. Do not receive it into your Being.
I am sure there are many, many more examples of horrid situations that you could fill in here. But hopefully you hear me when I give you this exception to the rules of engagement. Sometimes you have to live above and beyond the immediate circumstances so you don’t give up hope or internalize lies disguised as truth.

When it comes to moments like this, it’s OK if you can’t touch your toes. 👣

Faith/Spirituality, Serenity

Yoga Life-tips for people who can’t touch their toes

This morning I did Yoga. And by “did yoga” i mean I used a yoga mat, wore the too-tight yoga attire and fumbled my way through a yoga video. I have to be honest and tell you that my main motive for choosing Yoga was to avoid P90X which would cause me to sweat profusely and require me put tennis shoes on and jump up and down. I decided that at 6 AM an activity that would allow me to take a sip of coffee after each downward dog might actually get me out of bed.

So while I was doing this Yoga thing, I was planning my day and asking God what he wanted me to write about this morning. Having mentioned that, I can feel the disdain from those of you who truly have a yoga “practice” as part of your lifestyle, because thinking, planning, and being somewhere other than present in said yoga practice, is the antithesis of what Yoga is all about. I know this, but I am a Yoga novice and can barely touch my toes, let alone clear my mind and focus only on what my body is doing, or not doing, at the moment.

But, while I was teetering in crescent pose and simultaneously planning out my day, God gave me a handy little visual of how doing yoga very often mimics my life. Two words that the instructor kept emphasizing were “engage” and “balance”. So much about yoga, and life, is about how to stay balanced. In yoga, balance poses can be held for literally minutes (unless you are like me and you fall over every 3 seconds). And apparently, the key to staying balanced, is to engage. Engage your core, your leg muscles as they ground you to the earth, and most importantly, your mind. Your thoughts. Yoga is about bringing every though captive to the current. If you are trying to stay balanced but your mind is worrying about how you were offended yesterday or is tootling off into the future, trying to figure out your day or your life in general, you will most likely tip over into the piano bench (withold judgment, please).

The other day I was sharing with a friend about the struggle I have with this practice of engagement. Being truly present in my circumstances is extremely hard for me. I have this weird guilt about enjoying where I am at, regardless of my past or potential future events. No matter what I am doing I feel like I should be somewhere else. When I am reading/studying I feel guilty that I am not working. When I am working I feel guilty because I am not hanging with my kids. When I hang with my kids I feel guilty that I am not cleaning my house…You get the idea. But in order to have balance in my life, which is something I think we all long for, I have to be engaged in my life in the moment. Not wishing I were somewhere else or feeling bad about being where I am.

So-today, i will do what I can to stay engaged in the moment. To live it as fully as I can, and be gentle with myself, because I am fairly certain it’s going to be a slow learning process. I have been doing it the other way for so long. But I am desperate for balance in my heart, mind, body and soul, so I am willing to try a new “pose”.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift…that’s why they call it the present.”

-Master Oogway

( it seems that no one really knows who actually coined that quote, but of all the renditions, I chose the one by “Master” Oogway, because that just seemed to fit😏)

Namaste.

Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, fear, identity, insecurity, resentment, Serenity, Trust

My “past-life”

In my “past-life”, August was always an exciting month. For many years our church was a part of being a host site for the annual Global Leadership Summit. A couple of those years I was able to travel and attend the live event in Chicago that was simulcast around the world. The energy of thousands of leaders in one place was electric and exhilarating! It was right up my motivational alley. Over the years, I have heard speakers like Rick Warren, John Maxwell, Seth Godin and even Bono! World changers and influencers of the highest caliber. When I wok up this morning, I felt a bit nostalgic, and then sad, and upon further reflection (with a few tears and extensive reading/meditation), grateful.

I haven’t been a part of these Summits or of the church world as I used to know it for about 6 years now. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and author, in his book Falling Upward, takes the reader on a journey “to give us understanding of how the heartbreaks, disappointments, and first loves of life are actually the stepping stones to the spiritual joys that the second half of life has in store for us.” I believe this because I have lived this. Not just in the ways my “outer” world changed: losing a church family support system virtually over-night, waging war on addiction in our family system, down-sizing my home by half, and entering the work force full-time after 10 years of stay-at-home-mom employment. Oh, and at about the time I was able to accept and embrace this “new normal”, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. No need to expand on the ramifications of that

I am not telling you those things to try to get sympathy. I am telling you because as I have reflected on the “me” I was in the “first-half” of my life and the “me” I am now, I know without question that my soul is stronger, more peaceful, more aware of God’s plan in the world, more compassionate, and most definitely less judgmental, self-grandiose, ego driven and “works” oriented. I am learning to live content with where I am at, both physically ( my body, my house, my city, my job, etc.) and spiritually (my soul-level components that will forever need morphing and tweaking, for as long as I live). And I know that this way of living, a new and better way, has come to me through the “necessary sufferings” of failure, sin, disease, and great and heavy loss.

Even though I would never choose to re-live those circumstances and situations that rooted out the character defects and instilled in me a new and different valuation model for success, I also don’t wish them away or resent them. I know that I know that I know that they are the very tools used chip away all that I didn’t need to get to the shape and splendor of what was underneath. The real and true Me.

I haven’t “arrived”. Don’t get me wrong. And, lest you think I am bragging about this “transformation”, please refer to previous blogs where I confess to such insanities as resenting an entire town because someone who hurt me lives there and how I have had to refrain from running mean people down with my car. 😡😜 This change certainly didn’t happen over night. It has taken me years to make any noticeable progress. There is much more whittling that needs to be done. I haven’t payed my “disaster dues” so that it will now be smooth sailing from here on out. But like I said, the Me of my “past-life”, which is still a valuable me and was exactly where I was supposed to be at the time, looks very different than the Me of today, at least from the inside out. If you knew me before, you may or may not see the difference, depending on how close we were then and are now.

That Leadership Summit really takes me back to the days when I thrived on thriving. The more excitement and rubbing shoulders with important people and having connections with influential leaders the better. I wanted to be part of that world so badly. I desperately longed for and prayed for and expected God to do “big things” through me. My dreams and goals were huge and I carried a lot of unrest and fear and frenzy about whether those things would ever actually happen. How could I go on if they didn’t? I didn’t want to fail God by just being “average” or “ordinary”. That was for spiritual sissies!

Well, as luck, and fate, and Life would have it, my world flipped upside down and Hallelujah-I don’t have to live that way anymore. In the after-life of the after-math, I don’t worry about being enough for God or others. I know God accepts and loves me where I am and that gives me the perspective to care less about being enough for others. I prefer to serve special ed pre-schoolers or visit one-on-one with someone battling the diseases of addiction or cancer or plagues of the heart. I don’t care if my friends are influential or rich or in shape. I look for friends who are honest and authentic and full of faith but I also love to be available to extend God’s grace to those who are angry with God and people and can’t seem to get themselves together. Really, whoever God puts before me from day to day. Whether it’s a Soul-Selfie reading where people are complimentary and kind or with a client who is grouchy and difficult and rude. My only job is to keep my side of the street clean and serve whoever comes my way.

As a result of how God and I have worked through and walked through heartache, loss, betrayal, change (oh, so much change), trials, and a literal near-death experience, I can look back with fondness and gratitude for where I am today. For who I am today. Pain and sorrow can either make you bitter or better. With God’s help and grace, I chose, and choose, better.

My hope and prayer is that, today, you will choose better too.

Addiction, Cancer, Faith/Spirituality, fear

Reading myself

In one week I am doing a reading and book signing at a local Cafe (Cafe MOXO- 411 E Adams St. Springfield, IL) from 4:00-6:00pm…Come see me with a couple friends! I have done a book signing before, but never a “reading”. I am not really sure what that part is going to look like, to be honest. I am certain, however, that this will require me to “read” my own work. And I am terrified and sort of nauseous just thinking about it. I have a couple fears that I am sure you will find perfectly understandable. One, that I will find typos and that will make me crazy. I proof-read everything dozens of times, but I am only human. And WORD doesn’t seem to be any smarter or more observant than I am! And two, that my writing actually stinks. That I was given the ultimate cancer pass and people were just being polite because “bless her heart, she has cancer and has convinced herself that she can write.”

So I keep putting it off because not only do I have to read what I have written, I also have to talk about it. Oh dear, I just realized a new fear-I have to speak in front of people! If you know me, you I know i have done this many times before, but now I can’t ramble or joke or muddle my way through it like a ditzy blonde (I think I feel a fever coming on…🤒).

Let me run a few things by you, and maybe I will be a bit more confident and ready to put myself out there by next Wednesday. If I give you the inside scoop on what I plan to say, do you promise you will still come to hear me? (I need to see your familiar, smiling faces….)

1.This is not my cancer story. This is a book I wrote about me that is ultimately about you. It started off as an informative blog about my Leukemia status, and quickly moved to our shared diseases of worry, fear, control, etc. I don’t think any of us saw that coming. I was shocked, and maybe you were too, that what I wrote from a hospital bed could touch, challenge or inspire someone in their everyday life.

2. Cancer, addiction and the disease of the soul levels the playing field. We all battle these deadly diseases at some level. If we keep this at the forefront of our mind and spirit, we can stop walking around like we are better than or worse than the people around us. We all struggle with something that is trying to get the best of us, perhaps even kill us. We are not unique in our “condition”. We are most definitely not the only one fighting our particular battle. We can embrace the comradery that comes from knowing and believing that we are “not the only one”.

3. You are worthy now. Just typing that truth makes my eyes well up with tears. Maybe it’s because I forget it so often or that I suspect that you do too. We are all working so blasted hard to be ok. To be enough. To be accepted and loved. To be “in”. But as a friend of mine says pretty regularly, “we are never gonna be anything more than human.” Life is a series of trials and errors and lessons. And class is never over. But, we can rest in the assurance that even though we will most definitely never arrive at perfection, we are exactly who are are supposed to be at this very moment. We are, as vulnerability researcher Brene Brown puts it, “Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love an belonging now. Right this minute. As is.”

4. I love you. You heard me. I truly do. One of my core values can be summed up in a reading from Recovery literature: “Though you may not like all of us, you will love us in a very special way, the same way we already love you.” Isn’t that the truth? We aren’t going to like everyone, but if we keep in mind that we every person on this planet is battling to recover from the effects of horrific diseases such as cancer, addiction and a plethora of plagues that are trying to destroy our souls, we can maintain a love that surpasses like.

5. God’s got this. Whatever your understanding of God is, it is imperative that you invite him to do life with you. Or I guess, that you join him in doing your life. He knows and sees, and that’s not a threat. It’s a promise. As important as it is for us to rely on each other, it is vital that we “get God in there”. Turn your will and your circumstances over to him every moment of every day. Remember the mantra I wrote about a few months back: “I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let Him.”

So…That should get us started, don’t ya think? I hope I see you there. Who do you know whose heart could use a message like this?

Faith/Spirituality, gratitude, Trust

My cup runneth over (with what? Is the question)

I am trying to come up with a clever way to start this entry without leading with something like “In the 23rd Psalm it says…”. To some, bible verses feel antiquated and childish. But I don’t think I can do it. Just trust me that it will be relevant to your life and keep reading (pretty please).

So, in the 23rd Psalm, which most people have heard at least once in their lives ( you know, “the Lord is my Shepherd…”), the end of verse 5 says “my cup runneth over”. It’s interesting to note that whatever “it” is in the cup, isn’t just full to the brim, contained and controlled, it is spilling out and over flowing. And, who says that the stuff in the cup is liquid? Couldn’t it also be overcrowded, bursting, busting at the seams, bulging, and jam-packed? At any rate. That sucker is not big enough to hold all that is continuously being poured or packed into it.

I am not going to pretend to provide an exegesis (fancy word for a critical and smart explanation of scripture) of this phrase, I am simply going to tell you the state of mind, torked as it was, when I read “my cup runneth over” in a book about the 23rd Psalm. I was reading along and when I got to that verse, a voice in my spirit surprised me. The paraphrased version was: “Oh it runneth over alright! Overflowing with problems, frustrations, issues, questions, doubts and irritating situations!”

Nice attitude, right?

There were, and are, some areas of my life (read “areas of other people’s lives whom I love and feel compelled to fix, manage and control”) that are challenging and disappointing (read “not living up to my expectations or giving me warm fuzzy feelings”). I certainly felt that my cup “runneth over” beyond containment. My natural response was to complain to God about this and demand, as nicely as possible, an explanation.

The other night, my husband and I were discussing the Myth of Sisyphus (ya, know, just some light marital bonding conversation 😬). You know, the story about the futility of life? Roll a giant bolder up a big mountain, only to stumble near the top, lose control, and have it roll back down. Over and over and over for as long as you live. This is Albert Camus’ analogy about our lot in life. Very inspiring, right? My two-cents worth during our discussion was, yes, life is basically a lot of hard work and often very redundant, the only factor we really have control of is our choice in how we do it. Will we choose to whine and complain about the sweat and sore muscles, or will we whistle while we work?

I suppose my point in all this, in case you sometimes feel like your cup-o-crap is indeed running over (and over and over and over), you, like me, have a choice. Because there are also thousands upon thousands of reasons to see it with different eyes. A gratitude list is one of the best ways to stay and keep mindful of all the blessings (even when they are disguised as difficulties) in our lives, the lives of others and in the world at large. Some days your list may only consist of you being thankful you didn’t kill anyone that day. Hey, it’s a start! But soon, I think you will find that you have to cut yourself off from writing down all that is “good” in your life because you run out of time. Some days it might be the superficial stuff (coffee ice cream, Netflix, no humidity, Starbucks, a good parking space, a sale on those shoes you have been eyeing, etc.). Then there’s the basic things we should be grateful for but sometimes take for granted (sleep, air, nature, healthy food, drinkable water, friends, family, etc.). It’s that final level of gratitude that tells us where we are at with God and whether or not we trust his ways in the world (grateful for this or that problem/situation/difficulty that produces perseverance, tenderness, tolerance, compassion, empathy and brave and determined spirit in us).

This morning, a reading from Oswald Chambers made me weep. Mostly because I so often think such inaccurate and flat out wrong thoughts about God when I choose to believe that He has filled my cup with everything but the blessings. “There are times when God wil appear like an unkind friend, but HE IS NOT; He will appear like an unnatural Father, BUT HE IS NOT; He will appear like an unjust judge, BUT HE IS NOT. Keep the notion of the mind of God behind all things strong and growing…You can rest in perfect confidence in Him.”

My sweet friend-does your cup, like mine, feels like it’s overflowing with everything opposite of goodness and mercy? First of all, you are not alone. But it is vital for both of us to choose to trust God’s bigger plan. His desires for us are immeasurable more than all we could ask or even imagine. Start seeing with new eyes the layers upon layers of blessings that are there all the time if we choose to focus on them.