Practice Gratitude

The thoughts that I wanted to share with you on today’s post actually comes from another blogger – Brooke – author of Slow Your Home {The Simpler Life You Want}. Although her article “21 Actions You Can Do Today to Simplify Your Life” is from September of 2012, I believe it is still relevant today. I enjoyed all of her suggestions and just signed up for emails from her blog. I think her articles fit well with Fuller Way of Life {on living simply and living well}, and action #2 from this specific post that I linked to ties in to my word for the year – Gratitude – so I wanted to share her comments for this step here. I recommend that you follow the link above and read the whole article.

Joy

Action # 2: Practice Gratitude

Recent studies have shown that those of us who are regularly grateful for the good in our lives are likely to be more physically active, feel more content in our day-to-day lives and suffer less health problems.

Sound good?

How to Practice Gratitude and Reap the Benefits:

Once a week, spend ten minutes writing down 5-10 people/acts/events/things you are grateful for. Just one sentence per entry is enough.

That’s it. Just ten minutes a week will have truly positive impact on your happiness and well being.

Is That All? Ten Minutes a Week? What if I Do More? Will I Be Happier?

Gratitude studies have shown that over-doing the gratitude journalling may have the opposite effect. Over time we become immune to the feeling of well-being gained through gratitude and lose the positive benefit.

Although I personally tend to think it would take a lot to over-do this. I can see no harm in thinking on the positives each morning or as you go to bed at night.

2014-01-14 08.19.04

How do you practice gratitude? Do you find that it comes easier the more you focus on people, things, and situations you are grateful or thankful for? What are you grateful for at this very moment? 

Happiness cannot be traveled to,
owned, earned, worn or consumed.
Happiness is the spiritual experience
of living every minute with love, grace,
and gratitude.  ~Denis Waitley

Wishing you much happiness today!

Experiencing Change This Year? Be of Good Cheer.

For those of us who are lucky enough, Christmas is a special time steeped in rituals and tradition that we celebrate with family and friends. We have favorite foods that we look forward to, special services where we worship together, games we play, stories we share, and certain days or times when we gather and exchange gifts with various members of our families or groups of friends. It can be a wonderful time of year full of joy and anticipation.

As a friend of mine recently shared, “It’s the most wonderful time of year because the spirit of Jesus Christ fills the atmosphere. We talk about Christ more than ever. We walk around saying, “Merry Christmas”; we sing songs about Jesus; we read Christian stories, etc. When Christ gets all of the attention, His love, joy, patience, and peace fills the atmosphere!”

Christmas

Peace — While it’s definitely something we can hope to experience at this time of year, it may also require a bit more focus and work to achieve.

The stress of trying to do too much in too little time; the strain of attempting to appease too many people with different ideas; the tension of putting personal issues or preferences aside to enjoy a harmonious holiday … all these things can actually lead some to dread what should be a joyous and special time of year.

So, what can we do to counter this?

Consider this …

Marriages, births, merging families, cross country moves, and, sadly, deaths can all change family dynamics. Sometimes, with these changes, we have to be open to readjusting our expectations and perceptions of the holidays, and modifying our traditions to accommodate the new family members we have acquired, the locations we find ourselves in (and the logistics of travel), and the various physical and emotional situations some of our loved ones are dealing with.

We need to look at the traditions we have followed in the past, and ask ourselves, “What’s really important about them? … Are they still providing the original meaning? Is a tradition creating more stress than value? Is there another way to convey meaning that would be simpler or more effective … When there’s too much [to] do with too little time; it is vital to scrutinize every activity in terms of the value it adds to your life. Time-honored traditions are no exception.” (Aila Accad, Changing Holiday Traditions)

Christmas Trees2

Just remember that changing or eliminating traditions can sometimes lead to hurt feelings and family quarrels. The most important thing to do when anticipating change is to COMMUNICATE. If you are the one suggesting changes, let others know as early as possible so they have time to adjust. And give them time to adjust; don’t expect immediate acceptance. Also, keep in mind that additions are often more comfortable than deletions. If possible, modify rather than delete a tradition.

If you feel that change is being thrust upon you, try to understand the rationale or reasoning behind the suggestions being made. Re-examine what you hold dear about the holidays and why. If it’s gathering with as many family members as possible, then whose house you gather at shouldn’t matter; if it’s celebrating the birth of Christ with worship and praise, which church you go to and at what time isn’t that important; and if it’s enjoying specific dishes that your mother, uncle, or grandmother used to make and someone wants to alter the menu, pick the dishes that mean the most to you and volunteer to make/bring them yourself.

Ornaments

Like anything, holidays and family gatherings are what you make them. Personally, I am enjoying seeing a few changes with our family celebrations. I think it’s great that some of the younger members of the family are beginning to find their place in the seasonal preparations. It is a wonderful thing to see the “passing of the baton,” or ladle, if you will, from one generation to the next. While many parents and grandparents have enjoyed baking, cooking, and decorating for the rest of the family for special occasions, it’s a beautiful thing to watch members of the next generation discover the joy of creating, serving, and bringing the holidays to life themselves.

I’m not saying that the older family members should stop sharing ideas or taking part in preparations, unless that’s what they really want to do (some of us really need our rest). But perhaps stepping back some, letting go of some of the responsibilities, counseling rather than doing it all, and sharing the opportunities for memory-making moments will allow them (us) to connect in deeper and more meaningful ways with younger members of the family who will be carrying the family traditions into the future —adapting them as their own family dynamics grow and change.

Christmas celebrations, or any family gatherings for that matter, are not the time to be rigid and resentful. We need to be open to new ideas and open to where the Spirit leads us at this particular time in our lives. Most importantly, we should remember the reason for the season.

Linus_Christmas

Remember that giving is more important than receiving, and that doesn’t only apply to gifts. It applies to our hearts as well. Let’s not give others guilt trips over their personal decisions regarding the holidays; accept them with grace and understanding. Whatever changes we make, whatever new steps we take, we must do them with happy hearts and a more defined focus on what truly matters. Whatever happens, we should try to be of good cheer. Grudgingly going along with things because you have to will only bring everyone else down with you. That will certainly lead to a memorable event, but not one you will want to remember.

If you truly want to fulfill the quest for meaning, joy, and peace this Christmas, re-evaluate your current (or past) holiday plans as a family, and adjust them as needed to create meaningful and simple traditions that are easy to maintain, beneficial for all (or most), and truly serve the family’s purpose and passion. Life moves on and we must be prepared to go with the flow and move along with it.

bible-quote

Days 20 and 21: Finding Spiritual Whitespace—What Your Heart Seeks

Roy Lessin reminds us: “Everyone is a seeker. We seek because there is something we need, something that is missing, something that tells us there must be more.”

We seek contentment, happiness, fulfillment, security, acceptance, hope, love, joy, peace, friendship, balance, and, often, to find meaning, as well as our place in this world.

For those who have been regularly following my blog posts, you’ll remember that a while back I read the book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest by Bonnie Gray. Since then, I have shared many of my favorite quotes, and decided to take an active part in her 21 Days of Rest Blog Tour. Little did I know, at the time, what a commitment that would be. Of course, Bonnie did not ask me or her other followers to do this but I had discovered a lot of really good thoughts from her book that I wanted to share. However, I wasn’t always able to “keep up,” and I began to feel like I took on more than I should have.

The Best YesBecause of this, as well as several other poor choices, Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands,  is now on my “to be read” list. Lysa points out that “there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God.” Those of us who are people pleasers or stressed by an “overwhelmed schedule and underwhelmed soul” will likely get a great deal out of this book and the tools provided in it for better processing our thoughts and actions. If you haven’t heard of this book yet, click on the link above and read more about it.

In Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie shares that “The world calls us to hide our stressed-out selves. But Jesus calls us to a radical new rest. … Jesus invites us into a new relationship to set our hearts free. Jesus wants us to bring him what’s real and worrisome as well as what’s simple and beautiful.”

Simple Beauty

“Taking time for whitespace to rest, create, and play—
to laugh, enjoy friends, see new places,
and explore new adventures—
is heart-freeing faith.”
Bonnie Gray

On Bonnie’s post for Day 20: Find Me in the Quiet Places: A Little Big Change, she shares some of the ways that she seeks rest from stress and/or the daily grind by choosing to meet Jesus in the quiet spaces. These moments don’t have to be long or regularly scheduled; the “moments will come, if you listen to your soul…”

As you come to a fork in the road in your day today and this week — between choosing the quiet or filling it up with doing, performing, pleasing, or disappearing — stop.

Choose what’s harder, but more soul-filling.

Choose to spend that time doing something no one would be able to point at it and say, “She is someone. She did something.”

And choose to be loved instead.

Butterfly

On Day 21, Bonnie posted Me & the Military: It Changed Me to share with her readers the results of her first multi-day Spiritual Whitespace Retreat, which she was invited to lead for the Wounded Transition Battalion headquartered in Fort Campbell, KY. (The retreat was held earlier in September in Nashville, TN.) While she originally intended to speak to soldiers, the focus changed and she ended up working with a group of officers and their wives. She asked herself: “What does a Chinese-American 5 foot woman born in San Francisco, Chinatown — who suffered PTSD for the past two years with broken memories, uncontrollable anxiety and insomnia — have to say to officers caring for injured soldiers, wounded from the battlefield?”

Leaders who have been in combat themselves are reliving [their experiences] through the soldiers they care for 24 hours-a-day, on-call 7 days a week. Phone calls wake them up at crazy hours during the night. By day, they look into eyes of soldiers who are confused, angry or depressed to guide them on the disorienting journey of healing and recovery. They are responsible for each soldier’s disorienting transition back to active duty, or for some with irreversible injuries, prepare them for the unexpected re-entrance into civilian life.

It’s soul-wearying work.

It’s a heavy burden to carry because it’s often the strong ones — the encouragers – the doers –

who carry the heaviest burdens,

and incur the greatest emotional and physical cost,

who find it hard to express want or need,

while finding it easier to just get things done,

even if they truly long to receive comfort,

yet can’t seem to give themselves permission to rest.

Like many of us who doubt ourselves, Bonnie’s biggest fear was whether she was good enough, qualified enough, to lead this group on a soul journey toward discovery and rest. Then it struck her: The weekend was about experiencing Spiritual Whitespace, not teaching it. The event included storytelling, journaling, connecting to God through silence and solitude on a solo nature walk or through prayer and meditation, even painting. It was about facing fears and becoming real in community. And it was successful!

We all have stories…

On the outside, we might look different. But, inside, we’re all on the same journey.

We’re all on the same mission.

To be loved.

To be known.

To be close to God.

To each other.

We all long for rest…

We can all live lives that include rest and refreshment by taking the time to develop an intimacy, a deep relationship, with Jesus. He knows what moves us and encourages us; he knows what spiritual whitespace looks like for each of us. And once we discover the ways our own needs for renewal can be met—through nature, music, God’s Word, song lyrics, art (our own creativity or that of others), etc.—we can reach out and help others discover the beauty, the transformational nature, the freeing power, of walking in faith with Jesus in the quiet of our hearts.

 

 21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

 

Discouraged? There’s Help for Your Heart.

What Your Heart NeedsI am currently working my way through a wonderful new book by Holley Gerth: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days: 52 Encouraging Truths to Hold On To. And I am finding so many words of encouragement that I can personally relate to. In fact, I have already flagged a number of pages that I know I will want to go back to so I can reread and savor the messages on days when I might be feeling a bit discouraged.

Holley is a best-selling writer, licensed counselor, certified life coach, and speaker. I have followed her blog: Heart to Heart with Holley (www.holleygerth.com) for quite some time now and often share her posts or some of her words or graphics with friends and family on my Facebook page.

Holley also works in partnership with DaySpring, one of the largest publishers and distributors of Christian greeting cards (and other inspirational products) in the world. Plus, she is the cofounder of (in)courage, an online “home for the hearts of women,” which I love; I have found so many great articles and bloggers through this site.

In fact, there was a recent post on (in)courage from Renee Swope titled “Words for the Weary” that made me think of Holley and the importance of her newest book. To me, Holley Gerth is the encourager of encouragers.  

Words of Encouragement

If you haven’t heard of (in)courage before, you should check them out.

So, back to the book: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days contains 52 similarly formatted devotions based on the book of Psalms, written in a way that helps us remember that “God is good and we’re all in this together.”

Because there are 52 entries, you could easily use this book as a weekly devotional to be processed over a year, taking your time to read the opening Scripture quote and Holley’s words. Then adding your own words to complete the prayer, which has already been started for you under “What My Heart Is Saying to You.” During the week, you can go back and write in your thoughts under “What My Heart Is Hearing from You,” and at any time, you can open your Bible and read and reflect on the three Psalms referenced at the end of that week’s entry.

Of course, the devotions are short enough that you could also choose to read them as daily devotions. Either way, in this comforting book, Holley invites us “to be filled with the strength, peace, and joy that come from God’s promises.”

She provides real-life stories for us to connect with, as well as encouraging thoughts and passages from God’s Word to help us focus on what’s really important—the internal and the eternal.

All we have to do is be willing to open our hearts and receive.

Open Your Heart

Already a fan of Holley Gerth, her latest book does not disappoint. Not only will you find this book to be soothing for your own soul, but it would make a great gift for a hurting friend or perhaps even a wonderful donation at a women’s shelter. It is also the perfect companion to one of Holley’s other books: You’re Going to Be Okay.

I hope you get an opportunity to read What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days. I will likely be posting excerpts from it in the days ahead.

God Exerts His Strength

“God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.”

Psalm 46:5

“The Lord is my strength and my shield:
my heart trusts in him,
and I am helped.”

Psalm 28:7

 

Disclosure: This book was sent to me free of charge
from Revell for my honest review.

 

Days 18 and 19: Finding Spiritual Whitespace—You Are Not Forgotten

Even if they don’t know what it means, everyone needs spiritual whitespace. If only we all clearly recognized this need in ourselves or in our loved ones, especially those who struggle with depression or some form of PTSD. Maybe we would be able to save them … save ourselves … from reaching that anguished breaking point where the only source of peace and solace available seems to be death.

On August 12th, Bonnie Gray, author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest wrote a tribute to Robin Williams and shared a letter she had written to her younger self. This is some of what she shared:

I wish I had a chance to talk with Robin in that dark moment he decided to take his life. I wish I could say something to bring him some hope, some comfort — the same way he brought a measure of it into my life through his art.

I’m telling you. I shed some tears. For my yesterday. For Robin.

For we are all soul-starved and hungry.

Soul-loneliness is our sad modern epidemic.

I wish I could tell you, Robin.

There is rest apart from death. There is hope in your hurt.

You can find home. God can meet you in your sorrow.

There Is Hope

From her letter to her younger self, these are the words I believe we can all benefit from:

Be broken. Don’t run from it. Feel your need and dare to follow your dreams.

And when you feel you’ve been too broken and cannot stand the pain of being alone one breath longer — break your silence.

Tell someone. Anyone. Everyone. …

When you give yourself permission to need — to touch the place of empty, the place of wanting – that ache of unrequited desire will lead you to fulfill God-sized dreams imprinted in you before you were even named. …

Your need entwines you to Christ.

Brokenness is beauty to Him.

You are not forgotten.

You're Not Alone

In today’s post, Bonnie shares how the journey of telling her story prompted her recent invitation to lead a Spiritual Whitespace Retreat for Wounded Warriors from Fort Campbell, Kentucky in Nashville this weekend. Bonnie asks for prayer for herself and those who attend the event:

Pray for me, as I’ll be sharing my personal journey through non-combat PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks to active duty military leaders along with their spouses.

This will be a three-day retreat to guide soldiers on a journey of Spiritual Whitespace and experience spiritual refreshment through storytelling, journaling, prayer and meditation.

Pray that the brave men and women who serve our country will experience unexpected soul rest — and get a taste of what feeds their soul. That they will be known and rejuvenated from the experience.

Sacred Idleness

Speaking of events for those who have served our country, we are having a local event here in Shelbyville, KY to honor our veterans and remind them that we appreciate them and are here for them.

Veterans Supper

One of the young ladies who used to work (maybe still does part-time) at Shelburne Pet Center (where Bella goes for doggy day care and boarding) came up with the concept for this First Annual Veteran’s Supper and she has been spearheading/organizing the entire event. “This event will honor veterans of the Shelby County, Kentucky area with an afternoon of delicious potluck food, fun local music entertainment, community business basket raffles, and commemoration to the sacrifices they have made for our community.”

I pray that this rejuvenates the spirits of our veterans and their families. Thank you to Molly Carter for not only caring about your hometown, but for being an integral part of making it a better place to live for all of us. I wish you much success, and I’ll see you up there on Saturday. 🙂

In closing, here are just a few of my favorite veterans and VFW members, which I recently shared on my Facebook page:

My Aunt Mary and My Grandma Jo

My Aunt Mary and My Grandma Jo

My Grandfather - Dan Lee

My Grandfather – Dan Lee (with my grandmother)

My Uncle - KC Lee

My Uncle – KC Lee

I have other family members and many friends who have also served or are still serving – thank you all for what you have done and what you continue to do. I hope you never feel alone or forgotten. If you do, call me!

“God has said,
‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’

So we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?'”
(Hebrews 13:5-6)

 

Having a Bad Day? You Are Not Alone.

Despite our best efforts to keep our lives on a steady track, like a carousel, life is typically more like a roller coaster. We have our ups—things are great, life is good, we’re on top of the world. And then we have our downs—those trying times when it seems that everything that can go wrong does.

Personally, I am only on a small slope right now as I experience a little uncertainty about my income in the upcoming months and continue to deal with the on-again/off-again issues of carpal tunnel and fibromyalgia. However, among my family and friends, there are several people experiencing more traumatic issues like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, multiple surgeries, major medication and rehabilitation, long-distance moves, and various other shake-ups.

Today, whether you are experiencing a steady decline or you feel like you are descending at a rapid rate, remember: looking back does not change the course; every down is followed by an up; and finally, whatever you are going through, you are not alone.

Roy Lessin image

Virginia Knowles, who writes about motherhood on her blog (This Mom Grows Up!) posted this today: “When Life Is Not a Bowl of Cherries”

“So much we go through, the good and bad mixed together. It stretches our faith. It teaches us life lessons. It connects us to those who want to help us. It draws on our capacity to love others. It shows us where we need to put forth more effort.”

Another blogger I follow, Susie Middleton (at SixBurnerSue.com), shares some of the crazy downs experienced in farm life:

“It’s … easy, this time of year, to look around a farm and get discouraged. Weeds are ravenous, pests are ravenous, farm stand customers are ravenous. (And our egg supply isn’t keeping up with demand.). The pretty green frilly stuff of spring has fled, replaced by dying pea vines and bolted lettuce and plants ravaged by potato beetles.

But wait. That’s only one way to look at it.”

She goes on to comment on the cheerful sunflowers and zinnias, the bountiful tomato harvest, and the fresh black raspberries now ripe for making homemade berry ice cream.

Copyright © 2014 Susie Middleton

Copyright © 2014 Susie Middleton

Sometimes, how you look at your surroundings and what you choose to see is more important than what appears at first to be the overwhelming “reality.” Changing your focus is not always easy to do, especially if you are experiencing financial difficulties or overwhelming grief, but you can often find the silver lining in many situations if you try and/or if you give it time. (Of course, there are some things that we will never understand or see the good in … at least not during our earthly lives. For those things, we simply have to trust in God and His plan.)

JoAnn Potter, shares some really good thoughts on bad things in her blog post, “God Never Says ‘Oops'”:

“Whenever something bad happens to me, my first reaction is to think that I don’t belong in my situation. Surely, there’s been some kind of mistake.

My son shouldn’t be sick. I shouldn’t have constant conflict with my boss. I’m not supposed to have broken my mother’s prized china. My husband wasn’t supposed to be downsized out of a job. Our car shouldn’t have broken down. …

Regardless of what I want to believe about my situation, I am in it for one of only two reasons: Either God has willed it, or He has allowed it.

If I do not admit this, then God becomes subservient to my will, to the devil, to chance, or to something else. And He can’t. If He does, He is not God. …

God is not selectively perfect. He is not selectively knowing. He is not selectively loving. God is these things all the time.

He does not make me do stuff, but He does work all things together for good. He can turn my bad decisions, eventually, into good. He can turn evil inside out. He does it all the time.”

PEACE - I Have Overcome the World

Whatever you are going through, I pray that your burden will be eased; that you will receive encouragement through your connection to God, friends, and family; that you will find relief from your pain and comfort for your sorrow; that you will discover the desires of your heart and the path that will get you there; and that you will find rest, peace, and renewal at the end of the “ride.”

Dr. Charles Stanley says, “Perhaps the hardest part of receiving the desires of our heart is waiting for them to materialize. Yet God’s Word insists that we rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. This means relying on Him to work out circumstances even when achieving our desire seems impossible.”

 “Now then, stand still and see this great thing
the Lord is about to do…”
1 Samuel 12:4

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.”
Jeremiah 17:7

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Stop Worrying

Day 15: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

In yesterday’s post, Bonnie Gray (the Faith Barista), invited readers to join her “on the porch” at Ann Voskamp’s blog where she shared one of her most vulnerable chapters – “The Pink Outfit.” As part of the Whitespace Launch team, I took part in helping her choose which chapter to share with Ann’s readers; she gave us the five chapters she was deciding between and we voted on which chapter was most powerful for us personally. This moment won out.

If you do not have the book and/or haven’t read about the pink outfit, I encourage you to follow the link to Ann’s blog above to read a story that Bonnie says she kept hidden away for most of her life. It’s about the moment when she first experienced the lonely feeling that comes with hoping for joy only to have it cruelly snatched away.

Bonnie says: “But, this pink outfit moment is the moment Jesus has never been closer to me, more intimate as a Father holding his newfound daughter — and this is how He has chosen to introduce new friends to meet with me between the pages of our stories.”

Walk with Kindreds

As you read (Bonnie says), may your heart be prompted and encouraged to know this:

You matter.

Your voice matters.

Your story matters.

Because Jesus is living your story with you.

Because Jesus is your story.

He will always be faithful to carry you through everything and anything.

Because He loves you.  

As is.

Bonnie guides us to discover a better story for ourselves, one that feeds our soul and makes room for rest.  

 Give yourself permission today to take the journey to rest – whatever that looks like for you personally.

Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace