Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Upside-down Joy

I've been thinking lately of how some of the most joyful people I know have seemed to either be coming out of a period of great suffering or are, even more amazingly, in the midst of some great suffering.   Of course, after you have been through a season of hurt, of debasement, of sadness or loss, anything would be better. Any little glimmer would seem like "joy". Not happiness. Joy. But those who are joyful in spite of  their location in life's storms, whether they are just beginning or whether they are in the midst of a real down-pour that shows no sign of letting up, THOSE are the people I am constantly amazed by. I am inspired. I am confused! Because no matter how much I want to say "oh yes, I know what it is to have suffered loss or seasons of extreme sadness and next time, I will show what I have learned by an increase in faith and in joy!", I doubt I will. I hope I will but I doubt that I will have "arrived" in the area of joy in all things (James 2:1-4). I pray I show myself more mature but not for the sake of being better, for the sake of being a renewed creature.
I am not being a Debbie Downer here. I am just being honest. Joy is not my default...YET.
It's something I am asking the Lord to work out in me.

So as I am having all of these introspective thoughts on joy, I picked up my copy of One Thousand Gifts last night. I couldn't sleep. The reason for no sleep? One of my sources of greatest joy, this baby in my belly. Ironic. And I think God was just choosing to reveal himself in my "season of sleeplessness" Ha!  Anyway. I have maybe 40 pages to complete in this book and this is what I read when I resumed reading last night. I hope you are inspired to joyfulness, to take a hard look at your sources of joy and gain a clearer redirected perspective on God's real gifts. The joy of the Lord comes when we lose our rights, our safety, our clarity and our status. To be thankful BEFORE something "bad" happens. To live in a thankful, joyful manner. Live surprised:

Ann writes:

" Is it only when our lives are emptied that we're surprised by how truly full our lives were? Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing- and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! These people! This place, This day! Surprise! C.S. Lewis said he was "surprised by joy".  Perhaps there is no other way to discover joy but as surprise. The way the small live. Every day. Yes, the small even have a biblical nomenclature, Doesn't God call them humble? The humble live surprised. The humble live by joy.. Jesus whispers to the surprised, "God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth" (Matthew 5:5) The humble are laid-low bowed ones, the surprised ones with hands open to receive whatever He gives..

..In the upside-down kingdom of heaven, down is up and up is down, and those who want to ascend higher must descend lower and so "anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:4)."

"I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves on beneath the other, and that it is not a questions of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down to get His best gifts." -F. B. Meyer

"To receive God's gifts, to live exalted and joy filled, isn't a function of straining higher, harder, doing more, carrying long the burdens of the super-Pharisees or ultra-saints. Receiving God's gifts is a gentle, simple, movement of stooping lower."*

*{excerpts taken from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp; pp. 170-171}

Monday, August 15, 2011

over ME!

I like all the" you's" in this. 
Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Readjusting  present participle of re·ad·just (Verb)

1. Set or adjust (something) again: "I readjusted the rear-view mirror".
2. Adjust or adapt to a changed environment or situation: "she wondered if she could ever become readjusted to this sort of life".

This is what I am doing lately. In every possible area of life. You name it, and that area is being shaken AND stirred. I am neither shaken nor stirred but am kind of sitting back and watching this all happen and am quite ok with it all...I think (which is out of character).  Watching how God, in his divinity, just works...simply, complexly, naturally and perfectly, it's weird, really. Amazing. Consistent. 
Always surprising to me, though!

To my right, as I type, is my framed wedding invitation which reads this common and simple yet profound verse from Ecclesiastes:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1
So. Ready or not, the change is coming. It comes with a purpose. 
Entering new seasons and  letting the old seasons go.
Sometimes the letting go comes with reluctance even though the new season is equally as 
awesome and God ordained. 

Most of the time I hear people say  "this season" in a negative sense. Like the bitter, cold winter that seems like it will never end. And to be honest, usually when I use that Christianese terminology, I  use it in that context too. But now, I see that the season that is passing away and the one that is coming to pass aren't polar opposites, but rather just edited continuations of blessing. That's what's surprising me here.
It does not surprise me that God is good.
It does not surprise me that God is consistent.
I don't know what I am surprised at really.
I just find myself surprised.

It's as simple as this:

God's just readjusting my life, my seasons.
The seasons look the same but that familiar feeling of transition is present and undeniable.
{un}fortunately (I haven't decided which yet) these changes aren't as predictable likes nature's are.
I look forward and I see great possibilities.
And as I  "readjust the review mirror",
I look back and see some amazing blessings.
I am not leaving them behind, they are just following me now. Closely.

He readjusts my perspective.

And maybe I will  "wonder if I can ever readjust to this sort of life"  from time to time.
Who knows.
What I do know is this:
As long as my life has been readjusted: "set, adapted or changed"  by my God,
then there is a purpose. A divine one.
I can rest in it.
I can move joyfully into this new "sort of life".

I will joyfully readjust.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 9

Be thankful.
Gratitude goes a long way.

Thank your friends for their consistency, balance, perspective, kindness and even their differences. You can never go wrong with practicing common courtesy . It doesn't have to be extravagant! A thank you (especially a face to face one) speaks louder than a thousand return gestures. 
Also, a sidenote about thank: Facebook shout outs are nice but a personal handwritten card or letter and even better. An eye to eye conversation expressing thanks will grow your friendship by leaps and bounds in just a minute or two! No longer will it weird to be open and mushy with feelings after you take the time to do that! And what an awesome gift, the gift of gratitude!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day 8

This is the next to last day of the friendship series. I think it could possibily go on for eternity. I'm constantly learning new things about relationships and how to be a good friend but I know not all of what I learn will be standard for everyone.  I hope that you have gleaned a little something from these 8 posts. Tomorrow it will be the end of it..until I get very inspired to write this much again. Don't know that I will have the time for it for a couple of months..

This is one I learned the hard way. 

Protect your friendships

I read these verses recently when trying to get focused for this blog:

A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends. 
 Proverbs 16:28

There are “friends” who destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24

Protect your friendships against idle conversation. There is a definite difference between just chatting and catching up (which is great!) and pumping one another for information and gossip. It can be fine line sometimes. A line that, once it's crossed, is very hard to back up and uncross!

Here is a very real truth I have learned  the hard way:
If someone talks about peole with you, they will talk with other people about you.
I would like to think I am the exception, but I know better.
So, when in doubt, shut your trap and protect your friends, yourself and most of all your spiritual state. It never ends well when you use others as a topic for conversation. And most times you don't ever really trust that person after they've entertained your gossip or have gossiped to you.  And really, what kind of friendship is it if you don't trust each other?   Yes, I get that there are times when you need a friend to talk to about a certain situation. I needed that just the other day. But I spoke with a person I knew I could trust and tried to keep myself in check with my words. Was I pursuing clarity or banter about an annoying situation? It's hard. So be sure you speak with safe people and keep yourself in check. Talk to God about it first and then seek outside counsel from a very trusted friend if you feel it's necessary.  He's our best relationship counselor! 

Also, when engaging in true friendship, it can get hard. It can get messy. It can even get annoying. But here comes the' b' word again: balance. If it's going to be best for you to take a breather and get some perspective, then take the time. Don't converse with that friend until you feel clear-headed and  ready to approach the friendship in a new way. Taking time is something that is very necessary a lot of times. And if your friend is true, they will value the new attitude and dynamic you have brought to the friendship.
Be real with your friend and nip the gossip train in the bud. Don't let it take off. 
It's so nice to know that when you aren't with someone that your secrets are still safe, your stuff is protected. And I'm sure they appreciate your willingness to uplift and not tear down. It's a Christlike characteristic and that is always a comforting thing in friendship!
Hint: if you can't find something to talk about other than  other's business with a certain friend, you might want to drop her like she's hot or vice versa.  Better safe than sorry. Talk about the weather and go from there. :) See day 2.

Proverbs 20:6 Many will say they are loyal friends,
      but who can find one who is truly reliable?

Sounds like Mr. Proverbs Writer knew what it was like to have had his back bitten one too many times. Poor guy! All friendships are worth protecting. Even the  aquaintance-ish ones. Back your friends up! Be reliable. Be the positive friend. Fight for optimism.. the list goes on.

If you need some help on this one, read the gospels. Jesus was so amazing at calling people out on their crap and building others up when he had plenty of reasons to be annoyed and vent about his frustrations with others.

 "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
Matthew 12:34-37

Go, Jesus! He's a straight shooter !
And Yikes.
The topic is a heavy one..our words.

So, let's be careful. Especially if you like to talk a lot. Think before you speak.

Protect one another.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 7

Expectations result in disappointment
Yeah. this is one that's a bit tricky because we all want to feel appreciated and valued in our friendships.
Step one, don't take every thing your friend doesn't do personally. If you do, it's a big sign of co-dependency. And no relationships ever thrive when co-dependency is present. Step 2. Be gracious abounding in mercy.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.  Psalm 145:8

This is the thing: when reality and expectatins don't align, disappointment results. I'm not a fan of setting the bar low. That's silly. But I do believe that the "bar" whatever that is, is different for everyone. And I am sort of leaning towards getting rid of the bar all together.
 So expecting to get something in return for showing yourself friendly is kind of an oxymoron.  

THe biblical principle is if you want friends, you need to show others what a true friend is, be one! But I don't think that necessarily means you will automatically make friends. But inevitably, a friendly person is probably going to have friendly friends. NO need to over complicate this.
Doing something for someone with the expectation of getting a return gesture, you'll probably get a big bag of disappointment in stead.  If you get a return gesture, awesome!!  But if you don't, don't give up on the friendship. Don't stop pursuing or get frustrated and bitter. I just think of all the times people have probably done something awesome for me and I dropped the ball in some fashion. There have been specific instances when I knew that I had sucked it up. (Darn it!) Then, there have been times when I didn't know about it and..well, I still don't know about it. But I'm human. I try, though, to be aware and intentional in my relationships. Chances are though, if they did it "to be nice", they did it to be nice. Take it as that. 
Don't look into it.
Be thankful! What a treasure it is to have friends that do things "just because".  
HEre is some professional opinion on expectations in relationships:

"Some disappointments are actually predictable and preventable. Others are totally unavoidable. It is important to differentiate between the two so that you can respond appropriately.
Repeated disappointment may be the result of a pattern of faulty or irrational thinking. If you are frequently disappointed, evaluate what you are thinking and try to change faulty thinking patterns."

I think that's good counsel! In ANY relationship, it's good to practice introsopective inventory.
So, in short, don't over complicate it. 

Just. Be. A. Friend.

Review time: Initiate friendship, embrace differences, seek balance, fight for the positive,value those you love, be consistent, be real. That's simple enough. Expecting yourself or anyone else to do more is a set up for disappointment.. Keep it simple! 
And keep loving on others! You can't never go wrong with love.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 6

Week 2..
I guess I had more to say, then I thought. More than 5 days worth, it seems.
It's another double post!

Real or Bust, Embrace Vulnerability
This is the one that would be classified as the hardest thing for me. I'm a pretty real person but when it comes to true vulnerability, it's something I continue to work on. I think I'm getting better though.  How vulnerable you are with people boils down to this: self esteem. If you have never really had a "safe" person to freely talk with on your good, bad or ugly days, this one can take some real work. If you've come from a family who was uncomfortable or unhealthy with display of emotions, this one can seem really daunting. But let me tell you, IT'S WORTH IT! 
I'm a crier. I cry. It's really not a bad thing. I just feel deeply. Which means I cry when I'm happy, I cry when I'm sad, I cry when I'm hurt, I cry when I'm mad. Sounds precious put in a rhymie way like that but to most people, when they see the waterworks, they either try to fix or flee! And that's been a hard thing for me. Accepting that, at the worst, if I am real (with my tears)  someone might just try to tell me "oh, you are just emotional because you are hormonal" or   just quit responding and grow silent and perhaps not talk to me for a while. It can be awkward so usually I just don't let that part of myself show. People show vulnerability in different ways, some are easier to handle than others.
lots of talking, life story telling, detail giving, emotion showing (that's the hardest one, I think), advice asking...  If you are afraid of vulnerability, don't be. Easier said than done, I know, for real.  There are few people that I feel comfy letting it all hang out with, the good and the bad. The great, lasting, amazing friendships I have are mutally vulnerable ones. It took time.  So don't go rushing into asking your new pal "what was the worst childhood experience you ever had" or making them a list of 50 things you love about them when you've known them for a few weeks. That can be a bit overwhelming for most. Ususally, it takes you being the person to show vulnerability first. If we are all a little less afraid and being real with who we are, then what a genuine world this could be! 

An easy, eh sort of not really, way to get vulnerable is this:
Don't be afraid to ask the important questions

And don't be scared of hearing the real answers.  A lot is to be said for those people in your life who are reflecting and thinking enough about your life to ask questions. Good questions show that you are being thought of. Who doesn't like to know that they have been in someone's thoughts? 
And following up, that's like a bonus deal. Having told someone something once then them asking you about it days, weeks etc. later shows a great deal of consideration. It shows an other's centered mindset which is extremely Christlike and comforting. Those friends that I have that care enough to ask the questions like "how is your walk with Christ?", "How are you doing with that personal struggle  you shared with me last week?" are the ones  I know aren't trapped in the bubble of self-centeredness. They care and that is one of many ways to show it. If you are the friend asking these questions and the other friend says", I 'd rather not talk about it" or maybe they don't open up as much as you thought they would, don't take it personally. Sometimes, no matter how real you are, some people just aren't there yet. If that's the case, keep being consistent.
Remember? That counts for a lot! 
And if you feel that you are the one who is doing much of the initiating, maybe back off for a time and give them space. I don't recall every being offended at someone following up with me about something or asking a deeper question. If anything, it showed me that I was important to them. And that always feels good.

Ah, relationships. Friendships. There is a lot to be said on how to make them work and how to be "good" at it. It's different for everyone and there is no set method of how to do it. Just be yourself. Be real. Invest, be consistent and
 Love others as you love yourself..
Mark 12:31