Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Cultivating Gratitude: Prayers Answered and Unanswered

Each week I will be linking up on Tuesdays with Rachel at her blog, LusaOrganics-Clean, as she cultivates gratitude and invites others to join with her there!

The ways of prayer are mysterious. Sometimes I pray fervently for years that a particular thing would or would not occur/keep occurring, and the prayer is never answered. Other times I am shocked when I realize that a prayer has been answered and I almost missed it. And sometimes I rejoice when a prayer is fulfilled like a miracle before my very eyes.

Since I was eight years old, I've prayed to be freed from performance anxiety. Years of training as a music teacher and professional musician have taught me multiple ways to alleviate, work through, and compensate for this anxiety, but it always hovers in the background at some level. It is a frustrating, sometimes debilitating weakness that affects my vocation. And yet my prayer that I would conquer performance fears has never been answered in the way I would like.

One of my other weaknesses is lack of patience. This mostly comes out with myself or those I am close to, especially my family. It's one of the first things I remember my mother telling me I needed to correct. She warned me when I was very young that if I didn't learn to be in control of my temper and have patience, then I would suffer more and more as I grew up, because the older you get, the more patience you need. She was completely right. And I have suffered consequences as I continue to learn (the hard way) how much I need patience.

This week I realized again that my constant hope for relief from performance anxiety is still unrequited. The eighteen year prayer will continue on.

However, this week brought a breath of new life as I discovered that God has begun building reserves of patience into my character that I never knew were possible.

There's nothing like a teething toddler who refuses to eat or sleep to make me pull my hair out. Yet while there have been moments of frustration, patience has kept me calm, compassionate, and gentle. Ten years ago I would have said "this is not me, this mother quietly soothing her child instead of rushing out of the room screaming!" But God is good, and my prayer is slowly being answered.

Why my prayer for patience and not my prayer for help with performance anxiety?

Perhaps my anxiety is keeping me humble. Perhaps God is working change in my character in subtle ways that I don't see yet. Perhaps God knew that I needed to develop patience now with my daughter so that we can build a good relationship while she is young.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good. He is working out His plan, even when I don't understand it.

~ A 50% off coupon for a local thrift store, helping us buy cold weather clothes

~ Harmony's first guitar (for $3.50!)

~ The fellowship, wisdom, kindness, and prayers of our small group

~ Musical gathering in a friend's backyard, instruments everywhere, voices raised in song

~ My poetry being published by Kindred Magazine

~ Sister finally gaining new employment at a great workplace

~ Writing letters to the Compassion International child that I am co-sponsoring

~ The blessing of an all-day rain

~ Gently being taught by God how to have patience

~ Determination to build my house upon the rock, not on the sand (Matthew 7:24-27)

~ Fresh tomatoes from my neighbor's plants

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How to forget your One Word and then remember it again

Eager to shake off the laziness of the summer, I am about to dive into the book of Romans with the women in Bible study. Blithely I turn to Romans 1, settle in to my cozy nest on the couch, and begin to read: "... concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace..."

And a little light goes off in my head.

What was that again?

"To those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

There it is.


How easily I forget. How could my memory slip so far that I forgot about Grace being my Word for 2013? It must have been weeks since I thought about it. Ugh. So much for growing in holiness this year. But rather than wallow in guilt, I need to just get back on track, renewing my efforts to explore how God wants Grace to change my life.

Time to look again for Grace in the little things and the big things.

Time to turn back to thankfulness for all that He has Graciously blessed me with today.

~ Red panda pajamas against the red high chair, a burst of color

~ Harmony reaching out to hold my hand when we walk

~ Successful fund-raising concert for Compassion International

~ Making new friends with the flashmob group

~ The return of migrating birds to my bird feeder

~ Fresh peaches and raspberries on sale at the store

~ Resting in the joy that I am CALLED to belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 1:5-6)

~ Beautiful rose-scented soap from a local shop, thankful for a gift certificate 

~ Getting back into a routine as the school year begins

~ The best Mexican food in the midwest for my birthday 

~ The fellowship, wisdom, kindness, and prayers of our small group

~ Our first camping trip as a family 

~ Beginning to memorize the entire chapter of Romans 8

~ The first hint of autumn in the air in the mornings

Looking forward to the growth and change of the new season

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Down One Thousand Gratitudes

This is how to begin appreciating the moments again, how I am settling back into listing one thousand things I am grateful for:

~ Realize that if you live in America and have a home, car, and job, then you are among some of the wealthiest people in the world. Even though we struggle financially, I still know that my family is truly blessed here in the U.S. compared to many in other countries.

~ Live deliberately with your eyes open, looking for the positive, the beautiful, the lessons learned hard, the interesting, the grace-filled peace, loving interactions, thoughtful times, refreshment. 

~ Be aware of what is happening NOW. If you look around, wherever you are, there's an extremely good chance that you can find something, at least one thing (if not many things), to be grateful for in your life. Try it.... what are you thankful for right now?

~ At the end of the day, even a day where everything seemed to go wrong, try to come up with at least three things you can hold as gratitudes. Did you have access to clean water? Give thanks. Did you drink coffee this morning? Give thanks. Did you have gas to put in your car? Give thanks. Were you surfing the web on your smartphone? Give thanks. Were you able to read because you had schooling opportunities as a child? Give thanks. Can you read a Bible without the government arresting you and dragging you off to jail? Give thanks. Can you walk safely down your street without being in fear of your life? Give thanks. Is there food in your refrigerator? Give thanks. Do you have time for leisure activities? Give thanks. 

~ Eventually, become more detailed. Give thanks for a poem read at an opportune moment. Give thanks for a prayer answered. Give thanks for a kind word spoken by a friend right when you needed it. Give thanks for discovering new depths of patience with your children. Give thanks for experiencing greater awareness of God's love. Give thanks for a beautiful sunset.

~ Write them down. When you are feeling like there is no point to getting up in the morning (we all have those mornings), take your list out and read what you have written. Be encouraged by all the blessings you have, and let it help you turn humbly, gratefully to the One Who Gives All Things.

~ Once you begin finding gratitude and being deliberate about seeking specific things to be thankful for, then your outlook may begin to change. Blessings appear everywhere. Just as there can be lovely flowers hidden in the darkest forest, in the hardest times, there are always blessings. We just need to train our eyes to see them.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Starting Again

Summer is a time of loose schedules, last-minute plans, sudden trips to the pool in hot weather, outings with friends in the morning, surprise trips to national parks. Needless to say, I am very much undisciplined in the summer. My last post on this blog was at the end of June, and I'm sad to say that my 1,000 gifts journal has taken a back seat since then as well. Time to say goodbye to the easy-breezy non-schedule of summertime.

Not that I have neglected gratefulness this summer! It is becoming easier to bow my head during the moment and give thanks for something, fully in the present. Those moments just weren't written down. Time to go back to my discipline of documenting these times of gratitude.

My official "school year schedule" starts again this week. Leading music for the Sunday school children, teaching guitar ensemble at the studio (along with the regular lessons that go year-round), leading the music at the women's Bible study and relishing our study in the book of Romans, a parents and babies group that I've been invited to join, the shortening days, the lengthening nights, the color on the trees. Time to settle back in to the welcome routine that brings order to our days.

Are you writing down your 1,000 gifts? Have you tried to begin in the past but let it fall by the wayside? Would you consider starting again with me?

May my eyes and heart be open to the presence and gifts of God today; may my heart bow in thanks to the Heavenly King in the midst of hard things. ~ Mighty Violet