Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Cultivating Gratitude: Slowing Down for What is Best

Sometimes the best thing I do in a day to find gratitude is SLOW DOWN.

With so much going on, the list of events and projects that I choose not to do is quite long, even though my calendar's days are still scribbled full of excitement! Suddenly I look at my gratitude notebook sitting by the computer on my desk and realize that a week has gone by without me adding to my list of blessings. Big oops. Then, looking back, I remember how much more I complained that week, how much more selfish I was, how much more quick to anger, how much more prone to forget to center my thoughts around the Word. Even bigger oops.

The minutes fly by, the days are a whisper.

Am I prioritizing my time correctly?

A morning begun with the Words of peace, truth, grace, and compassion is the recipe for a good day where I can step outside the little frustrations, handle the problems, and focus on the good. Bringing my attention to gratitude right away when I get up is the way to set the tone, because nothing brings my heart into the right place better than thanking Him for everything He has provided. I need to slow down so I can remember what is best.

For the next month, I'll be writing for NaNoWriMo, so blog entries here will be postponed until December. But writing down my blessings, Lord willing, is a priority that comes before any other writing. If I am grateful, then I am able to see the world and the One where they are meant to be. That is more important than anything.

~ Stepdad fixing the fuel lines in our car, saving us a ton of money we would have had to spend to fix it

~ Fall break, a chance to stay home with Harmony

~ Camping trip in the beautiful autumn weather

~ Catching a cold on the weekend, not the work week (is this really a blessing? at least I didn't have to miss any work and could focus on getting better!)

~ Sister enthusiastically preparing for NaNoWriMo with me

~ Gaining a great appreciation of Bach as one of my students learns new music

~ Knitting Harmony's winter hat in record time while recuperating from illness (see, getting sick this weekend had blessings)

~ Learning anew how deeply we are loved in Christ, even when we don't deserve it (Romans 5)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cultivating Gratitude: I am the Ungraceful One

Sometimes the hardest lessons come from your own family. Those who are closest to you see the bare bones of your soul, and sometimes it just isn't a pretty sight. My lack of Grace to them, my lack of Grace towards myself, my lack of allowing Grace to work in my heart... it's only when I'm rolling around in the mud that I even realize that I've been knocked down once more by my dark side. Blindness to Grace is a terrible state.

Their Grace shown to me is what brings me back to my knees, oh-so-ready to kneel before the Grace-Giver and beg for renewal. And, you know, for the millionth or billionth time, my prayer is answered. Not harshly, not begrudgingly, but gently I am led back to the path. The words of the old hymn echo through my thankful ears- 'Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

~ Flowers from my sweet neighbor, a surprise on my doorstep

~ Two home-made rubber band bracelets from a young student who wants me to keep up with the current trends

~ Baby kisses

~ A personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe. How cool is THAT?

~ Clean water to drink in my own home

~ Waking up healthy and happy between my daughter and husband

~ Getting a discount at the store where my sister works

~ Harmony and Em dancing in the kitchen, music blaring, hands in the air

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cultivating Gratitude: Thank You, Mumford and Sons

When I honestly look at the state of my heart, it can be depressing. No matter how good I think I am there is always more "messed-upedness", as I call it, hiding (or not hiding) around the corner.

Roll away your stone, I'll roll away mine
Together we will see what we will find
Don't leave me alone at this time
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

Last week I couldn't find gratefulness. Nothing particular was wrong. I was getting over a cold, Harmony was a bit fussy, and I could tell as I looked out into the morning light that my attitude was one of bitterness, defeat, and selfishness.

Darkness is a harsh term don't you think?
And yet it dominates the things I see

I first turned to friends on Facebook and asked them to tell me what they were grateful for. And, you know, the outpouring of blessings they listed was the initial jarring out of my ungratefulness that I needed. Secondly, I saw reminders all around my apartment, quotes and Scripture and hymns, that speak of What is True. Thirdly, the songs of Mumford and Sons invigorated my musician's soul while their lyrics brought me to my knees as they spoke of the reality of Love, both now and to come, both human and heavenly.

It seems that all my bridges have been burned
But you say that's exactly how this grace thing works
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start

Fourthly, I was drawn back to my list of gifts. Sometimes the notebook I write blessings in gets covered by papers and junk on my desk, and then I forget to be thankful. So the daily task of dusting off of my heart to find gratitude once more begins anew.

Stars hide your fires
These here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so I'll be found
With my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul

Everything around me is full of reminders that I am blessed. Thank God for the gift of open eyes to see them! Or, rather, thank God for OPENING my eyes to see them. Every day is a new chance to be thankful. Every day brings a new opportunity to bow before the Giver of all good and acknowledge him.

~ Learning from the calm, organized, kind leadership of other women

~ Beautiful could-not-ask-for-better weather on the day of our church's anniversary picnic

~ Going to the Strange Folk Festival (after four years of missing it)

~ Enjoying the laughter and energy of Harmony as she learns to play hide and seek

~ Postcards in the mail from friends

~ New electric guitar that Chris won in a work raffle

~ Learning again the importance of not judging others (Romans 2:1-4)

~ My student Ana playing in Jason Vieaux's master class

~ Harmony waking up and coming to find me with a smile

*lyrics from the Mumford and Son's song "Roll Away Your Stone"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cultivating Gratitude: Loving Her Even When

It can be so muddling, this parenting gig. There are moments when Harmony and I cuddle together, gazing into each other's eyes, where I feel that I was made to be a mother. And then there are times when all I can do is walk out of the room, leaving my screaming child kicking on the bedroom carpet or kitchen floor, trying to calm myself down so that at least one of us doesn't lose our temper. In those instances of Harmony's rebellion the sad state of my heart tells me that I am not cut out for this. Somebody else needs to come take over; I obviously don't have what it takes to parent this child correctly, or I would not feel like screaming louder than she is and I would LOVE HER RIGHT NOW WITH PERFECT LOVE, even when she is flinging her tiny heels and fists up at me in defiance.

Then the guilt is compounded when I remember that God loves us even as we turn from him.

Well, good thing I'm not god.

I am being taught a big lesson. Just because I am angry with my daughter in this moment does not mean that I do not love her. I still love her. I would still leap to her defense if she were to run out into the street or get knocked down on the playground. She is still my Bug, my Mininsky. It's not like she's even at an age where all her outbursts are related to me! Teething, frustration that her little hands and body won't do what she wants, confusion at the big world, hunger, thirst, the inability to communicate what she wants... the meltdowns that happen are many. I need to not take them personally. And that is why writing down the good things about our relationship is so crucial. When I am most aggravated, that is when I need to be reminded of how much I truly do love her.

The sweet curling up we do together in the mornings after she awakes.

Reading books by the dozen, or one book over and over again, as she wiggles happily in my lap.

Her huge smile when I come home from teaching.

The way she "helps" me cook and prepare meals.

How she jumps up and down on the bed when I wave the blankets.

Her observant, serious gaze when we go on nature walks.

Our dance parties while listening to "Mary Poppins" or "The Pirates of Penzance".

Her fearlessness in approaching stairs (totally freaks mama out).

The games of hide and seek we play.

All the little blessings. So many to be grateful for when it comes to loving who my daughter is and who she is growing up to be. The gratitudes turn me from frustration to compassion, as I am slowly taught how to conquer my own lack of patience so that I can help her develop patience of her own.

Thankful today for my girl.

~ Friends who show me grace when I make mistakes

~ Someone turning in my glasses unbroken when I lost them outside the studio

~ Lunch date with Chris using the gift card I won in the library raffle

~ The neighborhood's 100th anniversary, autumn festival, and parade

~ Safety after two extremely close calls while driving this week

~ Learning how to sing a harmony line on my own

~ God teaching me (slowly) how to walk according to the Spirit (Romans 8:9-10)

~ Learning how to wake up early so that I can have time to read, write, pray, and think before the day begins

~ A new soup recipe pleasantly tasty and easy to make

~ Learning to love my Bug no matter what