God is Good, God is great…

Hi all! Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there. Today has been a quiet day, I decided not to even try to do anything in case it was tough being the first without Al. Thankfully, it was okay! I went to church, I walked to the beach and sat in the sand, thanking God for all the wonderful things in my life, and of course, I did cat visits.

So Day 8’s homework is to acknowledge God’s goodness. Write down specific times when I have seen God’s goodness in my life. Something happened yesterday that is a pretty big sign of God’s goodness in my life. I messed up on a cat sit. I got a text from the owner asking me if I had been there on Saturday morning because the cats seemed really hungry. I had not been there since Friday morning because that is what I had in my schedule! The good news is that the client didn’t fire me. But it was an eye opener for me. I have not forgotten or missed a visit ever in the last 16 years, although I have forgotten and had to rush to do a dog walk here or there but they are usually last minute jobs and I didn’t put them in my schedule. I have a software program to enter jobs into so that things like this don’t happen, since the software will send confirmations and if the date is wrong the client can tell me to fix it. I hadn’t used the software on the missed visit client because she didn’t really want to; so now I need to insist with future clients. The bottom line is, when things get crazy and I start to lose focus I feel like God sends me a sign to chill out. Is that God’s goodness? I think so!

Another way God’s goodness is in my life is in my home. I wake up in the morning and I look around at the wonder of it all. I have plenty of space inside and outside. I can walk to the beach, walk to the store if I want, walk to the bank…really walk anywhere. Even being as close to everything as I am, I am still in a quiet and relaxing place. I have neighbors who I love. I am alone in my own little bubble but still connected. Thank you God for sending me here!

Absolutely my health and well being are in the top 10 things that God has graced me with. I think people (umm…me!) forget how amazing they are. I get up in the morning with lungs full of air, the strength to get myself out of bed and moving, the mind power to get dressed and drive myself to work. I eat for nourishment and sometimes for fun!

All in all, God is good!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His faithful love endures forever.” Psalms 106:1

Day 6 and Day 7…plus some extra :)

Hello again, Friends! I know that I am not being consistent with my 21 day plan, but in my defense I am actually very busy with cat sitting jobs. My heart is learning to be grateful, I have added thanks for things I would not have previously thanked God for in my morning chat with Him. I don’t have any regrets about it because I still feel like am growing in my faith. By not rushing through the days just to finish them, I am really ingesting each point.

Speaking of points, let’s get to the points of Days 6 and 7. Day 6 asks me to write down struggles that I am in and how I feel God is helping. I think this one is important because I have said before that I definitely have trouble with seeing God’s presence in my struggles.

I guess the biggest struggle would be starting my business. I have been in this field for far too long to be struggling like I am now. However, if I flip that around I can say that I am NOT in the same field. I am in a similar one, but cat sitting and cat behavior is completely different then dog walking and general pet sitting. I don’t wake up in the morning and think that I am doing another day of the same ole stuff. I had to stop dog walking so I could care for Albert and God provided for me by pushing me towards taking feline behavior courses. When my season of caring for him was done, I had all these new skills to push me forward in a new direction that was comfortable for me but challenging at the same time. Being that I am in a somewhat new area (an area that is SATURATED with pet sitters!) I am able to stand out from the crowd because I 1. offer feline only care and 2.offer behavior skills that others don’t have. There are other struggles, but this one is the main one that I thank God for.

Day 7 asks that I thank God for…ME! Since I am one of God’s masterpieces, why shouldn’t I thank God? The reflect was to look in the mirror and say thank you. I don’t have a mirror in front of me but truthfully I am pretty vain so I know 🙂 I will start with thanking God for my beautiful blue eyes and smile. I am thankful that I have features that are all in perfect alignment with my face, nothing is too big or too small. I have great skin, few wrinkles or grays and don’t look my age at all. I am also thankful that I still feel confident and beautiful even though I am not “thin.” I am bigger than I want to be but I still feel strong and empowered. I continue to lose weight and build up my strength (I thank God for MOB-fit because it is such a welcoming place, the perfect place for me to be!) but not because I think I need to so I will fit into some kind of version that society states.

For the things to thank God for that are not physical or maybe not even positive is next on my list. I thank God for my inquisitive nature because I am always finding new ways to do things and new, exciting things in my every day life. And I thank God for all the trials and tribulations that have formed the person I am. I can’t remember the last time I was bored! There are so many other things but these are the big ones.

And more… I have one more thing I want to talk about. On Sunday, Pastor Darren talked about Jonah and how he heard God but he ignored it. He did more than ignore it, he did something else instead. And all the puzzle pieces fell into place for him to leave, including a boat going where he wanted to go. The point of the story was that there is always a “boat in the harbor” to take you somewhere else when God asks something of you. And here is my question. How do I know? I have always felt like I will just know when it is God speaking to me and not Satan. I know when something is not right or when it is something that completely goes against the teachings in the Bible. I mean, duh?!

After listening to the sermon, though, I am not confident that I know who is speaking to me. Part of how I feel like I can tell it is what God wants me to do is because everything falls into place for me. If it too hard, I just reassess what I am doing because it is obviously not what God wants me to do. But now when things fall into place maybe it isn’t God who is pulling the strings for me after all? Of course I am talking about things that are in line with the Bible and what I know is God’s will. Here is a real life experience. When Al died, I had a number of people tell me how great I was with caring for Al and how I should think about going into care giving or nursing. I thought about it but then I was reminded of all the work I had been doing for my cat sitting business. I decided that it was God’s will for my life that I continue to work on that business. Then one of my clients (and I consider a friend) got sick and needed care. I already care for his pets daily but now he was looking to have me do some “home health care” stuff. I didn’t want to do it. It reminded me so much of caring for Albert before he died so that didn’t help my mental state of mind. But–I was thinking that maybe God DID want me to get into the care giving after all? It was uncomfortable and not everything God gives me is rainbows and unicorns. But I am really pushing my boundary lines in my business. I am giving cards to people when I want to just walk by and I am talking about cat behavior stuff to…really anyone who will listen! I don’t talk to strangers. I don’t talk to friends even sometimes! But now you can’t shut me up hahahaha! Instead of going back to bed when I get home (my mind and body are begging me to!) I work on the business. So what gives? Maybe this goes back to having faith in what God’s plan for me is. I just have to trust that if I am making sure I do things that align with the Bible, it is the right thing. Right?

Day 5–celebrate the source

And we are back! I am back to my 21 (ish) days of a grateful heart. Day 5 talks about the gifts we have and how they all are directly given by our heavenly Father. Every time I am complimented or promoted, it is from Him.

I have already stated that I am on that same page. I believe that everything that happens in my life (good or bad!) is a direct gift from God. The reflect for today is to jot down a few things that happened that led up to the moment where I felt honored and celebrated. I guess these would be in addition to the ones I have previously listed?

One that comes to my mind is when one of my client’s daughter told me that I was doing a really good thing by taking care of her Mom’s cat. (the backstory is that I go to an assisted living facility daily and scoop the litter/feed/medicate if needed for the residents there. I definitely started out because I was thinking about all the money I would make if I could get just a few people to hire me; but it became clear pretty quickly that I was there because God had sent me to help these people keep their animals when they could no longer meet the needs of their pet.) This woman’s Mom is my first client ever there, and she is near and dear to my heart. Her daughter told me that her Mom has very little in her life and if she couldn’t have her cat, she wasn’t sure what she would do. I was so honored for making such a difference in someone’s life. I definitely thanked my heavenly Father for the gift of my business.

That was a while ago, and I guess recently it would have to be all the people who told me how lucky Al was to have me caring for him. Over and over again I have had his friends tell me how fortunate he was to have been married to someone who was able to deal with all the different parts of his cancer. I definitely felt celebrated. But honestly, I have always felt that God put Al in my path and we both benefited from each other’s gifts. He and I met and started dating about 6 months after I got divorced from my first husband. I was young, with young children and not a lot in the way of confidence or self respect. Al treated me like I mattered, like my opinions mattered. It took a while, but he eventually convinced me that I was not a failure because my marriage was. Al got me my job as a pet sitter and Al convinced me to open my own business. He even helped me name it. When, after a few months, the business was still so slow and I was losing hope, he bought me a pair of ski pants, a matching jacket, boots, gloves and sun glasses to celebrate how successful he just knew I would be. There were so many other times that I doubted my own gifts and Al just reminded me. Being together turned out to be a gift from God for both of us!

I am not 100% sure that I am answering the question correctly but when I think of gifts from God, that is what comes to mind. There are other gifts, too many to even write here, and I hope that I remember to thank Him for those as well. I try to thank Him as things come about, and to always remember that my accomplishments would not be possible without the gifts of a loving Father.

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” James 1:16-18

Do you think about the sacrifice that Jesus made and God allowed?

My reflect for today is to write a few things that come to mind when I think about the sacrifice God made by giving his son to the world. To repeat how it is written in my YouVersion study, Jesus experienced the humanity and in humility was put to death for our sin and shame.

I have written about this before, how unbelievably huge that sacrifice was. I have often thought about my own children and whether I could make the same sacrifice. Although I would never know if I wasn’t in that actual situation, I am pretty sure I would not be able to do it. I really make a conscious effort not to make things TOO easy for my kids, but I definitely try to make their lives as easy as I possibly can. And even if I was able to just let them go somewhere that I KNEW would be a bad place with a definite death sentence at the end, could I just sit back and wait for it to be finished when my son cried out to ask why I had forsaken him? I don’t think so!

It is just another way to show that God is…well, God! Although he is portrayed as a kind and loving Father, he seems pretty cold and distant to his followers. I definitely feel like I relate more to Jesus because he was a human man and he had human emotions. I am absolutely not trying to say that my Father is emotionless, but the fact that he didn’t experience earthly emotions is the only way he could have turned his back on his son and allowed him to be beaten and mocked before dying for humanity.

So I guess my reflection on the sacrifice is that it was a mighty sacrifice that could not have been made by an earthly father. That does not make it any less huge or amazing!

Day 3–wonderous acts, anyone?

So today is day three of my YouVersion Bible Study, 21 Days to cultivate a grateful heart. In day three, I am asked to write 5 (or more) wonderous acts of God that I have seen in my life lately. A wonderous act is described in YouVersion as how God provided in a time of need, someone he used to impact you or your family’s life, how he protected you or someone you love, or anything else that made you go “Wow, God”

I definitely used to watch out for these little “God smiles” I called them. Things that were definitely given to me by God and they made me smile (original, I know!) Somewhere along the way, though, I lost my way. Maybe it was when Al’s first scan showed that the chemo was keeping the cancer at bay but not really doing anything to slow it or make it go away. I believe that was the first time that I doubted that God “had my back” and I am still fighting those feelings of abandonment. One of the biggest reasons for this blog actually! Anyway, back to the wonderous acts.

I see God smiles all around me. When I was having tiny anxiety attacks about my non-existent bank account and the large part of my rent that I had to use to fix my car, I suddenly found myself with a job that was going to pay me enough to cover the rent and plump my savings up just enough so I could breath again. When I run into my neighbor and he tells me how happy he is that my son and I are going to stay in our apartment another year, it reminds me that I have begun a community where I live and people actually care about ME. Sometimes I forget that I am more than just “Al’s wife”, and God sends people like my neighbor to remind me. Along the same line, I had lunch recently with a few of Al’s friends that I made while he was sick. I told them how nice it was to have lunch with them and how I felt like they actually invited me to lunch because they wanted to see me, not because they missed Al and I was the sloppy second or whatever so they figured it was as close to him as they would get. When we talked about that, they said they couldn’t figure out why Al never really introduced us and a voice in my head (God, is that you? It’s me, Margaret…) told me that perhaps I only met the friends of Al’s that he wasn’t close to because he was worried that they would like me more than him. Al loved to be the most important person in the room so that is not really a stretch! When I am waiting in line at the deli to get something for a client and a woman comments on my kitty sneakers, which turns into a discussion about her cats and how her sister is selling her house and moving so this woman is not sure what she will do for vacations; I know that is God putting people in my path that need my help and in turn are helping me with building my small empire (insert maniacal laugh). Finally, last week at church I told a friend about my struggles with entering the church after I had driven there and she told me she had the same experiences and how she worked through them. It was so healing to know that I am not alone in this fear. God sent her to be in my path so I would tell her my story and she would validate it and tell me hers.

I had forgotten to look for the God smiles in my daily life. I am smiling as I am writing this blog…I think it is time to put my detective hat back on and look every day. I guess it is like breathing, you don’t realize how important it is (like, life giving and stuff!) and you never really stop to think of how great it is to be able to breath. Without reminding myself of all the ways that God DOES have my back, it is easy for me to hold on to the grudge I have against him. But maybe daily reminders of His goodness will melt that ice. Cultivate…I don’t know…a grateful heart?

An attitude for gratitude, Day 2

Today’s response is to write out 5 things I am grateful for.  That is easy enough, I am grateful for many things in my life so coming up with 5 will be a piece of cake.  But wait, they should be a sacrifice.  What?!  According to YouVersion, a sacrifice means it hurts a little (or a lot).  So…I need to thank God for things that hurt a little (or a lot!)?  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6 (NIV)   Okay okay.  Here it goes–

The most glaring thing to thank Him for is Al dying.  I have to be honest with you here.  I know that Al’s death was something that I had to go through for me to become the version of myself that God has planned for me.  I believe that maybe God had his reasons for “taking” Al, perhaps to fulfill Al’s destiny as well.  But THANKING him for me losing my husband seems like a stretch!  I am, however, giving myself completely to God and to this process.  So I will do it.

The second thing is also connected to Al dying, and that is to thank God for the ability to care for him as he died.  I have actually thanked him for this one before.  Although watching the person you love most in this world fade away before your eyes is not even remotely “thanks inducing”, I do believe that I learned some valuable skills from the 14 month process.  I learned to not accept the status quo from the health care providers.  I learned that no one will tell you anything without being asked first and I learned that Dr.s and Nurses don’t know it all.  Most importantly, I learned that I have a loud and powerful presence and was no longer afraid to use my voice to make sure things went the way Albert wanted them to go, especially when he was too weak to speak for himself.  Recognizing that this was a gift from God that I was given to help me in my situation made it very “thanks inducing” after all.  And I have thanked Him.  But I will again because it was not an easy gift to receive from my Father.

The third thing I will thank my Lord for would be the death of my brother, Kevin.  This is another one that I am able to see the gift from God in because the senseless death (he committed suicide) opened my eyes to the fact that I had a senseless existence in a lot of ways.  You never really know why a person takes their own life, you can only speculate.  I surmised that Kevin was unhappy with how his life was going and chose to just end it instead of working to make it better.  I know the decision was NOT that easy for him and their were undoubtedly other variables, but this simplistic theory made me take an account of my own existence.  I changed a lot about myself and my plan for the future.  I went back to school online to get a Bachelors degree in Library Science and moved to a new job in the daycare field that I was in.  After graduating, I got a short gig working Saturdays at a library and to quote “In Living Color”…Hated It In Living Color GIF from Hatedit GIFs

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!  Still, I thank God for giving me the skills, time and energy to complete my degree.  And I never would have even gone there if my brother hadn’t died and forced me to question my own life.

The fourth sacrificial thank you I am offering to my Dad is the birth of my children.  Having children is one of the biggest gifts I have ever received, but also one of the biggest challenges of my life.  My first child was breach and born via C-section, pretty scary for a 21 year old girl who is basically a child herself.  Worrying about how they will all be every minute of the day is quite a challenge.  Throw in a few grand kids and I am surprised I even have time to think about anything else!  However, the birth of my three children coincided with three life altering events.  My brother Greg died in a car crash a few days before I found out I was pregnant with my oldest, my Grandfather died a few days before I found myself pregnant with my second, and truthfully I found myself pregnant with my third right around the time I was really having doubts about whether I would stay in my marriage.  We did ultimately divorce, but not for three years after.  That pregnancy was what convinced me to stay and even though I don’t know what it is, I am sure there was a reason God needed me to be where I was for a little bit longer.  So thank you, God!

For a fifth thanks, I am struggling.  Who would have thought I could struggle to decide on painful things to thank God for?!  I could thank him for my childhood, it was pretty rocky at times but also pretty great.  But maybe too broad a topic?  Thank God for the trials and tribulations of starting my pet sitting business?  I definitely cried out that I couldn’t do it anymore and put it in God’s hands before I saw any kind of spark that the business just might fire up and become the bonfire it was.   I am kind of in that position again while I get my cat behavior/cat sitting business off the ground but I am not afraid this time because I know that God has got me in his hands.  My earthly step-father dying was pretty awful.  I still haven’t been able to find the “reason” for that death, so I think that is what I will pick.  I feel like thanking God for something that I have been able to see the path it has pushed me on is cheating in a way.  Faith is something that I feel in my heart and soul, even when I can’t or haven’t seen the end result.  But thanking him for making things sometimes hard and uncomfortable to shape me into the person I am today and the person I will become doesn’t seem hard at all!