WWJD and Happy Birthdays

Have you ever felt like God broke his promise and how do you keep Jesus in your life every day? Also, how do you keep Christ in Christmas? These are some questions that were brought up at my IF dinner for my woman’s ministry and I honestly have to say I didn’t really know how to answer them! I am going to try and think through them out loud here, leave me a comment and tell me your answers!

I guess when I was just learning about God and his promises “for real” (I had of course heard and read about Him before but not with an open heart and mind) I thought of all the times that I felt alone and abandoned by God. He promised to always be by my side. And when I didn’t feel his presence that is because he was carrying me then…isn’t that what the Footprints in the Sand poem says?! Looking back now I think that was true–there were a lot of ways that God got me through awful stuff even if I didn’t “see Him” in the middle of it all. But I definitely felt like God broke his promise to me at that time.

How do I keep Jesus in my every day life? This one was really thought provoking for me because He is there…I know He is…but how? The obvious answer is I pray. In my car on my way to work. When I open my eyes in the morning. When someone cuts me off in traffic and my first thought is ‘where are the cops when I need them’ and I instead pray that they get where ever it is that they are going in such a hurry. But how else?

When I make big, hard decisions I ask God to help me make the right choice. I don’t always think about WWJD (remember the bracelets from the 90’s–what would Jesus Do?) when I am deciding what to do with my day. Or when I try to figure out what to have for lunch. Or what to say to a friend who is hurting. It seems insignificant but THAT is when I need Jesus in my life. Maybe not when I can’t decide between Burger King or McDonalds (hahaha) but if I use Jesus (or the WWJD idea) to steer me when I am making ALL my decisions I will be making the right choices. I will be able to recognize when I get a feeling I should do something and it doesn’t align with what I would normally do that it is probably not the right choice! I won’t have that gut instinct if I am only going to God for the big stuff.

Keeping Christ in Christmas was easier when the kids were little for sure. The ladies in my dinner last night all agreed that the ones without littles to impress about the importance of Jesus, it is really hard. One said that she just doesn’t even feel it this year. I have to agree with her.

When my kids were little, Jesus was a part. We sang Happy Birthday to the baby Jesus in the manger (the baby was placed in the manger the night before and up until the day we let Mary and Joseph wait like us!) before we opened any presents. I am ashamed to say that it didn’t really go any farther than that. We didn’t even read the Christmas story in the Bible. In my defense, though; I was a pew warmer and not really a Jesus follower so I thought I was keeping the reason for the season in the front of the kids’ minds.

Now, I put up a tree and I put up my nativity set. But not the cool one that had the empty manger so I could place the baby and the wise men there on Christmas eve. I couldn’t see the point of doing all that. Nope, I put up the one piece nativity set that I put up by Al’s bedside when he was bedridden. The one that doesn’t take up much space and has a light to represent the North star with 2 AAA batteries. After the dinner yesterday, I am going to put that one back in the Christmas decorations tote and take out the one with the empty manger. Singing happy birthday to baby Jesus in the morning is a tradition that I need to keep going, even if their are no impressionable minds to act for. Scratch that, I have an impressionable mind! And I will read the bible. If I read a chapter of Luke every day, I will finish the Book of Luke on Christmas eve. (I will have to double up to catch up this year but next year this will just be a part of Christmas) That will remind me of the reason for the season and get me out of the funk I am in this year. AND it will put Jesus in my life–win win!!!

 Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

My Retractable Key Chain

Happy Thanksgiving! This one is bittersweet for me. Although I miss my Beloved and everything I did today made me think of past years when he was well; it is also gloriously the last holiday I have to share alone for the first time. I will still be alone next year but it will be my new version of normal and not the “Poor Girl Who Lost Her Husband’s” Thanksgiving.

Yesterday marked a year that he has been gone. A day I had been dreading since he passed last year. A year that all I could see ahead of me was depression and sadness. A day marking the end of a year I was pretty sure I was not going to survive. But God has plans for me.

God knew I would survive and thrive during this year of uncomfortable pain. He gave me tools–like the realization that I had been checking the temperature of the room and adjusting myself to make everyone else comfortable. I didn’t even occur to me that someone else should be adjusting the room to meet MY needs.

When I was doubting my purpose he gave me a job that makes me feel empowered and strong. A job that reminded me of why I got into animal care in the first place when I was doubting if it is what I wanted to do. A job where I am surrounded by love and understanding, even when I am having one of my crazy episodes. A job with co-workers that remind me of what it feels like to be worthy and accepted for being me.

When I wanted to walk away from cat sitting, I prayed He would tell me what I should do. He reminded me that I needed to work hard and build up my behavior work before rushing into quitting. I have to be truthful, I tried to act like I didn’t hear Him on that one. I was really hoping He would tell me to go ahead and jump. Everything had been pretty good up until that point, nothing too uncomfortable or life changing. I really wanted to just move in a new direction without knowing what was next but God kept throwing thoughts in my head to make me doubt that move. I finally got it when I heard the Dave Ramsey quote, “Listen, children do what feels good, adults devise a plan and follow it…” OK, God. I devised a plan to keep cat sitting while focusing hard on getting behavior clients.

I have been listening to an audio book and one thing really sounded familiar, like it was a new thought; but one that I heard before. The author said when you are doing nothing because you are afraid, force yourself to do something. The act of doing something small will help remind you that you have the skills needed and help you move forward. I am paraphrasing but that was the jist. My therapist has told me basically the same thing in the past when I didn’t want to go to parties or out. She said to tell yourself you are going for a set amount of time and when the time is up you can decide if you want to continue or go home. Spoiler alert, I almost always end up staying! Once I get there I realize that no one thinks I am stupid, ugly, over-dressed, under-dressed, etc. The act of getting there is all I need to remind myself that none of the stuff Frank is screaming in my head is true. So in other words, this is a tool that God put in my toolbox a long time ago. When I was looking around for the “dropping-my-main-source-of-income-and-hoping-for-the-best” tool, I found that one instead.

I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back, last year this time I really felt like my one true friend was gone. My eyes are open to my world, I am no longer trying to stay in the place where Albert led me. Turns out that the tools God has been given me were keys. I am instead looking forward down the hallway and seeing all the new exciting doors for me to open that only I have the key for.

So even though this Thanksgiving was bittersweet, I am thankful for it. I am in a really good place for the first time in a long time and I wouldn’t be here if my life had stayed the same. Turns out being uncomfortable has an important place in my life!

Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Be a Suzie Sunshine!

Do you have thoughts of gratitude or griping throughout the day? Day 17 talks about how easy it is for our minds to turn to complaining. Do you think when you walk up people think–Oh no, here comes Debbie Downer? Or maybe they think that when they are having a tough time they should talk to you because you are always so positive. I know I hope to be Susie Sunshine!

The reflect for Day 17 is to write down my top three complaints for today. After I have written them down, I should count to 10 and reevaluate and redirect. I need to surrender my rights to those complaints and ask the Lord to change my heart or the situation. Believe it or not, this is not easy for me. I guess I try not to be a complainer so I don’t notice stuff unless it is really bad!

I don’t think it is because I have already given it to God. It goes back to my original posts about how I have always taken care of myself. In a way, I am second guessing whether I have the right to complain about anything. Complaining doesn’t do any good, it just ruins the rest of the day so it is a waste of time and energy. Best to continue on and keep making things happen, right?

The point is a good one anyway. I think I am going to make it a habit to pay attention to when things that are worthy of complaint and redirect them to God instead of just making myself think they are not important enough to worry about it. It won’t be worry if I give it to God!

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and health to the body. Proverbs 16:26

Shut up, Frank!

Hello there! I hope everyone is having a fabulous week. I am 🙂 I have been feeling pretty down over the last few days but I haven’t really been sleeping well so that is a big reason why. Life would be so boring if it was always sunny!!!

Day 10 asks me to write out a few “good” circumstances in my life and a few “not so good” circumstances to give thanks to the Lord for. The point being that it is really hard to see the good when you are upset about something awful that is happening but, as it was said before, everything that God does is for a greater good.

I will say the biggest good circumstance in my life as of late is the fact that I have been able to focus on the opportunities and gifts ahead of me (and less on how terrible my life is!). I have been able to make some decisions without overthinking to the point that I am just frozen in place. Just overall, my life has been pretty awesome!

The flip side to that would be that it is a struggle to live this awesome life. I definitely spend a lot of time telling my subconscious (Frank!) to shut up because he keeps telling me how hard it is going to be. Frank reminds me of my age and how I am starting over like a 20 year old but I am practically over the hill. Frank tells me that I am never going to be my version of perfect, I will always be fat, my wrinkles are getting more prominent…etc. etc. etc.

It is easy to thank God for all the good in my life, I usually do when I wake up in the morning and before my feet hit the floor. I don’t usually think to thank Him for the difficult parts of my day; over the last few days/weeks of the bible study I have thanked Him for the REALLY BAD stuff but the little insignificant stuff just falls through the cracks. Another lesson learned in my 21 days to a grateful heart!

I thank God for giving me the wisdom to be able to know that it is Frank’s voice in my head and not my true voice or the voice of my God. I thank God for giving me the strength to know I am not practically over the hill, fat, wrinkly, or anything else that may be placed in my thoughts. I thank God for speaking to my heart and talking louder and prouder than Frank so there is no mistaking the words of my heavenly Father. And finally, I thank God for giving me the tool to “turn it around” when anything happens. Instead of thinking about how horrible a situation is, I have this knack for finding the good that came out of it. God did that for me!!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

An Interesting Town Character

My friend Jenny told me to pray to God for guidance about whether to get a side job or not. I talked to Him on my walk but He didn’t answer my question! The thoughts that He kept putting in my head were about remembering my worth. What? I know I am worthy yada yada yada. What about the job dilemma?

But…Okay, God. Because I have vowed to listen even when it is uncomfortable (or I think it is wrong!!!) I started listing all my gifts that God had given to me and all the reasons why I am worthy. Out loud. While I walked home. Truthfully I didn’t even notice if people were staring at me or anything because I was very intent on listing them all. With my tight capri leggings and tank top, I did not once think about whether anything was jiggling or ugly to people driving past me as I walked and talked to myself. Making a name for myself as an interesting town character hahaha.

Then a funny thing happened. I started to remember all the times I had buried my opinion to make someone else happy or satisfied. I don’t even remember a time when I did something without thinking about the repercussions on my reputation. Right now, I am already thinking about what to do to make myself more “date-able”. I got my hair cut really short after Al died and I LOVE it. But…guys like girls with longer hair so I will have to start growing it out. I am exercising like a mad woman because I have to be thin to be noticed, right? I am wearing colors that compliment me according to (fill in the blank,) I am listening to music that is “normal”, not like the BeeGees (even though I love them!). What if I did stuff to make ME happy and started using my many gifts to attract someone instead? Listing my gifts is really making me feel strong and reminding me of who He has made me to be. Thanks God!

After my walk, I actually went to the store and bought myself 3 new shirts. Two are yellow, even though (fill in the blank) said that yellow is not a good color on me and I look better in blues. Yellow makes me happy and I can’t think of anything that looks better on me than that! And I will be keeping my hair short for now. I love it and my opinion should be the only one that matters on the subject. I am still walking every day but that is more for my mental fitness then my physical fitness. I want to be a size that makes me happy, not a size I think will be appropriate. I am giving up the gym for right now. It is a pretty big chunk of my budget and I can do almost everything at home. Besides, I spend a lot of my time looking for approval while I am there instead of being thankful for the strength and determination God has gifted to me so I can lift the weights or do the different exercises.

I still had the job dilemma but I figured God was trying to get me to remember who I am first. Even with the job search I was not thinking right. I was definitely trying to find a job where I would get the most exposure. Do I work near my gym? In a place where my church family might see me? There are a couple of potential future fellows I have been listing, if I work near them it would be a good way to open the lines of communication. Maybe I feel like I would be respected more because I have to work so hard without Al to help me. As if working every day, caring for my home and pulling myself out of the darkness that tries to engulf me isn’t enough! God knows my heart and He knows I need to build myself up before I am released into the world in a part time job. The attitude of putting myself second to make others happy or to make things easier for them is a hard one to break.

I woke up this morning, listened to the BeeGees as I walked to the beach and put on one of my new yellow shirts after my shower. Wouldn’t you know it, I got an email from a friend about a job that would be perfect for me. I haven’t even started looking yet! Thank you, God!

“For I know the plans I have for you”–this is the Lord’s declaration–“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Thanking God for my circumstances

So Day 9 and 10 are kind of intertwined. Day 9 asks me to list all the parts of my day (big and small) and thank God for each part. Day 10 asks me to list the little ways that God is present and helping me throughout my day (my God Smiles!). Since they are both so interlaced, I will do both!

This morning I woke up, texted my friend like I do every day to let her know (and let me know) that we are fine, got dressed, brushed my teeth and hair, and left the house for my morning cat sitting jobs. (thank you God!) It was raining on and off today, but when I left for work there was a small amount of time where it was clear (so I could get into the car without getting completely soaked!) (God Smile!)

I was meeting a customer to get her key and it worked out perfectly that the time I left to take my walk (an hour and a half of alone time with God and my thoughts…Thank you God for clearing my schedule so I can do this walk!) and the time she left to run errands had us both in the center of town at about the same time. I was able to get the key from her without having to meet her somewhere later in the day (I was babysitting my granddaughter so I didn’t actually have time!). After my walk, which I wore a rain coat for in case I got completely rained on and I did not!, I had time to jump in the shower and make myself beautiful before I had to rush out to do evening cat visits.

When I was doing my dinner visits, I was feeling stressed and anxious because I had told my daughter I would be there earlier than I ever had before. I seemed to get stuck behind every slow person in the world (!) and then when I got to the assisted living facility I finish my day in I ran into the daughter of one of the residents whose cat is on my run. My first thought was dang, I am definitely going to be late now. But she told me that she had to catch up with me because she wanted to let me know that I looked really good. She said that my face looks noticeably thinner and I even walk different. Now I have already mentioned that I am vain but it is all an act. I am actually pretty insecure and it was SO GOOD TO HAVE SOMEONE ELSE NOTICE. I am working out like a crazy person lately!

The bottom line is this–today was a pretty typical day in the life of me. There were times when things didn’t go my way (like getting stuck behind the sight-seeing people on Saybrook Road!) but because I am trying to keep an attitude of gratitude, I turned it around. I assume that when things don’t go my way it is just God keeping me where he needs me a little longer. Maybe there was an accident about to happen that I avoided because I was going slower than I would have liked? It is not in my job description to guess what God is doing or thinking. Actually, that is the main thought on Faith! Thanking God for the good and the bad parts of every day should be second nature for people. It is for me now!

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