Be(ing) Thankful: A Lesson in Three Phases

Phase I – The long-awaited call finally comes on Wednesday, October 17th. Of course, I am immediately thankful. After all, it has been one year, three weeks, and five days. More specifically, I have been waiting exactly two weeks for this particular phone call. Of course I am thankful! But I am just as quickly flooded. My mind is swimming laps around thoughts of what I need to do next. Who I need to call first. Somehow, I know this isn’t right. This is not how one shows deep gratitude for the end of a year-long drought. “Stop and be thankful”, my spirit warns. But, I already am. Aren’t I?

Phase II – At the tail end of my second unsuccessful call, it hits me: the elation, the relief, the sudden release from a heavy burden that makes it impossible to stop smiling. It’s un-containable, the joy. The realization that something has ended and something wonderful is beginning. I cannot stop laughing. I am succumbed to a complete lost for words. I am overwhelmed with the emotions of gratitude. I am swept away by the attempts to articulate praise. Where could I begin? The last year? The last seven years? The last 32 years? It all seems so much… and yet… I feel it… there’s something more.

Phase III – The uncontrollable joy turns into ceaseless tears. I try to compose myself. I try to find the words to express myself. But I cannot. I finally realize what I am truly grateful for. I understand what I must “stop and be thankful for”. As the memories flood my thoughts, I know what I don’t want to ever forget. I acknowledge that it is not God’s provisions that move me, although they are wonderful and miraculous. No, what is stirring me to blissful tears are His withholding. The comfort He withdrew, the ease He prevented, the peace He frustrated, the resources He withheld, the fiery furnace He did not cool, the prayers He did not answer, the pain He did not thwart… The circumstances, though grim, that brought me to my knees. The heart breaks, though painful, that caused me to love Him more. The fire, though scalding, that refined the gold. That is what I’m deeply grateful for – to have learned to be content with little, to stand naked before my maker with this season’s dross fallen at my feet and know that He is truly delighted; that for that perfect moment, I am purely beautiful… that is what fills me with inexplicable joy. That is when I finally learn how to be thankful.

P.S.: It’s official! I am the new Assistant Director of Student Success – FYE at Palm Beach Atlantic University!!

How to Have a Happy Day

1. Wake up with gratitude
2. Realize that your dog is hyperactive because he is happy to see you after several hours, and even though you’re not a morning person, appreciate it
3. Go for a long walk
4. Enjoy the pink sunrise
5. Be thankful for walks
6. Listen to a chapter of an encouraging book while on your walk (sermon or uplifting music will also work)
7. Have a healthy breakfast
8. Drink a strong cup of coffee (or brown water if decaf is your thing, not judging)
9. Be thankful for coffee
10. Take a nice shower
11. Bother to shave your legs (or arm pits or beard if you’re a guy and mountain man isn’t working for you)
12. Get dressed even if you are working from home
13. Don’t open your mail
14. Be thankful for distractions in the shape of bright-colored stickies
15. Create a “to do” list
16. Call your mom/dad/sibling(s)/crazy uncle/etc.
17. Spend time with at least one friend
18. Make sure to check off at least three things from your “to do” list, even if you had to add some of them after you did them
19. Continue to ignore your mail
20. Decide to ignore Facebook as well
21. Use the fact that your classroom is “flooded” as an opportunity to teach your students about trusting God
22. Use the fact that you forgot your shoes at home as a reason to walk instead of drive across campus
23. Try to have a moderately healthy lunch
24. Use the fact that the network is down and you have to lecture without your PowerPoint presentation as an opportunity to teach your students about God’s faithfulness in teaching us to trust on Him
25. Be thankful for a day where nothing went according to plan
26. Spend a few minutes outside playing with your dog (or cat, not sure how that will work but interested to find out)
27. Set better goals for dinner
28. Open your mail
29. Regret you opened your mail
30. Be thankful

A Gift, Simple and Sweet

It was only a gift.
Simple and sweet.
An uninterrupted moment to be enjoyed.
An unexpected present to be appreciated.
A gracious reminder from the Father.
Be still my little heart.
Do not seek more than you have been given.
Stay calm my eager heart.
Do not hold captive what was freely given.
It was only a gift.
Simple and sweet.
Simply for the moment.

Not So Happy Feet

A few years ago I heard an NPR segment on a research conducted to find the happiest nations. I don’t recall what criteria were used to determine the results, I don’t even remember who the winners were. But we, the United States, did not make the cut – shocking. The fact that we are one of the wealthiest nations in the world is fodder for another blog, so I will not digress. What did stick this unsurprising news in my mind, however, was when the researcher explained what is happy about us… Our feet. We are a nation of happy feet. A nation constantly in search of happiness.

I’ve thought, often, of that segment. We leave home, state, country, religion, job, career, culture, beliefs, relationships, anything and everything in search of happiness. In fact, it seems that we are not happy unless we’re searching for happiness. It’s just around the next corner; in the next office; up the next level; on the next block; with the next award; down the next aisle; after the next experience; by the next purchase; at the next… Fill in the blank.

What about me? I have a nice roof over my head. I have a roommate who’s become my best friend. I have a puppy who loves to cuddle with me. My car is still running. I have a master’s degree that enables me to do what I love. I teach at the undergraduate level, a dream I had since I was young. I get paid to counsel, another fulfilled dream. I’m surrounded by a community of wonderful professionals who help me in my career. I love my church. I have a series of godly women who pour love and wisdom into my life. I’m blessed by a body of believers in my small group who keep me accountable. I have the freedom to continuously receive the truth of the Gospel from faithful men. I have opportunities to be creative. I’m constantly encouraged and motivated in my writing (especially by one friend’s determination and endless projects). My family is healthy, saved, and well. I have a great relationship with my siblings. I talk to my parents several times a week. I’ve been blessed with friendships I wouldn’t trade for anything. And though I’m at a time of my life that is scary and uncertain, with many areas hanging in the balance, I am at peace for God is producing so much growth and fruit in me.

And…Yet… My not so little feet are not so happy. They are itching. They are longing to take the first anything to anywhere but here. They are eager to cross these boundaries and go where no ME has gone before. They are plotting to trek me on an expedition in search of… I don’t even know… But I find myself wanting to get lost in all places but where I am. There is a voice of discontentment rising up from my sole, whispering, “Go! Do something else! Live somewhere else! Be someone else! Someone more than you are right now!” And I want to listen. After all, I owe more on my house than it’s worth; I want a husband, not a roommate; my dog came prepackaged with “extra grace required” lessons; My 13-year-old car’s temperamental AC does not make good South Florida driving conditions; I owe thousands in school loans for my fancy degree; I don’t have a full time job, but work part time gigs at more than full time hours for which I am paid peanuts; working often gets in the way of time I could spend living; my determined friend and I have suffered many blows from doors closed to our creativity; I live 1200 miles away from home and have not seen my mom in a year…

So why not pick up and go? Why hang around here? Why not try the next corner of the world? It’s been my dream to travel. I’ve wanted to teach abroad for 10 years now. Why not use this time to get that doctorate over with? Everyone says I should.

The truth is, I’m having a hard time drawing the line between motivation and discontentment. I’m still struggling to just “be happy” where I am. In light of all the wonderful things, I’m still longing for the next thing.