Friday, November 25, 2016

Gratitude is Attitude

Yesterday, as I reflected on the many things that I was thankful for, I realized that my attitude has played a big part in my gratitude over the years.  For a long time, I think I was sucked into the mentality that I should have a big house, fancy car, the career that I’ve always dreamed of, etc. (especially by my age) to be successful. As I compared myself to others who had those things, I felt like I was missing out on something and that I was inadequate, and as a result, I couldn’t see and appreciate the beauty in the things that were sitting there right in front of me. So I don’t think I had a lot of gratitude during those years.  Now that I am getting older, and I look around me, I find myself appreciating a lot more the little things that I have and becoming more grateful, especially more so as my walk with Lord continues.

“This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” - Psalms 118:24. The closer I get to 50, the more I realize that tomorrow is not guaranteed.  I see death around me more and more.  Just this year alone, I have seen 5 people who I used to work with pass away.  Also, this year we were hit with a cancer scare, when two large masses were found in my husband’s lymph nodes. Praise the Lord that they turned out benign, but during that waiting period, just the thought that they could be cancerous was enough to bring me to my knees and give thanks to the Lord for each day that he has given and continues to give my husband.  Every day that I wake up, every day that my husband wakes up, I am extremely grateful for.  I try not to take my health for granted either.  To show this, for years now as a personal Thanksgiving tradition, I get up and go to the gym and work out. I thank the Lord for the body that He has given me, the body that still works and enjoys things, because I know there will be a day that I won’t be able to do this anymore. When I was at the gym yesterday, the Lord put someone in my path who showed me even more so how good I have it.  This elderly gentleman is a regular I see often, but I learned yesterday that he lost his wife and daughter years ago and spends Thanksgiving alone. I saw in this man resilience in moving on despite his heartbreak, and purpose in taking steps to stay active and connected to others by exercising regularly.  I was blessed to learn more about this man, and it made me more aware of the fact that the holidays are very hard for a lot of people. We should make an extra effort to pray for those who are alone during this season that may be anything but joyous for them, and if possible, spend some time with them, even if it’s brief.  You never know what that extra word of encouragement or love will do for that person.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:18. One of the things that I struggled with the first year of my marriage was our living situation.  We live in a small, one bedroom apartment, so at times, it can feel small, tight and cramped. After my kids grew up and left home, I lived alone in my quaint little apartment for 7 years, and I felt like a queen in my spacious home, doing whatever, whenever I pleased. When I first got married, I had to downsize quite a bit, parting with a lot of things that could not be accommodated in my husband’s small apartment. It was hard saying goodbye. Not only was I parting with personal things that meant something to me at one time, but I was also saying goodbye to what I considered spacious and quiet living quarters, and more importantly, my independence and freedom to do what and how I pleased. But no matter how difficult that process was, I was also ecstatic, because the Lord had now given me my life partner and best friend, and I was no longer alone. So while I was thankful for the time I had spent alone, doing things I probably could have never done while married, like travel and visit Israel and Rome with my daughter, and get a great education, I am now thankful for this different chapter in my life, that of a wife to a very godly and devoted husband. This is one that I find myself extremely grateful for every day. Marriage has its challenges for sure, but with Jesus in the middle, it becomes a masterpiece. Every bump in the road is smoothed out when we turn to God’s Word. Every fear is squashed when we go to Him in prayer. My husband is my biggest cheerleader whenever I am faced with some difficulty.  He quotes scriptures to me all the time. He prays for me and gives me encouragement. He is like a walking bible dictionary. Whenever I read the Word or am studying for my women’s studies and I have a question about something, he knows the answer off the top of his head. And whenever I have been, let’s just say, a difficult wife, whether by mood, stress, meltdowns, etc., I know he prays for strength and wisdom on how to deal with me. Praise the Lord for that, because I know how difficult I can be! Being married to someone who loves the Lord first and above all is something that I am tremendously and utterly grateful for. For all you single ladies who are looking for a mate, I implore you to please don’t settle for less. Wait for that man who loves the Lord with all his heart and puts God before you or anyone else.  Wait for that man that the Lord has in store for you. It is worth the wait, I promise.

One of the most important things I have learned from my husband is to learn to be content in all things. I think the scriptures he most often quotes to me is “for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). I tend to stress a little bit (ok, a LOT a bit) over finances.  Due to health reasons, my husband wasn’t able to work for a while, and I stressed out a lot over bills and finances.  His words to me all the time were (and are) “we will be all right, we trust in the Lord!" And yes, he is right, we are fine, and we continue to be fine. We may not be able to do or buy what we want to all the time, but all our needs are met.  Another thing that I have learned to embrace is our small apartment. Well-meaning people have asked “when are you going to get a bigger place?” and at first that used to bother me quite a bit.  There is no chance of that happening anytime soon, especially the way rents continue to soar in our area, but I have learned to be content in our small living quarters, seeing it as my small, safe haven, where I find rest and contentment with my husband, reading God’s Word and trusting completely and entirely on Him. Is there any greater freedom than that? 

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” - Colossians 3:15-17. Something else I find myself extremely grateful for is my spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ.  The encouragement that I get from them is priceless.  There have been so many times that I have had to drag myself to church or bible study because I didn’t feel like going or was depressed, and I left in a much blessed and better state than when I came in. Sometimes it was a word spoken to me, or a prayer offered up on behalf of me or my family. Other times it was a hug or a smile, or just hearing someone else’s life circumstances and how they still have the joy of the Lord and an unwavering trust in Him. When I look at the freedom we have to meet and encourage and build up one another, I am filled with gratitude.  There are a lot of people who don’t have this freedom, and I never want to take it for granted.  I cherish my time spent with my fellow believers, and each time I leave, I am a better person.  That’s why the Lord instructs us to “ not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). In this day and age, where there is a lot of hurting, lonely and lost people, being able to meet with those who encourage us and lift us up is something to be very grateful for indeed. As I grow older, I see the bigger picture and what’s most important in life: God, family and friends, and health. I appreciate what I have, and I am learning to be very content in my circumstances.