In Every Moment: Practicing the Art of Gratitude

a single rose
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” ~Dale Carnegie (American lecturer, author, 1888-1955)

I am currently procrastinating, an attribute of mine that lands me in serious trouble on an every other day or so basis.

Somehow I still seem reluctant to give up my friend though.

Not the point of my blog…

Not too long ago a friend sent me a copy of Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. It has been one of my reads during long public transport commutes (well, when I remember to take a book). I love her writing style, but I’m sure it isn’t for everyone.

What IS for everyone is the idea of waking up to the many blessings we each have in our lives. It’s about practically finding joy and fullness of life in the day-to -day moments by living from a place of gratitude.

Normally I am great at journaling, but this year for some reason I have barely even picked up my journal (pity I know). However I have started a notebook of gratitude as a reminder to be thankful and as a record to look back and remember just a few of the many blessings God grants me daily.

Here’s my partial list today: Today I’m thankful…

  • for the ray of sunshine that warmed my body and gently woke me up this morning
  • that the 178 marshrutka wasn’t packed like a sardine can today
  • for the opportunity to Skype with Vicky and Vince Welch and see their beautiful girls that I miss so much
  • for hearing God speak, even if it wasn’t something I wanted to hear
  • for care packages filled with Starbucks Via
  • for sweet grapes without seeds
  • for a productive International Student Conference planning session
  • for the calendar that my best friend made me and the AMAZING photo that greeted me when I flipped to November!

So that’s part of my challenge this November, learning thankfulness in every moment. What are you thankful for today?

How to Be Real

1,826 days or so ago (that’s five years in case you were wondering) I turned in my razor blades for good.

Now I recognize that many of you cannot understand why anyone would intentionally cut or harm themselves, and I’m honestly really glad you don’t get it. However, some of you probably do get it and wish that you didn’t.

Cutting was how I dealt with all the emotions and moments of life that I didn’t know how to respond to any other way. It was my coping mechanism, and I thought it was okay because I thought the only person it hurt was me. But it doesn’t matter what the addiction is – cutting, food, alcohol, porn, etc – they all come with a price and they all affect more than just the person who is stuck in the vicious cycle.

I think my greatest shame about it, though, was that I was supposed to be the good Christian girl. I knew better. People like me aren’t supposed to struggle with things like this. I felt like I’d be judged if I told anyone, and that it might kill me if I didn’t talk.

In the Christian world it seems to me that we don’t handle negative emotions, difficult life events, the things that just bite, very well. We don’t know how to talk about the uncomfortable moments, the messy discussions, and the things that surpass our ability to extend grace and forgiveness.

We are human after all. Life is rarely black and white. Free will plus millions of people on the planet leads to a lot of sticky situations. So what do we do about it?

  • Be okay with not being okay.

Maybe it sounds questionable, but honestly sometimes things are just not okay. It is a recognition in the moment of this. You shouldn’t live in this spot. Don’t set up camp and tent there, but just acknowledge honestly where you are.

This week I had some “I am simply not okay” moments. Hitting five years for some reason was a huge struggle.  I know that God has brought me too far to turn and give in, but in those moments I had to admit that I was not okay.

  • Extend grace and love to others and to yourself.

Even as Christians we don’t have it all together. We each have our struggles. None of us are perfect so why do we try so hard to act like we are?

The world is looking for us to love and accept them where they are. It doesn’t mean we approve of actions. There is certainly a time and place for rebuking and correction, but if they don’t know that you genuinely love, care and accept them then they will close their ears and hearts to your words.

Sometimes though the person we need to extend the grace and love to is our own selves. I tripped and fell a lot of times on my way to getting out of my addiction. Even in day to day life, I do stupid things alllll the time (especially living in a different culture) and always one of the hardest parts for me is forgiving myself. For some crazy reason I have this insanely high standard set for myself so I am constantly working on extending some grace to me, myself and I.

  • Be willing to share your story (more than just the happy, fun parts).

The world needs us to be real and honest, and you will be amazed at the doors God opens when you are willing to share. Recently someone said, “So Steph I want to hear your story.” My initial response was, “That is not what I expected you to say, but okay.” About a week later I was able to have coffee with this individual as she trusted me with her story, where she’s been, where she’s at, and the question marks ahead.

SO

I’m going to bed now. Tomorrow, God willing, I will wake up and begin day number 1,827.

I don’t really know what the day will hold, other than a couple of meetings if that goes as planned. I’m certain I will mess up a few things during the day. I’ll probably say the wrong thing in Russian to someone. However, whether I see it as a successful day or a “let me get back to bed” day, I’m thankful for another day and pray God uses it and me somehow.

Ninja
The real me... a ninja!