Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thanksgiving in July.

   In today's day and age containing a generation who seems to be so well-versed in complaining and texting, the ancient art of gratitude appears to be a lost one.  I'm not saying I'm blaming it on parenting styles or the onset of the technology era that we've all embraced, but I'm not saying I'm not blaming it on that either.  Maybe I stand alone on this issue, but there's not a single cell in my body that doesn't believe our world would be so much better off if we could all just be a little more thankful. 
     I love the saying "The happiest people don't have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything" because it's so true. Recession Shmeshmession. It's not about what we have, it's about who we are, the way we act, what we do, how we serve, and the relationships we foster.  God has promised us multiple times throughout the bible that He would provide. We've seen Him keep His promises through thick and thin.  Yet, somehow we're all so caught up in ourselves and our letters to Santa to that we forget that He's given us all we need to lead a happy and healthy life.  People mistake His promises of provision for promises of being wealthy or surrounded by the best of the best; however, 99% of the time those "deluxe packages" on Monopoly's Boardwalk space are not what He has placed on His roadmap for us.  Often, it's easier to lead a more fulfilling life with less than what your neighbors have.  Keeping up with the Joneses may be a popular lifestyle but not one that is easily maintainable.  Think of the happiness you can bring by focusing on anything else aside from money and your posessions!  Smile and say 'thank you' to the cashier when you get groceries (thank God for the $ to buy food at your leisure and the patience He's given someone to be a cashier); give a little of your excess money to a charitable cause (thank God for the person who did the footwork to create this charity); volunteer your time for a community or church event (thank God for the people who still have good intentions); donate some of the extra non-perishable food that's been sitting in your cupboard for months (maybe years) to the food bank (come on, we all know you have some long, lost sketchy boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese behind those cake mixes-thank God for the abundance of food you have to easily keep your cupboards full.); wave 'hello' to the friendly, retired couple on their morning walk (thank God for the sacred union of marriage the way He intended it to be and thank God for the couples who are still madly in love after all of these years- not because marriage is easy but because they choose to work at it and not give up!); give pedestrians the right of way (we appreciate it :)- thank God for the ability to walk and be active without pain); choose to let go of something that's been bothering you (thank God for His ability to change your heart); let someone cut in front of you in line (thank God for the time you've been given on this earth and the ability to stop and smell the roses or...tabloids and packs of gum?); forgive someone and let go of the tight grip on that grudge (thank God for His willingness to send His son to die for us in allowance for all of the forgiveness we also need); start each day with a new perspective (thank God for the transformational process of the clay on The Potter's wheel); pay for the coffee of the person behind you (thank God for coffee!); make a list of things for which you are thankful (pray about them); smile at the gorgeous sunrise because God painted it with each carefully chosen, vibrant shade of beauty (thank God for putting His thumbprint on every cell of His creation and giving you the eyes to recognize that); enjoy the giggles from the children behind you in church (thank God for other peoples' happiness and the promise of a new generation); cherish the memories of times spent with family (thank God for each and every one of them and what unique qualities they bring to the table); relish in the warm summer sun (thank God for our seasons); memorize a bible verse that brings a smile to your face (meditate on it); listen to your favorite song with the windows down, hair blowing in the breeze (thank God for the musical talents of that artist, the lovely warm breeze, and the fact that you have a car to drive); be thankful for the thunderstorm that brings water to maintain the earth; get caught up in your favorite hobby and forget where the time goes (thank God for the talents He has given you and ask Him to help you find more ways in which to serve); help a friend move (thank God for the ability to lift boxes. And keep a friend :) ); learn to say yes, but also learn to say no when its necessary (thank God for giving us the freedom of choice and ask Him to help us use it to bring glory to Him); savor the first piece of watermelon of the summer, the first caramel apple of the fall, the first hot chocolate of the winter, and the first fresh nectarine of the spring (thank God for the many tasty, nutritious foods that He has provided and for the fact that we don't have to sustain ourselves with quail and manna). 
         There are so many things with which God has blessed us that we really shouldn't even have the time to be ungrateful.  Life is not all about having money, becoming a stuffy CEO or the ever-popular model/athlete/housewife that we're so expected to be.  It's about serving others, being the hands and feet of Jesus, and finding ways to be thankful each and every day.  It's not about becoming a prom queen or ignoring your conscience.  It's about being real and connecting with the people around you.  It's not about climbing the corporate ladder, wearing the best suit, or walking the red carpet at Gala-like events.  It's about being the best dad or mom you can be, spending precious time with your kids, and seeing all of their firsts.  It's not about sucking it in and walking around looking like a skeleton's got your tongue.  It's about becoming healthy at any size and learning to be comfortable with the way God created you in your own skin. 
       And I get it. I get that these are hard values to hold tight to in this day and age. I get that.  But it's all about a choice. It's about making the choice to NOT conform to society's views. It's about making the choice to truly and freely FEEL blessed.  It's about making the choice to thank God for everything you do have instead of asking for all of the things you don't.  It's about making the choice to try a new perspective on for size.  It's about making the choice to enjoy everything and everyone with which you are surrounded.  It's about making the choice to savor every breath you are given because at any second those breaths could stop.  It's about making the choice to be happy. Because after all is said and done being thankful and being happy are choices.  So on this day, I'm making my choice.  I choose to be grateful because I'm so incredibly blessed, and I choose to be happy because well...why not?!

    "I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess...Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."- Phillipians 4:11-12 {The Message}

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Twenty-three and plenty of places to be.

Welp. That was quite the blogging hiatus...kudo's to you, if you stuck around!

Summer is always a busy time and a time I'd rather be spending outdoors than in, but since it is 9 p.m. I figured what better way to get ready for bed then re-starting my blog by restating my purpose.  I know many of you who read my blog are married with children. Or not. But either way, I feel as though there can be take-aways from this list by everyone in all walks of life. So, without further ado....(drumroll please)....Here are the Twenty-Three Reasons I Love Being Twenty-Three (and unmarried and childless):

1.  I've graduated from teenage angst and acne right into the care-free and conscious stage. I’m not in menopause, I have no reason to be moody, and I do not have to be concerned with things I once was or will be in the future.  I don't have to wear make-up if I don't feel like, and my job involves wearing workout clothes to work. I could not be in a better spot.
2.  There is so much amazing wonder, right around the corner waiting for me, pleading with me to notice it.  God’s creation is truly an amazing splendor, and the more time I spend outside the deeper my enticement.
3.  I get the bed all to myself- no one else kicking and thrashing like the sheets are on fire or snoring like a lumberjack or crying because there are thunderstorms or the boogey man is in their closet.  I can sleep a solid 8 hours without having to get up to go to the bathroom.  Yes, I am counting this as a blessing.
4.  Every limit of my comfort zone is being stretched like a neon, spandex leotard on an 80's aerobic stepper.
          a.  Yes. This is a good thing.  While caught in this kind of awkwardly, beautiful life phase like a fish on a hook, there are a lot of things I can learn.
5.  I am a grown-up, but I don't always have to act like one.  At what other age in your life can you still enjoy being a kid while living on your own?  No curfew? Yes, please; however, have I learned through experience that getting plenty of sleep makes me less like that one dwarf (Slumpy? Frumpy? What was his name…?)?  Absolutely.  It’s all about finding that balance. If I'm sad, I can cry without warrant.  If I'm happy, I can jump and click my heels and smile for no reason.
6.  I can dream big without reality setting me back.  This year I had 23 birthday candles on my cake. Twenty-three.  That’s not 3 or 103. I do not have the wisdom of a 53 year old, but I do, however, have more life-shaping experiences under my belt than a 13 year old. I’ve got plenty of years to live (God-willing), and I plan on living each of those with a large dream bubble above my head that cannot be popped by the society needle.  I may not always see the curveballs coming, but I know I’ve got the tools needed to swing away.  The hurdles will come, but I’m off and running the race that was set out for me. Just try and stop me.
7.  I do not have to have patience with anyone else's schedule. I do not have children to drop off at soccer practice or a husband to take to the mechanic to pick up his car after an oil change. It's strictly my own calendar that falls under my realm of worry. I have my routine down to a science- I can get up, go for a run, and get ready for work in just a few short minutes. I can come and go as I please.
8.  I have the option to move where I want and travel where I want. The map is my playground (even though the job market my determine where my global pinpoint is located).
9.  I can practice living in the here and now.  I can love every season, and wear it out like my favorite pair of jeans.  I can enjoy the sun-kissed, lazy afternoon haze of the summer; the first auburn-colored leaf floating down from the large oak, cutting through the brisk autumn air; being the first set of footprints to run through the quiet snowfall on Christmas morning; and the first rain signifying that the grass will once again be green.  I can enjoy the little things on the daily. I can be happy with the scent of a good cup of coffee, smile at the thought of my favorite book, snuggle up in a fleece blanket at a football game, and enjoy going for a walk around Gray's Lake just as a reminder of my favorite place on the planet.
10.  I don't have to get permission. Ever.
11.  My hips, knees, and back don't hurt when I get out of bed.  This does not mean that I am bounding out of bed everyday, amped to get my run in as many of my co-workers so blatantly seem to think, but it does mean that I can still participate in activities without pain (most days).
12.  My metabolism and activity level still allow me to eat chocolate daily.  Yes, I am very thankful for this fact seeing as my willpower is not quite up to a mature adult’s standard yet…
13.  I can have crushes on pro-athletes and not even have to speak in hushed tones about the fact that I'm secretly, unrealistically planning our lives together in my head. Tim Tebow doesn't seem to know that we're even in a relationship yet, but whatever gets me through my Wednesday… :)
14.  I can work on my relationship with God daily and spend plenty of time learning and pursuing hard after Him without a toddlers hands grasping at my shirttail, a 5th grader needing help with their math homework, or a husband tapping my shoulder for attention. Instead, when I come home, I’m greeted by the silence of an unquenched thirst for learning and the unrelenting ringing of the Holy Spirit’s phone call (and trust me, if you avoid the ringing for too long- He picks a more agitating ringtone).
15.  While everyone else is busy getting married or having babies, I'm just getting more awesome.
16.  There's still the excitement of learning what I really do want in a relationship and the chance to see God preparing both him and I until we're ready.  Just knowing that God has THE one picked out for me is enough to put my anxiety to rest.  Plus I can pin engagement rings, wedding d├ęcor, and bridesmaid dresses on Pinterest with no pressure…just in case…
17.  I don't have to like chick flicks or Ke$ha or purple eyeliner or Katy Perry or Crocs or Survivor or Toms or MTV or care what other people think of me. I traded in that prom-queen-people-pleasing mindset back in high school for an independent, sport-loving, active tomboy who loves Jesus and isn't afraid to proclaim it.
18.  I can play fantasy football, wear sports jersey's, wake up early to run, paint my nails fluorescent green, read the Iowa State sports blog on the daily, wear my hair up in a mess, kick up my Nike's on the coffee table, refuse to make my bed, read real books (not magazines), pursue life dreams, try a new recipe, and shop for puppies anytime I please.
19.  When I put a cup by the sink and wake up the next morning...that cup is still exactly where I left it. There are not 7 other cups there or dishes left all around my apartment. I don't have to clean up anybody else’s messes but my own.
20.  I can focus on being second- not to a husband or a boyfriend or a child or a friend or my own selfish desires, but to God.
21.  I may be flying solo to weddings, company Christmas parties, and family holidays (which leads me to number 22....), but I will look good doing it, smile because I like the people I’m with, and you better believe I’ll be hitting the dance floor with my moves or the game table with my competitive edge.
22.  I don't have to share my holidays or split them like the product of a divorced marriage- I can spend every waking second with my own family and my family alone (because let's be honest, we all know that they're going to be tough to beat).
23.  I don't want my life to be just a collection of budget sheets, banana peels, pay stubs, half-finished books, and unlived dreams.  I want to be taken up to spend eternity with my savior while caught up in the very act of life- enjoying the gift He so graciously gave me by laying down His life.  I don’t want my dreams to be buried with my body; I want them to be imprinted on my soul as memories, not unfulfilled wishes that disappear as the wisps of smoke from extinguished birthday candles.  I want to be laughing until my abs hurt and I eventually fall silent with tears rolling down my cheeks, grinning and baring those straight, white chompers (brought to you by Dr. Hermanson’s braces and Crest White Strips), and living every second with an unexplainable joy.  And since I could technically go at any time (we all could), I had better get to it...

**DISCLAIMER: It may sound as though I am anti-having-a-marital status or being a parent.  The exact opposite is actually true (well at least for the former).  I think marriage is a wonderful thing when God is at the center, and it is truly what he wants for you.  And children can be such wonderful blessings to their parental units (e.g. me…) when they are ready to bring them into this world.  It’s just not my time.  I’m in this beautiful life phase, and it’s the only time in my life that I’ll ever be in this exact moment, which is why I'm choosing to step out from behind the camera and start living in the Kodak moments to come.