What always brings me a great sense of contentment? Exercising my creativity. I’ve contentedly relished these last few days in giving the ol’ blog a facelift. So, I say goodbye to “musings” and hello to www.beautifulconsequences.com. No worries, all the old stuff is there along with a sleek new design, more interactive content (and still more to come), and a general feeling of greater accomplishment from this humble blogger. I hope you check it out and leave me a comment or two!
I LOVE my bed. A friend once said that she felt having a bed with smooth, soft sheets, luscious, fluffy pillows, and a puffy, squishy, cozy comforter was the most delightful thing she could imagine beckoning her to slumber each night. I couldn’t have agreed more. My bed brings me absolute contentment when I snuggle deep down into its waiting embrace at night. The only thing more comforting…when I wake up to a cool, crisp autumn morning and I scrunch deep into the cave of linens that wrap me in warmth and insist on making me late for work.
How content would you be in one of these beds? Delicious.
1. mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are
2. assenting to or willing to accept circumstances, a proposed course of action, etc
Yikes ~ I think I have taken on quite the challenge. Mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as the are…RIGHT NOW??? I can’t even begin to picture what that looks like. Does that mean I don’t push for change? Do I relinquish my hopes for the future that easily play out into my present thoughts, which influence my emotions, which spurn me to action (can’t you see the vicious cycle!)? I’m going to have to meditate on the reality of step number one of contentment as it relates to me personally. Step number two is a less complicated pill to swallow in my book. Accept things as they are ~ I can do this. That doesn’t dictate life won’t change, it merely means “it is what it is” in this present moment and I am willing to acknowledge and embrace that ~ presently.
I’ve discovered a nifty little experiment out here in the blogosphere ~ it’s a 31-day challenge to post on a specific topic of personal interest as a way of charting your journey of encounters, changes, and experiences that result from giving yourself a daily focal point over the course of a month. Some people choose topics of personal growth, environmental change, creative expansion, or inner reflection. Me? I panicked. First thought ~ umm…can’t commit to something for that long (there is a reason I only own fake houseplants people). Second thought…if I DO decide to do this I have to pick something cool ~ something that will make me a more interesting and exciting person on the other side. TOO MUCH PRESSURE!!! I’m out. Third thought ~ this is too cheesy. Fourth thought ~ I wonder if there’s any more cookies left in my freezer (yep, I LOVE frozen cookies). Fifth thought ~ pull it together, you’re being ridiculous and putting too much pressure on yourself as usual. This is a blog, not a 21st century redraft of the Declaration of Independence. And let’s be honest, you and your dad still probably account for the majority of your blog traffic. You.Can.Do.This.
Pep talk. Check.
So, the next 31 days of my life will focus (at least briefly) on contentment. One month of exploring, analyzing, conversing, and generally challenging myself to deepen my understanding and experience of contentment.
“True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.” -G. K. Chesterton
I read an interesting statement in a book the other day that talked about how, as Believers, we started our life journey at home, were then “deported” to a foreign land, and subsequently have been spending our days trying to navigate our way back to that glorious starting place. At first, this made me a little peeved. Why couldn’t we just stay in that beautiful, perfect, complete world? Why do we have to traverse through a land that so often presents destruction, pain, loneliness, and deficiency? And yet, the more I thought about it the more the beauty of this picture began to unfurl itself in my mind.
While I can be the most impatient person on the planet when it comes to certain things, I also LOVE anticipation. I relish the days before a big trip, an exciting event, or my favorite Holidays. It drives my sister absolutely batty when I get a package in the mail and wait sometimes days to open it. Anticipation engages my senses and sends sparks of excitement shooting through my veins. But there’s something more that anticipation does…it communicates meaning. I never put off opening the box that delivers my monthly supply of contacts ~ there’s nothing special about that package. And I certainly don’t get giddy the week leading up to my bi-annual dental exam. But when those feelings of eagerness, tinged with a sense of urgency, spark I know that the anticipation has significant meaning. Oftentimes what surround my strongest experiences of anticipation are events that involve my community. God created humankind to be relational and for me those moments that involve what I call “my closests” are momentary glimpses of home.
There’s something else that occurs during my anticipation of something, particularly something extraordinary ~ an attitude of determination (sometimes labeled stubbornness). I will mount obstacles, forge valleys, and fend off distractions in order to reach that moment of ahhhhh…. And that journey creates a profound experience of appreciation because the outcome takes on much greater meaning when it is challenging to arrive at. I take appreciation for granted frequently. I don’t think it’s something I naturally focus on. But taking a moment to do so brings abundant value to the actions that summon my sense of appreciation. I realize those actions represent a fervent, deep, emotional drive that communicates this intense element of care.
And that’s the beautiful, complicated picture that developed as I thought about my fight to return home. Without the journey I wouldn’t experience the anticipation. Without the anticipation I could never begin to comprehend the significance of my destination. Grasping an understanding of that significance ignites the driving force of determination. And that sense of purpose and resolve makes the final outcome such a sweet and priceless gift that it will generate an infinite expression of appreciation not only for the gift itself, but for our own passion and persistence in conquering the journey and for God’s grace in fighting along side us each and every step of the way.
It’s important, essential, and needs to happen on a regular basis. Not just for me ~ for everyone. How do you feed your soul?
Mine is replenished in several ways typically involving various people I love. Sister, nephew, brother, dad, relatives, the friends that know me better than I sometimes know myself (and you know who you are when you read this).
This weekend it’s these ladies. My soul will be gorged on laughter, long, heart-felt conversations, and maybe a few hijinks or two.
Thoughts screaming through my head when the dreaded alarm jolted me awake this morning:
“August is half over!”
“I haven’t done a single August blog yet!”
“I think my dog needs one of those reduce-your-snoring masks!” (Seriously ~ girl sounds like a flippin’ fog horn when she sleeps).
“I haven’t contributed to my IRA in over 8-months!”
The last one ended the random thought train and had me fixated on financial matters. You see I have what you like to call…ahem…perfectionistic tendencies, which manifest themselves in this belief that I must be a KNOWER OF ALL THINGS. And that’s absolutely insane. But, here I was this morning stuck on the thought that my IRA was sitting stagnant in some cyberspace bank account crying out in Audrey II-style (let’s see who gets that reference!) “Feed me!” Naturally, that started my thoughts down the path of investments, stocks, 401Ks, retirement, portfolios, etc., etc., all things I consider to be a part of adult living, which is something I characterize myself as being stuck in the middle of only by shear fact of my age and the budding crop of fine lines appearing in various places across my face. The truth is, I know very little about financial matters (of course, if you ask me to my face I’ll play it off like I’m practically Warren Buffet).
And that’s ok.
Somewhere on the course of my journey I felt the need to base my significance on smarts, among other things. I feel the need to be in the know. In reality, the only things that seem to really stick in my head are random celebrity facts. I could probably tell you in 8-seconds flat all the names of the Jolie-Pitt clan and the 17 countries they visited in the last 5 days. Not to brag, but I was once chosen as the forth member of a friend’s fantasy Trivial Pursuit team for purely that reason. I mean does it get more flattering than that?
So no, at thirty-mumble, garble, cough, cough-years old, I am not wise in the world of monetary decision-making. Sure I can hack it. And thank God I have a sister that works for a financial planning company and a friend who graciously prepares my taxes every year. But ask me what the Dow Jones is or what the heck you do with a mutual fund and you might as well be asking me to translate Japanese.
My name is Debi and I am a non-know-it all. One day sober.
P.S. Yesterday I received a blessing…in the bathroom.
Whoa ~ just thought about how that statement could be taken wildly out of context. So, please read at face value. I LITERALLY received a blessing in the bathroom. A woman stopped me at the sink (thankfully after washing her hands), placed her hand on my shoulder, and asked if she could bless me. I won’t lie. It was uncomfortable. But, I don’t think you can say no to a blessing, regardless of the awkward location, so I hesitantly said, “yes?” And a blessing was poured out ~ for about 30 seconds. Who doesn’t think God has a sense of humor???
I missed seeing fireworks yesterday. I was bummed. Near where I live there is a park on the water that prides itself on the myriad of festivals it celebrates – the biggest one being an annual harbor festival that commemorates something to do with boats (I obviously don’t attend in a supportive role – more for the snow cones. Who doesn’t love a good snow cone?). This year, the grand illumination of fireworks for the “boats are awesome” party was cancelled due to weather. We were instead promised a spectacular display of grandeur at the 4th of July Festival as the two explosive presentations would be combined. But last night when thunderclouds flooded the sky and a guy enthusiastically sarcastically marveled at my bravery while I rode my bike home under the lightening infested curtain above me, I was certain another set of fireworks were being begrudgingly disassembled. At 9:30, while sitting at home on my couch watching a rather lame movie, I heard the distant booms and pouted for the remainder of my evening.
And what, you say, does this have anything to do with entitlement? Well, really nothing. I just wanted to grumble for a moment. Or does it….(wink, wink)?
I lay in bed reading the status updates on my Facebook page and couldn’t help but wonder something. What would we be writing if our freedom were not a reality? What if we were under the siege of captivity, at war with a neighboring country, prisoners at the mercy of a malicious dictator, or homeless refugees seeking asylum in makeshift tent cities built on foreign soil? I am blessed to have a solid social network comprised of a lot of God-fearing individuals and the many statements I read last night included themes of joy for the blessing of our independence. This is a wonderful thing to praise God for – no doubt! However, I can’t help wondering if that level of joy would compare survive in a country where things like freedom and prosperity were not present to be celebrated but even more so…were not expected.
Last night I sat reflecting on my gratitude for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” (which lasted all of 15 seconds) and in all honesty there wasn’t any tiny ounce of me that marveled at the graciousness of this gift. No, my half-ass thankfulness was offered up with an air of privilege. “Thank you God for freedom, although I wouldn’t expect it any other way.” And it’s what I expect because it’s what I know. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to visit several third world countries and the expectations are so vastly different because what they know is poles apart from the experience of the average American. They expect things like losing loved ones (often children), dying young, and going without food or clean water. Yet, I saw joy in their eyes that often far exceeds the joy I experience on any given day. They probably wouldn’t pout if they didn’t see fireworks.
I’m not writing these things to evoke guilt or shame celebration. I think it is extremely important to enjoy and express gratitude for the blessings we receive, such as the opportunity to experience freedom and democracy and to recognize that God has placed us where we are for a purpose. It’s just equally important to remember any and everything we receive beyond what we deserve is a gift.
What’s the motivation behind entitlement? Thinking it’s what we deserve.
And the reality is – what we deserve is death (Romans 3:23).
So, how do we fight the vicious claws of entitlement? We behave according to reality – that everything we receive above and beyond death is a gracious offering. For some reason celebrities accepting ridiculous awards (that I admittedly tune in to watch every year) comes to mind right now. They’re always saying things like, “Wow, I don’t deserve this.” “Oh! I don’t know what to say, I’m so humbled.” No one ever says, “Yeah, no surprise here!” and then gracefully exits stage left. Just imagine what our world would look like if we approached and responded to each day with this attitude:
Not sure why I felt compelled to write about love today. Maybe it’s because today marks the anniversary of losing someone I love. Maybe it’s the result of some deeper conversations I’ve had with friends lately. Whatever the reason the idea of love has been circulating through my head the last few days. Occasionally, I’ll jot down a note about something a client’s shared with me in a session or a thought a friend’s mentioned over coffee ~ hoping it will matriculate into a blog post or remind me to ponder over the meaning of something. As I read through what I’ve always considered a random conglomeration of various statements and questions, I noticed a growing list hidden among the ramblings. I had unintentionally begun an inventory of ways people define love. And as I read over the list, it struck me that love goes far beyond the items indicated.
Here are some of the things I’ve heard as descriptors of love:
Love is sex.
Love is affection.
Love is words or encouragement or compliments.
Love is money.
Love is flowers or gifts.
Love is closeness – in the proximity sense.
Love is someone else fulfilling your dreams.
Love is a number (i.e. the number of things you buy me, the number of times you say “I love you,” the number of time you spend with me).
Love is listening.
Love is a commitment to one person.
I’m not saying anything on this list is bad. I’m also not saying that these items aren’t connected to love in some way. But, I think we fool ourselves and distort true love when we believe this list is what love is all about. I believe that the real purpose of people sharing love is to reflect what love was REALLY meant to be – a sacrifice.
Ultimately, this is what I see love as:
I John 3:16 – I’m going to list it is two translations – NIV and then The Message.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
“This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.”
I think this is the point we must get to in knowing that we really love someone and they love us. Sure, the things above are valid and most could be considered necessary in a relationship at some point. But I think getting to that place where you can say – I will sacrifice for you is the true definition of love. Not only that, I think it’s sacrificing when we really don’t want to. Think about Jesus’ time praying in the garden before He was crucified. He was crying out to God to take this burden from Him. Wanting to and willing to are very different concepts. Willingness is the essence of sacrifice.
sac·ri·fice: the act of surrendering something precious.
I know few people who want to surrender something precious. The willingness to communicates a much deeper level of emotion. Personally, my gratitude increasing exponentially when someone does something for me that they would’ve rather avoided (of course guilt creeps in to but that’s a thought for another blog :-)). It’s because their actions are done out of willingness not want.
I don’t think it is any coincidence that the examples of sacrifice in the Bible are ones that involve having to willingly give a human life. Love involves the willingness to give anything. And for me, that is where God has come into play in my life. If I am going to sacrifice, who can then meet MY needs? I guess, if I fully embrace the truth of God’s word in loving someone ~ I have to TRUST that God (not anyone else) will provide for my needs. Trust me, I fail at this DAILY. But in reflection, some of the few times I’ve been successful at sacrificing my needs for those of someone I love deeply have been the most amazing, life-giving (no doubt challenging) moments of my journey so far.
Sometimes being in the mental health field can get a bit arduous. Don’t get me wrong I have a lot of compassion and empathy for many of my clients and the life experiences they have struggled to endure. However, there are occasions when I just want to say ~ you’re either going to do it or you’re not. Simple as that.
The mind is a very powerful tool. If you stop and really think about it for a moment, it’s the mind that prevents or permits our actions. For example, I may feel sad but it’s how my mind interprets the consequences of that sadness and determines the resulting responses that ultimately govern my behavior. Majority of the time, there is nothing physical stopping me from engaging in my daily routine while still feeling sad. It might seem more difficult, but from a tangible perspective very likely is not. And yet, all too often we allow our minds to interpret an unpleasant emotion like sadness as a suppressive blockade to life-engaging activities. Bad, bad brain. Truth be told…it all comes down to a choice. You can either embrace life and the unavoidable presence of afflictive emotions that will always surface from time to time or you can avoid. Simply put ~ you either do or you don’t.
I think the same can be applied to our faith. God’s promises are all encompassing. He is adamant in His provision of love, joy, companionship, counsel, and the fulfillment of our needs. Easy things to embrace and believe when life’s challenges are mere hiccups. But when hiccups become near impossible hurdles, that’s when I see the true foundation of one’s faith. It’s easy to get caught up in the intricacies of God’s Word and the nuances of language, culture, experience, research, and history that influence how we view the Biblical writings. But faith is faith and when push comes to shove, the ultimate revelation of the core of one’s faith is ~ they either do or they don’t.