My Cup of Thankfulness

How richly my cup overflows. (A very Happy Thanksgiving to you, my friends.)

With every year I age and mature, I seem to find a little bit more wisdom in what I find to be blessings. Each year I realize those blessings become things less and less. Instead, my blessings, for the greatest part, are the people in my life who love me, care for me, support me, and keep me grounded during times of turmoil and stress as well as achievement and excitement.

The last two Sundays at church have been quite the God-send for me. Last week the sermon was on a look into the beginning of Chapter 4 of Philippians, specifically verses four through six:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

One of my superpowers is worrying. I worry about my family, I worry about my friends, I worry about my car, my heat bill, the fight with my best friend in second grade… Heck, I come up with more plausible situations for the outcome of an argument in any given morning shower than there have been episodes of Survivor. It doesn’t truly take me a half hour to wash my hair; I’m actually dissecting every single direction the other party may go and my rebuttal so that I’m prepared! To quote Mark Twain, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

One might think that my biggest stress lately would be wedding planning. Yet in all honesty, it hasn’t been. As the holidays approach I find myself missing certain people in my life a lot and worrying over their absence more than is mentally and emotionally healthy. I’ve been using wedding planning as a detracting agent for this larger stress, and you know what, friends, covering one stress with another isn’t a great strategy. (Who would have thought!?)

These words in Philippians, along with a heavy dose of meditation this past week, reminded me though that anxiety will not help me through anything in my life. There is a reason God misplaced and/or replaced certain people in my life, and my path is in His hands. It is with this thinking that I wish to move forward with the remainder of 2017 and into 2018 and the rest of my life.

When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty, I want my only response to be how incredibly thankful I am that I have a cup.

Not only do I want to remember this with the people in my life (which, as I’ve said, I consider my greatest gifts) but also with my other blessings such as my talents, my job, my home, my volunteering, and my possessions. There is so many things I forget to be grateful for throughout the day. Living with a grateful heart is only the beginning of greatness, after all. It is an expression of humility and of true thanksgiving to our Father for all He provides. It is a foundation for the development of so many other virtues such as faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.

A dear friend of mine has told me she makes a motion to begin every morning with a Movement of Gratitude. I think this is such an amazing approach to beginning the day. Though I am not positive her exact formula, I have been studying this theory and want to develop my own plan of action for the future.

So, before I get out of bed each morning and begin my day I will:

  1. Take five long breaths in and out
  2. Stretch every inch of body, paying attention to all my muscles and joints
  3. Express gratitude for waking to another day
  4. Smile for no reason
  5. Set intentions for the day
  6. Forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes
  7. Compliment three things about myself

There are so many ways in which I could look at my younger years and not be grateful for the cup handed me. Within the last few years, I was not of the same mindset. I was someone who feared change, I held grudges, I criticized, and I was someone who thought she understood far more than she actually did.

Now though, I embrace change and roll with the punches. Even within the last few months I am amazed at how quickly I have adapted to changes I never saw coming — new job, loss of my best friend, engagement — all within half a year’s time. Sometimes I marvel at God and His plan. What does He have planned for me?

This thinking was reinforced with today’s Testimonial Service. The Sunday following Thanksgiving is always a service full of testimonies on how God has touched members’ lives at my church. It is one of the most beautiful services I have ever attended, and one which I was most grateful to witness this year.

Though all testimonies have a significant power in their own right, this year’s service was especially wonderful because G chose to give his testimony in front of the congregation. I’ve provided the video below so you are welcome to view this at your leisure, friends — he appears at about 36:20 — and his message is incredibly powerful. I could not be more proud to be marrying this man. G has gone through more trials in 29 years than most men do in their entire lives and he is still one of the most grounded, sincere, and upstanding men I know. His character was what initially drew me to him, and his quick-wit and humor, along with so many other amazing qualities, are what kept me coming back.

Following the service and witnessing the testimonies of multiple members, not only G, I was able to put my own life and situations into perspective. I am so incredibly blessed by God! He has guided me through some dark times this past year, in my own right, and brought me out unscathed and into a brighter and much more loving environment. It amazes me that I still allow myself to worry over trivial things when I know that He is always working towards the best in my life. It is time, again, to lay my worries at His feet and turn my face towards Him in prayer and servitude.

God is so good! 

This Thanksgiving was a great reminder of His blessings as well. Time was well spent with family and beloved friends. There were so many tears cried from laughter over the long weekend and far too much good food eaten — Wow! Do the women in our families know how to cook!

So as I move forward into the Christmas season, I am moving away from my worthless worries of the past and into a new gratitude spirit. Who would like to join me in my endeavor? You are all welcome!

 

The Gray Space Between Blessings Vs. Wants

I came upon this wonderful post the other day by MySweetJesus entitled “I want Jesus. But, also a husband. And kids. And a job. And an apartment. And, maybe a dog.” Even with only the title, I knew this post was going to speak to me, and speak to me it did…

I have been conflicted lately. I have been conflicted in what I want from my life, what I have in my life, and feeling guilty about that gray space in between the two. I cannot emphasize my guilt enough: I am happy with what I have, I feel incredibly blessed, but then I also want more. And I want that “more” now.

Just like Melissa, I want to be a homeowner. I want to summon my inner Pinterest demon and create the coziest and warmest home to be enjoyed by my family and friends. I want to travel and see every nook and cranny of the world. I want to get engaged. I want to experience the excitement of planning a marriage, seeing the man of my dreams look at me with only love as I walk towards him; I want to be a wife. I also want to be a mother. And a grandmother. I want to have parts of my life remembered through stories passed down. I want pictures of my adventures to be admired, I want my prom and wedding pictures to be poked fun of due to fashion changes, I want my descendants to look at a photograph of me and wonder what I was thinking at the exact time the flash was taken…

But I also want Jesus. I want to see Him come back in all His glory. I want to experience what perfection truly is, I want to know heaven.

Sometimes the joys of the world seem a lot larger than what True Joy will be, and I struggle with this Battle of Wants on a daily basis.

It was so comforting, then, to read what Melissa said: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting those things.”

She is so right! God gave me these passions. God put these desires into my heart. And even though each and every one of my desires will be satisfying to me, it is all really pointing to Jesus. Melissa gives some great examples by saying marriage is a glimpse of Christ’s devotion to the Church, children allow parents to feel a smidgen of the Father’s love for us, and community assists us during our journey to our heavenly home. This is so beautifully and honestly said!

In the future, when I start to feel deflated by the guilt of blessings versus wants in my life, this lesson is something I plan to look back on. The desire for more in life is a good thing, as long as I continually glorify my Lord and Savior through them.

I will continue to desire success, and love, and community, but I will also desire Jesus more. Because it’s not about trying to change my heart. Instead, it’s about giving my heart fully and completely to God.

And with that, I say Amen.


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#blessed

As the new year roars closer and closer and Christmas celebrations are already in the rear view window, I cannot help but consider how extremely blessed I am. In every aspect of my life I am blessed. And though I tend to focus on the positive experiences, the negative ones truly help me to pay attention to the endless blessings being passed down every day of my life.

With this in mind, it seems almost humorous that I happened to see this status by an acquaintance of mine on Facebook last week:

“Christmas is only 3 days away, which means we’re only 9 days away from Facebook being filled with a million statuses about the wonderful year our FB friends have had. Yes, we all know, you’re #blessed.”

Reading this made me quite angry. I’m sorry, but it warms my heart to know so many of my friends are blessed. Yes, my News Feed has been flooded with end-of-the-year picture collages and photo videos featuring my Facebook friends’ biggest events in 2014. And yes, I may skim over them without actually reading through, but guess what? Every time I see a friend of mine being thankful for how #blessed they are, I smile.

I feel genuine happiness for these people who are satisfied with yet another year. Especially for those who I know have experienced hardships like death of loved ones, break ups, and illness. Seeing such thanks for the positivity in their lives rather than dwelling on the negative experiences is not something to scoff at — it’s yet another thing to be grateful for!

So to my friends and family I welcome all your good tidings from 2014 and I pray for an even more #blessed 2015.

“I’ll Be the Light that Shines for You.”

One of the most difficult facts of being a Christian is that you are not immune to life’s trails and tribulations. Surely a good and loving God would not allow for His people to go through death of loved ones, financial hardships, heartbreaks, worries, or fears, right? I mean, doesn’t Him loving us mean He wants our lives to be easy and comfortable? I’m sorry, but no, it doesn’t. However, God does love His children enough to continually “work all things together for good.” (Romans 8:28) This means that the trials and tribulations God allows into our lives are part of a divine purpose.

When I experienced the loss of my best friend (I’ll start referring to him as X) and the end of my first loving relationship this past March, I could not fathom God’s purpose. I mean, I was taught that hardships in my life were meant to strengthen me and not to harm me, but I had never actually experienced any circumstances to make me question God’s intent. But after that life-shattering event, I had never been more hurt in my entire life. I felt hate and depression and complete loss of who I was and where I was going. I was not the ideal Christian, I knew it, and I was okay with that knowledge. I was angry at myself, the world, and God.

The truth is, however, that God’s deliverance and healing are for the desperate. After some time of utter frustration, grievance, and several failed attempts to pick myself up, I reached my Point of Desperation. I turned to God and screamed, “Help me, Lord!” It was not until I finally turned to Him in prayer that I realized He had answered my plea months before my situation even occurred…

roommates4

In January I decided to move to my university’s city in order to save commuting costs and survive the horrible Michigan winter conditions. I was weary of moving in with roommates, but since the prices of single dorms on campus were so high, I didn’t have much of a choice. After a month of searching, I finally found a group of girls who seemed compatible and I moved into their apartment. Little did I know God was placing me into a safe haven that would shelter me from my impending heartache.

roommates2When X and I broke up two months later, I was a wreck. It took all my willpower to simply get out of bed. I tried to compose myself to make it through my school and work hours, but inside I was a confused, beaten little girl. Thankfully, God had placed me among some of the wisest and most generous girls I will ever have the pleasure of knowing. As I attempted to pick up the pieces of my former life, I found myself marveling at how easy it was to talk and laugh with these girls I barely knew. It was like I had known them my whole life; they knew what I was feeling, what I was thinking, and how to approach the situation. They were the bright spots in a very dark time. It was because of them and their guidance that I found the courage to cast my past behind me and begin moving forward.

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Looking back, I don’t think I realized what my roommates really meant to me during this time. I valued their companionship, I sought their advice, and I treasured our time together, but I never saw what they truly were: my guardian angels. Not only did they liberate me from my depression, but they also salvaged my faith. Without them I believe I would have taken a completely different route, one much darker than the path from which they led me out.

roommates

So this is my thank you to these two very special people in my life. Thank you for all you have done for me, and all you continue to do. You both are so indescribably important to me. I pray that you never experience any hurt, but if the time should come and you do, I hope I can be a fraction of the friend you were to me. I love you.

And this is also my thank you to my Lord. Thank you for providing me with these people in my life. Even after all my lashing out towards you and questioning your motives, you continue to love me and care for me. I do not deserve such treatment. I am so deeply thankful; I am so blessed.

God wants us to use painful times for spiritual growth. As we experience trials and tribulations, we need to remind ourselves that God is not the one who brought the pain to us. Instead, He only allowed us to feel the hurt in order to use it for our own good and the good of others. He never forsakes us; He is always there for us. And it is through His grace that he provides amazing friends that catch us when we stumble or fall. To Him be the glory…

Psalm 27:1-3,5,&14 “The Lord is my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid? The Lord protects me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to destroy me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surround me, my heart will know no fear. Even if they attack me, I remain confident. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high, above my enemies who surround me. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

 

“I’ll Be” by Reba McEntire