Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Corrective Perspective Creates Contentment

It was confession time. When I announced with frustration, “This is the year I was supposed to be working on becoming more content,” my husband practically choked on the water he was drinking. He knows how much trouble I have had accepting circumstances and focusing more on what I have instead of what I don’t have. It isn’t really about having the right stuff. Here are some of the things on my discontentment list, things I allow to rob me of joy and contentment in the present moment:

hot weather
high humidity
noisy neighbors
dying plants
a crazy schedule
unreasonable expectations for licensing

And there are things I am ashamed to mention. I let these kinds of things keep me wishing away my life for an ideal future, and it doesn’t exist people! A few things have set me on a corrective course. Again. When someone I love was diagnosed with cancer it gave me a new perspective. I mean really, how does hot, muggy weather compare to the difficulty of all the uncertainty cancer brings into a life.

As complaints rise to my lips like bile in the throat, the sign I had seen just ahead of me in the Walk for Alzheimer’s San Diego flashes across my mind. It was a sign bravely worn by a woman, one of many walking for someone they love(d). Her sign read, “I walk for my husband Mike. He has Alzheimer’s, age 66. Behind my sunglasses tears rolled down my cheeks as I cried for her, for her husband and the difficult challenges they both face. I come from a family of longevity; sixty-six seems quite young.

Today I want to live grateful; I just finished reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. So now I tell myself this is just a noisy neighborhood, it isn’t the sound of bombs and gunfire that press one down with fear. It is all in the perspective. You see whatever it is that makes me dissatisfied with any aspect of the life God has placed me in turns out to be nothing compared to the things others face. But were I in a community of gunfire and bombings, God still wants me to find my contentment in relationship to Him, not my surroundings. I find this a bit tough, particularly when I consider those who truly suffer.

For so many of us, like me, discontentment nibbles away at us as we dwell on the least significant imperfections – the minor dis-satisfactions. I am not minimizing the importance of changes and difficulties many must wrestle down each day to find peace and contentment, but some are greater than others. I live a blessed life and it seems cruel and unkind when I am all down about the noisy neighbors or the hot, humid weather when someone down the street just lost a child or a woman in another part of the world cannot leave her home for fear of being attacked because she is a woman.

I love Alana Dawson’s illustration of how God brings life into the hard places. The situations that are cause for our discontent God uses for good in our lives. I found this encouraging and a good reminder to be open to see all He has provided and not all I want. Read her blog post at 

In Traveling Light author Max Lucado unpacks Psalm 23. He asks this question, “Are you hoping that a change in circumstances will bring a change in your attitude?” In his chapter addressing contentment Lucado reminds us we “need to learn a secret of traveling light. What you have in your Shepherd is greater than what you don’t have in life. . . . You have a God who hears you, the power of love behind you, the Holy Spirit within you, and all of heaven ahead of you. If you have the Shepherd, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a candle for every corner, and an anchor for every storm. You have everything you need.” I want to live as if I believe, which I do, Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

We are flooded with the promise of a perfectly happy life if and when . . .

If what? When? It is a daily discipline to live the truth: in Him I have all I need. I’ve not discovered any other way of being satisfied. And you? Have you discovered a corrective perspective to the nagging itch of discontent?

Friday, October 14, 2016

How to Get Your "Awe" Back

One would think we were giving birth to a child that morning when my husband shouted out, “It's coming out! Get your camera!” I asked, “Where's my camera?” He replied, “In your phone.” I think I knew that, I needed to know where I had laid my phone down. Scrambling for cameras was preceded by Jim's discovery of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, the second of three we borrowed from the Fennel plant in our backyard in hopes of observing the metamorphosis of a butterfly.

We had both been working intently on editing a book in our spare time. In the midst of our challenging schedule we decided to make space for three caterpillars to crystallize and become butterflies. We were not disappointed. Several times a day we would check on the caterpillars to see the changes in progress. Some days we just missed it by minutes. It was our second caterpillar, formed chrysalis, causing the excitement that morning. Jim saw the butterfly in the process of emerging from the crusty shell in which it transformed from caterpillar to butterfly. It emerged all scrunched up and little by little its wings unfolded.

Now one might wonder how two busy adults could make time keeping tabs on the life cycle of caterpillars. I have to say it was a nice diversion. Have you ever found, when you were buried in a project, coming up for air and doing something totally different can clear your head and refresh you? When I allow myself to take a little time to enjoy the blessings of life in all the tiny details it helps put things into perspective and I get my awe back.

Even as I write this I am so bound in tiredness it is a struggle to do anything productive; I am uninspired. It is in the middle of this fog when I most need to take a break and go outside, or at the very least watch an inspirational nature video. Check out this amazing story of a humpback whale.

You may wonder what I mean by getting my awe back. It means being present to enjoy the moment, an awareness of all things beautiful in the world and people around me, taking time to marvel at all this goodness, and being grateful. You can count on me turning negative if I don’t take time to live in wonder and grow in gratitude. These mini awe-inspiring experiences lift my spirit out of the doldrums. Not only does this help change my attitude, it also helps me focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Phil. 4:8) when I allow myself to be present in these beautiful experiences.

Recently we had our house treated for termites. I was home the day Miguel came to do the trenching around the foundation. It was a nice day and I had all the windows and doors open. Eventually I heard whistling, then singing. This brought a smile to my face. Miguel was singing a beautiful song in Spanish, and though I did not understand the words I understood the melody. Pausing to listen brought some awe into my busy morning. What a lovely experience! It was the first time I had ever heard a stranger singing while working around my home. My spirits were lifted.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” So when it comes down to it all these beautiful moments should move my heart to worship. The greatest awe factor is the Creator who designed all these beautiful details and moments for me to enjoy; it is sad to think I miss some of them when I am accomplishment driven and disconnected from my heart. I am ever so grateful for His patience toward me. He continues to bring moments of inspiration into my days even when I fail to pay attention.

It has been at least two months since I have posted; I miss writing and sharing with you. I would love to hear about the beautiful moments you’ve been given to wake up the awe in your life. Feel free to leave a comment below. And may you find your spirit lifted today and your heart in an attitude of praise.