When the ugliness of gossip reveals the beauty of friendship

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We’ve all been there.  The place where you open your mouth when you should have kept it closed.  The place where you unintentionally created a mess that you wish could be cleaned with a wet wipe, erased forever.  The place where words escape our lips that hurt someone we never intended to hurt.

These are the moments we could live without.

Satan loves when we are in this place.  Because when we are in this place, if we aren’t careful, sin can mount one on top of another.  The deeper we are caught in sin, the more difficult it becomes for us to see the light.  We can become so focused on the issues, that we lose sight of the One who desires to sanctify us.

I’ve had my fair share of these situations.  And recently I watched one of my children struggle through it.  How I wished it were me.  But it wasn’t.  This time.  It was one of mine.  One who is thoughtful and tender-hearted, kind and compassionate.  His typical sin patterns are in other areas, not this one.

Gossip.  Gossip isn’t just a sin that 14-year-old girls struggle with.  It’s one that every single one of us faces at one time or another.  We can mask it with something like, “Hey, so and so really needs us to pray for them right now.  Did you know that…..”  We can make our gossip sound holy if we try just a little.  Gossip isn’t just malicious talk.  It is “light chat or talk”.  It is idly talking about the affairs of others.

Besides how gossip affects the person being talked about, it affects us.  It affects the one doing the talking.  Often gossip is an effort to build ourselves up.  To make ourselves appear better than the other person.  Suddenly, we are smarter, a harder worker, luckier, whatever. We are something more than they are.  Pride begins to grow.  And it is an ugly monster that is often seen easier by others than by ourselves in our own lives.  Pride is the root of so many other sins.

The moment he walked through that door, I knew something was eating him alive.  His conscience.  Or better yet, the Holy Spirit planned to prick his heart without ceasing until he cried uncle, which he finally did.

“Mom, I did the stupidest thing today.  I don’t know why I did it.”  And he broke down.  He explained how he was talking to a group of friends and told them how one of his friends (who wasn’t there at the moment) had a crush on someone else (also not there at the moment).  And how another friend overheard and told him that he was going to tell the friend being talked about.

As I listened to him telling the story, I was transported back to my childhood when I lived through these same exact type of moments.  It’s part of childhood, it’s part of school, but more importantly, it’s part of how God grows us.  Through our failures.  Through our weaknesses.  Through our sins.  Through our repentance.

I’m grateful to the friend who threatened to tell on my child.  God used that child as an instrument in the life of my child to bring him to repentance.  Initially, all he could talk about was how upset he was at the friend threatening to tell on him.

“But, honey, you have to hear this.  What you did was wrong.  Forget what anyone else did for a moment.  Look at the part YOU played in this.  Look at the situation you created.  If you hadn’t said what you said, this friend would have nothing to tell on you.  You sinned first.  And your sin has caused someone else to sin.  Do you see the danger of sin?  It doesn’t just affect us.  It affects everyone around us.  Our sin can cause others to sin.  If we guard our own hearts, we can encourage our friends against sinning.”

We had to have this conversation about 5 times before it sank in.  He blurted out, “I feel like God is slapping me in the face.”

“He is most certainly not!  In His kindness, He is bringing you to repentance.”  And thank God for that!

“Let’s pray right now.”  He rolled his eyes as I walked to the shelf where my Bible resides.

“Mom, really?”

“Yes, God’s Word is where we need to be right now.”

I read to him Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

Proverbs 20:19 “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”

Proverbs 26:20 “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”

“This is not who God wants you to be.  And it’s not who you are.  Do you see what God’s Word has to say about gossip?”

“This is what we have to do.  I’m going to speak to the friend’s mom who is saying he is going to tell your other friend.  Meanwhile, you should consider calling your friend you gossiped about and coming clean.  Tell him what you said.  Tell him you are sorry and that you wished you had never done it.  Ask God to forgive you, which He will.  And you will sleep better tonight.  You will have stopped this from progressing.  You will have a clean heart.  And you will have learned never to do this again.”

“Mom, I can’t do that.  He will kill me.  He is so big and I’m like an ant compared to him!”

“You can do this.  He is your friend.  When you do the right thing, he will likely forgive you. You may be surprised at how your friendship gets even better.”

After his dad gave him the exact same advice, he came to me and said, “Can I call him now?”

So we did.  I spoke with the mom explaining what had happened and that my child wanted to make this right, handed the phone to my boy, and walked down the hall.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I listened to this child confess to his friend what he had done wrong.  “I want to tell you that I’m very sorry for what I did.  Today at lunch, I told some people you had a crush on someone.  I wish I hadn’t done that and I’m very sorry.”  The friend forgave him, the conversation ended, and he came back to me a different child.

“Oh my gosh, I feel so much better.  You and dad were so right.”

After school the next day, he came home and said, “You know my friend was even nicer to me than normal today.  And he is always nice to me.”

“Funny, how that happens.  I really believe that we develop deep, true friendships when we are real with each other.  We all sin.  We all mess up.  It takes a special person to admit their faults and ask forgiveness.  Your friend now knows that you really care about him.  You care enough about the friendship that you were willing to lose it.  Or get beat up,” I laughed.

A dose of realness is what we all need.  We live in a culture that tempts us to live under a facade of perfection.   A state of being where we don’t allow ourselves the grace to mess up.  Where we have a hard time admitting our faults because when we do then others may see the real us.

But the real us is who the world needs to see.  The real us.  The one who makes mistakes.  The one who opens his mouth and says careless words about a friend.  The one who doesn’t have it all together.  The one who is WRONG.  Yes, we are all wrong from time to time.  When we can admit our faults, when we can see that we played a part in the problem at hand, that is when God can use us.  That is when satan is messed with.

And in a world where we want people to like us and we want to keep people from being mad at us,  the best way to accomplish this is to be boldly raw.  Totally transparent.  Uncomfortably genuine.  The person that God created is the real you.  Not the one we think people want to see.  They want to connect.  And they can’t connect with what isn’t real.  Not on a deep level anyway.

I watched Christ at work through my child.  And as usual, when God is working on my child, He is also working on me.  I’m convinced every relationship God grants to us is an effort to sanctify us.  Relationships are challenging.  But when we can be real, the depth and beauty of that relationship is far greater than we could ever imagine.

******I drafted this post and saved it to post at a later date.  The afternoon I finished drafting the post, I spent some time with a friend.  As our children played, we chatted and caught up.  In conversation that started out innocently, before we knew what had happened, we found ourselves in a similar situation I had just written about.  

She asked a question.  I answered.  She asked another.  I answered.  But I shouldn’t have answered the way I did.  I should have stopped and explained why I couldn’t go further.  

She and I felt the Holy Spirit instantly convicting our hearts.  She apologized.  I apologized.  We both recognized our faults.  And then I shared further with her about how I had just written about exactly what she and I had just experienced together.  

Though I felt awful for sinning in the area of gossip, I was grateful I failed in that exact area at that exact moment.  We never have sin under wraps.  We never truly conquer any particular sin or sin pattern.  We are all one step away at all times.  The good news is that Christ is there if we accept.  And though we will still sin, we are completely forgiven.  And the freedom in that is priceless.  

I was reminded that afternoon with my friend that relying on Christ is a moment by moment necessity.  The minute we begin to puff up and feel any sin is a thing of our past, we are one step closer to falling.  But when we are uncomfortably raw with the friends God places in our lives, then we are one step closer to Him.  Because in those rich friendships, when the ugliness is revealed, shared, and redeemed, we can experience Christ together with the ones He has blessed us with.  And I can’t imagine this life without the beauty of true, genuine, authentic friends who see my mess and choose to love me anyway.*********

Everyday is a Holiday

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“You know, Mom, everyday is a holiday to me.”   His body lay sideways across the arm-chair, feet dangling over the side.  I studied those legs.  They are getting bigger, longer.  I tried to ignore the fact his toenails needed to be cut.  Held my tongue from nagging and just relished this rare moment with him.

“Why is that?”

“Well, today is Thursday.  And there will never again be THIS Thursday.  Each day we have 24 hours.  And we have to be wise with how we use those 24 hours because once they are gone, we will never have them back.”  He took a bite of his apple, picking at the skin.  “That is why everyday is like a holiday to me.”

My boy, you are preaching to the choir.  You will never know how much I treasure every single second God grants me with you.  You will simply never know.

“You are so right, sweetie.  We need to make the most of every single moment we are given.”

Suddenly, I didn’t care that it was an hour past his bedtime.  I didn’t care that I wouldn’t get to finish the laundry now.  I didn’t care about anything other than soaking him up.  There will never again be THIS Thursday night.  The one where he was relaxed and had my full attention because his brothers were asleep.  The one where I realized he gets it.  He gets the beauty of this life.  It’s a gift.

Psalm 118:24 “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

One Surreal Moment

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My earliest memories involved books.  Reading was the only thing I ever really wanted to do as a kid.  My parents would force me to go outside to play.  Even when they forced me outside, I would usually grab a book.  And read.

Reading was more than a hobby.  It provided a means of escape during the early years of my parents’ divorce.  I could escape into another world that seemed more secure than mine.

When I was in kindergarten, I tried to check out a book the librarian told me was too advanced for me to read.  I was so upset because I really wanted to read that book.  I went home upset because the librarian didn’t believe that I could read it.  So my mom spoke to the librarian and assured her the book wouldn’t frustrate me.  Marathon Miranda.  I took it home, devoured it, and my love of books continued to flourish.

Around 1st or 2nd grade I developed an interest in writing.  I thought to have a book in the library you simply wrote it and handed it to the librarian.  An instant published author. So I wrote my first “book”.  It was titled Red Light, Green Light.  4 red construction sheet stapled pages with 4 simple sentences and elementary drawings.

“I wrote this book.  Can you put it in the library so other kids can read it?”

The librarian took that book from me, praised my work, and said she would be sure to take care of it.  Well, each week I would scour the shelves looking for “Red Light, Green Light.”  Week after week I asked the librarian if it would be on the shelves soon.  Eventually, I quit asking.

Fast forward about 27ish years.  During my morning quiet time with God 4 1/2 years ago, I had an idea for a book.  For 4 1/2 years, I have worked on this project, prayed about this book and how I want it to impact families for Christ.

And on Good Friday I stood in the middle of a store with my boys, my mom and my step dad, when I pulled out my phone to check the dinging of an email.  When I read these words, I cried in the middle of the store.

“Renee,
Thank you for allowing us to review your manuscript. After careful consideration, we would like to offer a publishing contract for this work.”

Surreal.  Simply surreal.

And today I signed the contract!

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I have so much to tell about this story.  The amazing work of God.  His undeniable hand in every facet of this.  His timing.  Oh the timing.  He had to make me wait 4 years.  There was too much sanctifying work to be done.  And still is!!!   I can’t wait to share the rest over the next several weeks and months.

And of course this isn’t the destination.  It’s only just beginning.  As a trusted friend and advisor recently reminded me…this is simply a fork in the road leading me further down the path God has planned.  It’s only the beginning.

When We Choose To Forgive

This post was drafted 2 weeks ago.  I’m not exactly sure why I hadn’t posted it yet.  Maybe it’s because I’m not the voice of forgiveness.  I would feel like a hypocrite.  But I’m not writing this from the position of “I’ve mastered this…do what I do.”  I’m writing this from a place of repeated failures and as the recipient of undeserved, unmerited, lavish, radical, crazy grace and mercy.  

I didn’t change a thing in the post you are about to read from what I wrote 2 weeks ago.  Not a word.  I felt there was a reason God gave me the words to write at that time, and who am I to determine a different message must be written.  But I had to add what has happened to me since I wrote this post.

It’s easy to forgive.  When there is no conflict in your life.  It’s easy to write about forgiveness.  When you aren’t the one struggling in it.  It’s easy to forgive.  When you are counseling another.  

It’s NOT easy to forgive.  When you feel “right”.  It’s NOT easy to forgive.  When you are hurt.  It’s NOT easy to forgive.  When you feel you are saying “What you did was ok.”

I wrote this post 2 weeks ago.  And recently God allowed me to be thrown into a situation that had nothing to do with me.  In the blink of an eye, hurtful words were flying, hearts were broken, sins were revealed, and relationships marred.  I was fully plunged into the heat of the battle.  My husband reminded me that it wasn’t about me.  This was about spiritual warfare.  This was an attack.  But God had prepared me for it, I just wasn’t seeing it yet.  I fought my mind, which wanted to replay the scenes over and over again.  I fought the voices playing over and over again in my head.  And I asked God to help me to forgive.  Help me to be like Him.  I felt the pull of my own sin weighing me down, knocking me off-balance.  I heard Steve’s voice saying, “Don’t let this take you off your mission.”  

The next morning, I prayed again and again.  “God, how do we forgive?  I know you tell us to forgive 77 times (meaning never quit forgiving).  But it gets so old.  I don’t want to keep forgiving.  But I love you, so I want to walk in obedience to You.”   

I zipped up my fleece, double knotted my running shoes and took off down the trail.  Over and over again, I said to myself, “I will not repeat the conversation.  I will not think about who did what and who said what.  This will not bring about forgiveness.”  I looked through the trees along the path.  One stood out.  I envisioned Jesus nailed to that tree.  A holy, perfect God, who WILLINGLY allowed himself to be nailed to that tree.  Each strike of the hammer represented my sins.  My unforgiveness.  My pride.  Then I was among the mockers who hurled insults at Jesus.  I was one of them!  Jesus stayed on that cross, taking the full weight of our sins, sins which we categorize as bad and not so bad, but God does not.  They are all heinous to Him.  And then.  Then.  Jesus answered my question.  He told me how to forgive.  He cried out to God, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (see Luke 23:32-34)

They know not what they do.  Sin is blinding.  We know not what we do.  And that is how I can forgive.  There are 2 clear pictures of forgiveness.  The first is Jesus dying on a cross, taking my sin, and offering forgiveness for my sins when he never even sinned.  God offers forgiveness IF we choose to accept it with His free gift of salvation given through the death and resurrection of His Son.  The 2nd picture is given through the Son, who hung between 2 sinners.  One believed, and Jesus assured him He would see him in Heaven.  He forgave his sins.  And Jesus asked God to forgive those who were crucifying Him because they know not what they do.  In the picture of the cross, forgiveness is plastered all over it.

I don’t deserve the mercy God gives me.  I don’t deserve the forgiveness He offers me.  But His grace.  His beautiful, amazing grace.  

And so, I CHOSE to forgive.  I CHOSE to obey God.  I CHOSE to win.

During my run, immediately after this revelation, this song began to play.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/bk-52Ci68CU]

Here is my original post.  Please, please, please listen to the track at the very end of this post.  It is about 20 minutes long, so listen when you have a few minutes.  It could change your life and how you view forgiveness.  It could change every moment you have with the ones you love…….

Something dangerous chips a hole in our heart if we aren’t careful.  Little by little.  Each chip leaves an opening just big enough to allow another danger to flow into the depths of our heart.  The part that we need to guard and protect.

Unforgiveness.  It’s nasty and seeks to destroy.  It paves the way for bitterness to take root.

If we don’t recognize its grip on us, we are setting ourselves up for broken relationships, hardened hearts, and discipline from God.

We do not deserve God’s forgiveness.  Yet He forgives us.  He forgives us wholly and completely when we ask Him.  He doesn’t forgive us because we deserve it.  Because we are “good” most of the time.  Shouldn’t God be our model?  When we choose to forgive someone, we aren’t saying, “What you did was ok.”  We are choosing to forgive because that is what God desires for us.

What in us prevents us from forgiving?  Our pride?  Our need to be right and to prove to others we are right?  Is that more important than obeying God?

God instructs us to forgive because He knows the damage that is done when unforgiveness is present and bitterness takes root.  The road it leads down is lonely.

I recently heard a talk given by Dianne B. Collard, author of “I Choose to Forgive”.  She forgave the man who murdered her son.  I sat in complete astonishment through her entire talk.  Speechless when I walked out the door.

Here is the link.  I can’t encourage you enough to listen to this.  It’s less than 30 minutes.  You will be captivated, convicted, and compelled to forgive.

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5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast

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For 30 days our home is electronic/screen free.

We are just a little over a week into this.  And we feel free.

It was a spur of the moment idea Steve had one weekend. “We are shutting down for 30 days.  For one month we will have no tv, no Wii, no electronics (with the exception of the computer for me to pay bills and blog and him for work).  Steve even went so far as to cancel Dish Network.

I don’t watch tv or play video games, so this isn’t as painful for me as it is the rest of the members of my household.  Honestly, I felt this would be a breeze for us anyway.  Our kids rarely watch tv during the week.  There simply is no time.  Wii is only allowed on the weekends.  A couple of 30 minute time blocks.

We started noticing some attitudes in our boys.  More bickering than we cared for.  And a constant asking to watch something or play some game.  A break was needed.

 

Top 5 positive changes from week 1:

  1. We don’t rush away from the moments.  We stay.  We linger.  We soak.  We relish.  There is nothing to rush away to.  No tv show to catch.  No video game to conquer.  Nothing but time and each other.  Dinner is slower, more relaxed.  There is no need to rush to eat so we can fit a show in before bedtime on a Saturday night.  We took a family bike ride Sunday afternoon to a favorite tree swing.  After a long time swinging, we asked if they were ready to head home.  Zachary’s immediate response, “No!!!”  One week ago he would have been begging to go home so that he could play the Wii one last time before the new week began.  
  2. We are having moments we’ve never had.  I’ve come to realize the distractions of our devices cause great anxiety and a sense of urgency.  When they are taken away, we are left with the simplicity of life.  We are left with the beauty of the ones we love waiting to be enjoyed.  When our affection and attention is taken away from our devices, it must go somewhere.  So we turn it to the ones we love.  Andrew wanted to take a bath Saturday night.  While he was playing in the tub, I heard Jacob in there talking to him.  He was just sitting on the side of the tub chatting away with his 4-year-old brother he rarely has time to simply enjoy.  Jacob began making up stories and songs.  He had Andrew captivated.  After that Andrew began to want to be with Jacob again.
  3. We are finding new activities to enjoy. I’ve found the boys putting together puzzles, setting up imaginary play scenes, making up new games, using tools to create projects.  I’ve even found them simply resting.  Yes, just lounging on the screen porch, enjoying nature, enjoying life.
  4. We are thinking.  Want to increase creativity and productivity?  Take away your devices. Your mind will slow down and focus.  We have noticed this in ourselves as well as the boys.  We all feel much more able to think clearly.
  5. We are reconnecting.  I found I had gotten in a pattern of putting a movie on while I cooked dinner.  Now, everyone is taking part in the dinner prep.  We are all together in the kitchen.  We all help clean up.  We are simply together more.  Jacob and I have had extensive conversations, which have really been lacking lately.  One of our long talks occurred while he was helping me prepare dinner and Steve was outside with the other boys.  I said, “See Jacob if you had been watching a movie, we would have missed this opportunity to have this time together.”  He just smiled and said, “I’m actually kind of liking this electronics fast now.”

When the option of electronics is completely removed, kids will become kids again.  When all the distractions are removed, we can fully enjoy our moments again.

Bad Breath And A Plank In The Eye

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We entered the doors of church a little later than usual.  We made our way to a pew that could barely  fit four of us.  The boys sandwiched themselves between us and quickly got to work on their sermon notes activity sheet.  Every few minutes Zachary would whisper something to Jacob.  After a few times, I noticed Jacob becoming very snappish with his brother who adores him.  His head turned sharply towards me as he hissed, “Mom, his breath is treacherous.  It’s driving me crazy.”  The look on his face told me he was not kidding.

Initially I chuckled, thinking how funny his statement sounded.  Then I noticed how visibly upset Jacob was over the smell of his brother’s breath.

“Stop talking to me.  Your breath stinks!”  Jacob snarled to Zachary, who just looked at me with raised eyebrows and a sheepish little grin that seemed to say, “What?  I’m…..sorry…”

Jacob turned away from Zachary and faced directly towards me as he made his final comment about the state of Zachary’s breath, to which I replied to Jacob, “Your breath smells equally as bad.  Leave him alone.”

“So what, Zachary’s is worse.”

Jacob was seething, overly agitated, and lacked all forms of mercy, grace, and compassion.  I’ve been there.  Have you?

Oh what a picture.  What a picture of our humanness.  A picture of myself.  A picture of each of us if we are truly honest with ourselves.  How often are we so focused on the sins and wrongs of others that we fail to see our own sins, our own shortcomings?  How often are we so focused on how bad someone else’s “issue” is that we unknowingly cultivate a garden of anger, resentment, pride, and self-righteousness in our own hearts?

Matthew 7:5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

We are all sinners.  Jesus didn’t die because we are naturally good.  No!  We are sinners.  In need of saving.  None of us has minty fresh breath all the time.

Thank God for grace.

Imagine the richness of our experiences in life if we removed our own planks before focusing on the specks of others?  Imagine how we could see God in a completely new way.  Imagine how our relationships with each other and our walks with God would grow if we could do this.

In our own power, it’s impossible.  We can’t do it.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I am weak.  I am in constant need of His power resting on me.

A Turn to Thanks Changes the Moment

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As I prepared for bed, I began to mentally start my checklist of what all needed to be done the following day.  It would get done, it always does, and I would just get through the day.  But I don’t like simply surviving.  I don’t like days that start out with “just get me through today”.  I want each day to be “Thank you Lord for this day you have made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Just as I felt my anxiety level rising over the upcoming day, Macy, our 6 pound Schnoodle, came flying through the air out of nowhere.  Overly excited for her nightly ritual of snuggling in the bed with me before retiring to her crate, she must have decided I was too lost in my own thoughts to remember she needed help onto the bed.  Taking matters into her own hands, she took a running leap and landed smack into the side of the bed, throwing her body back onto the floor crumpling her legs underneath her fluffy, white body.  She gave a yelp, then just laid down until I scooped her up in my arms, holding her and comforting her.  If she had just waited 10 more seconds, I would have placed her on my bed safe and sound.

How often am I Macy?  How often do I think God has forgotten so I decide I need to take control of the situation on my own.  How often do I think I can do it on my own and don’t need any help?  My husband has been known to call me Nemo at times saying, “Renee, you are like Nemo.  You think you can do these things, but you can’t.” How often is God saying to me, “Renee, I didn’t forget.  The timing wasn’t right yet.  I never left you, and if you had been patient and waited on me, it would have worked out perfectly.  But you took control and now you are lying on your back yelping.  And you still need me!  Either way you are going to need Me.  If you do it My way, it’s much less painful.  Just wait for Me!”

I tucked Macy into the comfort of her warm crate and prayed several times through the night that she would be ok.  That her leg wouldn’t be broken.  That we wouldn’t be given the news she needed surgery costing more than we would want to spend.  Then the anxiety crept back in.  How would I get the carpool to school, get Macy to the vet, get Andrew to preschool, and still make it to my dentist appointment all before 9:00?  Each of these were located 30 minutes from each other.

The sin of my anxiety carried over into our morning routine.  I rushed the children, snapped at them several times, hurrying them up, speaking unkindly, and simply not being the mom I desire to be.  I failed to take ownership.  Rather, I continued blaming my actions on my concern for Macy and our need to get out the door as soon as possible.

Too many interruptions.  I hadn’t planned on so many interruptions.  Not enough margin had been built into the morning.  But don’t all interruptions come from God?  This was from God.  He must interrupt me to shake me up.  If He can’t make me be still, He will shake me up for sure.  It wasn’t the amount of stuff we had going on, it was how I was handling it.  Why was I allowing my anxiety to control me this way?  All the while, God is whispering to me, but I’m not hearing.

Why was I ruining precious moments with my children?  It didn’t have to be this way.  It shouldn’t be this way.

We pulled up to the doors of the school and I touched my boys on the shoulders and said I’m sorry, to which they immediately offered their forgiveness with a smile.  And I pulled away simply disappointed with myself that yet again I found myself in need of apologizing to my kids.

When I start the day in my own strength, it always falls apart.  When I start the day in His strength, there is nothing that can’t be handled with grace.  I gripped tightly to my schedule and my responsibilities, never allowing God to direct my steps.  

Andrew and I arrived at the vet with Macy.  She was x-rayed and given a good report.  She would be sore for a few days but should begin to use her back leg in a few days.  No broken bones.  Exactly what we had prayed for.  I paid the bill, felt sickened over the money I was spending for the x-rays, then sent Steve a text that read, “Macy is fine, $180 later.”

That’s when God really got my attention.  It was as if I could hear Him saying to me, “Renee, how can you have so little thanks?  How can you be so ungrateful?  Did I not take care of everything for you?  Did I not get you safely to each of your destinations?  Did I not allow Macy’s leg to not be broken?  Did you ever consider it could have been so much worse and that it is because of Me that it is as good as it is?”

Lack of gratitude leads to lack of joy.  Being thankful changes everything.  Being thankful changes every single moment we will ever experience.

Often God uses what I see in others to really show me the magnitude of it in my own life.  I just recently had a conversation about noticing how negative people seem these days.  Then, I noticed I did it as well!  It’s more noticeable in social media because thoughts are shared so freely, especially the negative, frustrating moments.  Last summer we all complained about how dry it was, we needed the rain.  Now God is abundantly blessing us with rain and we are complaining about the provision.  We complain about it being too cold, yet there are people living in dire poverty who would give anything to feel the warmth of a bed.  We are cold when we have to walk out of the comfort of our heaters.  I want to take every thought captive.  I want to change my negative habits that ruin my moments.  I want to turn those negative tendencies into praises and offerings of thanks and change the moments in my life.

So here is my challenge to myself.  Every time I am about to complain about something, I will rephrase it into a positive.  When my child has just thrown an Oscar worthy tantrum, I want to think to myself “Thank you, God, that you blessed me with this child.  I know you have a wonderful plan for his life.”  When I am burned out on winter and about to say, “I’m so sick of winter and ready for spring,”  I hope instead to say, “Spring is just around the corner.  I am so thankful for the changes of seasons so that we can truly appreciate each season we are given.”  And when I’m about to complain of a runny nose preventing me from sleeping well, I hope instead to say, “I’m so thankful that of all the health ailments I could have right now, this is the worst that I’m experiencing.  I’m thankful I’m not battling cancer right now or fighting for my life.”

This is not easy.  I’m curious to see how I do.  I know I will fail if I do this in my own strength, so I will rely on Him.

I desperately want to experience life to the fullest the way God intends.  And I believe a thankful heart is the key.  Being thankful changes every moment.  It changes the way we see our moments.

Our world needs a good dose of positive right now.  Let’s be the ones to make the first move.

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