Wednesday, November 23, 2016

heart condition.

Image result for grateful heart

A funny thing happens to Kenzie when she prays. She transforms from her normal fun-loving, silly self into this fierce little warrior child. She squeezes her brown eyes shut, clasps her little hands together tightly and says:

“Thank you Jesus for this PERFECT weather. Thank you.”

(Even if it rained all day.)

She continues, “Thank you Jesus for Mama and Daddy. Thank you. And thank you Jesus for our food and our homes. Thank you.”

She goes on and on. And on. Her voice is steady and resolute and her gratefulness is resounding. I find myself whispering “Amen!” as she guides me through her beautiful expression of  thanksgiving. When she speaks her thankfulness - it is so rich, so pure – it spills right out of her and pours straight into me.

I used to think I was pretty good at being thankful, but the truth is, I’m not. I can be optimistic, have a positive attitude and "look on the bright" side, but  as I've learned, that doesn't mean I have a grateful heart. Because I can do all those things - ALL those things - and still be living a very ungrateful life.  

I have this bad habit of comparing myself to other people, and then getting angry at God about it. Let’s take, for example, Carrie Underwood. Why did God give her SO much favor? I mean, seriously. He made her beautiful and graceful and famous and gave her the voice of an angel. He made ME with an overbite, crazy hair and a voice that sounds like that seagull from the Little Mermaid.

Or Joanna Gaines. She lives this beautiful, rustic farm life prancing around wheat fields, and she’s the best decorator and has FOUR kids and teaches them to sew and grow their own food and stuff.  I don’t even know where to start on the comparisons here, but I’ll just say I don’t sew or grow food.

And I often wonder, "What were you THINKING, God You should have distributed Your resources more wisely. Or at least more fairly. Maybe make Carrie a little less pretty if she gets to have the voice of an angel. Or if Joanna gets to be that talented, at least make her not such an incredible mom."

Sounds like the thoughts of a thankful person, right?

There is a lot of “ick” in my heart. A LOT of it.  This past year, God decided to shake things up a little to reveal just how messy it was inside of there. He tipped me over, emptied me out and let me take a good, hard look at what has truly been living and breeding inside of me. A lot resentment. A lot of discontent. A lot of fear. And a glaring absence of gratefulness.

With His help, we are slowly picking up the pieces. We are working on healing the parts that are broken, strengthening the parts that are damaged and restoring the parts I’ve lost somewhere along the way.

It has been a lot like cleaning out a closet. No one wants to clean out their closet. It's a daunting task to even THINK about starting, and then once you muster up the motivation to do it, it’s painful. You see your mess everywhere, as huge piles on the floor, and you have to decide what to keep and what to let go of. It’s HARD to make those decisions, even when you know that some things just don't belong there anymore. But when it’s all said and done, you feel refreshed and renewed. You feel lighter. You are able to put things back together and see how much better it looks inside.

Reorganizing my insides has been tough, but the process has generated SO much encouragement in my life. And that encouragement has led to a chronic thankfulness I've never known before.

Someone recently told me that the definition of encouragement is literally  “pouring courage” into something. YES! That’s how I feel. I’ve been emptied out (ouch), but not without the promise that I’ll be filled back up with something better. I am in the process being filled - filled up by God, His people, my people, our people – I’ve had all sorts of courage poured into me.

Today, I am thankful for the ability to look fear directly in the eye. We never used to make eye contact. There is still a long way to go and much to be hashed out between us, but I am no longer controlled by it. I am thankful and encouraged.  

I am thankful that I get to be myself. “Myself” is nothing to be ashamed of or apologize for; in fact, God WANTS me to be myself. Whoa. I have a name and a calling and a plan and a purpose for my life. And it's legit for me - not anyone else. I am thankful and encouraged.

I am thankful that I get to live a BIG life. We all get to. Because life is hard and complicated – no matter who you are. It’s unfair for me to assume that people have it better than me and it’s unfair to overlook that many, many people have it much worse. We are all fighting our own battles and doing important things that impact the people around us. Every life is full of purpose no matter how small or inconsequential we sometimes feel. I am thankful and encouraged.

I am thankful that encouragement is meant to be shared. God made us FOR each other. There’s something holy about being held when you need to be held, but then rising to your feet and holding others when they need it, too. We are meant to be vulnerable and real and honest with each other because not only does it heal us, but it helps to heal others, too. Beautiful, God.  I am thankful and encouraged.

And speaking of His people, my people, our people – what givers of courage I have in my life. People who are honest and loving and intentional and forgiving and so very brave themselves. Because boy does it take courage to meet people where they are – especially if where they are is in a dark scary unknown alley with a very narrow path toward the exit. My people have done that for me. They’ve met me. My family, my friends – new and old alike - I am constantly filled by them.

It’s not about ignoring my sorrows or pretending there isn’t much to grieve in this world. Especially in these times (HELLO!). But what I’m realizing is that thankfulness is not just a reaction to what we are given or not given. Thankfulness is a heart condition. It’s a power that is always inside us and within reach. We can activate it when we speak words of gratitude, when we encourage others, and when we accept the hope that is for ALL of us, no matter WHO we are, WHERE we’re from or WHAT this life has thrown our way. His promises and faithfulness are for all to receive. And when we take that action- when we actually reach out and GRAB onto His good gifts, we can’t help but say - and really truly mean - “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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