Saturday, April 19, 2014

gratitude

I told you in the last post that I spend my days being overwhelmed with gratitude and that it's 100% the truth. And I've been rolling it around in my head.... and well, this is what I've come up with.

I'm no good at waiting for things. Generally speaking, I'm an instant gratification kind of girl. But it seems like because of that, the things I have had to wait the longest for are the things that I treasure the most. I mean waiting for children to grow in the womb, waiting as I save up for an item, and waiting for questions to be answered about life. All of it. And I feel like we are in a season of reaping right now... of watching dreams unfold and seeing longings fulfilled. Like owning a home.

Because of our time in the military, we spent years wishing we could buy a house but never being in one place long enough to do it. We longed to plant roots. To be established. To drive past an elementary school and tell our children, "That's where you'll go to school when you're bigger."  We wondered whether we would have neighbors that we could stand outside and chat with across the fence. We looked forward to the day we had at least a handful of friends that weren't leaving every year, and for careers that we could invest time and effort into as we watched them grow and develop. So for 5 years of married life, we waited for those things with the longing for them in our hearts.

And then we jumped.

Getting out of the military was a huge, scary jump that created more question marks than answers at first. And as we watched the dust settle around the new life that emerged, I knew it was good and it was what I had been longing for, but I was afraid to grab onto it and claim it. I was afraid it was too good to be true.

Have you ever felt like life was so good, so sweet, that it caused you to be afraid? Because surely all good things must come to and end, right? And no one can live in a perpetual state of bliss. And pity the fool who is caught unaware? That's sort of the place I lived this past year. We had a house that I was smitten by, but I guarded my heart so I could function from a place that didn't care too much about it. I was afraid that "anything could happen and we might have to move again, so why get attached?" And Jerr had a great job that provided a good life, but why enjoy that? He could lose his job tomorrow, so I might as well be prepared. And that just continued. At night I'd lay in bed thinking up contingency plans in case the paychecks stopped coming or the house burned down or tragedy came upon our family members.... And it was exhausting. During the day I felt like everything was fine and good, but at night things got scary and there was no security and I needed to make sure I was prepared.

Have you ever been there?

Man, that's no way to live. Definitely not what God wants us to do with the gifts He hands us. But I also think it's part of the process. I can say that it was part of the process and not the landing strip because it's not the place my heart settled to stay. It was just a stop on a journey of major life change. And I think when something comes to fruition that you have longed for, it's natural that at first it seems hard to accept. I think it's normal to spend a few minutes rolling it around in your hands, inspecting all the corners, deciding whether it's as great and as sweet as maybe you'd hoped it would be.

And so that was the season. The season that found me grateful, but hesitant to get attached. Actually, I think a lot of that was connected to our leaving military life. I hadn't realized all the security I felt in the life we had lived. There was a house we couldn't lose with a career that was next-to-impossible to lose, and so I just never stayed awake worrying about those things. So I think that was another part of the transition- living life on the outside of the comfort of security. Where government closings now meant we didn't get paid, and where a mortgage bill came regardless of life happenings. Last year life was good- just as good as it is now. But I couldn't enjoy it yet.

Now it's this year. THIS year I can enjoy it completely. And you know what? I think the best way to describe life is this: I'm determined to steward what we have WELL. We have a house. Who needs a place to stay? We have food. Who can I bring a meal to? We have money. Who needs help? We have time. Who needs relationship? What do I have and who can I bless with it?

I think I just got to the point where I was done worrying about how long our blessings would last; I decided that for as long as *it* would be mine, it was also mine to give. And the determination to hold my blessings with open hands became my new song. Because clenching onto things with a death grip takes so much muscle that it wears you out. And living in fear robs you of joy. And I was even tempted a few times to feel like God was surely going to take back the blessings eventually, because "_____ just went through ____, and my life doesn't have pain like that. So when is it my turn? When am I going to be taught a lesson?" And it felt like life was too good to last.

But then I realized that understanding of God is soooooo beyond flawed. And that is never the way He would operate. God doesn't give us stuff just so He can take it back and make us hurt. I look at it this way: the reason He gave us the parent-child relationship is to better understand how He parents us, right? And so on a smaller, flawed and human level, I can understand the way He blesses me by the way I bless my kids. If I want to bless Roman I might give him a ninja turtle costume. Because he loves to pretend and he loves fighting bad guys. But if I want to bless Liam, I'll buy him a big dump truck. Because he loves things with wheels. And because they don't love the same things, I don't get them the same things. And I didn't give them the toy in the first place just because I wanted something to take when I needed to "teach them a lesson!" I love them! I gave it to them because I wanted to bless them- because it brought my heart joy to bring them pleasure! BUT, when I need to parent them and teach them, I will do that. Still with love, though sometimes in a way that grieves them and makes them feel yucky. But only because it's needed, and not because it feels good and I was waiting to pounce. And the way I can best figure it to be,that's how it is with God and us, too. And that's the way it is with His blessings, too. It's not that we deserve them, but that they were given to us: to steward well and to revel in, and to use for His glory.

So I'm learning that when you can hold those blessings on the open palm of your hand, and you hold them out in front of you, fingers wide open, you can really enjoy them. You can see them, roll them around, and you can even give them away. And if all this rambling is too vague and you're completely lost I get it, but man...if you can get it then I'm just saying it's going to free you. It's going to open your heart right up. And the fear is going to flee and the joy is going to grow. Because when the hands that hold your blessings are open, you get the chance to really be grateful for them. And gratitude is a great best friend for joy. And when there is room for both of them to exist, there isn't room for much else.

And so I will continue to posture myself in a way that holds blessings with open hands. And I'll be grateful for as long as they're around. And no matter what God is, was, and still will be good.

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