1000G: Chapter 9

I don’t know why I do this to myself! I read the chapter and watched the video but didn’t have time to write up my thoughts that day, so I put it off for a day.

Next thing I know, it’s been three weeks, argh!!

I WILL FINISH THIS BOOK!!  only two chapters left . . . I can do it right?  :)

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page 167 ~~

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.”  G K Chesterton

“The joy of small that makes life large.” Ann

Yet we, I, try to escape the smallness of life to get to the bigger and better, the grass-is-always-greener pastures.  How many of my lovely, wonder-filled moments are due to being small? When I have the beautiful realization, understanding of my smallness and His bigness?

Lots of them.

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page 169 ~~

“Expectations kill relationships.” Ann’s mama

“Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.” unknown, quoted by Angie Smith

Boy howdy!!  Yes, indeed!  It’s like a contract that will be broken.

I see this in myself–as a friend, as a wife, as a mother. When I don’t get what I want, what I expect, I am not very fun to be around.  (Sorry to you, my dear Mr. The Bull!)

What is it that scares me about new situations?  I don’t know what to expect.

And when these expectations are on the LORD, how much harder is it?  Faith is hard, especially when He doesn’t meet our expectations or what we have been taught to expect.  I cringe when I remember the church that taught, maybe not in so many words, that all we need to do is have faith and He will do this, whatever it is that we want.  (There’s that contract I mentioned!)  And if we don’t get from Him what we expect, want. . . well, it’s our fault.

Well I guess it is, really, but not really.  (How do I explain this?)  Our fault is in expecting things He’s never promised.  Our fault is not in our not fulfilling our end of the “deal.”  That’s not how He works, usually.

This is what I mean:  I’ve heard that if we pray enough, or have enough faith, He will heal our sick loved ones.  If we sing the proper songs, He will fix our broken relationships.  The cure for a broken heart?  The key to getting what we want in life, whether it be a job or a car or a baby?  It’s almost like ending  a prayer with “in Jesus’ name, amen” is another way of saying “Abracadabra.”

<gag>

But when we have a time like Ann’s with her son in the hospital, it puts our lives and expectations into perspective.  I remember one day of scrubbing the tiled bathtub wall and thinking another Ann thought:  “Smile, you don’t know if you’ll be this way again.”  Within weeks, my life changed and I wished that I could go back to that lovely tiled bathtub wall.

I guess the key is to take all of life as a surprise.  If we expect nothing, everything is a surprise!!

Of course, it’s very well and good to think these lovely thoughts.

but

then

the

glass

breaks . . .

And then what? Where are all my non-expectations now?  They are still right here.   To use Ann’s example, I expect that whoever opens the glass door would shut it when they are done.  I expect that the kids won’t run in the house, I expect that the door would swing out of the way and not shatter.  I expect that nobody would get hurt if the glass did break.  I expect that the children would help clean and not instead point fingers of blame to one another.

For me, personally?  I expect that the paycheck will be on time, that the gas bill will be manageable, that the child’s cough will subside quickly.  That when I spend hours to plan and prepare the school day the children will happily, gratefully sit and do their work without whining, fussing, complaining.  That the hours I spend on fixing meals will be met with something more than “I don’t like this!”

And again, when my expectations are not met. . . watch out!

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page 177 ~~

“A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” Henry Ward Beecher.

Good thing I’m not a man.  :)

(Just kidding.)

It is interesting, this idea of thanking the LORD for all he gives, even the yucky stuff.  I don’t think I deserve the yucky stuff, really.  A very wise man said (Job 2:10) “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  Gulp.

And like Ann, I know that it is best in the situation where I don’t get what I want to keep my mouth shut.  Otherwise what spews from it is moaning, groaning, complaining–the very opposite of thanksgiving.  And that helps nobody.

I need to, like Ann says page 178, let go of my expectations.  I need to accept what He gives me in life and accept that it is given because He loves me, even if it seems bad at the time.

It is hard for me to give up what I want for what He gives.  But I need to do this. . . first off, I can’t make life happen the way I want. Secondly, do I really know what is best for me?

No.

I like the idea of praying with hands open, palms up.  i have a friend who’s done this for years, for this very idea.  I’ve always thought her weird. :) I understand this better now.

1000G: Chapter 8

This chapter . . . oh this chapter!! Wow! It was good!! Very good.  And Ann says it all so well that I think I’ll just quote her a few times.  :)

Last summer was terribly difficult for me.  Pregnancy after miscarriage includes a plethora of fears.  What if I lose this baby?  What if something’s wrong with this baby? What if something goes wrong in labor?  Swirling, maddening, choking fears.  Fears that were based on reality and situations that were beyond my control.  Similar to Ann’s situation with farm economy.

While I can’t relate to Ann’s young years, I wonder about my children.  In the past few years we have lost fathers and loved ones have faced cancer.   It seems, sometimes, that it’s been one loss or tragedy after another!  It’s hard to hide this from the children.  One of the kids in particular seems to be more sensitive and takes these losses harder, especially the loss of our baby.  What will he, they, be dealing with when they are adults?

So I know that I need to get a handle on how to deal with fear, and not just for myself.   I need to help my kids learn to handle their fears also.

This was something I wondered about last year:  how to not be afraid.  I know the Bible says over and over, to many different people, “Do not fear!”  But I couldn’t understand how to do this.  I am glad that Ann has given me some ideas.

Significant parts of the chapter:

“Thanks is what builds trust.” (page 150.)

How does that work?

“Count blessings and find out how many of His bridges have already held.” (page 151)

I think I see.  But I’m glad that Ann explained it all out too!

“Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks.  Remembering frames up gratitude.  Gratitude lays out the planks of trust.  I can walk the planks–from known to unknown–and know: He holds.” (page 151-2)

Ann reminds me that the Israelites often remembered God’s goodness in their thanks, as in Psalm 136.  And maybe this is the next one I should memorize?

But what do we do with the memories?  The hard ones, of course, since the happy memories tend to lend themselves easily to thankfulness.

I’m not quite sure how to get to the memory of Jesus’ death from my painful memories, though, as she mentioned on page 154.

I like the image Ann gives on page 156.  She says that in our dark times God is passing by us.  When our world is shaking, it is because He is moving in our lives.  Many times I’ve wondered if He’s abandoned me in these situations.  I need to see this a little better,  I guess, see Him in the tough times of life.

And yet, there are things in life we must wait to able to see Him.

I’ve heard the story before (page 157-8) of the children after the war going to bed with a piece of bread, how that provided enough of a tangible comfort to them that they would at least have something to eat in the morning.  And as I read this I think, remember:  Doesn’t He tell us to ask for our daily bread?

I need this, oh how badly I need this!

LORD, please give me this daily bread. . . or rather, to acknowledge that You have given me what I need, and to thank You for it!  Help me to see that it will be enough.

I read this chapter once, and listened to it once, and yet I feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of understanding it.  I needed this, oh so badly.  I’m thinking that I need to read it again and again, and let the pieces settle into my mind and heart.  Thank you, Ann, for doing the hard work of eucharisteo and sharing it with us!

1000G: Chapter 7

Easily overwhelmed? Yup.

Sensory overload? That’s me!

Lash out at the ones I love (children, hubby) under frustration? Unfortunately, far too often.

Choose anger, Satan’s way, instead of thankfulness, Jesus’ way? (page 126) Well, I’ve never really thought of that before. . . . but yes.  And she’s right, it isn’t better, or more effective, or more expedient.  I know that, and yet it’s what I go to first, time and again.

Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle“–I need to try to remember this on frustrating days rather than giving in to anger.

How can I drive out the “nail of anger” with another nail, a different one?  I’m not sure it is true that “We can only experience one emotion at a time” (page 136) . . . sometimes they seem to hit me two or four at a time. . . but this discipline of thanksgiving instead of complaining is so necessary for me.  How many days does my poor Bull come home to hear my litany of complaints, everything from kid misbehaviors to computer problems to bad news in the mail?

It is a struggle, a wrestle.  Job is right.  Jacob’s night is repeated daily for me.  I want to learn how to see God’s face in everything in life.

Especially my people.

I liked what Angie said about making a list of the common frustrations.  I, too, find that the common and normal and repeated frustrations come up and surprise me, although they should not!  I think that her idea would work for me. Pre-planning, as it were, how to handle the frustrations of life that I know will happen over and over and over.

Oh, here’s the first one that comes to mind: I tell the kids to get ready to go, and they don’t, they continue playing, and many days we end up late. So frustrating.

Now, I could tell them step by step: get coats and boots on, go out and get in the van, sit in your seat, get buckled up.  If I’m not right there to monitor each step, they don’t.  But now there is a new little person who needs to be gotten ready too.  She can’t take care of this by herself.  The older three?  They can.

They might get coats on but forget to get the boots on when something distracts them.

Or they may get all dressed up and forget they are supposed to get in the van-s0 instead I find them on the other side of the house playing!

If they manage to get into the van chances are great that they will forget they are supposed to sit in their seats and the older boy get them buckled up. I will often get the baby ready and get to the van to find them upset because “I want to sit in the front” and “he took my book away” or “she won’t leave me alone.”

And it matters not where we are headed:  a tedious chore or doctor’s office or a fun trip or playdate with friends, the short attention spans and ease of distraction gets us almost every time.

*sigh*

I can’t say that I’m much different, really.

So what do I need to do instead?  What can I possibly find to thank God for in this situation?

* They all have coats, boots, gloves, etc. available
* They are all capable of getting their coats and things on by themselves
* We do have a decent, reliable ride
* We have the ability to go places and do things
* We have places we can go, opportunities
* We have good friends who will understand if we’re a little bit late
* The fact that they are easily distracted shows that they are aware of their surroundings and have many interests

Wow, that is very interesting!!  Somehow typing this all up makes it not seem as dire a situation as I feel when we run into this scenario again and again.

(As I’m typing this all up while nursing Calf #5, she is now spitting up on me. Oh great. Got to change clothes now!!  guess I should consider this my second issue?)

1000G: Chapter 6

This was a hard chapter to understand, for me.  Maybe I’m just not “there” yet?  But I’ll take a shot at answering the question.

What do i want?

I want some chocolate.

I want the kids to play their game without arguing and fighting.

I want my sick six-year-old son to be healthy again.

I want dinner to cook itself, and (if possible) wash the dishes and wipe the stove afterwards.

I want to get a full night’s sleep.

I want to see God in all things.  I fear that I might be closer to what Ann describes as pantheism, worshipping the gifts.  But I know what I need is to see His hand in the gifts and to worship Him for them.

I loved that Ann quoted Psalm 27.4, as that is a chapter that I’ve been trying to memorize (for about a year and a half!)

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

Oh, I want that too!  :)

I understand also about the daily manna.  I need that, too!  I need to keep my daily counting–because otherwise I will forget it.  I want to remember him for His gifts every day.

1000G: Chapter 5

“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I’ve been bothered by how some praise the LORD. “My husband got a promotion–isn’t God so good to us?” “We have a new baby and she’s healthy! God is so good!”

On the surface, this seems reasonable. Good things happen. God is good to us.

But it makes me wonder about when the opposite happens.  What if my husband loses his job?  What if the baby died during birth or was born with disabilities?  Is He no longer good when bad things happen?  Perish the thought!  But it is terribly hard to say “God is good” when we go through trials in life.

Shortly after I miscarried I read a blog post by another woman who had miscarried.  In that post she quoted from that song, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  I was taken aback and wondered how she could say that.   It was a sharp contrast to what I’ve heard for years, that God’s goodness is demonstrated through blessings.  It made me wonder about how God truly shows His goodness to us.  Does it not say, over and over and over, that we will have trouble and trials and temptations? persecutions?  Doesn’t it say that He will take these things and use them for our benefit, for out training and perseverance and character development?

No wonder we feel as if God does not love us when the bad things happen.

I have thought that it’s more reasonable to say that when the good things happen, God is gracious to us.  He has blessed us.  He has been gracious.  But then again, when the hard times hit, is He no longer gracious?

When I started reading Ann’s blog (again, after miscarrying) I wondered about why she wrote “All’s grace.”  What did that mean anyway?

Reading this chapter I understand this better.  God gives us blessings and he gives us trials and pain.

I had a better understanding of pain this week.  On Sunday the mooselets and I found ourselves home instead of at church and I turned on the TV, having been told that a great evangelist would be speaking.  The sermon was interesting, true; but in the middle of it was a seemingly unrelated bit of info about a girl with an interesting disease.

It’s called CIPA: Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis.  The evangelist said that the girl’s mother prays every night for her daughter to feel pain.

I, on the other hand, have begun to dread the typical life pains that my children may go through.  It seems kind of backwards to think that, perhaps, pain is a good thing.

But this disease proves that pain can be beneficial.  If you set your hand on something hot, it is the pain that tells you to move it.  If you are running and twist your ankle, the pain lets you know to sit down and rest.  Pain is what would keep you from chewing on your own tongue or damaging your eyes while scratching.

Pain also provides us with a contrast. I’ve heard it suggested that we would not understand, appreciate the blessings of life without the contrast of painful, difficult times.  I appreciate sleeping in much more after days (weeks, months) of being up early.  (Indeed, the sleep deprivation this time, while definitely being difficult, is much easier to deal with for me.)

Likewise, it is the dark times in life which give us appreciation for the brightness.  The LORD can create wonders in our dark times.  I need to remember to see the pain and dark times through His Word.

I’m not sure that the words would come quickly off my tongue. . . .but I am a little closer to understanding how to see Him in the hard times.  “All’s grace.” It’s just that some grace moments are more difficult than others, accompanied by more tears and sorrow.

1000G: Chapter 4

I find it highly ironic that I read this chapter during such a busy week. Slow down? Seriously?! How can I do that? Life is so busy, so fast paced. There are too many things that need to be done!

Just this morning, as an example, as I sat here to watch the video and compose my thoughts on chapter 4, I am doing several things all at once–eating breakfast, preparing the day’s and week’s school lessons, trying to find the NASA TV telecast of Discovery’s landing.  My coffee is cooling on the counter; I need to get it and drink it before it is cold and I need to get my vitamins before I forget them (again!)  The kids are sleeping in late this morning–that’s good–I may be able to finish these projects finished!

Slow down? I won’t be able to finish everything that needs to be done!

But I want to capture all these little moments in life, the blessings that come my way daily.  (Maybe hourly? or more frequently? Am I perhaps missing out on things in my haste?)

When the baby wakes too early, will I get frustrated?  You can’t wake up yet, I have things to do! Or will I take this as another opportunity to acknowledge another gift? Thank You, LORD, for a few minutes to smile at my dear daughter!

This morning I chose the latter. I hope I can continue this today.  Often, my days are very much like pages 73-74, with many things happening at once:  frustrations, out of place coats, boots strewn across the room, hurt fingers and feelings. To slow down enough to breathe, to thank, would surely help me to handle events that are often out of my control.  As Ann said,  “In giving thanks right now I get more time because I can see  each moment as it is; the attentiveness slows time down.”

Forget the Alamo.  Remember the loaves and the fishes!

This was my plan for the year, as I recall; to slow down and watch the children grow.  I have noticed a calmness when I do just this–entering into the moment to enjoy it.

This is a great reminder today.

1000G: Chapter 3

Have I mentioned how much I love C. S. Lewis?  I’ve not read as many of his books as I’d like to.  (It’s, unfortunately, rather a short list.)  His quote on page 55 is so profound and it strikes me that it is a great one for me right now:

“If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”

I have noticed lately (the last several years) how difficult, painful life is for so many (myself included.)  The list of sorrows is quite long when I think of just those among my family and friends who are dealing with serious difficulties–infidelity, infertility, death of loved ones, cancer, addiction, mental illness.  I could go on and on but honestly?  it’s way too tiring.

And yet, this is what I remember, time and again–the pain and sorrow, the loss, the life unhappiness.

Partly, I forget that we can expect trouble; the happy times encourage us, but we should not be upset or surprised when the difficulties arise.  Partly, I am not a very observant person by nature.  Partly, it is just easier to see what is not than to see what is.  Maybe this is just me?

It was September 2009 when a friend introduced me to Ann’s blog (thank you Nani!) But at that time I was too busy to read it.  Figured I’d get to it later.

Then I miscarried, and suddenly I found time to do these little things I wasn’t able to before.  I liked Ann’s writing and the music at her blog was oh, so soothing to my aching heart.  There were many nights I stayed up, sleepless, just listening to the beautiful piano and crying.

On her blog I saw this thing, Multitudes on a Monday, I think I saw it called.  A list of a different kind:  a list of blessings and graces.  With my heart aching, I knew that this would be a good thing to start.

I reached my goal of listing 1000 gifts before my baby would have been born and have continued since then.  It was helpful.   Suddenly I noticed little, beautiful details of life:  The cute things the children said.  Colors, especially purple of course.  Little bits of love.  I also noticed that I appreciated the blessings more, remembered them more.

It has been helpful since then too, though I’ve not been consistent with sharing them here.   (My first journal is nearly used up–I need to get a new one! I’ve also gone through 3 pens in it!)

And really, it is much better to keep track of blessings than the pains and griefs.  “Count them one by one,” the song says.  Naming them, Ann says.  Because it is true, there is great significance in naming an item.  When I was pregnant with my fifth child, the one after the miscarriage, it was difficult for The Bull and I to discuss names for her.  She was unnamed for her first 12 hours.  When I was pregnant with our other children we had picked out names before birth and began calling them by name at birth.  (We choose to not find out gender before birth, so we picked out a male name and a female name prior to birth.)

So I think I will get back to  continue listing my gratitudes here on the blog. One reason I quit was it just took so much time and effort to list them all out, so I think I’ll just list a few every week.  I’ll start this week.  My list seems, sometimes, to degenerate into a “have done” list and I’d like to get better at seeing the Giver’s hand in the gifts; then again, I tend to be a task oriented person and maybe this is just what it is for me.

1000G: Chapter 2

“1000 Places to See Before You Die.”

Sounds pretty urgent, doesn’t it? Like you’d better get started on it, so you can get them all in maybe?  Already I think I’m done for.  I don’t get far from home, have never been crazy about traveling.  Not too likely that I’ll check many items off that list.

But I do like to see pretty things.

I find that just the day-in-and-day-out of life drags me down.  My typical day’s events usually include washing laundry, wiping tears and bottoms, fighting the battle of the grunge.   I can count the number of real, honest-to-goodness vacations I’ve been on in the past ten years on one hand.  Seeing 1000 exotic places is quite a ways from where I live.

This day to day life, though, contains bits and pieces of neat things that I want to remember, but I find myself missing events.  I decided to stay home with the children to see every event, cherish every moment.  And yet I miss things with one child after another . . . . the first time the first three rolled over, I was in the kitchen.  Every time!

My new year’s resolution this year was to live more fully in the moment.  I’m tired of missing the here and now while seeking the future yet to come.

Of course, it’s one thing to be savoring, enjoying, soaking in the happy times, the kids’ smiles, the hugs and kisses, the pizza recipe that turned out stunningly tasty.  But life, as we know, is not all hearts and roses.  What then?

Ann breaks it down in great detail in the video, expounding on what she wrote in her lovely book.

It’s all about this long, hard-to-pronounce Greek word, eucharisteō.  Hidden inside are two bits of wonder, charis and chara.

Hidden in thanksgiving you will find grace and joy.

I really liked the way Ann said it:  “Take everything God gives as grace.  Give thanks for it.  There is joy.”

It sounds an awful lot like something else I’ve heard.  In Ephesians 5:20, a list of instructions from Paul, he includes one that has been hard for me.  “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Always?  For everything?  Are you serious??

(I think he is.)

Somehow, it made more sense to me when Ann said it than when Paul did.

So how do I do this?  How do I find the blessings among the hard and painful events of life, that proverbial silver lining?  It sounds so easy and yet it’s much harder to be thankful during the difficult times.

I’d have never asked to go through my first husband’s death, yet would I have moved to Alaska otherwise?  Would I have spent time with his sister and her husband and developed the relationships with them that have sustained me all these years?  Would I have the understanding of pain that I do after living through such a horribly painful situation?

Maybe.  But maybe not, at least not how I do now.

It just takes a long time for me to be able to see these.  There are some sad events lately that have been harder to see the blessings.

But accepting this as a gift from God?  Grace?  Charis?

Gulp.

Thank You LORD, for the grace You’ve given me.  Help me to see the joy.

I found some this morning, ironically enough.  After having a lovely discussion with The Bull about eucharisteō I stopped into a place to get a sausage biscuit.  Holding my sandwich was a bag that read: “Sip the Joy.”  A year ago I’d have scoffed at this lame attempt at selling a cup of coffee.  Today?  I know better.  Sometimes the joy is that cup of coffee.

Hmmmm. . . . . think I’ll save this little bit of joy.

1000G: Chapter 1

I woke this morning remembering the significance of the day.  All day long it’s been there, at the back of my mind; the busyness of the day pushed it back and made it impossible for me to dwell on it.  But it won’t go away or leave me alone.

Today’s my anniversary.  It’s been 18 years since I married my first husband.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching the new Narnia movie and one quote that jumped out at me was when King Caspian decided to not go on to Aslan’s Country:  “I spent too long wanting what was taken from me, and not what was given.”

Yowza.

The turning point in my life after burying my first husband was when I moved from mourning his loss, his  non-presence in my life, to the gratitude for the months we’d had together.

And I see that theme again in this lovely, wonderful, painful book, page 15:

“Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives.  We hunger for something more, something other.”

It’s been said that life is pain, that nobody gets through unscathed from griefs and sorrows.  It’s so hard to accept the pain, let alone embrace it.  And yet, to not embrace our painful realities is to embrace ingratitude.  And really, ingratitude has a lot of an attitude of  “I’m in control here and I don’t want this.”  Not realistic at all.  And that attitude is something that I personally know a lot about.

The attitude I need?  Gratitude? how do I get there?

I think a key is found on page 22:

“I wonder too. . . if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.

“To see through to God.

“That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, might actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.”

I want to remember this:  to look beyond the pain.  And I need to look past the hand of God.  So often I get stuck there, asking Him, begging Him for what I want.  I want, need, to see the heart of God in my life events, to see Him through  the gut wrenching pain.  It might just change my life.

Happy anniversary.

I’m In!

It’s been a rough day.

A difficult, less-than-adequate night’s sleep combined with this vague feeling that I am constantly, continually pouring myself out for others without being replenished.

A sweet babe, about eight weeks old already, is asleep on my lap right now.  She has needed much of her mama today and my sleep-starved brain isn’t capable of multitasking.

Multitasking is essential with four little ones, ya know?

(I know this is all normal and part of the newborn package and will not last forever!)

But I’m excited tonight about thisAnn writes one of my favorite blogs and I am looking forward to receiving my book and starting in on it!  I’ve already read the first chapter and it is amazing.  Kleenex needed.

Want to come along for the ride?  There’s still time to join us.

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