The Irony: Full Circle Journey to Gratitude

3:11 PMHeather

Irony--an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected

So the other day, I was thinking about my upcoming blog posts.  I decided I would do a post regarding the discontentment that I was wrestling with in regard to the gifts I'd given as I compared them to what I had seen on social media.  Then I thought the next post after that would be exploring my journey through my word for the year 2013.

Um yes.  A momentary lapse in recall there.  I blame it on all the pain meds I've taken this month.  Because no where in that train of thought did I stop to even bring that word to mind.  Yes.  My WORD FOR THE YEAR.  As in the one I thought about and prayed about and studied and focused on throughout the year.  All year.  2013. Word. Of. The. Year.

I even let my mind skim over that word and it never registered. Went back to that blog post in January of this year where I announced it. About two sentences in, I gulped. Swallowing my pride.  Eating humble pie. 

In case you haven't been sitting around contemplating Clinging to the Vine and Heather's word for the year, let me give you a refresher. Check it out here.  

Yes folks.  

Gratitude.  I even wrote a well intentioned sentence about how I'd read that discontentment cannot co-exist with gratitude.

I pretty much did that face in the palm thing. Have I learned nothing this year about gratitude?  Have I made no movement past discontentment over the last 12 months? 

Contrary to the evidence of my last blog post, I really have learned a thing or two about gratitude.  My focus on the word of this last year has indeed brought growth within me.  I just had to reach past my momentary relapse to the land of discontentment. And take some time to contemplate this journey of this last year.

1.  An awareness of the poor and needy and oppressedWay back in January, as I pondered what a year focused on gratitude might bring, I immediately thought I'd be led to a point of realizing all that I have to be thankful for in my life.  As in, my mind dwelling on my own life and possessions and blessings. You know--counting them up.  Having eyes to see the stockpile of great things in my life.

I never realized that I first had to take a detour to a deliberate and intentional consideration of the incredible need that is the reality for most of the world.  Pondering the fact that half of the world's population lives on $2 a day or less.  (Yes.  My kids no longer allow me to finish that sentence without an eye roll because they've heard it ad nauseum this year.)

Oh, indeed,  God brought me to a place of realizing my blessings.  But only through the vantage point of having eyes to see the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the orphans, those trapped in sex trafficking and slave labor, and a million other circumstances that I have ignored as I live my comfortable little life, feeling woe-is-me because I don't have the budget for new hardwood floors.  

Hammering me all year long through various means, God has challenged me to remove my blinders and truly SEE the great need in the world.  Until I see it, I can't realize my responsibility to do something about it.  It's not an option.  As Jen Hatmaker says, the heart of God is all about the poor and oppressed.  When it came to Jesus' ministry--it was his THING to care for the needs around him. So, YES, be grateful for all that I have.  Realize how spoiled I am.  And then, be grateful for the endless opportunities to do something to change the reality of others.

2.  Do something.  Reach out. Move from knowledge to action. Here is where I am still working, wrestling, considering, pondering, praying, and plotting.  It's not enough to REALIZE the needs and my great ability to be generous.  I gotta move from knowledge to action.  
It's what we do that matters.  I admit.  I find myself stuck in doing nothing because I'm still trying to figure out where to jump in.  The needs are so great.  The suffering is too much.  I hear statistics of the millions all around the world, and it honestly paralyzes me.  THIS is, I'm not proud to admit it, where I am currently.  I know, I know.  Doing a little something is better than doing nothing.  There are needs all around me.  Just take little steps all day, every day, praying for eyes to see them and a heart to meet them.  THIS is where I dwell.  Asking for eyes to see how to put feet to the freshly revealed call to simply meet needs, with great love. Because when I can do this, I am most emulating my Savior.  And nothing in this world is more GRATIFYING than the joy that comes from being generous.

3. Stop comparing.  Yes.  It is so obvious from my last blog post--I got some work to do.  I gotta quit looking around to the incredible wealth we enjoy as Americans.  I must refuse to feel entitled to the American dream of prosperity and ease.  Sure. A life of ease is, well, easy.  And I can either choose to live a very surface-y life of possessions and comfort.  Or I can refuse to do that and become deliberate about digging deeper.  Really evaluating what things are fueling my feelings of discontentment.  What causes me to compare and feel less than?  And cut those things off at the knees. I've even made of a list of these things for which I must be watchful. (And yes, bloggy friends, social media topped the list.  I must be watchful of what I post and my motivation as well as my tendency to try to measure myself by others' posts.)

4. Embrace the season where I am.  I have seen, repeatedly, over the last year, the little saying about when God closes the doors, choose to worship Him in the hallway.  Oh, yes.  Indeed.  It sorta ties into the concept above--comparison is the thief of joy.  That goes not just to possessions and life experiences, but being eager to jump ahead to the next phase in life when the Lord is calling you to simply be still right where you are.  To bloom right where you are planted.  To choose to trust His sovereignty and His timing.  When it is long past your own time line.  And, yes.  He has chosen to keep me at a stand still for way longer than I expected.  For the duration of 2013, in fact.  No greater lesson in being grateful than the challenge to choose to be thankful in all things, in all seasons, in all circumstances.  Shifting your eyes from what you want to choosing what God wants for you, no matter what.  Choosing HIS way, His timing, His love, His goodness, His grace, and His agenda over your own.

5. Quit making faith what it was never intended to be.  This is the most abstract lesson from this year.  It's something I've blogged about before.  How God has been peeling back layers of misconceptions, breaking me down to the very basics.  Relationship, not religion.  Back to the foundations of it all.  To remind me how He does not love like anyone else.  To open my mind to how He loves in ways that will blow my mind because He is for me, delights in me, adores me, wants the best for me.  I have yet to wade into the depths of His grace--despite walking with him for thirty-eight years now.  There is so much I have yet to learn.  There are so many falsehoods and deceits that have colored my faith walk.  

I love how our interim pastor, J.R. Vassar, described this journey of mine in his sermon yesterday (podcast available HERE to listen to--well worth your time!).  I felt as though he was putting words to my emotions as he discussed our call to come to the Lord from a place of delight rather than duty.  How we, as believers, can become bored with God.  We think we've heard it all. We become so bored that God ceases to impress us. We have all these rules and obligations to uphold.  And we must repent of our boredom.  We must remember that there are depths of Jesus we have yet to plunge. We may truly know Him, but we cannot fully know Him.  We must remember there is a profound simplicity about the gospel.  So beware of veteran pride!  Seek to simply enjoy Him as we pursue Him and make our focus to know Him and love Him more.  

Gratitude.  What a journey this year has been.  Overall, I've told several friends recently that it's been a hard year and one I'm ready to end.  But, I must also admit.  My faith has grown.  My eyes have been opened.  There has been a glorious ruining in my heart.  To weed out my consumerism faith and make God's heartbeat my very own heart beat.  Reaching into the needs of other instead of dreaming of my own wants.  Wading deeper into His love and His grace, where man's tradition and my own misconceptions are washed away.  Where, as J.R. said, I can "swim in the grace of God, and there our trust grows.  Then our suspicions of God will end." Where I can know my Father's heart for me as never before, no matter how long I wait or what I face. There is no better starting point for grateful living.

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