Giving Thanks

Sure, it’s what we’re supposed to do this time of year – give thanks.  The reality is probably that a lot of us don’t think very much about what we’re thankful for until it’s time to gather around the heavily laden table with our loved ones.  Some families have a tradition in which each person at the table shares something for which they are thankful.  Some simply let the person saying grace state the many things or which they are all thankful – good health, bountiful table, friends and family, etc.  Then everyone digs in, and the thoughts of thanksgiving give way to conversation, eating, game playing, football, and naps.

I want to change things.  I want to really, truly, give thanks every day – not just on Thanksgiving, not just on the days before Thanksgiving, but every day.  I want to get up each morning and thank the Lord for the day, before it even starts.  I want to thank Him for the day before, no matter how it went.  I want to have an attitude of thanksgiving every single day.  It’s how I believe the Lord hopes we approach life.  It is the way Paul approached his post-salvation life.  It is the way I want to live my life.  I know it is going to be difficult to get into the habit of giving thanks every single day for every single thing.  It’s so much easier to complain, or to have a pity party about how horrible our day was or how badly we were treated.  It’s human nature to do grumble and complain, and Christ’s nature to give thanks in all things.  I’d really like to have Christ’s nature, not human nature.  So, I’m going to work on that.

I had a nice long chat last night with my good friend, JoAnn.  She’s the mom of YS’s freshman roommate.  She’s an awesome Christian woman.  There is something about her that I just love so much.  I think of her, and I am inspired.  We’ve only spent the equivalent of a few days together over the past 5 years, but there was an immediate connection when we met, and I knew right away we’d be friends for life.  I think about her far more than she probably imagines.  I miss her an awful lot when we don’t talk for long periods of time.  We both lead very busy lives, which means connecting is not always easy, but when we do, it’s as if we just had coffee yesterday.  There is never an awkward lull in the conversation, or a feeling of disconnect.  We “get” each other.  Our boys are strikingly similar in many ways, and have struggled with many of the same issues throughout college, even though they didn’t really hang out after that first year.  As a result she and I have shared many of the same struggles and concerns about our boys as they’ve taken the journey from young boys on their first day of college to young men on the threshold of their adult lives.  It has helped knowing I was not alone, that JoAnn understood and would not judge, and vice versa.  I knew I could always count on her to pray extra hard about a difficult situation, which she has done on many occasions.  I knew I could share my shame at my lack of spirituality with her, and she’d understand, not judge.  I know that she will always be there for me, and that she keeps us in prayer every day, as I do her and her family.  I thank the Lord every day for bringing her into my life.  She has encouraged me in so many ways – and she probably has no clue.  Last night we talked about not only our boys, who will both be finishing their college educations this spring, but about our faith.  It was such an uplifting talk.  I wish she lived across the street so we could hang out and talk like this every day.  She is really awesome.  Thank you, JoAnn, for being my friend.  You mean the world to me!

I think my “favorite” person in the Bible is Paul.  Paul inspires me.  Why?  Because Paul struggled every single day in his “normal” life – he was imprisoned, he had a “thorn in the flesh”, which could have been a physical affliction or some sort of family issue (some think he had a really contentious wife), he clearly had it rough, yet he kept his eyes on Christ and sought to serve Him every single day. He spent his life encouraging Christians throughout the world, despite his persecution. Whenever I start to think I have it rough and start a little pity party, I remember Paul.  I figure is this man, who served the Lord so unwaveringly, had to endure the horrible things he endured, who am I to complain about anything?  Even moreso, who am I to expect life to be easy?  And then there’s Jesus.  He was without sin, yet he was persecuted, ridiculed, physically and verbally abused, and finally, of course, killed.  And he never struck out at his persecutors, he never sat around complaining about his lot in life.   And I think I have it rough?  Right.  Now, it’s easy to say, “but hey, He was the Son of God.  He IS God. It’s not really the same.”  Okay… but Paul was just a man, a regular guy like you and me.  That’s why he is such an inspiration to me.  Anytime I start to feel sorry for myself, I think of Paul.  If a guy who was sold out for the Lord struggled and suffered, why on earth do I think I deserve an easier life?  Another thing I keep reminding myself of is this – the Lord did not promise us HAPPINESS, He promised us JOY.  There is a huge difference.  We can be joyful in all circumstances.  Happiness is strictly circumstantial, and fleeting.  Paul was joyful, though I doubt he was happy.  I want to be truly joyful every single day.  That means I need to make that time daily to spend praying and reading my bible.  Being close to the Lord is the only path to joy, and it’s tough to be close to Him if you don’t spend some time with Him frequently.

On a completely different note – Riley is sick. He was up all night, making multiple trips outside.  I don’t know if he has diarrhea or is constipated, but he’s definitely in distress.  Naturally, when he’s up, I’m up, so I got little sleep last night.  That wouldn’t be a big deal except I have a hair appointment at 8AM (going back to blonde), and then a day full of pre-holiday chores.  Oh well, maybe I’ll get a nap before YS, OS and his family, and my brother arrive later today.  If I don’t, I still plan to be very joyful!  🙂

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

It is what it is

Actually, I hate that saying.  What the heck does it mean?  I mean, I know what it means, but really, what a stupid idiom.  It is what it is.  That’s what you say when you’ve given up, when you’ve resigned yourself to a situation, or when you’re making an excuse for how something has turned out.  It drives me crazy.  So why have I titled my post with it?  Well, there are a lot of things going on right now, and I have almost no ability whatsoever to influence the outcome of those things.  So my response, if things aren’t resolved as well as they could be, will likely be, “it is what it is”.  What are these “things”?

YS’s school situation: He didn’t go to classes once he made up his mind to withdraw, so clearly he won’t be getting his degree in December.  But he never followed through and never actually filed the paperwork to withdraw, so technically he was still enrolled in his classes.  Tuesday was the drop dead date for withdrawing from class to avoid getting an F.  I had the day off, so I went over to make him handle things.  He was supposed to have the day off, but he’d been called in to work, so I went to talk to the dean of student life without him.  I have to say, the university really has the most remarkable staff.  I’ve gone on about how amazing they are before, but every encounter I have with them reminds me how truly remarkable they are.  I spent about 30 minutes with the dean, most of the time crying, discussing what had transpired with YS and how it had derailed him.  She was awesome.  She was very understanding, and willing to do anything she could do to help.  We discussed options, and then set up a meeting for 3:30, when YS was off work.  I had some errands to run, so off I went until our scheduled meeting.  When YS got off work, he and I had 10 minutes or so to chat before the meeting.  It was a good talk.  He shared some disturbing things with me – things that broke my heart because I never wanted my son to go through those things or to be involved in those things – but at least he was being honest with me.  And best of all, he knew those behaviors were damaging and stupid and had no desire to engage in them again.  He believes that sometimes you have to make stupid choices in order to realize how stupid they are.  I guess to some extent that’s true.  Goodness knows we’ve all been there.

When we discussed the school situation, he acknowledged that he had not realized that one of his classes is not offered again until Fall 2010.  He figured he could just take this year off and finish in the fall.  Once that wasn’t really an option, he panicked, then did what he always does – avoided. That is a terrible coping mechanism, but it is one I understand because I have done it too.  I know exactly how he felt – panicked, verging on a panic attack – and the “fight or flight” instinct kicked in, so he fled.  I used to get that way with bill paying back when we were unemployed and struggled to put food on the table.  I’d avoid writing the checks to pay the bills because I’d have to face the dire situation we were in financially, so I just didn’t – until the bill collectors called.  By that time, of course, I’d made matters even worse.  It took a while, but I finally figured out that avoiding unpleasant things was not the best coping strategy.  Unfortunately, I find myself still engaging in that behavior on occasion, and it takes a conscious effort to NOT do that.  So, I understand why YS does it, but need to help him correct that behavior.

When we met with the dean, she layed out the options, made some calls, and helped him through some of the hurdles he had to jump before the 5 o’clock deadline for withdrawing.  We have two options in play right now – a hardship withdrawal, which will result in getting SOME of the tuition refunded, or a standard withdrawal from classes, which has implications due to his not completing at least 50% of a full course load with satisfactory progress.  Before he could make a decision, he needed to talk to the head of the CS department about the class that isn’t offered again until 2010.  He also made a follow-up appointment with the dean for next Tuesday to discuss things further.  Yesterday he talked to the department head. Fortunately, the professors in the department want to help him get his degree.  She is willing to make a substitution for the class, which he could complete by the end of January.  That would mean that he would have to take a class in the spring (one he was enrolled in and dropped), and possibly complete an independent study for the other required CS class.  That is the only sticking point.  He may have to take that class at another college in the area.  The class isn’t offered again at YS’s school until Spring 2010, so if they decide he can’t do an independent study, he’ll have to take it elsewhere.  We have to see what the CS head decides.  Given YS’s track record, she’s not convinced he will follow through and complete the Jan Term class satisfactorily, so some decisions are hinging on him doing that first.  At least there’s hope – light at the end of the tunnel that seemed endless and very dark just a few weeks ago.

Work is unceasingly busy.  I have a deadline I have to meet, no ifs, ands, or buts, but I don’t know that I can meet it.  After my annual review last month, I am under the gun to meet every deadline, period.  I’m trying, but the stress is unbelievable.  I need to find some stress reduction techniques that don’t involve playing Word Twist on Facebook.  As much as I love that game, it is far too addicting, and once I start playing, I can’t stop.

I’m maintaining a positive attitude about our president-elect.  He wasn’t my candidate, but he’s the majority choice, so I’m going to pray for him, and pray for the best for our country.  His election was an historic moment for our country, to be sure, and I applaud our country for looking beyond race during this election.  I think the entire campaign process sucked big time.  I hate the length of the campaign, the nastiness, and the excessive spending.  It’s ridiculous, and really needs some sort of reform.  It is crazy that a candidate needs to spend half a billion dollars to get elected.  How on earth could a “regular” person ever hope to run for the presidency with such huge sums of money required to do so?  It really limits our options as to who can, or will, run.  Do we always get the best candidates when so much of how we perceive them, and what we know of them, is tied to how much money they have at their disposal to use to let us know who they are?  I don’t think so.  It would be nice if this president would help reform campaign finance.  I do have one question, though.  He promised he was “change we need”, which really is what got him elected.  Why then is he, and why is Joe Biden, selecting former Clinton/Gore staffers as their staffers?  Why has Obama selected Clinton’s chief of staff as his?  Why has Biden selected Gore’s chief of staff as his?  How is that change?  I am giving Obama the benefit of the doubt – but these two moves bear out what I’ve been saying since Biden was selected as his running mate – I suspect we won’t see as much “change” as we’ve been led to believe we’ll see. So far, it feels like 1992-2000 all over again. We’ll see.

Finally, one thing that the YS and work issues has done is shown me just how much God IS in control.  I’ve posted on this before, and I go through spurts of praying like a fiend, reading my bible, and then once the crisis is past, I go back to being a slacker in my practice of my faith.  Tuesday, as I was driving to see YS and hammer out the school situation, I started praying.  Actually, I had prayed all night the night before for YS, troubled by something, but not really knowing what or why.  Unbeknownst to me, YS had been really depressed, thanks again to the ex-girlfriend from hell, and had called a friend to come over because he was afraid he’d do something stupid.  Clearly, either that “mom” connection had induced me to pray for him, or God had put him on my heart because he needed prayer. I prayed for the school situation, I prayed for God to remove the ex-girlfriend permanently, I prayed for God to send someone to YS that he would listen to who could bring him back to the Lord.  On my way over on Tuesday, I prayed.  Then I turned on Christian radio.  The sermons were exactly what I needed to hear.  Some might say “coincidentally”, but I know that nothing is coincidental.  God knew what I needed to hear, and He led me to the right station at the right time. I could not believe how refreshed my spirit was after listening to Alistair Begg preach.  I hadn’t realized just how much I missed hearing the word of God preached.  If you’ve never strayed away from the Lord, and then listened to the Word being preached in a way that spoke directly to you, you won’t understand what I mean, but it was a physical reaction.  I felt a wave of peace, of comfort, of relief pass over me.  A huge, aching hole in my heart was filled.  I felt the Lord’s presence, and knew that He was in control, He IS in control, and He wants only the best for me and my family.  It renewed my spirit.  I realize now that making time for the Lord each day is the most important thing I have to do. It is more important than exercising, than eating, than work, than anything, because once I make time for Him, He will help me fit all the rest into my day.  I found a great radio station that streams their broadcasts so that I can listen to them at work.  THAT is awesome, because my big frustration has been lack of opportunity to listen to these great broadcasts that I have loved in the past.  In case you’re interested, go to http://www.acn.cc.  Click on the liberty bell on the left for the broadcast of the Liberty Broadcasting System from 9AM-3PM PST (otherwise it simulcasts the ACN broadcasts), or on the Mity Mike on the right for the ACN broadcast.  Some of the programs I like, some I don’t.  I love Alistair Begg.  He’s Scottish, so his accent is pretty cool, but he is a down-to-earth preacher who manages to get the Word across in a really logical, meaningful way. Another online station I love is CSNradio.com.  It used to be called Calvary Satellite Network, but now they’re calling it Christian Radio Network.  It features preaching by a bunch of different pastors, some Calvary Chapel pastors, some not.  Between the two stations, I should get plenty of teaching, inspriration, and refreshment.  I know that it will be easy to slip back into my old, lazy habits of not reading the bible, not spending time in prayer to my Lord, and not daily seeking and living God’s will in my life, but I’m going to pray for God’s help, ask for YOUR prayers, and fight to NOT fall back into my old habits. Part of the reason for this post is to hold myself accountable.  So, if you will, those of you who are so inclined, keep me in your prayers, okay?  Keep YS in your prayers too.  He needs to finish his degree so he can have options.  He did admit that there was a fear that once he finished he would be expected to go out and get a job that he’d work at for the rest of his life, make a bunch of money, and pay us back for his education.  Once I explained that that was not an expectation at all, he relaxed a lot.  I think a big factor in his decision to withdraw was that fear, and now that it’s been assuaged, he is eager to get his degree and have school behind him.  So, pray that his professor will work things out so that he can finish by May.  Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.  I covet them!

And you know what?  It is not what it is, it’s what we make it!