But I don’t feel thankful…

24 Nov

I’ve been studying about gratitude and what to do when you don’t feel thankful or grateful. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Gratitude is an action more than an emotion or a word. Rather than waiting for gratitude or gratefulness to well up inside me, I need to take steps to make gratefulness a part of my outlook and my life. I might need to just remind myself to pause for a minute and say “thank you” to the person that checks me out at the store, to the customer service rep on the phone, to my colleague who brings me a print out when they walk past the printer, to the person who holds the door open for me as we walk into Union Station from the metro. I might need to start a gratefulness journal—to make myself find three things for which I acknowledge that I am blessed. I could do a small act of kindness for someone else. Recently, I tipped a waiter who took my take out order well, on a whim– remembering his utter surprise and unreserved thankfulness made me smile for days. The bottom line is not to expect that contentment and gratitude will just find us if we don’t go looking for it.

 

  • There are stages of gratitude, and it’s okay to work my way through them. The first stage is just being thankful for the obvious things that I have—when I have good health, I am thankful for good health, when I have a good meal, I am grateful for the gift of that delicious food. I can join thousands of people in this world in being thankful for air, water, a bed to sleep in, etc. Yes, for some people those are not trite or obvious things, but for most of us they are. And though I feel like I’m cheating if those are the only kinds of things for which I can thank God—it’s okay… as a starting place.

 

  • Where I really want to get is being able to thank God in all circumstances, about everything—and this is where I continue to get tripped up. No, I might not be able to thank God for unanswered prayers, but I can thank God for his comfort when things don’t go the way that I planned or want. I don’t know that everything that’s heavy on my mind will work out to my satisfaction before this year is up, or on this side of heaven; but I do know that I can be thankful that God can redeem and restore anything.

So let’s be kind to ourselves if we’re having a tough time feeling gratitude at this moment. If you can, start to act as if you are grateful. I pray that God will give us all eyes to see his blessings in our lives, and hearts that can accept and still give thanks for the things that are difficult right now. Happy Thanksgiving.

I think I have a gift…

21 Feb

If you ask me what my gifts/talents are, up until a few weeks ago I would have ranked “hospitality” high on the list.  I have become increasingly introverted in the last few years, but one of the things I still very much enjoy is having people in my house and playing hostess. I love to put food out for people, and make up a bedroom.  I even like to clean bathrooms and behind bookshelves to help my guests be comfortable.  But I think beyond all the busy-work that goes into having guests over, I liked to think I had a natural ability to have people be comfortable and relaxed in my home.

So what’s the problem?  Well, recently I’ve interacted with people who I see REALLY have the gift of hospitality.  I’ve walked into their immaculately decorated homes and all of a sudden my wimpy attempts at interior decoration feel amateurish.  I’ve looked at the spread on their tables and felt like my meals were so elementary.  Normally I would have said, well, they’ve spent all this time, money and effort, and guests in their homes are still stiff and uncomfortable, but that’s not been the case.  I’ve witnessed groups of strangers come together in easy conversation and fun games. It has been evident that everyone was having a good time.  And I’m very clear in my mind that I couldn’t recreate what the hostesses had done.

So, the question for me has become– do I really have the gift of hospitality or have I been playing at it this whole time?  Have I simply been comparing myself to people who didn’t have this gift, so I thought I did?  Can you have a gift and still need to work at upping your game?

I don’t have any real answers to these questions but we had a house guest the other week.  Honestly, I think my preoccupation with comparing myself to others deflated me a bit and I didn’t put all the usual flairs into hosting this time around.  I was also stressed at work and generally tired, so I did the minimum to make sure our guest was sheltered, fed, and sent on his way.  I was really surprised when he called my husband after he got back home to thank us for hosting and he specifically said to tell me that I have a real gift for hospitality!

My first reaction was to smirk and say I didn’t know where he’d been staying… but then it brought up another question: isn’t the mark of being gifted in something that people are blessed by it even if you don’t put much effort into it; that it just comes naturally to you?

I guess all I’m saying is that I want to have the gift of hospitality; I am jealous (but not in a defeatist way anymore) of people who are even more hospitable than me, and I really want people to feel refreshed and cared about/for when they come into our home.

Any thoughts any of you have about the questions I’ve been struggling with are very welcome! 

I’m having a hard time today

12 Dec

There, I said it. I’m having a rough day. 

I can’t seem to keep my emotions in check. Damn Christmas music is not helping…all this longing and expectation, and hope… damn hope. 

The homeless man panhandling by the stop sign on the turn to work had to try to comfort me this morning as I drove by, tears streaming down my face. I don’t know what it is… no. I do know what it is. I’m sad. 

I’m sad for the things that I hoped for this year that didn’t come to be. I’m sad for the things this season that will not be. I’m sad for the vulnerability that I feel in not being in control of my life. I’m sad for remembering all the pain of this time last year. I am sad. And it’s okay. It’s just hard to be sad and at your desk at work. 

 

Graceful

8 Dec

A friend of mine is dying. Painfully. From cancer. Dying.

We had been hoping for better results, and she has explored every option possible to fight the disease spreading through her body but it wouldn’t stop. And now we know it will not stop.  She will die soon. From this cancer. Oh God.
I think about death a lot. Not in a macabre way, in a matter of fact way. Maybe because my husband has a chronic illness that could kill him. Maybe because i’m just weird like that. But I think about death. How inevitable it is. How final it is. How much I want the people I love to die painlessly at ripe old ages, having known Christ, and having accomplished all that they were placed here to do.

And yet I know it will never happen within my  control. My friend is dying now. Quickly. Painfully. Regretfully.

But she is dying gracefully. Today she sent an email letting us know she was shutting down her email account. She loves email and being in touch. It  couldn’t have been an easy email to write. Her goodbye. She is making her last waltz on this dance floor with her own little flourishes. She is exuding more calm than I know she feels. She is being stronger than she has to be. In this final hour she is teaching me; much as she’s mentored me since the day we met.

My friend is dying well.

Africa!

28 Nov

The hotel shuttle driver who picked me up from the airport asked if it was my first time in Africa. I had to laugh out loud. I’m African! This will soon change, but as of this moment, I’ve lived longer in Africa than anywhere else.

So, no, this is not my first time on the continent. I know all about the beautiful madness of this place.

I know about perfect strangers that want to question your personal business, like the office driver who wanted a detailed report for why I had been married three years and didn’t have any kids yet. He told me, “that’s unnatural!” (What is it with me and nosy drivers?!)

I know all about hotel bathtubs that are made for giants. You need a step ladder to climb into the tub and often need to kiss the shower wall for the shower head water to reach you. And what’s the deal with the window without curtains right at the level of my bust on the shower side of the bathroom?

I know all about superlative promises that never materialize. “Yes, madam, we have WiFi in every room!” Yeah right! Lol

But I also know about the indefatigable spirit of my people, the joy in simple things and the absolute enjoyment of things I often take for granted in the US: water from a tap, lights that turn on when I flip a switch, ice-cream that isn’t totally melted and recombined straight from the grocery store freezer.

Today is Thanksgiving and I’m in Zambia. I am thankful for this continent that raised me; I am grateful for all that it has taught me and I appreciate the laughs it now gives me.

Show me your friends

12 Nov

I have tried to guard my heart and my life carefully but in the process perhaps I’ve pruned too closely?

I had a reminiscing weekend this past week. I went back to my alma mater for the first time in 10 years. Getting lost and looking at the renovations all over the campus was oddly emotional for me. I thought about all the friends I made in those dorms and in those classes. How many of those people who were my entire world back then am I still in touch with? Which of the ones I still talk to do I have as rich a relationship as we did back then?

I can count on one hand the close friends I still have from my college days eventhough I hung thick as thieves with  at least two groups of people. Now, I could say the current state of affairs is the way I chose to have it, but have i replaced my old friends with newer, shiny ones?

I could just admit that my standards are unrealistic and I have often cut off people that I no longer approve of.

In truth I struggle when my friends have chosen a path that I do not agree with or when I see a character flaw in them. Rather than speak my mind and risk their anger, I just slowly back away. I tell myself in doing this that I’m not being judgmental, but I am, aren’t I?

So how do you continue in relationship with someone you once cut off or let slip away? Can we find the worthy elements of our friendship without being caught up in the parts of us both that are broken and messy and ugly? Can we reclaim the intimacy that was lost? Has too much time passed and the neglect worn out any trust or goodwill for the friendship that existed?

I realize these are dangerous questions with consequences for what I choose to do with the answers to them. I guess all I know is that I miss the close camaraderie of those college days and it’s within my power to at least seek that out again, even if it needs to be with a different cast of characters…

Flashbacks

12 Oct

So, we’re here again. Fall. Usually my absolute favorite time of the year, but difficult this year. I keep having flashbacks to the early days of my miscarried pregnancy.

I found out that I was pregnant on September 22, 2012. I remember so vividly how my heart literally skipped a beat in my chest when I plucked up the courage to peek and saw those double pink lines.  Thinking back that day I realized that I knew the exact date and time that our baby was conceived! (Yes, timed and targeted baby dancing does work! Lol!)

So it’s been a year since I felt that pulling and stretching in my lower abdomen of my child settling into his new home. It’s been a year since cravings and waves of nausea caused me to cook or order all kinds of food then pack them into the freezer in disgust the next minute. It’s been a year since I prayed over my unborn child and hoped he would look just like his daddy. It’s been a year.

The cold weather is bringing back so many memories. I have no sweaters to wear this year because last fall/winter I was shopping for and dressing for my bigger size. I remember waddling with my newfound cargo between the bus and metro, trying to escape the elements and silently cussing the people who wouldn’t give a seat to the lady with the small paunch.  It’s been a year.

In July this year a friend asked if I have certain hard days. At the time I told her, “no” because my grieving seemed to come upon me suddenly, with no rhyme or reason. But I guess I now know that this time of the year is hard for me. And it will only get worse. I’m dreading the one-year anniversary of the actual miscarriage and dreaded D&C.

Has Fall been forever ruined for me?