Why I Continually Choose Gratefulness

Today’s blog post was inspired by a sermon my uncle gave this past Sunday. Remember, our thoughts shape our lives.  

Proverbs 4:23 Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”

 

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After graduating from college, nearly three years ago, I found myself in a pattern that was really unusual for me. I would complain a lot. Nothing in life seemed to go as I would have liked. Ugh, why do my days start so early? Why don’t I get paid enough? There was always something wrong, even in the most ideal of circumstances. I started to complain more and more until my mom spoke to me. Do you realize how much you’ve been complaining? I was unaware. Do you realize how complaining hurt the Israelites? That too, I was unaware of.

Growing up in a Christian home, the story of Moses and the Israelites was one of the first stories I ever learned. Moses, an Israelite man, was chosen by God to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt into a promise land. Great idea, right? Except almost all of the original people who left Egypt never did actually make it to that promise land. On their journey from Egypt, after being given victory over Pharoh, the Israelites began to complain. Though they hated their lives in Egypt they began to say that their life was better before they left. They complained of the food God gave them and never trusted that God would provide enough for each day.

In my own personal life, like the Israelites, the complaining didn’t stop. It didn’t stop after my mom chastised me. But, luckily, despite my incessant complaints at the time, I consider myself a positive person. At my very core I hope and dream big dreams. I realize that the moments I choose gratefulness over criticism fill my life with such incredible joy as I look to everything God has given me, rather than what he has not.

I realize that gratefulness gives me hope and joy, while discontentment leads to sadness and pain in my own life.

We see what we expect to see.

 

 

There are some a couple reasons why gratefulness really works, why even research supports the idea that it works. Have you heard of the law of attraction? It sounds like a bunch of hippy love stories until you see it work in your own life. We attract the energy that we send out.

How many times do you see a Prius out on the road? Now that I’ve mentioned this, you’re likely to see them all over. When we focus on something, whether good or bad, we see it more and more.

We can practice contentment in living within God’s provisions for us 

 

 

I remember reading a book on personal finance and God entitled Free. The ideas were revolutionary to me. In a world that praises sacrificing everything in an effort to make more money, the book offers a countercultural idea. Buy that smaller more expensive house closer to work if that means you have more time with your family. Spend less so that you can work less and use your time differently as as you would like. And the biggest of all takeaways for me was the idea of living within the provision God has given me. For me that meant to stop trying to buy clothes and brands that I couldn’t afford and would leave my budget extremely tight. I could feel myself breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t need to buy that $500 wallet if that $50 one looks just as cute. Granted, you can choose the $500 one if you would like, but I realize that there was incredible freedom in living well within our own means. Keep in mind, for a person making millions of dollars, a $500 purse isn’t that expensive. I, on the other hand, don’t make that kind of money. 

So many times we can question the things God has given us. Why were we born into certain families or why are we from a certain country? Why were we inclined to work in a certain field and not another? Our bank accounts and salaries may change, but that doesn’t mean that our joy and contentment in whatever it is God has given us should change as well.  

Gratitude changes the way you think and even feel

 

 

We constantly build habits in our lives, both good and bad. Whichever habits were are used to become easier to repeat again and again. When we train our brains to think positively and to think gratefully we can in turn change how we feel.

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As a Special Education teacher I’ve learned a lot about de-escalating potentially volatile situations. We learn to nip problems in the bud. Cognitive behaviour therapy also follows a similar idea. Our thoughts can lead us to feel unnecessarily anxious or even depressed. In the midst of a spiral of negative thoughts, it’s hard to stop. But instead of allowing thoughts to escalate so fast, we can try to stop negative thinking right when we start to feel it beginning.

One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is by using the ideas behind The Five Minute Journal. I try to stop and thank God for different things in my life, even things that may seem stupid. I affirm myself and think of what I long to accomplish for the day.

Thank you, whoever you are, for taking the time to read this blog post.

Thank you Lord for giving me fingers to type and a mind to think.

Praise God for another beautiful day.

Have you intentionally tried to practice gratitude in your day to day life?

 

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Everyone feels sad sometimes

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It feels odd to write down, but it’s so true.  Everyone feels sad sometimes.  I don’t know why I imagine that I am the only person who feels the way I do when I go through rough patches in life.  Sometimes that sadness can seem engulfing and the scariest thing in the world to do is to address what I’m feeling.  The bible says that there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing.  But all I want to do is rejoice!

I’m sure that there are lots of people who feel the same way that I do.  I don’t want whatever situation I’m going through to burden others.  I don’t want other people to know that I’m experiencing pain.  And I imagine that everyone really is exactly the way they appear to be on the surface.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Absolutely everyone we meet in life is facing his or her own battle.  And this is all the more reason to love and to love like never before.

My mother was the first person to make me realize this.  She told me to be kindest to the people who seemed the meanest.  Because when you stopped and took time to get to know them, it’s like peeling an onion!  There are layers and layers underneath and everyone has a reason for being the way that they are.

In particular she told me there was a woman who she saw daily who seemed to hate her.  It’s so hard to love those who hate us.  The bible can vouch for this fact.  But she told me that when she learned of the pain this woman experienced in her life, she suddenly understood the bitterness.  She understood it instantly.  And her love for this woman was not in vain, now they’re actually really great friends!

The perfect biblical model for this kind of compassion is embodied in the life of Jesus.  He looked at the defects and the outcasts of the world and somehow he chose to love them.  I guess he saw us in a way that we cannot even see ourselves.  It’s funny because sometimes it’s not even people who are putting these labels and ideas on us.  We do it to ourselves.

If there is anyone like me, who is reading this, please know that you’re not alone.  Sometimes I feel so sad tears feel like tiny needles shooting from my eyeballs.  Or so angry that my veins will burst!  Or even so happy and loved that I imagine my happiness is contagious.  We are not our emotions or our temporary feelings.  Feelings change.  And we are never ever really alone, never at all.

the Big Event: Sophomore year

For those of you who have never heard of “Big Event” its basically a yearly InterVarsity retreat in which college students have the opportunity to register for different tracks to learn about God with people from different colleges in small groups.  Small groups are normally…small groups of people, I know who would have thought that’s what it meant?  Please bear with me as I write this post, I realize that for those of you who have never heard of Big Event everything I’m saying will sound really odd to you.

Well this was my second year in InterVarsity and because I got involved from the get go, it was my second time at Big Event.  The previous year I had the opportunity to go to both Big Event and Basielia (InterVarsity’s second retreat which is longer and holds less schools).  Before going I remember everyone telling me I would love it so much that I would have so much fun and that it would change everything.  In all honesty leaving both Big Event and Basielia my freshman year I definitely did change a lot but those retreats felt bland for me.  I was watching everyone else doing all these amazing things and even though I did benefit, I wasn’t enjoying things on the same level as other people.  In fact there were times during Baseila that I just felt sad and confused because I wasn’t sure why I was feeling the way I felt.  I never shared this with anyone in my chapter because I didn’t want to be the person to bring other people down.  So I plastered a smile on my face and focused on everything that was actually good that was going in during the retreat.

My mentality was so off for those two retreats.  I literally walked into Big Event knowing everything everyone had said about it in the past and felt entitled to an amazing experience because I payed money.  I wasn’t excited and I expected other people to make me excited.  It was because I knew something was wrong that I refused to approach Big Event this year the same way I approached Big Event all other times in the past.

Before registering for Big Event I was asked along with some other people in my chapter to register for the leadership track.  That was something I really didn’t want to do, I wish I could explain just how much I didn’t want to do it.  In fact I guess I can explain it to you right now.  Registering for that track scared me and intimidated me because I didn’t feel as though I was good enough for it.  So I told my exec team I would register for it and purposely waited until the track was closed to beg my mom for permission to register for Big Event.  I had technically asked her back when leadership was open but because I didn’t want to go for that track I asked in a way that I knew she wouldn’t be happy or say yes.  It was only when I really needed to register that she said yes.  And by then I looked at the mess I made for myself and was actually kind of sad but at the same time incredibly happy.  Happy because I made a promise in my mind that I would get the most out of my track this year.  The track I registered for was Transformation or Foundations and mistakenly registering for it may have been the best decision I ever made for so many reasons.

Growing up in church I felt as though I knew God because I gave him my 3 hours once a week.  I had my idea in my head of what God was to me and I was satisfied putting him into a box.  For so long I felt as though I was trying to build a roof to this house while my foundations were crumbling beneath me.  I needed to be sure that I knew exactly who the God I was serving actually was.   Being honest with you again, I had it all so wrong.

During my retreat I realized that I wasn’t the only person who felt the same way about retreats in the past.  I wasn’t the only person who felt like I was really missing something important.  But somehow it took me going to Baseilia and feeling so sad to know that I couldn’t keep going on my walk with God the same way I had always done so.  I really needed to change the way I approached God in my life and I needed to learn to put him first.  I realized that if I had opened up earlier I would have saved so much heartache and even sympathized and grown with someone else who was going through what I was going through.  We eventually did get to sympathize with one another but only at this year’s Big Event!  Funny how things work out right?

I was also struggling with vulnerability.  Most of the time I feel like people are afraid to open up and that this is why they cannot grow.  My problem was that I felt as though I was being too vulnerable with too many people.  I grew up in a house where my mom would sit down with me everyday and ask me to open up to her about my feelings, that was the way I was raised to act.  And I felt like there was something wrong with me because it seemed like no one else felt the same way about opening up as me.  What I realized for myself this was past weekend was that I needed to be vulnerable.  I really needed to be open and honest about my feelings with the people in my life.  Because I’d rather have a bunch of people know this mangled, messed up and growing mess of a person that I am that is not perfect than to have a bunch of people know me on such a superficial level that they don’t actually know who I am.  But that’s just me.  Maybe I’ll change my mind about this 10 years from now but if I ever did I would need to stop blogging.  I would need to stop blogging because my soul is kind of sprawled out on all of these posts that literally anyone could pick up and read.  I’m okay with that though.  Because I know I am not the only person who feels the way that I feel.

Big Event this year was amazing.  It was absolutely amazing and so much more than I thought it would be.  But it also wasn’t easy.  I left Big Event feeling great but also knowing that the real work starts now with my relationship with God and even my relationships with people. I realized somehow that I didn’t understand what it meant to love people the way God loves us, or even how to love God the way he loves me.  I know that I am so flawed and I know that I have so much to learn but now I am ready to learn more about God than ever before.

 

What makes you beautiful?

I researched long and hard about this.  I wanted to know to an exact science; what exactly composed a perfect face.  Could it be perfect facial symmetry?  Was it the correct distance of eyes from one’s forehead?  Was beauty something that could be calculated and more importantly, is beauty something that can be bought?

I could never have been so wrong.

In the midst of all of this I found written on the inside of my friend’s bible the following verse,

“1 Peter 3:3-4

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead it should be of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s eyes.”
I think you demean beauty by limiting it to the structure of your face.  Because anyone can be born with a pretty face, but being beautiful means something much more.

I believe that when someone is truly beautiful, every feature of their face is illuminated by their smile.  That when someone is a happy person, there’s this glow inside of them that makes them look 100% better than they could ever look like with a frown.

Your face can never be perfect.  I doubt that even the beautiful face in the picture above is really and truly perfect.  I see makeup and tweezed eyebrows.  But imperfections are what make us unique.  Imperfections make us who we really are.
I remember telling these two twins I thought they were so beautiful and having them say to me that their nose was ugly, that it literally looked like a witches nose.  What they failed to realize is that the distinct appearance of their nose is what made me find their face so beautiful in the first place.  Their faces weren’t perfect, but they were beautiful.

Proverbs 31: 30 reads ” Charm is deceptive, beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the lord is to be praised.”

Beauty is fleeting.  Isn’t that crazy?  And isn’t it so very true?  Looking back on how greatly we weigh beauty, isn’t it all a bit foolish?

There is no formula for beauty.  There is no equation one must follow to be seen as beautiful.  But maybe there are so many more beautiful things we fail to notice while aspiring towards perfection.

Like those distressed pictures of people so happy you can’t help but feel the joy oozing from them and smirk.

Like when you find someone who just understands you so well and you can’t imagine how you ever lived life without them before.  Be it a friend, a family member or a significant other.

Or a love so magnificent that even death could not hold him down.

Now that is what I call beautiful.

I don’t know what to blog about?!-30/365

Good day my fellow bloggers…or is it wordpress-ers?  [haha FAIL]  I’m having one of those day where I really want to write but can’t think of anything to write about…  IN FACT I just wrote an entire post about haters and realized I didn’t like it and would  rather not edit through the kinks.

One preacher I’ve been in love with for as long as I can remember is Joel Osteen.  Whenever I’m having a bad day or I’m just feeling like my glass is half empty, I watch one of his podcasts and my day feels revitalized.  I want to do that for someone.

Scratch that.

I want to do that for you dear reader, the ones who actually take time to read what I write!  [even if you don’t comment 😀 ]

SO I decided to look over the titles of his messages and see if maybe just one will inspire me to write.

—-

OKAY I’M BACK!  [well I guess you guys didn’t have to KNOW that but I liked to fill you in on my writing process], none of the messages really struck out to me but the title of a book he has did.  It was entitled “Rise and Shine”, what a wonderful topic to write about!

So many times in my life I’ve found myself comparing myself to others or trying to emulate someone’s attitude or be like someone who seemed to have it all together.  It was pretty stupid.  I remember admiring the oddest people, I used to LOVE this girl named Darcy from Degrassi because she seemed so put together.  But if you know the show Degrassi, that didn’t really last all that long.

I used to think the only way I could be happy was if certain thing played out a certain way in  my life.  I was one of those people with a 5 year plan for success.  When things didn’t go the way I wanted them to…I was disappointed.  Sitting in my bedroom blogging this I can honestly say that  I feel happy.  I mean I wished I studied more this summer or used my time more productively but it was actual a facebook status that made me realize that regretting my choices would do nothing, all I have to do is move on.

The status read ”

The summer is gone……You can’t change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future”

HOW TRUE IS THAT?  [Sorry I don’t use caps to sound aggressive but to show emotion and excitement]

Today I want you to rise and shine, I want you to forget the haters [that I may later blog about, and just be who you are.  The great thing about God is that he accepts us for who we are.

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.”
1 Timothy 6:12

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
Proverbs 16:3

See you tomorrow,

Nina

**I hope you have a great day [or night depending on when you read this!]

You only fail when you *insert insightful ending*-26/365

so all picture are from deviantart.com unless indicated

OKAY…so that was a major FAIL of a title but I can’t remember that quote for the life of me, but somehow I know I want to write about it.

…that’s not weird at all.

I use “okay” as a transition a lot don’t I?  It’s funny because now that I’m forced to blog once a day, I’ve become more conscious than ever of my writing style.  I sound like a 5 year old.  [I’ll be HONEST].  But it’s okay because according to Stephen King’s On Writing if I hope to become a good writer I NEED to write [at a minimum] 1,000 words a day.  AND I’m already at 112 :O.

I don’t know why I was suddenly inspired to write about failure, I guess it was because of how far my blog has grown in 26 days.  I mean I checked my stats and I usually get a small handful of people a day [some days it can be as high as 40 but then be as low as 2].  I guess I can give a big HOORAY to my shameless advertising on Facebook and Gurl.com.

What’s really funny to me though is the fact that by now I would have normally quit.  By day 12 I was all for quiting but I wanted to see this promise through.  Even if I didn’t blog each day on time I still hope that by the end of this I have 365 entries.  This isn’t my first time blogging though.

I made one blog for daily verses with my insight into their meaning and forgot about it.  I went back to it a few months ago to find I had acquired 2 followers, sadly by then I had forgotten my password.  After that I was inspired by this teen blogger Clemintine to make my own blog about various topics.  The kind of things I would write about in my school newspaper. BUT I made 2 posts and ended it there.  It kind of amazes me how far I have come, I mean I only have 300 something views and on a large scale that is VERY sucky but still, even though I failed I finally persisted and saw the fruits of my work.

Today I want to focus on failure and the importance of not only learning from our failures but getting back up when we fall down.  SO many times I thought that if I failed at first that I could never succeed in that area again.  The reason for which I stopped practicing guitar and was against all standardized testing.  The whole idea of try try again never really stuck with me.

I don’t know who this post is for but if you are caught in a slump I urge you to keep trying.  Your efforts WILL be rewarded and the best results only come from the things that are HARD to do!  I know that I may fail again with this blog and with anything for that matter, but I will promise to get up when I fall and try try again.

See you tomorrow,

Nina

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.”
Psalm 18:32-36

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”
Psalm 18:2-6