Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep with Gratitude

The past several months I’ve decided that I needed to cultivate gratitude. I found too many negative thoughts swirling around from situations I couldn’t control and certainly wasn’t going to be nominated to be the designated fixer any time soon.

Life is overwhelming, the world seems out of control and sometimes my heart just hurts from all the sadness and brokenness in our planet.

I realized that I could be a Negative Nelly if I’m not careful.

Ouch!

This isn’t who I really want to be AT ALL!

Months ago my cultivating turned into a nightly ritual. Being a visual person, I like creative ways to be intentional especially when God has gently prodded me about something I need to change.

As I slip under my feather comforter each night, I posture myself to touch each of my five fingers. Moving over each finger on my hand, I name what I am grateful for that day. As days have turned into weeks and weeks into month a subtle slow transformation has taken place in the crevice of my soul. Negative Nelly and her thoughts have been shoved out and replaced by a new resident bringing a thought of thankfulness.

I find myself looking at the world differently.

Even on a hard day, windows of opportunity present themselves and gratitude seeps through built on previous days of practice.

It’s amazing when gratitude makes it way from an occasional moment to a ritual where you can’t go to sleep without naming at least one or two things to be grateful for. It is like taking vitamins for the soul. It keeps us healthy and changes our perspective.

I’ve read realms about how gratitude can change us, change physical and emotional health, change a perspective and well, change just about everything when it comes to how we approach life. Here’s an article to prove I am not exaggerating.

Gratitude is the sweet balm to a broken heart and that is exactly what I’ve discovered.

Part of the journey of healing is detecting that embracing gratitude to the fullest is the best pathway to wholeness.

There was a time several years back that I believed my heart could never be whole again.

It was too bruised, too wounded, too betrayed and too weary.

Jesus has changed all of this as I’ve surrendered slowly and unwilling at times allowing Him to be my teaching healer on the journey. His ways are perfect and his timing is impeccable.

As we approach American Thanksgiving this week, my heart is bursting with gratitude and it has taken me by surprise of how it is trickling out in the moments of my day. I believe it is because the ritual of gratitude has transformed me with the notice that my heart is healing.

I don’t know what circumstances you might be facing right now and to be reminded to be thankful might just bounce off a heart of cynicism.

Don’t worry, it’s okay. I’ve been right there.

And don’t hate me for this next sentence… but gratitude isn’t an option if you are a Jesus follower. We are instructed to be thankful.

Always.

Yes, always, and in everything, and it’s true.

Does it mean we live in denial or delusion? Of course not! Somewhere in the midst of our circumstances we have to find a place to hold gratitude in our heart besides the good, bad and the ugliness of life. The only way I know how to do that is not by myself. I have to ask God to help me.

If he has commanded me to be thankful then He will make a way to do the impossible even in a hard situation. If you heart is cynical, try Him. Ask God and see what happens.

In the meantime, I pray that there will be a moment this week in between family gatherings and chaotic Black Friday shopping where thankfulness catches you and inspires you to want more gratitude in your life.

I encourage, no, I challenge you to give daily gratitude a try for 30 days every night. You can borrow my ritual or create one of your own and I guarantee that your tired heart will be different at the end of 30 days and you won’t want it to end. Here is some inspiration to start and Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

Why Everyone Needs A Tribe

As a writer, I’ve been floundering for a few years. I didn’t know it but I was looking for a tribe.

I was wandering and then realized what I needed…

People who were like-minded and crazy enough to sit down at our computers for long hours writing, in hopes it will influence others.

If I am going to be a serious writer since publishing my first book, I knew I needed a writer tribe. I searched and scoured to find a group that I could identify with. A group whose heart beat the same as mine, crafting words into meaningful sentences, hoping to make a difference. I prayed and waited.

Like clothes in a department store dressing room, I tried a myriad of different tribes to see if they were a good fit.

I tried to force myself with a few and it didn’t work. It was like putting a square peg into a round hole, or squeezing my body into a size that didn’t fit.

They were lovely groups, but weren’t my peeps. I kept looking and asking my writer friends. Mostly, I prayed and asked God to help me find my tribe, one I could feel camaraderie and affinity. I nearly gave up when last year one of my author friends suggested I try her tribe.

I took the plunge and signed up. I even decided to attend the first conference of this newly found tribe and went with no expectations other than just to connect and learn.

I discovered other writers just like me.

Writers confident in our gifts and yet at times insecure.

Broken but not defeated.

Struggling and yet persevering.

Desiring and yet God honoring, Jesus loving writers!

It was like being away from home a long time and finding all the best reasons why you love to come back. It was a belonging moment.

Whatever gift you and I  might have, we need a tribe.

Why? Here are five simple reasons using the word TRIBE of why I believe everyone needs a tribe whether your gift is writing, music, leading, crafting, teaching or?

 TRUST 

We need a group of people that we can trust with our gift and who             experiences it the same way we do. Writers in particular can be quirky because we usually are alone crafting our words, it isn’t a team gift. It is very personal and we need people we can trust along the way.

RESPECT

Everyone needs respect. Having a group of people who share the same gift garners a deeper respect for your own gift and motivates us to be the best we can because it isn’t just about us, there are others who share the same gift. When we neglect or tarnish our gift it impacts others and hurts the tribe.

INSPIRE

Being around other like-minded similar gifted people is incredibly            inspiring. It is motivating and pushes us to work harder and smarter.

BELONG

It’s funny how when you discover your true tribe how at home you will   feel. It becomes a safe place to grow and try out new ideas with people who understand how your gift works.

ENCOURAGE

Everyone needs encouragement to keep going when the going get         tough. Especially when our gifts are first being developed and later when we’ve  experienced both success and failure and still want to give up! We need people to remind us to keep stewarding the gift. It is worth it and it is just that, a gift that has to keep going and growing to make the greatest impact possible.

I am incredibly proud to announce that my new tribe is the Advanced Writers and Speaker Association. They have become my tribe and I feel  the simple trust, respect, inspire, belong and encourage has visited the writers home in my heart. I am learning leaps and rubbing shoulders with these incredible author friends and my hope is that I will rub off on them too! They accept me right where I am at, there is a no compete zone  and man oh man can these women pray!! Like I said, this is home.

Where is your tribe? If you haven’t found yours, keep looking, keep praying, keep waiting. Somewhere out there is a place for you to belong and to grow that brilliant gift God has lavishly entrusted to you.

 

 

 

 

Why I’ve Stopped Rationalizing About Self-Discipline

Kevin gave me an UP3 for Christmas. It’s an activity tracker which is the rival version of the FitBit that monitors heart rate; sleep intervals, food and steps throughout the day. Please don’t judge him, he got me exactly what I asked for, instead of a “feel good” present.

In an attempt to Live Bold this year (my one word for 2016) I know that I have to make some changes in a few areas, for one, looking to take better care of myself. Okay, I can’t take it anymore and it will be sheer rebellion if I don’t listen and that is what my body is telling me as it moves into another year.

And I do have an announcement to make.

I am not very self-disciplined.

Yikes! Did I just say that out loud?

Yes I did.

I am highly and creatively organized and work well in structured environments, but lack self-discipline when it comes to maintaining physical health. Kevin and I have been working hard at our ‘eating green’ and healthy so I can check that off, but in the exercise and sleep areas, they definitely need work.

For several years it was pretty habitual and then I dropped off the wagon. Why does that happen? So, I am coming to terms with this weakness and will be looking for a support therapy group!

Seriously, I think I am disciplined in my head. I make the plan and carry it out in my faraway thoughts, visualizing my sweaty body after a good workout, going to bed the same time every night and rising refreshed after 8 hours of sleep. But when it comes time to “buckle down” as my Dad used to say, well I flip flop because I get distracted with the next “best thing” or the “urgent need” of the moment or heaven forbid people, “not feeling like it!”

I am also very hard on myself, so if I begin something and then fail a few times I can slump into a melancholy regret of,

How will I ever measure up?

Then I just quit!

I call it an Eyeore moment~bleak, dark, no hope, can’t change, etc., you get the picture. Yes, I know this sounds extreme, but as my friends and family tell me, I need to get over it and not berate myself and try to find the middle ground.

One area of serious self-discipline space that needs to be created is my sleep and exercise schedule. I realize that I have rationalized myself to death on consistency of exercise and regulating my sleep. I’ve been using the UP3 for nearly a month now and it is telling, oh so telling. Sometimes we just need a little dose of facts and reality because it kicks the teeth out of my rationalization and stories I make up about how I think I am doing in these areas.

I believe to Live Bold means making sure I am maintaining even this part of my life because reality says it impacts every area of my life, AND I am finally old to enough to actually feel the consequences. When I am sleep deprived because I stay up too late, I am cranky the next day. When I don’t exercise, it shows and I am not talking about looking good in the latest fashion trend, I am talking about just plain functioning well.

And so as I’ve asked God to speak into my one-word for 2016 Live Bold.  He’s reminded me, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Hebrews 12:1

I can often forget that the physical is equally important and it is actually an act of worship to take care of the gift that God gave me, my health. I think I’ve blanked that word “worship” out from that passage. Funny how you can read the same words in the Bible over a hundred times and never see something. Worship with physical self-discipline, what a thought!

My UP3 band is vibrating me telling me it’s time to get ready for bed.  I better pay attention. And so, here I go in 2016 beginning the year not with a resolution, but with a solution to learn to worship Jesus in a new way!