Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy vs. Grateful

This was from our Staff Devotion today at work. I really liked the perspective it took on the difference between being happy and being grateful. I hope to choose to become more grateful...

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Have you ever known a happy person who wasn't grateful, or a grateful person who wasn't happy?

Perhaps a way to look at this is that happiness is a result of gratitude.

The wonderful thing about this is that, while we cannot always just choose to be happy, we can always choose to be grateful.

There is always something to be grateful about.

You can be grateful that you are alive and have opportunities to learn and grow and share love.

You can be grateful for the sun, the rain, the snow, the beauty of nature, the green of grass, the glory of trees, the color of flowers, the presence of animals, the food you eat.

If you have health, you can be grateful for that.

If you have friends, you can be grateful for them.

If you have a mate, children, a home, a car, a job, you can be grateful for them.

You can choose to be grateful for all the big and little things in life, each and every moment.

The more you choose to notice what is good and beautiful, the happier and more peaceful you will feel.

On the other hand, there are always things to complain about if that is your choice.

Instead of noticing the beauty of the flowers, you can complain about having to water them.

Instead of being grateful for the opportunity to be alive, you can complain about how hard it is.

Instead of being grateful for the sun, the rain, or the snow, you can complain about how hot it is, how wet it is, how gloomy it is, or how cold it is.

Instead of being grateful for you food you eat, you can complain about how hard it is to cook it, or how expensive it is to buy it.

Instead of being grateful for your health, you can complain about your weight.

Instead of being grateful for your partner or your children, you can certainly find endless complains about them.

The more you complain, the more unhappy you will feel.

It is not the person or the situation or the event or the past or anything else that is causing your unhappiness - it is your choice to complain about it instead of discovering what is wonderful about it and being grateful for it.





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(The picture is of my awesome friend, Julie's, super cute kids! You can check out her blog by clicking here!)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

When All Else Fails

I know there is no loneliness with God, but as a human, it can feel that way sometimes. This past month (April) was one of the worst months in history (followed closely by July 2000 and December 2006). And when I tried to reach out to people, only a few were there to truly listen.

I won't go into detail, but it seemed like everything I could lose, I did. My life is no where in despair compared to some people, but if I were to compare my own life to itself - the high's and the low's - well, yeah, this past month is one in the books for low's.

It's funny that my last blog was about expecting something good in my life. I had been feeling this way for quite awhile, even before 2011 happened. Yet as everything seemed to crash at one time about a month ago and the tears just couldn't stop due to the stress of it all (literally 9 things happened within the period of 3 weeks), I remember sitting in the hallway of my house and thinking to God, "This wasn't exactly what I was expecting."

But, I hold out hope that there is something... someone, that is going to rock my world this year. Why? Because I trust God. It took me awhile to get to this point several years ago. Trusting God when He has changed up your own life plans is really hard. Back before my car accident, I dreamed of graduating college, teaching music, potentially going into the mission field, finding the man of my dreams, living in a nice house in the South with a white picket fence, 2.2 kids, and a cocker spaniel. I'd be a stay at home mom until our children were in Kindergarten, but I'd be home for them once they were home. And our life would be perfect. But, that was when I was 20 years old and extremely naive. I was brainwashed by those Southerners, because that's not real life at all!!

I give a lot of credit to the college I went to, however the one thing I think it could have done a better job at is preparing its students for real life, not just an education. The only class that really challenged my thinking and beliefs was a required course called "Cultural Perspectives," and it changed my thinking mostly because it was taught by an Atheist teacher that pushed the envelope with the required reading material. (Not sure how he got hired at a private, Christian college but I'm thankful.) In that class at the ripe old age of 18, I met a guy who I still look up to to this day. Though the same age and raised in Mississippi, he always seemed more mature than me. I'm not sure why he even remained friends with me since I was so, um, "Little House On the Prairie" in college (and highschool for that matter) and he was so handsome - definitely out of my league. I had no life experiences, never drank, never broke rules, etc, etc. Yuck, I was boring. Thank God I've moved on from that sheltered life. This guy befriended me that first semester in college, always acknowledged me when he saw me on campus even if he was in front of his fraternity buddies, and after the car accident when everyone else seemed to move on with their life or treat me differently because I was now in a wheelchair, he was the only male friend that acted like nothing had changed. I was smitten with him for awhile before I became paralyzed, but always thought he was "above" me and would never be interested, so I talked myself down that it would never happen. And when I thought all else had failed, he seemed to always be there for me at just the right time. I still remember his smile after I spoke at convocation for the very first time. In fact, I wrote about that time in my journal, dated April 21, 2001:

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I was nervous in the weeks proceeding to speaking (in chapel) because I didn't know what I was going to say. The night before, I realized that this wasn't like teaching a bible study lesson or preaching a sermon, but this was my life. So, I typed up a few facts about spinal cord injuries and that was all I had. I didn't know what I was going to say or how long it was going to take. I wasn't nervous at all. I actually loved speaking! I have always wanted to speak in front of people, but I didn't know how or what to start with or that I even had this gift.

Afterwards, I had a lot of people tell me how inspirational I was or how "great" I am. I've heard it all before. All the comments were nice, but it still seems weird to me. One guy that I have known since a freshman named (intentionally left out) came up to me afterwards and said that of all the convos he's been to these four years, mine has been the most meaningful and has touched him the most. He asked me to open up my hand, and in it he placed a piece of paper that contained his phone number. Me?? Wow.

I had told Dr. Barnette about him, and he said that he is a really good guy and comes to convos a lot. This past Thursday I had to be in convo again because I was being awarded something, and there he was. I tried not to keep looking in his direction, but it was hard. Afterwards, I had my back turned towards the back of the chapel talking to some people and all of the sudden these arms envelope around me. For some reason, I relaxed and knew it was him. I put my hand up to his face and said "Hey!" He said my name has been on his mirror to "Call Alyson." He promised me that we'd get together soon, and made me pinky swear with him. He is the first guy who doesn't "see" the chair and isn't intimidated by it. Little does he know that it meant more to me than he'll ever know.

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After college, we kept in touch every so often, but lost touch eventually. He went on to Law School and then moved on to DC. Soon after I found out he went to the Middle East to do some stuff for the government. He's done and experienced things in this world that I'd love to hear about in intricate detail. For years I searched for him. I would Google his name every so often, try to see if his name would pop up on our college's magazine of "what we're doing now" section, and almost went so far to contact his family (but I didn't, because then it would be kind of stalkerish). I had wanted to tell him all this time of the impact he made in my life. Finally, we reconnected on Facebook a couple years ago. I was so excited! I have yet to gain the courage to outright tell him the impact he made on my life - mostly because he has a girl in his life who claims to be a best friend, but I have my doubts if that's true (I have a feeling they are more than that). And there isn't any need for me to intrude with my blabbering about how important his friendship had been during those early days of me not knowing up from down. So for what it's worth, here it is for the whole world to see. But nonetheless, it's important to note that one never knows when he or she is going to make a huge impact in ones life. I still admire him and will always count him as a true friend because he didn't care what other people thought about him. He was himself then as he is now (though a lot wiser and a whole lot more world experiences), and people who can be true to themselves and go after what they want in life are those who I want to be closer to.

Anyway, this is not at all where this blog was intended to go. But it does go to show that God was there for me before my car accident, after it, and I know He hasn't left me yet, nor will He. Perhaps it was through certain people that He showed Himself to me or through songs, events, or written word, but it's good to know that He hasn't forgotten about me. So, that is why I trust God that He is still going to fulfill the year I know in my spirit that He has told me is coming. Through the good and the bad, I still believe, even though I have human tendencies to try my own way at times. And when all else humanly seems to fail and I think I'm at the end of my rope, I tie a knot and hold on. It can only get better.

Thanks, my friend, for showing me Jesus through you when I was holding on to that knot years ago. (And sorry this may all be coming from out of the blue if you're reading this for the first time.)