Attitude of Gratitude

persistence

In my present circumstances, I am recognizing that challenges accompany blessings. Life now looks very unstable compared to my life last year. Yet simply because something is challenging doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In all of it, I am seeking an attitude of gratitude. I want to continue to see the goodness of each situation, even when the road is difficult. When I praise God for the blessings instead of focusing on the challenges, I am much more filled with joy. Focusing on the challenges brings frustration and negativity.

A mere text message a few weeks ago was impetus for me to reflect on my attitude. “What have you been up to?” An acquaintance texted me. My reply: “The usual: work and school.” “Sounds boring.” was his reply. Wait…Boring? “Boring” isn’t a word in my vocabulary! More than anything, I realized that I am grateful for everything in my life, and for life itself. I don’t count anything drudgery. In my eyes, it is all opportunity. True, school can be very draining and time consuming. Yet, not too long ago, I was pining to leave a job where I was more tired than fulfilled. I was more than ready for student life! Here I am, now in school and being stretched daily for a career that (God willing) will one day be fulfilling for me and bring healing to others. Not every person in the world has the ability to further their education or even to pursue a job that they are interested in. Even if my job isn’t what I would prefer to be doing–I have a stable source of income. There are so many who cannot say the same and would happily jump at a job offer! While to outsiders my life may appear burdensome or “boring,” I am very grateful for each situation. When I am grateful, my mood is much more upbeat. I have found that I am even more productive in my school work when I focus on the opportunity that is being in school!

An attitude of gratitude leads to contentment. Gratitude leads to greater awareness of the blessing that each situation in our life is. The challenges help us to grow. No opportunity comes without responsibility. Praise God for every blessing—even when it is challenging. I promise that it will lift your mood and help you to remember your opportunities! As I move forward into finals, I’m thanking God for the opportunity to expand my knowledge and further my career.

How can you praise God in the midst of your current blessings accompanied by challenges?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

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Seasons

autumn

The foliage of an oak tree is an ordinary sight in springtime. But a searing summer afternoon is what turn its shade into rare relief. In the winter months, cold air is shunned and cursed as people bundle up. But in the summer, that same arctic chill is hunted and chased by the same people who wished for its end.  Seasons are like that. They enable you to appreciate what was formerly overlooked and make you grateful for what you wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’m in what I would call a tetherball season.  Imagine a ball made of anxiety and doubt, with some teaspoons of fear thrown in for good measure.  Anxiety about our leaders and the world. Doubt about my professional life. Fear about the future. The ball is floating and bouncing on a rocky midnight blue sea. But the size of the ball is dwarfed by the magnitude of the chain attached to it. The thick metal links are fused to a pole in the center of the body of water. So, though the sea tosses and turns the ball over and over, it can never drift away from the anchor.

“God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

-Hebrews 6:18-20

I already knew that God is mighty and securely holds us in His hands. But lately, His daily assurance has been powering my days.  And the security of His word keeps my heart at peace. Only by being in this particular season can I say that I am truly grateful for His strength.

Maybe in a season of loneliness, you cherish His love. Or in a period of doubt, His faithfulness soothes you. Sometimes, going through something will allow you to completely treasure, enjoy, and be thankful for all of who God is.

In your season of life, what about God are you grateful for?

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).

In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin.

I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well.

I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

Cookie Cutter Faith

cookie cutter

As a child, I remember marveling at the explanation for the term, “one size fits all.” A sweatshirt that can fit anyone of any size? What sort of enchanted fabric is this and where can I get it?

Of course, when I matured, I realized that the term is terribly specious. It can indeed fit all but it may be very baggy on one person or too tight on another. 100% perfect fits are the aberration, not the norm.

I was reminded of this during a Bible study session recently. During one particular section, my pastor imparted that there is no unanimous method for spiritual growth. Author Gary Thomas says it this way: “[There are] four elements essential to worship: adoration, communication with God, Scripture reading and service….But here’s the key: How we pray, how we worship and how we study God’s Word will differ.”

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. God did not use cookie cutters to create us.  We were created using a medley of varying gifts, desires, personalities, and idiosyncrasies.  And we were all made to fulfill a different purpose for Him.  So if no one person is exactly the same, why would we relate to God and Him to us in the exact same way?

The diversity of worship and relationships with God is present throughout Scripture. David wrote psalm after psalm filled with praise and exaltation for the Lord. Martha provided care and served the Lord. Elijah routinely and vocally opposed all work against the Lord and His purpose.  And though He loved them both, in John 20, Jesus deals with Mary and Thomas’s contact with Him in different ways.  In verses 16-17, Mary’s motion toward Him was gently denied. According to commentaries, Mary’s joy would have caused her to cling too long. She needed to understand that Jesus was not ascending immediately.  In verses 24-27, Thomas was urged to touch the scars in His flesh. Thomas’s doubt needed to be irrevocably destroyed. He needed to see and feel proof that Jesus is alive. Different people with different relationships with the same God.

When you take time to pray and study the word of God​ ​this week, I encourage​ you​ to also take this spiritual temperament quiz.  Discover in what ways you relate to God and how it can help pave your path to spiritual maturity.

Which spiritual temperament are you? How do you see it influencing your relationship with God and how you worship Him?

September Finish – Managing Conflict

conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. When someone hurts us, anger is a common response. Yet anger is like a wildfire. If not properly handled, it will quickly barrel out of control and cause immense harm.  In James 1:19-20 we are taught an important lesson on anger: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Anger does not produce the righteousness that we are called to.

What are the most common responses to anger? Some of us rehearse in our minds exactly what we want to say to the person who made us angry, and even how we would deliver the message so it gets across how we intend. Other people take the rehearsal a step further and actually deliver the message, and perhaps physical blows. Both of these methods of coping can be harmful. While anger is identified as one of the “7 deadly sins,” it is also not good for your physical health. Anger has even been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure. Clearly, anger can be a very dangerous thing.

So, what is the answer to conflict and to anger? The reality is we can’t go through life without conflict. There are even times when anger can be justified. Even Jesus got angry at the moneychangers in the temple, as they made it a marketplace instead of a sacred place. But it is our response to our emotions that we must be careful about.

  1. It is important to not respond right away–rarely has a response made from anger been healing or productive. Find a constructive way to deal.
  2. Seek people concerned about the same issues. If your anger is caused by injustice, find a path to fight for justice.
  3. When someone hurts you, find a way to take care of yourself so that you don’t spiral into negativity and cause further harm to yourself. This could be going for a run, deep breathing, taking a boxing class, or talking to a counselor.
  4. Tell the Lord how you are feeling. He can take it. Ask Him how you are to respond, both internally and to the person who made you angry in the first place. With any conflict, the Holy Spirit can help us find a way where there seems to be no way.

Conflict is something I dread. Yet I’ve learned that conflict can be an opportunity. Instead of wallowing in anger and falling further from righteousness, our response to conflict can be a way to grow in character.

By seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit in times of conflict, we can also grow closer to the heart God has for us and the person who hurt us. Instead of letting anger dictate our responses, let’s work on Spirit-filled healthy responses and watch how we grow in virtue.

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

 

Managing Conflict Through WhatsApp?

smartphone

Recently I had to visit the U.S. Embassy here in Kuala Lumpur and scheduled an early 7.30AM Wednesday morning interview as part of my U.S. Visa application. As such, I had to arrive very early at about 6.30AM to park my car at the office precinct where the office building is to catch an Uber to the Embassy.

Prior to all these practical arrangements i.e. a day before my interview, I texted someone from the workplace (let’s call her Jane) who has the parking attendant’s contact number in order that I may arrange to pass my car key to a trusted colleague to re-park my car into the office building as the entrance to the car park only opens at 7AM.

So the day came, I still have not received a reply. Fortunately, I met one of the many security guards of the building whom I am familiar with, and knew I could trust that he would pass my car keys to the intended person.

The whole day went by; I still have not received any response from Jane. While I know that Jane is of a senior citizen age, she was probably busy and maybe outstation, I decided to wait for a response. I still wanted the parking attendant’s contact in view of any necessary arrangements in future. Long story short, in the evening I saw that my text was read (thank you WhatsApp), but there was no response. I then politely replied by asking Jane if she was busy as I also saw that she posted some WhatsApp messages in another chat group.

Well, being the lawyer that I am – and a bit of a risk taker, I proceeded to let her know in a nice way that it was not encouraging (my precise word) to have read my text and not give a reply. Behold, Jane’s response was rather disappointing. She did say that it was not easy to have wifi access (fine) but (surprise, surprise!) managed to response with limited wifi access reprimanding me that I lacked respect, furthermore that I only respect people in ‘higher authority’. Whoa!

Taking a step back in this whole scenario, I reminded myself of a few things.

#1 To first address the ‘plank’ in my eyes: although I took the route of addressing the fact that Jane did not reply my text. I reminded myself to not do the same to others to give the benefit of doubt just in case the individual genuinely sought help or information. To have some self-reflection to avoid being bitter and judgmental. Instead prayerfully to allow God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or through scriptures to give insights on my own heart (basically to search my heart).

#2 To give grace and envision what kind of ‘older woman’ that I want to be: no matter how old or young we are, it is always an emotionally healthy practice to get rid to the superiority or entitlement attitude. Moreover if we are in the community of Christ – Jane is someone who attends our office Christian Fellowship, thus I thought I could rely on her to assist not only in providing information – if not, to have at least the courtesy to leave a short reply.

#3 To build and not tear down: instead of actually providing the parking attendant’s contact, Jane’s reply was an accusatory sweeping statement, not encouraging at all, which I vehemently reject. The focus was not to assist but to reprimand, which I thought was such a waste of time.

#4 People are weird (and yeah, you may think that I am too): but this does not justify for us to be discourteous, especially to people that we meet on a consistent basis (as a matter of fact to everyone).

Reflecting on this particular scenario got me thinking about how we are to carry ourselves.

  • Do we put others first in our thoughts, words and deeds?
  • Instead of waiving your index finger at others, why not take the approach of leading by example?
  • Instead of demanding respect, why not consider that others want to be respected too – that it goes both ways?

In conclusion, I hold these verses close to my heart. Philippians 2: 3-4 (NIV)Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

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timmie-liew Timmie

Hello, my name is Timmie and I’m from Malaysia. I am a lawyer by profession. I am a charismatic, passionate person and enjoy beautiful things in life such as travelling to different cities to appreciate the culture. I love fashion and appreciate ‘coffee time’ with people to talk about life and build meaningful relationships. I’m passionate about the things of God, the Church and authentic leadership. My deepest desire is to embrace all that God has called me to be and be a blessing to whoever that God has placed in my life past, present and future. Our God is a GREAT God, and the best is yet to come !🙂

The Absurd Stages of Anger

barbie

So ladies. It’s time we had a talk. Just a little, tiny talk about our anger. Or maybe it’s just a talk about my anger. Who knows. Either way, follow along.

You know those times when you’re super mad at your man-friend? When you’re absolutely boiling hot over the way they’ve hurt you or done you wrong. Whether big or small. Life changing or petty. You will have some sort of reaction.

Well. I know myself. And my self reacts in what I’ll call The Absurd Stages of Anger.

First, comes The Calm. It is capitalized like a cheesy book title because it’s about as dramatic and silly as straight-to-DVD movie. I get all worked up on the inside about something (in)significant – a quiet despite the internal storm. You might even call it the silent treatment. It is the appearance of thinly veiled peace with a hint of sarcasm and shade.

It is Stupid. With a capital S. Because most men you’re getting to know through dating have no idea you’re even mad in the first place. Which serves to make us madder. And then leads to the next stage.

The Verbose Volcano. Basically this means that after I’ve stewed over the (in)significant event for a considerable time, I spew all the words and anger and feelings and thoughts that I’ve had about them dating back to 1989. A time before I even knew the man in question.

I tell them how I hated that one time they didn’t open the door for me on December 12, 2016. And of course the time they cut off all of Holiday Barbie’s hair when we were in the 2nd grade. That’s a collector’s item for goodness sake!

Wait. That wasn’t even him.

It doesn’t matter. In The Absurd Stages of Anger, he is still at fault for all bad things that come to mind.

And this, ladies, is where the stages culminate. In confusion. With no solution. You’re still mad. He still hasn’t figured out why. And he’s also possibly questioning your sanity.

You’ve all seen The Absurd Stages of Anger. You may have been victims of it. You’ve all done it. And if you claim you haven’t done it, you’re probably lying. Because we all know it’s easier to harbor conflict within ourselves than it is to deal with it head on, in the moment.

In-the-moment conflict management is hard work and effort that I just don’t want to put forth as an adult. I have enough things to manage in my daily life. I’d rather not add conflict to my list of things to manage at all if you know what I mean.

That would require doing things that most humans don’t like very much. You know. Really hard things like letting go of our pride, admitting our wrongs, walking in gentleness and meekness, and relying on the Holy Spirit to tame our tongues.

And this makes conflict management even harder because we’re so used to relying on ourselves, on how society tells us to manage conflict.

We’ve been told our egos are what have protected us, our faults are the equivalent of weakness, strength means death to meekness, and winning the argument is all that matters.

But doesn’t God tell us that He is our protector and our shield? That His strength is made perfect in our weakness? That the fruits of the spirit are gentleness and self control? That He is in literal, spiritual, and physical opposition to the proud? That He will fight our battles for us and we only need to be still?

And what a relief that is. What freedom there is in knowing that a terrible quarreler like me doesn’t have to quarrel at all. That if He’s on my side, I can face conflict head on or even choose to let insignificant things go in love.

Because some things just don’t matter as much when your ego has left the building. What’s left to bruise or offend? And the things that do matter can be handled with grace and vulnerability to show the other that even if they’re wrong for cutting off all of Holiday Barbie’s hair, you still care about them. And vengeance is the Lord’s.

Just kidding. Don’t actually say that.

Can you recall a time you gave someone you were dating the silent treatment? What was the result?

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roz Roz

Hey there!  My name is Roz.  I’m a full time working, single, homeschooling mother to the world’s funniest 5 year old on the planet.  I’m an introvert who is obsessed with bacon.  I like to play music extremely loudly in my car and will keep singing at full voice even when you turn to stare.  I also blog occasionally over at beautyfullyflawed.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.

Peacemaker

girls

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9

It was happening again.

To my right stood Wanda, loudly voicing her displeasure, her nape length ponytail wagging with every word. To my left was Charlotte. Her jelly bean-colored barrettes were clamped over her braids and were as frozen as the frown on her face.

And in the middle was me…again.

The three of us enjoyed being together. Playing jump rope on the playground. Eating Ellio’s frozen pizza in the school cafeteria. Talking excitedly about the newest toys in the Toys “R” Us Sunday circular.

But eventually, there were times when one of us would do something that would completely disrupt the peace.

Maybe we didn’t see Michael Jackson’s latest video. Maybe one of us had spearmint lip balm and the other had cherry. Maybe we liked Pepsi instead of Dr. Pepper.

Whatever the reason, Wanda would complain and usually Charlotte would counter back, resulting in a rip in our friendship blanket.

I would try not to take sides but my residence on the sidelines never lasted long.

During recess, I’d walk along the length of the playground with Wanda, half-listening as she complained about Charlotte. I’d scan the concrete for Charlotte and would finally spot her, playing happily, oblivious to the invisible friction that was rubbing me raw.

But then, they got over it. The rip was mended and all was well again.

Until next time.

We were 9-year-old girls who eventually matured into women and outgrew such behavior. But thinking back made me wonder how often we take the easy exit in an conflict.

Aligning with the loudest voice, joining the strongest alliance, standing with the largest group against the weaker side is the path of least resistance. But peacemaking requires a lot from us: backbone, energy, and love for all involved.

Taking sides keeps the conflict alive. As Christians, we should work at dissolving discord, not feeding it.

Have you ever taken sides in a conflict instead of trying to end it?

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-). In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!