The Power of a Positive Attitude

Today the Lord impressed upon me again how powerful my attitude is.

Yeah, we all know that happy people are more fun to be around than complainative ones, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that we can CHOOSE to be one of those happy people ourselves! Joy isn’t in our genes; it’s in our minds and hearts.

I worked in an assisted living facility this summer and saw a wide range of attitudes in workers, from lazy to hard-working, from nasty and sour to joyful and sweet. Now you must understand: nursing home work is hard, dirty, and stressful, and it’s so easy to slip into complaining when you’ve just about had all the stress you can take for the day. But there were some aides that chose to look on the bright side of things, and (surprise, surprise!) those were the people I most enjoyed working with!

To be totally honest with you, I am probably one of the least qualified people to be telling you how to act.  As a child, I once made it my quite unkind goal to make everyone in my family mad (or at least unhappy) on this certain Sunday, right after we got home from church. I was in a nasty mood and wanted everyone else to feel the same way I did. To my shame, my scheme worked and within a few minutes of walking in the door, everybody was upset about something or other. In retrospect, they were probably all upset with me for having such a sour attitude that day!

Other Sundays, though, I remember trying to help every family member be happy. This took a little more work than making them mad, probably since we were born with sin natures, and it took some serious self-denial, but choosing joy anyway resulted in a much more restful afternoon and the enjoyment of each other’s presence! These are the days I love to reminisce on. 🙂

Pessimistic personalities are no excuse for not choosing joy, either. I am, by nature, almost (key word there) a full-blown pessimist, but have had to realize over the years that personality traits such as pessimism or optimism are not meant to DEFINE me! Both pessimists and optimists have to work to keep themselves from going off the deep end, and yes, even pessimists can count their blessings!!

Counting your blessings, even the little ones, really does lighten up your day and world! Earlier this year, someone told me about a personal project she was doing called One Thousand Things. She and a friend each got a journal and began to write down everything they were thankful for, numbering each thing and aiming for 1,000 of them. I was inspired, so I bought a cute mini-journal and started my own gratitude book!

One Thousand Things

It’s helped me refocus and count my (VERY many) blessings, and I think I’m going to start carrying it around with me so that I write in it more often. I’m not nearly close to one thousand things yet since I’ve slacked off some in the past couple months, but I’m going to get there!!!

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You know, I’ve noticed that when I make a conscious decision to focus on the bright side of things, and whisper thank you to the Lord every time something happy happens, I suddenly become a lot more joyful! While doing this at work today, I even began to wonder why the Lord decided to bless me so much today! In reality, He blesses me EVERY day, but I miss out on seeing those blessings if I’m wallowing in complaints or self-pity.

What are some things you have been blessed by today or this week? The blessings on my list included hearing a bunch of my favorite songs on the radio at work, being able to have a really neat conversation with a co-worker that I don’t usually get to talk to much, cloudy weather (it makes taking pictures of cars easier because I don’t have to worry about the sun reflecting off of and casting shadows on cars), hot coffee on a cold windy day…. 🙂

This feels like a post more on the random side, not quite as “put together” as I would like, but I hope it makes sense. 🙂 I hereby challenge you to find a way to proactively choose to have a joyful attitude and praise the Lord for the little things, even when it feels like you’re in the midst of a storm. He inhabits the praises of His people, remember?

“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

Living in a Fallen World

I am disturbed.  I’m a bit upset.  My mind is whirling, trying to come up with answers to its own questions.

Why?  Because all around me, Christians are failing.  And I, in my humanness, don’t know what to do about it.

I learned yesterday of Josh Duggar’s confession that he has been secretly unfaithful to his wife over the past few years, even while he was promoting family values for a pro-marriage and pro-life organization.  He resigned from that organization recently, however, due to the publicized report of his previous failures as a teenager.  Those failures, I understood, were forgiven by all affected parties, but this news shocked me.  To clarify, though, this post is not about Josh Duggar and I do not wish to either defend or bash him by this writing, but I am using his situation as an example and a learning point.

How can this happen to a family who has done their best to do everything right, and has strove to train up their children in the way they should go, teaching them to trust in and obey God??  Why did he choose that sinful route?  How can I prevent this from happening to me???  These questions are just some of the few that are swirling around in my brain, and I am realizing that even the “best” of all Christians (which honestly, there is no such thing – God has no partiality: Romans 2:11) are not and never will be infallible.  We are all susceptible to temptation.  We will never get away from it, either, as long as we have breath.

But Josh is not the only example I know of.  I have cousins, close friends, many acquaintances, and knowledge of people with big, powerful ministries that have backslidden and chosen sin above the Lord.  I have watched families split up, young people abandon the Lord and go their own way, and soooo many others choose compromise over full obedience.  It’s heartbreaking, to say the least.

Seeing conservative, homeschooled, well-trained, Christian children allow themselves to fall into such worldly, horrifying sin such as affairs and whatnot makes me wonder and worry….if they did it, how do I know I won’t?  Or my siblings?  Or my close friends?  But as I sat in the car staring at the sun today, thinking, Jesus’ sweet voice whispered to my heart.

“You trust me, child.  I’m the only One who can keep you from this, so there’s no need to worry about it.  Just keep following Me and obeying my voice, and I will keep you safe from the raging storm.”

Then I realized – He’s right!  Of course…He always is.  🙂  It’s not just something that “happened” to these believers so that they were uncontrollably pulled down into the deep pit of immorality or rebellion!

They chose that route themselves.

But we all know that nobody just wakes up one morning and decides to rebel against God.  Rather, it happens slowly, one compromise after another; one “little sin” after another.  I know this all too well from my own experience!  Give Satan an inch of wiggle room in your life, and he’ll take a mile.  It’s so easy to talk yourself into one insignificant wrongdoing, but most of us are deceived that that one little thing will lead to destruction!  Yet Jesus has given us a way out of every. single. temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

As I pondered these things, I realized that it doesn’t matter how tight and extreme I may have to make my boundaries – the most important thing is to cling to Christ and to flee sin, even the appearance of it!  I don’t want to risk succumbing to the devil….yet I know that my flesh is weak and there is no way I can keep myself from sinning.  But Jesus can, and He will!  Remember Hannah, trust the Lord and obey His quiet, steady voice, and you needn’t worry about a thing.

Maybe you have to limit your fiction reading and movie watching and spend more time focusing on God.  Maybe it’s social media that is distracting you and luring you away.  Maybe it’s your constant internet surfing, or maybe it’s some friendship or relationship that isn’t honoring God.

Whatever your spiritual hindrances may be, they need to go – and that’s not an option.

1 John 1:5-7 tells us,  “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

It’s way too easy to pretend the Christian life.  But don’t do that – set your standards high and aim for them!  Don’t be satisfied with half-way Christianity or just being “better than THEM.”  We live in a fallen world, and we can only rise above it with the AWESOME POWER OF JESUS CHRIST.

I and all of heaven are cheering you on!  Do hard things and follow God with your whole heart, Christian!  There’s nothing more truly satisfying.

🙂

Jamaica, Part II // a life-changing experience

I miss Jamaica.  This week and the previous one mark my two-year “Jamaica anniversary,” so you can guess where my thoughts have been!  🙂  I am still really hoping to go back sometime, but since I have left the timing in the Lord’s hands for Him to determine, I’m just learning to be patient and to pray.

And you know what?  I’m able through His strength to truly rest in Him, knowing that His timing is perfect!

I actually began the writing process for this post several months ago, hoping to publish it sometime soon thereafter.  However, for me, writing an article about Jamaica is not an easy or quick process, especially when I get lost in my thoughts and memories and journal entries and pictures, remembering the unique experiences with a smile on my face as the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings flow through my brain.  But I also just had to tack on some photos at the end!

If you read the first installment of this Jamaica series, you already know the basics – but if you haven’t read it or forgot (I don’t blame you…it’s been a while), go read it now, then come back to this. 🙂

I was originally casually invited to go to Jamaica in January of 2013, while Grace and I were in Guyana on a short-term mission trip.  I didn’t really consider it then, but when I got an email a month or two later inviting me again (Grace was invited, too, but she decided against going), I started seriously praying and thinking about going.  I had the choice between music camp with Grace or Jamaica by myself, and I knew that music camp would be more comfortable for me.  However, I didn’t really have the same passion for music that Grace did, so I was unsure of what to do.  I made a detailed pros and cons list for each option, and through this list, Mom & Dad’s input, and lots and lots of prayer, I reached the point at which I knew without a single doubt that God wanted me to go to Jamaica.

Honestly, I didn’t “want” to go to a third-world country by myself for two whole weeks.

I would be on a team of four, without anyone from my family or anyone even less than twice my age.  This didn’t excite my introverted, steady (read: shy and NOT change-loving) nature, but since I knew it was the Lord’s will, I obeyed.  The Lord blessed me in a big way by answering my prayer that I would feel excited about the trip, which was yet another encouragement that I was indeed doing the right thing.

So I made arrangements, packed my bags, and flew off to Jamaica!  I was recently reading through my journal entries about the trip, so amazing memories are floating through my head.  🙂  One of my favorite stories is from our last evening there.  Pastor Kerron Simmonds (the pastor of one of the holiness churches down there – he actually went to Union Bible College in Indiana for a few years) took Neena and I, along with his mom and aunt, to an expensive restaurant, Little Ochie, down at the southern tip of Jamaica.  It was a two-hour drive, and after a few stops, we finally got there around 8:00 PM.  The restaurant was directly on the beach, so we ate…..(drum roll)….seafood!  They stored the fish in deep freezers, and customers would pick out their fish and bring them to the cooks.  The sight and smell disgusted me, so I was thankful when Pastor Simmonds’ mom chose the fish, and even more grateful when they offered to cut the head off of mine before serving it!

I was apparently showing my apprehensive feeling toward the whole situation, and P. Simmonds decided to take advantage of it.  We were inside a dimly lit open-air building, with rock music blaring so loud my heart throbbed and a mixed smell of raw fish and salt water in the air.  He snuck up behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders, and shook me as he shouted in my ear.  I jumped and shrieked, and Pastor Kerron laughed SOOO hard at me (and for the rest of the night)…I think he had the time of his life just watching my face.  🙂  He also teased that I “didn’t want the fish looking at me” – which, of course, was true.

It was a really good fish, though!  Its unexpected deliciousness may have been partly due to my ravenous hunger (it was 9:00 at night..), but I’m pretty sure they told me that it was one of the best kinds of fish around, “jerk fish,” I think it was called.  The blaring rock music and the obvious impurity of some of the late-night restaurant-comers did quite a bit to dampen the mood, but it was an enjoyable and most certainly a memorable evening!

Little Ochie

We dubbed this the worst photo that we took down there, but this was taken after supper that night. 🙂

One night as I was journaling my adventures and thoughts, I realized that God brought me there to pray.  Anyone can pray, but we all know how much easier it is to pray when you have some specifics.  There are soooo many needs in Jamaica, and so few prayer warriors fighting for them!  I wrote down all the people and things that I noticed needs in – a list I still have and use, though sadly not as much as I should.

I miss Jamaica a lot, but I’m thankful that God knows what He’s doing and He knows what is best for me.  It’s a little ironic, actually, since my time in Jamaica was not at all luxurious, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it to the fullest, due to sickness, homesickness, out-of-my-comfort-zone assignments, and more.  But for some reason I feel like I left a bit of my heart there….perhaps with the children.

One thing I know – God brought me to Jamaica for a reason, and He taught me more in those two weeks than I could have learned at home in several months.  I am soooo thankful for the opportunity I had to go, and how gracious my team members were to a naive fifteen-year-old girl!

I appreciate you reading my heart through this extended article…but since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I figured I should silence my words for now and just save y’all some time by using pictures instead! 🙂

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Sister Street leading a Bible School song

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This was taken on July 4th – I even unintentionally wore red, white, and blue that day!  It’s unusual to be in a foreign country on the July 4th, though. 🙂

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Giving my testimony publicly for the first time at the 400-member primary school!

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Now THAT is a hairpin curve!

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Neena and I among some of the many photogenic kids at a school

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These two guys were characters.  🙂  Kevin is on the right and Nathaniel on the left.

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We made hundreds of balloon animals for the daycares!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks a lot for reading!  🙂

{John 14:27}