Having Gratitude, Even When Facing Adversity

Two years ago, I was fired for the first time ever in my 20 years of work history.  Things spiraled out of control.  I couldn’t find consistent full-time employed within my field.  I was unemployed for well over a year; moving from Springfield to Kansas City within that period of time in hopes that the bigger job market would pay off for me.  I had been in KC for almost seven months before I found a position within my field.  SIGH…..what a relief, finally.  To make the relief even better, about two weeks later, I was offered another position with a different company, a position that I definitely felt was a better fit, and finally got them to meet my salary requirements.  My bruised ego was feeling so much healing.  I was finally going to have a reliable, steady income and possibly be able to get ahead.

However, to reiterate, I was basically unemployed for more than a year.  I was terribly behind on every bill I had, had begged and borrowed from nearly anyone and everyone able and willing to help me out, I had even taken out a title loan on my little car (ridiculously stupid move on my part, but I was desperate).  The car quit working, overheated so badly that the office manager at my job came running out asking if I needed her to call the fire department.  I was forced to enter into a car note to have reliable transportation (which is the only way for me to get to work-no public transportation from here to there, and my job actually requires as part of my contract to have reliable transportation, as I transport clients frequently).

Ya’ll….I could continue into the depths of this dark pit, but I’m going to wrap this point up by saying, inevitably I had no choice but to sell the Jeep that I bought, the title loan place picked up the little overheating Kia, I was almost evicted, but somehow managed to scrape up enough to kinda sorta get caught up.  Every day that I come home, I wonder which of my utilities might be turned off.  I’ve had to visit the local food pantries to be able to feed myself and my son, and there have been way too many days that I pray that I have enough gas to make it home from work.  Luckily my ex is selling me his “lovely” 15-year-old car for payments.  The a.c. doesn’t work, the battery cable was loose (until I fixed that), the heat doesn’t work either, and he broke the keyless entry key fob, among several other minor issues.  It was genuinely humbling going from 1st my 2006 Kia, that everything worked on, until the overheating issue, then to a brand spanking new, picked out by me for myself Jeep, down to this hoopty.  It has been so easy to focus on all the negative, all the dark, all the depression and despair; focusing on the worry and fear and stress.  I forgot how to have a grateful heart.

Gratitude is something that I teach and constantly preach at work, and yet I had totally forgotten how to have gratitude myself while in the face of adversity.  God, never once told us only to be grateful while receiving blessings, or when things are good.  Yet, here I was walking around with so much darkness in my heart and within my spirit.  I mean, granted, it’s been the longest two years of my life for quite some time, but so what, God also never promised that life would ever be easy; he never promised that weapons wouldn’t form, but rather that they would not prosper against his children.

So, first things first, I had to remember to maintain my relationship with God.  It’s so easy to get angry and kind of snub him.  However, maintaining that relationship in and of itself helps to remind you that you are his child, he cares, he will provide, and have continued faith.  If you’re not a Christian, that’s ok, too.  Whatever religious or spiritual beliefs you hold near and dear, lean into those, increase your spirituality and your faith in your beliefs.   Secondly, I had to make a list of the many things, no matter how small, I had to be grateful for; being as specific here as possible is the absolute most important part to help cultivate gratitude in your heart.  So, listing not only WHAT you’re grateful for, but also the WHY.  In other words, I may say I am grateful for my son, or my daughter, but listing the many reasons why that helps build that graciousness within your spirit.

Practicing gratitude daily, with a gratitude journal, is an amazing way to cultivate gratitude, even in the face of conflict and challenges.  A simple journal would merely be to list 3-5 (or hey the more, the merrier) things you are grateful for that particular day and why.  There are also tons of planners and books for purchase online that are more guided, as well as several free templates.  I really like the one in the link below a lot, as it not only asks you to list what you’re grateful for, but also gives you space to put the challenges you’re currently facing, but focuses on the lessons you’re learning from those challenges.  It also has a place to list people in your life for whom you are grateful, and a 4th section that asks you to free write for at least 5 minutes about the best part of your day.  The only change I would personally make is to remember to list the why and try not to focus on material things to be grateful for, as, trust me, those can disappear at a moment’s notice.

 Gratitude is important to maintain at all times, not just when things are great, but despite the challenging times and when you experience adversity in life.  Focusing on the positive things in your life not only makes you feel more at ease and at peace but also creates more positive in your life.  I truly believe we get what we give.  Therefore, if you give the universe negativity, you will spiral out of control and dwell in that dark place.  However, if you focus on the positive, expel positive and seek positive, you will indeed find yourself basking in a universe full of positivity.  I hope and pray that each of you finds a way to cultivate gratitude in your own lives, focus on the positive, and truly live a positively blessed life.

Curvigurl

It Didn't Start as Abuse

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I wasn't going to say anything this year. I had told myself that part of healing was not sharing painful stories. However, I have also said that if my past helps even one person find the strength to escape, then it was worth it. I had two messages from people yesterday. Randomly asking advice about abuse. All last night I tossed and turned and thought of what to say to help. Truth is I don't know. Each situation is different. But I do know that God gives each of us a mountain. And sometimes it is to show others it can be moved. 

I can tell you it didn't start as abuse. It started as a friend. A friend in need. A friend who didn't seem to have anyone else and who listened to my problems. A friend who made me feel wanted loved, and above all of that needed. It started with a guy who was fun, made me laugh, and made me feel special. Little by little, it started changing. Looking back, of course, I see the red flags now, but at the time I would write them off. He was having a bad day, he got mad easy because he felt alone and I was all he had, he didn't want me to be with my friends because he only had me. He needed me. He got angry and yelled then apologized and said the sweetest things. Yes, it hurt but hey. When you love someone, you are supposed to stay with them and help them right? And even in the emotional turmoil I never once thought he would hurt me. I have never been more wrong in my entire life. 

For 4 years I dealt with the emotional. Draining myself of everything I was. Never feeling happy or good enough. Always feeling drained and like my entire life was looking over my shoulder watching and waiting for the next blow up. He hit the wall, but he didn't hit me. He hit the car and broke the side mirror, but he didn't hit me. He even hit himself, but he didn't hit me. He needed me to not have my friends and family. She needed me to be home and always be available. So I stayed. I was needed. You stay with those you love. So I stayed. 

I can't tell you where your story will end up. I have heard all the excuses of "he won't do that" because I used them myself. I know where mine ended up. I ended up under a Christmas tree being trapped under his drunken angry and demanding self. He raped me while I stared up at a Baby Jesus ornament. He raped me while our kids were right down the hall sleeping peacefully on Christmas Eve night awaiting Santa the next morning. He raped me. That's where my story ended up. And he was so drunk that the next morning he didn't remember any of it. Woke up happy and smiling. After all, it was Christmas. 

My story ended with a 9 mm pistol to my forehead watching his finger on the trigger and the look in his eyes. That's when I was able to gather a small portion of strength and leave. 

No, I can't give you an answer as to what to your monster is going to do. But he will get worse. You deserve more than that. You are better than that. You do not have to stay because you love someone. You never have to sacrifice yourself like that for true love. I can tell you it is going to get much much worse so please leave. I will help you do that. I will listen. And you don't deserve that life. 

I looked at this tree this morning and just stood in awe at how far I have come. Yes, this time of year is still very very hard, but the sign hanging beside the tree is what got my attention most. 

"God can restore that which is broken and make it amazing. All you need is faith." 

God has certainly done that for me and he can for you too.

By Christina

Filling the Gap

I recently heard a message that encouraged listeners to think about the bravest prayer they could pray. As I thought hard I was humbled as I realized how little I step out into brave prayers. Maybe it’s the fear God won’t answer, or we feel our needs are met or maybe we won’t like the answer. After being encouraged by a recent Facebook post a girl shared how as singles we should pray for God to fill the void of a spouse in our hearts with himself, this caused me to think about my bravest prayer.

I often pray that God would send that person into my life that would one day be my spouse, not because I need someone to make me happy or help take care of me. God is my fulfillment and is doing a wonderful job taking care of me all on his own. I am actually quite happy being single, but rather that I might be able to have a partner to do life with. So, with that I developed my bravest prayer “Lord, I am not asking to you send me a person any longer, but rather you would completely fill the gap of that person not being in my life in every way.” My plan for God was that he would take away every desire and thought and leave me with perfect peace. Notice the “my plan” statement and how foolish that must sound to God. Praying prayers with my own small intentions to an infinite God.

This prayer only brought frustration for me, as I struggled with my own human nature. I cried out to God asking him why he wouldn’t just take away the desire, like he did for this other girl! In my plea for an answer, I was shook by the very reason I was afraid to pray my bravest prayer. I didn’t like the answer. I knew in that moment for me it would be different, the gap wouldn’t be filled like I hoped. He wouldn’t take away the desire for a partner and every thought of one until that person arrived.  For me he would leave the void, causing me to continually go to him as my source. God is a good Father and a loving God, but he is jealous for time with us. I was asking him to take away something that was allowing him to comfort me, love me and protect me through the process.

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So many times, throughout my life I have asked him to take away the hard things, heal my brokenness and fill the void. But as my awareness of God grows, so does my awareness of my own inadequacies. These moments have all brought me closer to him. Every emotion of pain has strengthened our relationship, closing the gaps in my life. I envision myself standing with my own brokenness and faults before a loving God, as his Son fills the gap between us. All perfectly united and because the gap is filled He accepts me and calls me sanctified.

My bravest prayer might seem insignificant and there are times I wished I lived a more fascinating life so my prayers could be bolder, but this is the season I am in. My prayer wasn’t answered how I hoped. But I received something better. A message straight from the Father that he values his time with me. He loves when I come to him for help. He is my partner and provider. He is The Gap. So, don’t be afraid to pray your bravest prayer. He loves you more than you could ever know. And even his no’s are beautifully crafted to bring us closer to him.  

Daisy