“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” (N.D. Walsch)

Today I am learning to focus first, and most importantly, on my many blessings in this life, and to express my gratitude to God. The image above is the actual style of the Gratitude Journal I am using ( you can get it from http://www.maydesigns.com/m/gratitude) and I really love it. It is simple, colorful, and is for 40 days…the perfect Lenten tool.  If you are thinking of journaling at all, please check them out. They have all sorts of simple, and so pretty, journal ideas and styles. They were inexpensive and I love how you can customize your designs (inside/outside/monogram, etc). I get nothing for recommending them; a friend recommended them to me and I am so happy with the product I received, I thought I would share them with my readers. (It is an integral part of the Lenten study I am participating in with http://www.orthodoxmom.com). These journals will become, for me, a legacy of my journey this Lent, and each year that I can participate in this. What a blessing this has become for me! If you wish to, you can join us!! Lent is not over, yet!

As I progress through my journaling, most especially my “gratitude” journal, I am brought up short again and again at how disfigured my thinking has been. Disordered. The priorities so very skewed. I keep thinking about all the things that weigh me down. There are many – we all have them! Sometimes we cannot sleep because we worry so very much. Or if we do sleep, we don’t sleep well or deeply. We do not sleep to where we awake restored, or refreshed, bounding out of bed and ready to conquer this day.

My husband is an engineer. His specific training is mechanical, although he works as an energy engineer. When he is faced with a problem, especially something to do with his work or job, he does not stop thinking about it until he solves it. This can take days or weeks. And at times, I can tell he is not really “present,” but is working on his issue. He’s woken in the night with a solution once or twice. Over the past 32+ years of being with him, I am in awe about how dogged he is in seeking a solution for issues. But sometimes his mind works against him, in that he cannot “let it go” in order to rest. He will approach any problem this way! Even how we were going to construct our raised bed gardens last Spring kept him from sleeping well! Some of us just cannot rest until we have the answers we seek. But I am learning and discovering a better way.

Now that I am doing a directed Lenten study program, and I am slowly walking through the Psalms and the Scriptures in light of Lent, I am seeing how much there is to be grateful for. There is always, always, something we can be thankful for, even in the midst of turmoil. The problem with me is that I have been putting the problem, the issues, before everything else. I haven’t been able to see all the blessings, because the troubles have blocked my vision; my heart. And it has left me depressed and not aware of the glory that surrounds me in the simplicity of my days.

It is hard to explain how much peace I am finding as I journal my gratitude, my desires, and read the Psalms and Scriptures. Sometimes I cannot see how they are related, but when I step back and ponder the readings, things start to click. Today I read, “Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there. But the poor will possess the land; will delight in great prosperity.” (Psalm 37:10-11) and then I read, “Better the poverty of the just than the great wealth of the wicked.” (Psalm 37:16)  And then, “The mouths of the just utter wisdom; their tongues speak what is right. God’s teaching is in their hearts; their steps do not falter (Psalm 37:30-31).  And one more that said, “Observe the honest, mark the upright; those at peace with God have a future, but all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37: 37-38).

I think God is letting me know through the Psalmists that I am to struggle to find the right path; the path that God destined for me. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) God blesses us as we work towards Him and His plan for our lives. And I truly believe that we can alter how we approach this working out of our salvation; that we can grow and become more than we currently are.

What I think I have been doing wrong, is that I have been so concerned with keeping the rule of the fast in the past, of being holier than I am the rest of the year, of making sure I attended all the right celebrations and prayers at Church, that I was missing all the blessings I received from God through my fasting and prayers! By looking to my gratitude first, I can plainly see the blessings I have, and continually pray for the things that I feel I need to pray for, and about. But when you put gratitude first, your prayers, your days, and your nights, become very different.

And my prayer for this Lenten journey I am on is to continue to seek the positive in my life and to be grateful, first. To seek God and His blessings on my life, and to rest in His promises. And my prayer is that each of you who reads this will discover that gratitude can lead us to a much happier, and closer, walk with God…during Lent and each day of our lives. Think of all the wonderful blessings the Lord is showering down upon each of us, this very day. Each day we can rest in the many blessings from God, and each day we can work on lessening the concerns and the fears, trusting in God alone. I am praying for a better night’s sleep for everyone. And every day when we rise, refreshed from our night of peace and rest, may our day be a better day, where we are accomplishing the things that are laid before us, in a spirit of Gratitude. So thankful!

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“God had planned something better for us” Hebrews 11:40

Orthordox Church.interiorThere is a synergy at work in the world, and sometimes I just marvel at it.  There are times when meeting new people, or just hanging with people you know, that some other odd connection pops up.  It makes the world seem smaller, and less daunting, somehow.

I saw a posting on Facebook today where all these people were opining and it was so fun to see disparate people, who I know do not know one another, chat and yet, I know both of them.  It was pretty neat because they live on opposite sides of the country, and still found common ground, and I was able to witness that.  I had nothing to do with it, either, I just happened upon it.  I think that is so awesome.

I was reading about some guy on a reality show tweeting something that people found offensive.  He made a couple of statements about how the “US is a great place to live, but you need to know there is a lot more out there.”  And with all that is going on in Ukraine, with Russia, and our part in Afghanistan, with Britain giving its input, and stories out of South America, stories of things happening in Africa, it does seem like the world is smaller these days.  When my kids were traveling from Hawaii back to Alaska, we were talking about the long flight (with a 4-month old and 2-year old, and a husband on crutches, it was LONG) between the two places.  But imagine going on “vacation” where you had to travel by boat?  From Alaska to Hawaii?  Days and weeks, not hours.  When my parents immigrated to the USA, they came via steamer from New Zealand.  It took weeks and weeks. And I remember as a child, we had to schedule, in advance, a phone call with my grandparents in New Zealand, to talk on Christmas Day, from California.  There was only one cable linking the two places, and phone calls were very limited.  We only spoke briefly, and rarely, to my grandparents.  They received some news, fashion, and the latest technology usually a year or two behind us.  We were separated by an ocean.  Much the same was happening to my husband’s family still living in Russia, and with his family here. The only conversation allowed was by letter, and that was spotty, at best.  Technology has changed all of that.  We are now smaller, and closer, and more quickly connected than ever before.

Wireless CommunicationI’m not, technically, Orthodox, although we call ourselves, “Orthodox In Communion With Rome,” but I had to share that photo!  There has been all sorts of communication going on, otherworldly, and worldly, for thousands of years.  And every once in awhile, God allows us a little glimpse of His handiwork.  And today, seeing disparate friends communicate through Facebook, neither knowing that either of them knows me, was a peek of how awesome Our God truly is.  He gave me a little smile, caused by a little glimpse into how He is working, constantly, in our lives, even when we don’t have the hard and fast physical evidence in front of us to “prove it.”

We are now completing our first full week of Lent.  And God continues to move across His landscape.  I’ve seen some amazing sunrises lately, and I’ve seen some beautiful sites in our little world up here.  I’ve gazed into the face of my adorable grand daughter, and seen a priceless smile as she gains my eyes and recognizes me.  My grandson’s unfiltered laughter just makes my heart sing.  Watching my granddaughter on a video on my phone (she lives far away) smiling and laughing into a toy phone (that’s my girl!!).  These are precious moments captured for me, that show the goodness we have in our lives…and the overabundance of Grace working in them.  There is so much to be grateful for, and difficulty (all on our side) of receiving that gift from God seems ridiculously easy…just faith in God.  So simple. So uncomplicated.  And yet we buck conformity to religion all the time.  God left us His will in His Apostles, and His Tradition was exercised in His Church for 100s of years before we even had a Bible.  We trust in all of it because trust is part of believing.  The Book of Hebrews, chapter 11, talks about the faith: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) It goes on and on, telling us what we believe is based on faith and trust in God.  So many examples from Abel and Abraham, to Isaac and Moses – the faith we were given goes back 1000s of years, to the beginning of time, itself.

In her wisdom, the Church has asked us to focus these 40 days on our faith.  Today I saw that faith revealed in such simple ways.  It is amazing what you see when you take the time to focus.

Blessings on our continued Lenten journey….

Easter Bunny....