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I just finished another Anne Lamott book. Its her new one Help Thanks Wow. (This has been the year of Anne Lamott for me.) I got home last night after work and was Chatty Cathy with Gregg, rambling about what I had learned over my lunch break when I read her Thanks chapter. I thought I would relate more to her Help chapter, since I recently sent an email to my girlfriends asking for post-baby help. But it was Thanks that got me.
Thanks was different than I anticipated. She actually wrote a lot about looking out for the good when circumstances are not. She doesn’t write about being thankful for the hard or tragic circumstances, but about trusting God in the middle of them and searching for what you can be thankful for afterwards: what you learned, who was brought close to you, etc.
There’s a lot of sad going on right now. Even though its Christmas and its the season for joy and family and friends, but, along with the school shooting which the entire nation is mourning together, there have been a handful of tragedies closer to home. To be thankful for the tragedies doesn’t seem right. But, maybe her point is to recognize God in the middle of them and to know that good will come.
She also writes about thanks in action. The whole “to whom much has been given, much is required” thing. She says that this does not just apply to the Kennedys and the Romneys. I like that. Its us, we should give, even the smallest kinds of giving can mean a lot to the recipient.
Example. My grandmother is one of the most generous people that I know. This year for Christmas, she gave each of us grandkids a gift that was even bigger than her usual. To say thanks and Merry Christmas, I sent her some sweets and a scarf that I had knit (she’s a knitter, too). My mom said that she was overjoyed with the package, especially the scarf. She said she’s knit for other people her whole life (she’s 92), but no one’s ever knit anything for her. It was not a big deal for me to knit her a scarf with some white, lacey yarn that I had had around for awhile. It was almost silly to me that she was so excited, since, compared to her gifts to her 5 grandchildren (she also has 3 children and 8 great-grandchildren,) the scarf and candies were beyond miniscule. But, as small as it was, my thanks made a difference to her.
P.S. I’m getting really annoyed by the use of the phrase “a lot.” I’m open to substitutes if you have any suggestions.
I’ve been doing a Beth Moore bible study with some women in a Sunday school class at church.
That’s a phrase I would never have expected myself to say or type or write even a month ago. I’m way too advanced or post-modern or San Francisco-esque for Sunday school and Bible study. That thinking aside, its been very good for me.
But, Beth has been overwhelming with things I need to do. In her Simulcast, she talked about praying scripture over yourself to replace fear with truth. In her Living Beyond Yourself bible study, I’ve been studying scripture and connecting to God with my mind. I have not been here in years. And, then, on Sunday, in her video she added a new thing to do. Pour out your concerns to God, so He can pour into you, so you can pour forth to others. Yes! All good, I want to do all of it, but I’m overwhelmed. In the process, I’m creating a list of things to do so I can know I did I good job and feel good about how I’m spending my time. Now, I’m remembering why I stepped away from this To Do list for awhile. This is my old pattern of thinking. Adding to the To Do list and missing the point.
Just showing up, on the other hand, is where something happens. A change in me happens when I show up, especially when I show up when I don’t want to. Its in those times in particular that a shift or a change or a small voice happens.
I’d been racing through the Bible Study, getting it done, staying on top of it. Then, on Sunday, one of the girls said she hadn’t done any of it. A part of me said: “What?!? You didn’t finish your homework? I did! Aren’t we supposed to be accountable to each other. Its the first week and you haven’t done it!” Hmm…not where I want my thinking to go. And, with my head set on just finishing the Bible study, I was missing out, getting bored, drudging along, thinking “I’ve heard this all before.” But, when I stop and listen there’s something new and good to be learned.
Something clicked for me this weekend. My new friend Jen invited me to a Beth Moore Simulcast. Gregg was out of town, so I thought, what the heck? I might not have gone if Gregg hadn’t been out of town. I didn’t really want to go except to hang out with my new friend. Beth Moore is such an engaging speaker and gifted teacher, but I associate her with my high school self. I associate her with trying so hard to do a good job, get it right, other exhausting thoughts like that.
Well, I’m thankful that I put that aside, even if it wasn’t until after I was already seated in the auditorium listening to the encouraging words that she had for us. I didn’t expect to receive such a powerful message broadcast from another state and brought to us by internet and a projector. But she did a really good job of speaking to the women in her own auditorium, as well as to those of us that were listening from a distance.
During the simulcast, I started to ask God for a new mindset, a new mentality when going to spend time in prayer and with His word. For so long, I went to be with Him, my Bible, and my journal out of duty. I would sit with Him in the morning because it was the right thing to do, it was what I was supposed to do. I jumped from the good girl obligation to “I don’t feel like it, so I’m not going to.” Maybe, I’ll sit and be quiet, write, pray, draw, knit, read something besides the Bible. But, whenever I tried to read the word, I had the attitude of, I’ve heard this all before. Every bit of it. I’ve either read it before, tried to memorize it, been taught it in a youth group or in church or at a camp. This is how I’ve felt for the past six years.
During this time, I was put at ease by a progressive-thinking pastor in San Francisco. If something isn’t working for you, in your spiritual life right now, then don’t do it. For me, that was the Bible. It wasn’t working for me. Also during this time, my friend Natalie encouraged me to get the word in my head, to replace any untrue thinking I had with truth. But my know-it-all/now’s not the right time attitude stood in my way. But, this weekend, I felt like it was time for a change.
I hesitantly say, that a desire to read God’s word has returned to me. I’m sure I won’t always want to read, but, I found or was given a new mindset. Coming to God out of brokenness, instead of obligation. [And its a good brokeness, too. Not self-deprecating or guilt-ridden, but empty looking to be filled.] I want to come before God and read His word because I’m better off with it than without it. Something clicked yesterday.
Beth Moore talked about how she was transformed by scripture. Changed. She used to think one way, and, after being with God in prayer through the Bible’s words, something happened. Her internal thoughts were unrecognizable to herself. Yes please.
P.S. I’ve never posted a post like this before (I don’t think). Writing about faith can come across sounding cheesy sometimes, and I really don’t want that. But, this was a significant weekend for me that I wanted to share.
I think I’m changing, or maybe just getting older. Or both. Maybe its just that I finally have a job where I have to dress up and where professional clothes. I was talking to a lady that’s about 25 years older than me. She says that she keeps threatening to give up. As in, stop caring about what she looks like and just wear sweatpants and sweatshirts every day. When she said this, my response was that I have been wanting to take it up a notch. As in, I want to start dressing nice and caring about my appearance. Not in an obsessive way, but in an I feel good about myself way.
In college, I wore a t-shirt and denim skirt pretty much every day of the summer. I loved it. Then, after graduation and in Europe, I would layer tank tops and cotton tees on top of each other. This made for a different look without having to buy new clothes. (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.) I’m getting to the point where I want to wear clothes that I didn’t find on the street (yep, in San Francisco people unload their stuff on the street, and I loved rummaging through what they tossed out) or receive from a friend after they decided they didn’t like it any more. Seriously about 75% of my clothes were acquired in one of these two ways.
I’ve been reading this book off and on about living as royalty. The book explains that God is the king and we are His children and, therefore part of his kingdom. According to the author, we should live confidently, with the knowledge that we are royalty. There’s a quiz at the end of the book that evaluates how you live. Do you live like a princess or do you live like a pauper? One of the questions is “do you shop a discount stores and do you always look for bargains?” Answering “always” or “very often” put you in the pauper category. Hmm. What about being “a good steward” of God’s money? I guess from the author’s perspective, not shopping for expensive clothing and other nice items means that you view yourself as unworthy to have these types of things.
My mom and I both suffer from guilt (she calls it buyer’s remorse) after going shopping, so all of this over-thinking is part of the preparation for the big shop I’m about to have. I’m about to get my first paycheck since December. I’m going to spend it in on nice clothes for work. I’m not going to spend all of it. I’m going to buy these clothes and wear them, so that I don’t feel frumpy every day that I go to work. I’m growing up. Maybe I’ll eventually, I’ll actually feel like a professional princess. But, for now, I’ll just dress like one.