Monday, June 29, 2015

Week Two - Mud or Stars?

Thanks for continuing on this journey of contentment and calming my anxious heart with me. Once again, if you're looking for a crafty post, this is not it. Unless you count working on myself as a craft, which it definitely is. Learning to be content and not anxious is a process and one that I believe I fail at most days. I strongly urge anyone who has problems with being anxious or lack of contentment, read this book! If you have a Kindle, it's only about $10. You spend more than that out to eat! If you do not have a kindle, you can order it online for roughly the same cost. Anyway, enough free publicity...let's move onto what I've learned this week.

When we categorize the circumstances in our life, they fit into two categories, "positive" and "negative." What list do we spend most of our time dwelling over? In the book, this example is used

"Two women looked through prison bars, one saw mud and the other saw stars."

Wow, how important our perspective is for our lives and circumstances. What do we choose to focus on, the mud or the stars by lifting our eyes? To me, this was such a powerful metaphor. How often am I, personally, looking down at the mud and not lifting my eyes to see the stars? How often do we go about our daily lives thinking about what's next or what if's when we should be focusing on the then and now.

This chapter in the book was learning to be content with our circumstances. We all have bad things that happen in our lives. How we respond to them can really make an impact on others. I have had my fair share of tragedies and storms in my life, just as everyone has, but rather than focusing on the pain, I pray that my circumstances will allow me to focus on God even more. I want the pain to not be wasted, as mentioned in the chapter, but I want it to be used to draw me closer to God and to allow me to help others who have or will go through similar storms in their lives.

The main thing I took away from this week's study was that learning to be content is not only a heart choice but it is a process, something that takes practice. Practicing a skill is not always easy, think of any sport, activity, etc. you've learned over the years, they didn't always come easy (at least not for me). We have to make a conscious effort to pray rather than be anxious. I do not know about you but for me, this is hard work. As mentioned in last week's post, I am a control freak. I admit it and I am not good at letting go. I am working on this daily and to some degree, I have improved (well, some days are easier than others...). I want to learn to pray about the problem rather than worrying about the problem. Why waste my time and energy worrying about something I have no control over? Worrying leads to complaining, something else that is an undesirable characteristic trait.

In Philippians 4:7, God promises to us that if we pray to Him when anxious or worried, He'll grant us peace.  Well, for me that is awesome for the two minutes after I pray right before I start obsessing again. This happen to anyone else? I pray, feel relieved, then I worry again. However, this does not mean God is not doing His part. It means I am relinquishing on my end of the bargain, you know, the part where I'm not suppose to worry?!? Yeah, totally failed that two minutes after my prayer and conscious efforts. However, this book gives a clear example of this happening to the author too. I am telling you, it is like I wrote this book with all of the examples she provided. The author explains that when this continues to happen to her (which it always seems to happen at night, do you notice that too?), she will pray again, then if she is still worrying a few minutes later, she gets out of bed and makes a list of everything she is thankful for and dwells on the positives, then she is ready for bed. My prayer is I remember to do this tonight when I inevitably cannot sleep because I am worried about 100x things.

While studying this week, I was reading the verses suggested in the book but then I must have transposed a number or God really wanted me to read a specific verse because I read this and felt it fit right in:

Romans 12:12 "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."

As I am reading this post, I realize the majority of it is a jumbled mess. Sometimes I wish I could be more eloquent with the words I wish to get out of my mind but my fingers appear to type faster than my brain can formulate what I want to say. I'm not going to change it, I feel it is more real this way.

This week, I'll continue my journey to contentment and I'll try to leave behind my anxious heart. I know I'll fail daily, but thankfully, I have a God who will help pick me back up and forgive me. I'm going to practice shifting my attitude rather than trying to change every negative circumstance in my life. I am going to practice these four things that Paul suggests in Philippians 4:6-8

1. Choose to give my anxieties to God
2. Choose to pray specifically
3. Choose to be thankful
4. Choose to dwell on the positive

My question for you, as it is for myself, are you going to see mud or stars?

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