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Auto-Pilot OptimismSo many times recently, I’ve found myself railing against something. Standing in opposition. Fed up with the ways of the world. Shouting at the anchor on the evening news, “How can these things happen?” as if the stiff guy in a grey suit actually controls the events of our day.

I felt I was reaching a threshold of sorts. A dear friend passed away over the weekend. I had to stop taking a medication that was bolstering my health. The things going on in the political arena have been infuriating.

Bad things happen in life. That’s just a fact. But wonderful, positive, uplifting things are going on at the same time. I decided not just to count my blessings, but to let them know, personally, that I appreciate them.

Tapping my son on the shoulder, I exclaimed, “Blessing!” Cole just nodded, smiled, and went back to his video game. He’s grown accustomed to his mother’s quirks by now.

Following the cat in his stealthy tracks down the hallway, I said, “Blessing!” In standard feline operating procedure, KitKat slow-blinked in my general direction and continued his meandering mosey.

Sometimes, though, it seems it’s hard to find the silver lining.

Garry Marshall passed away recently. He produced one of my favorite sitcoms, the Odd Couple. He also seemed to be a down-to-earth, likeable guy, and it saddened me to hear of his passing.

But soon, I was watching old reruns of his shows, and I felt blessed again. Sorry for the loss, but grateful for the legacy of blessings he left behind.

“It’s nice to be important,” Marshall once said. “It’s more important to be nice.”

So, at least for today, I’m on Auto-Pilot Optimism, and I’ve got only two modes: To Be Blessed, and To Be a Blessing.

And, to you, dear reader, I’ve got just one thing to say: Blessing!

Most mornings, I’ll fix myself a nice, piping-hot cup of coffee, but today, I poured myself a tall glass of Whine. I was out of coffee pods, and wouldn’t be able to have my coffee. Well, how do you like that?!? I said to no one. I promoted myself to head of the Complaint Department and huffed for a minute. What a bummer! Now I can’t start my day right!

Luckily, I realized the whole little drama was self-induced, and quite ridiculous. It only lasted a few seconds, really, and – thankfully – no one was there to witness it or post it on YouTube.

In a way, what I was doing was Stressing over Blessings. Here I am, in a house in the suburbs, standing in the kitchen next to a refrigerator filled with food. Still have my leftover lemon garlic chicken from the crock pot last night. It was awesome, if I do say so myself. We’ve got running water, beds to sleep in, computers and TVs to keep us entertained. What is there, really, to complain about?

Maybe there was Someone there to witness it, and that’s how I came back to my senses. Never underestimate the power of providence. Keeping the lines open to Heaven with perpetual prayer is more than keeping your karma clean. It’s the connection that brings you back to yourself, to your senses, to the good life of blessings. Because your “yes life” is always there until you start focusing on small slights and you say “no” to it.

Last week, there was minor outrage over a wheelchair-bound contestant on The Price is Right winning a treadmill, which she couldn’t use. But the winner herself really was a winner. She had a great attitude and said she’d just use it as everyone else did – as a clothes rack.

So in life, when stuff happens, don’t take it personally. It’s just the luck of the draw. It’s not God, removing his favor from your life. It’s not a black cloud or a voodoo doll, or a gremlin bursting your bubble. It’s just a moment, and it too, shall pass. As a character on The West Wing once said, sometimes, there’s no victims; only volunteers. Now that’s a tour of duty you don’t want to sign up for!

2007-07-30 04.03.50

Last night as I slept, some random driver ran over my mailbox. They didn’t stick around to apologize or offer to replace it. As you can imagine, I started my day in a bit of a tiff.

It was just one more thing that stuck in my craw as my week got underway. Last week, I found out my car had been recalled.

It will be at the shop for some time, possibly a month. “Do you know there are three recalls on this car?” The mechanic asked me. I almost said, “Just my luck,” but, fortunately, caught myself just in time.

I remind myself every single day that I’m blessed. My luck, by and large, has been good. You might say, but you have health issues and, like many people, you’re not rich. How is your luck good?

I’m lucky because I live in America. When I read that women in some countries have no rights, and may not even leave the house without being accompanied by a man, I can’t even fathom such a life.

I’m lucky because I can speak my mind. When I read that peaceful protests over the lack of a government investigation into the coal mine disaster in Turkey were met with tear gas, I was utterly dismayed.

I’m lucky because I can practice my faith. When I read about the Christian woman in Africa recently sentenced to death, I was beside myself with outrage.

I began to realize that most people in the world would consider having such problems as a broken mailbox insignificant, and I got my attitude back on track. Getting over those bumps in the road is really a matter of trust, when you get right down to it.

The other day, I saw a sign on my neighbor’s lawn that said, “No Trust Passing.” I was amused by the misspelling, but I realized it was oddly appropriate. After all, if you don’t pass the “trust test” you should not be allowed to enter into our lives.

Even though we all face challenges, the best way to tough them out is to lean on the faith we hold dear. The only One who always passes the Trust Test is the God we can count on, whatever may come.

“Count your blessings.”

We tell our kids to do it when they complain about all the wondrous things every other child on the planet already has. We tell our spouses to do it. And maybe even our friends, but how many of us have ever actually done it?

I can’t say that I’ve done it, as in past tense, but I am doing it and will continue to do it throughout 2012. Why? Because I took the challenge issued by Ann Voskamp on her blog, A Holy Experience.

Voskamp is a pro at spotting the joys in every day life, from the bench where she keeps her prayer journal to watching her husband plant a field. But finding her own gifts from God isn’t enough, she wants us to find ours too. Thus the challenge.

My grandmother's hymnal (ca. 1940)

Each month Voskamp posts a handout listing the gifts that you need to capture. I started out listing mine in my prayer journal. So far I’ve included:

  • seeing a hawk
  • the rocker where I sit and knit
  • ham beans and corn bread (comfort food)
  • my grandmother’s Cote Brilliant hymnal
  • the lights friends made us for Christmas
  • the scarf pattern in the book my husband bought me

What prompts could bring such varied answers? Voskamp covers the bases but the prompts that led to the above were a gift outside/inside/on a plate and 3 gifts (old/new/blue). That said, I’m only on prompt seven which I plan to finish after writing this post.

Not only does Voskamp have me counting my blessings more consciously than ever before, she has me looking at the small, the temporary, things that are magnificent in that they are so every day and so very, very real.

Why not start counting your own blessings. List several in your prayer journal each day. You can find Voskamp’s January prompts here on Flickr. Do this and you’ll find that your life is full of more joy than you can hold in two upturned hands.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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