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This morning, I found myself thinking of the things in need of repair in my house. Clogged sink. Broken fence. Electrical issues. That led me to ponder all the things I’ve yet to accomplish in my life.

It occurred to me that dwelling on things I don’t have is counterproductive. The weight of absence and lack takes up space in your soul, leaving no room for good things yet to come. And those you already have.

Counting your current blessings is recruitment for future blessings.

My favorite popcorn movies were on t.v. today. The Day After Tomorrow, followed by Kate and Leopold. These might seem like small things to count as blessings, but they came at the exact moment they were needed.

Every problem can be broken down into two parts: The burden and the blessing.

It’s bitterly cold outside. That’s the burden. We’re inside with the heat on, wearing comfy sweaters. That’s the blessing.

There are things in need of repair in my house. That’s the burden. They’re not so urgent that we can’t wait to get them fixed. That’s the blessing.

One of my pairs of shoes has worn down and they have no arch support. That’s the burden. But as I said, one of my pairs of shoes… I have other shoes. That’s the blessing.

Every problem in life contains those two parts. The burden and the blessing. Sometimes shifting focus toward the good in life is just a matter of degree.

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Did you ever find yourself in a snit about little things that seem to accumulate?

I had medical appointments and procedures over the last couple of weeks (everything’s fine) but got behind on reading blog updates, emails, etc. My schedule was thrown off and getting out of my usual routine really got under my skin.

You look at the salt shaker on the counter and think, Why is this here? It belongs in the cabinet! Stupid, small things become monumental.

Why is it overcast today? Just to annoy me? You start to think that everyone is doing things just to get on your nerves.

It becomes an almost tangible roadblock that can lead to a kind of spiritual gridlock.

You start to think everything’s out of whack, when really, it’s just a matter of pruning. Taking stock of what’s most pressing, and tending to the roots.

This is what matters most in life: faith, family, friends. Praying, staying in a peaceful state of mind, taking care of yourself. The rest is really just logistics. 

We spend so much time making sure all our ducks are in a row that we forget to feed the ducks! Don’t neglect to do the very things that would smoothe out those edges:

  • Pat your pets
  • Look at the sunset
  • Re-read a favorite book
  • Listen to music
  • Relax in a comfy chair
  • Read uplifting passages from Psalms
  • Wear a comfy sweater, even if it has a hole in it

Don’t throw out the sweater because it’s got a little imperfection. Sew it up, if you know how, or just toss on a scarf. Who’s going to know? Keep the comforts close at hand, so when it feels like life is getting out of control, you remember: there’s always tomorrow.

Count your blessings. Life is good.

Yeah, I realize that this post has more clichés per capita than a basket full of fortune cookies, 😊 but this is the gospel truth: God’s got your back.

Ride it out, and next thing you know, the sun is back up again. And lo and behold! All is well.

misty-rose

“That, plus a token…”

You don’t even need to finish the phrase. It’s clear: whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying, pal.

Now, with tokens phased out, the saying just isn’t quite as catchy.

“That, plus a metro card…” Oof. Kinda clunky.

Old sayings change.

Old ways sometimes need updating.

At the bank, I overheard a man say, “This is my funeral suit. Told my wife this is the outfit I want to be buried in!” Everyone laughed, but I wondered why he’d even be on that wavelength.

Never say this: ”If I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all!”

In truth, you actually have good luck. I call it Providence, but (I’ll update a few old sayings) – you say sweet potato, I say yam.

Just like watching the nightly news – if you judge the world by the headlines, you’d think it’s all going to Hades in a shopping cart! Those acts you hear about on the news are not the norm. That’s why they’re news!

Most people are doing the right thing. We all want harmony in the neighborhood and peace in the world. But…

It only takes one Granny Smith to sour the entire assortment! (Meh. That one needs work.)

It’s the bad apples that get the coverage. God’s still in charge. Not the gangs or the cartels or the syndicates. It really is a family of man. We are all related.

So I say this to you: Befriend your blessings. Don’t just count them. Marinate in them. Meditate on them. It’s the story you tell as you live your own life that seeps into your psyche. It either shores you up or drags you down. Just as you’d encourage a child with praise, it’s important to nurture your own soul by focusing on your blessings.

Forget the school of hard knocks. Matriculate in the University of the Universe’s Favor.

Grace is gentle, like a soft rain misting a rose. Let it fall on you like, well, Babka from Paradise! 🙂 Okay, you’re right, bubbe – the original is still the best choice. Like Manna from Heaven!

The other day, my laptop stopped working. It had no power at all; just a black screen and silence. At the computer repair shop, the technician took out the battery, plugged in the cord and pressed the power button for several seconds. It turned on and I nearly fainted with relief.

He explained that, rarely, a computer may reach a point where there is so much energy being used that it just calls it a day.  It shuts down and leaves town.

Oddly enough, on the day before my laptop died, I had my own it’s-all-too-much moment. Things started to weigh on my spirit and I had quite a cry. Later, I realized that I had been thinking of negative things, some of which had happened years ago.

It was like taking a virtual tour of old, bad neighborhoods that don’t even exist anymore. Like walking through the remains of a factory that makes obsolete things, like Square Wheels, or Maps for Men. (Just kidding, males of the species! Nothing but love for ya.☺)

There really is no benefit in re-hashing things that were unfair, wrong, or hurtful. The people who did those evil deeds will have to answer for their own bad behavior, but you have the right to let go of what’s wrong. In fact, you have an obligation to your own soul to release what doesn’t serve you. Staying locked into that one location in time is like saying, I don’t want to move forward. I don’t want to feel good. I don’t want to live well.

Focusing attention on what you don’t want means you’re not scanning the horizon for blessings already headed your way. It means you might miss the good life that wants to find you, because the bad life of the past has filled the parking spaces earmarked for joy, warmth, and camaraderie.

It may be time to hit “refresh.” Visualize your life, exactly as you want it to be, in living color. Think of it as a palate-cleanser for the soul.

You’ll find that this choice comes in some form every day:

□Lightness/levity

□Darkness/despair

Do you know what happens to misery when you finally decide to obsess less and say yes to what will bless? In no time at all, it has join Elvis, who – as you know – has left the building. Yep, it shuts down and leaves town.

2007-07-06 16.27.44

Suddenly in the middle of the kitchen, there was a speedbump. I hadn’t put it there, mind you; it was in the shape of a perfectly life-like feline, sitting serenely as I prepared my coffee. It was my cat, looking at me, waiting for some scrap of sustenance in a dog-eat-dog world!

I hadn’t expected KitKat to be there, and was really startled.

“Oh!” I said. KitKat’s mouth formed an “O” as well.

My eyes got wide. KitKat’s eyes opened to maximum capacity. Like two big moon pies.

I pulled my head back in reflex. KitKat’s ears went all flat. Like Napoleon’s hat.

Then it occurred to me. He was reacting to my energy.

“Oh, it’s only you,” I said, nodding reassuringly, and went back to preparing my coffee. KitKat went back to his normal, Trying to Give a Heck facial setting, and moseyed over to his bowl to scout the offerings. Later, he’d stretch across the couch by the window, scoping out upstart squirrels and tracking the flight patterns of rogue birds. You know, his day job.

So much of life is about energy, isn’t it?

Last month, I tried to put a bell on KitKat so I wouldn’t be surprised by his sudden cameo appearances, but the ringing drove him crazy. Not just his ears, but his whole energy flattened. He ran around the house low to the ground, tail tucked, trying to escape the infernal noise.

You can see – and feel – energy interactions everywhere you go.

Once at a drug store, the pharmacist had apparently gotten into a heated argument with a customer. My son and I were joking around as we walked down the aisle, into this moment of friction. The customer turned his head abruptly and glared, thinking that we were laughing at him. He realized that we were just talking to each other and turned back to shoot daggers with his eyes at the pharmacist.

Energy is also malleable. At times, even fluid.

Last week, I got a package in the mail. KitKat sat nearby, on his default setting: bored/nothing-to-see-here-keep-it-moving. I tossed the box aside and in a flash, KitKat had climbed in and curled up contentedly, forming a furry ball. This is the life! his energy said, as he settled in, purring, for a nice afternoon nap. To some, it might seem like a standard-issue box. But if you read the energy meter right, you’ll see it’s really a cat-condo filled with creature comforts. Not bad for a former street-cat!

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.

“Please let her have an easy rest-of-the-day,” I said.

Someone in my life who’s been an encourager and a real resource for me and my son was having a hectic day, so I said a silent prayer for her.

I paused in my prayer as I realized… wait a minute… she wouldn’t want that!

Not that she doesn’t want an easy day, it’s just that she’s not daunted by a hard day or a challenge. Her job is actually to problem-solve, and she does it with great aplomb. Nah, this lady loves a project.  She’s a can-do girl; she loves to get her hands on a thing that needs to be accomplished and just, well, get-r-done.  She’s a DIY sort; her idea of a relaxing vacation is tearing out the kitchen floor and doing some demo.

“Let me amend that prayer…Please give her a good rest-of-the-day,” I said to God.

When I talk to this can-do girl, I feel like she’s fully listening to me and completely on my side.  So I decided to pray that everyone she encountered would be on the same wavelength: reasonable, compassionate, and open-hearted. And that whatever situation arose, all the players would be working toward the same goal.  Now, this might not be as potent as asking God to give her a miracle or a million dollars, but I think the net effect for this can-do girl will be the same:  a good life with a sense of purpose and a feeling of community.

After all, just because a day has challenges doesn’t mean it’s not a good day. Most of the time, we handle large issues and keep on moving, but what really adds a nice vibe to a day are the small moments.  I decided to pray for unexpected interactions that lift us up or lighten our load today:

  • A fascinating project to get your hands on and keep your mind percolating.
  • A windfall of warmth so that everyone you meet today is in a wonderful mood.
  • An interesting (and respectful) philosophical discussion with strangers at the bus stop.
  • Having your bangs fall into the right place in the morning without power tools and plastered-on product.
  • A day with a “just because” friendship card in the mailbox (and not one bill or piece of junk mail.)
  • The best milkshake of your life – so thick you can stand a straw in it.
  • Pleasures – not problems – that come in threes.
  • A fluffy dog on the couch, waiting for you to pat her head.

A day filled with bona fide blessings isn’t necessarily one that’s problem-free.  It’s one you can meet where you are with prayer and persistence, secure in the knowledge that you’ll be provided with what you need to create a meaningful, marvelous life.

May you all have a good rest-of-the-day!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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