I took the month of August off from blogging as I got settled. It was busy and filled with change but God has done a ton already. In a short time, He connected me with wonderful people at a great church, provided a job for me right here on campus, and now classes have begun. It has certainly been an adjustment. I know there is much to learn - about my schedule, my classes, my job, myself. GOD. But it’s a good adjustment and I am so aware of God's grace in this transition. It is evident and I experience it daily.
I am grateful that the ups, downs, and heartaches of years past have taught me how to rely on the Lord, to look for and grab hold of His sufficient grace, and to pray specifically and expectantly. Don't get me wrong. I have not arrived and I'm far from having it all together. God knows there is much, MUCH more for me to learn. But I am so grateful for all that He has taught me leading up to this moment because it prepared me for all I'm walking into. As I look back, I see how every season has been a stepping stone to where I am today. I am grateful for how the Lord has orchestrated everything to bring me to this new season.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
Gratitude is powerful. I'm learning that more and more each day. But a thankful heart doesn't just appear out of nowhere. It's taken great intentionality on my part. It's easy for me to focus on what I don't have, the circumstances that are less than favorable, the unanswered prayers, the challenges. Yes, life is hard and trials are inevitable. And it's not that we're to ignore or suppress the difficulties. We're not. I know the affects of both and it never ends well. Ignorance is not bliss.
As believers, we know we are to pray. Jesus paid the price for us to spend eternity with Him but also for us to have access to His throne of grace. We know we are to go before the Lord. But how we pray is crucial. While we can and should be honest with God about how we feel - the good, the bad, and the ugly - the Bible still tells us to present our requests to God with thanksgiving in every situation. Every mountain, every valley, and every moment of every day. God knew what He was doing when He included every in the Scriptures. If not, I would've found an out. But every means every.
I knew before I got here that it would be a faith adventure. And, truth be told, I wanted it that way. Faith pleases God and that's how He gets the glory. But it's never an easy road from point A to point B. In my life, it's most often been like a big squiggly line through tough terrain. But even with all the unknowns (and the stuff I do know and don't particularly like), in this season, I purposed in my heart to present my requests to the Lord with thanksgiving. More specifically, since I arrived in this sweltry state, I have chosen to find something to thank God for every day and write it down. (I thanked God for AC a lot when I arrived!)
When there is a deadline or goal in sight, I am apt to get tunnel vision. Other opportunities or situations may be in plain sight but I'll completely miss it because I only see what needs to get done. Some may call that determination but it's not necessarily the best thing. What good is it to check off everything on my to-do list but miss the big picture. It's always about more than what we see (or choose to see). It doesn't mean to ignore what needs to get done. I mean, I'm here to get a Masters degree. That doesn't come by osmosis. But I'm aware that it's about more than graduating. Much more. It always is.
When my eyes are fixed on Jesus, I can enjoy the journey and make the most of every opportunity. When my eyes are fixed on a degree or some other end result, I'll miss out on the experiences and adventures and people along the way. I don't want to do that. I want all that God has for me and all He wants me to be in this season and in the months and years to come.
Gratitude is helping me with that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not doing cartwheels excited every day. But when I dip my toes into the pool of negativity, I become aware of it more quickly and return to rejoicing and gratitude. I'm also experiencing the peace that transcends all understanding. My search for things to be thankful for means that I'm shifting my focus away from the difficulties to look for blessings throughout the day. No matter how small. As I look for them, I realize there are many! And I've realized that they're not so small after all because I see how the God of the universe sees me and is mindful of me. He continues to provide in ways unimaginable and I'm blessed daily with surprises filled with grace and love. More to rejoice about, more to thank Him for. And more to believe and trust Him for because He is faithful and the good work He started in me He will bring to completion.
It's not just for me. It's for you, too. His Word is true. We will always need to come back to this. I pray that no matter where we find ourselves - in the mountain or the valley - that our petitions and praises to God will always be soaked with thanksgiving. He is worthy of all our thanks and praise. Forever worthy.