Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Gratitude

"God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: Joy"
One Thousand Gifts, 57
"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!"..."this is the day that the Lord has made I will rejoice and be glad in it"..."a cheerful heart is good medicine." Rejoice in the Lord. Okay, maybe sometimes that's do able, like when I make a good grade on a test, but always? That's a little much. And a cheerful heart? I know I definitely don't want to be that obnoxiously optimistic girl. No thanks. I'd rather be real. You know, honest, dry, and slightly skeptical about everything- always saying what's on my mind. I'm done with all of this forced optimism about how great everything is because God loves me, because honestly I have bad days and lots of them. So no, just because God loves me doesn't mean my bad days are instantly made better. I just want to be genuine. Yes, I'd love to be able to be joyful about everything, but I'm tired of faking it. 

I've been on a hunt for joy for a long time. How do I live my life with a purpose- with actual life - with genuine joy? I decided to stop trying to be the person who had it together all the time (not that I every really was, but I stopped making an effort to be). Instead, I starting laying it all out there for everyone to see. If I was having a problem, it's very likely that everyone around me was aware. I may have been a bit of a pessimist, but atleast it's genuine...right? As I slowly became more and more of a complainer, I started to realize that maybe this whole effort to be "real" was not the best thing. Had I been seeking to find my identity in Christ, that would be a different story. But, as I journeyed to find "myself" apart from Him, I found exactly what I am without Him- a dirty, sinful person who had nothing to offer and found no real joy in life.

It wasn't until I started reading One Thousand Gifts (through my wonderful Bible Study!), that the Lord really started opening my eyes to all of this. In fact, it wasn't until the other morning as I was reading in chapter 3 that it all began to sink in. The author had previously wrote about how giving thanks for everything is the key to living a full life. She points out that in doing this, we recognize what God has done for us. This act of giving thanks puts us in a position of humility- where we understand that all good things come from the Lord. All good things are because of God's love for us. "It's our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated ourself, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right" (59) This complaining that I had become so accustomed to was not just a result of my disssatisfaction- it was something far worse. This was me rejecting not only the blessings that the Lord has given me- but His love for me

Every single time I complain about something I am rejecting the way that God has chosen to love me. I'm rejecting Christ's work on the cross. I'm rejecting His eternal grace. I'm rejecting the full life that He offers me. With my ingratitude, I tell God that He is not good enough. And when I finally saw that THIS is what my ingratitude really meant, it shook my world. It hurt my heart. I have been rejecting the way God loves me, because I can't stop focusing on myself long enough to see the exponential amount of blessings that the Lord gives me on a daily basis...because He loves me. He loves me. I don't deserve it. He loves me, ungrateful, self centered, Madelyn. He loves me, and will continue to no matter what. That my friends, will bring you to your knees.
I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of the crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world.
Thanks isn't always natural, it takes effort. It requires a habit to be formed. But when you see yourself through the correct lens- a sinner saved and made beautiful only by the grace of God - it changes everything. You appreciate the little things. You realize that each and every moment in your life matters. It's all intentional. Every day is a gift of God's love and to neglect that is to throw away something beautiful. 

"Teach us, O Lord, to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Cup

"Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"

I thought that when I turned 16 and had my license, I would be happy. I looked forward to the day that I graduated high school, because on that day I would really start living. I couldn't wait to move into my dorm because the only thing my life was lacking was a little freedom. Life would just instantly become better the day I was officially a freshman at Auburn.

My whole life I have been so caught up on the next big thing. My whole life I have been thoroughly disappointed when "the next big thing" gets here and it's not what it's cracked up to be. 

Always discontent. Always finding something to complain about. This seems like a much easier road than that of contentment. "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God" is not an easy thing to do. It takes humility to admit and to accept that God's will and where He has you right now is best. I know I personally like to think that Madelyn's way is always the best, and time and time again the Lord puts reminders in my life that this is not the case. But when we stop fighting, and humble ourselves to give thanks like the Scriptures say and drink of the cup that the Father has given us, we begin to see the beauty in the words of 1 Corinthians 6:19- "you are not your own." It just takes off so much pressure.  When I acknowledge the Lord's hand over my life, I don't have to be worried about myself or my circumstances because I know that I am taken care of, enabling me to focus my attention to others. It really is a beautiful process. 

My first few weeks of college have been kind of crazy and not anything at all what I expected. The first week especially, I just kind of got lost in who I was, forgetting the value of being true to myself. It's been tough, to be honest. I  would constantly find myself in a place of discontentment, wishing that I wasn't still in my hometown and wondering why on earth God has me where He does. School and work is a lot, and then sorority stuff is just a whole other story. I was not ready to actually have to work to make friends after going through rush. I think all of just expected to be instant best friends. I know Alpha Gam is where the Lord wants me and I have met SO many wonderful girls there, but it's still just so hard sometimes- being in such a huge group of girls and trying to find people you connect with. On a weekly basis, the intimidation of getting up in front of all my pledge sisters as someone who is supposed to be leading a devotion never fails to remind me that the Lord is in complete control. I don't think I've ever been more humbled. He has His own plans for me, and all I can do is trust in that. The Lord has been faithful as always, putting some really awesome girls in my life and drawing me closer to some girls who I've known for awhile(I hope ya'll are reading this because I love you!). Right now I'm trusting, praying that all of this griping and complaining with become a distant memory and being comforted in the fact that there's alot of people going through the same exact thing I am. Don't get me wrong- I've been having a great time, there's just been some struggles along the way.

So, overall I'm learning contentment, as well as surrender. I am exactly where the Lord wants me. I don't have to have everything figured out all the time. Life will go on. Love God, love others.

BTW- Guess who aced their first two college tests?!! Oh and Ben Rector's new cd came out!! #winning

Yes, I did just hashtag that.

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