Maintaining an Up Attitude During Down Times

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Here in Dallas we have been ordered to “Shelter in Place,” but that doesn’t mean we have to step away from joy and happiness. We can still open the curtains and let the sun shine into our lives. How do we stay upbeat when we feel downtrodden? Here a few ways to invite a little sunshine to brighten your days.

Give Thanks Every Morning. Things may seem gloomy, but you can always find reasons to be thankful – you just need to look a little bit harder. Thank the Lord that you can still go on a walk. You can still hear the birds chirping, and see the spring flowers blooming. Daily write down at least five blessings that you experienced in the last 24 hours.

Listen to Uplifting Music. Music can soothe the soul. The other day (before we were quarantined) I was at a friend’s house, and we sat down at the piano and sang hymns together. It was rejuvenating! Be deliberate about finding songs that strengthen, encourage and inspire you. Listen to them often and play them for your family. While doing the 20-second handwash thing, sing a praise song. “Oh How I Love Jesus” is my go-to handwashing song.

Play the Glad Game. When you feel like complaining, turn it around to consider what you can be glad about instead. You may feel frustrated about the fact that you can’t go out with friends, but you can be glad about the fact that we live in a day when you can facetime or conference call one another. Replace every complaint with something that makes you glad.

Take Time to Pray. I know we all talk about praying, but do we actually do it? I encourage you to find a quiet place and time that you can get on your knees and cast your cares to Almighty God. Seek His guidance and wisdom as you face these challenging times. Find your solace in this sweet time of prayer. Pray for those who are sick around the world and the healthcare workers who care for them. Be much with God in the quiet places as well as throughout your day.

Do Kind Acts for Others. We may be confined, but we can still show love. What about calling or texting those who are lonely? Write notes to neighbors, family and friends to let them know you are thinking about them. Drop off groceries (or toilet paper) to those who are in need. Be a source of kindness and encouragement on social media and in your neighborhood. Possibly the most important acts of kindness you can show during this time is letting go of resentment and anger toward others.

Guard your thought-life and do not let your mind ruminate on the worries and what-ifs. Live wisely and thoughtfully but not fearfully. This can be a positive time, but we make it a negative one if we live with selfishness and/or anxiety.  Let’s inhale God’s peace and exhale needless fear as we walk together though this time. May we each turn our minds upward to make the best of each day that we have here on earth.

How to Have Hope

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Like a dense fog, sometimes the clouds of discouragement can descend on us blocking out any glimmer of hope. Perhaps there have been times in your own life where you felt a sense of despair. How do you have hope when everything seems to be going wrong? Let’s look at a few ways to part the dark clouds.

Look Up instead of At. When we are going through a challenging time, circumstances loom large and are sometimes the only thing we can see. Certainly we must recognize our grief or pain, but one of the first steps toward seeing glimmers of hope is to change the direction of our focus. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Set your minds on things above.” When we look only at our circumstances, it is easy to become overwhelmed, but when we look above our circumstances, we remind ourselves that there is a God who loves us. He is bigger than our challenges. He is the God who sees, and He is not surprised by this situation. When we turn our eyes upward, it helps us gain a broader perspective.

Praise. While we are looking up, let’s take a moment to praise God for who He is and what He is able to do. Actively praising God changes us within and opens our hearts to the possibilities of what He can do. Open the Psalms or open a hymnal, or play some worship music or simply pray something like:

“Father, I adore you as the God who is able to do immeasurably more that I ask or imagine.”

“Father, I praise you that you are Sovereign and Powerful. You know all things and can do all things.”

“I exalt you my God, because You see the bigger picture and You know what is best.”

“Praise you that you walk through the darkest valley’s with me. I am not alone.”

Or as Jeremiah prayed from the pit of despair,

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
  Lamentations 3:19 – 24

Encouragement. One of the apostle Paul’s prayers for the early believers was, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” God is the God of hope, so let’s not hesitate to ask Him for hope, wisdom and guidance as we navigate rough waters. We can also pray that God sends a person into our life that can encourage us or walk along side of us through our dark moments.

James (the brother of Jesus) gave the persecuted church powerful and positive advice,  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. “

My friend, there is always hope. It may come in unexpected ways and look slightly different than how you thought it would look. Keep looking up and keep your heart open to what God wants to do in your life. I believe there is always hope, because I believe in a God of hope. I believe what the Bible tells us – that He is a redeeming God, and He will never leave or forsake those who trust in Him.

Photo by Łukasz Łada on Unsplash

 

Hope Actualized

My daughter Grace is our guest blogger this week. As you read her words, reflect on the hope that Christ brings into our lives. Check out the link to Grace’s blog at the end of this article.

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Every wedding is like a Burning Man for florists. You spend days of hard work and energy making something beautiful, all to tear it down a few hours later. It’s a reminder of what a breath this life is. One moment we are here, the next we are gone.

Tearing down the chuppah flowers with my husband at the most recent wedding I did, was both a joy and sorrow. He spent the first part of the day building it and I spent the second half making it beautiful with Garden Roses, Dahlias and Smilax. I laughed as we hacked at the wood, ripping it apart, tearing down the greenery to have it all out of the venue by midnight. I can fully appreciate why this process is maddening to most people and in many ways it should be. Humans are not wired to destroy the things they create.

 

The destruction of things will always be reason to grieve whether it’s a mutilated artwork, broken relationship or death itself. If eternity did not exist somewhere deep within us than perhaps we would just accept death as nature’s course. But that is not the human way. When a loved one dies, we mourn that death as the harsh reality that it is. Death feels like it should never happen despite the inevitable fate of us all.

 

As I write this I think of my aunt Karen who is slowly departing from us. Unlike me, she is not afraid of her finite time coming to an end. She knows more than any feeling of certainty, that the bliss of eternity awaits her. The hope she has in heaven and in the God who has shown great kindness to her during her life, makes cancer a lesser enemy.

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Even amidst the beauty of a heaven to come, the image of my elderly grandfather leaning over his frail daughter confound me as I try to sleep. Why does death have to end in pain? I remember the pain I felt as I was laboring with my first child, convinced that such pain had to end in my end. Giving birth might be the closest experience I’ve had to death. I was convinced as the baby moved through my body that these were my final moments. Then I pushed, transcending time and space, finding new life in my arms. The parallels between birth and death go beyond the mere pains of it. Both are expressed in the last few moments of Hector Berlioz’ Requiem, Grande Messe Des Morts, Op. 5 Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe, where a choir ascends to a culminating sound of joy, peace and elation after an anxious six minutes of somber orchestration. If you are familiar with this song then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I can only imagine death as rebirth into a life that feels even more like home than the one I try to make for my child. I like to imagine for my aunt like I did at the birth of my son, that all which follows our finite lives is just hope actualized.

 

No amount of hope can ever diminish the great weight of death, however when hope is satisfied than death is absolutely redeemed. Heaven seems so mythical but at least part of me feels like if I could do something as magical as having a baby or growing a plant out of the ground, couldn’t something like heaven be real? If I can re-purpose materials to make something new, can I be re-made?

 

When we were done taking down the greenery, my husband and I took it back to my brother and sister-in-law’s row house in Philadelphia. Rather than throwing it in the garbage or compost, I decided to re-install it as a hanging archway on their porch. It became a new creation and though these greens will one day fade back into dirt, the mystery of re-birth manifested itself in an eternal way.

 

 

*Link to Grace’s Blog: Click Here

Realistically Optimistic

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It’s easy to think that positive people are simply pie in the sky, superficially blissful. The truth is, that a sincerely optimistic person sees the real picture, but chooses to look at the upside instead of focusing on the negatives. Each of us can decide to be sensibly optimistic, or persistently pessimistic. Here’s a few principles to help us live with a brighter outlook.

Look at the Big Picture.  Ever been to a movie where you sat on the front row? Everything looks ginormous and blurry. But when you sit in the middle of the theater, you get a better perspective as you see the whole picture. Life challenges can seem overwhelmingly large at times, but step back and look at the situation in light of the bigger picture and you can have a calmer and wiser viewpoint.

Take one step at a time.  When we are facing a mountain in front of us, it may seem as though we will never be able to scale the heights. Yet if we take one small step forward, establish our footing and take the next step we will make progress. The key is not running to the top, but rather taking gradually steps upward to get where we are going.

Assess Your Assets.  It’s easy to focus on our weaknesses and feel as though we are making an accurate assessment of the situation. It is true that we each have weaknesses that need to be dealt with, but more important, we each have strengths that need to employed. Let’s take measure of our strengths and the assets, build on them and focus on how to use our gifts to the best of our abilities.

Seek Wise Advice. One of the best ways to stay grounded is to listen to wise counsel. We don’t want to allow someone to zap our hope and drain our dreams, but it is important to listen to other perspectives in order to make wise decisions. The wisdom of others can help us maintain a levelheaded optimism as we move forward with our goals.

Living life with a positive outlook, doesn’t mean we are impractical or unrealistic. On the contrary, we can choose to live with a confidence and boldness, knowing that we see the obstacles and are ready to face them head on with thoughtfulness and hope.

5 Principles for Overcoming Discouragement

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Discouragement can seem like an unscalable wall at times. It hits each one of us in different ways, whether it is losing a key client or setbacks with a major project or frustrations with a family member. How do we strengthen our resolve and keep going? Here are a few life principles to adopt:

Celebrate Small Victories. Sometimes the big picture can be overwhelming, so let’s learn to take incremental steps forward and celebrate the little victories along the way. Create a few simple daily goals that are doable and move step by step in a positive direction.

Change the focus.  Life looks pretty bleak if we only focus on our problems. Let’s stop looking at what we can’t do, and consider what we can do. There is always a bright side, but we must be looking for it. Let’s make a deliberate effort to concentrate on what can be done and the possibilities ahead of us.

Be flexible. When we are fixed on only one outcome, we open ourselves up to defeat. Let’s be willing to adapt and adjust to Plan B. Could it be that “B” stands for Better?If we consider a variety of scenarios, it allows us to adjust our goals and broaden our horizon.

Ask Questions. Discouraging situations also bring opportunities for growth and learning. We can ask questions such as, “How can I do better next time?” “What can I learn from this?” “How can I help others as a result of this?” “Are there other people I need to seek out for counsel or help?”

Have patience. Let’s face it, waiting is hard, but if we persevere we will find that we become stronger and more courageous as we wade through deep waters. Victory, success and change take time. Hang in there and remind yourself that most things get better or easier over time. Even if our circumstances seem like they won’t change for a while, the good news is that we can grow and become better in the process.

Most important, let’s remember that we are not alone. There are others who have gone through similar tough times. We can reach out to them for advice, and we can find encouragement from their example. We can also find strength and hope in our faith that God will give us the courage we need one day at a time.

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For more about overcoming challenges, check out Karol’s book, Positive Leadership Principles for Women   n sale for $5 this month.

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash