My Anger Isn’t God’s Fault

I don’t cry often. When life is challenging I generally default to anger. On the fight-or-flight spectrum, I certainly lean far to the “fight” side. When my life feels out of control, and nothing seems to be going my way, I fight for control and I usually wind up feeling exhausted, defeated, and angry.

Friends, can I be bare and candid with you? That’s what I have been recently. Angry.

There have been so many life changes in the last year that my head is spinning. Lack of sleep compiled with even more changes in the last six weeks have thrown me into a desperate attempt to somehow regain control. In my futile efforts, I have been angry…a lot. And in my anger I’ve been short-tempered, rude, and sometimes downright mean to the people that matter most to me.

I’ve been asking God to make me feel better; to take away my angry feelings. I’ve been asking God to show up and remind me that He’s with me, and to show me some glimmer of hope that He hasn’t forgotten my plight; that He sees, and hears, and cares, and is working.

But secretly I’ve been blaming God for my feelings. I’ve bought into the lie that He is the cosmic-kill joy and has left me alone in my anger without care or compassion.

I’ve been begging God to fix the circumstances in my life that I’m so frustrated by.

During my time pouring over God’s word, Ephesians 4:31-32 struck me like a knife:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It turns out that God doesn’t want to fix my circumstances as much as He wants to fix my heart, and that I have a responsibility to choose how I react when I don’t like what’s going on.

God is a gentleman. And like a parent observing their child throwing a temper tantrum, God has been with me, allowing me to throw my tantrum. All the while, He’s been waiting for me to let go of the anger. He didn’t make me feel this way. I’m a sinner. I’m capable of terrible things, and hurting people, and hurting myself, and running away from the God I love dearly.

This morning, He quietly stepped in my space and told me, “I have not made you feel this way. You have been choosing to hold onto it.”

Reality check. A harsh one. A needed one.

God’s discipline and correction always comes from a heart of love. He hasn’t enjoyed me feeling burdened and angry. He hasn’t relished me squirming through life’s challenges and stresses. But I have to be willing to take ownership of  how I deal with circumstances I don’t particularly like. Do I run to Him first and choose to trust in His good name, character, and proven faithfulness? Or do I fight for control and wind up angry, exhausted, and deafened to the voice of love of my heavenly father?

Today I choose to take off the old, dirty rags of anger, bitterness, resentment, and frustration, and I fix my eyes upon Jesus.

Today I choose to put on thankfulness for all that I have to celebrate in my life; thankfulness that wages war on my frustrations.

I put on joy in the unchanging character of my God.

I put on peace as I trust in His goodness and good will towards me.

If we are sons and daughters of the Living God, believing in the reality of the life, death, and resurrection of His son, Jesus, then we are no longer slaves to our former selves. We do not have to be bound by anger, by fear, by the need to control in the midst of stress and frustrations. We can live free, run hard, and love strong, trusting in the great love of our God that carries us through it all.

I hope that you will start your week of right and join me in letting go of the old and putting on the new.

With Joy,

Haley

Advertisements

The Lost Art of Thank You, Part 2

Recently I had one of those extraordinary moments that occurs in the middle of the most mundane parts of life. I was checking out at the grocery store. The bagger was an older gentleman—probably in his mid-seventies. His head was down looking at the work he was doing for me, and his expression was neutral. Not sad, but certainly not joyful either. I managed to catch his eyes, and I told him thank you for helping me.

The world stopped. For an instant, there was a look of surprise on his face as though no one had ever expressed thanks to him for the service he offers. He was visibly caught off guard.

He looked up at me, and his eyes sparkled with his smile. As he finished helping me, he struck up a nice conversation. He became more than a bagger; he was another human being with a story all his own. He became four dimensional, and our worlds intersected in a way that has become rare in the tech-world we all live in.

I was taken aback at the power of such an ordinary moment. Hearing someone say thank you visibly shook that man to his core. It made me feel both happy that something so small as saying “thank you” could impart such a dramatic change in someone’s demeanor, but also sad that expressing thanks to people is such a rare event in our world. Gratitude is becoming less and less common in a culture that glorifies criticism and shouts, “The world owes me.”

It seems like a small thing, saying thank you. But is it? Gratitude is powerful. Small, yes. But seismic in its ability to impact the social landscape around us.

Most of us can be quick to correct and criticize when they have it wrong. We said paper, not plastic. We ordered a decaf grande skinny peppermint mocha with whip, and we didn’t get our whipped cream. We asked to be transferred to customer service, not billing. We make it our mission to ensure the “injustice” doesn’t happen to someone else. Often in our correction, we forget the humanity of the person on the receiving end.

Just because we have freedom of speech in the United States doesn’t mean we should say whatever we want. In a world that increasingly expresses every negative thing we see and feel, gratitude and encouragement are becoming rare jewels that shine hope into dark places.

Being thankful does not take away the warts of the world. We will experience the failings of others, and maybe gentle correction will be needed. However, we can still express gratitude. Expressing sincere thanks to the people we encounter every day highlights the good and diminishes the ugly. Gratitude and encouragement breathe life into those it’s being offered to, telling them, “What you do matters. Who you are matters. I see you. And our worlds have intersected. And I’m thankful.”

I love the word “encourage.” It literally means “to fill with courage.” We have the great privilege and opportunity to speak into the potential of the people around us. Being specific in our gratitude is encouraging. It empowers others to be brave in their services to us, to own their worth, and to live it out often. Encouraging others with our gratitude demonstrates that we see value in their work, and potential worth growing into. Gratitude says, “Who you are and what you do matters.”

By stepping into another person’s world to breathe courage and gratitude into their souls, they are in turn more likely to see the good in someone else and pay it forward to the people helping them. The war on ingratitude, destructive criticism, and cynical hearts is waged by the outward expression of appreciation.

Words of life have the power to change the landscape of the world we live in every. Single. Day.

Today you have the opportunity to speak into the lives of people all around you. So tell your barista thank you for making your peppermint mocha. Tell your waiter that he’s really good at what he does. Tell the customer service representative on the phone to take their time, and thank you for working so hard to resolve the issue. (Side note: I’ve also found that I receive higher quality service when I speak words like this to the person on the phone. I know phone trees are frustrating, but the people on the other end of that line need to know they matter. Breathe courage and gratitude into their ears, and watch how quickly they will try to help you resolve the issue).

The world has far too many of us quickly uttering words that break down, words that demean, slander, degrade, and worse. But dear friends, we can choose a different path. We can choose a path that leads to a brighter day for yourself and everyone around you. Speak gratitude. Speak courage. And change your world.

The Lost Art of Thank You, Part 1

I love this time of year. The leaves have turned beautiful shades of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples. Smells of sophisticated spices fill the air.  Dreams of pumpkin-flavored everything swirl about, and menus are being planned for giant feasts. In a few weeks many of us will take a step back in order to reflect among family and friends on all that we are thankful for.

But what if Thanksgiving was not just one isolated day; what if it became a lifestyle? What if we took back Thanksgiving from just being a traditional American celebration, and instead lived it out as a thumbprint of the creator on the character of our lives? What would our life look like if we practiced a life of Thanksgiving?

Gratitude changes us. Gratitude changes the world.

This month, we are going to look at what it means to live a life of thanksgiving in a world that has lost the art of saying thank you. If you’re the type of person that wants to change the world with practical means, then today’s post is for you.

I remember reading a magazine article about one of my favorite celebrities when I was a teenager. This particular “A-lister”  was known for being kind, generous, and for always writing thank you cards. I was inspired. I knew that I wanted to be like that; someone that acknowledged people for the ways they make a difference in my life. So, from that point I started trying to exercise the same practice: taking the time to write meaningful thank you cards.

I love thank you cards. Thank you cards allow us to move beyond being grateful for things, and instead focus on being thankful for people. People matter. Relationships are more important than “stuff.” And thank you cards force us to remember that, and to focus on the right thing to be thankful for. They force us to articulate our gratitude, and strip away any remnant of entitlement.

Since April of this year, I have had the privilege of writing over 60 thank you cards. I know the count because I purchased a large box of beautiful cards, and that box is gone as of last week. But over 60 thank you cards written to tell people thank you for their investment into my life. Whether it was a meal made after my son was born in June, a gift given, timely encouragement offered during moments of defeat, or generous time given to come alongside and help when I needed it. Over 60 thank you cards written to people in my life.

Appreciation goes a long way in developing healthy relationships. We live in a culture that is crippled by entitlement. Saying thank you for everything from the mundane to the extravegent consciously reminds us that we are not owed anything; we have reason to be thankful. When the people in our lives know that we notice their efforts to love us, provide for us, show grace and mercy to us, we tie our heart strings together a little bit tighter.

Most of us have probably received the obligatory thank you card. You know–the one that you get, and you can tell that the person writing it really didn’t want to write it, but didn’t want to be labeled as rude? The quick, scribbled, too-formulaic card that says thank you, but is shallow and insincere? Let’s avoid being the people that write those cards.

Instead, let’s seek to truly be thankful. Let’s dig deep and express our sincere gratitude. How?

Here are a few tips to writing a meaningful thank you card:

1. Be sincere.

This is the most critical characteristic of telling someone thank you. People are hard-wired with an awareness of pretense. If you’re going to take the time to write a thank you card (which you should), then be sincere in your thanks.

2. Address a specific person (or in some situations, a group of people).

To whom are you thankful? What is their name? What do they mean to you personally? Use their name, and specifically tell them how they have impacted your life for the better.

3. Say thank you for a specific gift or service you were given.

Tell them what you are thankful for. The delicious tortellini soup you were given when you were sick? The contribution made to your fundraiser? Someone letting you borrow their car while yours was in the shop? Write what you were thankful for, and specifically how it helped you.

There are times when I feel lazy; when I don’t feel like writing a card. I don’t feel like taking the time to express sincere thanks. I just want to take, receive, and not reflect gratitude. It’s in these moments that I say one sentence to myself: “If this person can invest the time and money to provide this service/item to me, I can take three minutes to write them a note to express my gratitude.”

You don’t have to be a wordsmith. And you don’t have to write a novel in every card. But trust me—thank you cards are important, not just for propriety’s sake, but for your soul. Communicating thanks is a language of love that breeds even more thanksgiving in your heart. So today, choose to be a thankful person who changes the world by simply saying “thank you.”