Sunday, March 24, 2013

Return to Blog

This post has been in the making for a while, as per usual. I really wanted to write about life a few weeks into marriage...and now I'm a few months into marriage. Still counts, right? I wish I would have made the time to write back then, even though we're still "newlyweds" technically.

Those initial things about marriage...I loved coming home from our honeymoon and suddenly the simplest things were so novel - like making dinner for both of us, doing our laundry together, organizing our house, I mean, just living together and not having to drive home after hanging out every night. (Man, that last one was huge...still cannot get over how awesome that is!) Andrew and I didn't technically date for all that long, but the amount of time we spent dating/interested in each other/confused (my fault) stretched over a pretty lengthy time span. Then, our engagement felt like an eternity. There was so much waiting for married life that once it was here, we were giddy. I still am giddy when I think about how God meant that quiet tall guy with the curly hair at our friends' apartment in college eight years ago - for me. Sure, I thought he was adorable, but I never could have imagined how wonderful he is and how perfect he is for me. Now, I realize more each day how perfect God's plan was for us and I love my husband more than the day before...something I didn't think possible.

The other day I was thinking back to an interview I had probably sometime in 2010 to be an executive assistant in Cary, North Carolina for a company that manufactured the sticky stuff you find on band-aids, pads, stickers, and a wealth of many other adhesive items. I remember the interviewers explaining that they manufactured basically "anything you peel!" I also remember sitting up straight, professionally, and nodding while wondering "is this really my life?" (Garden State Moment). Later my friends would (I think) be genuinely confused as they asked if that included bananas. Hold on, they were totally making fun of me. Anyway, I didn't get the job. Would I have been a fantastic executive assistant for a sticky-stuff manufacturer? You bet. But mostly I was disappointed because I was desperate to get out of my crumby job at the time. I really didn't know what God was up to and I started to feel like He really didn't have anything promising in mind for my future. Andrew and I were broken up and not in contact at all, and I questioned that decision every day during that time. I just didn't know what the best thing was. And I had to wait. There were lots of nights with tears and leaning on my sisters and friends, and long conversations with God. Even though it was hard sometimes, I don't look back on it in regret. I remember late nights with my bedroom window open and the warm air filtering in while I scribbled away in my journal, just needing an outlet for my thoughts. Those were sweet times because I learned more about myself and felt so close to God. All the while, even when I thought He wasn't listening, He was preparing my heart and making a way for something to happen.

I eventually quit my crumby job and got another crumby job. But even in that, God was planning. By some small miracle, Andrew reached out to me and we started talking again. With all the wrestling over "us" I had done, I decided if the chance was there again, I was going to take it. I cautiously believed God was answering my prayers in a very deliberate way. I worked from home with the new job, which meant I could go visit him for a week at a time - something we didn't realize we really needed (we had always been long distance and our visits would be for about two days once a month). When I started looking for a new job in Ohio, I lost my job in NC. I really didn't understand God's timing or plan on that one, but still, He was working. I moved up with no job and no prospects and began the hunt...only to end up at Dillards, which I later discovered was named the #2 worst company to work for in America. So, crumby job #3 began. Again, I questioned, but still rejoiced that things with Andrew were so wonderful and that we now got to see each other every day. Then, praise God for a wonderful sister-in-law who was looking out for me and was willing to work with me! After a string of crumby jobs, I get to write, edit, talk to great people, and work from home all in the same job and I LOVE IT. And there is just no denying the other jobs and times I went through leading up to this prepared me for the role, even though it often just felt like a bunch of waiting. And of course, I also got to marry the love of my life. Suddenly things clicked. I know it's not always that "clean" in the end, but to me, it was how God closed this chapter of waiting in my life and I rejoice in that. He gave me the desires of my heart even when I wasn't sure what that was.

So all of that long back story to say...God is going to at some point in your life, and always for an indefinite amount of time, make you wait. But He is not just making you wait in vain and for no good reason...He is ever preparing your heart for something better. I know it's a difficult season...take a look at some of my blog posts previous to this one...ouch. And I know your season may last years and years. And I know I may have a season more like that later in life. But here's a reminder to you and especially to me: praise Him through it as much as You can. Talk to Him, lean on Him, learn Him, scribble in your journal. He's there and He's working on you. And I might just be a newlywed talking, but the "something better" he has in mind for you is so very, very worth it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January One, Gotta Lotta Things On My Mind

That's part of a song I love by Jars of Clay, and it always pops into my head on New Year's Day (go figure). Another line is "I'm looking at my body through a new spy satellite." To me, the new year always brings both reflection on the past and looking forward to the future, welcome or not. It's the point in the year I feel very aware of time, and what I've done with mine, and what I'm going to proceed to do with it. It makes me feel nostalgic, hopeful, blessed and very grateful. Sometimes it makes me feel a little guilty because I spend a lot of my time failing to use it as a gift. It seems to me the new year becomes a little more meaningful and urgent as I get older. I think God always finds ways to prod us and say "hey, are you living? are you really living?" But it's how we choose to respond to that voice that makes all the difference. Apparently after a hundred (thousand, million) times, it finally starts to click a little for me.

At the start of a new year, I'm looking at my body through a new spy satellite. And by that, I mean I'm taking a good look at myself. I'm looking at where I've been and how I've doubted and neglected, and where I've had faith and how I've prevented growth, and how I allowed growth. I'm looking at the times God had to be so incredibly patient with me as I went through the motions with an empty heart. I'm remembering the times I appeared a loving person, but was not actually loving. I'm looking at the times I was down and didn't call on God, but rather relied on myself. I'm looking at the times God picked me up and carried me because I was being a stubborn child, and through His grace, I realized He was stronger. I'm looking at the people and circumstances around me that allowed me to see God's love first-hand. Looking back, all I know is God has chosen to work through and speak to me despite my ways. It's not that I see my year as a year of mistakes, it's just that God's grace is so apparent in light of them, I can't help but reflect on them at the edge of another beginning.

God has also blessed me with a simple truth this year. That is if I draw near to Him, He will draw near to me. I have only scratched the surface of the beauty of that promise. I mentioned my reflection over the times I went through the motions without really wanting to know God. I finally faced that resurfacing struggle this year and know it will be a challenge as long as I'm not genuinely laying all else aside for His presence. What I want this year is to really know God. Not to be able to recite who He is or why He came or what He has done. But to really know Him as my personal redeemer, Savior, and friend closer than a brother. I want the time I spend in solitude with Jesus to be the best part of my day. I want to be in love with Him.

Service also seems so much more urgent to me now, at the start of this new year more than ever. Another question I feel deep inside is "why are you here?" This isn't all a grand scheme dreamed up solely for our enjoyment, but I so often treat life as if it is. Laziness is something I quite easily fall into, and it's something I want to fight against this year. I realize it's easy to stand at the beginning of a year and proclaim you're going to stop this, start that, and suddenly transform. It's another thing altogether to actually follow through. Also, I'm the queen of resolutions. I really am. There's always something new I want to try, something exciting to think about, or some way I can change myself, my friends, or the world. Often, I lose heart and jump ship before much is accomplished. The only way I can think to prevent certain failure in my desire to love and serve to strive earnestly in my first desire: to really know God. I believe the latter flows from a heart so near to God.

It's humbling to admit I need to get back to basic truth and just know God in my life right now. If I hadn't stumbled so much in my walk with Him in the past, I might be further by now and asking for bigger things. But I know God has me here, asking for this according to His timing and plan. And instead of prolonging what He wants for me, it's time to act on it.

Anyway, that is what's on my heart for 2011. What's on yours?

Carry me, cause I'm just a dead man lying on the carpet, can't find a heartbeat
Make me breathe, I'm tired of the old man, wanna be the new one
Out with the old plan

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sometimes You Have to Climb a Tree

I was talking to my neighbor the other night and he was expressing his frustration with "southern Christian culture" - that Christians tend to drive nonbelievers away because we choose to condemn rather than embrace. And, he added, that mindset is the opposite of what the Christian faith really represents. Christ loved and associated with even the most base in society. He saw beyond sin to the heart and spent time in the presence of sinners without accusing or harboring bitterness toward them. He simply loved, and His love transformed the sinner, not a set of rules or a compelling argument. There were times when he was angry with corruption in the world, but his anger and correction was righteous because of disobedience to God, not because of personal pride. A lot of the animosity I see in believers toward those whose views or lifestyle differ from their own comes more from an attitude of "you should be living like me" than "I want to see your heart changed by the Gospel." (And I include myself in this observation because I've been guilty of it as well.)

My neighbor is not a Christian, so this impression has obviously impacted his decision on whether or not to pursue Christianity. He mentioned that he understands it's human nature to be "intracellular" and stick to who you know, what you know, and to have a hard time embracing what is outside your comfort zone, but it's the Christian's purpose to live differently. I could only agree that many Christians do come at the world with this condescending attitude and that it is the antithesis of what we're about. I told him one thing I really appreciate about my church is their heart and mission for people, and their determination to simply show God's love, not to primarily correct and convert. Sadly, I think this mentality is present in our churches. It's God's love that is transforming, not us - I am glad to be a part of a community that seeks to keep that in mind.

After I talked to him I remembered an insight JD shared the other week about the story of Zacchaeus. He was talking about the part where Zacchaeus climbs the tree to see Jesus as He passes by because he is "short of stature." JD pointed out (and this was only a side note, but it really stuck with me) that if Zacchaeus's only problem was that he was short of stature, he could have moved his way to the front of the crowd and stood in front of people since they could easily see over his head. No, he climbs to the top of the tree because he wouldn't dare push past people who consider him scum of society as a tax collector--they would never allow it. Up there, he can be away from people who criticize and hate him so he can have a better view. But Jesus didn't care about Zacchaeus's social standing. He walked up to the tree and said, "Zacchaeus, you come down!" (So the song goes...) And he walked with Zacchaeus back to his home to visit with him. The point here is that Zacchaeus was surrounded by ridicule and contempt from people who considered him a thief and a lowlier sinner than themselves, but he got away from them because he only wanted to see Jesus. Sometimes you have to put distance between yourself and those who can't see past sin so that you can see Him for who HE is. I genuinely believe there are Christians out there who earnestly live out the Gospel, and I hope to be able to help my neighbor see that too. I struggle to love like Christ loved Zacchaeus because of my own hard heart sometimes. But as a Christian, like this nonbeliever had to remind me, I am called to fight against that sinful human nature.

Let's make it so people don't have to climb a tree to see Jesus. And if they do...let's take our cues from Him, usher them down, and show them what Christ's love is all about.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hope Floats

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. -Lamentations 3:22-23

The last post was a heap of discouragement and unrest, but you know what? A lot of people let me know they relate and find themselves going through the same thing. I really appreciated that, to know I'm not alone in those times, and it feels good to know I can be totally honest and vulnerable and you people don't judge me for it. I hope I can encourage you a little now too.

While at this time in my life I'm feeling weary of not being able to see or understand God's hand in certain areas, what I have been able to see more clearly is His character. It's funny how God can teach you things even when you're being pretty obstinately unteachable. At my age it has started to become more apparent how familiar feelings of defeat are to me. And maybe that sounds even more disheartening, but it has actually given me a lot of hope lately. Because never once has God forgotten about me when I've despaired. And depending on how you look at it, this valley is more like a mountain because I'm looking back over similar times from the past and seeing God's provision and grace through them. It's not that I couldn't reflect on God's goodness before in my life, but I do think it sinks in better in this season. I have more experience under my belt and God has proven Himself again and again. Call me thick-headed, but it's more comforting to me now than it has been before. As I think about it, times of worry, self-defeat, and apathy, are always followed by freedom from those things,  and renewal and hope. It's not because the circumstances are removed, but because God's mercies are new each day. And like so many times before, He gives me new eyes and a new heart to see the good of life. I'm so glad that along with struggle comes new insight and understanding.

In small group we're studying Daniel and I had an epiphany the other week. When the king sees the hand writing on the wall, the first people he calls to interpret its meaning are magicians and soothsayers, all of whom worship different gods despite the fact that God has proven Himself through Daniel many times. It's only when the king finally resorts to Daniel to interpret that he discovers the writing was an act of the God and He is trying to tell him something. That's when it dawned on me that if I'm not trusting and leaning on God, and truly casting my cares and believing Him...when I see Him at work in my life, I might completely miss it. I think there are some things God will do despite my stubbornness, like teaching me His character as He has the past few weeks. But if my heart is turned from Him and I'm totally self-absorbed like the king of Babylon, it's going to be really difficult to decipher God's hand. Like in any relationship, really knowing and seeking someone will allow you to more fully grasp their nature and recognize their characteristics.

I hope you don't hear me wrong and think I'm saying suddenly all my woes have vanished. Honestly, the things that were heavy on my heart the last time I wrote are still there. But I am saying that God gives me grace to see beyond those things and I'm thankful for it. That's all I really know right now. I always think of hope kind of like a balloon under water. You can push it down, but when you let go, it bounces right back up to the surface. (I don't know, maybe I got that from the movie...but I hope not because it seems pretty genius to me.) Maybe sometimes it's just about waiting and trusting that little balloon is going to come popping back up somewhere.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Tangle of Lately

I'm trying to decide between a personal size gourmet white pizza or a spinach salad and soft pretzel for lunch at the moment. This is a very pressing matter. I think the pizza sounds better. But should I go the healthier route and do the salad? Should I take the high road? Anytime the high road includes a soft pretzel I'm pretty much game. I'll let you know how this inner struggle pans out.

The last few days have been interesting. In a very boring, quiet, slightly depressing way. I hope I don't come off as someone who is down a lot. I tend to write more when I'm feeling emotional as therapy, but in general I think I'm a pretty positive person. Maybe I should say I like to think that. Anyway, it's interesting because writing about how I've been feeling hasn't even been something I've felt up to doing lately. I'd rather hole up and nap or watch the tube or eat or something else that eventually just makes me feel worse. But I feel like I'm losing my appetite for life. Just, before you start to get concerned, I don't believe I'm depressed or anything...just going through a dry spell and probably perpetuating it with my own bad habits. And I'm not sure what has changed. I don't know what has switched in my mind that I suddenly feel so tired of my life and sad that it's not what I want it to be. At least, I don't know why it has come on so fast. I think discontent has been mounting for a while, but I didn't expect to feel so lost so suddenly. Last night I expressed this feeling among friends and someone asked me if it was because I went to a wedding this weekend and "she found a husband" [and I haven't.] I don't know, I hope I'm not that predictable and shallow that one might assume going to a wedding makes me depressed just because one of my friends is in love. Please let me never be one of those women. I'm so happy when my friends find love and I can see how genuine and beautiful it is. I love weddings. But I guess sadly in a way she was right, because I feel like I'm struggling with forward motion. And going to a wedding makes me feel like everyone else eventually figures stuff out. Don't get me wrong, I know I'm fortunate to have a job and a place to live and whatnot. But in other ways I feel like I'm standing completely still while others are moving right past me. It's great to have a job and to be making money and yada yada, but when you've plateaued and aren't quite sure where you're going or when you'll get there, it becomes very monotonous. And I don't feel like a grown-up. It's been three years in my job and I think I have far surpassed the point of moving on and moving up. I'm trying to find something else but it's slow-going and discouraging not knowing really even what I want to do with my life. And relationships are another story. I've been waiting for the right person and the right timing, feeling more ready than I ever have, all the while thinking I might have passed it up. This is where it's especially hard to not be able to see God's bigger picture. I listen to single girlfriends talk about this subject all the time, and usually give them the same advice: God is wise in His timing--learn to trust and be patient. I should take my own advice, but boy, what a hard pill to swallow. It's something I know I want and I feel ready for. But I keep watching it happen to other people. I also don't know if I'll ever feel completely confident about love because I am such a second-guesser. I am so envious of people who take the risk of falling in love - I have never felt it's that easy.

And now here I am, frustrated to the point of letting go and not caring. My life feels stagnant, like nothing is happening, good or bad. I know I have the power to change that and that it doesn't depend on having a relationship or a new job, but those things have worn me out for the time being and I don't feel like trying right now. I want to want more for myself and to stop feeling sorry for myself. I want to want to take the reins and go somewhere or just do something. But do you ever just feel like you want to be stuck where you are and not care for a while? Even while you know you're making things worse? Urgh.

This would be the point in the post where I might quote Scripture or someone very wise to give all of this a positive spin. But forgive me for not wanting to recite the cliche response. I don't feel I have a whole lot of resolution for the time being...and I'm just being totally honest.

I've decided on the salad with the pretzel, which ties up at least one loose end...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One Phone Call from Our Knees

Yesterday my church body grieved together with the family of one of our pastors whose wife gave birth to her baby at only 26 1/2 weeks. He was on this earth for less than a day as he developed a bacterial infection that took his life. This amazing family is such a strong testimony to our church. They have adopted two children internationally and have been very influential advocates for adoption, especially from a biblical perspective. I know they have challenged me to consider adoption in a different light than I ever would have if they weren't an active part of that ministry. I'm sure Keva's heart was joyful when she learned she was pregnant, given that doctors told her in the beginning she would not be able to conceive. I can only imagine the confidence and hope that built with each new day the baby grew stronger and more active inside her belly. It seemed to me that God wanted to demonstrate His glory through their family with the testimony of life despite abandonment, neglect, and now medical apprehension. It was the perfect story for two people obeying and trusting in God, and answering His call in the ministry of their daily roles.

But sometimes what makes sense to us as humans is just plain not God's plan. I think I get caught up in believing events will play out a certain way because I convince myself I know God's perspective. God will bless this family with their own child because they are so faithful in their ministry and have provided such a good home for the children they already have. But the truth is, I can't predict what God will do. I will never think like God thinks and I will never be big enough to understand His plan. As difficult as that is in the here and now, what it means for us is that we have to trust Him with our lives. We have to let go of the thought that we control any aspect and surrender it to the One who truly does. And ultimately, that is comforting because we are not expected to figure things out or ever go it alone. We only need to trust. There are times in life when that becomes painfully evident.

Yesterday I was listening to the song "Closer to Love" by Mat Kearney, and this line caught my attention: "I guess we're all one phone call from our knees." It reminded me, especially in light of yesterday, how close each of us are to losing everything we hold so dear on Earth. In an instant, a loved one could be gone or our own life could be over. This song hits close to home with me because I know what it's like to anticipate a phone call that will bring me to my knees, crying out to God. My sister battled an illness that almost took her life several times, and there were nights I never stopped pleading with God, even as I slept, for her life. I was all too prepared for the phone to ring any given moment and would dream I picked it up throughout the night to hear a numb voice deliver the news. God chose to miraculously spare my sister's life, but being in that place of agony and dependency showed me how helpless I am to know or sway God's plan. At that time, literally all I could do was cry out to Him like a child and beg for what I wanted. But like a father, God knows what is best beyond what we can see for ourselves. The outcome could have been completely different--I could have lost my sister one of those nights. That could have been what God deemed best, despite the fact that she honored and obeyed Him with her life. We can hold so tightly to what we treasure most and believe we have a firm grip, but in reality, it's completely out of our control. It only takes a moment to realize how helpless we really are.

I'm sure the Atwoods felt that when little Chai passed away yesterday. I'm sure their hopes and dreams and plans came crashing in and their world was shaken. But they choose to believe in death what they have believed in life. Trevor wrote "Today much changed, Jesus did not. The gospel is true in the face of death. Thx to the 1st born among many brothers. Chai Samuel is yours." God is all-knowing and His plan is perfect, beyond what we can see. In heartrending moments like that we make the choice whether to allow our finite minds to gauge the situation and deplete our hope, or simply to allow God to continue painting the picture of which we can only see a small part. Unfortunately it might not mean God will choose to bless us or others by our estimation. But He does show us mercy even through pain by drawing us closer to Him like a father bending down to scoop up his hurting child. And because of the sting of our present circumstances, we reach up, crying out for Him. It is through that bond that we understand our frailty and inability to save ourselves from the curse of sin. We discover that we can only be whole in Christ.

The Atwoods asked people to pray Romans 8:18-30 for Baby Chai yesterday. These are verses 28-30:

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

God's good does not always look like our good. But when we believe it is better, we have insight into His character and His will for us. It will allow us to grieve with the hope that one day we will be complete and we will better understand. It gives us a reason to trust beyond our understanding.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm Not Naked

I bet you're wondering about the title of this post. Or maybe not...but I'm going to explain it anyway. In small group the other week we were in 2 Corinthians and read through Paul's account of some of the trials he endured in his ministry.

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Julie was pretty amazed by the fact that one of the circumstances Paul faced was being naked. Talk about being (literally) stripped of even your basic conveniences...Paul was forced to go without even a shirt on his back at times. And without pants, for that matter. I mean, it says naked. For all the complaining she does about her circumstances, she commented, never once has she been involuntarily naked.

Paul knew what it was like to suffer, even down to the smallest detail. Not only was he persecuted, hungry, and living in poverty, sometimes he didn't even have anything to cover his body. When I read those words, I try to imagine what that would have been like. In my comfort and convenience, even that is hard. And yet, in my prayers I often find myself saying to God "this is unfair" and asking "why do I have to go through this?" That night in small group as we read over Paul's words, we only half-jokingly decided that when someone in the group begins to complain, we'll simply ask them "are you naked?" to remind each other things could still be worse. Much worse.

I have to admit that one of the said posts I began to write last week consisted of lots of complaining. I had a challenging week, feeling hurt over a couple relationship issues happening at the same time. I began, once again, thinking my circumstances were unfair and I didn't deserve them. All week I sat at my desk at work, turning these thoughts of discontent over in my head, and carried them home with me each night. I prayed that God would give me a better attitude and outlook, but only because I wanted to feel happier, not necessarily because I wanted to exercise grace. Despite my stubborness, God did pull me out of my self-made rut and gave me a better attitude. I don't know that the circumstances improved, but that doesn't necessarily matter--He has allowed me to feel His love and presence in spite of them. In turn, I can love even those who don't love me (or at least don't act like they do.) That is my calling. So why do I sit around acting like the victim, seeking sympathy and complaining? It makes me slip further and further into unhappiness, and yet I seem to want to drown in my misery. And if God didn't show me grace by renewing my spirit, I would. I admit it feels good to complain and to seek what is my idea of justice. But that satisfaction is temporary and I miss so much when I choose to dwell in it.

Note that Paul lists his afflictions, and then adds that while enduring all of them, his primary concern is still the church. While he personally faces countless tribulations, he still values the life and purpose of the church above his own. I think that part is the most important for me to understand. I should not only recognize the grace I'm given in tough circumstances, I should love people and value their lives and salvation through it. And I should have an attitude of thankfulness. That requires seeing above and beyond my situation. And I think that is partly how God can give me a different outlook, because I'm not primarily focused on myself. Of course, that's the very last thing I want to do usually. But that should be a constant practice on my part, no matter what my condition.

Philippians 4:11-12

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Don't get my wrong in all this. I'm not saying that I (or you) shouldn't feel pain in hard times or that it shouldn't be difficult to face trials in life just because they aren't as severe as Paul's. I think it's ok to acknowledge your hurt and cry out to God to ask Him to comfort and heal your heart. But I know I stumble not in feeling hurt, but in dwelling on my pain and the "unfairness" of it. And I think that takes root in an attitude of entitlement, as if I shouldn't have to suffer. When I begin thinking I don't deserve what I'm going through, I'm already wrong. I do deserve it...I don't deserve the grace God gives me to endure it. Notice Paul says he had to learn how to be content. Our human reaction (even for Paul) is to be unhappy when things are hard. Maybe it's remembering the grace sparing us from death in those times that will allow us to praise.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I want to praise God more. I want my prayer life to largely consist of thanksgiving for what God has spared me from, what He gives me, and what He does through me. Life isn't perfect and it won't be, but I waste so much time complaining that I fail to recognize the blessings. And worse, I fail to honor God for His goodness and faithfulness in my life. Even in harder times, I want to know the importance of praise, because most likely, even then...I'm not naked.