Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A thankful heart

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to drag you down, pulling your mood into the shadowy corners of despair? These are the days where the seemingly insignificant comments from an outsider can send you into an emotional breakdown. On these days vulnerability reigns supreme and stability is at a minimum.
I have been known to suffer from these kinds of days - yesterday being the latest installment. For practically no reason at all my mood was sour, my emotions were on edge and my positive outlook on life was non-existant. Everything was making me just plain sad. I can pinpoint exactly when the cloud settled in over head. I was sitting on the steps to the living room watching my brother and his wife play with their two kids on the floor. Lucas (the two year old who loves any sports game that includes a ball)  was doing his parroting of some funny sentences his Dad has taught him. My favorite being, "go to the Fingerlakes." Lucas doesn't have a clue what the Fingerlakes are and probably wouldn't enjoy them much if he went at this young age but, because my brother loves the Fingerlakes and has talked about them at great length, Lucas apparently wants to go, too. They were egging him on to say more funny phrases in his classic two year old voice. As I watched the snap shot of an adorable little family unit play out in front of my eyes I began to feel the pangs of longing for that kind of happiness. I should have been smiling along with them, sharing in their happiness and contentment in life. Instead, I let a sadness settle in and put up shop. Within no time at all the feelings of loneliness that have plagued me in the past returned with vengeance... and it was only 10 AM. The rest of the day wasn't looking promising.
By the time the evening rolled around I had spent my entire day with a big, black, ominous cloud looming over my head, covering up any peace I might hope to have. Everything I encountered throughout the day seemed to only add another layer to the cloud's dark exterior. Nothing earth shattering or particularly upsetting occurred or was said that could keep me so down in the dumps. I just couldn't seem to break free from the shadows. Although on one level I wanted to step back into the light, on another level I was a willing victim of my own negative thoughts.
That evening, after dinner, my Mom started feeling out my mood, attempting to see if it was one of those funks that could be easily shaken. Within a few minutes she realized this was a larger cloud, one that couldn't be blown away like the flame on a weak little birthday candle. This was going to take some real talking and, ultimately, some serious tears.
My resolve to hold back the flood waters didn't last but a moment. I gave into the emotional breakdown that I knew had been building all day. It was as if I was due for a clean out of the tear ducts. They poured. I cried out of loneliness and the burning desire to be wanted and loved. For three years the male attention has clocked in at a zero. Most days I am perfectly content with that reality. But not every day. And yesterday, seeing the happiness and love shared between a couple and a family, made me want what they have. By the end of the day I was ready to release that lump in my throat that had been building all day with the holding back of the flood gates.
Mom, always my stable and strong support and greatest advocate, let me lay my emotions out on the table without interruption. She didn't jump right in, telling me to get over it or that I was being irrational. She told me how she understood how hard it must be to be alone for this long with absolutely no attention from any guy at all. She assured me that it is natural to desire that attention. She let me cry and rubbed my back - her go-to way to comfort me (and my personal favorite).
After a few minutes of letting me be an emotional wreck and letting me know that my feelings were normal, she then moved to the advice part of the breakdown - the part where she helps me pick myself back up. She told me to look at what I have to be thankful for. She reminded me that it is one of satan's favorite tricks to make us see the allure of what someone else has at the detriment of forgetting all we have in our own life. He loves to use jealousy and envy to drag our peace into the gutter. He was definitely succeeding in doing so with me. I had completely stopped being thankful. In my entire day not one thought had been of thanksgiving. Every thought had been about what I don't have, how I want what I don't have and how maybe I am going to be stuck in this situation, this loneliness, forever. My thoughts were irrational and satan was loving them.
But thank God for a Mom who knows how to listen and knows how to point me in the right direction. She started listing the things I do have to be thankful for. She must have known I needed a helping hand in this task. She pointed out Pippy, the relaxed muscles in my legs, the pounds that have been steadily creeping in on the scale, an adorable house in Chagrin Falls...
She forgot to mention a family that all gets along, an amazing Mom as a best friend, a Dad who provides for my financial while still caring about my health and happiness.
My list could go on and on but it didn't need to for me to see how foolish I had been.
I spent my entire yesterday in a terrible funk because I started looking at everything but what God has given me. I looked at the blessings of every other person around me and completely neglected my own. How could I possibly have been in a good frame of mind with that kind of outlook on life? It is a given that when you are bemoaning what you don't have you are going to be depressed. On the other hand, when you are praising God for what you do have you can't be lamenting the things you don't have. Thanksgiving and complaining cannot co-exist.
Yesterday, I needed that gentle reminder to stop looking around at other people's blessings. My Mom provided a nudge in the right direction. She pointed me to the right road and encouraged me to take that step back onto the path of thanksgiving and praise. When I took that step it meant leaving the cover of the dark cloud that had settled overhead.
It didn't take me long to see the error of my ways. I had wandered down a rabbit trail of satan's design. Once I recognized the cause of my irrational thought and the solution to correct it, I was immediately relieved of the depressed, negative outlook that had burdened my heart and ruined my day. But just because the first 3/4 of my day was spent under a cloud didn't mean the last 1/4 had to be afflicted in the same way.
I spent the rest of my evening in peace. My mood was switched from vulnerable to calm, like the smooth, still waters of an ocean after a turbulent storm. Thank God for the restoration of peace. He is faithful to grant it to us without hesitation when we ask. He doesn't require a waiting period to reinstate it and you never have to take a number. When we're ready to be bathed in his peace he will lavish it on us immediately.
Today I am resting in thanksgiving, praise and peace. I am not looking at the things God hasn't brought into my life just yet. Instead I am singing praises to him for the lavish blessings he has bestowed on me. How could I possibly be a grouch when there is a song of praise on my lips? A thankful heart has no room for the snares of satan. It is too busy thanking God and resting in his peace.

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