As a little girl, I was taught to plan for the worst so I'd never be disappointed. My mom had been through some STUFF in her life and had developed that habit as a means of protection. For a long time that thinking had really worked for me, or so I thought. When my husband and I began having children, the destructiveness of that way of living became apparent. Our son was born and all I could think about were the worst possible things. (Now I know almost every mom experiences this.) I've often wondered if we are designed to anticipate every possible dangerous outcome in hopes of being able to protect our kids. But those thoughts were all I could think about. I worried, anticipated disastrous outcomes, and tried to make a plan for them all the time. And it was absolutely debilitating. I was miserable, ended up missing out on a lot of wonderful experiences, and lost so many moments of one of the most joyful times of my life, all because of that simple little thought that turned into a practice that ruled my life.
About ten years ago, God intervened and planted a new truth. It's a simple but transformational thought: What you focus on, grows. It was so powerful because for the first time, I could see that I was only seeing the negative. I was living in fear and completely missing His Love. I realized God was actually always there, actively loving me and working for good in my life. I just couldn't see it because my focus was on potential future negative happenings that likely weren't even going to occur.
I began practicing focusing on both the potential and actual good in my life. Suddenly it was like the sun started shining and I could see so clearly. There was so much joy to be had all the time. Gratitude flowed and it seemed the love and joy multiplied. Miracles became daily occurrences. Strangely (or not so strangely;)) everything changed. There was an ease and warmth to my days. Looking back, I'd say it wasn't my circumstances that really changed, but I changed in them, and that altered everything.
It's Not a "one-and-done" Deal
A couple of months ago I received some shocking and devastating news. It sent me into a spiral of fear, sadness, and anger. And I went right back to that old habit. I foresaw all the potential hard, hurtful, and awful things that could possibly come my way. I found myself retreating, wanting to hide in my room and never come out. Thankfully, my husband kept gently encouraging me to go to church when I, quite honestly, didn't want to (and some days I didn't). I was sitting there one day crying during worship (anyone been there? Wiping the tears in hopes that no one notices and your mascara doesn't run?) trying to hide, even from God, when He spoke again in a way I couldn't miss. He reminded me that I was going through this either way and I had a choice. I could go through it with fear or I could go through it with faith. What I chose to focus on was most definitely going to grow and I knew I didn't want to miss any of the joy.
I am so grateful for that truth that He keeps on speaking to me. I turned right back to Him and started to focus on all the good I could find. It wasn't, and isn't, easy. Every time I choose gratitude and faith, I find myself experiencing these holy moments that I know I would've missed had my focus been on fear. You see in my growth, in my life, there is always JOY to be had. ALWAYS. It may take effort and work to find it, but it's undeniably there.
In every season of growth in our life, both difficulty and wonder exist. We're going to grow through what we go through no matter what. The real question God keeps asking is: How are you going to experience it? The sun is always shining. It might be covered with clouds or I might be covered by dirt, but it's there regardless. The choice is mine. Will I focus on the clouds and the dirt, or the shining sun? That choice, I have found, makes all the difference.