Monday, May 25, 2009

Focus and Attitude

(for a fun update with pictures, be sure to scroll down to the next post too if you didn't catch it after I posted it yesterday; but this was on my mind today, so I had to write)

I mentioned in my #3 yesterday how I'm having a hard time right now.

I just read a post on a friend's blog about this question: How important is our happiness?

Great topic of discussion.

It's nice to be happy, isn't it? There are many reasons people are happy I guess. Some are happy because they are living their dreams...every detail of them. Some are happy because they are living the perfect American dream (I am not opposed to the 'American dream' by the long as it's the American dream that God has for you).

I look at some people and sometimes think how nice it would be just to do what I wanted...because I know that's what they are doing. They didn't ask God where He wanted them to live or what He wanted them to do. They just did what seemed logical...just kind of fell into what they are doing and where they live. Of course, some might attribute the 'falling into it' to God. I wonder though, if they had actively pursued God and sought out His thoughts and desires, would they truly be living where they are living and doing what they are doing? It's interesting to think about.

Happiness is definitely a good thing. And I think that being in the very center of God's will for your life is definitely where the MOST happiness can be found. But, may take time. Here's my story anyway...

It sucks. I hate it. I, in the day-to-day living of this life, am not 'happy.' That is, if I compare it to what I would LOVE my life to look like, it doesn't equal up to happiness.

I would love to be able to:
1. go visit family...just go to my Granny's house just for kicks...just so that my kids could know her and that our kids could know all their extended family and rub shoulders with them as they pass by Granny's house to read the paper or grab some goodies off her snack table or just to see who else is there (because Granny's is the happening place if you haven't gathered that)
2. go to all the family functions...not miss out on graduations, weddings, babies being born, etc.
3. go to a library with my kids
4. go to a MOPS group or something similar (because some MOPS groups are lame)...some group function to look forward to going to every week

It is so hard not being able to understand everything going on around you...language, customs, traditions, etc.

It is hard knowing that my kids are missing out on really KNOWING their extended family.

It's hard dressing my kids up really cute, but having NOBODY to make a fuss over them...not a fuss like family members can make.

It is hard knowing that my kids won't do what I did as a child. So many of my friends' children are "following their parents' footsteps" in making memories and doing fun activities...little league T-ball/softball, going to the lake, learning to ski, going to grab some ice cream (good ice cream...Brazilian ice cream is horrible) or a snow cone, and playing basketball.

Some things here are 'similar'...that makes the transition easy at first I think. But, over time, that makes things even harder in some ways. You see, there are things that are similar all around, but nothing (nothing) that is exactly the way you are used always falls short of what you are used to. It's always foreign and not familiar.

So, those are the hard things for me.

How does happiness fit in?

The thing is that I KNOW that God is the only One Who can provide true happiness. I know that His will for me is what will bring me the most happiness in the end. And there it is...those three little the. end.

I know that God has very special things for me...and the plan involves, at least in part, Brazil. Brazil, where I can feel so foreign and alone, where I don't have the comforts of home and family, where my children will not grow up doing the same things I did making the same memories as me, where my kids aren't truly adored like if we lived near family, where I will always be an outsider to a certain extent (no matter how well I integrate into the system).

I know what you are are thinking OH MY GOSH, but your kids are going to grow up knowing 2 languages and making so many great memories doing other things and their lives are going to be so rich and full, and, and, and...

And...that's not the point. Of course to all of those things. But, there is still the other side. And again...there it is...

I don't WANT them doing other things...I want them to experience the same things I did. It was such a fun growing up...such fun memories, such great experiences, etc. I don't want them to miss out on knowing their family...and I mean experiencing their family daily, not just knowing who they are or getting the occasional package from them.

So, as I said yesterday...just more dying to self.

Obedience is so hard. Especially when it involves instructions concerning your WHOLE LIFE and such a different life than you'd imagined.

It just requires a daily decision to walk it out...obedience. And a daily decision to make the most of CHOOSE to be happy and content and focus on the things that DO make you happy...basically count your blessings.

A really famous theologian :) once sang "It's not having what you want, but wanting what you've got."

Basically, no matter what you have or where you live or what you are doing with your life, you can always make yourself miserable thinking about your depends on what you choose to focus on. Granted, some people have to focus harder than others to make themselves miserable since they have a pretty nice life. But, it can always be done...

And the opposite is true too. No matter your circumstances, you can always live in a way (in your mind and thoughts and attitudes) that brings about happiness and contentment.

How important is our happiness? I think that God wants us to be happy. But, I think that His idea of happiness involves us learning to be happy to be in His matter what stage you are in in the fulfillment of things concerning His will for you...not us being happy because we are getting the circumstances we want.

So, I think that our happiness is very important. But, not our worldly, earthly happiness...not our happiness that comes from our flesh. But, our happiness that comes from learning to be happy wherever God puts us (hmm, reminds me of a certain verse {Phil. 4:11-12})...looking forward to the things that He has for us, even if those things aren't quite evident in our day-to-day living just yet. So much of it, I believe, is in the thoughts that we allow ourselves to entertain (take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ). Also learning to choose to be happy in the day-to-day living, in the daily mundane tasks that you do over and over and stinkin' over again for weeks on end, with no break. Learning to count your blessings and focus on the things that you have to be grateful and thankful for, not what you don't have...not what your life doesn't include (I'm not talking about material things here...things like family, a house, etc.).

Sometimes people just want to wallow. Sometimes it's just part of their process of letting go and that part of them, those wishes and desires and dreams, being killed. That's's part of long as they are moving forward toward the place of learning to let go...learning to be content, to choose happiness.

Hmmm, I'm still learning for sure.

Addendum: Literally, as I just finished typing that last sentence, my son (age 5) walked over to me and proceeded to announce that he had to throw up. As he finished making his announcement, out it spewed. All over me, the couch, the floor, the corner of my laptop, the TV and DVD remote controls, the wall, the toys nearby, and my precious sweet sick son himself.

O.K., let's see how this plays out.

The way I wanted to respond:

"God, what the &*@&#%@*! I'm trying here. Give me a freakin' break, will you? If I lived a 'normal' life in my own culture with my own set ways of doing things and things familiar to me all the time where I could just 'ahh' in life, this would not be such a big deal. But, you have me here...where I am in a continual 'heightened' state anyway. (FYI: when you are in an unfamiliar place, you just generally and automatically...and subconciously...exist in a less than relaxed state...less than you would if you lived in a familiar place that is). God, days like this (and we've had many lately) are 10 times harder here than they would be if I lived in that more relaxed state. So here's what I say...screw it! This is just a big bunch of *#&@ and I'm freakin' done, got it?!?"

Now, the proper response/attitude/focus:
"O.K., God, this totally sucks (because He knows how we feel anyway...and it does). But, I trust You. I know that this is going to somehow work out for my good (not necessarily the having to clean up chunky spaghetti vomit part, but everything as a know what I mean)...and the good of others in general...and for Your glory. I know that this is an opportunity for growth. I know that You love me and want the best for me and you have SO MUCH planned for me...more than I could ever ask or imagine. I'm going to focus on the bigger picture. Help me, Jesus!"

Hmmm, which one did I choose?


Anonymous said...

A whole lot of throwing up going on! Eli had it last week--vomitting and diarhea at the same time. And now all but Jeffery have had it in their family but not as bad as Eli since they recoginized it and medicated before it got full blown (no pun intended :) ) Anyway vomitting is bad where ever you are!

Are you familiar with the book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"? Good children's book by Judith Viorst. I'll try to send you a copy. At the end, it says that some days are like that even in Australia.

Hope you all are feeling better soon!

We miss you, too! (y'all)

Aunt Marilyn

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am RETIRED! I still have some more work to finish--some record keeping to send to the School Board for the 8g grant and some bringing things home and straightening for the next teacher. But---I am RETIRED!
After 40 years--I am RETIRED!

Aunt Marilyn

Connie said...

Oh, holy crap. Did you cry? You should just cry. I'm sorry that your son is sick but more sorry that he didn't freakin' run to the toilet. Sweet little thing.

*The following is based on my experience with unhappiness and God's will. I understand that your situation is different and I have no idea the details so I don't want you or anybody else to think that I'm referring to you. So here it goes:

Sometimes you can start out doing what God wants and it is the right thing. Then, you re-assess God's will.

I think God can prompt us to desire change. It's important to recognize what's going on, not just continue to anesthetize the way we REALLY feel b/c we are supposed to feel this way or that.

Our family almost completely fell apart doing what we thought (and prayed about)was God's will.

So are we (Levi and I) just dumb and don't know what God's will is? Should what we think is God's will be pursued at the expense of our family staying together with our fingers crossed that we are both strong enough to just put a bandaid on all the wounds and keep the name of Jesus?

Well, I do not believe God wants us to be miserable. I do not believe he intends for us to experience eternal happiness and perfect conditions. I do not believe we are to throw in the towel when things get a little rough, either.

I DO believe that (and we have to be the judge of this) when things get to a point where the family unit is struggling, the marriage is struggling, one's mental state is out of whack (possible depression or other)and at the same time you are doing what was once God's will, that a serious evaluation of the situation is VERY important.

Again, this was pertaining to me and our situation which, after 8 years, almost did us in.

You, at the very least, deserve a break from the barf. That is not cool.

Michawn said...

Aunt Marilyn,

It's about time. ;) No, it's perfect timing. I am so happy for you and excited for you. Although I know that you will be so terribly missed at Saline High School...makes me sad for them losing the best Pre-K teacher ever (and 1st Grade teacher too...MY 1st Grade teacher).

And Connie,

Wow...awesome points. Thanks so much for sharing. That is so very Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Connie from me, too. I find her comments very helpful! I am printing them.
Aunt Marilyn

Jen Sprayberry said...

"I spit up at Grady's house". So sorry my friend! I wish I could beam you here and we could have cookie dough and let the kids play. For starters- your hair looks darling! Ok, now on not such a shallow note, I can't imagine how hard it must be. Nicole and I always looked at you and wished we could have the awesome submissive heart you have towards your husband and your flexibility to move when he asked you to. You really are a great example to us! I know that's not your goal in life to be a great example to your friends but please know we love you and think you're the bomb for doing God's work. You have a great calling on your life.

trent and kay said...

I can say from experience that it is kind of hard not to be bitter when you see other people living the "American Dream," as you say, when you are living overseas. It makes me think, if only life were that simple for me. But I also think almost everyone suffers from "the grass is greener on the other side" syndrome. I know I do. Sometimes I longingly reminisce about how my life was back in the States, but then I remember that when I was there, I wanted to be here in South America! God must be so frustrated with my cycle of discontent.

I really like your point about "in the end." I think our tendency is to change as soon as we feel the least bit of unhappiness and it becomes an endless cycle of shallowness. We will never get to a certain level of depth without sticking it out.

I also think Connie brings up a good point, too. At what point do you reevaluate and decide that you're about the have a nervous breakdown? I think that God is loving and gentle and only He knows how to deal with us in those moments.

And then, of course, there's just the obedience issue. I have so much more to think about this subject and I really should look in the Bible more about it. Thanks for sharing in my struggle! :)

Nicole said...

Oh how I love you and your genuine heart. You are such an amazing woman of God. You've always been willing to lay your life down for Him and I have always admired that. I am so sorry it is hard right now. I started to read your post out loud to John and I couldn't get through it. It hurts me that you are hurting and John too. We are praying for you. I know you know all the "right" things to do and to believe but we are praying for an extra amount of supernatural grace, clear vision for you while you are there (without it people perish and cast off resraint), and for Him to wrap your arms around you for us. John told me to tell you he is proud of you... and so am I. We love you.

Jeyson and Stephanie Braun said...

Hi Michawn
What great, true thoughts. You're so good at expressing things I am feeling but unable to put into words. (Maybe I could just send people to your blog instead of writing mine :) I really related to this thought "Obedience is so hard. Especially when it involves instructions concerning your WHOLE LIFE and such a different life than you'd imagined." I am completely with you! It seems so much easier to be "called" to work in the States and just be a light in the secular workforce. But I think it's through this process and your willingness, even though it's hard, that bring Him glory.
Sorry we missed out on pizza the other day, but let's plan something soon!

Wendy said...

Ok, first of all-you post the pictures of your kids all dressed up and I will gush over them for as long as needed. Every mom loves that especially when you go through all that work getting them dressed. I really never thought of that but I do look forward to that part when we have family gatherings. I never ask for it but the aunts and grandmas make a huge fuss. It hurts my heart for you.

I won't say I know how you feel because I haven't been there. Just this week, we had the discussion of the "grass is always greener." We feel that way alot. Some selfish and some just not exactly where we are supposed to be yet. I heard a very wise pastor tell the story of his missionary days. He and his newly married wife were serving in Mexico. He described how God's grace was with them the whole time they were there. They didn't notice the unpleasant things that surrounded them daily. When God asked him to move to the States to serve, almost immediately the things that they had lived in/with for so long was completely wrong-disgusting even. When looking back he said he realized that God's grace was just not with them in that place anymore. He KNEW that he was supposed to do something different.
I dont' think he was trying to say that God left them but that things were not the same.

I don't know your situation and I am surely not telling you to quit but I will never forget that sermon. My prayer is that God will give you complete comfort in the place that He has called you.

Anonymous said...

Linda Fair and I have often talked about how easy it would be if God would always use a bolt of lightening, a burning bush, or just a loud, clear voice to let us know His will. But He doesn't. But I agree that we have to stop and reevaluate at times. God doesn't always make His callings permanent. I pray for God to make everything clear to Joel and you and give you wisdom in whatever He calls you to do. Another thing to remember is that most families do not have what we have. We have been so fortunate in the love we share as an extended family. A friend from high school has shared how envious he is of the relationships in our family - that we get together and never disagree about where to be, what to eat, when to start, what day to have it on, etc. No one is jealous about whose food gets more attention. So funny. There is no competition - just lots of fun. And you are right - the children are so loved and we make such a fuss over them. A fuss they will never forget. That's what you don't want to miss. All those sentimental happenings. We just have to make every visit have sentimental happenings. Granny is in the hospital with bronchitis and pneumonia. She needed nourishment by IV because she stayed nauseous and couldn't eat. She'll get stronger this way and soon come home. We'll all be praying about your concerns. Hug the kids for me. Cass certainly filled out. Such a good squeezing size!!!

Ali said...

I love your vulnerable and open heart! I'm praying for God to give you comfort and endurance while you are in this tough spot. I know we all have tough seasons (the specifics look different for each person) so know even though I can't exactly relate to the specifics I can relate to how you are feeling. Wish I could snap my fingers and make it all better. Keep writing, processing, praying and seeking Him because He alone knows your needs and desires and He alone can fulfill them! I will be praying for you! I love you!


So sorry you got puked on! As a mommy I can totally relate it is an awesome job with a few messy parts that you wouldn't mind missing out on - ie. getting puked on! :)


Your kids are so beautiful! I love all the pictures you post of them! Thanks for taking the time to keep this blog updated and keep those pictures coming! Love those kids and love all their dimples! :)

Anonymous said...

One of Marilyn's memories of teaching all those years is of a child that would come to her at lunch and say "I think I'm gonna pook" and then do it at her feet. I had a little 1st grade girl who gagged and spit up in her plate almost every day at lunch this year. I rarely ate lunch :~)

Matt and Meredith said...

Thanks for sharing.

We are all in this together.

Love you,

PS. How do I mail you something? Email me your address. Is Brazil picky about what comes in the mail? Do they go through things? Do most things go where they are supposed to go? Are there any stipulations or anything?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being honest. It brought greater understanding on what you face. I lived in two cultures, but growing up as a child in it I felt at home in both. I can stand better with you.
We love you, you are doing great.


Ronnie and Leah said...

Ugh! My heart goes out to you.
I think we can all get caught on the "I'm not happy" train. I do it all the time. Truth is... I'm not happy. I really don't want to live in the middle of nowhere with goats and dogs and limited resources, no real restaurants, a 45 minute drive to a real grocery store. I don't want to do it! But with that, I also don't want 5 children! AAAAAA! Did I just say that?! Oh no.
What I want to do is live a simple life in the city. Near the grocery store. I want to be a size 8 again and just be me and Ronnie. I want to be able to come and go and do whatever I want to. AND be happy.

But, God didn't promise happiness. He promised JOY.
When these children and goats (and husband) can be a pain in the @$$, I can have JOY in knowing that this is only for a time. I can get so stressed out and forget that God is in control.
I simply need to have time to sit and cry sometimes, to be with God, without little voices calling out to me.
I just need a moment to be alone! In fact, I need a lot of moments.
I JOY in knowing that God trusted me with these children, these goats and dogs, this life. How could he trust me? I am not trustworthy, at least not in my own eyes.

I have moments of just hating me. I know that is a strong word, but I mean the shell of me. The body, not the soul or mind.
Reminds me of Paul..."I do what I don't want to do, and what I don't want to do I do."
Why must it be a constant battle. I mean, after all, we are God's children. Doesn't he want us to be happy and have all the goodness he has to offer.
Hmmm... do I sound like a whining child? I think I do.

Well, I feel like I've rambled more than I've helped you... not that you need any help. I love that you can vent like this and not care what everyone else thinks. Truth be told, we are all thinking and feeling the same things.

Have JOY, my sister, happiness is fleeting.

Anonymous said...

I just love and miss you so much but I know this wherever I go and whatever I do you are there. And I think of our song! A friend is truly a friend forever!
Love ya, Maves