Joy

Let’s Be Positive

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Have you ever had to spend time with someone who is incurably negative? I’m sure you have – we all have. I confess that I am often that person who drags others down alongside herself. When we’re in a mood to be negative, we only see the bad side of things. We think the world is out to get us and we’ve done nothing wrong. The project definitely won’t work. It is way too cold outside. That person is being absolutely awful.

Sound familiar?

Negativity is an easy thing to fall into, no matter where we are in life. It’s positivity that takes work. Our sinful natures want us to groan when the alarm clock goes off and criticize our coworkers and it is easy to listen to that nature. What’s not easy is to get out of bed cheerfully even when we’re still tired or find something to compliment in that one person.

The sin of negativity lurks everywhere, simply waiting for us to stumble into it. Or, as we often do, to waltz lovingly into its arms. But what if we were to fight the cruel master of negativity? And it is a master, taking over every facet of our minds and day while we allow it to.

When we dig ourselves into a hole of hating the world that is out to get us for no reason whatsoever, we are being ungrateful for the good things that God gives us. We are twisting His creation. That one slow waitress might have been an opportunity to show Christian love, but we turned it into an opportunity to save some money on a tip and grumble on the drive home. In this fallen world, turning good things into bad is easy. It’s second nature.

But we are not called to live in a passive, second nature sort of way. We are called to a new nature, one that has been transformed by Christ. And I believe that means a nature of positivity.

Remember when Paul and Silas were thrown in prison? That’s a pretty bad situation. But instead of sitting on the hard dirt and commiserating about how bad their circumstances were, they prayed to God and sang hymns to Him. Because of their positivity in the worst of times, the jailer over them and his entire family heard the gospel and were baptized.

So what does positivity look like in our lives right now? There are two major components to living a more positive life: thinking and speaking.

Thinking

The thoughts we nurture and allow to grow in our minds have a major impact on who we are as a person and how we see life. We can easily convince ourselves that lies are truth just by thinking that they are. Something that a lot of sports players hear is “envision yourself making the play and you will.” Our thoughts can make or break our pursuit of positivity.

So start catching negative thoughts today. Next time you sigh heavily, stop yourself and ask if that thought was necessary. Replace it with something else. Just as thinking negative things can lead us to be negative people, thinking positive things can also lead us to be positive people. Instead of thinking “this line is taking forever” think “I’m glad I’m getting this shopping done now” or “I bet Mark will really love this book I got him.”

How we think can truly shape who we are and how we interact with the world.

Speaking

Flowing out of thinking is speaking. A lot of the time, our negativity becomes verbal. We complain to someone about how awful something was and go through making every detail just a little more dramatic. What we’re doing is looking for sympathy over the horrid mess that we’ve made our lives out to be. And while there’s nothing wrong with talking about things that make us angry or upset, when it turns into complaining, that’s a problem.

In addition to fighting the negative thoughts that we love to let grow, we must combat the words that are a product of those thoughts. The thing about words is that they affect other people. When we start telling anyone and everyone about our latest grievance with life, we drag them down with us. We become that person who is obnoxious to listen to and who is no fun to be around. And while it is possible to be obnoxiously positive, it is far harder than to be obnoxiously negative.

Even when our thoughts are negative, we can fight back by using different words. We may be whining about something in our heads, but we don’t have to let the words come out of our mouths. Choosing to speak more positively can help change our mindsets as well. Our mothers provided us with an excellent principle for trying to be more positive: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”


I truly hope that you will now try to incorporate more positivity into daily life. It’s no fun to live when everything seems bad. And it’s no fun to be around people who live like that. So let’s be the ones to set an example and to move past our childish view of life. There is so much more to it than we can see when we’ve worked ourselves up, so let’s experience the good things God has for us. Let’s really live.

Kira

Slowing Down in a Speed of Light World

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I will be the first to admit that our generation (the ones just coming into adulthood or just barely there) is a group that wants quick fixes. I recently wrote about how that doesn’t work for our relationship with God, but almost every facet of life could benefit if we took our time.

Gone are the days of having to wait for “snail mail” in order to hear from someone, the days of working for years on a project before releasing it to the world. Now, we use all the fast technology that we can get our hands on and complain when the internet’s a little slow.

I don’t want to point fingers or cast blame today though. Instead, I want to look at the benefits of slowing down in many areas of our lives.

Experience

They say it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become a professional. 10,000 hours. That’s 416.67 days of working around the clock. 1.14 years. However, if you can’t constantly stay awake and don’t want to skip dinner on a regular basis, it would take 27.4 years to reach that level of expertise at just one hour a day, every day, holidays and weekends included.

That is a lot of time. That is almost 10 more years than I have been alive. And yet, we often want the results of those 10,000 hours in the space of a few weeks at most. Think of someone who is a star in your field. Do you like music? How much time did Mozart spend practicing? Writing? What about C. S. Lewis?

Slowing down and taking the time that gaining a skill requires gives you the experience needed to be good at that skill. There’s nothing wrong with latching on to a hobby or something interesting for a few weeks and then moving on, but if you really want to be good at something, you have to put in the time.

Quality

Experience in an area naturally leads to a higher quality product, whatever that may be. Do you know of any famous football players? Me neither, but we can imagine. When they first touched a football, they were likely not getting a lot of touchdowns. They couldn’t do very many pushups. They didn’t know how to tackle the other team. (Please forgive me for where the analogy falls apart and reimagine it in a more accurate way)

They spent years all through grade school, college, and now on a professional team honing their skills and getting better at their game. The quality of their skills has grown with them because they put forth so much time. They were patient as they went to the gym every day. I don’t know of any pro football players who were regular 25 year olds who decided one day that they wanted to join the Patriots and were good enough to make the team.

Spending time on something not only gives us experience in that area, it also increases our ability to perform well day after day and year after year.

Joy

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always liked the slow pace of the idyllic southern summer. Sitting on the porch with ice tea, going to the creek, making pancakes in the morning. Slow is nice. Slow lets us enjoy what we do.

Almost none of us live at that pace though. We’re up before dawn, drinking coffee and off to work or class. We’re meeting friends or doing homework all day long. We catch an hour of Netflix at the end of the day before falling into bed, setting our alarms to do it all again the next day.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the song “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz describes it perfectly. Go listen to it, but here are a few lines from the beginning of the song:

Alarm clock screaming, bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races, everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life

Ninety miles an hour, going fast as I can
Trying to push a little harder, trying to get the upper hand
So much to do in so little time, it’s a crazy life
(“Breathe” by Jonny Diaz)

But what if we slowed down? Would the world come crumbling down around our ears if we took our time to do things well? I don’t think so. We’re all incredibly busy – I’m not trying to say otherwise. There is a lot to do in a day. But I know there are also ways to slow down, take our time, and enjoy it more, no matter how busy we are.

It doesn’t have to be world-changing. How about an hour a week to talk with someone you haven’t seen in a while? Twenty minutes to read a book for fun? Doesn’t that sound nice? If we don’t have to have everything instantly, we can have the fun of getting there. Even taking some extra time to learn while working on a project can be more fun that rushing through it last minute. As the popular saying goes, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.

Slow down

It doesn’t take much to fight against the impatience that we’ve nurtured inside of ourselves. The benefits of not rushing through life far outweigh any costs. If we are patient, we can be among the best at what we do, we can create better things, and we can enjoy what’s around us a lot more. So, slow down. Take your time. I promise you’ll be fine.

Kira

Thanksgiving

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I thought about delving into the meaning of Thanksgiving today, but it’s a holiday week and there is much food to be eaten, so this week’s post will be the traditionally simple list of things for which I am thankful. Maybe add a few of your own in the comments…

  1. my beautiful dog that kept me up half the night and is not sorry at all
  2. a job where I can meet different kinds of people (and make money…college savings!)
  3. the Bible (“of course!” you might say, but think about how many people cannot hold a copy of God’s Word in their hands)
  4. fiction to delve into both to escape and to explore the world
  5. my soccer pants (I really love them)
  6. a great chemistry lab teacher who helps me actually understand some of this crazy science thing
  7. a beautiful friend (more like a sister) who checks in on me during the week from the middle of her own crazy
  8. chocolate covered espresso beans (thank you Sara! I’d never had them before Saturday and, you guys, they are amazing)
  9. a mother to help me edit countless scholarship/college/high school essays
  10. school (no, really)
  11. my drama team of wonderful middle schoolers who put up with my perfectionism as I try to direct them
  12. a pretty car 😉
  13. running and working out until it hurts so good for days
  14. an online writing community that is both encouraging and challenging (Young Writers Workshop, if you’re interested)
  15. audio books for killing two birds with one stone with those long reading assignments
  16. the library (enough said)

You’ve got leftover turkey to enjoy and Christmas trees to put up so I’ll leave you with that. What’s something creative or weird that you’re thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kira

An Experiment in (not) Complaining

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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation which you absolutely hated, only to discover that it was due to the other party’s constant whining about their circumstances?

Have you ever been in a decent mood and dragged yourself downward by dwelling on all the things going wrong – or at least not going right?

Have you ever heard those dreaded words from the back of a car: “Are we there yet?”

Then you, my friend, have had experience with complaining.

I realized recently just how much I complain about my life and circumstances. I slip easily into a negative mindset and just as easily let those thoughts slip out of my mouth. It effects not only my mood and actions, but those of others as well, and, as a child of God, that is not something I should be allowing to happen.

This realization hit me about a month ago, and, as soon as it did, I began to notice every time I complained to myself or someone else. I often didn’t make it through an hour without some negative thought passing through my head or out of my lips. There were a few key times in which I especially noticed this unpleasant tendancy of mine, including when I got home from work, when I felt tired and unmotivated, and when other people’s actions interfered with what I wanted.

I decided that I would spend the next month doing my best not to complain and seeing how it effected me. This time included three weeks of counseling at camps, a few very long days (and one night) at work, and the gloriously high temperatures of late summer in Virginia. Here’s what I learned.

I can’t do it.

Right from the beginning, it became apparent that I was not able to keep myself from complaining by my own strength. Duh. But it was still something that I had to learn and remind myself of over and over again. Once I had that figured out, there was a lot more prayer involved in my quest to keep myself from the sin of complaining.

I really can change my own mood.

Remember when you were a kid and really angry about something and your mom would tell you to just decide to be happy and you could turn yourself around? Just me? Okay.

Anyway, the last month has shown me that my mother actually knew what she was talking about. Who would’ve guessed? There are still lovely things like hormones and bad circumstances to be dealt with, but choosing to keep a positive attitude about things really does make a difference. Sometimes, I would catch myself talking about how awful things were at work one day and realize it was putting me in a downright bad mood. When I changed my thoughts to what was good about the situation (I have a job, some of my coworkers are really great, etc.) or to something else entirely (what to blog about when I got home, how great this morning’s run was, etc.) my mood instantly began to rise. Even just the action of putting a smile on my face helped a lot.

The people I interact with impact my actions.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: Show me a man’s five closest friends and I’ll show you his future. And that is true. When I’m around people who complain themselves, I am much faster to complain. When I’m with cheerful people, I’m quicker to be positive. Choose your friends wisely, for you will become more like them, whether you want to be or not.

There are other things to talk about.

I never realized how many of my conversations consisted of 1) complaining or 2) gossip. Since I included gossip in the category of “negative thoughts”, that had to go as well. And as it turns out, there are other things to talk about.

The world is full of interesting and good things to talk and think about – we need not dwell on the things that upset us.

Complaining is a form of pride.

How often do you complain for someone else’s benefit? If you’re anything like me, it’s not very often. Complaining is all about me, myself, and I. It is all about what I can get out of life and what will make me happy – not what I can do to please God or serve others. It puts all of our focus on ourselves, which is not how God would have us live our lives as His children.

As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity (giving the picture of a truly humble man): “Probably all you will think about him  is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him…He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

I complain a lot. Still.

The past month has not cured me of my desire to complain (or my all-too-frequent fulfillment of that desire, as my family can tell you). I am still working on this discipline, and I probably will be for a while. Thankfully, when I get discouraged, I can return to the first point: I can’t do it on my own.

I’ve learned a lot from just the realization of how much I complain in a day, and I am grateful for the conviction, painful as it may be at times. I hope that my experiment in complaining will cause you to examine your own life and thoughts and will lead you to a more God-focused, self-forgetful way of being. Because that is what we are made to do.

Kira

What helps you keep yourself from complaining?
Are there any places/circumstances that trigger complaint?

My Sister

Today, I decided that I felt like writing a sappy/sentimental post. I don’t usually write like this and it took at least three false starts. So buckle up. 🙂

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There is someone in my life who I treasure like no one else. She has been with me for longer than I can remember and we have shared some of the most joyful, exciting, painful, and infuriating moments of our lives with one another. When we are separated, it hurts to have no one to laugh over inside jokes with or to listen to me complain for the eight hundredth time about drama at work.

She is my sister.

My sister is a beautiful girl. She is kind and sweet and she puts other people before herself. She always wants her friends to be happy and keeps them from pain if she at all can.

We’ve grown up beside one another, learning and laughing and, occasionally, yelling. We’ve literally “done life” together for the past sixteen years. She knows my ugly side and she loves me anyway. We’ve both changed and become stronger both by ourselves and as a team.

My sister has the voice/hands/ears/heart of a musician. She improves in playing the guitar every day, pouring herself into the music and working through the frustrating chords and strumming patterns. She leads worship by example, devoted to her Lord and happy to sing to Him.

She is also an artist, crafting pictures and coming up with creative gifts for those she loves. She doesn’t paint very often any more, but her journal pages hold more sketches than notes, all of them cute, intricate, weird, or some combination of the three.

In addition to growing up physically these past years, I have seen my sister grow spiritually in ways that make me so proud of her. She devotes part of her morning, first thing, to spending time in the Word and praying. She is one of the first to offer to do things others don’t want to do. She loves spending time with people and getting to know them and showing them the love that she knows so well.

My sister is one of a kind. She dyes her hair blue if she feels like it. She builds forts with little kids out of any spare pillows and blankets found lying around. She crosses her eyes and sticks out her tongue when she thinks I’ve said something ridiculous. She wears BDUs one day and frilly tank tops the next.

I love my sister. I am so blessed to have her – to live in the same room as my best friend. I pray that we will always be so close.

Kira

Who in your life is special to you?
What makes them so dear?

It’s Okay to Enjoy Life

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Did you know that God created this world for His children? If you believe in Him, it was all made specially for you.

I made this discovery whilst putting together a Bible study on the first few verses of 1 Timothy 4. Paul is telling Timothy about false teachers who require “abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:3b, ESV)

By those who believe and know the truth…

Isn’t it incredible to think that all the good things in this world were made especially for us? That God had us in mind when He formed trees and stars and whales?

But, awesome as that is, it’s not my main point for today.

It’s amazing to think that God made all of this for us – but it doesn’t matter if we don’t enjoy it. God created good things with the intention that we would look at them and experience them and think of Him. The next couple verses of 1 Timothy emphasize that.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

Why would we even think of rejecting the good that God has given us? And yet, we do it without thinking all too often.

How many times are we too busy to take a walk? Or too concerned with fitness to enjoy our run? How often do we pull out our phones to take pictures rather than enjoying the beauty in the moment?

I choose the busyness and pressure of this world far too often. But every time I choose to stop and enjoy the good things God has given me, I am thankful and happy.

A lot of times, it feels like cheating to take a break. How could we waste time looking at the stars when that paper is due next week? And yes, we must do our work. God has given us that as well. But He didn’t intend for us to drown in it. There is no reason to feel guilty for enjoying what we have been given to enjoy. It is healthy and it is good.

God loves us and He has blessed us with so much. Let us receive it with thanksgiving.

Kira

What has God given you to enjoy? What are some things you like to do to enjoy them?