Is Your Attitude in Check?

A few months ago we moved across the country. While I told God I was open to going wherever, the place He picked for us was one of the last places I ever wanted to end up. And while we’re close to a lot of big cities, we’re currently living in a rural and the nearest town is definitely in a state of disrepair. I went from, “I’ll go where you send me” to “Why on Earth would you send me here?!” While outwardly I put on a brave face, during our first couple months here I noticed my attitude slipping big time. I was snippy with my husband. I was frustrated with my kids. I was crying for no reason. I was getting annoyed and angry with the smallest things. I was lonely, missed my friends, and didn’t see how I would possibly make any new friends here. We started attending a new church and while I liked it fine and the people were friendly, no one was really jumping to get to know us and it definitely wasn’t like the place we’d called home for the past 3 years.

Of course, you all know all about that, right? Every few years, you’ve got to start over again. For an introvert like me, it’s extremely hard to adjust to a new place and make new friends.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  My spirit was crushed and my bones were definitely dry. But in the midst of my little pity party, God caught me and said, “You need to get your attitude in check.”

God reminded me that I may not be in total control of my current situation, but that my frustration didn’t give me a reason to let my attitude get out of control. Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

When we let our attitudes get out of control we’re not focusing on what is true, what is honorable, what is just, what is pure, what is lovely, what is commendable, or what is worthy of praise. But if we start to focus on those things, not only will we start to get our attitudes back in check, but we’re promised that the God of peace will be with us.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” and Psalm 14:18-19 says, “When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

How true that is. The moment I got my attitude in check, my days started to get better. I still don’t have any new Facebook friends and I still feel a bit lonely at times, but God’s reminder about my attitude has helped me to focus on making the most of this new situation instead of wallowing in self-pity.

 

 

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Mercy

At church, the pastor has been preaching about the beatitudes. A few weeks ago he got to, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” and shared the parable of the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35).

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’”

How often do we refuse to extend mercy to others, forgetting the mercy Christ extended to us?

For me, I know it’s fairly often. People get on my nerves. They offend me. They don’t do things the way I’d like them to. They refuse to own up to their actions and apologize when they’ve done something wrong and they probably never will. But that doesn’t let me off the hook when it comes to extending mercy.

Matt Redman’s song “Mercy” is part of the regular worship set at our church and I catch my singing it sometimes throughout the day as a reminder to always be merciful. After all, Christ has shown endless mercy to me.

 

A Big Responsibility

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During my freshman year of college, I joined a local campus ministry group and really grew in my faith. I was learning so much and starting to shape my life to better fit what I thought it meant to be a Christian. Of course, since I was becoming more like what I thought a Christian should be, I felt like everyone else in my family needed to do the same and I went home for Christmas break with that thought in mind.

On Christmas Eve, we started to go to church like we always did on Christmas Eve and my sister didn’t want to go. My new legalistic mindset couldn’t comprehend the idea of not wanting to go to church on Christmas Eve and so I called her a heathen. I don’t think I really even knew what the word heathen meant, but I felt like it was the right term at the time.

I don’t know if my sister even remembers that moment, but I do. In my life there are a few moments I’m ashamed of and it has always been up there at the top.

Why does it matter? Because for a good portion of her life, my sister has been fairly indifferent about God and while I don’t know if I have anything to do with it, I certainly haven’t helped. In our family, she’s the fairly calm one. She doesn’t let things bother her, she goes along with the flow, and just tries to keep from rocking the boat. Nothing is really that big of a deal. I’m the one who causes trouble, gets into arguments with my mom, didn’t attend my mom’s wedding to a man I didn’t like and still just barely tolerate, and even spent almost a year not talking to my mom.  And I’m the one who is a Christian. If I was my sister and saw that’s what a Christian looked like, I wouldn’t be racing to become a Christian either.

None of us is perfect. That’s why we need Jesus. But when it comes to being a Christian and encouraging others to be Christians, we have a big responsibility.

My freshman year self thought that responsibility came in the form of telling everyone what they were supposed to be doing and calling them out for things like not being baptized or not wanting to go to church. My today self knows that the responsibility comes in the form of loving people.

Am I going to complain some? Yes. Am I going to not like some people? Most likely. Am I going to make mistakes? Absolutely. But when my family and the other people I come into contact with on a regular basis think of me, I want them to remember less of the bad and more of the good. Because if they connect me with Christianity, then what they think of me will often become what they think of Christians in general and if they don’t think very highly of Christians in general, then they’re less likely to ever want to be one.

The Victim Stance

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When I was growing up, whenever I got in trouble, my mom would always say, “Don’t take the victim stance!”

I hated it when she talked to me like a social worker. She worked as a social worker in a juvenile detention center and, to me, it was just her trying to lump in with one of her kids yet again.

However, when I was thinking about my husband’s crazy schedule and the fact that I’d basically get to see him for about an hour a day for the next three weeks, that phrase popped into my mind – “Don’t take the victim stance!”

Whenever my mom told me not to take the victim stance, she was telling me to be accountable for my wrong actions. In this case, I hadn’t done anything wrong, but that kind of thinking still applies. When life gets hard, our husband’s aren’t around as much as they should be, or we’re just tired and lonely, we can get into a “woe is me” mindset. When that happens, we often do and say things we’re not so proud of, and then blame our circumstances.

“Well, yeah, I yelled at my kids, but I’m really stressed right now. Anyone else would do the same.”

We get snippy. We get sad. We get tired. We moan, sigh, complain under our breath, roll our eyes, become lazy, and allow ourselves to seep into a bad mood and blame our circumstances to justify it.

But we don’t have to do that. If you spend your entire life taking the victim stance in rough times and difficult situations, you miss out on a lot of opportunities to be happy.

After all, your circumstances don’t control you. YOU control you.

As I stood in the kitchen and thought about how not fun the next few weeks were going to be, I reminded myself that I control me. I can sit around the house, mope, complain, and get snippy with my kids or I can do my best to make the next few weeks enjoyable. I can choose to take the victim stance or I can choose to hold myself accountable for my thoughts and my actions over the next few weeks.

Come Out of Hiding

Recently I read a post from a friend who talked about how she had been in hiding for most of her husband’s last duty station. Not that she was hunkered down in a basement somewhere or cut off from the world, but that she kept herself from doing certain things like going to the park or even going to church because her husband was gone and she didn’t want the reminder or to put on display that he wasn’t there.

On the other side of the coin, last year, when my husband’s ship was deployed, a group of wives from the ship got together and headed to the Navy ball without their husbands. There may have been a few moments of sadness as they watched other sailors dance with their significant others, but for the most part, they had the time of their lives.

As military wives, we have two choices – we can put our lives on hold while our husbands are away and say “I’m not going to do something because that makes me sad or because I don’t want my husband to miss it” or we can use the time to live our lives.

During my husband’s 9 months of deployment, my kids and I took a lot of mini trips, headed to lots of fairs and festivals, and even just did every day things like going to the park and heading to church every Sunday. Was it hard sometimes to see dad’s playing with their kids at the park and wish my husband could be there too? Sure, but I bet dad was the last thing on my four-year-old’s mind as he raced around the playground.  Did I wish my husband could stand beside me at church as I worshipped on Sunday mornings? Of course, but I also recognized how much support I got from our church family and focused more on God during those moments.

I’m not writing this to shame my friend. On the radio the other day, the host was talking about a woman who posted about her struggles with anorexia and commented “how beautiful it was that she could share her struggles in the hopes of encouraging others” and I feel the same way about what my friend posted. How beautiful it is that she could admit that she somewhat holed away while her husband was gone so that, in turn, other wives could recognize that maybe they were currently in that place and be encouraged to get out and enjoy the moment.

When we sit at home, in a way, we’re wallowing in self pity. “Woe is me, my husband is gone, things just aren’t the same without him.”

In 1 Kings 19:4-15, Elijah focuses on his circumstances, physically exhausts himself, and prays that he will die. What was God’s response? An angel came and said, “Get up and eat” and he got up and was strengthened enough to walk for 40 more days.

Sometimes when we’re feeling a bit down or disappointed that our spouses can’t be there for every moment, we need to call on God for the strength to get up and get out there anyway.

Deuteronomy 32:10-11 says, “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, 11like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.”

If you’re in hiding, come out. It won’t be easy, but you have God, and the support of others who have been there, to help you live right now.

Seeking Validation

Every few weeks, a new blog post goes viral. It’s the mom writing a letter to the mom on the iPhone or another mom writing a response to the mom writing the letter to the mom on the iPhone. It’s the post about having sex with your husband every day and the posts about why another woman is not going to possibly have sex with her husband every day. We read and share these posts like crazy on Facebook and Twitter.

Why?

Because we love validation.

Doesn’t it feel to good to see a blog post going viral that supports the decisions we make on a daily basis. We share it so we can see others comment with “right on!” or “this is SO true,” further validating the choices we’ve made.

The good thing about the internet is, whatever we’re doing, we can usually find someone who shares our viewpoint and does the same things we do.

There’s something to be said for sharing with one another and supporting one another as a form of building each other up, but there’s another thing to be said for needing others to validate the choices and decisions we make in our lives.

We do it in other ways too. That employee treated me poorly, so I’m going to post about it, mostly to hear people say “yeah, that employee really was in the wrong” or someone says I’m not good enough, so I’m going to post about it just to get people to comment “ignore them, you’re awesome.”

When I taught middle school, my students used to come me and say things like “so and so said I was dumb” or “so and so said I was fat.”  My response would always be, “Well, are you?” If the answer was “no,” I’d respond with, “well, then what does it matter?” They were only coming to me to get someone to validate that they were wronged or to get the other person in trouble and they were also basing their self-worth on what someone else said about them.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Do you spend more time comparing your life with the opinions of viral blog posts and people on social media than you do comparing it with the instructions in the Bible?

In Galatians 1:10, Paul says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Our human nature craves validation, but we don’t need to get that validation by sharing viral blog posts or ranting on Facebook. We can get that validation from God and know that whatever we do, if we’re following Him and His word, we’re okay.

A Quiet Spirit

Homecoming starts to approach and you frantically start the search for the perfect homecoming outfit. After not seeing your spouse for six months… a year… maybe even longer, you want to look good. News Flash! The guy hasn’t seen you in months — whatever you’re wearing will look good!

Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear something nice to make the day a little more special or even just to get all dolled up every now and then, but when your outward beauty becomes your sole focus, you lose a bit of the beauty God intended for you.

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles or the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

What does that mean as a military wife? Well, it’s a lot more than not being afraid to step outside without makeup while wearing yoga pants. It’s all about how you present yourself in the community.

A gentle and quiet spirit is not bashing other spouses on military message boards. It’s not complaining about your husband’s command publicly. It’s not snapping at people because you’ve had a rough day or getting angry with your husband for something trivial while he’s away.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit avoids getting angry when it’s not justified and, when angry, seeks to resolve matters in a cool, calm and collected manner.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit holds in her opinions when she knows expressing them won’t help the situation and kindly inserts them when they will.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t grumble at the end of the day when she has finally put the kids to bed and wants to crawl into bed herself, but still has to do a load of laundry, clean up from dinner, and take care of a million other things around the house while her husband is gone.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t let her situation overwhelm her, but rather seeks God’s strength and support when she starts to feel like she’s becoming overwhelmed.

It’s not about trying to force an introvert into an extrovert’s body. In fact, it has little to do with personality at all and more to do with how you handle your personality and how you express yourself.

Do you stress out your husband by sending an e-mail vent at the end of every day? Do other people get stressed from being around you because you embody negativity? Do they ignore your complaints, your opinions, and your advice because you’ve got something to say about everything and you don’t always say it very nicely?

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit is kind to her husband and others around her.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit speaks when she can offer something of value (and realizes every thread in a Facebook group doesn’t need a comment from her).

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit understands that she’s not the only one whose opinion matters.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit knows that everyone has a rough day or says or does things they regret every now and then.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit is generally positive and seeks God’s support when she’s feeling negative.

A wife with a gentle and quiet spirit knows that military life comes with enough general stress and drama so she seeks to keep additional stress and drama out of her marriage, her life, and the lives of her friends.

A wife of gentle and quiet spirit asks – Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Will it build someone up? before speaking and acting.

So go ahead and look for that perfect homecoming outfit, but let your beauty on the outside be trumped by your beauty on the inside.