I expected an “Oh man,” a loud sigh, or some type of complaint. I was shocked when I got none of that! All four of my children helped me gather up flashlights and candles, and then, my son excitedly called out, “Hey, Mom, can we go outside and look at the stars?” A few years ago, we had major power outages. The house got really hot, and we couldn’t move around easily in the dark, so we would go out on an upstairs balcony and just look at the stars. I know the wii is no big thing and power cuts shouldn’t discourage us, but sometimes dumb stuff like that does. In fact, I inwardly complained about cooking in the dark! (A candle doesn’t cut it like a real light even with the gas burners on.) My son’s positive attitude really spoke to me this evening. He CHOSE to have fun instead of being disappointed. As we ate by candlelight, I was thinking how much more romantic candles are when you use them because you WANT to not because you HAVE to. Then, as my eight year old daughter was going to get a shower, she said, “Tonight I get to take a candlelight show-uh!” (She still gets lazy with her r’s sometimes.) It was so cute! Her sweet little voice and thankful spirit about GETTING to bathe by candlelight! This Mama’s heart was so proud yet also…..convicted! My children found adventures while I was struggling! How many more things in life would seem like adventures to me and all of my family if I would just change my perspective a little bit?
I have this constant battle to control my attitude. I can blame it on the conditions I live in, people I don’t get a long with, sickness and hardship, or even a family member, but it comes down to choosing to have a good attitude in each and every circumstance. Instead of grumbling about a task I don’t want to do, I should be thankful I have the ability to accomplish the task. If I get burnt out on homeschooling, I should thank God for getting to spend time with four precious children. I often stop and ask God to help me enjoy these fleeting moments with them when I do feel impatient and irritable. Then, I find myself enjoying my role as mother and teacher. When the frustrations of being the outsider in a foreign country get to me, I must remind myself that I’m living a life others only dream of. In fact, I’m doing what I dreamed of doing for so many years! It’s all about my attitude. I can live in misery because of my circumstances, or I can enjoy life by looking at each and every obstacle as an adventure in walking with God and seeing how HE will work. Here are a few tips that help me keep a more positive attitude.
1. Think positive thoughts
In our ministry in particular we can have 100 things going well, and I will sometimes see the ONE thing that’s going wrong. It drives me crazy! It’s all I can think about. It’s all I can talk about. How many times do we neglect to see God’s hand working because we are consumed with the problems going on?
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
2. Allow only positive words to come out of your mouth.
Make yourself say only good things. Negative thoughts will enter our minds even when we try to keep them out. Dismiss those thoughts before they hit the tongue. Once I start talking about doubts, fears, or frustrations, my feelings multiply. They stay in my mind because I can’t quit talking about them. Also, what we say affects all those around us! My children will often voice a negative thought that embarrasses me because I know it came from my mouth first. I am shaping the very way they think by the words that come out of my own mouth.
you are happy even if you don’t feel it. I’m not sure if there is a verse on this one, but sometimes, we just feel, “blah!” We women are entitled to have those days, right? I have found that putting a smile on my face and pretending to be happy, even when I don’t feel like it helps. Pretend you are having fun doing something you don’t like, and you might just find yourself enjoying it.
4. Be content with what you have.
If we think we will be happy when we get a certain item, a better salary, a bigger church or anything else, we are wrong. The person who isn’t content where they are and with what they have will not be content anywhere.
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil. 4:11,12) “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Tim. 6:6-8)
5. Have an “attitude of gratitude.”
When we thank God for what we have, we soon forget about what we don’t have. It amazes me that the apostles rejoiced for being allowed to suffer for Jesus. We can ALWAYS find a reason to THANK him.
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I Thessalonians 5:18
6. Don’t complain,
or as my friend Mrs. Stacey Howeth adequately states, “Get a Grip on your Griping!” Her article says it all! http://www.womenbehindthescenes.com/2012/11/06/getting-a-grip-on-your-griping/
7. Think of others in worse circumstances
My husband’s aunt was dying of cancer. She was between 80 and 90 pounds, and was very weak. She could barely eat. Nothing else could be done for her; yet, she was always smiling, happy, and concerned for others. I asked her how she could be so positive and she said, “You know, I look around me and there are so many people who are worse than me.”
8. See the best in people.
Don’t try to judge their motives. Don’t get mad and assume you know why someone said something to hurt your feelings. You could easily develop a bad attitude towards that person who probably didn’t even realize they hurt you. They might not have meant it like you took it or they might be hurting themselves.“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1,2)
Even after 10 years in West Africa, there are cultural things that I don’t understand. What is culturally offensive to me might be someone’s way of showing respect. If someone offends me, I must assume that they did not mean to. In trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak our native tongue, there can be so many miscommunications. It is easy to get offended simply because we misunderstood someone. We can very quickly begin to think the worst of someone when we have no idea what is in their heart, and we lose our loving attitude.
9. Do everything for the Lord.
We all like to be appreciated and thanked, but that’s not why we serve. When I feel under appreciated, I tend to resent the tasks I have to do. I grumble, complain, and even cry in frustration. This is not the attitude my Lord wants. In fact, if that’s my attitude, I’m probably better not to even be serving.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23)
10. Strive to be like Jesus.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philipians 2:5-8) Jesus served others first. If I’m not “in the mood” to help someone else, and I do it anyway, it’s amazing how much my attitude changes. Thinking of others instead of my own problems always makes me feel better and more fulfilled.