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5 Ideas for a More Positive Outlook

Last night, after reading an email letting me know I passed two parts of my comprehensive graduate exam but failed one part because I didn't answer the question as in-depth as the professor wanted, I felt extremely discouraged. The test is composed of essay questions from every grad school class taken. We have two chances to pass each section before being "dismissed" from the program without a degree (even though all the coursework is completed). Two chances. Great, I already used one. The worst part is I already took 2 days off work for to study, one to take the test...and now I am going to have to take another day. So much for saving my PTO for my wedding.

Later that night, I did what any normal student would do, I texted classmates to vent, read some of my favorite blogs, and went to sleep. This morning, I was determined not to let it bother me. So what, I study more, take some PTO (uggh!) and pass the next time. Here goes nothing. Sorry for wanting a life beyond work and studying. Maybe next year. Literally. Ok, really, I am not going to let it bother me.

So, in the spirit of not letting it bother me, I will share my morning, which was particularly wonderful. I got up in time to run before work. I chose a sermon from Church of the Highlands and began down the still-dark road that led to my usual neighborhood running spot. The entry gates to the neighborhood were closed. Shocker. With my new found positive attitude, I jumped the fence. I mean, I came to run, I'm going to run. I continued to jog through the now forbidden neighborhood while thinking about those closed gates that stood in my way. Throughout each day we will face's a fact, Jack. God told us that when he said "in this world, you will have trouble", but {take heart!} there is always another way. Sure, trespassing in this case, but you get the metaphor. I could have stood there, complained about how the gates were closed, it was still dark outside, and I don't have much time to exercise anyway so I'll just turn and head back. Instead, I looked up,  noticed the sun was beginning to rise and that on either side of the gate is a fence with boards with just enough room for me to squeeze through to my running route. So, I did just that.

The past few weeks have been overwhelming, mostly due to school and just being busy on the weekends, and I have done a lot of complaining!  I think it is human nature to complain first and think second (for me, anyway). I am on a mission to stop complaining and boy, is it a hard mission.

Each morning, drive an hour to work. During that time, I listen to a Church of the Highlands sermon- some that I have heard before, some that are new. This is the only church I have ever been to that keeps my attention the entire time and leaves me feeling refreshed. Pastor Chris teaches and preaches so you know what to do when you leave the doors of the building or in my case, reach the end of the recording.

Today, was a different speaker, but he proved to be just as wonderful. I am listening to the "Joy" series for the second time. Part 1 explains the difference between happiness (external forces that determine our mood) and Joy (comes from the inside and is only from God's grace). Part 2, was the one I listened to today, and it was just what I needed to hear. It talked about serving others, finding joy through service to others, and not complaining about your own circumstances. Amen? I am often so busy with my own life, school, work, exercise, and whatever else my day needs, that I forget to think about the needs of others. I know I am not alone because each time I take a glance at my Facebook feed I find people complaining. They complain about the government, complain about their lives, complain about the name of a Redskins football team. All of this complaining succeeds in taking our focus even further away from God than ever before.

We cannot have joy if we spend all of our time dwelling on the bad things and complaining about every thing that happens in our lives, big or small. Which reminds me that I must not complain in order to have joy to share with others. Pastor Mark mentioned a quote from mother Theresa that talked about sharing joy with all that you meet, especially your family. This is another aspect of joy that is difficult for me. Everyone at work views me as upbeat, always smiling, energetic, but my family sees me at the end of the day when my energy is spent. I don't feel like talking, I'm hungry and tired and still have homework to do before bed. I often treat them differently than I do strangers and friends. Why wouldn't I? They have to love me unconditionally, right? I don't necessarily complain to them, but I don't spend time talking to them and learning about their day because I am often so wrapped up in my own. Then I thought about another message, this time, from Joel Osteen, in which he reminded us that God gave us our family to enjoy not just to provide for. We should be enjoying our loved ones. More on that later, for now memorize this verse that Pastor Mark left closed with: Philippians 2:14-16.
I am a firm believer that when we decide to stop doing something, we must make a plan for what we will do instead of what we won't do. So, here are my five ideas for how to be more positive.
  1. When a negative thought comes to mind, replace it with Philippians 2:14.
  2. Instead of complaining, stop, think and say a prayer to help cope with whatever the issue is. 
  3. Look for a better way. The gate was closed, I climbed the fence.
  4. Stay determined. When something goes wrong or you fail a test. Work harder, study harder and know that all things work for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. 
  5. Study the bible. Daily. In some way, online, recorded readings, sermons, or the good ole' fashioned bible reading way. Spend daily time with God. 

Do you have a morning routine that includes devotional time?

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