I have one question for you: Is the glass half-empty or half-full?
With a couple of my friends from the Andorra Fulbright, I’m known as the Chris Treager of the group. If that name means something to you, then you must at least be a semi-fan of the show Parks and Recreation.
If you’re not a fan of the show, Chris Treager is a super energetic, super healthy, super-fit city manager of this very tiny town somewhere in Indiana–Pawnee. Throughout the show, there’s actually many many many scenes where I vehemently disagree with Chris Treager’s life choices. So with that being said, how did I get labeled as the Chris Trager of the Andorra Fulbright group?
Which was honestly most shocking to me because I consider myself to be a realist. Sure, I’m imaginative, especially when I’m writing, but I’m an incredibly direct person. Most of the time, I don’t put a positive spin on things. The glass is half-empty.
But I guess God changed me while I was doing the Fulbright in Andorra because my fellow Fulbrighters saw me as Ms. Positive!
Trying to Stay Positive
Looking back, I think part of my positivity came from my realization of just how much is out of my control and how little my worrying does about it. I won’t delve into the whole story of how I learned that valuable lesson, but you can catch the full post here (Handling Stress Abroad: No Passa Res).
However, since I’ve returned from my wonderful Fulbright experience, I felt like I went from the highest mountaintop to rock bottom. Kind of literally.
My last two months in Andorra had been serene, dreamlike. Almost the entire month of May, I traveled with my younger sister around Europe and just had such incredible fun with her. In June, school hours decreased as students prepared for their final exams. The weather in Andorra was gorgeous, and so I was hiking multiple times a week in the mountains, walking with friends, and seeing nature so beautiful and undisturbed.
Now at that point, the past eight months of Andorra had been anything but easy, but it was easy to put on the rose-colored glasses right when we were about to leave.
Expectations vs. Reality
So in the span of less than a month, I left Andorra, swung by NYC to visit a friend, and landed in my full-time consulting job. I was excited for the new adventure, to be able to apply more concretely some of that international business and economics knowledge and to jet off to new places for projects, rack up some nice hotel and flight points and travel even more.
Yeah, that just didn’t happen.
None of that actually happened, which is when I felt like I hit rock bottom. My consulting project was local to my area, so there was no jetting off to new places or racking up hotel points or bonus miles. The role that I was placed in was not anything like the role I thought I was being hired for. It was disappointment after disappointment.
And suddenly, I felt like I needed someone to be the Chris Treager in my life because I was miserably failing at staying positive. ?
God tells us to be Grateful
Okay, I realized that a lot of the circumstances surrounding my first consulting project were by happenstance, the luck of the draw, and yes, it was completely out of my control (despite the incorrect advice I received about it being in my control).
Yet suddenly, just recognizing that these circumstances were out of my control wasn’t enough anymore. I admitted to myself that I was unhappy. At the same time, I recalled that God calls us to be joyful. Why wasn’t I rejoicing?
Making the Gratitude List
During my time on this local project, I joined a Bible study at a nearby church. I’d listed my complaints as my “prayer request” multiple times. And one Tuesday night, the Bible study leader empathized with my struggle and suggested that I try writing a list of the things that I’m thankful for so that when I’m feeling unhappy or disappointed or discouraged or angry, I can glance at this list and remind myself of everything I have to be thankful for.
Well, since all of my attempts at complaining the sadness away had failed, I decided to try it out and make a gratitude list. I opened up my journal and scribbled down my gratitude list. It certainly wasn’t a one-and-done type of exercise. I came back to the list for a couple of days to add items that I’d thought of later.
And sure enough, when I was sitting at home feeling frustrated or angry that things weren’t how I wanted them, I would open my journal and read my gratitude list. I’d point to each item and then praise God in prayer, thanking Him for it.
Thankful without a List
I eventually outgrew my gratitude list.
And when I say that, I don’t mean that I wrote down so many things that I filled the pages of the journal. Nooooooo.
I mean that I no longer had to look at the list to remind myself of the things that I was thankful for. I could rattle them off of the top of my head and pray them in my head before going to bed at night. And better yet, every time I was tempted to complain, I was instantly reminded that God promises to work all things out together for my good and for those that love Him. And I was living proof of that because of the ways I had been blessed by God not giving me what I thought I wanted.
You see, we are commanded to be thankful, and that thankfulness helps us retain our joy in the Lord. But the world tries to steal that joy. Because the more unhappy we are, the more we look to the world for satisfaction instead of God.
You don’t have to be like Chris Treager to be positive. You just have to look to God with gratitude.
And now, five or six months later, I love my local project. I love that I’m not jetting off every week to earn hotel points or airline miles. Now, I deeply appreciate every single thing that I wrote down on my gratitude list six months prior.
God really did work things out for my good. He knew what I needed better than I did.
Shift Your Perspective
What situation are you struggling with because it didn’t turn out the way you wanted? How might your discouragement and disappointment change if you shift your perspective and focus on how God has blessed you?
Now is the perfect time to make a Gratitude List! So when you can’t remember why you should be thankful, you have a handy list to remind you before the world steals your joy.
Be encouraged! Romans 8:28 New International Version (NIV)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
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