She’s leaving soon. …. .
We are always making much of something. How so? Well, what are you giving attention today? Family, work, plans for the weekend, the kids, the big game.. . ?
Every day something is vying for our attention. It could be something or someone we love and enjoy and other times it is something that worries or aggravates us.
These “overcoming regret” posts came about as we were preparing to send our daughter off to college this fall. When the time got closer, I began to feel sadness over missed opportunities.
As I was feeling sadness and giving attention to missed opportunities, something else began to happen as well. …. ..
The more I focused on what was missing, the more I began to notice imperfections in our lives and even in my daughter. At first, it was a sense of “time is running short, I have to teach and prepare her to be on her own.” But, it didn’t stop until I saw more negative than positive when I looked around
After a time of worry and giving attention to what was missing, Father spoke to me and said, “Celebrate what is instead of what is not.”
Celebrate what “is” instead of what “is not”.
Celebrate: to observe, remember, give attention or focus to and to make much of.
I was celebrating something but it wasn’t good.
3 Forms of “What’s Not”
Perfectionism: When there is much to be thankful for but all we see of what is not, we are probably dealing w perfectionism. When I heard Father tell me “celebrate what is,” I realized my focus and energy were not from a healthy motivation of teaching and preparation, it was actually a nasty form of perfectionism. I had begun to celebrate “what’s not” to the point I couldn’t see what God had done and what He wanted to do. Perfectionism is an ugly, evil beast that wears an attractive mask. On the surface, it masquerades as “just trying to be our best.” However, underneath the mask is a monster that says, “you can be perfect if you try harder!” Key word, “you.” The danger of perfectionism is that it always comes back to an effort to be self-sufficient which is curse in itself.
When we easily see what people do wrong but have trouble seeing what they are doing well, we are probably celebrating “what’s not”.
When I hold myself to the standard of perfection, I am believing that I or (others) should be the answer to all problems and needs. We are not. Only God is the ultimate answer, only God is perfect. We give what we have. We can join together and lean on strengths of those around us but only God is all sufficient. Our inadequacy is a path that leads us to the great “I AM”. I love 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as coming from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” If I do not come to grips with the truth that He is what brings sufficiency to my life, I will always be disappointed and disillusioned with myself and others.
Ephesians 2 says that we are saved by grace through faith. Why would we think that the biggest feat happens by grace but then we do other things like marriage, parenting, career and the rest of our lives by our own effort instead of grace?
You know the best solution for the next time you hear the voice that says you were not enough or you did not do enough? Agree with it! “Perfectionism, you are absolutely right, I will never be sufficient in my own self and effort, Jesus qualifies me in this matter and enables all things by His grace. My hope is in Him right now.” Rest in the sufficiency of Christ!
Past and Future: I have written about this other places (A Lesson From Uncle Rico (Let It Go), Gotta Let Go To Grow) so I won’t spend much time here. The inability to celebrate what is good in the here and now is also an indication that my focus is probably on “what’s not.” It is ok to look back to the past or ahead to the future but it needs to pass through a lens of gratitude and anticipation of God’s hope and help.
Comparison: Comparison usually takes a quick glance at the surface of someone else’s situation and quickly tallies up what they have and what you don’t. Have you ever heard someone complain about their life, job, family, finances, opportunities, weight or something else and think to yourself, “weird, I think their situation is pretty good.” Both ends of that equation are forms of celebrating “what’s not.”
Also, have you ever noticed that we normally compare ourselves with people from a distance? I don’t usually compare myself with people I know well because I know their problems. I was just sitting with a couple last night discussing a situation and this morning I got a text, “thank you for sharing about your mistakes, that is helpful.” Comparison is a very common form of celebrating “what is not” in our lives and feeling like we come up short.
Celebrating What “Is”: What does it mean to celebrate what “is”?
Celebrating what “is” is about taking inventory of the goodness and provisions in my life, even if I can’t see much at first. Taking inventory is not counting what is missing or what someone else has. When we are focused on what is missing or what hasn’t been done, it can lead to internal guilt trips that actually paralyze us in the here and now so instead of just connecting in the moment we avoid connection because of or stay stuck in guilt. Ironically, the guilt from focusing on what is not steals what actually is.
Ask these questions. What has God done? What has He provided? How has He led me along the way? If you do not have much good that comes to mind when you ask those questions, you have probably been focused on what “is not”.
Celebrating what “is” trains us to recognize that we have been intentionally and faithfully provided for by a loving Father. It is about recognizing what He has done, what He is doing and learning to expecting His goodness in the future. It is recognizing that He has kept his promises and expecting that He will do it again (1 Thess. 5:18).
The “How To” Guide for Celebrating What “Is”
Philippians 4:4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
When we keep our focus on what “is not” we are blinded to everything big and small Father has done and trains us to anticipate our lives be left lacking. This not only makes for a negative perspective and discouragement and it can literally be detrimental to our health (Check these out Why Complaining Is Killing Us, Gratitude Rewires Your Brain For Happiness)!
What will you see?
In order to break the negative cycle of thought I was in regarding my daughter leaving our home, I had to take an inventory of what “is” in our life. So I began to make a list and here are some of the things I came up with. ….
We have had 18+ years with our daughter in our home. We have had countless good moments and memories. Brianna is a wonderful young woman. She has rarely ever given us any trouble and when she does, she is quick to take responsibility for it. She trusts us. She has consistently made good decisions as well as honored counsel and guidance from us and others. She has been honest with us about her life and her choices and has very rarely been unwise in decision making. She overcame a slight dyslexia to graduate a challenging high school path with a 4.0 GPA while completing 20 hours of college credit (albeit with math courses way over my head). There have been many times we didn’t need to intervene in situations because she already prayed about it and took counsel from the Holy Spirit or a scripture verse. She is in relationship with others who continue to coach, encourage and teach her to be her absolute best. And, one of my favorites .. . . she loves us.
Although I am very proud of her, I don’t say this to boast about her. I say that to celebrate what “is.” You may be saying to yourself, “My situation is much different than that, if you could only see how bad my circumstances are.”
I get it. Every situation has problems, challenges and difficulties. Remember, those are the things that took me in a downward spiral and were the reasons I had to learn this lesson to begin with. We have had challenges, bumps and bruises along the way.
What is or what’s not? We all have a choice today of what we will see and what we will celebrate. What we choose will impact those around us.
What are you celebrating today? What are you making much of in your family, work and life situations?
You know, when I listed the things that are in my life, I realized how off I was to only see what was missing. And, you know what is really great? Since I have had my eyes on what God has done and been expecting He will be working in my future, I have seen Him actually grow things and We always have a choice of what we will celebrate and make much of. Find what “is” in your life and make much of it today.
BREAK IT DOWN and Take it home! Process it some more with some coffee or friends!
- (* Don’t name names if in a group) Who is the most positive person you know? Does it annoy you how positive they are? Who are a couple of the most negative people you know? How much time do you want to spend with them? Why?
- If you had to give a percentage, what would you say your percentage is of “Celebrate what “is” or Celebrate what “is not”? 50/50, 40/60, 20/80 ?
- What are a few of the most significant events or people in your life that you believe helped shape the way you see things? Has anything helped you to celebrate what “is” in your life? If so, what?
- There were three ways of celebrating “what’s not” listed: Perfectionism, Over focus on Future and Past and Comparison. Are there others you have found in your life? Or, which of those three have been the biggest challenge for you?
- Take a look at 1 John 3:12-14:
12 I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.13 I am writing to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning. I am writing to you who are young in the faith because you have won your battle with the evil one. 14 I have written to you who are God’s children because you know the Father. I have written to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning. I have written to you who are young in the faith because you are strong. God’s word lives in your hearts, and you have won your battle with the evil one.
- Who are the 3 different categories of people that John addresses here? Anything you notice about how he addresses each group? What are the qualities that he points out for each one? Is this celebrating “what is” or “what’s not” – how so? Could he have found negative things to highlight in each category of people?
- Have you ever compared yourself to someone else and ended up discouraged or in self-pity because you saw your situation as lacking? It there is something you tend to compare to others about yourself, what is it? Job, family, work, title, money? Does it ever help you? Why or why not?
- ACTION STEP:
- Take a few minutes and begin to list some of “what is” in your life. Now, take it a step further… . . . think of a friend who is an encourager to you. Ask them to make a quick list of things to celebrate and see what they come up with. Sometimes if we have been focused on “what’s not” it is easier to see “what is” for others than ourselves.
- Take a minute to celebrate what “is” and give thanks to Father God. “Father, I thank you that you have been watching out for me, guiding and providing all along the way even when I have not seen it. Forgive me for not seeing what you have been doing and what you are working on. You have been with me and helped me very well along the way, help me to see it more and more as I choose to celebrate what “is.”