One of the questions that was posed to me in the comments recently was this: "I am particularly curious of how you keep your spirits UP, and remain so seemingly serene."
I don't know that anyone who knows me in person has ever thought of me as serene – most of them would probably more accurately describe me as LOUD. [It's true.] But I will say that I feel pretty centered most of the time, and I figured out recently that it has everything to do with my focus on one certain aspect of prayer.
That's why I've chosen Praise to be the word I focus on this year.
This really hit home for me recently when I started a new morning habit. Nighttime is difficult for me in terms of pain and rest. I don't sleep well, and often don't really get sleep until the morning hours when other people are getting up and starting their day. It's hard to keep my body on a sleep schedule because once my medications do kick in and the sleep [albeit restless] takes hold, it's hard for me to fully rouse out of the slumber.
To counteract this, I discovered an app on my iPad that will play music I've selected at a certain time every morning, and it gradually increases the volume to pull me out of sleep more gently. It helps me start to wake, the familiar music gets my brain to start working enough to roll over and take my pain meds, and then I lay in bed listening to songs until the meds kick in and I'm able to get myself into a position where I can get up.
This whole process takes about an hour.
The key here, for me, is the music I've chosen. I listen to Selah's Deliver Me cd, which is an hour long, and each song is a perfect prayer in just the right order. There are messages in each song that bring me to center. They are prompts to pray for certain people, certain circumstances, individual requests. And every one of them brings me to a place where I am praising the One who gave me the privilege to live this life, know these people and pray for them.
So at the beginning of each day when my pain is high and I wake with a bit of dread for what's ahead, my focus is immediately shifted. Rather than letting life run me, I take a simple action. I go from my own circumstance to thinking about others. I remember that this life is not about me and choose to give thanks to the God who loves me.
That is what keeps my spirits up... it's my focus on spirits other than mine. It's my focus on praising instead of dwelling on my own circumstances. It's not always easy, but it is something I have to choose to do if I am going to live the life He needs me to.
There is something that happens on Twitter that I love. I assume it's something people learned in Sunday school or youth groups – whenever someone tweets the message, "God is good!" many other people tweet in response, "All the time!"
I love it. I believe it. I need to remember it.
I want to own that kind of praise this year.
When things are going smoothly, when things are difficult, when life is in that in-between we don't know what to do with, the fact remains that God is good all the time. And that is worth praising Him for. That knowledge, that belief and that attitude of praise is what shapes who we can be in this life for Him.
He knows my past, present and future. He is surprised by nothing. He is with me, never leaves me even when I feel alone, and holds me up even when I think I am standing on my own two feet. He is good. All the time.
And I am going to praise Him through all of it.