If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember Caryn from an e-interview last year about silence and solitude. Caryn Rivadeneira is a writer, speaker, founding partner of the Redbud Writers Guild, and married mom of three who lives in Chicago-land. Caryn is the author, most recently, of Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down — a fantastic book about acceptance, thankfulness, letting go, worship, courage, and so much more. I’m so glad Caryn joined us today to be part of our conversation about gratitude.
Are you ready, Caryn? Give me your first reaction to this question: What are ten things you’re thankful for? (No cheating: share the first 10 that come to mind.)
Opportunities to write. My kids. My friends. My home. Food. My family’s health. My computer. Facebook. My husband. My dog. (Let’s hope my husband doesn’t see this list! Poor guy eeked in just above the dog. At least he knows how much I love that dog.)
Grumble Hallelujah begins with a description of a low, stressed-out moment for you when you muttered to your husband “I hate my life!” And you also write about the importance of actually grieving the loss of dreams or of ways we might have once hoped our life would turn out. So not to start out too negative here, but why must we come to terms with what we may “hate” about our lives? Why is grieving an important starting place?
I think grieving the losses is important because it means we’ve actually taken the time to acknowledge the losses and that we’ve determined that the loss was significant enough to grieve. Often times when we’re in the dumps because of junky finances or unfulfilling relationships or just not being where we thought we’d be, we tend to scold ourselves. “How dare I complain about money when so many are so worse off….” “Well, at least I have other friends…..” That sort of thing.
But—as a therapist told me years ago—pain is pain. And it does no good to deny it. So, that’s why I think we need to grieve our hurts and losses and disappointments. Instead of letting the hurt fester down deep and ultimately become bitter, grief allows us to “process” it—to use a therapy-y term—and move forward.
Plus, the Bible tells us to grieve. James tells us that we should let our grief “humble” us before God so he can swoop in and lift us up. I take this to mean that if we don’t grieve our losses, if we don’t turn our joy to gloom as James says, we’re really just trying to plug away on our own power and not depend on God. Grief is an opportunity to turn it all over to God and trust him.
In your book, you discuss the importance of letting go of our own expectations of how God works (or how we think he ought to work in our lives). Why is this so essential? How can this “letting go” enable us to live in gratitude?
Well, when we’re looking around at how God is working in everyone’s lives or we’re stuck on certain methods that we think God should be employing in our lives, we miss out on the actual work he is doing in our lives.
We miss so much when we don’t let God be God and when we don’t learn to notice him. And when we don’t notice him—and his blessings—it’s hard to be grateful.
The reality is that we’re all prone to be grumbly — there’s a bit of Eeyore in all of us! What encouragement or advice can you offer to my readers about ways we can battle our human tendency toward grumbling, whining, and general discontent?
It’s funny because I don’t really think I’m a natural grumbler or whiner. I mean, I have my moments, but my tendency is to hunker down and press on, never letting others see I’m defeated. Or, at least, that was my natural tendency.
But to those who feel grumbly or discontent all the time, I’d say, that’s no place to be. Grumbling unchecked can become bitterness in a hurry. Especially if it’s grumbling without the hallelujah.
I believe we DO need to allow ourselves time to grumble, to complain, to shake our fists at God. But if we don’t end those sessions with some kind of hallelujah or some sort of ultimate acknowledgement of our trust in or love for him, we’re on the road to a miserable life.
Good grumbling should lead to greater joy and thankfulness.
In the book, I also offer my three “things” that help me know when or what I should be grieving or grumbling about—the things that keep me from whining to God about every last thing in life. They are: 1. What breaks my heart; 2. What I cannot change; and 3. What I have lost.
Others may have their own. But these—which can be applied broadly or locally—help me.
I love the subtitle of your book: Learning to love your life even when it lets you down. That learning curve can be pretty sharp — the process of choosing to love and be grateful and content in our lives requires of a lot of us! What’s this learning-to-love-your-life process been like for you personally? How have you ben changed by it?
Um. The process has been painful. Dreadful. But wonderful. It’s been a time (a long time!) of learning to let go, to lean not on my own understanding of life, if you will. But it’s been in the noticing of how God has used some of these hurts and frustrations and disappointments (many of which I still feel, by the way!) that has brought me a new-found love of life.
I realize how God has shaped me and grown me and set my life on a better trajectory through these trials. And wow. I just wouldn’t want to go back to the way I was—or my life was—before.
I love my life now because I believe I’m so much more in tune with God, with where he wants me, and with where he wants me to go. Sometimes I wish we could learn these sorts of lessons and develop this sort of understanding in easier ways—and maybe some people can. But I apparently can’t. And I’m grateful that God loves me enough to turn rough spots into bright ones.