turn it into praise...

Recently I was speaking with my spiritual director about the many storms that seem to be swirling around in my life and my struggles to keep things on an even keel. I feel under constant attack these days. He gave me a piece of advice that I am just now, several days’ later, understanding. 

He said:
“Turn it into Praise. Whatever hardships come your way; whenever you feel overwhelmed or unprepared for what is happening next, turn it into praise. Stop for a moment and begin to praise God for everything in your life. Every good thing, every challenging thing, praise Him. Ask for grace, wisdom, and strength. Praise Him for giving you those immediately. Whatever is happening in your mind and heart, turn it into praise and give it back to God.”

I chuckled as an image popped into my head of me raising my hands in the air praising Him in the middle of a disagreement with my 19-year son or during a seizure with Courtney. That just sounded a bit out of my comfort zone. What did he mean, exactly? I know what he meant intellectually, but what did it look like, feel like, sound like “to turn it into praise”?

I am a person who lives viscerally though the five senses. I want to know what it looks like, tastes like, and feels like. It is hard for me to imagine something that is intangible. I believe in One God, I do, but I also identify so completely with Doubting Thomas who said, “show me Lord, and I will believe it is you.” Therefore, my prayers usually begin with “help me in my unbelief”. Being an ever faithful God, He has again and again. God has shown His face, mercy, love and grace to me so many times over the years, you would think that praising Him wouldn't be difficult and it's not most of the time. But then along comes a challenge or hardship and I feel like I'm standing on shifting sand. 

So I meditated and prayed about it and eventually God spoke to my heart saying:
“This is a choice. To see me in each situation, in every challenge you face, I am there. In all of it, I am there. I will not leave you; I will not abandon those you love. I am there.”

It’s a CHOICE. Life is a CHOICE. How you live it. How you love. How you serve. How you chose to respond to ANY situation is a CHOICE. So “to turn it into praise” is making a choice to find God in the midst of the chaos. Find Him in the face of anger and frustration. Find Him in the middle of great sorrow and trial. Find Him in the daily toil of life. He is there. He is ALWAYS there.

So, I praise Him in the prayer I say over my daughter as she fights for each breath during a seizure. I praise Him for the advice of a friend who holds my hand and prays with me during a great trial. I praise Him for the look of love and devotion my sweet husband gives me each night as we wrap our arms around each other, knowing we have survived another day. I praise Him for my son as he carries his crippled sister to bed with gentleness and love. I praise Him for the serving hands of my mother as she helps me ready my home for company, having fallen behind once again in the busyness of life. I praise Him when I am faced with someone who challenges my patience or mocks my faith. I praise Him for the spirit of perseverance in running this race of life with dignity and grace. I praise Him for the gift of the Eucharist I am privileged to receive. I praise Him for the wise counsel of a priest who challenges me “to turn it into praise” and give it all back to God. Praise Him I shall.
How have you seen the face of God this week? How has he carried you through? How have you “turned it into praise”?