Wednesday, November 27, 2013

turkey out. tree in -- coming prepared. {grace words wednesday}

“let us come into His presence with thanksgiving.” 
~ psalm 95:2

it's thanksgiving eve morning. is there such a thing? why yes, of course there is. certainly for those who will spend the day in the kitchen preparing everything one can possibly prepare ahead -- for that person, thanksgiving eve morning matters very much.

maybe some of us don't have a turkey or stuffing to whip up this week, but we all have something to prepare --- we certainly all have our hearts to get ready.

some of you have joined me for my daily thanksgiving posts this month and i do hope that has encouraged you a little. (if you want to find them all in one place click on: daily thanksgiving posts). it has blessed me to have some posting accountability, but, if i'm honest, it has also been a challenge. there have been some days when i didn't really feel like coming up with another picture or verse or word. that stuff doesn't always just effortlessly roll off the tongue or out of the computer ... sometimes, but not always. but this month of thanksgiving was motivating for me, nonetheless. and i knew, whether there were two or two hundred of you coming along, it was a good and necessary exercise for me. it was good for me to find the thoughts of thanksgiving even on the days when thanksgiving was not my first thought.

one thing this month of continuous posting taught me is that thanksgiving isn't just about feeling thankful, sometimes it's about preparing our hearts so that we can choose to be thankful. sometimes it's about saying the words in order to surrender the way. it's about deliberately preparing a path for praise. preparing.

and for those of you who are cooking the big meal tomorrow, you know all about preparation, right? it would be very challenging to run out last minute today and be fully ready for tomorrow. we all know what would happen if we threw a frozen turkey in our shopping cart on this wednesday with hopes of cooking it up on thursday. it doesn't work that way. and neither do we. we can't just show up at the table and hope for some really good thursday thanks to be ready in our hearts. maybe that will kinda work ... or maybe it kinda won't.

but whether we're whipping up a meal or whipping out some thankfulness it helps to be ready ... it helps to come prepared.

now, i'll admit, i'm not always the most prepared girl on the block. (some of you laugh). i forget items on my list. i forget my list. i even forget to make a list. this frustrates me (and a few other dear ones) to no end. growing up i had visions of how organized i'd be about things like holidays and the hoop-a-la that accompanies them. i grew up with dreams of everything being "just so" ... but rarely is it ever "just so." sometimes it is just so crazy or just so cuckoo or just so chaotic. but since i've given up a bit on the pursuit of the just-so-perfect, i have come to realize it is not really about the meal or the home or the hoop-a-la anyway, but about the heart. and though i've probably forgotten something on my list already today, i do hope, in this month, i haven't forgotten to prepare my heart.

not just for the meal tomorrow. but for the message of this continuous holiday season which kicks into full gear sometime in the midst of tomorrow. yes, i'm talking about christmas. the christmas message. have you ever thought about how the thanks-giving prepares us for the gift-giving?

since we're eating with friends tomorrow, i'm not preparing a big meal (hooray for me). but i will be bringing along one of our family traditions. my friend, diana, who is hosting, asked if we had any to share. now she might have been talking about a favorite dessert or potato dish, but i am bringing the tradition of putting a christmas ornament at everyone's place setting.

christmas ornaments on thanksgiving? yes!

i started this a few years ago with my family. i put an ornament by each place setting to remind us that thanksgiving must proceed gift-giving. we all know as soon as the turkey is taken out to the trash the mad scramble into christmas mode begins. some of us even have our trees in the garage ready to go. turkey out. tree in. it's like a funny holiday dance. we are quick to move on. i get it. i know why we feel like this. i understand the pressure of preparing. we, too, like to put up our tree the weekend after thanksgiving. and there's nothing wrong with that.

this christmas ornament on the thanksgiving table isn't intended to speed up that process, but to slow it down; to remind us to give the thanks before we get or give the gift. seem a little backwards? perhaps. but what if thanksgiving did come before gift-giving. wouldn't the giving be greater, sweeter, more beautiful if done with a heart of gratitude?

as we prepare our homes and transition from one holiday to another, let's continue to prepare our hearts. let's turn our attention toward december desiring to be fully in God's presence, keeping in mind that thanksgiving isn't over, but can continue to spill into this next season. the verse i put on this year's thanksgiving ornament is from psalm 95:2: "let us come into His presence with thanksgiving." we come into His presence. we come to adore Him. we come to give gifts. we come to worship the babe in the manger, but let it be our words of thanksgiving which help lead us into the worship of His holy presence.

because, honestly, is there any gift greater? any gift more worthy of our thanksgiving?

this ornament is a reminder that these two holidays aren't in opposition. they aren't fighting for the lime light, but are working together. collaborating. cooperating. making clear the message of Christ. it is because the Christ-child was born in that manger that we have real thanksgiving in our hearts.

oh friends, let's celebrate the season this week and next month ... let's prepare our tables. let's prepare our hearts. let's enter into His presence.

“let us come into His presence with thanksgiving.” 
~ psalm 95:2

{grace words: thanks * giving * prepare * gifts * His presence *}

dear Jesus, on this thanksgiving eve we long to come into your presence. in all of our holiday preparation help us to prepare our hearts for you. give us words to praise you and hearts that want to pursue you. teach us how to combine our thanks-giving and our gift-giving that we might truly know the blessing of all you've so freely given. amen.

*** don't forget to head over to becky's blog at the word of God and a cup of joe. becky is wrapping up her series this month on marriage.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Raising Secret Keepers {grace-words-wednesday} guest post!

today i have the pleasure of sharing with you a guest post from my friend, becky crenshaw.  typically we both write {grace words wednesday} posts. but today you are hearing from becky's heart -- and what a sweet heart it is! in this season of THANKSGIVING, we've been writing a lot about the "thanks" part. well, today becky writes about what happens when we step into the "giving" portion. 
thanks + giving = something beautiful. 

i know you'll enjoy her words! remember you can find becky over at her blog: the word of God and a cup of joe.

 * * * * * * * 
Saturday, I grabbed three yard rakes, three children and a large box of lawn bags and to the backyard we went.

Today was the day for the Autumn task of raking leaves.
Brent had gone camping so it was just the boys and me, plugging away one pile at a time, trying hard to rediscover what we once remembered as grass.  My boys grumbled and tried to sneak off, but there were no options for release.  
This Saturday we raked.
I pray for my boys to have a natural bend towards  servant-hood. But most days this prayer is one of faith - the hope of what is unseen.  
But this particular "today-we-rake" day, a glimmer of hope shone through the grumbles of my ten-year old's words.   He peered over the picket fence to the yard of our new-mommy-neighbor,  Mrs. Michelle. With a baby barely three-months-old, their lawn remained covered in leaves.  Yard work being a very low priority amongst so many mommy tasks.
"We should sneak in Mr. Joe and Mrs. Michelle's yard and rake up all of those leaves.  Then when they get home they'll say, 'Whoa!  Look at our yard!  Who did that!?'  And we can just pretend we didn't see a thing.  It will be epic!"
Ahh.  Jesus all but illuminated his precious face.  A moment we as mother's live for!  Oh Dear God, thank you! Something I am doing is right!
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matt 6:3-4
Normally I'm not in the business of sneaking in my neighbor's back yard or encouraging my children to keep secrets, but today I broke both rules.
This day we hop fences and serve ... in secret.
Serving is simple when recognition follows, but giving that is honorable in the sight of the Lord is done with an audience of only One.   Note: these words are typed from a woman who confesses many hand-on-the-hip moments with words like, "I work 'round here all day and rarely does anyone say, 'thank you'  or 'wow look at my clean underwear!' or 'you're the best mom!'  Nope...I'm just chopped liver 'round here....'" 
But in the upsidedown-ness of God's Kingdom, serving in secret reaps the richest reward.  We are created in God's image and therefore we desire adulation, but this deep longing of my heart to stand approved is truly satisfied by my Father who sees what is done in secret. 
He sees the baskets of laundry that rotate in and out of the wash.  He sees the dust bunnies swept from under the couch.  He knows you tweaked that recipe by a few ingredients.  He watched you sew that button on your husband's shirt and He knows how many times you have vacuumed rainbow loom bands off of your carpet. He sees it all.
And this "today-we-rake" Saturday, he knew the longing of my boys' hearts to rake the leaves of a new mom's yard.
This Kingdom truth motivates me as a wife.  The hustle and bustle of three kids leaves little room for gourmet meals
and candle lit dinners.  But a marriage that is {more than fine} is strengthened by our secret service.  It's ok if he doesn't notice you had the oil changed, or organized the garage.  It is ok if it takes him a day to recognize you raked the leaves in the backyard, ahem,  or put thought into making his favorite lunch.  But your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 
Satisfaction runs deep in the heart of a wife who serves for no recognition or human praise, because her reward comes from above.
And last Saturday my boys experienced this adulation as they hurried to rake Mrs. Michelle's leaves, imagining her expression as she pulled the blinds to see the Sunday morning sky.  They received their reward in full from the Father.  Their audience of One.

Lord, let me be one who keeps secrets for Your Glory today.  Let my heart be that of a servant in my marriage and my motherhood.  Thank you that human praise is only skin deep but that Your approval of me is eternal. Thank you for giving me opportunities to serve you.  Let my day be jam-packed with giving done in secret and let me find satisfaction from knowing that you are pleased with your servant.  I give you great thanks knowing you  are the source of strength in my marriage. Father, today, strengthen me, strengthen my marriage by expecting less from others and all from you.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

{Grace Words Wednesday}

*Service   *Satisfaction  *Reward

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"thank you, honey!" {grace words} guest posting today...

have you thanked God today for your marriage?

24 years ago, when i was lovestruck and waltzing through wedding plans, i would have bet you my bottom dollar that i'd have no problem giving thanks every single day for my soon to be husband. of course i would.

and, of course i should.

except, often, days and weeks go by, when i don't.

it's not that i'm not thankful for him. i am! i just forget to give the thanks. in fact, i seem to think even, that somehow, my thankfulness is a given. like because we've been married for over two decades i don't need to point that out to him. like because we've been married so long, he probably already knows how thankful i am. right?


the truth is, after 23 years of marriage, i should know better ...

for the rest of this {grace words} post, please click over to becky's blog at:  "thank you, honey!"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

champions in the state ... champions in our hearts

a blue ribboned medal hangs in her room. i saw it dangling there today in the midst of some jewelry and a stack of clean laundry.

seeing it on the hook in her messy bedroom this afternoon took my breath away.

it's real.

it really happened.

yesterday, my daughter's volleyball team won the state championship. after a long season and a lot of hard work, these girls are class A state champions.

i'm not sure there are words for this kind of moment. at least not for this mother. words usually come pretty easily, but watching my daughter and her team win the state title on saturday afternoon, pretty much wiped me out of something to say or write -- at least for a little while.

today is sunday.

we've barely gotten out of our pjs. we've barely left the house. we've barely done anything but walk around in our daze of day-after-excitement. (and, of course, checked social media for the countless pictures and comments).

it was a big moment.

a moment she will remember the rest of her life -- her senior year winning the state title. the six starting seniors out on the court together for the final point. add to that our emily (who is, by no means, the superstar of the team) had the final kill of the game. these are the moments athletes (and their parents) dream of.

when they are little kids out on the field or court and we watch them in their pee wee sports ... we think to ourselves, "man, someday...maybe someday..." but how many kids get to go this far? how many kids get to experience what a state championship feels like? not many.

and so, of course, we are thrilled for her. i'll be honest, i'm thrilled for me. it's fun to be the mom of a state champion. i won't lie, i've probably lived a little bit vicariously and i've loved this week watching these girls lead up to this final moment.

wednesday night banquet with our girl
after a celebration banquet wednesday evening, they won the quarter final on thursday in three games. they won the semi finals on friday in five nail biting games. and saturday they moved on to play for first place. these girls went up against the top seeded team in their class. a team which had already beaten them earlier in the year. but from the first point, it was clear southwest christian had come for the "w." they never faltered. point after point, the girls controlled the game. they had trained for this moment. they were ready.

these girls, in front of their fans and thousands of people, defeated a team which was seeded higher and expected to win. but this little

Christian school from chaska minnesota came ready to play -- and play they did. these girls battled hard, leaving everything on the court. they brought attack after attack, save after save, point after point ... like champions.

what victory looks like
most of these girls have played together for many years. our daughter was new to the team last year when we moved to minnesota. i can't tell you enough how sweet it has been to watch this team welcome her. she had to work hard to earn her place on the court, but they all did. this is a program with some serious and talented athletes. and this was a moment they had been working toward. they have had their eye on this prize for a long time. even last year, when they went to state, but lost in the finals, they left believing that they had what it took to return. and this year, they did return, bringing home the very first state championship ever for their tiny school.

i wish you could have been there in the arena on saturday afternoon. fans and families and parents going wild. this was bigger than just a volleyball team. everyone in the school community felt connected to their victory. in all my years of playing and coaching sports, i've never seen such excitement.

what i want you to know most about this group of girls and their coaching staff though, is not their exceptional athleticism, but their extraordinary character. these girls had that special blend of humility and hunger. they wanted this badly and worked hard for it, but they came to each game in their season willing and wanting to give God the glory. that's not easy as teenagers in this kind of spotlight. that's not easy for any of us, no matter what the light. it's hard to remember that what we do isn't really about us, but about the work God is doing in us. it's doing what we do for His glory. many times i've been humbled to hear these girls talk and watch their witness on and off the court.

because of their love for Jesus, they have a special bond. a bond which made the difference. as a former player and coach, i know that this sport, in particular, takes an extraordinary type of unity. and the girls had that. they had the cohesive quality, the glue, which kept them communicating and cooperating point after point. they've played teams with more offensive power and better defensive tactics, but our girls had that special something.

this team hasn't had an entirely easy road either. the volleyball program has had it's share of challenges. one of our leading players, abby, lost her dad unexpectedly last year at the beginning of the season. a heartbreaking loss for this volleyball family and for those who loved them. last year, after their 2nd place finish at state, i shared the story in a post called, "be amazing."  this year, just a week before the tournament, another girl in our program lost her mom to cancer. volleyball and state championships don't quite cut it in the face of that kind of loss. i offer this up because i want you to know, just because these girls go to a Christian school and believe in Jesus, doesn't mean they are without challenges or trials or pain. no, there's plenty of that. but they have something more than just their ability and their talent and their love of a sport. they have hope. they have faith. they have a God who loves them ... in the win, and especially, in their loss.

that blue ribboned medal will probably hang on that hook in my daughter's bedroom for a long time. at some point, though, we all know it will end up in a box with other good memories. we know that as awesome as these earthly prizes are, they are no more than that -- earthly. they will fade. they will fail. they will even be someday forgotten. but, because these girls weren't about pursuing their own glory, but God's, they will have that for eternity. it is the the ultimate prize and the only prize which does not, can not, and will not ever fade or fail us.

"but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."   ~ matthew 6:20

after each match the girls always asked their opponent to pray together

our seven seniors

here's a link to the final point of the match ... and the celebration which followed!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

gold leaves on the ground {grace words wednesday}

so here we are, almost a week into this month named november.

leaves falling quickly from their trees.
temperatures dropping fast.
and the sky sliding into that winter shade of grey.

you know the season -- the days when it seems all color fades, everything mutes, and life takes on the appropriate tone for winter's imminent hush.

and november just makes it easy for our spirit to fall and fade, to mute and to hush a tiny bit too, right?

just last week, the tree outside my window blazed in pure gold ... and today it seems only a few hardy leaves hang on for dear life.

another one falls ...

bare brown left behind with the background of a metal sky. days closing up shop early. by dinner it's dark. squirrels scurry around in their cold-weather business: gathering. digging. burying.

we've pulled out fleece and hats and, even this weekend, tried on the kids' snow boots. (sigh).

we are preparing.

this month reminds me of everything tucking in, hunkering down, storing up -- readying for what's coming. in minnesota, my friends call it "winterizing." that wasn't a word we tossed around much in the south. but with one minnesota winter now under our belt -- i understand this winterizing. i understand winter. and i know what's coming. oh good grief, i know....

the trees empty.
more gold on the ground ...

and i can feel that small seed of disappointment start to take root deep inside. how fast the warm days of summer sun are gone ...  how brief the heat --- have i mentioned i live in minnesota?

our winter will stretch six, maybe even seven months, across the year. and what am i supposed to do with that? how am i supposed to begin this november in a spirit of thankfulness when i'm facing a land which will very soon feel empty ... turn frozen.

what are we supposed to do with a season which seems to be all about shutting down? staying in? closing up? emptying out?

funny that this is the month for thanksgiving. a part of me wonders why we don't celebrate this holiday in july. why don't we do our great giving of thanks when we are dancing along the shoreline barefoot and fancy free? and warm ... and tan ... and easy.

wouldn't we be more prone to praise under a perfect summer sun?

wouldn't we have more thanks to give with our toes dangling in a lake somewhere?

we could have ice cream cones and ripe slices of watermelon and boat rides  ... fireworks and flags under the bright blue of a july sky. i could give an awful lot of thanks for those summer things. those sweet things.

instead, thanksgiving comes when color fades and the leaves fall and all things become bare.

but ...

is it possible to suggest today that this is the perfect month for praise? when life feels dismal and bleak and just plain blah ... isn't this exactly the time when we should dig deep and look hard at what we have ... at what we hold. even in november.

i know it doesn't seem natural.

perhaps your life feels a lot like a tree in november. things falling off. every day more. dreams and plans falling apart. maybe right now your future feels kind of dim. you're discouraged. possibly even walking a line of despair. you see nothing but a long winter out ahead and you're not sure how you'll do it. handle it. endure it.

maybe it's not the everything, but maybe it's that one thing. that one hard thing. that one piece of your future which seems to be falling apart ... on it's way to numb and frozen.

i don't know what it is, but i know we've all got some bare places.

and strange as it might sound, the one thing i know to do in the november kind of days is to give thanks. someone else might tell you ..."it's okay ... go ahead and hurt ... be mad ... you deserve to be angry ... life stinks ... it's not fair!"  but what if instead of wallowing in that dark place, you begin to give thanks? what if even as the trees lose their leaves and you lose your dreams ... what if even then and there you begin to say those two little words: thank you.

i know it seems contrary to everything our world wants us to believe.

but guess what? --- Jesus is contrary to everything our world wants us to believe.

and, trust me, i know it sometimes feels good to just cross our arms, stomp our foot and become bitter. some disappointments feel too large. some days feel too heavy. some things just too hard. and instead of raising holy arms in thanksgiving we want to hunker down with arms crossed in the thanks for nothing.

i get it.

i've felt that way too.

but if you've lived in this bitter, thankless place, you know it doesn't do anything good. it can't heal. it can't help. it can only make us hurt more.

a couple of blog posts ago, i wrote:

"giving thanks doesn't always change our circumstances, but it changes us."

it does. somehow, that works. when we open our hands to offer up praise, our hearts open up a little bit too. there's some crazy connection. don't take my word for it, go try it. one simply cannot express gratitude and grumbling at the same time. it's one or it's the other. and i'm suggesting today that we have a choice.

even in this first week of november.

even when things fall off or life falls apart.

even when the world tells us we are allowed to be mad ... angry ... hurt ...hardened ... hateful.

i'm writing today to tell you --- you have a choice. don't go for the world's way. it leads only to further destruction. go for God's way and give thanks. give thanks and get life.

the leaves will continue to fall ... and the color will, of course, fade. but you will endure in the warmth of Christ's love when you lift up your arms and open your heart.

The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies;
but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and,
as the magnet finds the iron,
so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!
Henry Ward Beecher

and that's why november is the perfect month for thanksgiving.
and that's why hardship is the perfect time for thanksgiving.
and that's why pain is the perfect chance for thanksgiving.

another gold leaf falls ...

and we (choose to} give thanks.

no matter what happens, always be thankful, 
for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ 1 thessalonians 5:18

my version of "winterizing!"  =)

{grace words: fall * praise * thanksgiving * november}

Jesus, you know the bare spots in my life. you see the empty places -- the parts hurting and hard.  Father, would you help me to choose thanks and fill these holes with your praise? i want to see you even in the falling apart places of life -- especially in those places. Jesus help us to give thanks for all of it ... everything ... even the things which we don't understand or don't like. fill our days with your praise and fill our hearts with your presence. a-men

don't forget to check out BECKY CRENSHAW'S {grace-words} over at THE WORD OF GOD AND A CUP OF JOE. becky's in the middle of a marriage series this month -- maybe another "november-ish" kind of thing in our lives? her series is called "more than fine." her words on marriage are filled with truth, honesty and encouragement!  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

{thanks}giving daily prayers ...

november 1. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... new mercies. beginnings. fresh starts. do-overs.
first day of a month, of a school year, of a calendar year ... who doesn't like to begin anew? we like to step into something knowing we can cross off the past and have a fresh hope for the future. and that's exactly what God gives us each and every morning. another chance to wipe the slate clean and to fill it with His goodness. not just to resolve to "do better," but to find His better, His best.
what new thing does He have for you this morning?
GIVING THANKS for the new mercy found in this new month, found in today.

november 2. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {His strength}.
with a teenage boy and his friends in the house, there's a lot of talk about strength. a lot of flexing and wrestling. a lot of posturing and posing. the girls get into it too. "hey mom, feel this bicep," they say. even the littlest one -- all 29 pounds of her! i remember a time when proving my strength was incredibly important to me. "i can handle it," i used to think. but that wasn't about my strength, that was about my pride. today i'm giving thanks not for what i can do, but for what He can do through me. Jesus said "'for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 corinthians 12:9). i know that goes against what our world says. but to me, a veritable weakling, that's some pretty good news. i don't have to be strong on my own ... i can call on the strength of Jesus. and His strength is not just enough, but His power "is made PERFECT in my weakness."
this weak and imperfect woman is giving thanks today for HIS perfect strength.

november 3. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {the extra}
--the extra hour. the extra measure. God's extra grace.
i'm pretty sure there's not one person complaining about the extra hour of sleep this morning. we all love that fall-back-thing, don't we? how many times have i heard myself say, "i just need one more hour in this day?" well, on november 3rd we're getting that extra hour. it only happens once a year, so we had better make it count right? i don't know about you, but we don't always seem to have a lot of extra anything around our house. we tend to use up everything pretty quickly -- from our time to our sleep to our gallon of milk. it all disappears fast before our eyes. just imagine the dinner hour with a family of seven! rarely is there much left over. but what a blessing it is when in our busyness or in our bare-ness God shows up and brings a little extra -- like in the feeding of the five thousand. 5,000 people show up for dinner and all the disciples have to share is 2 measly fish and 5 loaves of barley bread. (i'll admit, i would have been in a full blown panic in less than 10 seconds). but then Jesus arrives with the extra. He seats the people on the hill (all 5,000 of them) and He breaks the bread and GIVES THANKS (i'm sure the disciples were dy-ing by this point). after giving thanks for the little, Jesus gives them the baskets to pass out. somehow, somewhere between giving thanks for the little and passing out the baskets, the little became much. and, miraculously, there wasn't just ENOUGH to feed 5,000, there was EXTRA. it says they picked up 12 basketfuls of leftovers! doesn't that story just give you the goosebumps? let's GIVE THANKS today for the little and for the times when Jesus shows up and makes it much.

november 4. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {solitude ... time alone ... quiet ... five minutes of peace ... a place to breath}
"for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat." wow! that sounds an awful lot like my house! with five kids and schedules and sports and lessons and activities and whatever! our family does an awful lot of coming and going. i know it's a season, but there are days when i feel like packing us all up and heading for the closest deserted island. desolate or not, we need to rest for a while. let's be honest here, i need to rest for while! Jesus modeled this for us as He often headed up on the mountain or off by Himself. and it's not just about sleeping, it's about being alone with God. it's about carving out some quality one on one ... being still ... hearing His voice. it's about shutting down the never ending stream of noise and distraction. i know many of you busy mamas can't seem to find five minutes to yourself, but i encourage you to do what it takes today: get up early. lock yourself in the bathroom. hide in a closet. whatever! ... but grab some alone time with Jesus. give your soul a place to breath in the busy-ness of your hours. i'm giving thanks today for the slivers of solitude. even if it's a quick five minutes. i'm thankful.

november 5. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {chances to give} 
i know some of you overachievers out there are already making your holiday shopping lists. in fact, i bet some of you have already done some of that shopping! (i'll be honest, if i dwell on that too long, i'll begin to sweat).
this morning's thanks-word is "giving," but i'm not really talking about that kind of giving. i'm writing about the chance to give of ourselves in small ways, every day. do you know someone with a need that you can fill? is there something today to which you can give generously? i don't necessarily mean give money, but give yourself. a person, a project, a purpose. maybe a child, a neighbor, a stranger. Jesus desires that we give ourselves away ... not just once in awhile at the annual outreach project ... but in little ways. each day. every day. i'm going to challenge us today to look for an opportunity to give. (and giving your child lunch money doesn't count). but look for something out of the ordinary to bless another: a meal, a card, a compliment. a word, an action, an anonymous amount. something. let me know you're up for the challenge! i'll be praying for you (and me) today. "it is more blessed to give ..." i'm giving thanks today for the blessing gotten when we give.

november 6. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ...{small things}
i am always amazed at how God uses the simplest, weakest, and smallest items for His big and wonderful work. back in the bible and here in the present. He chooses to make His name known in places like a stable, through the words of one who stutters and with things like a small boy, a few stones and slingshot. our Savior doesn't require super-sized anything to accomplish His work. a-men? like these tiny acorns which are able to grow into towering oak trees ... God makes mighty out of our minute. do not despise the day of small things ... do not think it too tiny. know that God is working great things in your life even with your little. i see this in my youngest daughter. she's five and not quite 30 pounds. small as they come, i tell you! but God has done great and powerful things in her life and with her story. i see the impact this wee one has on people ... and there's nothing small about it. what is the small thing in your life God wants to use? give it to Him. offer it up with open hands. and give Him thanks today for the promise and potential of this small thing. {oh...and don't forget to check out today's grace words post ... would love you to swing by that if you've got time ... "gold leaves on the ground").

november 7. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {mountains}
i love to look at mountains, but let's be honest here, i don't love to face the - not on foot and not in my faith. i'm not especially patient or eager when one looms before me, blocks my path, challenges my will or causes me to slow my steps. and yet, i know, the mountains i've faced have certainly helped me mature in my faith. when God places a mountain firmly before us, it is not to overwhelm us, but to teach us dependence on Him. faith in Him is the key to moving this mountain -- even mustard seed sized! when life is flat and easy and the sailing is smooth we start to believe we can do it alone. WHEN THERE'S NOTHING TO CLIMB, WE FORGET TO CLING. and, oh friend, God want's us to be clingers to Him. dig deep. hold on tight. focus. endure. persevere. CLING! what mountains are you facing right now? what seems impossible? unsurmountable? unfathomable? if the mountains we face are going to grow our faith, than today, let's give thanks for the mountains in our lives.

november 8. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {days ordained}
today is my birthday. and who doesn't like birthdays? even when you're smack dab in the middle of your 40's, birthdays are kinda fun. we make a pretty big deal about birthdays in our home because it's about LIFE. God has given us a chance to live LIFE. to be born. to become His. i know life brings with it some mess, but it also brings so much amazing. it's a gift -- one we often take for granted until it comes into question.
i love knowing that before God had even "knit me together" He already had a plan for my life. He has ordained my days (your days)! sometimes when i knit, my project gets off course, changes directions, doesn't end up as i had imagined. but that's not true with God. God intimately knows His craft. He is fully aware of His creation. when i see only tangles, He sees the tapestry. He knows. He has designed each stitch. He has ordered each day. today, i'm giving thanks for life and for the ordained days God weaves together for His glory.

november 9. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {His presence under pressure}
how amazing is it that no matter what the situation, no matter how stressful or serious or intense, we have a God always available. we have the gift of turning to Jesus. we have the blessing of turning it over to Him. i'm posting a picture of my daughter's team this morning. today at 1pm they will play in the state tournament championship for first in the state. it's huge. these girls have worked so hard and are such an amazing group of talented young ladies. but what i want you to know most, is that they are constantly seeking the presence of Jesus -- even out on the court. they don't separate their faith from their fight. they know that even in a volleyball match they can call on His name -- and they do! just before taking court yesterday my daughter texted me, asking us to pray. they pray together. they pray at the end of the game with their opponent. they pray because they know Who is the giver of all good gifts. these girls have seen great success this season, but i continue to hear them give God the glory for all of it. whether win or lose today, this team knows where real victory is found. giving thanks today for the power of His presence. giving thanks also for the southwest stars ...i just love these girls!

november 10. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {present challenges}
well, first of all, i have to post one last vb picture today in honor of our girls team winning the state championship yesterday. i'm not sure we (i) will ever recover from all that excitement!
but heres' the deal. these girls didn't walk away with such a glorious title easily. no, they faced a season of incredible challenge. no one gets to the state championship without years and years and years of training. these girls have faced defeat, they have faced discouragement, they have faced hardship -- on and off the court. but they had their eyes on this ultimate volleyball prize. and like this verse explains, all of the "present sufferings" were worth it. emily tells us of the hundreds of hours in the gym that the coach worked with the team on "blocking" ... (that's what she's doing in this pic). he worked them to the point of sore muscles and tired bodies, but he knew that it was in those hours of pushing that he was training these girls for the glory of a state title. what kind of challenges are you facing today? is it possible to see them as preparing you for "future glory?" these "present sufferings" (whatever they are) probably do cause you to leave limping from the gym ... but, take heart, Jesus says in His Word, they "are not worth comparing to the glory which will be revealed to us." keep your eyes on the prize, dear ones, believing that our present burdens will prove future blessing. thanking Jesus today for our present challenges ... and for a state championship!

november 11. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {abundance}
i'm not exactly talking about the multiple snack items in our pantry or the too many pairs of shoes in our closet. no, those things are probably more about excess. but i am writing today about God's abundance. how He, again and again, provides enough, provides more than we could even think or imagine. God loves to show up and and show us His love. like a gracious father, He loves to rain down on us in our need. whether it be in our resources or our time or our energy or in our need ... Jesus is generous. "now to Him who is able to far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us." ephesians 3:20
in a dissatisfied world which is compelled by excess, i want to choose to live more than satisfied with God's abundance. but, let's be real here ... it's a choice. we can choose to see the cup as half empty or we can see it as a cup overflowing. today, let's give thanks to God for the overflowing and abundant blessings of life in Him.

november 12. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {God's perfect time}

it's never been my particular strength -- being patient for what God has in store; being patient for His timing. i always seem to think i've got a better plan or a better sense of timing. you too?
but, again and again, God's plan and His timing prove perfect. always. it's just hard to see it with my earthly eyes and my stubborn will. when will i learn to trust Him? hmm...
there's a song out there by the band, gungor. it is called "beautiful things." i encourage you to track it down if you don't already know it. one of my favorites! i wore out that song and those words last spring as i was waiting to see God work in some of our family struggles.
i'm giving thanks today for the beautiful God brings in His perfect, perfect timing.

november 13. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {my marriage and my man}
i'm not letting this month slip by without some specific thanksgiving for my honey. after 23 years of marriage, i'll be honest, i don't thank God enough for the gift of him. after 23 years of marriage, i kinda forget even to use those words of thanksgiving with him. marriages are being attacked in every way, in every place, at every level. and i'm thinking those words, "thank you, honey" just might help a little. they won't solve all the problems ... but a little bit of thanksgiving does build bridges and tumble walls. and maybe, you're like the rest of us, we need less walls and more bridges in our marriage.
today, i'm guest posting on this topic over at my friend becky's blog. for some more thoughts on thanksgiving in marriage, click on this link:

november 14. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {forgiveness}
forgiveness is one of those uncomfortable kind of words, isn't it? i mean, if we're talking about it, than chances are, we've probably messed up somewhere along the way. like every day. like all the time. i'm always finding myself in great need of some great forgiveness. and thankfully, we have a GREAT FORGIVER. and that's what i'm giving thanks for today. the fact that no matter what i do wrong or how often i mess up -- God's forgiveness is given. now, there is one itty bitty word we need to reflect a bit on. and that's the word "if." do you see it right there at the beginning of this verse? "IF we confess..." it's pretty clear, dear ones, God is faithful to forgive, but we have to do our part: confess. and, yes, i agree, sometimes that's pretty hard to do. none of us like to come face to face with our faults and failures. i'd rather go back to bed and climb under the covers ... but climbing under the covers can't take the place (or bring the freedom) of confessing our sin. the great news? there's no guess work in forgiveness. if we confess, He forgives. a-men? a-men!

november 15. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {God's power in our lives}
i'm not really sure i live like i've got a direct line to God's power; not sure i fully understand the "incredible greatness of God's power for those who believe." but that's exactly this prayer in ephesians -- that we may UNDERSTAND. because grapsing His power will transform our lives. when we grasp it we can unleash it -- proclaiming Him boldly and freely. boy, do i want that. i spend a lot of time running around looking wildly for my super-woman cape (which, by the way, doesn't exist), when i should be turning to Jesus and tapping in to His incredible greatness. i'm going to be praying for that better understanding, even today, as i give thanks for God's power.

november 16. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {God's direction}
i love this verse. i love that david basically just says, "okay God, show me the way!" maybe you sometimes feel like david. i do! Lord, just show me! i know my daughter, emily, is feeling like this as she's trying to figure out where she's supposed to attend college next year. there's so much to consider ... so many choices. she said to me the other day, "i just want someone to tell me what to do." and we get like that with our big decisions and our plans, don't we? when we're out on the highway and not sure which way to go, we want clear signs. but david had it right -- he did what we are supposed to do. he cried out to God. he turned to Him and he asked. "show me!" because as david went on to say,"for to you i entrust my life." i love his example: turn, ask, entrust. i'm giving thanks today that we have a God who hears our cry and provides directions.

november 17. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {broken things}
i know. seems kinda odd thanking God for broken things. usually we aren't all that keen on the idea of broken. i don't like it when something breaks -- not my blender, not my heart, not even my nail. no thanks. but what if we look at the broken pieces of our life as a place to begin growing something new. soil must be broken up for the seed to be planted. fixing can begin when brokenness is faced. and that's the heart Jesus wants; that's the spirit God won't reject. does God have you in a broken place right now? chances are there's something in your life not working right -- something broken. but it's in our brokenness that we empty out of ourselves and make room for Him. and that, my friends, turns our brokenness into blessing. let's thank Him today for this opportunity to see and surrender to His healing. let's give thanks for His hands which perfectly restore our broken pieces.

november 18. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {friendship}
greetings from nyc! i'm spending a few days with some girlfriends from atlanta in the big apple. and how fun is that? and how thankful i am today for the women God has blessed me with --- north and south! (east and west too, i suppose). but truly, it is humbling to think about God's great provision. even though, since moving to minnesota, i don't get to see these friends often, we met up yesterday and picked right up where we left off -- i love that. i love the special qualities and the special continuity God has designed in us for relationship. what a wonderful, beautiful gift! thank you Jesus for girlfriends!

november 19. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {missions}
early this morning, our oldest daughter, emily, boarded a plane heading for the dominican republic. she and her entire senior class are going to serve the people of the DR this week. this isn't just another cool senior trip, this is a group of kids heading out to proclaim Jesus; a group heading out to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need. how thankful i am of this opportunity for my daughter. emily has been on many missions trips in several countries, this isn't new for her. but she will come home with new eyes. i love that God has given her a heart to serve and love others. Jesus commands us, "go!" whether that be across the street or around the world. "go!" today i'm thankful for those willing to go ... and i'm thankful that God gives great opportunity for us to go.
one last thing, can i ask you to pray for emily and the southwest senior class this week? thanks!

november 20. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {home}
after a few days in nyc, i got home late last night. is there anything better than coming home? i love traveling, but oh my, i am always thankful to come home. maybe our home doesn't quite resemble a "peaceful habitation" or a "quiet resting place," but, it's our own variation of all that. and underneath all the craziness is the fact that we dwell together securely, because Jesus dwells in this home. i sit here at the counter this morning with my little one eating her cheerios next to me ... and oh my goodness... how sweet it is to be home. today i am giving great thanks for home.

november 21. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {plans and steps}
so, it's a week away -- the big meal. the great turkey to do. have you made out your menu? have you laid out your lists? what's your plan? what's your approach?
i remember the first time i cooked thanksgiving dinner umpteen years ago ... i assembled my recipes and typed out my instructions ... probably alphabetized my shopping list (i was like that THEN). and preparing this kind of feast does take an awful lot of organization and work. no doubt about it.
but this kind of intensive planning reminds me how easy it is to get caught up in our plans for life. we think if we just write it down and get really, really organized it will all happen exactly as we imagine. in fact, even walt disney told us: "if you dream it, you can do it!" and where, generally speaking, i kinda like that type of encouragement, i also know that i serve a God who holds the final plan. i can plan my course or plan my meal or plan my day or plan my life ... but God determines my steps. we can clutch our recipes or resist with our road maps ... or we can release and live in the freedom of knowing He has it figured out for us. today i am giving thanks for the freedom to make my plans while knowing God is right there with me ... determining my steps ... and leading me forward.

november 22. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {simple reminders}
"look at the birds of the air ..." God has given us every day things to remind us of Him; to remind us of His care, His provision, His enough. in matthew, He assures us that He cares for even the birds. He assures us that not even one falls to the ground without His knowing. and how much more so does He care for us! but, still, we continue to worry and fret over our things.
it's no secret, i love birds. my kids tell me i'm not allowed to add any more "bird stuff" to our house. lol! but, one of the reasons i'm so partial is because i, too, am prone to forget about God's comprehensive ability to care for me. and i love the reminder birds provide -- God's got it all in His hands, all under control -- from the smallest sparrow to the largest world issue, He cares for all of it. maybe i don't need any more bird nicknacks around my house, but surely i do need to be reminded more of God's care. i'm thanking God today for even the birds -- every day, simple reminders of Him.

november 23. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {eyes to see}
it's no secret, it was her eyes which first drew me in. when i opened her file and first saw her picture -- it was those big brown eyes which captured my attention; captured my heart.
God gave us physical eyes to see His gifts of earthly beauty--and what a wonderful thing! but even more so, He has given us enlightened eyes to see His gifts of heavenly beauty -- the hope of life with Him. and that is the most wonderful thing. our world is dark and it is blind ... and the devil is doing his darndest to keep it that way. but when the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, we can trade out our blindness for eyes which truly see the hope to which He has called us. today i am giving thanks for eyes to see beauty and hope -- earthly and heavenly.

november 24. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {restored joy}
have you ever been in a season where your joy has felt depleted? scarce? even lacking? where everyone else seems to be hustling and bustling to a merry melody, but you're feeling flat. empty. sad. i think sometimes around the holidays that joy meter is even more sensitive. the time between thanksgiving and christmas should be nothing but pure joy, right? except sometimes, for some people, it's not. and when there's a lack of joy, this season can be full of pain. so maybe today, this "restored joy" is a phrase of thanksgiving. or maybe for some of you, it's a prayer -- you want the joy of your salvation to be restored. either way, i'm giving thanks for it today. i'm giving thanks that it's available. that it's possible. that it's conceivable. maybe you've experienced that wonderful restoration from flat to full -- give thanks! and if this morning, dear one, you're struggling for joy, make this verse your prayer today. and let's give thanks for the work of joy restoration Jesus will do.

november 25. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {pruning}
ouch. i know, just the idea hurts a little. sometimes a lot.
definition: PRUNE: pro͞on/ verb
1. trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, esp. to increase fruitfulness and growth.
i'm okay with this idea of "cutting away" when it comes to shrubs or trees, but not necessarily excited about it for myself. i don't like to be pruned. but, i do know it's good for me. it might hurt a little, but it's good when God trims away the dead stuff, the excess, the fluff. it's good when He whittles me down a bit and helps me to focus on producing real fruit. God isn't just trying to clean us all up and make us all pretty, no, He pares us down that we might produce the fruit of His righteousness -- that we might have life!
* He decreases the dead, that He might increase the life.*
i don't know about you, but i have felt the cut of His shears lately in my life ... again, it's uncomfortable, but not unnecessary. sometimes i can't even see what it is He is doing or why He's choosing to trim in that spot which i thought was doing sort of okay ... but He knows. He knows what needs to stay and He knows what needs to go. my eyes can only focus on one little branch at a time, but God sees the whole tree; the whole garden. and though i might not always like the process, i'm giving praise this morning for God's holy pruning in my life.

november 26. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {acts of kindness}
i came home a couple of weeks ago to find these flowers sitting at my front door. a friend had dropped them by. there was no real reason. she's just like that -- she's kind. i am amazed at the kind people God has surrounded me with -- north and south! in the south it's called "southern hospitality" and in the north it is called "minnesota nice." either way, i like it. and either way, it works. it's how God intended us to live -- kindly. our kind acts and "works" don't earn us salvation, but they sure do make our world a little brighter. i'm thankful for friends and strangers who take the time to be kind. kindness counts. kindness matters.
this morning i have a challenge for you (and me): do something a little extra nice for someone today ... find an opportunity to leave flowers at a front door ... or something. do something kind for someone. and i'd love to hear about it! it will bless a friend, it will bless you. thanking God today for simple acts of kindness.

november 27. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {the inspiring faith of others}
i was with a group of women yesterday and sat listening to stories of things they’ve experienced, steps they’ve taken and faith they’ve lived. i sat praying with them: hearing their words. sensing their conviction and feeling the power of the spirit in them. these were women of faith -- and they are nothing new for me. all the time, God seems to place people in my life who challenge, sharpen and encourage me with evidence of their faith. and it is humbling. and it is amazing. and i am thankful that God so chooses to cross my path with people of great faith. sometime my faith feels small and lacking. it feels inadequate and insufficient. this is usually about when He makes a couple of these divine appointments which point me more purposefully toward Him. i fully realize that my faith is between my Father and me, but i am thankful today that He uses others to fuel and further our faith. maybe you’ve come across a person this month who demonstrates a profound faith ... that’s a gift worthy of thanksgiving. today i’m giving thanks for the inspiring faith of my friends.

november 28. GIVING THANKS ON THIS THANKSGIVING DAY for ... {grace upon grace}

after a month of listing little and big and beautiful and hard things to be thankful for, i was at first overwhelmed with what i'd choose to give thanks for on this, the ultimate day of great thanks. but then it became clear: {grace}. grace in everything. grace in all things. big grace. little grace. even, as john says, "grace upon grace." because God's grace is really at the center of all blessings bestowed, all gifts given. grace: amazing grace. beautiful grace. completely undeserved grace.
today you may walk away from the table feeling full ... full of turkey and all the trimmings, full of laughter and friends and family ... but let that be a reminder of how full we really are because our God in His fullness gives grace upon grace upon grace ... HAPPY THANKSGIVING FRIENDS!

november 29. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {invitations}
enter into His gates and enter into His courts -- sounds like an invitation to me! come. enter. meet me here. i love the visual of that. the opportunity and encouragement. i want to dwell in the places of Jesus. i want to walk through that gate into His court and this verse reminds me that i can. it also instructs us in how we should come: with thanksgiving and praise. after this month of giving thanks, do you believe that? do you believe that it is thanksgiving which is the key to entering in? now, Jesus will take us anyway we come -- praising, thanking or even limping -- but we won't sit long in His presence without feeling the praise for Him. today, i'm thanking God for His invitation to enter ...

november 30. GIVING THANKS TODAY for ... {God's name}
years ago, i was in a bible study which focused on the many names of Jesus. (El Shaddai, Adonai, Yahweh, Elohim). i studied how each one meant something different, celebrating a unique characteristic of God. mostly what i learned though, was about the power in Jesus' name. and i learned more about the privilege of calling on His name.
today, on this 30th, and final day of giving thanks, i simply want to praise God for His name ... His glorious name.
i have been blessed to spend this month sharing thanksgiving with y'all. i don't know all of your names ... but i am thankful for our time spent together here and i am thankful because we know the glorious name of Jesus we are united and someday will meet.
blessings to each of you as you move from november to december this weekend. i pray that this holiday season will be a celebration filled with and focused on the gift of Jesus. though i don't plan on a regular morning post here, i am sure you'll be hearing from me. there's just so much to much to celebrate as we enter into His holy presence this advent.
one last thing: you can find all of these thanksgiving prayers/pictures/posts on my blog. the link is in the upper right hand corner.

{check back for a new picture, prayer and scripture each day in november!}