on thankfulness

I have been thinking about thankfulness a lot lately, and not because of Thanksgiving.

I’ve been reading the blog of Ann Voskamp, a Christian woman who writes rather well. I love her writing (check out her blog A Holy Experience) — I’m not even sure how to describe it, but she seems able to take mental snapshots of life and write about them in a way that involves all of your senses, emotions and thoughts. Ann is real. I think that’s my favorite part. I read a lot of blogs, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with things that the world tells me I should and shouldn’t be as a wife and a homemaker. I feel that if some blogger visited my home on an average daily, I would be a colossal failure and disappointment to them. Ann just writes about life from a Christ-centered perspective and tries to encourage you along the way.

Anyway, I read on another blog about Ann’s recent book, One Thousand Gifts. I haven’t gotten the book yet but the idea of it – an ongoing log of things that you are thankful for throughout each day, in order to center yourself in a continual place of thankfulness and gratefulness – is being brought to my mind over and over again by the Lord. I’m pretty sure it’s something He may want me to do, because I confess that I sometimes get so stressed and overwhelmed that everything in my life seems trying and difficult. (And, well, it isn’t.)

It’s been snowing like crazy here over this past Thanksgiving week. It just keeps coming and piling up, and meanwhile my parents have come and gone for the holidays; so we’ve spent a fair amount of time on the road taking them back and forth from the airport, and now Willy’s parents are coming here also.

Before we left town yesterday to return my parents to the airport, we stopped on campus at UI so that Willy could show them the printmaking studio where he’s spending lots of time these days, and I was left alone in the car while the snow kept falling and falling and falling. I was enjoying sitting there until I eventually realized that my feet were freezing. And just about the time I realized that, I looked over and saw in the east that the sun was trying to break through the clouds, and thought it wasn’t popping through, it sure was making the sky look beautiful, with different shaded swirls and hues of light and dark clouds identifying its presence.

For some reason, in that moment, I remembered how blessed I was. And my feet were still cold. And suddenly, the Lord spoke truth into my heart, the gist of it being:

Will you be grateful for the sun and the beautiful day, or will you let your cold feet ruin it?

Will I be GRATEFUL for my blessings and treasure them and lean on them as gifts that the Lord is continually blessing me with, or will I focus on the one small thing that I am currently disappointed with or frustrated by or annoyed with?

Apart from Christ, I can do nothing, and I will be lost. I have to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. These are not just spiritual facts but a heart truth.

Do I trust Him enough to not focus on the things that bother me? And if I don’t adopt this attitude of gratefulness, how can I truly believe that He IS always good and that He DOES always give good gifts to his children? How do I believe in and exercise daily grace if I’m not looking for it?

I want to believe. Lord, help my unbelief, and help me focus on the blessings and the things you give me to be thankful for, because in those times, I really do see You in the mundane, every-day.

give me Your eyes

There’s been a quick shift in both the time and the weather– so sudden that it’s rather surprising.

Almost all the leaves are down now. It has been warm, glorious fall weather recently, with all the glowing autumn light filling in spaces along sidewalks in the afternoons, silently encouraging people, “get outside while you still can!” I walked home from work one day, seizing the opportunity I had to relish it. But this past Sunday morning at 2:00 AM we switched to Daylight Savings Time, and I’m pretty sure that fall took that opportunity to completely run away… maybe somewhere east, who knows. We woke up to a solid rain with alternating fog and big gray clouds, and a knock on our bedroom door from Willy’s sister Emily, wanting a ride to work so she wouldn’t get soaked on her bike. Also, it was much, much colder.

That full, precious autumn color is fading away – the green, orange, mustardy-yellow, rusty and scarlet hues will disappear and give way to grays, browns and, well, that’s about it. Even the names are dull. Yet I like to think that God only takes away the obvious so that we will appreciate what we have, and search out the things that are precious, important or inspiring. After the day-long rain yesterday, I was sitting in our living room when Willy told me to look at the sky: it was brightly layered shades of pink and purple, and on the other side of the house, a sunset composed of dark purple, orange and yellow. We quickly put shoes on and got in the car to get to a better vantage point, but we could tell even as we left the house that the colors were fading. That sunset will have to be put to memory, and I really hope that I don’t forget how it lifted my spirits after a dark, dull, rainy, “this isn’t going away soon” sort of day.

I always want to be looking for God, because He’s always there. The sun is always behind the clouds, whether we see it or not.

Winter is beginning, autumn is receding like that sunset, but my hope is in the Lord; because He makes everything beautiful in HIS time. I always have something to look forward to.

Are you paying attention?

In what should we put our hope and trust?

I think that getting older provides opportunities to either get more bitter and discouraged with the state of the world, or to draw closer to Christ, putting our hope and trust ultimately in Him, believing that He is good.

Life can really feel hard though, you know? If I’m not bothering to focus on the blessings I have in Christ, and instead choose to feel sorry for myself and lose my focus, things can seem so crazy, chaotic and unfair. To be honest, sometimes I feel like I’ve been carrying a burden for years now. Family discord, spiritual workings-out, job dissatisfaction and changes in friends and my relationships with them are things that hang over my head some days, and it makes me not want to get out of bed. I had a recent day where I just needed to bawl.

I realize, though, that the difficulties I encounter need not be overwhelming. I am forgiven and given grace by Someone who loves me more than anyone else can, and yet knows me better than anyone else will. Let’s think on that: Jesus, the person whose grace we need the most, is the one who gives it to us most freely, though we don’t deserve it at all. And we still think we need, want or deserve more in this life than that?

Things that are life-changing, heart-changing and worthy of our hope and trust:

1. The fact that Jesus Christ, a real person, died for me–for you– because He individually loves you as His bride.
2. We don’t have to be scared or worried if we really believe this (the above).

I know that for myself, I don’t consider this the way that I should. When I wake up in the morning, it is not always my first thought. Instead I get wrapped up in myself, MY feelings, MY perception of things. And that’s why life seems hard. Because I’m thinking about what I think I need to do to have the life I want, when He’s already given me everything that I need.

I pray that Jesus will be your thought and my thought when we sleep, when we wake and when we go about our days.  Just think about Him, and tell Him that you want to hope and trust in Him. And if you struggle even to say that, just ask that He’ll help you believe in your weakness. Because He will.

The Lord is good.

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the LORD has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.

–Lamentations 3