Oh Happy Day!

Oh Happy Day!
Daily Ponderings and Lessons in Gratitude

Friday, August 26, 2016

26 Letters in the Alphabet

Daily Gratitude Year 4- Day 239: Today, I am grateful the alphabet has 25 more letters when "Plan A" doesn't quite work out. 

Yes...life does have unexpected plot twists! The story we thought we were writing takes a sudden turn.  Not all plot twists are bad... but many are interesting. 

Control. How I struggle with it at times. I love a back up plan to a back up plan. Sometimes, I think God expresses his sense of humor as much as his love and grace when life takes a sudden turn. 

My plans are often researched, measured, plotted and weighed out, but his are sovereign and holy. I can barely see to the end of one page or chapter in my story... but he sees the big picture.He knows the whole story. Our human need for control can create a major conflict and suck the joy right out of the plans he has for us. 

There is an old song, "You Can't Hurry Love" ...that may be true, but equally true is that we can't hurry God. His plans are always perfect but they are not always fast and easy. The good stuff is worth the wait. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

There hope of this verse...written to a nation in exile is a popular one. It is full of promise. But, sometimes we need to be reminded of verses 12 and 13:

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:12-13 

Call. Come. Pray. Seek. "Seek me with ALL of your heart." Holding nothing back. To claim the promise requires a commitment to consult the Master Planner. 

Working in a school  I have learned that the "master schedule" is a nightmare at times. Every cog in the wheel impacts another. Every one has their individual goals, desires and idea of a perfect plan. The problem with that is about 53 people have their own idea of a perfect. When working collectively for a greater good and common goal, there is always give and take. 

When people come together for a common goal - good things happen. Even in crisis and tragedy, we see good things happen. In His image... the fires of life define and refine us. A tune I am hearing often right now is called "Diamonds" by Hawk Nelson. Great song. 

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing 
He's making diamonds out of us

Oh the joy of the lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making diamonds


Under pressure...coal becomes so much more. Plan "A" turns to plan "B"... "C" and beyond. Yes, the alphabet has 26 letters. So many plot twists in our stories. 

Will I ever comprehend that His ways are not my ways? Can my human mind.. although made in his image...admittedly struggles to wrap my head around the truth that God's driving desire is to restore his relationship with us. He wants us back. Like the father who welcomes the prodigal son home... his heart's desire is for us to seek him, find him and love him with our first breath, our last breath and every heartbeat in-between. 

 "I will be found by you, declares the Lordand I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile." – Jeremiah 29:14

I will restore. I will gather. I will bring you back. You can breathe and trust in me. 

Impatience gets in the way. The desire to know what is ahead can cheat today of it's goodness.  It is great to have plans...but when we submit our plans to Him and embrace the master's schedule... He moves in bold and mighty ways. 

Today, I am grateful the alphabet has 25 more letters when "Plan A" doesn't quite work out. I am grateful I am not responsible for the master schedule, only my heart and my part. 


Thursday, August 25, 2016


Daily Gratitude Year 4- Day 238: Today, I am grateful for the value in naming and being named. 

Naming matters. We took the job seriously as parent. We wanted them to have a sense of uniqueness among all the Smiths of the world, but we didn't want strange or awkward spellings to frustrate them the rest of their lives.  

Growing up, I rarely had my first and last name both spelled correctly until I married a Smith. That one is easy. Valerie isn't hard, but there are alternate spellings... although the "erie" on the end of mine fits my Halloween birth...and would have been unique. I have never introduce myself as "Val" - as I've never cared for the less feminine, shortened version of my name. As a young adult - when I left for college... it was easy to speak up and express the preference for Valerie. At home - given names are not used as much as endearments and nicknames - but out in the real world, they our first impression on the world. 

Randy doesn't ever use his legal first name except on legal documents. The popular nickname has been his moniker for all of his life. He wanted the kids to have names that fit for life. Not just a season. As a child... you don't get much voice. Naming matters.

In light of our own experiences, we wanted names that were not strange, but somewhat unique for our children. Correct phonetically spelled names...but somehow their own. Chase was not on any list of popular names in 1991 - neither was Walker in 1996. Our future daughter, Emma, was also named ahead of the popular curve, too. Ashley, Jessica, Brittany, Amanda and Samantha were the top 5 for girls in 1991. 

A name is a first impression. It follows you wherever you go. There was a time that a man's name and the value of his word were synonymous. A word and a handshake... and the deal was done. A century ago, mention a man's name and those who new him would give a quick character assessment. Now, we "Google" a name for information. 

I love that our creative God gave Adam the gift of naming the living creatures. 

"The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him." -Genesis 2:20

 That our God numbers the stars and calls them by name is something that my human brain cannot fathom. Each one valued enough to be named. 

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. -Psalm 147:4

Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. -Isaiah 40:26

My favorite piece of this scripture is "not one is missing". 

God changed Adam's name from Abram to Abraham as part of a promise. Daniel and "the boys" were given Babylonian names to strip them of their heritage when they were taken captive in the book of Daniel. An angel instructed Joseph in a dream about the naming of the baby Mary would bear in Matthew 1:21:

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

When asked how the a crippled man was healed in Acts 4 , Peter responded:

 "let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

And a glimpse of the future in Philippians 2:10:

"so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,"

Names are important. The act of naming is the giving of a gift for a lifetime. The name of Jesus holds power, authority, healing and hope. 

Earworm is awake and singing Jim Croce's "I've Got a Name" and Matthew West's "Hello, my name is Child of the One True King". He can't make up his mind so I get two songs this morning. 

Today, I am grateful for the value in naming and being named. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Choose Beauty, Polish and Shine

Image from everydayspirit.net  
Daily Gratitude Year 4- Day 237: Today, I am grateful for choices that add beauty, polish and shine.

Ask people to describe the same object or event and you can get wildly different descriptions. How can that be? Movie critics. Book critics. And even fashion designers see with different eyes. There is choice in vision. 

I love Helen Keller quotes for her clear vision of the world around her...from sightless eyes and ears that did not hear. She learned to live...really live... beyond her circumstances. Her example challenges me.

Choices. We all make them. Every single day. The choices we make will impact how we interact with others and live with our ourselves. They reflect our spiritual life, too. 

Does our hope show? Does it float? Does it shine? 

I loved this little image this morning. The quote from Mary Davis and the image is from Everydayspirit.net.  The quote simply defines the conglomerate of choices we make each morning, noon and night. My choices are typically better and easier in the morning. I lose a little steam along the way of the day. 

Still, when we meet the morning with prayer...and coffee (or your beverage of choice)...and a mindset to make this day an offering, there is a new energy born. It is a soul exercise. Vision clears in a grateful heart. 

What will we see today? 

"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." 2 Chronicles 16:9a

The rest of the verse is about consequences to those who do not seek God's face and rely on "other kings" or their own power and influence. 

You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:9b

Wars as a result of trusting in other kings... instead of Him.  Logical consequences is a parenting technique...one we always liked...and apparently, it is not a new one. 

We cannot always control the world around us. We can choose new eyes and adjust our vision to his lens. See beauty. Seek kindness. Shine. Love. Live. Create. Be thankful. 

In a nutshell... 

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." -Romans 12:1

Be present. Be a present. Be an offering. Love... real love and commitment... tears down the walls of resistance... and it seems the reasonable thing to do. Crazy love. 

Now... as a work in progress... some days are great and others are epic fails. Still, each day we can choose again. Beauty, kindness, generosity, gratitude and whimsy all make a difference... one tiny act and intentional observation at a time.  

Today, I am grateful for choices that add beauty, polish and shine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Favorite Things

Photo by: Wendy Williams Vastine 2016
Daily Gratitude Year 4- Day 236: Today, I am grateful for blue skies sprinkled with puffy, fluffy white clouds over fields of maturing grain...kids I adore and have loved since their birth...and old tractors. Yes...these are a few of my favorite things. 

Earworm is awake and singing "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music".  "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..." 

When I look at this amazing shot - totally lifted in love and adoration from my friend, Wendy Williams Vastine, who sees beauty and moments through her lens and captures them both- I see reminders of the goodness in this day. It is rich! 

We can't buy blue skies. You can't make the the corn and beans grow, we can only care for them. We can't all see the beauty in an old tractor, but some do and put the effort into salvaging and restoring the "old girl" to her former glory. 

For the tractor people...I grew up with "green" (not red). We now run a lot of "yellow". But it is the "Old Massey-Ferguson that makes me smile and reminisce about my childhood on the farm. The Old Massey and the John Deere 3020 were more like friends. Beloved and well kept.  They never let age or inclement weather keep them from pulling their weight.  Small buy mighty little warriors were those tractors. The Farmall captured here, I am sure could tell many similar stories if tractors could talk. 

Some days, it is good to pause; lifting our hearts in gratitude for the gifts in this simple ordinary day is why I believe gratitude is life changing. 

This picture...if I could name it...would be "Roots, Wings & Favorite Things". These kids have some farm in their history (if I recall correctly Great Grandma). Grandpa Ron worked for John Deere. Dad at Caterpillar. And...a great adventure across the sea gave them wings, but also taught them the value and the joy of a sunny, cloud sprinkled sky. Yes, roots, wings and favorite things.  All the photo is missing is pumpkins! (Insert a laugh if you are from Morton or if you are not from Morton and find our pumpkin obsession amusing.)

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever." -Psalm 136:1

Cloudy days come and go, but the sun always returns. Crops thrive and crops fail...but we seem to have enough to eat. More than enough. Children grow up and thrive when sprinkled with love, discipline, encouragement and guidance. 

"For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer." -1 Timothy 4:4-5

Today, I am grateful for blue skies, old tractors, puffy clouds, maturing grain and treasured teens. These are a few of my favorite things. And...Earworm...who keeps me singing random tunes from every era. :) 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Whole Box of Crayons

Daily Gratitude Year 4- Day 235: Today, I am grateful for the whole box of crayons.

It is back to school and a I just heard a blurb on the radio where a mom was talking about how she loved the smell of a new box of crayons. I wanted to shout "Yes" at the radio, but that would be silly since she couldn't hear me. Still, I totally relate.

My self-created daily gratitude rules allow me to repeat an item once every 365 days. My big box of crayons I have been saving.  I adore the big box. I see colors using my Big Crayola Box as a reference.  Always get the sharpener.  It is cool and worth the splurge!

Some colors are "not my favorites", but they, too, have a place in the box. They have a job and a purpose. Every shade of brown, purple and red has a story to tell.  A story that could not be told as well if they were missing from the box. 

Some days are many shades of greens, yellows and blues. The roses need many pinks, reds and yellows to represent their family of flowers. There are neutrals for the many gorgeous shades of skin that make up our beautiful world. I once had a child as why we refer to people as "white" when they are really "peach". That child knew her crayons and white did not really work.  

Yesterday, we sang an old children's son. It has such a lesson. "Red and yellow, black and white all are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world." We have a second verse- "Every color, every race, every country, every place. Jesus love the little children of the world." 

Living fully is truly about embracing "the whole box of crayons"  Storm clouds and sunshine. Many shades of pumpkin...not all of them orange...begin to grace the shops and front doors.  We start early in Morton, IL. Libby's has been canning the pumpkin pie mix and we can smell the spices. 

Today, I am grateful for the whole box of crayons...and the scent of a new box. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

One More Week

Daily Gratitude Year 4- Day 234: Today, I am grateful for one more week. 

There are times in life we lament that seasons change. On this day, I am grateful for one more week with Walker. 

I am not that mom who can't wait for the kids to go back to college. I love a full nest. Yet, I will not take for granted that they are now adults who are growing and going...as they should.  Still, I wonder... where does the time go? 

The house is quiet when it is back to two, so we will enjoy Walker for one more week. We will savor the sounds...the extra laundry...the milk that vanishes...the extra shoes at the back door when friends are here...the moments of togetherness cannot be taken for granted. 

When we love...the time we have never seems quite long enough.  I  friend reminded me of that yesterday. Garth Brooks song "The Dance" is so eloquently written.  We cannot always understand the value of a season...until it changes. We don't treasure a person until they are gone.  It is my prayer that at the end of my days, my loved ones will know without a doubt, they were treasured. 

Today, I will not wonder how I everything will get done everything on the "to do" list. I will not fret forgetting to send something with him, because he is capable of solving whatever bump comes up.  I will not mourn his going while he is still home. 

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:3

Today, I am grateful for one more week. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Unexpected Beauty

Daily Gratitude Year 4- Day 233: Today, I am grateful for unexpected beauty.

A daisy in the crack of the cement. A puff of a dandelion amidst a sea of grassy green...just waiting for a wish to be made.  A feathery prairie grass growing tall between the highway lanes. A tiny pot of flowers on the window ledge of a stark city tenement building. Unexpected beauty...unexpected hope. The aged, wrinkled fingers holding the hand of a young, taut, glowing skinned child as they walk slowly, side-by-side. A cat and dog snuggling in sleep, unaware the world expects them to behave as enemies.

There is a crazy thing that happens to our souls when beauty is encountered in unexpected places. Joy erupts. Hope is renewed. Smiles break out. It is good. 

How do you find it?  New eyes. There is a clearer vision that comes from the heart, no matter your optical prescription. 

As I thought and prayed on this gratitude note, Earworm began singing this line from "Love Crucified Arose":  "And the grave became a place of hope. For the heart that sin and sorrow broke, is beating once again."

There is beauty in unexpected places, when we seek with new eyes. Knock with new exceptions. We can open more than a door. We can open our hearts. 

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." -Matthew 7:7

New vision and new hope when we ask for His eyes to view our world. 

Today, I am grateful for unexpected beauty.