Monday, May 31, 2021

To Do Lists

 

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 151: Today, I am grateful for "To Do" lists. 

The week ahead is full of check off lists. Much to do and never quite enough time to get things done. Instead of fretting, choose to make a list and prioritize. 

My friend, Beth, posted this today. I love Bob Goff. This was the perfect reminder that the most important thing is still the most important thing. Not a long list of accomplishments, but a simple reminder to "Love God and love people." 

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment." - Matthew 22:36-38

As Mama Ina Mae always recommends: "First things first." Who will you love today? Who will you serve? 

Today, I am grateful for "To Do" lists. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Memorial Day

 

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 150: Today, I am grateful for a day to remember freedom isn't free. 

Memorial Day is more than a day off to grill, fellowship with family and take in the easy, breezy days of late spring. It is the day we pause as a nation to remember and honor those who gave all for their country, the families and their God. 

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." -John 15:13  

My sister died while serving in the US Airforce. She was stationed in Okinawa, where she met and fell in love with her Marine. They had saved leave time to come home and marry. An undiagnosed heart defect turned wedding plans into a funeral. Instead of wedding tulle and bridal veils, it was an honor guard and the folding of a US flag. 

I know the flag means different things to different people, but where I grew up, we stood, covered our hearts and said the pledge. Our elders taught us to respect Old Glory, not because she was perfect, but because she was a reminder of the best of us and the best in us. The brave ones who are willing to protect and serve, not without fear... but because some people are worth dying for. 

The flag never meant more than the day it covered my sister's casket. They carefully carried her to the grave and reverently folded it into the shape of a triangle to hand to Mama. Dad somber by her side. Then, the gun salute. The haunting sound of the horn playing "Taps". The memories feel fresh at times, even 25 years later. 

Because she served her country, her last year and a half were spent far, far away. Still, in the Air Force and on Kadena Base, she found happiness in her work, in her service and in the relationships she built there. She found ways to be salt and light, as we heard the stories of her compassion and kindness. 

We remember the soldiers, some barely more than boys, who stormed the shores at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Hitler had to be stopped. The Normandy invasion began to turn the tide against the Nazis. They were willing to sacrifice all. Some died in battle. Some died of disease due to the horrid living conditions. Others died in POW camps, suffering and hungry. 

We remember those who served in Korea and Vietnam, too. They knew freedom wasn't free. We don't celebrate wars. We pause to remember the sacrifice of those who died protecting freedoms we often take for granted. 

 “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

They did not face evil in silence. 

Today, I am grateful for a day to remember freedom isn't free.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

28 years.. and LIttle Brothers

 Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 149: Today, I am grateful for 28 Years... and little brothers.

Yesterday we celebrated big brothers... today we treasure the little brothers. 

The month of May continues to be a mix of the joys and the sorrows. My little brother and his beautiful bride, Jennifer, marked 28 years today. How can time fly so quickly? I don't feel that much older. Happy Anniversary to two of our favorites. 

Aunt Jennifer used to joke with Chase that he was her "back up plan" if things didn't work out with Uncle Matt. Their wedding anniversaries are now just days apart... and 24 years. Oh the memories. 

I am grateful for the choice they have made to love in every season of life. They endured some tough stuff even before they wed. Jennifer's dad died, suddenly, just a few months before their wedding. I will never forget my eyes tearing up as I watched her little brother, Jeff, bravely walk her down the aisle filling some big shoes. As Marc Brown wrote in his "Arthur" series:

"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero."  Brothers are priceless.

Matthew and Jennifer have a strong sense of family. It is a part of the "cord of three strands that is not easily broken". The scriptures teach the importance of family and Matt and Jennifer were both taught to honor family. They are a blessing. 

Randy's brother, Monte and his beautiful bride, Jan, would have celebrated 35 years in about two weeks. What began as a friendship grew into a second chance at love... and a lifetime of love, laughter, children, grandchildren, family ties and hands joined in service to their Lord. I am grateful for what they taught us... the little brother and little sister-in-love... by example. 

I am so grateful for family in the best of times and in the worst of times. Love really does bear all things. Little brothers make life more bearable. 

"... Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.   Galatians 5:13

To serve one another... in love... as we were instructed to live.  It is the best choice.

Today, I am grateful for 28 Years... and little brothers.


Friday, May 28, 2021

Unforgotten

 Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 148: Today, I am grateful for we are unforgotten. 

"I will not forget  you. I have carved you on the palms of my hands. -Isaiah 49:15

What a beautiful promise. Whatever comes our way. Whatever trials and joys we may face. We are unforgotten. We can rest assured that His hand is still holding us. His peace is the sweetest peace.

Today, I am grateful for we are unforgotten. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Big Brothers

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 147: Today, I am grateful for big brothers.

This picture is from four years ago today.

Randy came with brothers. I had always been the oldest... and on my Mama's side, I was even the oldest of the cousins. When I married The Love of My Life... I inherited the spot of "the youngest". His brothers and sisters have always made me feel like family. His brother, Monte, seemed to know I would be staying from the first time we met. He treated me like a sister from the beginning. 

This has been a long and emotional week. We take the sorrow with the joys. Our big brother joined Jesus... and his daughter, Jenny, in heaven in the wee hours just 24 hours ago. We rejoice in his heavenly healing, but grief is deep and real. 

 It is still hard to believe the planet is without a Monte Carl. I am grateful for every single minute shared that always left us longing for more. Time together always flew too swiftly, in the good times and in the shared sorrows. It is hard to put into a few words what he has meant to us. So, I went to the scriptures:

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon...that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting." -Psalm 133:1,3

A perfect verse to reflect on the best of times at the hardest of times. As I opened my BIblegateway App I whispered a prayer. "Give me what you've got.", I prayed. I wanted to know if the Lord had a special word for us today. For those that follow Daily Gratitude, sit down. It was a God Wink for sure:

 "Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep." -Romans 12:15  

YES! Of all of the verses in the scriptures.. this is the one that was given as my verse of the day. By chance? I think not. It is one of my newer "life verses" to live by. It is a favorite. It is one I quote often... and today... it was a gift from a God who knew just what we needed. 

We love Jan... his beautiful bride of almost 35 years. In their family... there are no inlaws with the Smiths... there might a few outlaws, but that keeps us interesting. ;) We are family. Rob & Nikki, Chris & Kathy... Robin & family and all of the grandchildren... our hearts break and ache with yours, but we all know that the joys with Monte have far outweighed the sorrows. He was the best.  Heaven rejoices while we weep. I am forever grateful we can share the joys of knowing him with our tears. 

I am not done writing about Monte... but I wanted to get this posted. 

Today, I am grateful for big brothers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Anniversaries

 

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 146: Today, I am grateful for anniversaries.

It is good to remember the mile markers and the moments. Our oldest son and daughter-in-love celebrate their wedding anniversary today. Four years after the "I do's" and "I will's", they still make love look good. I love their tender care and thoughtfulness toward each other. 

They've known each other for nearly 30 years, but this week marks the anniversary of  their choosing each other before God, family and friends. Again, love is a beautiful reason to celebrate. 

We've been married for nearly 35 years, but I find we can still learn from watching them. We are so grateful for the ways they balance each other, treasure each other and work to be attentive to the other. Love is, indeed, a powerful and beautiful choice. 

I love this passage from Ruth that reminds me of the powerful connection between people and families when we choose love:

"But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. -Ruth 1:16

Yes, choosing love is worth celebrating. We count the years of multiplying the joys and dividing the sorrows. We know each one is a gift. 

Today, I am grateful for anniversaries.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Perfect Timing

 

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 145: Today, I am grateful for perfect timing.

In Morton, we have an amazing marching band. The precision in the execution of each show is the result of countless hours of practice. Unlike a gymnast nailing a vault or floor routine from start to finish, a marching band requires every member to be in sync and doing their part... all at the same time. Each show is like a mini-miracle when it comes together perfectly. 

This passage came up today (Thanks, Cousin Marj.)

"When the time is right, I the LORD, will make it happen." -Isaiah 60:22

As a flawed human, at times, it is easy to forget that there is a bigger picture I cannot see and a God who keeps the entire universe in balance... not just my little corner of the world. 

We all face joys and sorrows. His timing is not just for our individual good, but for the good of all who know Him and have chosen to be in relationship with Him. We are a family. It is why we are instructed to share each other's joys and sorrows. The good, the bad, the happy and the sad are all a part of living in this imperfect, fallen world. 

There are times I find myself with a "heart problem". I set my heart on things without consulting Him. When we seek Him with our whole hearts, our desires change. We begin to pray "thy will be done" instead of "my will be done".. His grace is sufficient...for this day and for the next. Whatever the day or week may bring. He is our enough. 

Do I still question God's timing? The human condition is real. Watched pots still take forever to boil. He never said we could not ask questions. He did make it clear that He, alone, knows the number or the stars and hairs on our heads. The universe is His to command, yet sincerely cares about the tiniest details of our lives. 

His ways can be beautiful, and at other times, what He allows is heartbreaking. Broken and beautiful is a real thing. He is fully present in our celebrations and in our darkest hours. Surrendering to His perfect timing doesn't necessarily change what is happening, but it strengthens our hearts when we truly seek refuge in the shelter of His mighty hand. 

Today, I am grateful for perfect timing.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Freshly Mowed Lawns

 

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 144: Today, I am grateful for freshly mowed lawns. 

The scent of a freshly mown lawn is a heavenly scent. The scent of cut grass is one of the more refreshing I know. It makes me feel alive. It is a happy scent. I am grateful for the ones who do the mowing, too. "

There are candles and wax melts that smell like freshly cut grass. Still, there is nothing like the real thing. 

This sign made me giggle. It is true. There is nothing like the neighbor mowing their lawn to pressure you into firing up the lawn mower. 

Add spring blooms, like peonies and lilacs, into the mix of the fresh cut grass, and it is something almost magical. Pause. Take it in. Savor the season. 

"Awake, north wind! Rise up, south wind! Blow on my garden and spread its fragrance all around." -Solomon 4:16

Yes, spread the fragrance all around. 

Today, I am grateful for freshly mowed lawns... and positive peer pressure.  

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Unions

 

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 143: Today, I am grateful for good unions.

We are on the eve of a first wedding anniversary. For a whole year as husband and wife... Walker and Abigail have learned more and more what it means to be united in marriage... and your people shall be my people.  

They have had quite a first year. They had an intimate backyard Covid Wedding, purchased a home, renovated their new place and invited Grandma Ina Mae to live with them. They also added a few more fur babies. It is a full house. Something is always going on. They are experiencing, learning new things and doing it all hand in hand. Some days, I can't believe my baby is a husband.

Here is my verse of the day:

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. -Romans 15:2

Isn't marriage a bunch of helping others and building them up? It is what God desires us to do in our relationships. Especially, in a marriage, there is so much opportunity to build up or tear down. Every day we make a choice to love with intention. We chose to be one. 

"This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." -Genesis 2:24

It is a union of two souls from different families and family experiences. It is, essentially, a blending of cultures, because every family has its unique way of doing things. Learning the nuances in your chosen family takes time. I am grateful these to try hard to communicate and grow together. (Later this week our other son and his wife will mark 4 years of marriage... so many reasons to celebrate good unions.)

Love really is the best choice. 

Today, I am grateful for good unions.


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Telephone

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 142: Today, I am grateful for the telephone.

We are so blessed to have the technology of the phone. To be able to reach out to far away places and truly connect with loved ones. Not everyone has the ability to do this. There was a time it was assessible but nearly unaffordable. 

Our phones today are tools of distraction, but the truth is... they are, also, an affordable connection to loved ones near and far. 

Communication is important to relationships.  God knows our minds and our hearts, but we need the connection.

Never stop praying. -Thessalonians 5:17

Prayer is our way of "phoning home" as E.T. would say.

Today, I am grateful for the telephone.

Friday, May 21, 2021

My Pillow

 Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 141: Today, I am grateful for my pillow.

There is something simply wonderful about your own pillow and your own bed.

Some days are long and lovely. Others fly by in a blind of an eye. We end the day with sleep. A pillow is a luxurious sleep aide. 

Many things have been used for pillows... even rocks.

At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep.-Genesis 28:11


I prefer my pillow cool to touch and fluffy. So much better than a rock. 

Today, I am grateful for my pillow.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Ingredient Lists

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 140: Today, I am grateful for ingredient lists.

We all use ingredient lists if we cook or bake. I am reminded when I grab any bag at the grocery store of the ingredients list on the back. When we try to make healthier choices, we can begin by looking at the ingredients list. 

Over the past years, I've been better about paying attention to the labels. I think it matters to our overall health. I did the whole 30 diet for a month and it is true, you feel better and weight loss follows. 

Why don't more people do it? It's hard. Eating out becomes very difficult. When fruits and veggies are out of season, the cost rises. And... some of the junk we've become accustomed to tastes really good. It is a good choice but not an easy choice. 

Today, I am keeping it simple... what other ingredient lists came to mind? The Bible is full of lists. This is one of my favorites:

"Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love." -1 Corinthians 13:13

These are the things that last forever... faith, hope and love. We can survive much when we pack these in our life suitcase.

In the movie "Zombieland"... the Hostess Twinkie was that elusive item that seemed to last forever. Others might argue it is Velveeta "Cheese". I am pretty sure that 7th grade school picture might make the list, too. Once again, the Bible gets it right. 

Today, I am grateful for ingredient lists.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Magic of Kindness



Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 139: Today, I am grateful for the magic of kindness.
 

"Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see." 

Kindness is easier when you are well rested and receiving kindness. Still, kindness makes the biggest difference when times are stressed and reality isn't exactly what we hoped for. Life happens when we are making plans, and kindness matters in the midst of the madness.

I can't help but think of Jesus who displayed kindness, even was he was being unfairly arrested. In fact, at the meal we know as "The Last Supper", Jesus clearly knew who would betray him, yet he showed kindness.  

"Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?” And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”” -Matthew 26:25

At his arrest, he referred to those arresting him unfairly as "my friends" after a night of passionate prayer and weeping before God to be spared the cross. Still, Jesus chose kindness every time. 

Judas betrayed him with a kiss, and he was still in control of his emotions and behaviors. The emotional pain of  his friend's betrayal, perhaps was as deep and real as the beatings and the nails and cross ahead of him. Jesus remained calm and kind.

The only time Jesus lost his temper was in the mistreatment and lack of respect for His Father's House... the temple. The people had lost sight of God's holiness in his Holy House. It is something our God cannot and will not tolerate. 

Choosing kindness usually resonates deeply with those who receive it, even when they do not show it on the surface. Their hearts feel it. 

"In a world where you can be anything at all... be kind."

Today, I am grateful for the magic of kindness. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The God Sized Piece

 

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 138: Today, I am grateful for the God sized piece that completes us.

The Love of my Life is the youngest of six. Let me be clear, he is the "youngest" and not "the baby". Whenever I see a jigsaw puzzle I find myself remembering the stories of them putting a puzzle together as a family, probably in the midst of endless Michigan winters. When the puzzle was nearly complete, several pieces would show up missing.

Were they lost pieces? Not exactly. One or more of the kids would pocket a piece so they could be the one to put in the final piece to complete the puzzle. As I recall, my Mother-in-Love was not amused at their antics. 

Jigsaw puzzles are fun. Some of my favorites would be images of fall leaves in the Midwest. So many shades of greens, browns, yellows, oranges and reds to attempt figuring out which pieces go where.  

We humans are a little like a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece. 

"No person, possession, profession or pain-relieving substance will ever fill the cup of a wounded, empty heart. It is an emptiness only God can fill." -Lysa Terkeurst

God is our missing piece. Nothing else can fill the hole in our souls. We can seek to fill it with all the things of this world, but it never works. It is why Hollywood is full of drugs, broken lives and suicide. It is heartbreaking. So many hate the God who loves them so much he died for them. 

There is a passage from Hosea that compliments this quote:

“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” -Hosea 6:1-3

Brothers and sisters... this world is going to have trouble. The troubles come in waves it seems, but we can still have peace because HE is our missing piece. 

As a sweet little old many who took black and white pictures at the Methodist Family Childcare Center used to stamp on the pack of each photo:

"No God, no peace. Know God, know peace." He is, indeed, our missing piece that brings us peace in any storm and allows us to really feel the joy in our celebrations, too. Acts 17:28 says: "In Him, we live, and move and have our being."

Today, I am grateful for the God sized piece that completes us.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Hope Beyond Our Understanding


Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 137: Today, I am grateful for hope beyond our understanding. 

My friend, Brenda, just shared this beautiful quote from Ann Voskamp in her grief:

A God who is beyond great, must, by definition, work in ways that are beyond our understanding."

She connected this scripture:

"Jesus replied, 'You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will'" John 13:7

It is hard to think about the "someday" in the grief of today. When we say God works in ways beyond our understanding, we often have this image of God in our head that looks more like Santa Claus than the One True God.

Our God answers prayers. I've seen him answer them in mysterious ways. Jehovah works things out, but his ways do not always make sense in the moment... or even in a lifetime. Some things, perhaps, will make no sense this side of heaven. Still, the longer we live... if He grants us more days and years... we will begin to see how His hand is in the weaving and in the details of everything.

I like this passage, too:

"Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!" -Romans 11:33

Some of His ways are beautiful and amazing. Other times, things He allows make no sense with our human eyes and understanding. God is simply impossible for us to understand, but with Him, all things are possible.

We can do new things. We can do hard things. We can do scary things. We can do joyful things. We can do medical things. We can do work things. All because, we have a Christ who gives us his strength.

Why, then, do I wait for my own strength to run out before I tap into His? Aren't we all works in progress? I will choose to be grateful for the lessons learned along the way. I am grateful we are never without hope when we are Children of the King.

Today, I am grateful for hope beyond our understanding.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Mile Markers

 

Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 136: Today, I am grateful for mile markers. 

The three pictured here have grown up in our church family. Each one has a special place in my heart. What an honor it is to teach children about the ways of our God. My prayer is that each one will know Him intimately in a way that will carry them through any curve ball life pitches. Relationship is where peace is found.

It has been a week of highs and lows... and we aren't done yet. Life can certainly be a roller coaster ride at times... but our God never leaves us afraid and motion sick. He sticks with us when we want to throw our hands up in the air with delight. And, when we want to throw up because everything feels wrong. 

He never leaves us alone or lonely. We need only cry out to Him and we will know he hears our pleas. He doesn't move. He doesn't hide. We need only be still. 

I am reminded of the two blind men on the road just outside of Jericho. They sat hopeful when they heard Jesus was coming. The crowd tried to silence them, but they would not be quiet. Jesus was near. They would not miss their chance. ("Not going to miss their shot!"... thanks Earworm for a little "Hamilton" music.) They had heard of his miracles. They would not let the crowd discourage them.  

"As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” -Matthew 20:29-30

Jesus hears them, pauses, and asks what they desire. He grants them their sight. Unlike many who were healed and went on their merry... at times... ungrateful way, these two men took up their mats and followed Jesus. I love their story. Lows... highs... and mile markers. 

Our Sunday School class did a series awhile back. I don't even remember the name. What I remember most was the commission from Romans 12:15: " Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep." I have had the passage stuck on replay in my head ever since. I've tried to do better. Sometimes, I still fail. We can be far from perfect, but if we do these two simple things, it will please our Lord. Shared griefs and shared joys.

Most of us enjoy the celebrations. Many fear the moments of sorrow. But, in those shared sorrows, we find the true blessing of being believers together. We are a family. We are not without hope. Death is not an end but a door to a new beginning. We weep because we love. We celebrate because we love. We have hope because Jesus broke the chains of the grave and set us free from our sin debts. "In Him we live, and move and have our being."

Full living means doing both. We won't always understand the "whys" or the "why nots". We do know we can press on because Jesus never quit. Jesus fulfilled his commission. He completed the assignment. He is the reason that in joy and in sorrows... we are still free. 

We are only midway through May. We are not done celebrating, for sure. The weeping will continue, too. Grief takes time. Life is full of highs, lows and mile markers. Some markers we will plow through with aches, pain and discomfort. Others, we will cheer and chase the celebratory moment. 

Today, I am grateful for mile markers. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

First Things First

 

 Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 135: Today, I am grateful for first things first. 

"We can put God first by giving Him the first moments of the day." - Lysa Terkeurst

Mama Ina Mae preached "First things first." We heard it all the time. When prioritizing any situation, we learned to assess and decide which things needed to happen first. It was good advice. I was wisdom for living. 

Plan the day. Do what must be done. Recognize some things are God appointments and outside of our plan. 

This is the perfect scripture for first things first:

"Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself." -Matthew 22:37-39

We can make plans, but we are to let God guide our days. We can count the hours, but our God knows the number of our days. 

Today, I am grateful for first things first. 


Friday, May 14, 2021

Dirt Roads

 Daily Gratitude Year 9-Day 134: Today, I am grateful for dirt roads. 

"Take Me Home Country Roads" is a classic song. The melody and words combined are almost haunting. The tune sticks in your head and the words come back easily each time we sing it. 

Real country roads include the dirt path... the road less traveled... but traveled enough to make a path. The shortcut to a neighbor's home might not warrant a county road being established... but a dirt road fits the bill. 

A dirt road is almost always one lane wide. What do you do if you meet opposing traffic? You move over and share the road going very slowly. Country problem solving often involves sharing. 

The dirt road that is dusty and dry is preferred to one that includes a mud hole where a car or truck can get stuck. The best time to hit a dirt road is when it is not too dry or too wet... but just right. I can easily remember evaluating dirt roads at different times in my life to determine if they were "fit" for travel. Such roads were a part of country living, just like the planting and the harvest. 

Most of the roads in Jesus's time were dirt. Several encounters with Christ took place on dirt roads. This is a particular favorite because they didn't realize who he was until he was making the bread. 

"Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.  And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said." -Luke 24:35-36

A simple setting for an amazing Jesus. Do we quiet our hearts and listen?

Do we find ourselves a little more at peace when making our way down a dirt path? 

Today, I am grateful for dirt roads. 


We Can Bloom

Vintage Gratitude from Year 3: 

Daily Gratitude Year 3-Day 134: 

Today...I am grateful that the measure of a life is not determined by what others think or expect...but by how a person lives in the places they are planted.


"Like wildflowers; you must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would."

If you had told me at 21, when I walked down the aisle to meet my guy and make our "in sickness and in health'"...."for better and for worse"..."until death do us part" promises to love and cherish, I would never have expected that we would make our new life together in a little town near Peoria, IL and put down roots. We had plans. 🙂

We saw ourselves living somewhere between his family and mine. We saw ourselves in a grand old house that we would love and cherish...we like old houses. We saw the temporary in where were were. Of course...God directed our paths differently and here we are. Randy has now lived in the same house for 18 years- a first in his lifetime. I lived in the same 1800's farm house my entire life before marriage. Life happens and we adjust.

One of the greatest choices in life is to the choice as to how we will live in the place we have been planted. There are times that the soil is good and life seems to explode in beauty. There are other times, we feel we have been thrown on the rocky soil and we have to struggle to find a place to take root and grow. Remember...life is full of "growing" seasons. Some are a delight and others a struggle. We can choose to savor the good in what we have...or live in a state of longing and discontentment.

This year...I am working on "courage". I like to keep it safe. I remember my heart pounding when we discovered at age 2, my little brother Matthew had climbed to the top of a big grain bin ladder. Think barn tall, if you don't know what a grain bin is. As we ran outside, I remember Mom having the foresight to coach me on the way out to "rescue him". She said "Valerie - don't yell at him. He will fall if we startle him." Go Mama Ina Mae! I was eight, and she had already kept 6 sibling alive through childhood before marriage and I trusted the expert.

Mom did it! We talked him down, starting with "Hey, Matthew. What are you doing?" He replied with - "I rake the bins." It is a task he knew Dad performed to keep the grain fresh. He was determined to be like Dad, but he was just a little guy. He, at two, knew who he was and what he was born to do.

Matt is still doing it. He has chosen to bloom where he was planted, although he has certainly had some rough patches, tough years and season of discouragement. Still, he has never forgotten to give thanks for the soil he gets to call his own and he chooses to grow in some unexpected places. When life throw curve balls...he saws we "Improvise. Adapt. Overcome." His joy in that makes my big sister's heart warm. I do love him.

My sister-in-law arrives today. I cannot wait. She is another who has faced some real life challenges, but her love of people and family keeps her blooming. Lola is a gem. Can't wait to hug her.She is a one of a kind!

We can LIVE in the soil where we are planted. Don't just exist. BLOOM!

Today...I am grateful that the measure of a life is not determined by what others think or expect...but by how a person lives in the places they are planted

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Choose Your Worship


Year 9- Day 133: Today, I am grateful we can choose who and what we worship.

Worry is a problem. It zaps the strength and goodness out of the day. It wears us out on many levels. It invades our heads and impacts our hearts spiritually and physically. Worry, a kind of fear, is breathed by the enemy... and he has bad breath! 

Toby Mac has some fun quotes. This one was new to me. He nailed it!

"Worry is worshipping the problem." 

It seems there has been a theme to gratitude this week and worry passages have come up a couple of times. Here is the anti-worry passage that is a favorite for many:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. -Proverbs 3:5-6

We do not always understand His ways. In fact, at times we are baffled by how a loving, good God could allow such trials to come our way. But for those who claim this scripture in the hard times, I have NEVER, EVER heard them look back and say "I was wrong to put my trust in the Lord." Never, have I ever... and I've had quite a few years of watching and experiencing God in the good times and in the troubles. 

Worry is worshiping the problem. Put worry aside and claim the power of praise. Worshiping the One True God who never fails our leaves us:

"For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.  I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. -John 17:2-4

Let us complete the work we have to do. We do not know the number of our days, but we do know how to choose the focus of our worship. 

Today, I am grateful we can choose who and what we worship.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Do Good & Share

Year 9- Day 131: Today, I am grateful we can do good and share.

This is the best of passages:

"And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God." -Hebrews 13:16 NLT

What is there to love about this scripture? 

The wonder of God's instruction is that it sounds like work but turns out to bring great joy. His instructions for living often talk about making our lives a living sacrifice, but in the "sacrifice" there turns out to be something bigger that happens . What sounded like a task or obligation, turns out to be a source of joy. 

On Saturday, a dearly loved brother in Christ went to be with Jesus. He was a person who lived a life of love and service wherever he went. He was salt and light in our church and in our community. He adored his wife and sons... and he showed a Father's love to other people's sons, too. He did "good and shared" every single day. The impact he made on us all will echo into eternity. 

Kent's hands served. He did his best to see with Jesus's eyes. His humble spirit, although he processed many gifts... is one of the reasons he will be so deeply missed. He was a servant leader and a friend to all. 

"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

Kent's legacy is rich. The dates of his earthly dash seem way too short for those who loved him. We are grateful for the laughter, the light, the lessons, the love and the legacy he leaves in his amazing sons and his beautiful wife. 

He has heard that amazing phrase, "Well done, my good and faithful son." The earthly sorrow is real, but so is the joy in heaven. 

I am grateful for his life and example.

Today, I am grateful we can do good and share.



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Lilies

 

Year 9- Day 130: Today, I am grateful for the lilies

This scripture keeps popping up in  different places. It is one I memorized as a child. It was my anti-anxiety remedy. It has always been a calming passage:

"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. "Matthew 6:27-29

Isn't it good to know that we are more precious to the Father than the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields? When we trust in Him, our hearts can ache and be at peace at the same time. We are not always spared the hard stuff, but we will not be overwhelmed or destroyed. Why? Because, for the believer, we know a little secret the world cannot understand. 

"For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:53-35

As a teen in the 80's, listened to Petra. They are a hard rock band that was a little harder than my taste, but I could not resist a trip to the Civic Center in Peoria to watch them perform. I had no idea I was taking my first trip to the area that would become our home. My favorite song of the night was "Graverobber". It still is one that resonates deeply with my soul. There is nothing like a hard rock band singing a good ballad. If you don't know "Graverobber", it is worth a listen. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKyhGyTW_TM

The lilies are beautiful, but the wind can sweep them away. The birds are resilient, but nature takes some quick hard swipes at them as well. Still, they do not disappear from the landscape. The lilies come back to bloom again, too. They break through the barren ground to bud and bloom again,  declaring sweet victory over the winter and the winds. 

We, too, can have victory. Like the birds and the lilies. 

 Today, I am grateful for the lilies

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Higher Rock

 Year 9- Day 129: Today, I am grateful for the rock that is higher than I. 

When the spring rains come, I am reminded of the blessing of higher ground. When the ground feel to soft and we can't get our footing, we long for the solid rock. Life is full of plot twists and unplanned chapters. 

The human body gets weary and worn out. We find ourselves in need of someone or something we can count on. The scriptures promise He will never leave us or forsake us. Our hearts cry out with a need to find "the rock". And when we do, we can rest.


"from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." -Psalm 61:2

Some days our hearts are faint. 

Today, I am grateful for the rock that is higher than I. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mama Ina Mae

 

Year 9- Day 128: Today, I am grateful for Mama Ina Mae.

Once a year, on her birthday or Mother's Day... I give thanks for Mama Ina Mae. She is a precious soul. Her love for Jesus and people oozes out of her. She makes friends into family and family are her friends.  She is a wonder.  Even with Huntington's Disease, she is still full of joy. 

She moved in with our son and daughter-in-love at the end of March. She is loving life. She savors every meal... each snack... her John Wayne movies... dark chocolate and she is using Facetime with Abi's help to connect with loved ones. The fur babies in the house are so good for her soul. She knows Walker and Abi will come when she needs them. We are delighted that she feels safe and loved. 

I've often written about her generous spirit and the ways she would always make sure others' needs were met, in front of her own. This year, I want to celebrate her grace and contentment in the trial of Huntington's Disease. 

She finds joy in the smallest things. Even the daily ritual of a shower is celebrated with Mama. Are most of us truly grateful for our daily shower? We have giggled at her latest delight... just add whipped to the top of fruit or pudding and you make it magical. 

"And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

I am so grateful for Mama's example of letting the joy of the Lord be her strength. 

Today, I am grateful for Mama Ina Mae.


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Lessons From the Lillies

Year 9- Day 127: Today, I am grateful for lessons from the lilies. 



Some days have joys. Others have sorrows. Some have both. 

This scripture was part of the graduation ceremony at ONU today  

If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! -Luke 12:27-29

His word is always perfect. It is always timely. It is hope and comfort. Why trust His word and His ways... we need only look to the lilies and other wildflowers. 

Today, I am grateful for lessons from the lilies.