Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Waves of Gratitude

We have lived in Phoenix for over two months now and we have not seen one raindrop. Do not get me wrong, I am not complaining about the weather. Everyday has been gorgeous-sunny, warm, and no humidity. However, this morning I awoke to cloudy skies and a cool breeze caressing the palm trees in my back yard. Now I sit and am looking out admiring a stunning down pour of playful rain. I stepped out onto the back patio and the scent was unlike any I have ever smelled. It has such a fresh and clean scent as though I could just get a bar of soap and shower in it. A wave of gratitude washed over me as I stood and soaked in the beauty of the moment. Now it is thundering. What an amazing sound ! Majestic roars!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving day. I have to admit the week has been a bit hectic and my home has been a bit choppy-like an active ocean. The children have been rowdy as the holidays are approaching. I have been trying to get to the store to buy the food for our family feast, plus we have had sickness in the house. But now at this moment I am caught up in a wave of gratitude and I want to stay upon it and ride it out.

The holidays can be such a time of unrest. It is so easy to get caught up in my list of things to do that I have no peripheral vision to see others that are hurting and in need. Isn't it amazing how easily this can happen? We get so focused on our problems and they become like giants in our line of vision when in fact they are really minuscule compared to what others are going through.

Just this past week, several of my close friends have just received troubling news or are going through a time of distress. One of my dear friends has been having health problems herself and just found out her brother is ill with stage four cancer. Another dear friend just found out she has a tumor and another precious woman in my life lost her baby to miscarriage. My heart has been occupied by these other's trials. I know what it is like to suffer pain during the holidays and it is excruciating. This year I have decided to find waves of gratitude and to look outside of my own little circle to encourage and think of others. It is a difficult season to really give of ourselves with the present state of the economy. The nature of the human soul is to just close up within ourselves and to protect our own. However, we must reflect upon a time when a man lived on this earth for a short 33 years. When threats surrounded Him, He gave. When death knocked on His heart's door He gave. And when He released His last breath, He poured out everything He had that we may gain hope and life.

For this reason, may we press forward and follow His example. Ride the waves of gratitude and find a way to give. Your heart will swell with joy and you will find life that you have never lived.

The photos in this post were taken here in the Phoenix area. Some dear friends came from Atlanta to visit and she took these photos. This is how the terrain of this area looks-rough yet lovely. There are rocks galore,rugged mountains,and hard ground. The plant life is mostly cactus and various sorts of low trees and shrubs. However, the rough beauty carries a message. When the ground is dry, a unique charm still springs forth. You're caught breathless and you draw strength from a place within you that you may have forgotten. Whatever you are facing at this moment and whatever desert you find yourself in, take courage and know that life expresses itself in the most vulnerable of places. You are not without hope. Ride the waves of gratitude and travel to the heart of another this Thanksgiving and share your hidden blooms. Happy Thanksgiving!

Morning Bagel:What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks:to sing an anthem to You, The High God!To announce Your love each daybreak,sing Your faithful presence all through the night. Psalm 92:1-2(The Message Bible)

Thanksgiving Hope: Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness,everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It is wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: It is hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving once again. Most of us are looking forward to time with family and friends, sharing in feasts and the lives of our loved ones. There are many unknowns which face us in the times we live. However, we can have peace and joy in the midst of an unstable world. Many have lost their jobs. Some are ill. Some are in distress for many reasons. What about you? Maybe you are facing a tremendous disappointment and you are finding it difficult to give thanks. It is okay.You are not alone. Maybe you are not struggling with anything major but just feel the weight and exhaustion that the holidays sometime bring. Regardless where you are, take some moments this Thanksgiving to occupy your heart with all that God has given you. Claim Philippians 4 as your strength for the season.

Lord, I bring my heart to you. You know exactly all that is within me. I lay my worries before you as an offering because there is nothing I can hide from You. You see my stress. You feel my worries. You are so close that every breath I inhale is your very exhale. You have given me life through all You have given. As I spend time with loved ones this holiday and as I fill my belly with wonderful food, fill my heart with You. Displace any worry in my life with Your presence Lord and spread your peace through my life to others this holiday season. In Jesus Name. Amen

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Praying Mantis in the Broccoli Tree Part 2

My heart continues to visit the moment I shared with my nine year old son last week. I was busy writing my last blog and he came inside requesting that I come out to look at a "grass hopper thing" he found in the tree. I stopped what I was doing and followed him into the back yard. It was a praying mantis. We shared some special time together just observing the strange little creature. If I had chosen to stay to my task, I would have missed a precious moment of love, sharing, and truth with my child. However, the most important treasure he would have missed is acceptance.

In Andy Stanley's book, "Choosing to Cheat", he shares that there is something your family wants from you more than anything else. What do you think it is? You probably would answer, "love". Yes that is true, but there is a deeper element that we often do not consider. Your family wants to feel accepted. According to Stanley's book, "They want to feel like they are your priority".

Did you know that your spouse and your children can know that you love them, but they may "feel" like they are not your priority? They may be your priority, but that is not the issue. They want to "feel' like your priority. "They must feel like it"

I would like to share another quote from Stanley's book:

" I will never forget discussing this point with a very busy corporate vice
president. He kept assuring me how much he loved his wife and kids. Finally
I interrupted him and said, "The problem is, you love your family in your
heart, but you don't love them in your schedule. And they can't see your

The key here is that our love must be visible. You love your family deeply in your heart, but you should ask yourself this question, "Is my love out there for my spouse and my children to see it?" Is it visible?

As the holiday season is approaching and we are thinking about gift giving. Let us go a bit deeper and think of ways we can make our love visible. It is not so much in material gifts, but is in creating ways to show them our loyalty to them and that they are accepted.

Here are some suggestions for creating visible love so we can battle daily the temptation to cheat our loved ones out of the acceptance they are longing for.

First, practice making more deposits than withdrawals. Deposit words of love and affection. Touch your family members with hugs, loving touches, back scratches, tickles or even wrestling. Stop what you are doing and throw ball in the back yard with your son. Play barbies with your daughter. Take your teenager to lunch. Be creative!

Secondly, find open windows to mine the hearts of your loved ones. Stanley has some great suggestions in his book. Once or twice a week with the kids,ask them these questions,

"Is everything okay in your heart?
"Did anyone hurt your feelings today?"
"Are you mad at anyone?"
"Did anyone break a promise to you?"
"Is there anything I can do for you?"

Taking time to listen deeply to our loved ones sends the message, "You are more important to me than anything in this world. You are accepted by me and I will do anything to show you how much I love you."

Thirdly, take time to receive the truth of God's acceptance of you. Read His love letters to you in the Bible. He did not give you words so that you can have "head smarts." He sent you words of affection that you may experience and know that He accepts you just as you are. If you do not feel accepted and approved of by the Lord, it will be difficult for you to show the same to your family. In turn you will cheat on your family by choosing tasks and accomplishments to make you feel accepted and worthy.

Our heavenly Father is the best model for showing acceptance. He sent the most precious gift He possessed-His only Son. He never cheats on His children and always chooses to give us His best.By His grace and strength, we too can shower our loved ones with acceptance and approval.May you feel the smile and delight of the Lord today.

Morning Bagel: I look up at Your macro-skies,dark and enormous, Your handmade sky jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look? Psalm 8:3-4 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: It is unfathomable to just sit and think about the enormity of the Father's love for us. When I look into the night sky, I can ponder the fact that He is the One who holds the stars in place. He put them there that you and I may see how strong and mighty He really is. This is the truth. How lovely it is to know that the God of the universe accepts you and is tenderly holding your heart in place.

Lord, Your love is amazing. I cannot get over You and all the qualities that make You who you are. I am strengthened and comforted in the truth that you accept and approve of me not because of my performance, but because of Your love which is enormous. Show me where I am not loving fully. Help me to not only love my family, but to have wisdom in how to help them feel and experience my acceptance of them.I want to stop and just enjoy small moments with my family as well as long stretches of time with them. Enable me to listen deeply just as You are always listening deeply to my heart even when I do not speak. You take a second look at me Lord, and a third, fourth and fifth. Thank you. May this very gift of "giving notice" be imparted to my family so that they may also know they are accepted by me and mostly by You. In Jesus Name. Amen

Friday, November 14, 2008

Praying Mantis on the Broccoli Tree. Part 1

This morning I awoke with a mental list of all the things needing to be done today. I chose to mull over my endless list before slowly swinging my legs over the side of my bed.
unfortunately as I was lifting myself up,the list became my god for the day instead of choosing God as the Lord of my day. In return I felt like I was carrying a heavy bag before the day even began.

I am not proud to share this. However,I am a blessed mother of many children with many demands that await me daily. It would be unfortunate for me to pretend that I had it all together and to share about all the wonderful things I do right. In fact, my heart is for others to see that I have many moments of weakness and my share of failures.

How about you? Can you relate here? Don't we connect and bond with others when we share real life of struggles and frailties along with the victories and successes? There is freedom in admitting to ourselves and others that we cannot do it all. This brings me to one of the most influential books I read this year,"Choosing to Cheat", by Andy Stanley. Today, I thought of the book and the straightforward truth that this writing offers to real people living in a world with high demands and worldly pressures.

As the holidays are approaching we usually find ourselves busier. Not only do we have our normal responsibilities, we have the extra load of list making, meal planning, gift shopping, card mailing as well as company parties, decorating, hostessing, and on and on it goes. I thought that the title, "Choosing to Cheat" is a great motto for the holiday season. What this means is that somewhere and somehow, you are cheating. Either I am cheating on my "to do" list by spending time with my family, or I am cheating on people who need me by striving to complete duties. May we choose to cheat on the right things.

If I consider the number of hours in a day, there is no possible way I can fold all of the laundry, clean the toilets, mop the floors, return all the phone calls, wash all the dishes, exercise, trim my toenails, pluck my eyebrows,put on my makeup, shave my legs,cook 5 course meals,and spend adequate time with my family. If I find myself trying to fit all the things into a day that I think should be done, someone is going to get cheated. Even as I am writing this, my 9 year old son came up to me and said, "Mom, you gotta come outside and see this grass hopper thing!" I knew I did not want to miss a special moment with my child. So I stopped writing and ventured outside barefoot to see his new found discovery. It was a praying mantis propped up on a tree that the children call the "broccoli tree". We had a great time observing the strange little creature. And it was a great opportunity to show my child the messages God gives us in nature.

In reality when you consider the limited amount of time in a day, there is no way you can reach your full potential in all those areas. There is just not enough time. And the wonderful thing about it is that God never intended it to be that way. So you know what? You are free!

The time requirements are endless, so the pressure is off of you. In Stanley's book, "Choosing to Cheat", he says this. "Your problem is not discipline. Your problem is not organization,. Your problem is not that you have yet to stumble onto the perfect schedule. And your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time. The problem is there is not enough time to get everything done that you are convinced-or others have convinced you-needs to get done."

As a result of this there is someone or something that will not get what they want from you. You just cannot be all things to all things and people. You are going to have to cheat somewhere.

It is in this realization that you can find peace and contentment. A weight is lifted and we know we can be free to cheat on the things that really are not as important. Yes, I would love to be 20 pounds lighter, but what time would I miss with my children by focusing too much on my weight? I would enjoy having a spotless house, but one day I will regret moments with my kids when they wanted a hug, or a snuggle, or even some time in the yard checking out praying mantises in broccoli trees.

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. So let us join together and cheat a little so we can relish all the blessings we have. In addition, choose to be content even if everything does not get done. If we could accomplish everything we would not need the Lord! The message is for me as much as for anyone else. I want to enjoy God's best for my life each day. And my heart for you is that you too will reap the joys and benefits of God's abundance for you. Let us all aim to align our priorities with God's priorities this upcoming season.

As I am finishing this blog, it is 10 p.m. There is a basket of unfolded clothes in the laundry room. There are several dirty glasses by the sink and few toys were left on the floor. But I am going to leave them all right where they are and cheat on my household chores. Now I am going to sit with my teenagers and husband and enjoy the rest of my evening. The day did not start off great. But it is ending sweetly! It is well with my soul.

Morning Bagel: Jesus said, " Love the Lord your God with all your your passion and prayer and intelligence" This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set along side it: Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commandments are pegs:everything in God's Law and the prophets hangs from them. Matthew 22:37-40 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: My hug to you today and from your God is that His grace is sufficient in all things. Personally, I failed today. I gave my life to the God of lists and busyness instead of the one true God of life and peace-. But He understands and knows that it is difficult for us in this world of pressures and unrealistic expectations. May His mercy and patience and understanding bind us together in the reality that without Him we are lost. And that without His strength, our own strength will not accomplish very much for too long.

Lord, Thank you for understanding the struggles and pressures I face each day as woman and as a mother. Help me not to allow tasks in the work place or in my home to steal a part of me that belongs somewhere else with someone else. I choose to guard my heart against preoccupation with the less important duties and to be engaged in the places and with the people who are the most precious. I cannot do this in my own strength Lord. But I can do all things through Christ who so graciously enables me to this. You are faithful and I believe You will help me this holiday season to stay off the fast track and to rest in Your presence.Thank you Father. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Grateful Gate

As I reminisce about being a child and what I was taught in school about the pilgrim's first Thanksgiving I recall simple images. My knowledge of the event was a celebration with abundant food,smiling people in strange black attire along with scantily clad Indians as their guests. I am sure I was given more information than this, but it seemed to be what I remember seeing in all of the pictures. Little did I know that Thanksgiving represented so much more than food, Indians and Pilgrims. It symbolized hardship and bitterness, broken pride and humility, perplexity and revelation,loss and life as well as new found hope. There was a mixing of the good and the bad. However, the good prevailed.

As my thoughts continue to travel back to the Pilgrim's very first Thanksgiving, I am reminded they had to go through so many inconsistencies, trials and sickness, as well as losing loved ones to death on their journey over to America. Even after they arrived, it was too close to the winter season to plant crops. Therefore, food was scarce and there was nothing fresh available. Even their water was unclean. Sickness and death continued to visit them after they set up their new homes.

I wonder how they must have felt? They came here to find freedom-freedom to worship God without living under so much oppression and control. They must have had high hopes when they set sail for an unknown land. I can almost hear the young mother with sick children on her knees questioning through her tears, "Lord, we thought this was what You were leading us to do? And this is what we get?" How about the father standing out in the cold late at night looking into the stars asking, "How will I feed my family tomorrow God? Will you provide for us?"

A wave of emotion almost unsettles me as I ponder on how much of our own lives relate to the internal and external conflicts of these first settlers of America. We are all Pilgrims in our own journeys in life. Have you been through any hardship lately? How about a major transition? Maybe you have had internal stirrings and questions about your life and purpose. You are a pilgrim and so am I.

If the new citizens had not gone through such intense difficulty would they have really been grateful? Would there have even been a first Thanksgiving? Probably not. The gate to gratefulness is the on the sea of hardship and the road of life's bumps and ruts. It is in the toughness of winter seasons that we truly learn that we are not in control but there is a loving God who steers our ships to the best destination in the end. We then can truly enter the "grateful gate" and deeply appreciate the things in life that really matter-life, family, faith and friendship.

As I reflect upon the last year of my own life, I realize that God has bought our own family through a stormy sea to a new land- much like the first Pilgrims. Last year John lost his job right before Christmas. I had just had a miscarriage over Thanksgiving weekend. And we had very little income for 9 months. However, looking back I can see the hand of God caring for us, providing and comforting our family.

Now we are in a new and unfamiliar land of Arizona. There are still days of perplexity and wondering why we are here. However, I am thankful that I do not always have to understand but a few simple things. God loves his kids and He is a good God. For that I am grateful. I have walked through the grateful gate and look forward to the journey ahead. My encouragement to you today is to prepare your heart for this season of appreciation. Make a list of all your blessings. Remember how the Lord brought you through tough times. And if you are going through a painful time now, He will bring you through it. Happy Happy Thanksgiving Friends.

Morning Bagel:O my soul bless God. From head to toe, I 'll bless His holy name. Oh my soul bless God, and don't forget a single blessing. Psalm 103:1-2 (The Message Bible)

Daily Hug: Thanksgiving is so much more than a bountiful meal. It is a time of reflection of all God has done for us. He gave everything He had just so we could have life and be expressions of His love in a dark world. He turned Himself inside out just because He loves us so. What more is there to be more grateful for? If we have that, we have everything.

Lord, You forgive, You heal broken bodies and shattered hearts. You crown me with loving kindness and tender mercies. You love me the same every moment. There is nothing good I can do to make you love me more, There is nothing bad I can do to make You love me less. You wrap me in Your goodness. You clothe me in dignity. You make all things come out right in the end. You know me inside and out and You still delight in me. The greatest benefit I have is Your love. You love me and I will treasure that benefit all the day. In Jesus Name. Amen

( You can go to to read Psalm 103. I would encourage you to read it in The Message version. It is a beautiful love note from God to you and you can read it back to Him as you walk through the "grateful gate" this day.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Daily Elections

As our minds and our hearts have been pondering upon the outcome of this week's election, let us think of how inwardly each day is election day . An election is the right, power and privilege to make a choice. In considering the meaning of the word, I am drawn to the word privilege. The ability to choose how we think, how we act and how we live daily is a gift. Now that the elections are behind us, may we move forward in making moment by moment choices to touch the lives of others. May we think the best of others and speak life into the hearts of discouraged ones as we go along our way.

With the holidays upon us, you have probably "elected" to think about the "others" in your life and how you may bless them. It is the time of the year to focus more on what we have rather than what we do not have. Being thankful and thinking of ways to express thankfulness is what we can elect these up coming weeks. If you have not started making your gift list for the holidays, pull out a notepad and start jotting down the names of all the people in your life that you are thankful for. Place the list on your refrigerator, your kitchen window, your laundry room or any place in your home where you spend a lot of time. Begin to thank God each day for each individual and ask Him to bless them. Then ask The Lord to give you a creative idea for letting the special individuals in your life know you appreciate them. As the ideas come to you jot them down beside each name. Add them to your holiday planning folder.

Last weekend I went to the Dollar Tree and found some very special gift ideas. I gathered a few items and put a gift basket together for a special person in my life. (photo above). The cost was only ten dollars and I named the basket, "Thoughts of You." I plan to wrap it in clear cellophane wrap and complete it with a pretty bow. We must remind ourselves that the holiday season is about giving our love to others. It does not matter how much money you spend. Overspending and putting undo pressure upon yourself to give expensive gifts will do nothing but drain the joy and delight of the season right out of you as well as empty your purse. Plan a holiday budget now. Do not charge your gifts. Pay cash and keep it simple. Be creative. Your loved ones will appreciate your thoughts more than the price tag. Elect to use wisdom in keeping the season simple.

Keep checking back because I am going to share simple gift ideas, crafts, and recipes as the holidays approach. Most of all, plan ahead and have fun!

Morning Bagel:Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth-Serve the Lord! Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:14-15

Daily Hug: This time of the year can be a season of stressing or a season of blessing. You must "elect" now that this year will be a time of joy, rest, blessing, and enjoyment! This is what our Father wants for you. He is the giver of good gifts and I believe that He desires that you reap the fullness of what the holidays represent. For all of you reading this, my prayer for you is that you will find simplicity, you will enjoy the time with your family, that you will give of your love more than your material gifts and that Christ will shine through every smile, every embrace and every gift of your time and resources. Plan ahead, do something different, get others involved, and love as you have never loved before.

Lord, thank You that you are the greatest Giver! You love to give! I elect this day to give to those around me. I am free in You Lord knowing that the holidays mean so much more than spending my money. They are about serving You. When I see my loved ones and strangers, may I see Your face. When I give of what I have, may I remember that not only am I giving to another, but I am also giving to You. I choose to serve You this holiday season Lord, by planning wisely, spending wisely, and depending upon You to be creative. Thank you for the privilege and freedom of choice that I may select Your ways this day and this upcoming season of celebrating the life of Your son . In Jesus Name. Amen.