Thankful For The Not-So-Thankful

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I pulled the door shut and dropped my head against the seat. Taking a deep breath, I started the engine and sat for a moment, letting the cares of the day roll away like the waves at low tide. What was the problem? I wanted this. All of it. And yet, here I sat, complaining.

As I drove home, the Lord whispered into my heart a request for thanksgiving. Not just for anything, but specifically for that place I had just left in my dust. From past experience, I knew that I could either resist His request and continue feeling sorry for myself, which would do nobody good especially when I arrived home (you know that saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”), or give myself a quick pep talk and pull my thoughts out of the gutter. I chose the latter.

“Thank you so much, Lord, for this wonderful opportunity. Thank you for the time it has given me to grow and prepare for the next season you have waiting for me. Thank you for the things I will continue to learn from this experience. I know it will make me to be a better person, and for that reason I am grateful for this time.” Immediately my mood shifted and peace filled me.

There are times of sowing, and times of harvest. Times to travel through the wilderness, fully relying on God, waiting for Him to lead, and times of rest in the Promised Land of a situation. Blessings overflow and it’s easy for our joy to be full because of all we have at that time. Right now, God has brought me into the wilderness, for a time of “preparation.”

Any waiting time can be difficult. I remember my wedding day, anxiously awaiting the evening hours when I could finally walk down the aisle. I remember waiting forty weeks for both my children to arrive into this world. Why does it take that long till birth? Preparation. Doctors have spent countless hours preparing for their medical exams. I wonder how many hours law students actually spend studying to pass the bar. Life is filled with times of preparation in the wilderness and times of bounty. But what really matters is when God calls us to the wilderness, will we accept it with joy or with complaining?

Wilderness

Does It Matter What We Think? I know without a doubt God is preparing me for the next step. Don’t ask me what that next step is. I couldn’t tell you. Is it always fun? Nope. Do I ever want to cry? Heck yeah. Do I trust Him? For certain. And that’s what I will focus on. I trust the Lord with all my heart, and I can rest in the fact that He knows what’s best for me. If I waste time whining and complaining, anxiously longing for the blessings at the end, I will miss the journey. And you know what? I’ve come to realize that God actually wants us to enjoy the journey too. Let’s not waste another day wishing for something to come in the future. Live for today, filled with thanksgiving, and enjoy the journey by fully resting in Him. I can promise you it’s absolutely worth it!

A Warrior’s Hands

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” Psalm 127:4

“Mom, check out this hotel.”
I stopped mid-step on my way by and admired my son’s handiwork. “Oh cool, is that a pool?” For the next five minutes I watched and listened as he took me on a virtual tour of his new hotel. My son is fourteen, not forty.  His hotel was created in Minecraft, not on a professional architectural website. Why would I care about something he made in a video game?

Because I believe it’s important to be an involved parent. Do I sit and play a video game for hours, or watch intently someone else play? Of course not! Then why did I interrupt my agenda, again, to express interest in his game? That’s exactly why—it’s his game. I want to take an interest in the same things my kids are interested in, whether it be a video game, who’s dating who, or even their social media.

Recently we encountered a little snafu with one of our kids and social media (I wasn’t even looking for it but thank God, He dropped it right in my lap). It had to do with certain followings and posts that others were posting. Let me tell you, this was almost the last thing I wanted to do that night, right up there with kissing a snake. But if I didn’t, who would? Thinking about the lasting effects on my kids if I don’t play an active, engaged role now is enough to motivate me into trying to be the best parent I can. Even if it means at the time, I seem like the worst parent.

After this social media incident, we had a long talk with our child. It was amazing. They agreed, understood, had not intended any harm but saw our perspective, and in fact the next day had already made changes to that account. I shudder to think if I hadn’t checked the feed, what kind of attractive garbage would still be filling that young soul.

archer shooting arrows

Does It Matter What We Think? I’ve been reminded to ask myself the question, “Am I focusing my thoughts more on the things that don’t matter, earthly things, or the eternal things like being a good steward of the treasures God gave me to care for until they’re ready to spread their wings and fly away?” (Okay, so I don’t think about it quite in those words, but you get my point). All too often I think we, as parents, want to give our kids privacy—to foster independence. And, we don’t want to be seen as the meddling parent. I want to encourage you, it’s not meddling! You’re doing something much more worthy and rewarding. You’re parenting! My kids expect random checks of their cell phones. I ask them questions about social media posts. And I expect open lines of communication in return. At the end of my short time of (hopefully) great influence, I want to be like the warrior in Psalms and shoot my bright arrows into a dark world, confident they will soar.

Alert and Ready

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Sleep had almost overtaken me when I heard thumping directly below. If I didn’t know what it was, I’d wake Nick and send him to investigate. But I did know. I knew because I listen to the same thing every single night. Reese, my calico, would situate her plump little body just so on the couch, and stare at the wall above. Why, you ask? For cars to pass by the house. The beams from the headlights shone onto our wall (that happened to hold several pictures), causing shadows to dance. It was a hunter’s play yard. Right after our family climbed the stairs for bed, she’d settle in, although she’s also been known to do it at four o’clock in the morning.

The interesting thing about this is that she would wait for several minutes, just watching. I’m talking beyond twenty minutes, in one position, staring at a blank wall. Not just staring, but focused and alert with her eyes wide and her body poised. When was the last time you’ve sat focused and still for that long? Me too! When finally the car came, she was ready. She’d jump up, aiming her paws directly at the shadows, hence knocking my pictures all around so they look like a messed-up jigsaw puzzle in the morning. After the car would leave, she’d resume her alert position.

Once I discovered what she did, I found myself fascinated by it. She had no idea when a car would come this way, but she was ready. We are warned in the Bible several times to watch, to be on our guard, alert. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus Himself says, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” This He said to his disciples when the fell asleep during His time of prayer in the garden. Peter warned the missionaries in the verse above, to be watchful. What were they watching for? The devil.

prowling lion

Does It Matter What We Think? “The flesh is weak.” The devil seeks people out to devour. How does he do this? Often it begins with our thoughts. He knows our flesh is weak. How easy is the temptation to gossip? Recently I’ve had the opportunity to gossip quite a bit, but I’ve had to pray (and pray) for God’s help. Sometimes we make excuses for our actions or we don’t see it for what it really is. Telling your boss a little white lie may seem harmless enough, but watch out. Those little white lies will eventually slip out easier and more frequently, in and outside of work. It’s hard, and people in Bible times knew that. That’s why they repeated the same message. I encourage you today to be alert, and be aware of those tiny places the enemy might sneak in without you even knowing and take over. Do you know already of an area you need to be watchful in? I’d love to hear!

Chasing Lasers

“For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Our house is filled with laughter as we watch our cats tear around, chasing something that cannot ever be caught. I’m sure you’re no stranger to those videos of cats chasing a laser pointer—and chasing, and chasing, and chasing. We now have two of those crazy pointers in our house. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I purchased them specifically for our four feline family members. Welllll, ok, not really. It’s more like I purchased them for one kitty in particular. It’s my cat, Reese, and she’s gotten, well, let’s just say she’s “healthy.” So much so, that my son has nicknamed her obese Reese-much to my chagrin. I questioned whether it was because I named her after my favorite candy (you know, your name defines you and all that), but my family assured me it didn’t have anything to do with that. I’m blaming genetics.

I thought I’d get a couple of these lasers to help her get moving a bit and exercise. It didn’t take me long, however, to start to feel sorry for them. They run around the house from room to room, jumping over each other, scaling the fireplace bricks, knocking into whatever gets in their way, only to run out of steam and collapse to the floor panting. For what? They’re not like humans, purposefully engaging in a physical activity that results in collapsing to the floor, panting. So why do they chase the lasers? Same reason they chase their tails, and my toes when I wiggle them. The movement stimulates the predator instinct within. It doesn’t matter that what they chase they will never catch. It’s instinct.

Chasing lasers pic

Does It Matter What We Think? We may laugh at the cats (or dogs) when they spin in endless circles after that threatening tail, or when they tear after red beams. But we also have a fleshly instinct within us to chase those same lasers. I’m talking about the lasers of money, power, position, security, beauty, and any other false or empty desire that drives us to exert all our energy on things that leave us wanting. Colossians 3:2 encourages us to, “Set (our) mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” To set our mind really means to make up our mind. Take a minute and think, what do you set your mind on? Have you made up your mind to become the top executive at your company? Have you made up your mind to become the best-dressed person at school? These things are all temporary-they will pass away. What would happen if we take time to make up our minds that we are going to say encouraging things to our family and friends today? Or if we made up our minds to love ourselves just as we are because that’s how God made us? Let’s set our minds on what really matters, and not on lasers.

A Daily Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day. Yesterday my husband and I dropped both our children off at a camp to work for the summer. His gift hasn’t arrived in the mail yet. I am blogging as he reclines on the sofa, eyes glued to the TV. The room is silent except for the TV noise and the click of the computer keys. Yet it is still a good day for my hubby.

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd was only sixteen when her mother passed away, leaving her father alone to care for his children. She was the eldest of six, with five younger brothers. After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day, she decided that fathers, and especially her own, needed to be recognized as well as mothers. She spent sixty-two years speaking all around the country, campaigning to make Father’s Day a recognizable holiday. Finally, in 1972, President Nixon signed it into being.

I can’t imagine what it took for Mr. Dodd to care for and raise six children on his own. He must have done something right, though, for Sonora to spend years and years advocating for a day of national recognition for her dad.

Last night hubby wondered aloud if the kids would think of him today and remember to call or text. Not because they’re selfish, uncaring kids, but because they’re hundreds of miles away and very busy. I assured him his mom would text him, and that I would be here with him too. Nice, but not the same.

First thing this morning a text came in from our daughter. Great job, honey! I meant to send a quick message to our son, but I forgot to. Late morning my husband received a phone call. I heard the joy in his voice as he talked to our son. Yay! Two for two!

Father's Day pic

Does It Matter What We Think? While Father’s Day is a holiday created to celebrate and recognize the work of our fathers, I can’t help but think of another Father, one who doesn’t have a specific date each year to celebrate Him. I am sure many people entertain God in their minds on Easter, Christmas, and maybe Thanksgiving as they say a brief prayer of thanks before digging in to their delicious feasts. But doesn’t He deserve more than that? The Bible tells us God has, “loved (us) with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) And David sings in Psalm 139:13, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” Wow, what a great love. How about you? I know for me, sometimes it’s difficult remembering to acknowledge my heavenly Father as often as I should. I don’t want it to be only once a year, or every few months, and I don’t think He wants that either. I want to offer praise and thanksgiving daily to a Father who loves me and you so dearly that He released His only son to die for us.

Desert Places

Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

Think about a time when you haven’t really felt like being happy (who knows, maybe that time is right now). Whether something terrible happened, or all the little things of life piled on your shoulders. Either way, it’s not a great feeling, is it? You feel sad, isolated from others (possibly by your own doing), and irritated. I know for me, when I recently experienced it, I felt angry, uninspired, dry, and empty. I had nothing left to give anyone and I had nothing left for myself. Or so I thought.

Until one morning my daily verse led me to consider a discussion from the previous night at a women’s group I attend. It focused around the fact that so many of us, even Christians, act unhappy in our daily lives. Why is that and how can we change it?

The very last night of Jesus’ human life on earth must have been His worst. You think you’ve got it bad. Take a minute and think about how He must’ve felt. He knew that meal in the upper room was the last one together with his friends this side of heaven. He also knew one of His friends would turn Him over to the “authorities”, and all of His friends would reject Him. Not to mention the slight issue of dying an excruciating death by crucifixion in a few short hours. Doesn’t make our problems sound so bad, does it?

desert

Does It Matter What We Think? On this particular morning, God showed me two things I can do to pull out of this funk, my desert, and feel the joy and peace Jesus died to give me. The first thing was what Jesus did after that last supper. He served others. He put other people before himself by washing His disciples dirty, sandy feet. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15) When we start to turn our thoughts and our focus off ourselves and onto those around us, we’ll be amazed at how quickly we start to feel better.

The second thing Jesus did was sing. Matthew 26:30 says, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Who in the world feels like singing when they feel like that? Not me! I can pretty much guarantee Jesus probably didn’t feel like it either. But that didn’t stop Him. Why? I wonder if it’s because He knew the value of a song. Singing in the midst of our misery does wonders for one’s soul. Even if we don’t feel like it. The next time you feel “down in the dumps” or you think life has handed you a bad batch of rotten apples, try doing something nice for someone else. Then sing your heart out-and if you’re like me, and haven’t been blessed with a beautiful singing voice, sing when no one’s listening—God is!

Love Is

Dear Friends,

I want to preface this post with this word: I wrote this a while back, prior to having major surgery. I want you to know not one part of it is intended to bring any praise or attention to myself. I give God all the credit and glory and I hope you can see His awesomeness in how he has blessed me!

Happy Reading!

 

“How are you feeling? Are you nervous?” “I had no idea!”

I’m feeling fine. Nervous? Nah, piece of cake. And my response to the last exclamation-well, it’s not like I go about my life telling everyone I come in contact with that my husband needs a kidney transplant and I am so wonderful that I’m giving him mine. To be honest, I don’t really think about my end of it much. It was a no-brainer when I tested in the beginning. The day we found out we passed the first test was one of the happiest days of both our lives. As the next month passed, and I completed test after test after test (sometimes the same one twice), all I could think about was how my husband’s life was going to change. For the first time in years he would feel like a normal human being again. What a gift I could give him!

The “love chapter” in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, speaks of what love is not. It is not boastful. It is not proud. And it is not self-seeking. There is not one thing I am getting for myself out of this, except a new life with my husband (and 8 weeks of recovery with him). There is a reason I have been purposefully keeping my focus on him.

love is new.jpg

Does It Matter What We Think? What if I spent the last month focusing on what this surgery meant for me physically? How much stress and anxiety would I have felt? Maybe so much so that I would have reconsidered my decision and backed out of giving my husband this gift. After all, the transplant team at the hospital reminds me multiple times whenever I’m there for an appointment that I do not have to proceed. I can back out at any time. Even the day of surgery, up until they fill my body with anesthesia. But instead of thinking about what might turn into great fear, I am choosing to think about the good of others.

What if I let my thoughts wander the other way, and allow pride to rule. Love is not boastful, right? If I permitted myself to soak in all the compliments and “thank you’s” and praise I was hearing, I’d be doing this for the exact opposite reason.

No, this beautiful gift I can give him is just that. A gift. And I will tell you, this is one battle that’s been pretty easy for my mind to fight. I think a large part is due to the fact that whenever someone brings it up to me, God has helped me train my mind to respond with a focus on someone else. Even when I haven’t been tempted to reflect on the praise I received. The Bible tells us our thoughts become our words and actions, and I truly believe that. I also believe the verse that talks about speaking things that aren’t as though they were. This includes our actions. I challenge you today, in whichever area you struggle in, whether it’s your thoughts or your words, to ask God to help you be mindful of that area and to give you the tools you need to fix it. The freedom you will feel is beyond words!

 

 

 

Photo by Leighann Renee on Unsplash