My Funeral

Better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
~Ecclesiastes 7:2

Yesterday we had a funeral for one of our church members, a wonderful woman whose name was Grace. There was no question about whether or not my husband or I would attend. He had to conduct the service and I was scheduled to play organ. But should we “make” our children go?

Grace had spent the last several years of her life in the nursing home, suffering from dementia. Aside from occasional visits, my children did not know her well. So when they asked me if they “had to go” to her funeral, I considered saying no. In fact, I may have said something like, “I don’t think so,” or “Probably not.”

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a mistake it would be for them to miss out on an opportunity to attend this funeral. So yesterday morning, I woke them and up, instructed them to dress in church clothes, and told them they were going to the funeral. My four-year-old was a bit puzzled. It wasn’t Sunday, and yet I was dressing him in a shirt and tie and getting him ready for church. “Mom,” he asked, “why do I have to go to the funeral?”

I thought carefully before answering him, and then explained the two reasons I wanted him there.

First, it’s important to attend funerals so that we may offer support and Christian love to the grieving family. As Christians, we understand that death is a good thing. We are deeply happy and thankful for the victory Christ won for the person who has passed. And yet, the earthly separation is painful. It’s only natural that we miss them and struggle to adjust to life without them. As I told Noah, “We are going because Grace was in our church family. And her children and grandchildren will be sad and lonely because she is gone. We need to let them know that we care about them and are praying for them.” This reason is easy to understand, even for a small child.

Second, funerals are a tangible reminder that our own death day is approaching, and they can help us prepare for this day. This reason was a little more difficult for Noah to understand, and I suppose I don’t blame him. No one likes to think about death. It’s likely the main reason most people dislike funerals or find them depressing. No one says, “Oh, yay! We have a funeral to attend on Saturday!” But like it or not, death is a real problem each one of us will face one day. By attending a Christian funeral, we are reminded that Jesus Christ has removed all fear of death and opened the doors to heaven for us. What a blessing to hear that message of grace!

I couldn’t help but think that yesterday’s funeral wasn’t really for Grace. She has already obtained her crown of life and has been gifted with eternal life. She is rejoicing in the presence of her Savior. Her funeral was more for her family and her friends, for me, and yes, for my children. It was for those of us who are following in her footsteps and still running our early race.

So it is with every Christian funeral I am able to attend before that day of my own funeral. They are precious opportunities be blessed with the message that Christ has conquered death, and to find comfort and joy in the knowledge that heaven is open to me.

There’s really no question about it. Such a funeral is always for me.

 

 

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Mother’s Day Gifts

Being a mom is hard work. I didn’t realize this at first. But when our first child was two weeks old and needed to go to the emergency room, it hit me hard: this job might be more than I bargained for. There is just so much to worry about. So much that can go wrong. So much to scare me and keep me awake at night. Worst of all, so much I can’t control. It’s the ultimate parenthood paradox: You are in charge, but never in control.

This weekend, the LORD has graciously given me several Mother’s Day gifts, in addition to the seven blessings I call my children. He has reminded me how I can calm the fears and anxieties that come with the job title “Mom.”

The Psalm 104 Gift: God is bigger than any problem I have.

Yesterday, I sat on the dock at the lake. With my knees pulled up against my chest and the wind lifting my hair, I couldn’t but feel very small. Insignificant. In awe of God’s power, found everywhere in His beautiful creation. I turned to my daughter and said, “I need to come here more often. God is reminding me that He is so much bigger than any problem I have.” Psalm 104 describes the power of God. He covers Himself with “light as with a garment…stretches out the heavens like a curtain…lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters…makes the clouds His chariot…walks on the wings of the wind…” and “laid the foundations of the world.” Surely this God can take care of me, and my children, too.

The Psalm 46:10 Gift: God doesn’t need my help.

Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true. God doesn’t need or ask for my help. And no amount of worry, fretting or stressing will solve my problems. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Every fiber of my being struggles to “be still” and release control. When I’m most frustrated at home my kids are sure to hear, “If I don’t do it, nothing gets done around here!” That may be true of the dishes and laundry, but the big picture things I worry about? Those are for God, Who is fully capable and in control. I also like Exodus 14:14: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

The Romans 8:38-39 Gift: God holds me, and those I love, close to Him

While at the lake yesterday, I watched my two youngest sons build a sand castle at the water’s edge. As the waves lapped the castle’s foundations, it became clear that it wouldn’t last long. Noah took a flimsy reed and tried to bat the waves away from their castle – clearly a hopeless endeavor. My first thought was, This is exactly how I feel about raising my children in this sinful world. The dangers and harmful influences wash against us daily, and I’m helpless to stop them. They just keep coming and coming. In the end, I will fail. A second later, the LORD adjusted my thinking and reminded me that HE is the powerful wave, and the world is the flimsy sand castle. This is the gift of Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” My salvation, my happy ending in heaven, doesn’t depend on how tightly I hold on to God, but how tightly He holds me. The same is true for my children.

So, those were my Mother’s Day gifts this year, and I am a happy, blessed, and (for the moment) calm mom indeed. No, it isn’t an easy job. Yes, there are days I cry on Nathanael’s shoulder and tell him I can’t handle it anymore. But all I need to remember is that God has given me the necessary strength and wisdom to do this job, as well as encouragement and support, in the pages of Scripture.

May Jesus bless and keep mothers everywhere as we seek to raise our children in His grace and for His glory!

 

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Loving His Gospel

Just about the time I was beginning to think spring might never come, there it was. Millions of the tiniest and palest green buds, unfolding in the trees. Branches are mostly bare still, but if you look closely you’ll find a haze of green as if God airbrushed the color in. Though it’s not much to look at yet, how that faint color lifts my spirits.

Thinking back to when the last leaf may have fallen, I’d guess it was sometime in early November. Which means we’ve had a good 6 months of winter. Six months is a long time to put up with bitter, driving wind, frigid temps and grey skies day after day. Six months! When you wait that long to hear a robin sing outside your bedroom window, or to feel a warm breeze on your face, or to let the kids ride bikes and climb trees, spring becomes something really special.

I doubt spring would be quite so wonderful, though, if I didn’t know the flip side of the coin – that cold and rigorous winter. In fact, I know I took it for granted when we lived in Georgia, where winter is shorter and milder, and spring is never far away. It’s a fundamental truth that we appreciate something more after we have had to go without it.

Today marks the second Sunday after Easter. Holy Week and the gut-wrenching passion of Christ are still fresh in my mind. As I journeyed through Holy Week, I confess I struggled somewhat to fully understand what Jesus’ death on the cross means for me personally. Though I want to fully appreciate it, sometimes I have a hard time doing so because there has not been a day in my life where I’ve had to “go without” it. Like the countless sunny spring days in Georgia, all too often I take Jesus and His great love for me for granted as well.

Lately, I’ve wondered if one of the reasons for this is that my meditation involves a little too much spring and not enough winter. Many churches today struggle to find this balance as well. We love, love, love that all-inclusive Gospel which tells us how much God loves us. But we are not so quick to open our ears to what must come first, and that is God’s Law. The cold, harsh reality of the law is succinctly stated in Romans 3:20, “By the Law is the knowledge of sin.” The law is a wintry gale that batters our souls and pushes at us until we are hunched over in agony and crying for deliverance, until we have no doubt that we are guilty before God, and helpless to change.

Just as winter makes me appreciate spring, so God’s law makes me appreciate the amazing grace found in His gospel to a much greater degree. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:17) His Law shows me just how deathly ill I am, so that when He reassures me with His gospel I am able to better appreciate what that cost was.

This morning, several days after I packed away all our mittens and winter hats, it began to snow. While the kids looked out the window and groaned, I had to smile. God has a special way of making it personal for me. Just as I was blessed during Holy Week and Easter to reacquaint myself with the price Jesus paid to redeem me, so now I am reminded that His grace is what sustains me every single day. Though “there is none righteous” (Romans 3:10), Jesus has given me new life through His work of salvation.

Yes, I’m grateful for the cold winter because it makes the warmth of spring all the more beautiful, and I’m still more thankful for the Law of God because it makes the new life of the Gospel the most beautiful gift of all.

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The Other Side of the Perfection Story

Earlier this week, my talented daughter Katherine wrote an article for The Witness about her fight to be perfect. I’ve gotten more feedback on Katie’s article, “A Perfectionist’s Guide to Being Perfect,” than on just about anything I’ve ever written. You can read Katie’s post here, but the gist of it is that she has felt pressure her entire life to be perfect, and the harder she tried, the more she seemed to fail. So she gave up trying and rebelled, damaging her relationships with her parents, teachers, and even some friends.

After the article was published, Katherine called me to make sure I was okay with it. I think I said something like, “Well, it was kind of hard to read. I’m still processing a lot of what happened.” I did try to look at her article objectively as a writer and acknowledge it for its merits on that count. The truth, though, is that I crumpled a little inside when I read it.

I wondered why she felt the need to share such a personal story with so many people. Though clearly not the main point, what hit me the hardest was this: None of this would have happened if her dad and I hadn’t pushed her so hard to be perfect. And there it was, laid bare for all to see. My failure.

That’s the other side of the perfection story. It’s not just our children who struggle with it. Parents struggle to be perfect too.

Have you ever seen the movie “Monsters, Inc.?” It’s based on the premise that monsters need the screams of children to power their city, so they sneak up on kids to scare them. At the same time, the monsters all believe children are actually toxic creatures, who can poison them with the slightest contact. So they have a monster hazmat team in place to deal with unexpected human contact. When monster/child contact occurs, they slam a red alarm button, shut down the scare floor, and scream “2319! We have a 2319!” 2319 is their code for “this must be contained.”

When Katie began to rebel, my mind screamed “2319! We have a 2319!”  I wondered what people would think about me if they knew what was happening within our family. I ran around in my little hazmat suit, trying to reach anyone and everyone she came into contact with so I could assure them of two things: 1) Her dad and I do not approve of condone her actions. 2) We are dealing with it objectively and firmly.

Of course, I couldn’t possibly “contain” a situation with so many moving parts. Eventually I had to do what I should have done right from the start. I had to turn it over to MY perfect and powerful Parent – my heavenly Father. I had to trust in his promise that if I trained my child in the way she should go, she would not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6) Katie’s article was a joyful recognition of how God is faithful to keep all His promises.

Perhaps is seems to you that I have not really learned my lesson if I feel the need to write a blog post about what happened. It may well seem like I’m still running around yelling, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Let me explain my side of it!” For several days, I’ve gone back and forth on what to do. I don’t want to say I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore because as a Christian I would never want to offend with my words or actions. Yet in a certain way, I really don’t care. I don’t care if you know my daughter and I are infected with sin. I don’t care if you know we sometimes want to hide it. I don’t care if you know we don’t always see sin for what it is.

I care that we own up to it. I care that we all know the truth about sin, its real and serious consequences, and that the only solution for it lies in Jesus Christ.

Over and over throughout the past year, I have tried resist the “2319!” mindset. (Yes, I usually failed.) Because the truth is that, despite Katie’s sins and failures, and despite my sins and failures, we are both forgiven, cleansed, made new every day. In actuality it was this, and not my parenting failures, that was the real focus of Katherine’s article.

IMG_3811How amazing it is that we are sustained and held firm in the grace of our God, Who… “is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy…He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers we are dust.” (Psalm 103:8, 10-14)

I currently have 4 teenagers, and 3 up and coming. I have a feeling I’ve haven’t learned everything there is to know about the other side of the story. (I’m a little afraid to find out!) I pray that I have a least learned the lesson that when my children sin, it is not a reason to panic. Rather it’s an opportunity to examine my own heart and remember that both child and parent need to turn to Christ for forgiveness and healing. For “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7

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The Wait is Over

It occurred to me recently that I’m the kind of person who’s always waiting for something. Waiting to get married…waiting for a baby…waiting for the baby to sleep through the night, be potty trained, ride without a car seat…waiting to survive the teen years…waiting for my diet to be over…waiting for the day I’ll have more time…dreading the day I’ll have more time and therefore waiting for grandkids. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Living in the moment? Not so much.

This became even more clear this past weekend when my husband and I enjoyed a rare get-away-vacation. We had no kids along and not much of a schedule to stick to, and I thought it would be great. I pictured myself sleeping in and reading for hours on end. The truth was, it was very hard to do. Even with no schedule and no commitments, I struggled to live in the moment.

Then, when we went to church on Sunday, I was surprised at the message we heard. As usual, God spoke from His Word and reminded me of the joys that are mine right here, right now, in this very moment.  The pastor preached on 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, and I was struck by verse 2 which reads, “For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

I’m just not a “now” kind of person, but this passage makes me want to be. Because now is the day God’s favor is resting upon me, now is the day of salvation! Now I am commended to God, secure in His grace. The apostle Paul goes on to assure believers that no matter what happens, we can rejoice because we have received God’s grace. And that grace transforms sorrow to joy, death to life, poverty to riches, and nothing to everything. (verses 9-10)

As a perpetual waiter and worrier, this is balm to my heart. As a mom who imagines every harm that may befall my children, this is true comfort. As a wife who often feels like a helpless bystander to the difficulties my husband faces, this erases all distress. As an imperfect friend, who alternates over fretting one minute and forgetting to pray the next for my loved ones, this reminds me that we have a Father who never forgets, and who has wrapped my friends and family in His grace and mercy.

Little by little, my God is teaching me how to stop waiting and to simply live out each day in confidence, not in myself, but in Him. My sinful flesh tries to rob me of the peace He gives me through my salvation. It tells me I can’t live in the moment because I have just ruined it with my sins and failures — as a believer, a mom, a wife, and a friend. As the guilt overwhelms, my flesh offers false comfort. It says, “Wait for the next time, and maybe you’ll get it right then.”

Cross photoJesus gently reminds me to stop waiting, and to rest in Him. He reminds me to look to His cross when I sin, and to lay my failure, sin and guilt there. Now the Lenten season is upon us, and what better way to be convinced of God’s love for me than to go to the cross and meditate the great lengths Jesus went to in order to make things right between God and me again. May God help me to stop waiting and enjoy this very moment, living in the light of His favor and the sweetness of my salvation.

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February Love

Welcome to my blog for an uncharacteristically short post on 5 things to love about February! (Prepare yourself for exclamation point overload now!)

5. January’s over!
Yippeee! (Sorry, all you lovers of the first month. I kind of just buckle up, hang on, and wait for this one to be over. It feels like a real cause for celebration when I turn that calendar page to February.)

4. Only 10 months until Christmas rolls around again!
Yes, I DO start my Christmas countdown this early. The anticipation is half the joy of celebrating my favorite time of year. (Stop judging. I’m no where near the only person who does this!)

3.  A new blog header!
Isn’t it cute? I painted it myself because my favorite artist (that would be my sister, Elizabeth Plath) wouldn’t do it for me. Perhaps I should consider paying her…Stay tuned to see if she helps me out in March.

2. Chicken Soups galore!
chicken-soup-for-the-soul-curvy-confident-9781611599657_lgcss random actsOkay, it’s really only three, but I’m still excited to share my latest publications. I have one story in the book Random Acts of Kindness and two in Curvy and Confident. With all the kind people I know it was easy to write a story about one of the members here at our church who helped me learn how to garden. As for the other two, well, let’s just say sometimes it pays to be, a-hem, curvy. If you’d like a copy of either of these books, you can find them on Amazon. I’d also be happy to hook you up with one. Just let me know!

1. And my most favorite thing about February is LOVE.
True love, real love, forever love. In other words, God’s love for each one of us. He didn’t just say it, or send flowers, chocolates, jewelry, or gifts, He gave us His own Son. His love, found simply stated in this beautiful passage, is the inspiration for this month’s header.“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Never forget that you are SO LOVED.

Happy February!

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Proportional Gratitude

When Nathanael and I first married, we bought a small house with the help of my parents. A few years later, we began remodeling it. It seemed like a good idea on paper. In reality, it was tough. Really tough. Especially when we cut off the kitchen water supply right around the time we brought our first child home from the hospital. For the next year and a half, I hauled water from the bathtub and dumped it in the kitchen sink for dishes and cleaning.

At first it felt kind of fun and adventurous, not to mention it was a great excuse to bring home a pizza or go to McDonalds. But by the time we were expecting our second child, my water-hauling-dutch oven had bowed to a sad, lopsided shape and the thrill of eating out had long faded. And still, no running water in the kitchen.

I’ll never forget the day that changed. The day I went into our new kitchen, lifted the faucet handle, and ran my hand under a steady stream of hot water. Few things in my life have been happier than that moment, and I’m not even kidding. I don’t care how pathetic that sounds, because it’s true. I. Was. Elated. Thrilled. Over-the- Moon. I had come to understand how great a need this water would fill in my daily life. To this day, I often smile at the kitchen sink as a feeling of gratitude washes over me.

Sometimes, I’m sad to say, my attitude toward Jesus is a little like this. From the time I was a baby, my parents raised me to know and trust Him as my Savior. He has always been in my life. I have no bright, shiny memory of the moment of my conversion. Consequently, I take Him for granted far more often than I should. Even worse, I fail to grasp the seriousness of what it means to live a life without Him. I fail to remember that life without Jesus is death.

This is where God’s law comes in and opens my eyes to how great my need is for a Savior. It shows me how sinful I really am, and how impossible it is to get into heaven on my own. “By the law,” says Romans 3:20, “is the knowledge of sin.” The law gives us a list of things God expects each of His children to do, it shows us the line we’re supposed to walk, and reveals the ugliness of our sin.

Think this all sounds pretty depressing? I know someone who would agree with you – someone who once told me that she felt no need to hear God’s law preached in church. She felt hearing the message of God’s love and forgiveness was all she – or anyone, for that matter — needed. She’s not the only one who feels this way. Lots of churches today have turned away from preaching God’s law because it makes us feel bad about ourselves. It ruins our self-esteem when we are reminded over and over that we have failed. Who wants that?

But here’s the thing: Gratitude is in direct proportion to need. The longer I went without running water in my kitchen, the more desperate my need grew. When at last that need was met, my gratitude was larger and more complete than it otherwise would have been. When I study God’s Word, and see that even my most righteous behavior is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), my eyes are opened to my great need for Someone who can fulfill the law for me, and give me a holiness that is pleasing in God’s eyes.

What an amazing gift! God give us each the knowledge that only Jesus can fill our most desperate need, so that we are filled with joy and gratitude for His amazing grace.

“I know that, though in doing good
I spend my life, I never could
Atone for all I’ve done;
But though my sins are black as night,
I dare to come before Thy sight
Because I trust Thy Son.”
(The Lutheran Hymnal 379:4)

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Treasure Hunting

I come from a serious line of treasure hunters, from Grandpa Grams to Dad and on to me. We’re not treasure hunters in the traditional, everyone-else-thinks-this-is-valuable-too sense. We’re more the one-man’s-trash-is-another-man’s-treasure kind. True, I didn’t always appreciate a good deal or the thrill of the hunt, but now I share their fierce love of the bargain and will seek it out at yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets and antique shops. There’s something exciting about finding a treasure that has value to me, however small or insignificant it may seem to someone else.

Lately, I’ve come to view my study of the Bible in much the same way. Whether I’m sitting in Bible class, having family devotion time with the kids, or studying on my own, I enjoy the thrill of treasure hunting through God’s Word.

Sometimes the gems I find are “small” ones: realizing that we don’t know for sure what kind of fruit Eve ate in the garden (Did you know the Bible never calls it an apple?), or being reminded that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish (Did you know the Bible never calls it a whale?), or learning that the wise men were not present at the birth of Jesus, that they came later when He was a small Child. Discoveries like these are valuable to me because they remind me to take care when I’m reading God’s Word and not to infuse my own assumptions into it.

Oftentimes, the gems are “bigger”: Grasping God’s plan of Salvation through the history of the world and seeing how He preserved both His Word and the line of people from which the Savior came. I am also humbled when the Spirit reminds me of my sinful nature and constant failings while at the same time washing me clean in grace and forgiveness, or when my studies reveal just how different the nature and actions of God and His Son are from my own. Discoveries like these are valuable to me because they remind me that He is in control and will work all things for my spiritual good.

What’s it like to be on a spiritual treasure hunt, you ask? Well, you know that feeling you get when you’re sitting in the pew at church and you are suddenly overcome with stunned shock because it feels like the pastor is speaking directly to you? Almost as if he has read your thoughts and written his sermon for you alone? Or how about those days the world seems to be crumbling down around you, and when you open your Bible and cry out to the Lord for comfort, He leads you to that perfect chapter and verse? Congratulations! You have experienced the thrill of treasure hunting and the joy of finding the prize.

It’s pretty phenomenal, isn’t it? The Bible is the only book that you could study your entire life and still be amazed as if you were reading it for the first time. There is always, always treasure to find. So my prayer for the New Year is this: May each of us hunt for treasure through diligent and careful study of God’s Word, and may each expedition yield precious rewards – the special kind that should not only be kept hidden safely in our hearts, but also freely shared with others.

Happy Hunting!

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The Art of Being Thankful

Yesterday, you may have heard, I had a frustrating experience. Someone snuck into my car and sprayed perfume all over the place. As a person who doesn’t wear perfume myself (because it gives me headaches), this was a discouraging discovery. The ride home felt longer than usual, and even after we got home I smelled perfume on the kids, in our hair and on our clothes, on my new coat, and on the anniversary gift I bought for my husband. I parked in our garage and rolled the windows down for the night. Later, Nathanael went out and told me the whole garage had filled with the scent.

I spent a good part of my evening alternating between feeling hurt and being angry. I wanted to know who did it, and why. I wanted an apology. I wanted help getting the smell out of the car. I wanted to yell at that person, “Do you have any idea how busy I am this week? How much I have to do? I don’t have time for this!”

So often, this is my reaction when such things happen. It may be a disagreement with a friend or family member, it may be a personal health struggle or financial worries, it may be a disappointment in church or school situations, or concerns over issues that extend to our government and even beyond our own nation. Whatever the particular event, my reaction is often to let the negative consume me. To allow it to push more immediate and important priorities out of my mind in order to give it the room its needs to fester and grow.

Paul gave advice to the Philippian congregation that helps me greatly in times like this. He says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (4:8)

I find it interesting that he uses the word “meditate.” I don’t know why my natural inclination is to remember the bad things in each day, but this passage reminds me it doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. I have a choice when it comes to where I place my focus, what thoughts I allow to play over and over in my mind, and what I choose to meditate on.

I’m reminded of the day, many years ago, that I asked my mom why she didn’t keep a journal or diary. She just laughed and said, “It’s because I don’t want to remember all that stuff!” At first I was confused. But later I understood when I reread my own journal and found a record of hurtful or embarrassing experiences that I’d do better to forget.

I still like to journal, and to record specific events and occasions in my life, but the passage above has helped me understand how to better do this. Instead of keeping a regular journal, I now keep what I call a blessing journal. It’s a very simple record of the praiseworthy things that happen in my life. At the top of each page I write “Thank you, God, for…” or “I’m thankful for…” It’s my way of meditating on such things, as the Bible instructs me to do. Here are a few samplings from my journal from the last few years:

  • Seeing Noah’s after-bath foot print on the bath mat
  • Fleece blankets with silky edges
  • Spaghetti
  • A phone call with Dad
  • A husband who reads to our sons
  • Valentines from Rebekah
  • Naps in the sunshine
  • Being brave enough to cross the rope bridge at the Children’s Museum
  • Luke and Katie home for the summer
  • Minnesota song birds in the morning
  • A snow day!
  • Barney Borth stopping by early to plow us out
  • Light up Christmas pens
  • A massive migraine wasn’t exactly a blessing, but having a loving family to care for me was.

Journaling this way has proved just what I need to keep my perspective on all the blessings in my life as opposed to those things that cause discord. Obviously I still have days like yesterday where it’s a little harder to do. The Devil knows just how to use my weak and sinful flesh against me. Those are the days I remember the Philippians passage and challenge myself to find something good that happened, however small it may be.

Last night, before bed, I thought, What do I have to be thankful for today? The perfume incident shrunk away as I realized how many ways God had blessed me throughout the day. He gave me a safe ride home…encouragement and humor from friends…a husband who had a hot supper waiting when we walked in the door…a phone call from Luke, and another from Katie…hugs from the Kindergartners at school…and bubble bath, just to name a few.

There is always – always — something to be thankful for, something to meditate on that gives glory to God. I have come to believe that the art of being thankful has less to do with saying the words and more to do with opening my eyes to see my blessings in the first place.

Lastly, even when I am hard pressed to find something good, I can still rely on the promise of my God: “…all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! May you rest in Him when life has you down and may you trust that His plan for your life will always result in blessings!

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Seeds of Neglect

At the beginning of 2016, our local Target store closed. I was surprised at how quickly the entire property assumed an air of neglect. By late spring, the landscaping was overgrown, parking lot cracks sprouted unsightly weeds, and trash accumulated along the sidewalk. Although I know these changes happened gradually, it didn’t seem that way. It felt as though one day everything looked just fine, and the next it looked sad, run down, forgotten.

I imagine I can be much like this closed store. My heart needs daily time in God’s Word. Without it, I quickly see signs of neglect sprouting up in my life. Seeds of doubt and worry take root. They break through into my heart where they begin to grow. They push my Savior out of the way, and rearrange my priorities. Worldly philosophies blow in and settle in the recesses of my mind. I begin to question that which is true and absolute. I become confused about right and wrong. I wonder what direction to go in life. I feel hallowed out and empty, and I wonder: How did this happen all of the sudden? When did fear replace faith, and thus despair replace joy?

Maybe this has never happened to you. But I find myself sliding into the same old patterns time and again. I’ve even blogged about it before, and I still fail to stop myself from unintentionally sewing seeds of neglect in my life. These changes are gradual, too. One day I skip devotion or prayer time because I’m too tired or too busy. Another day, I might pray but while my lips speak to my God, my mind runs through the To Do list, and when the prayer is over I have no recollection of it. These gradual changes eventually lead to a neglected spiritual life filled with weeds of discontent and trouble.

This is why daily use of the Word is essential. It’s the one habit I can’t afford to give up. When Jesus told the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Luke 8), He taught us that sometimes it’s the concerns of this life that choke out our use of the Word and can ultimately lead to spiritual death. I used to think He was speaking of ungodly concerns or bad habits. But what He actually says is there are those who are “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of this life.” He doesn’t say they are sinful cares, only that they choke out His Word. Of this I am most definitely guilty.

Every evening when our family sits down for prayers, the last song we sing is a blessing. The words are: Lord, bless and keep Thou me as Thine. Lord, make Thy face upon me shine. Lord, lift Thy countenance on me; And give me peace, sweet peace, from Thee. Sadly, there are many nights I sing on auto pilot, not thinking and not registering what this blessing means for me. Other nights, thankfully, are different. Those are the times I sing and marvel that I can directly ask the Creator of the world to look favorably upon me. I feel God’s peace settle over me, surround me and fill me. And I wonder why I am so foolish as to let anyone or anything else take precedence in my life and heart.

May our loving Father give us grace and mercy to always make time for Him and to gladly abide in His Word. And if we are to neglect anything, may it be only those things that pull us away from Him.

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