Thursday, January 19, 2012

On the Way to 1,000

I'm 11 days into The Joy Dare -- counting at least three gifts or graces from God every day until I get to 1,000 gifts (and probably not stopping there). So far, it hasn't been difficult to find an abundance of things to be thankful for; although, I must admit that I have simply forgotten to count my gifts on a few days.

How could I forget to be thankful? "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1

Forgetting to be thankful should not be an option. Forgetting means I am not dwelling on the goodness of God. Am I so caught up in the things of this world that I am not captivated by His love?

The Psalmist reminds himself:

I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.

Psalm 143:5

So today I will remember and be thankful for:

#26 ~ A Grace in the Kitchen... Bright yellow bananas with just a hint of green.

#27 ~ A Grace in the Weather... Beautiful, pristine snow, falling like grace from heaven (even though the country roads may be a bit difficult to navigate!)

#28 ~ A Grace that Might Never Have Been... My three beautiful children.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 26 years old. My doctor warned me that many women with this disease are unable to conceive. Two years after my diagnosis, I gave birth to our first baby girl. Two more blessings followed. But I never want to forget that these children, these amazing gifts from God are just that... GIFTS. Thank you, Lord, for giving me the privilege of being a mother!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Joy Dare

#1 A Gift in My Hand... The one that started it all: One Thousand Gifts

Have you heard of The Joy Dare?  Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, is challenging her readers to count 1,000 gifts in 2012. Snap a photo or record three gifts a day. Little gifts, big gifts, they're all the same -- graces given to us from the hand of a gracious God.

On Ann's blog, A Holy Experience, you'll find January's Joy Dare download. Some ideas to give you a little inspiration in your search for blessings. You probably won't have to look far. Don't be discouraged if you're joining the game a little late -- I'm starting today, too! After all, it's never too late to start being thankful. Three gifts a day multiplied by 366 days (this year's a Leap Year, remember?) equals 1,098, so if we're faithful every day, we should easily be able to log 1,000 gifts... or more!

#2 A Gift I Walked By... What a great reminder of The Joy Dare!

#3 A Gift I Sat With... Woman's best friend, my faithful buddy, Coda

So are you ready? Take The Joy Dare with me! In the words of Ann Voskamp herself:

This kneeling wherever we are, and murmuring it aloud, just this one word to Him, this is the word that can change everything – us and the whole world: “Thank-you.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Everyone Has a Story...

Our lives intersect with hundreds of strangers every week. Sometimes we give a quick, uneasy smile, a quiet hello, a hasty nod, or merely glance away. But in these “chance” meetings, there is opportunity. To make connections, to speak a kind word, to show light, to listen to another human being’s story.

Today, I met a delightful 87-year-old woman, who was sitting alone at a local café in my town. I was armed with my laptop and a head full of writing and planning ideas, ready to make the most of a few stolen hours by myself.

But God had other plans.

I sat quietly for a while, gearing up for my big writing extravaganza by first opening some e-mails and browsing the web. But when I started to get up to refill my drink, she made eye contact.

“Are you in college?” she asked, noticing my laptop.

Resisting the urge to hug her (since college days are just a very dim memory for me), I explained that I’m a writer and come to the café for a little writing time every so often.  

That exchange turned into an hour and a half long conversation with Betty, an interesting elderly widow with twinkling blue eyes and a lively personality. And plenty of stories.

We talked about her memories as a young girl in our town, roller skating with her friends to the State Theatre. They would smear candy on the corners of their mouths and skip up to the ticket counter acting like 12 year olds, so they could get in for 10 cents instead of 25. As a young married woman, she saw her husband off to Japan for his post-World War II duties. She showed me pictures of her great-grandchildren. Reminisced about her late husband of 60 years. And we discovered that we have several mutual friends.

She kept apologizing for keeping me from my work. I kept assuring her that I enjoyed listening to her stories.

With a look of pain in her eyes, she confessed that her daughter doesn’t like to listen to her memories.

“If I didn’t have my memories, I would jump off a bridge. But I don’t like the water,” she said with a chuckle.

A “chance” meeting with a complete stranger ended up enriching my day. And pricking my conscience for almost passing up the opportunity.

Today I was reminded that people are more important than computers. Personal connections far outweigh internet connections. Real face-to-face contact is more valuable than Facebook.

Everyone has a story. If only someone will listen…

Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Little Word...

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day." - Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Like most of you, I've made my share of New Year's resolutions over the years -- some out of guilt, some out of necessity, some out of sheer stupidity.  They all had one thing in common... they were broken within a month or two, if not a day or two.

Keeping this dilemma in mind, I started a new tradition last year by choosing one word that I wanted to live out in the New Year. One word to remind me of how I needed to change. One word to prick my conscience. One word to inspire me. This year, our entire family from the youngest (age 11) to the oldest (uh-hum, that would be me) decided to choose a word and a scripture verse to accompany it.

As we sat around our kitchen table on New Year's Eve, we each presented our word and verse to the family and put it into a box that will remain visible during the year. Each week, we're going to try to look up another scripture to illustrate our word and maybe even memorize it. My wise husband gave one rule to the family about "the words": We cannot use another person's word as ammunition against him or her. For example, if someone's word is "patient" and they're having an impatient moment, another family member cannot chide the poor impatient soul with "I thought your word for this year was patience!" We all agreed this was a good rule.

My word for this year? CaptivatedTo be attracted or enthralled by a person or thing's beauty or excellence. At first glance, it may seem like a strange word. But let me explain... Our pastor has been preaching through the book of Colossians for a few months now, and I've been particularly impacted by chapter 3. The first few verses kept speaking to me about being captivated by Christ:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

Meditating on these verses and chapter 3 as a whole got me thinking about how different my life would be if I were truly captivated by Christ and all that He is. If I am captivated by Christ, I will be captivated by heavenly things, not by things here on earth. My priorities will completely change. My needs will become last on the list. I will consider others better than myself. I will love as I ought to love, have a compassionate heart, be kind, show humility and meekness, and be patient (Col. 3:12).

Being captivated by Christ truly changes everything.

One little word. So much meaning.

Lord, I want to be captivated by You and all that You are. You are the most beautiful, excellent, enthralling, captivating person who ever lived -- and died -- for me. Help me to be held and changed by your beauty in 2012.