Thankfulness

When Spring came this year, and with it a vastly different way of living, we were reminded of the beauty of simplicity and rest. Being forced to slow down offered us a chance to take inventory of the important and the superfluous. We learned that it’s often the little or commonplace things that usher in joy. We were reminded of the privilege of gathering with loved ones, and the importance of our health.

It’s October in Canada, and we have made it to fall—to Thanksgiving.

Fall at the lake.

Even now, as we move through autumn and head into the long winter months of anticipated isolation due to the second wave of a pandemic we hoped wouldn’t last, we can find things to be thankful for. Even when Thanksgiving looks vastly different from last year, we can— and we must—choose thankfulness. Not only now, but also as a habitual discipline throughout the year.

Sometimes, when in the thick of hardships or when there seems to be no end to a lengthy struggle, it’s difficult to find things to be grateful for. But I’d go as far as to say that’s when we most need to. Being thankful reminds us that though things may not look good, there is still good to be found. Being thankful reminds us that despite our fears and sorrows, there is still rest and beauty. Being thankful reminds us of the abundance of provision amid loss.

No season lasts forever. The leaves fall and are whisked away, the snow covers the earth and recedes, the flowers burst forth, and the blazing glory of summer returns. This too shall pass, along with whatever else you may be facing. Seasons of life, or the soul, are perpetually changing. That itself is something to be thankful for—to be hopeful for. That wherever you find yourself today, if you look around, even in a dark season, there is still something to be grateful for.

Thankful for my grandson.

This week, I was reminded of the fragility of life when my girlfriend suffered a heart attack and spent several worrisome days in the hospital. Although she will need to spend the next eight weeks resting at home, we are rejoicing that she is still with us. I also learned of the passing of a fellow homeschool mom who, two days ago, lost her life to an eight-year struggle with cancer. She and I are the same age, and she too has four children. These moments fill us with sorrow and remind us how often we take our life for granted.

We don’t know the number of days we are given, only God knows that, but we can choose a posture of thankfulness and live each one as a gift. I know that mother of four did as she learned of her condition and lived out her last months. And I know my friend is more thankful than ever to have been given the gift of more days… more time.

So now, even though we find ourselves in a season we didn’t ask for and have no control over, we can practice thankfulness. Though living through a pandemic isn’t what we expected if we spend our time and energy bemoaning it, we are effectively wasting our precious days—ones we can never recapture. Why would we purposely do that? Instead, let’s be thankful and see what beauty we can sew in the storm.

You may know how much I adore lists. Well, I’ve made a thankful list below, and I encourage you to make your own. Here it is.

15 things I’m thankful for:

1.      Morning coffee with my husband.

2.      Time spent with my kids.

3.      Supportive & loving family.

4.      Good food.

5.      Words woven to impart beauty & share stories.

6.      Second chances.

7.      Plants, flowers & gardens.

8.      The way the sun highlights the trees.

9.      The way the world smells & glistens after the rain.

10.   The songs & beauty of birds.

11.   The laughter of a baby.

12.   The feel of clean sheets.

13.   Birthday cake.

14.   Friendship.

15.   Grace.

There are more. But this is enough for today because today is my husband’s birthday and Thanksgiving, so I‘d better pay attention to the sweet gifts surrounding me. Soon, my kids will all be together under one roof. We’ve already had our traditional birthday cake breakfast and the turkey is in the oven. The cranberry sauce is made, and I’m about to make the stuffing. So, I better get going. I don’t want to miss this! Happy Thanksgiving! xo

Our family together for Thanksgiving!

“Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” ~ Psalm 90:12

We Were Made For More Than Getting By

Although these past few months have been challenging, living with the colossal changes COVID-19 have brought, they have also offered us perspective. They have provided us with numerous opportunities to either recoil in fear or remain in faith. To succumb to turmoil or tread in trust. To bolster own reserves or receive respite. To grow callous or proffer kindness.

COVID-19 brought the unexpected blessing of having time with our grown children at the cottage. That also meant plenty of cuddle time with our new grandson.

In the enveloping waves of life’s storms, it’s easy to become fearful, tread harder, and grow weary. With water lapping at our ears, we cry out for help amid the deafening swells. We glimpse our safety and provisions sinking and attempt to salvage the loss. In our panic, we grab for flotation devices yet sometimes fail to grasp hold of the One who answers our cries and holds us secure through every storm.

Though the water surrounds us, and the swells threaten to swallow us alive, Christ encircles us with His intimate care and love. He makes a way in our hopelessness, our fearfulness, and our exhaustion by offering us his ever-extended hand. He believes we are worth rescuing.

You can see how thrilled I was to have had extra time time with our son Konnor…
…and our daughter Elanna.

We were made for so much more than drowning in adversity or garnering little gods of our own devising—manufactured forms of strength—to keep us afloat. Once we’ve felt the touch of His hand, the security of His love, the fullness of His mercy, the waves begin to recede. The storm of our inner turmoil is quelled. Faith folds around fear, and darkness is distilled as He stills the waves.

With Christ, we don’t merely weather the storm, we watch the waves of our anxiety shrink. We no longer clutch for the nearest aid, the various pacifiers we use to get us through, we firmly take hold of His help. We grow buoyant, floating in greater freedom, filling up with His peace, fixed in His love.

Our son, Kurtis, with our grandson Montgomery, enjoying some peaceful time on the porch.

The turbulent waves of fear, oppression, doubt, guilt, and shame are pressed to the side—held back—furnishing a path through the unknown, dark waters. Such things as lockdowns and limitations, disease and distancing, and finances and freedoms aren’t as daunting. Life’s disruptions are overtaken by the swells of God’s comfort, peace, love, and an increasing desire to serve others and choose joy despite the struggle.

It isn’t that our conditions have fully changed, it’s that our perspective has. And that’s often enough, isn’t it? The storms don’t always subside but can be stilled inside of us. Life in Christ isn’t a fix-all, but a life fixed in thankfulness, palms open to receive both sunsets and storms. Like a full intake of breath. A life drenched in grace and soaked with mercy.

Ralph and I out for a hike back in May. During these past 3 1/2 months, I have spent tons of time outdoors, running, walking, and hiking daily.

It’s a miraculous transformation—the result of a transfer. One life willing to suffer wreckage for countless others—Christ’s life in place of ours. His death a ransom that bought our freedom. May we not take it for granted, neither the love offer nor the invitation to live fearless, floating freely in the cresting waves of Christ’s love.

Whether pandemics or peace, storms or safe harbors, heartaches or hope, turbulence or triumphs, we can be assured that Christ is with us through it all, helping us do more than just get by. Helping us to instead reach for the more of which we were made.

Enjoying a walk today with my grandson, daughter-in-law, and daughter.

Blessings to you and your family as we weather this storm. Stay safe. You are loved. xo

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

You’re Building a Life Right Now

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Right now, at this very moment, you are building a life. Even during this pandemic. Even though everything seems to have come to a screeching halt. Even though it may not look anything like the life you expected to be living right now, or the one you were living a few short weeks ago.

friends
Celebrating my birthday back in February with my Mystery Club girlfriends when you didn’t need to stand six feet apart.

You may think that your life is composed of the things that have happened to you, but that’s not completely accurate. Your life is composed of how you respond to the things that happen to you.

Stuff happens. Sometimes A LOT. All at once. Hard stuff like sickness, loss, grief, disappointment, physical and emotional pain, and even pandemics. But our lives are more accurately the sum of the ways in which we choose to face and scale that stuff; the ways we tackle both the good and the bad count toward the lives we are building.

Every morning this week, I walked to the beaver dam on our property for The Beaver Dam Chats where I read aloud a selection from my devotional Soul Focus. You can find them on my Instagram account @melaniestevensonauthor.

Some people disregard the fact that they are building something of great value here on earth: their very life and the legacy they leave behind. Instead, they view life as a series of events of which they have no control. Almost as a victim, they traverse through the years, never stopping to take control of their thinking and how they are responding to what is being entrusted to them. It doesn’t occur to them to purposefully use their gifts, time, talents, resources, and even their hardships and triumphs for good.

Here’s a paradox. The tough stuff we’re given is a gift. The good stuff we’re entrusted with is easy to receive. It’s even easier to take for granted, and even easier still to forget to be thankful for. The COVID-19 virus has been especially good at highlighting this to us. What does it look like to unwrap this gift?

ralph and I
I’m thankful for this guy who manages to be hopeful & positive in all situations.

Throughout our lives, we’re entrusted with lovely and unlovely things. With either, you can choose to learn, grow, do good, and extend the hidden blessings from each. But it takes extra fortitude to grow out of the difficulties. To fight for joy in the midst of trials. To seek out peace in turmoil. To embrace love in the midst of hurt, rejection, and pain. And especially to overcome.

With the COVID-19 virus, I’m reminded of what it looks like to choose to live well despite difficulties. I’m reminded that we are building a life that matters in the midst of this stretching experience. Life hasn’t stopped. This is life right now while sheltering in place. Like any hardship, how we respond to it, traverse through it, and how we grow from it will have an impact not only on our lives but on the lives of those around us, and on the lives of generations to come.

opa and Monty
Opa Ralph enjoying precious time with our grandson.

I always tell my kids, nothing’s wasted. And that includes hardships. But I should add that nothing’s wasted unless we chose to ignore what it had to teach us. It is my hope that we will come out of this collective crisis stronger, kinder, and more resilient than when we went into it. That we would embrace its lessons and grow more patient, less entitled, and less distracted than before. That we would more fully recognize the value of close connection with family and friends than before we went in. That this time wouldn’t be wasted on us.

Our 11-year-old daughter is not wasting a moment of the precious time she has with her new nephew.

And I hope for one more thing. That we would look to Jesus and in doing so we would find our hope in him. That we would hand over our fear, frustration, disappointment, pain, hurt, and our very lives to the only One who can be trusted with it. In the giving over we find the very life we’ve been desperately searching for. As we move through this pandemic or anything else that comes our way, we can rest knowing God is our anchor, our comfort, and our hope.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful and poetic verse. It’s notable that the meaning of Baka in Hebrew is “to weep”. As we pass through this valley of weeping, or any other one we face, we can grow stronger and choose to keep our eyes fixed on Christ—our hope. Indeed, the life you are building profoundly matters, both now, and in eternity.

As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
 They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Psalm 84:6-7

Click here to purchase a copy of Soul Focus – Trials

 

25 Benefits of Trials

It’s easy to grow fearful in times of uncertainty. It’s easy to lose hope as we suffer through lengthy hardships. Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic remind us how fragile our lives really are.

Like any trial, we often cannot see an end in sight and this one is no exception. When we are staying at home, social-distancing, viewing reports of daily escalating numbers, suffering through mandatory business closures and potential loss of livelihood, we worry we won’t manage.

My mum used to say of trials, “This too shall pass.” And it will. When it does, things won’t be the same. We will have a new framework out of which to operate. I imagine we will have a more thankful mindset, a greater appreciation for others as we joyfully reconnect and fully embrace our renewed freedom. Trials arrive unexpectedly and loom large, but we can move through them with grace, peace, and even joy.

Monty at the cottage
Cuddling my grandson – one of the ways I’m savoring this slowed pace.

Continue reading “25 Benefits of Trials”

What a Difference a Week Can Make

It’s staggering how much change can occur in one week.

Just over a week ago we were still meeting in-person—albeit cautiously. We stared incredulously at the empty grocery store shelves formerly housing untold brands of toilet paper, antiseptic wipes, and fresh meat. We began to pay closer attention to what the COVID-19 pandemic was going to mean for Canada.

emptytoiletrollaisles
Grocery store shelves void of all toilet paper.

Conversely, this week, when it should have been non-stop hangouts with friends due to March Break, we were diligently social-distancing. Our extroverted nineteen-year-old daughter, Elanna, came home from Toronto to hunker down at our place. Our equally extroverted 11-year-old, Keira, couldn’t fathom why I was mandating a no playdate policy. In an extraordinary act of self-control, I kept myself away from our two-month-old grandson the entire week. Continue reading “What a Difference a Week Can Make”