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There are so many beautiful things in this life, each day bursting with beauty just waiting to be noticed and celebrated, all miraculous in their own way.

But sometimes I’ve missed the beauty—the holy moments—consumed by my own preoccupations. Sometimes I’ve failed to recognise that these simple moments strung together comprise my life—not a bit of which I prefer to miss. Beautiful things like a stranger’s smile, a tiny, chubby-handed wave, that first sip of morning coffee, the belly laugh of a child, and the birds’ chorus lifting in the air.

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So here’s my reflection of some other beautiful things I’m thankful for today:

latte art tirelessly created by the barista who smiles though the job has its not-so-nice bits

humans who are willing to give time, talent and resources to help others

the spectacular sun on my shoulders that gives life and warmth to our planet

my visionary husband, best-friend and biggest cheerleader, who I get to walk life alongside

my children, the great loves of my life, who have brought me untold joy and laughter and whose various talents I have the joy of celebrating

dear friends who crowd around to support and love me and who I get to love and encourage in return

the “prayer ladies” who have bolstered my faith and enriched my life

words to string together to create something from nothing

colours to mix and swirl together on a canvas

a quiet moment to reflect, chose thankfulness and make course corrections

beautiful books that challenge and change the world

flowers and plants to care for that add colour and texture my life’s canvas

the canopy of trees to offer comforting shade and life-giving oxygen

a body to move me to the places I’m meant to tread

arms to draw in another soul reminding them they are cherished

my next breath to inhale, providing another chance to live well

eyes to see all this terrific beauty

Christ’s love and sacrifice that changed everything.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

~ Colossians 3:15-17 (The Message)
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What are some beautiful things you’re thankful for? I love to hear them!

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My spiritual mom and I at a birthday celebration with “The Prayer Ladies”.

I call her my spiritual mom. We aren’t linked biologically but through the things of God. She’s been a constant in my life for over ten years, and we’ve shared many conversations and events. Without meaning to, or possibly knowing she has, Nancy has taught me many things. I thought it would be insightful to share these priceless morsels. It may sound like I’m bragging, but bear with me. I’m hoping one or two might be meaningful to you!

Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m thankful for my hubby.

Confession: Fall isn’t my favourite time of year. I much prefer hot, hazy mid-summer days. I adore my garden at peak performance showing off its full glory. I relish a few lazy minutes of reading on the porch with the birds’ chorus adding to the unfolding beauty. There’s the endless, sunspun blue skies, and the warm evenings begging us to linger outside and squeeze the most out of the long days of light. Even as I write this, I’m still mourning summer’s end. 

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I’m thankful for my garden.

But its fall and, in Canada, that means a few changes. And with the changing season come a few things I could stand to be grateful for. Things like: apple cider, the smell of smoke sauntering out of hundred-year-old chimneys, the blazing leaves letting go, comical gourds, pumpkin pies, fall Mums, and cosy sweaters. Maybe you could add a few of your own.

My daughter adores this time of year and makes a fall list – traditions that she keeps each year. Among other activities, she decorates her room, visits the pumpkin patch with a friend, then painstakingly carves the perfect pumpkin once home. She makes procuring a pumpkin spice latte a must, makes a fall play list, and even dresses up for Halloween to hand out candy at our door. Through her, I’m trying to increase my affection for fall.

But no matter where we find ourselves this autumn, no matter how much you cherish the changing seasons, how amazing, or not-quite-so-amazing, your circumstances may be, the truth is we can always find something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is an ideal reminder that we really should be living each day thankful, not just one weekend.

Here are some things I’m thankful for: a simple breath of outside air, the late-day sun on my face, a flock of migrating birds crossing overhead, a sip of warm coffee, the bite of food in my mouth before thinking of the next, and a moment of stillness in my home (like this one when no one is making a sound). I’m thankful for my dear friends who love and cheer me on, my children who encourage me to do big things, and my husband who still loves me after 26 years of intimately knowing my every fault. And I’m thankful that God, who knows me even better than that, gave His Son because He thinks I matter.

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I’m thankful for my kids.

This act of being thankful has a way of brushing the cobwebs of ingratitude away. Like the way we gripe in our childish entitlement, or the way we have mini-fits when the world doesn’t give us all we asked for. Thankfulness acts as an automatic attitude-shifter, and the everyday, moment-by-moment practice of it helps us approach our minutes with a healthier, life-giving focus.

There are times so bewilderingly dark, so emotionally or physically painful, that it seems virtually impossible to find a single thing to be thankful for. But even when the light is scant, look hard. There is always a small ray of hope shining in that darkness and lighting something of which to be thankful for – even if it is that next breath.

And, like anything, the more we practice thankfulness, the easier it becomes. What if this weekend we start, and then just keep going – this month and this year – and develop a solid habit of finding something to be thankful for each day, and especially in times of difficulty? I have an inkling we might experience an increased dose of contentment, peace, and joy.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”                      1 Thessalonians 5:18

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  1. Have you made a “Thankful List”?
  2. Develop the practice of finding things to be thankful for each day and even each moment.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ~ Deuteronomy 33:27

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A friend of ours has his own carpet cleaning business. Sometimes he posts pictures or videos of the disasters he has to clean up (think flooding from a burst sewage pipe). It helps that he has a sense of humour – wading through fecal matter requires that kind of character and internal fortitude!

How do we respond in the midst of life’s messes? How do we react when the floods come and the water grows murky? It’s easy to buy into the lie that if you are a good Christian, you’ll simply pull on your rubber boots and dance through the dung. Or you may believe the opposite – that it will never get cleaned up. But don’t.

It’s true that swimming in rising water is exhausting, and sometimes circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. People sinning really does hurt. Sickness is daunting. Loosing a loved one can bring us to our knees.

But during, or even after a crisis, take comfort in these:

1. God never leaves you or turns away from you. 

Be strong and courageous, Do not be terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. ~ Deut 31:6

God is not mad at you. He has not turned his back on you. Nothing you can do, or fail to do, will make Him love you any more or less. He is there for you with open arms. You are accepted.

2. No matter where you are or what is happening, God loves you and desires an intimate relationship with you. 

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear. ~ Isa 65:24

Just knowing God longs to be with us gives us hope and courage. Being with Him reminds you of who you are. And you are loved by Him! Sit with Him and your soul and spirit will be revived and renewed.

3. You can tell God all about it. Your disappointments, your feelings of betrayal, your deep wounds, your broken heart. He knows anyway. He won’t judge; He’ll heal you.

Cast all your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall. ~ Psalm 55:22

God wants to carry your burdens for you. It is not His desire that you struggle alone. So go ahead and pour out your heart to Him. Hand over your heavy weights and grow lighter and more free.

4. He can give you the strength to forgive. 

Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ~ Eph 4:32

Forgiveness is tough. It’s a journey. It takes diligent effort. It can’t be done on our own strength without God’s help. When we understand how much we have been forgiven, when we agree with God’s plan for forgiveness, we can accept His help to forgive.

5. It’s never too late. When you turn to God, He will restore and redeem all that you thought was lost.

God, your God, will restore everything you lost; He’ll have compassion on you; He’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, our God, will get you out of there…He will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God… ~ Deut 30:3-6

Sometimes we think a circumstance, a situation, a relationship, or our life is beyond broken. Don’t believe it. God can do anything! It may not look the same, may never be the same, but God has a way of restoring lives beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.

6. You can exchange anxiousness for thankfulness.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ~ Phil 4:6

Try giving thanks in the midst of crisis. Thankfulness doesn’t mean denying that what you are going through doesn’t exist, but rather the proclamation that God is good and there is always something to be grateful for.

7. You will come to deeply understand the goodness of God.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ Psalm 106:1

Those who have walked through crisis, and hung on to their mustard seed faith with whitened knuckles, know beyond a doubt that their God saw them through it and never ceased to help and love them.

8. You will come to live in His abundance. 

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

It’s true, after the crisis, nothing will look the same. The past is gone, but God miraculously makes things new. He heals and helps your heart align with His. Your desires begin to line up with His and you begin to recognize His overflowing goodness and love, even in the midst of the circumstances, but especially when you look back on them.

Don’t give up or give in! These present trials will not remain forever, but you can be sure God’s love for you always will!

I bless you that you will know that God is with you no matter what!

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  1. Which of the above truths resonate most fully with you? Which one the least?
  2. Ask God to help you grow toward greater freedom and understanding in your areas of doubt or struggle.

“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” ~ Philippians 4:11-12

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It’s tremendously easy to get caught up in comparison. So simple to look at those around us and compare our physique, our intelligence, our skills or talents, our standard of living, the decor in our homes, our children’s behaviour, or our perceived level of success. You name it, we’ve probably compared it.

Once the comparison is complete, we rank ourselves on whether we’re better off. If we decide we’re higher up the totem pole, we feel rather good about ourselves; if not, we feel quite the opposite. Both are equally dangerous: the former leaves us open to pride, the latter to feeling insecure and insignificant.

Comparison is insidious because – left untreated – it can lead to discontentment, anger, bitterness, competitiveness, covetousness, condemnation, jealousy, lack of self-worth, and the breakdown of relationships. If I think you’re better than I, and allow that to make me feel less, I’m open to the assaults of the ever-ready accuser of my soul. He’s ready to whisper lies and insults at every turn, or drag up past words of criticism to fuel the fire of discontentment and low self-esteem.

Is there an antidote for comparison? The Bible says that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim 6:6) A healthy dose of thankfulness can help reverse our comparison illness; a healthy dose of God redirects our eyes. Keeping our eyes fixed on God, and continuing to be thankful, can help heal us to the point of contentment in any and every situation so that we will “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

Each one of us undergoes different challenges and circumstances. If we can discipline ourselves to abide and be thankful in every circumstance – both the good, the bad and the ugly – we’ll be more likely to live in contentment. In doing so, we’re better positioned to authentically celebrate both our own and others’ achievements, as well as encourage and comfort others in their distresses and failures. By adjusting our attitude to be one of thankfulness, and staying the course with Christ, we’re also more likely to walk in freedom, enjoy closer, more significant relationships, and remain secure in who we are in Christ.

Perhaps we could stand to be a bit gentler on ourselves and others, choosing to stick close to God – living out of the richness of His great love – and growing in thankfulness. Then we can freely celebrate one another for the miraculous and gifted human beings God created us to be.

May you grow in freedom from comparison, and choose to replace it with thankfulness and godliness.

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  1. Prayerfully make a list of those with whom you have compared yourself. Pray through that list, asking God to forgive you and help you move toward godliness, thankfulness and contentment.

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ~ Jesus

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A young mom recently asked me, “How can I do some deep work with God?”

What a beautiful question! I picture God smiling ear-to-ear over His kids who are seeking a climb-up-on-His-lap kind of intimacy.

I mentioned some ways to grow closer to God, such as setting time aside each day to read His word, prayer, and keeping a prayer journal, but thought it deserved a more thoughtful answer. Below are some of the specific ways that have helped me enrich my relationship with the Lord. I write them here as an encouragement to you.

  1. Read and study the Bible. Approach God’s word expectantly. What I mean by this is when you sit down to read the Bible, expect to hear from God. If a verse stands out to you, write it in a prayer journal or underline it in your Bible. Memorization also helps to hide His word in your heart for future use and timely encouragement.
  2. Pray.  Both the fall-on-your-knees and cry out to God kind, and the breath-by-breath throughout the day kind. Pray away from the crowds – just you and God, but also with other faithful, believers who expect God hears and answers in miraculous ways.
  3. Keep a prayer journal. I use my prayer journal to write prayers to God. In it I tell Him about what I’m struggling with, significant requests, and verses that stand out to me. It is amazing to look back and see God’s faithfulness documented and dated.
  4. Listen. Be still long enough to hear God’s hallowed in-between reply. The whisper in your spirit from His. The knowingness that God passed by and you didn’t miss the exhale of His Spirit releasing reassurance, peace, or a drop of deeper understanding. Let His voice be the loudest in your life.
  5. Praise.  Tell God how much you love Him. Be mindful of His many attributes. Speak, sing, dance, play, paint, or write your exclamations of praise – your worship to Him. Use your gifting for His glory. Your joyful offering pleases God and fortifies faith.
  6. Go to church. “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) Go to church to hear God’s word, to be encouraged, to meet with His saints and worship together. Meet regularly with other believers outside of the church walls too. Hear their victory stories, pray for them in their struggles, and love them.
  7. Choose/Practice forgiveness. “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15) Jesus did it, so must we. It is a choice; a determined effort. It’s hard, they may not deserve it, but doing so frees us to live in the fullness of love and abundance Jesus died to give us.
  8. Be thankful. Don’t forget to thank God for ALL He has allowed in your life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of it is being used to form you into Christ-likeness. Nothing  is wasted. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18) Even in the middle of the largest battle, we can choose thankfulness, and even in the midst of the most mundane moments we can be thankful.
  9. Choose joy. It can be found in the most heartbreaking, painful situations or can be chosen in the monotony of the day-to-day. Joy that isn’t based on circumstances but is rooted in faith that, no matter what, the God of the universe has “got” this and everything else. Choosing joy changes the atmosphere both within and without.
  10. Find a mentor/Be a mentor. Walk alongside a trusted someone who is a little further on in their journey than you. Learn from them, hear their stories, be encouraged by their triumphs and failures. Do the same for another newer or younger believer. We were not meant to walk alone.
  11. Serve and care for those in need. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James 1:27) Some sacrifice and inconvenience will be required, and you will be reminded that it’s not all about you, but your time and care will be priceless and of eternal value.
  12. Persevere. No matter the hardships, the fiery trials, the repeated mess-ups, the hurt, harm and misunderstandings, do not let anything or anyone come between you and God. Don’t let the truth of how precious and loved by God you are be stolen from you. You will, at times, be a partaker in Christ’s sufferings (see 1 Peter 4:12-14), but stay the course to end and great will be your reward (see Matthew 5:10-12).

I bless you as you do some deep work with God. 

He does great things past finding out. ~ Job 9:10

This past weekend, a home school group I work with put on a production of Robin Hood. Like all plays, there are people who work tirelessly in the background to make the magic of theatre happen. I think especially of the stagehands dressed in black, who move silently between the stage and backstage to make sure everything makes it to where it needs to be. If they are good at what they do, no one ever sees them, they merely see the results of what they’ve done: a chair moved onstage here, a tree shifted there.

 

The above verse reminds me that God is always working behind-the-scenes in our lives, whether we notice it or not. It is amazing to think that God is doing “great things” beyond our wisdom and understanding, and sometimes even beyond our ever knowing. Incredibly, He doesn’t do this because of anything we’ve done, He does it because He loves us – a dear Father ensuring all the pieces of our lives are moved appropriately in and out at just the right moment; a loving Dad performing innumerable kindnesses for us, many of which we will never be aware of this side of heaven.

 

If we do happen to recognize His grace, this verse notes we may not be privy to just how He accomplished it. We may never see how He stirred a heart, calmed a storm, thwarted a calamity, or allowed so many other seemingly coincidental events. But, if we do, we are ever grateful.

 

Yet there are times the “great things” He does don’t appear all that great, and it’s challenging to be thankful for what He allowed. But with a smidgen of faith and a mite of courage, we can believe for what we cannot see and know that God is good, even when the shifting and shuffling around of things in our lives may not feel good.

 

Be encouraged. You are intimately loved and cared for by the God of the universe. He doesn’t miss the smallest detail, He is never surprised, never forgets, and there is nothing beyond His understanding and wisdom. Look for the “great things”, the “grace things” He has positioned in your life – even the challenges are disguised blessings – and thank Him for all He has done.

 

Be blessed to see the great things God has done, and is doing, in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:13

You’ve seen it before. The meal placed before the child whose nose wrinkles in disgust. “I don’t like that!” he says, pushing away the plate. He crosses his arms and stubbornly refuses to eat. After a while, he asks his parents for something he prefers.

What is our reaction when we are given something less than appetizing in life? Do we get angry, play the victim, feel rejected, blame others, and allow our joy to be extinguished? When difficulties darken our door, what is our posture toward God? Do we, like the willful child, reject what we have been given and shout, “I don’t like this”? Maybe we compare our portion with another’s and declare, “It’s not fair!” or wish – even pray – for another serving of a different variety? Perhaps we get stuck asking “why?” Maybe we grow weary or become disillusioned with God because He didn’t meet our expectations or demands.

Maybe we have demonstrated some, if not all of these reactions, but there is another posture we can assume. We can choose to thank God for the trial that He has allowed. He may intend it to sharpen our character and nourish our soul, if only we would ingest it. We can choose to agree that our Father’s ways are higher than ours, and that He knows the very circumstances which produce the greatest beauty in our lives. It may be difficult and painful, but if we accept what are actually the choicest morsels – the handpicked cuts – we will ultimately grow in strength, beauty and grace, and indeed prosper with this heavenly nourishment.

It is easy to thank God for the “good” gifts – the nice things we consider blessings. But today’s verse says that it is God’s will that you be thankful in all circumstances. Maybe God knows something we don’t about the shift that happens in our mind, heart, and body when we are thankful for the tough stuff. Could it be that we have been looking at hardships all wrong, and that they are some of God’s greatest blessings?

The next time you are faced with a situation that is difficult to swallow, or if you are facing one right now, thank your heavenly Father that He has entrusted you with it. He loves you enough to use this challenge to alter your taste buds so your desires line up more fully with His. He is more interested in your character than your comfort. In fact, comfort often befriends complacency, and He loves you too much to let that happen. These less than palatable circumstances shift us out of our comfortable places and have the potential to create a change that may not have otherwise occurred. Although not what you asked for, it just might be what you needed, and the insight you gain just might be what someone else needs to hear in their struggle.

We may not have the faith or insight at this moment to believe our circumstances will change, but we have enough to take just one step. And one step – one mouthful at a time – is likely all that is required. Maybe that first mouthful needs to be words of thanks. Bon appetite!

May you see ways to thank God for the trial He has given you, and be open to where He is leading.

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