Gratitude and thanksgiving

As the weekend comes to a close, I find myself with a quiet moment.  Everyone is in bed, the Christmas tree glows softly, and there’s a chill in the air outside.  The room smells like pine and I feel serene and at peace for the moment.  And then the dog promptly gags and throws up a little in the floor.

*sigh*

The long weekend was a good one though, dog barf aside.  Dinner with part of the family on Thanksgiving day and lunch with the rest of the family today.  But there was one moment that has sat with me all weekend.

My two cousins and I were seated at one of the adult tables with our spouses.  (I’m sure if you have a large family you know what the adult table is.  The kids got the card tables and the adults sat at the big table.)  And there we all are eating and having adult conversation when it suddenly struck me…where were the adults at the table?  I mean, we can’t be the ones here at the table having grown up conversations about kids and gymnastics and politics, can we?  Where were the real adults?

And the moment when I looked around at the table and realized we WERE the adults, it was like time slowed for just a second.  My cousin sitting across from me, the one who played dress up with me at Grandmother’s house.  Her husband sitting beside her.  Her daughters on the sofa, her son upstairs playing with mine.  My other cousin sitting beside me.  The one who, along with the rest of us, used to play fun games on holidays like this.  And there beside him, his wife, holding one of their three little ones in her lap.  Suddenly the children weren’t at the kids’ table anymore.  They were all grown up.  Now our children were at the kids’ table.  It was quite surreal.

And for that moment, I just wanted time to stop.  To just stay right there, while my parents and my aunt and uncle talked at the other adult table.  While our kids were all still young.  Before our hair goes gray all over and time begins to take its toll.  To just stay.

But stay, we cannot.  Time is not ours to stop.  The older I get, the faster it seems to go by.  And the older I get, the easier it can be to look back and be found wanting.  I think of things I wish I had valued at the time that I had them.  Moments in time that start to fade that I wish I could remember better.  So many things I realized I wanted to do when it was too late to do them.

But time doesn’t go backwards.  Time moves forward.  And we move with it.  And we must live in the moment while it is ours.  To enjoy what we are given as it is received.  To take those surreal moments and breathe them in while we sit in them and have the pleasure of later recalling those moments with joy for having had them.

Yes, time moves forward, but in that moment looking around the table,  my heart was full of gratitude and thanksgiving for what has been.

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Little boy gifts

Little boy gifts

This morning the wind was blowing outiside just a bit and the little one (who doesn’t seem to be all that little anymore) and I were watching the leaves blowing off the tree in the front yard, when it got to be just too much for him to watch. He had to get his hands in it. So out the door we went in PJs and he ran into the grass laughing and jumping in the autumn air grabbing at leaves as they blew by him. After a moment, we decided it was just a bit chilly but before going back in, he stooped down and picked up this perfect leaf and handed it to me.

“Here,” he said. “I got it for you.”

“Thank you so much. I love it. What a great gift!” I said to him.

“Well, you’re my mommy and I love you.”

Thank you, Lord for the little one and for the oldest. These two are absolutely the apple of my eye, my very favorites.

the boys

 

Attitudes of Gratitude

Well, it’s November 1st and…wait, actually it’s November 2nd, but I was sick in the bed yesterday so I missed the 1st, so I’m starting a little late, okay?

So, it’s November 1st 2nd and I’m noticing, as in years past, many of my friends on Facebook are doing the “Thing-a-Day I’m Thankful For” where they post something they are grateful for each day on account of Thanksgiving being this month.  Sounds simple enough, right?   Well, if you know me at all, you’ll know that typically I avoid stuff like this for a number of reasons, one of which being that I know that I’ll probably never follow through with the thing so I figure I’ll save myself the embarrassment of having to “catch myself up” every other day or just falling off the thankful wagon altogether because of my general inability to stick with or finish much of anything.  (For a wonderous example, see the previous posting date of AUGUST something or other on this blog!!  Good-ness.)

Anyhow, I won’t make empty promises, but I will make the effort to do this because it’s something I thought about yesterday as I was scrolling through Facebook while lying in bed in a pool of used tissues and cough drops, and while I could have attributed the initial thought to the fact that the congestion was cutting the air off to my brain, here it is 3am on November 2nd and I actually woke up thinking about it.

Gratitude moments.   Those little moments that something happens and for a second everything around you stops and you realize in the moment that you are truly grateful.  It could be for something really big, like for Jesus and for what He did for us.  How He gave Himself over in death so that we might have life.  Yes, for that I am deeply grateful.

Or it could be something for considerably less profound, like this cup of coffee I’m drinking right this minute.  It’s nice and warm on my throat.  Of course, I don’t guess it’s going to help me much in terms of being able to go back to sleep and I could have probably had some nice herbal tea, but I…alright, alright.  You know what?  Let’s just stick with the topic at hand.  Gratitude.

Anyhow, in reality I guess any moment of gratitude is quite profound in its own right, whether it’s for the big big things or the small and simple things, because ultimately those moments draw us back to the Giver, the One whose gift has taught our hearts grace.  (For an incredible read on this very subject, might I implore you to pick up Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts?)

I actually had two very specific gratitude moments for the 1st (since technically it’s not “today, the 2nd” yet considering it’s still dark out and all).

As I was driving home from taking the kiddos to school, I was almost overcome by the beauty of the changing colors of the leaves.  Yesterday was a bit overcast and yet somehow on those overcast, drizzly days, it always seems to me that colors are even more vibrant.  The grass seems a bit greener, the dirt a bit earthier.  Like days of dust have been washed off and the true beauty of everything is finally seen.  The burgandys and deep oranges and bright yellows against the gray sky were breathtaking.  Fall in all its glory.  A changing in the season that is beautifully leading into death so that after a time of winter, life might be born back into greens and pinks and blossoming flowers and fruit.  Thank you Lord, for fall.  For the reminder that in the beauty of sacrifice, painful as it may be, new and wonderful things come…in the giving up and giving over, there is grace.

Last night, that darling hubby of mine called to see if I needed anything from the drugstore besides Nyquil before he came home from work.  The first thing I thought of was macaroni and cheese.  And that’s what I had for dinner.  Those unbent elbow noodles wrapped in creamy orange psuedo-cheese.  Reminds me of my grandma and Sunday lunch after church.  Growing up, we went to eat at my Mama and Papa’s house after church every Sunday.  And I knew that, somewhere on the table among all that delicious country cookin’,  there would always be a rectangle Corningware dish of yummy macaroni and cheese.  It was tradition.  (And it was my favorite.)  And whenever we ate at my Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house, Gran always made mac and cheese…the homemade kind that you bake in the oven with the big fat elbow noodles that would string cheese across the counter when you served it onto your plate.  It was tradition.  (And it was my favorite.)  And in the midst of my macaroni last night, I remembered family and tradition and was grateful.  Grateful for those people in my life, whose tree branches from the same trunk as mine, and for the stability of traditions.  Grateful to be known and remembered, and to be loved deeply.

Hey, you wanna join me on this?  Share a gratitude moment in the comments…

Well that was awkward.

Awkward.

It’s a word that’s used to describe different things…maybe a person, maybe something that was said…but most recently I heard it used to describe a moment during a church worship service.  Apparently it was a very prayerful, intimate moment but it was deemed by a few to have possibly been awkward for some either at the service or watching online.  It was decided for the rest of the weekend services that moment should probably be avoided so that no one would feel awkward.

And although I understand the heart behind that notion, I also can’t help but be somewhat saddened at the idea of adjusting a worship service to suit the comfort level of those attending.  It just seems like the tone of worship should be set according to the One receiving it , not by the ones who get a little weirded out when worship becomes a little too intimate or a little too extravagant.

One part of scripture that has continued to come to mind in the last couple of weeks since I heard about the “uncomfortable worship moment” is in Luke 7:36-50.  Jesus is having dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee when this woman shows up that the Bible describes as having led a sinful life.  Specifically it says that she had heard Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house and so she came with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind Jesus, she began to weep and her tears fell on His feet, getting them all wet.  So she crouched down and dried His feet with her hair…her HAIR…and poured the perfume on them.  And of course, right on cue, Simon the Pharisee piped up and began to complain that Jesus shouldn’t be letting such a sinful woman touch him like that.

So think about this for a second.  Can you imagine the awkwardness of this moment?  There they all are lounging at the table eating dinner and suddenly this woman comes in and immediately goes into this very intimate, worshipful moment with Jesus.  I imagine for those watching it was probably quite uncomfortable to see someone so openly and humbly offering up gratitude and love like that.  So unashamed in expressing her feelings in that moment.  I’m betting in the couple of seconds it probably took Simon to gather himself enough to open his mouth, it was well…awkward.  But in the midst of the awkward moment, who was the one that started freaking out?  Well, I can tell you it wasn’t Jesus.

And when Jesus speaks, he doesn’t ask the woman to take it down a notch because she’s making everyone feel uncomfortable.  No, instead Jesus chastises the Pharisee – the guy who’s supposed to have this religion thing all figured out – because this woman in her reckless moment was doing something for Jesus that the Pharisee should have done, but didn’t.  Jesus then praises the woman for what she has done.  Oh, yeah.  Awkward again.

But why was it awkward?  Could it be that in this moment this sinful woman recognized something in Jesus that the others didn’t.  That when face to face with the Christ, she saw in Him what the others had overlooked or ignored…the love of God that brings forgiveness of sin.  She knew what she’d done, all the skeletons in her closet, and she knew what she had been set free from.  And her response to the knowledge of the grace of God was pure gratitude, humility, and surrender.  Pure worship.

Oh and please don’t miss this part.  This woman came with purpose.  She didn’t just show up and grab a perfume jar off Simon’s shelf.  She had brought one with her.  She heard that Jesus was there and she went with intentionality to express her love and gratitude to Him.  You could even say that her worship of Him even began not when she arrived in His presence, but rather the moment she grabbed her jar and set out for Simon’s house.  Everyone else is just there hanging out socializing, while unbeknowst to them, there is a woman on a mission heading their way.

So my thoughts here are two-fold.  First, I have to ask myself, when I go to church…or to worship service as we’ve come to call it…am I going with the intention of worshipping?  Is church something we do just because it’s the “right” thing?  Because, well, it’s Sunday and that’s just what we do on Sunday.  Go to church.  Check.  Go out to eat.  Check.  Take a nap.  Check.

Or do I go to church with the mindset that I am coming to gather together with the Body of Christ and offer up worship to the God of the Universe?  Do I come seeking Him, sacrifice in hand, with gratitude and love for what He has done?  When we come to church are we coming more to give or to get?

And my second train of thought here is I guess more a word of caution that anything else.  I know in my own church, we often have the order of service planning down to the minute, as I’m sure is the case in many other churches.  But in all the programming and planning that goes into a worship service, are we micromanaging every moment to the point that we give no room for the Spirit of God to move?  And would we recognize it if it did?  Does the fear of making people uncomfortable hold us back from being led by the Spirit?  Do we trust the Holy Spirit in our worship leaders enough to give them the freedom to flow with the Spirit even if it means getting a bit off on the “worship plan?”  And do we prepare for worship with a greater focus on God’s glory or on people’s preference?

Just some things to think about.

So what are your thoughts?  Is worship more for the seeker or the Sought?  Or both?  What are maybe some hindrances to a move of the Spirit in a church service?  How can we as a church and as individuals better prepare for worship?

One Thousand Gifts: intentional gratitude

I’m reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts.  If you’ve not read this one yet, you should definitely add it to your list.  Ann’s writing is so beautifully eloquent.  You can almost feel what she feels, see what she’s seeing.

One Thousand Gifts is a book of gratitude.  Ann starts making a list of big and little things for which she is grateful…gifts from the Creator.  In the midst of a life of gratitude, God’s hand is much more clearly seen.  I really love this book.

And since it’s a fresh new year, I thought it the perfect time pick this book back up, and start from the beginning again.

And the perfect time to begin learning intentional gratitude.

So I’m starting a gift list.  I will be sharing pieces of my list on Mondays and will be linking up with many others at Ann’s blog for Multitudes on Mondays.  I hope you’ll stop by then.

I’d encourage you to check out Ann’s site, A Holy Experience, as well.  She has so many wonderful resources there to help you along on the journey.  She’s even put together a January’s Joy Dare calendar to help you get started.

I can’t wait to share some of my list and I hope you’ll share some of yours with me too!

It’s the little things…

My mother-in-law lives with us. Or at least for the most part. She stays with us for several months out of the year and then will go back home to Panama and spend some time there. She flew home yesterday after having been here for about seven months and will be back next month in time for Christmas.

Now before any of you go feeling all sympathetic for me having to live under the same roof as her, let me relieve you. It truly is a blessing to have her here. She’s an amazing woman really. Yes, she’s a bit hard-headed at times and somewhat set in her ways, but she’s a hard worker, compassionate, and strong. She speaks her mind when she deems it necessary and she will even call my husband out if she thinks he’s done or said something he shouldn’t have. (hee hee hee…ahem. Where was I?) She is an incredible seamstress and can make me a whole dress from scratch in just a little over a day. She speaks no English really except for the few words she’s learned here and there like “juice” for my 4-year-old, “be still” again for my 4-year-old, and “chicken” among others. The inability to communicate with her very well can at times be really frustrating, especially during those times when she’s talking a million miles an hour and I just know in my heart that whatever she’s saying is something I’d love to comprehend because she’s animated in her hand gestures and her voice intonation and it’s probably really good advice. It’s in those times that I nod and smile and ask God silently to open my mind and help me to bring just enough of what little Spanish I know to the forefront of my mind so that I might at least get a gist of what she’s saying. Of course then on the other hand, it has probably been our saving grace to some degree that we neither one can understand much of what the other says and therefore have a somewhat limited ability to offend each other. Well, although it’s still certainly possible to tick each other off even without words. Her first visit here was sure proof of that. Let’s just say that once we set boundaries and came to some understanding of each other’s expectations, things went much more smoothly. I’ll save that story for another post.

So anyhow, she’s not one to sit around and do nothing. She’s constantly cleaning, or cooking, or sewing, or something. Dishes don’t stay in the sink more than a few minutes before she’s putting them in the dishwasher. She has scheduled laundry days twice a week. I’ve offered to help but she would rather do it. I can’t always find my clothes without a bit of a hunt through the dresser but it’s still certainly worth it to have them clean. (I really hate doing laundry.) Also, she cooks everyday. I mean like a whole meal. My house always smells so good at noon when I get back home from picking my son up from preschool. And she’s constantly picking up behind him. Toys don’t stay in the floor long.

One of the first things she does in the morning is unload the dishwasher and then load the dirty dishes from breakfast. Yesterday morning however, she didn’t have time because we left early for the airport. Also, there were a few toys left out in the den floor as we rushed out. When we got back home from the airport and walked into the house, it suddenly seemed a bit messy. It was odd to see dishes in the sink. And last night, my husband had to work so it was just me and the little one (my oldest son was with his other grandma) and boy did the house seem quiet without the sound of her Panamanian music drifting from her room. There’s a level of comfort in knowing that there is someone else here with me. I almost forgot last night to set the coffee pot up for this morning. That was something else she did every night. Clean out the pot, dump out the old grinds and add fresh coffee and water so in the morning all I had to do was punch the button.

I’ve gotten so used to her being here and just in a single day of her NOT being here, her absence has been greatly noticed. Not just in the obvious sense. More in that I’ve noticed many things that are left undone because she isn’t here doing them. Sometimes it takes something NOT happening before you notice it’s not happening. I truly am very grateful for her and the way she cares for me and my family.

So I have to ask you…is there someone who does a lot of little things that makes your life a lot easier? Is there someone who loves and cares for you and maybe you haven’t really stopped to take notice of all those little things they do for you? In this season of Thanksgiving, I encouraged you to take a moment and let that person know that you recognize and appreciate their efforts and sacrifices, no matter how great or small. I also pray that someone in your life will stop and take a moment to thank you for yours.