An Offering of Thanks

Offer : (verb) present or proffer (something) for (someone) to accept or reject as so desired; (noun) an expression of readiness to do or give something if desired

There is nothing like being offered a hot cup of coffee in the morning, or help with the dishes after a meal, or a gift just because. It makes your day, doesn’t it? And I wonder if God feels this way when we willingly present a thankful heart to Him. It has been a frustrating few weeks for me and I will admit, it has been difficult to maintain a thankful heart. Traffic is starting to back up due to holiday shopping and I do not enjoy crowded places. Black Friday? Forget about it. After being in Walmart yesterday in the late afternoon, I realize that if I need to run any errands with some semblance of sanity, I need to do it in the morning hours. It can be easy lose the joy of the season when I focus on what is wrong with people ((seriously…we need traffic lanes in the grocery store)). Instead, I need to shift my focus on what is right in my world. Tonight, I will offer thanks that we have food in our pantry, a comfortable place to call home, and that my little family and I are all safe and together.

At the End of the Day

I am a list maker. If I do not have ‘it’ written down, I will forget. Even…to remember to evaluate the day. Sometimes, the days go by so fast, I really have no idea what happened or if I actually accomplished anything. How do I evaluate how a day went, though? What questions do I ask? At the end of the day, how do I ‘decompress’ and process the day’s events? Here is guideline of four things to consider:

#1) What happened today that caused me to feel G R A C E F U L?

Traffic was a bear today. There was a big accident on the way to taking my son to the community college. The right lane was blocked due to an overturned truck and emergency vehicles. While trying to get around the accident and into the left lane, someone kindly let me get over so I could keep moving. It’s not every day that traffic runs smoothly when there are roadblocks. I did roll down my window and wave a big ‘Thank you!’. It is a good reminder to be kind to someone else who is looking to get around an accident as well.

#2) What happened today that caused me to feel G R U M P Y?

Well, traffic. My dad and I went grocery shopping and stores were busy. I do not enjoy crowds (you will not see me participating in Black Friday)…I could have stopped to breathe and focus on the task and not get frustrated. I could have also packed a healthy snack so I would not feel so depleted at the end of the day. (I need to write that down somewhere —pack a snack!)

#3) What happened today that caused me to feel G I V I N G?

I noticed my Dad’s hands this morning. They were swollen and tight and I could tell by the look on his face that he was not feeling well. I offered to drive on our errands even though I knew there was a lot of traffic.

#4) What happened today that caused me to feel G O D in my life?

My dad bought me flowers today for going with him on all the errands. It was also through the giving of my husband. He has had a long week, he has a migraine due to the wind, and yet he offered to heat up soup for me because I was feeling tired.  Kindness  brings us to notice God’s work in others as they seek to be a blessing.

Four things to consider when ‘processing’ the day: What happened today that caused me to feel Graceful, Grumpy, Giving, and God? It might be a good conversation to have with family around the dinner table.

Satisfied

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt

Last week, I mentioned my thought process as of late concerning resolutions. With the end of the year approaching, I wondered if I had accomplished nearly everything I had set out to do back in January. That can be frustrating because life gets busy, family members get sick, company comes and disrupts the ‘flow’ of every day living. There are resolutions that can be kept no matter what is going on. The first resolution was mentioned last week. God has a timing for everything and I will trust Him, not rush Him.

Resolution With God #1: I will not hurry through my journey.

This week’s resolution was about contentment, being satisfied with God’s provisions of grace daily, and not letting the restlessness and hurry of the world (even other Christians! yikes) manipulate me into thinking that what I have or who I am isn’t enough. Every thing God gives me is enough for the task at hand that He has for me. I want to look forward to each day with peace and ease knowing that God is aware of my needs and my need for Him. The Bible verse that caught my eye in the beginning of the week was 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
‘All sufficiency in all things’…I love that.

Resolution With God #2: I will live satisfied with God’s provisions in the here and now.

In my ‘meditations’ and studies on this topic, I began thinking that maybe living life well is a key to contentment. A phrase in Philippians 4:12 grabbed my attention in light of  being resolved to be content. “I know how to abound”. Wow. Paul learned to be content (and yes, it’s still a learning process to this day) in all situations, no matter what God allowed in his life. And he knew how to abound (thrive, advance, be alive!) by doing everything through Christ which gave him the strength and grace to live life well. Paul was a good steward with what he’d been given both in flourishing times and in times of need.

Another thought I had was that a lack of contentment is linked to a lack of confidence. I am getting better about not worrying over what I don’t have (in comparison to others) and being more confident that, really, what God gives today is enough and that it is good. Sure, it’s okay to dream about having more things when financially able, but contentment stems from being a good steward with what I already have–living life well. What the world says I need to possess or who I need to be doesn’t line up with what God measures out to me and who He made me to be. So the next time I start comparing and feeling discontent, I will remember that it’s not who I am that holds me back, it’s who I think I’m not. I read somewhere that discontentment with God is like poking Him in the eye. How’s that for a visual? Psalm 118:8, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”

Living satisfied with God’s provisions in the here and now is a spiritual lesson in faith. It is to be able to ultimately pray in all situations, “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10) –to be confident that He is all wise and does work all things out for our good and for His glory.

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.” -Elisabeth Elliot

I may not understand where God has me right now. I may not grasp why God has allowed different things to happen in life. I may not know why God created me a certain way. But I do know that when I take my eyes off Him and look to self for answers, I lack wisdom.

James 1:5-7, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”

God gives wisdom generously and without scolding when we ask for it in full faith. But when I go back and forth between trusting and uncertainty, He knows that I am like a wave in the sea moved easily by winds of doubt. And God does not reward a double minded mindset. Faith in God still has questions. Lots of them. But true faith is confident to take those questions to the throne of Grace and leave them there.

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them. ”
-Elisabeth Elliot

Living satisfied with God’s provision is an act of faith. A test of self-will. And Satan uses dissatisfaction in life as a distraction from God working out His purpose in us. Satan is always challenging God by using Christians as test subjects. Am I failing or flourishing in with what God measures out to me? Do I live life well with what I’ve been given no matter what I have? This week’s resolution has me thinking about ‘abounding’ like Paul.

When “Thy will be done” becomes my heart’s desire, it is then that my mind is stable and satisfied with what God is doing and providing in my life.

 

The Habit That I Wear

 

“A nail is driven out by another nail. Habit is overcome by habit”. -Erasmus

Habit: Synonyms: addiction, custom, groove, manner, mode, nature, pattern, set, style Definitions: an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary; customary practice or use; a dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality

When I was growing up, my parents worked to instill in the 3 of us kids good habits. We made our bed every day (yes, even on Saturdays). Every day, we were to shower, comb our hair, and get dressed. Every day, we each had chores that needed to be completed by the end of the day. It was to teach us discipline and responsibility and they are habits I instilled in raising and training my son Jonathan. This post isn’t about these types of habits, however, but of spiritual ones.  One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, mentions habits in one of her journal entries.

“A habit is what we wear. A habit is the way we wear our days.”

In light of ‘spiritual habits’, which ones should I ‘wear’?  I looked up the definitions for the word ‘wear’. Here are a few; to carry or to have on the body or about the person as a covering, equipment, ornament, or the like ; to bear or have in one’s aspect or appearance.

What am I carrying lately? What is ‘covering’ me? What is my equipment?? Stress, worry, doubts, perfectionism? Usually, yesKing Solomon in Proverbs 1:9 wrote about instruction and wisdom that they “shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” Stress, worry, doubts, perfectionism are not wise habits to wear, especially if I believe that God is faithful to carry me through any situation.

Over the last year, I have been on a ‘minimalist’ kick. I haven’t nearly arrived at sorting through everything, but I did start with my closet. I donated bags of clothes that just didn’t suit me anymore. I stick to basic color schemes now that I know I feel comfortable in and that most everything matches most everything. I have a difficult time making (and sticking to!) decisions and having my closet cleaned out and simplified makes getting dressed much easier. Now that I have the basics I’m happy with, I rarely say, “I have nothing to wear”. I know what I like, I know what is comfortable, and I know everything ‘goes’ together.

I can compare that to a ‘spiritual’ closet and I know which thoughts are not comfortable..stress, worry, obsession over things I cannot change. I can choose to clean those out in favor of what is good. Stress, worry, doubt is really not supposed ‘to go together’ in the Christian outfit, anyway.

‘Put on’ bowels (depths) of mercies, kindness, humbleness, meekness, longsuffering.’ Colossians 3:12

In Ephesians chapter six, Paul writes about taking the whole armour of God; truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, faith, salvation, word of God… No stress, worry, or doubt mentioned here.

I can choose to decide that I don’t want to wear discontentment and doubt.  “Strength and honour are her clothing;”-Proverbs 31:25. I find that if I ‘take’ (mentally) the habits of stress, worry, doubts, obsessiveness over things I can’t control and put them away (far, far away), I find things I haven’t worn in awhile; mercy, kindness, longsuffering, faith, trust, the word of God. And if all that seems overwhelming, I can ‘try on’ one or two of them. I can work on kindness today instead of impatience. I can show mercy instead of an unforgiving spirit. I can let go of perfectionism in favor of a happier home.

‘Putting on’ habits is a choice. Driving out bad habits can be done by driving in a good one in its place. Difficult at times, sure. Painful, even. The natural tendency is to grip tightly to control, to discontent, and the right to feel this way. Which habits do I need to retire and which ones do I need to take on in order to be a better Christian, wife, and mom?  How do I wear my days? If I’m ever in doubt and am not quite sure how to drive out the bad habit rearing it’s ugly head, I can put on the one good one that never fails- charity/love.

“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Colossians 3:14,15

Above mercy, kindness, humbleness, meekness, longsuffering. Above forbearing and forgiving, charity is the way to wear my days because if I don’t have charity, I am nothing and there is no profit to any other good deed I could do (I Corinthians 13:2,3). Is my covering, equipment, or ornament charity these days? Something to think about each morning as I decide what I want to wear and how I want to wear the day.

 

 

Free From Envy

I’m working to get the new blog up and running, so I’m going through older posts from my former blog and ‘revamping’ them a bit. The last post, The Big Happiness, was originally written in January as I was working through verses on contentment. The verses had been straight to the heart. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

To apply: to make use of as relevant, suitable, or pertinent; to put to use, especially for a particular purpose; to devote or employ diligently or with close attention.

Lord, teach me to devote my heart unto wisdom, {understanding, too} –with close attention.

Here are my study notes from “Free from Envy”:

The focus in this study was about communication with others and in keeping the envy away from my relationship with them. When God has given me His spirit and instructs me to be content with what I have, He wants me to pay close attention, because through everything, He will never leave me nor forsake me. Not only that, He is my helper. So no matter what others have, I can be glad for them because when there is a need, God will provide, and it will be right and good and enough. No need for envy or wanting what others possess because I can choose to want the *enough* that I am Divinely given.

To be faithful in the little (Luke 16:10) is a good place to start if comparing my life to someone else’s. Am I true to God in being thankful for what I already have? Am I honorable in taking care of what I’ve been given?

And what is it that I admire in another person, anyway? Their stuff? Do I appreciate their success more than the value of their character? Some good envy evaluation questions right there.

How to be free from envy in relationships with others?

Be faithful in the little, be thankful for much, appreciate character more than success.

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13:5, 6

The Big Happiness

The struggle with being content is life-long, it seems. Why do others always seem to be successful when we struggle to just break even every month? I tend to look at what others are doing and what they have, but really, I don’t know their whole story. Maybe they are losing the small joys in pursuit of the ‘big happiness’. My ‘little’ that God has given me may be really all I can handle and is quite possibly just right for my life.

At the time I originally wrote this post on my former blog,  I was working through a Scripture Writing Plan. I liked this way of studying and would like to get back into it, I just haven’t yet. It gave me time to think about a concept and apply as I was writing out each passage of Scripture I was studying. The study theme at the time had been about contentment and what is actually ‘enough’ for me. And I’m not talking about basic needs but more about wants that I really don’t need. What is my motivation? To keep up with friends and family? To make it seem that I am super successful? What defines success anyway? Here are my study notes from “The Big Happiness” I wrote originally in January.

Content → (n) power of containing, holding capacity; (adj) satisfied with what one has or is; agreeing, consenting [Synonyms: comfortable, gratified, at ease]

“Holding capacity” caught my attention as did the word, “agreeing”. I’m connecting the dots here that I’m needing to agree with God that I am at my holding capacity ..at least for this moment, this day–which brings to mind the verse in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread”. Give me Lord, what is best and what only You know I can manage or contain. And my ‘holding capacity’ may change in the future..but that’s in the future. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matthew 6:34. So if the evil in this world is enough for one day, so are the blessings, I would think.

“A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked”, Psalm 37:16. Not all wicked are rich and not all rich are wicked, I know. But when my heart is right, no matter what my possessions are, I am able to see that they are still better than anyone else’s because they are divinely given by God who knows me, loves me, and wants what’s best for me. To not take for granted the small joys in every day and in what God has given me, is the start of living life contented. To be assured that God, indeed, is in control, He knows my ‘power of containing’ for some things and lack of for others. God made us each unique in our talents, appearances, spiritual gifts, so why wouldn’t He tailor His blessings to each individual? What works for someone else, may be entirely wrong for me and vice versa. Sure, it’s good to have goals and dreams, but I need to evaluate and be willing to be ‘at ease’ in how God made me and in His provisions. To be at ease→ that’s what just about everyone wants anyway, yet it’s our level of appeasement that makes or breaks us when it comes to contentment.

At ease→ (n) tranquil rest; freedom from concern, anxiety, solicitude; freedom from constraint

To ease→ (v) to free from anxiety or care; to lighten or lessen; to move or shift with great care

And in my evaluation of what is enough for this moment, it’s quite possible the small joys in every day are the big happiness after all. To agree with God that where He has me today is where I need to be whether it be my location, my possessions, my ‘status’ in life, and that my ‘holding capacity’ for all that, is sufficient for today. God wishes to ease with great care so that I may be at ease with Him and His plan for my life – blessings and trials alike. The ‘big happiness’? Well, maybe I need to change my definition of what that means. The ‘small joys’ of being free from concern and anxiety because I’m trusting in the One who is the Great Reliever is really one big happiness.