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.

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.