Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Grattitudinal" Goals

So, yesterday was the end of my 30 day gratitude devotion.  However, due to my recent "funk" I am a little behind and just finished it today. 

For our final day in the devotions the author implores us to be specific in our goals.  Not just, "I want to write more thank you notes." or "I will thank my husband and children more often."  But real and measurable goals.  I have learned this is a must in the physical fitness world.  As a fitness coach at our local YMCA (don't let the title impress you, I just help people learn how to use the equipment and set up a plan for exercising) I have learned that, "I just want to get into better shape," doesn't get one very far.  Goals such as these need to be as detailed as possible. 

My thankfulness goal?  Express 'Thank You," to at least 3 people every day.  This shouldn't be too hard since I have 4 others living in my home and an awesome God I purpose to talk to each and every day.  But, I won't stop at just thanking them to take the easy way out. 

The two main things I discovered while doing this devotion are the facts that 1) being ungrateful is a serious sin of pride and 2) I fail to thank certain people because I feel like that is admitting they are better than I am (another issue revolving around pride).

Before completing this study, I never really considered myself a prideful person, but, wow, did God have a lesson in store for me.  Every time I whine, complain or just am plain not thankful, I am telling everyone and God that I think I deserve better.  Geesh!  I don't deserve anything but the fiery pits of hell, but am so eternally thankful that Christ saved me from that.  That is what I need to remember every time I want to whine about having things a bit rough.

And this thing about not thanking others....Yikes!  It totally brought to my attention that I have a very big pride issue with some people.  I withhold thanks to them because it would be admitting that I needed their help and that would make it seem like they are better than me.  Talk about pride.  What a smack in the face.  I am going to purpose to thank people no matter who they are, what they have done for me, or how it makes me feel.  I will give thanks where thanks are due.

So, starting today I need to keep track of my three thanks.  I put 2 thank you notes in the mailbox and have one more thank you to give out by the end of the day.

Let Thankfulness be the Habit of your Life.  (Thank you to my awesome mentor and friend for the beautiful gift and reminder).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Get Up Out of that Funk

It has been a while.  Sadly, I can't say I have been consistent with my readings and quiet times and I know I am suffering from it.  Why do I go through times like these?  A funk.  A time where I get everything else done but my time with God.  (OK, maybe not everything else, but you get my idea.)

I just haven't had the desire for it lately.  Does that make me a bad Christian?  That is how I feel when I skip it, or even just get so busy that I plain out forget it.  I know it is just Satan working in my life, trying to keep me separated from my time with my Lord.  Satan is good at what he does, that is for sure.  It seems to work every time. But I know my God is so much better.  I have got to get out of this funk. 

So, I get back in the saddle.  More feeling like I have to than I want to, but I know the 'have' will turn into a 'want' once I get back into the closeness that I need.  Once I get my head and heart in the right place again.  Once I get the Word back in me.

I do it all too often, and I really wish I didn't.  It is a hard thing to admit, especially here on 'blog world' where anyone can see it.  But, that is me.  That is real.

So, pray for me.  Pray that I would get out of this funk.  That Satan would get out of my head, telling me that other things are more important or more fun.  Pray that my time with God would be fruitful.  I'll pray for you too.  I hope you don't get in these "funks".  Or, that if you do, you would quickly get out of it as well.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sacrificial Thanks

(Psalm 50:14-15, 23)

Today's is a hard one for me.  Not because I have such a hard time thanking God for hard things in my life, but because, thankfully, I don't have that many hard things in my life right now. 

Don't get me wrong,  I have been through my fair share of hard things in life.  Growing up without a mom (although I did have wonderful mother figures very active in my life), having my dad serve over seas, a year of trying to get pregnant before it acutally worked, a miscarriage, and many other small issues along the way have been my plights in life. 

On this list of things, I don't see much in which I haven't been able to see God's grand scheme in it all after time.  Oh yes, going through them, was hard but in the end God has used them for wonderful things.  Had my mom survived that car accident, I would have grown up travelling the country with my dad as a pilot in the USAF.  It would have been fabulous, but would I have been loyal to the wonderful state of Nebraska had I not grown up here?  Would I have attended the University and met my amazing husband?  Questions that will remain unanswered because God's planned prevailed.  I grew up without a mother and ended up meeting the love of my life.  The only thing I still struggle with in this situation is my dad.  He has never remarried and since he is a mand of very few words (this is an extreme understatement if you know my father) I don't really know how he is in his thankfulness for my mom's death.  Wow, it is really hard to say you are thankful that your mom died when you were young.  It just feels wrong.  But, I know where she is and that I will see her again.

As for the rest it is easy to see the thankfulness in the end.  Having my dad over seas meant we corresponded mostly through email.  Evidently I get my ability to 'think' better through a computer from him, because during his time away was some of the most informative and touching communication I have ever received from him.  I saved all of those emails and still have them (that was 9 years ago). 

A year of 'trying' resulted in my precious son and a great lesson in prayer and patience and trust in God's plan.  The miscarriage resulted again in trusting God and my one experience of truly and literally 'seeing' His power.  On the way home from the ER the night we were given the news our baby would not survive, God displayed in power of it all to me by showing me the most magnificent lightening I have ever seen.  I could see and feel God telling me that He was in control of it all.  I have never been so amazed at anything in my life. 

Currently, I can't say I have any large trials facing me (well other than having to send my precious boy to kindergarten, but I am very thankful we have such a good school to send him to).  I praise God for this.  I pray that when the time comes, I will remember to 'praise Him in the storm'. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Playing Catch up

OK, behind again.  I have been doing my study but not blogging on it.  I am beginning to think I am not really that great at this blogging thing.  My goal this week is to get 4 of my 7 days blogged. You can hold me to that and help keep me accountable. I think and process so much better with a keyboard than with a pen and paper.  Does that seem weird to anyone else but me?  I just know that when I sit and type it seems I can process a lot faster than writing and thus my processes go farther and more in depth.  With writing my brain gets ahead of my hand and by the time I catch up, I have lost the thought.

Here goes,

Day 7: Healing Gratitude (Luke 17:11-15) This is the healing of the 10 lepers.  The author points out how the one Samaritan leper came back thanking Jesus in a loud voice.  We are often loud to voice our complaints about anything and everything to anyone, but how quick are we to loudly thank people and God for what they have done for us.  When you have been giving a blessing how quick are you to voice your thanks to God in front of others?  The 2nd thing she notices about the leper is that he came back to thank Jesus "from a distance".  Oh, we stop and thank people as we go, but how often do we go out of our way to show our thanks?  I thank God today for giving me a sympathetic husband, who allowed me the time away from the kids to take a nap.  Even after I was the one who spent the last two days/nights scrap booking until 1 am. 

Day 8: Gratitude and Humility (James 4:6-10) v10 says Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up. "Humble people are wrapped up in Christ....A humble person does not feel entitled to have more, or for life to by easy or for everyone to love and treat him well.  He is grateful for the least little kindness that is extended him, knowing it is more than he deserves." (taken straight from Nancy's Day 8 devotional in Choosing Gratitude).  It is just that simple.  Prideful people think they deserve better, so they complain and are ungrateful when things get tough.  Humble people realize they don't deserve a thing, and so recognize the smallest things to be thankful for.  This really hit me hard.  I know I can do my fair share of complaining (wanting the camera I have been waiting on for 2 years, too much laundry, not enough sleep, too many dishes, kids never picking up their toys, not having skinny legs, pimples on my face...Buckets!  As I write this list, I realize just how much complaining I do.), but I never considered whining an act of pride.  When I look at it this way, I realize that is what it truly is.  As I sat and prayed to God, confessing my pride in these issues, I literally had tears come to my eyes.  I asked him to make me thankful for the laundry, for that meant I had the money to clothe my children.  Thankful for the dishes because that meant I had food to feed my family and thankful for a dishwasher!  Thankful for toys on my floor because happy children were playing with them and loving family and friends had given them those toys.  I am still working on a thankful angle to the pimples....maybe that I have makeup to cover them?  Anyway, there is a positive spin to any negative and I pray that God will help me start to see that before I complain next time.

Day 9:  Gratitude and Generosity (2 Corinthians 9:6-15) God loves a cheerful giver (v7b).  If you aren't thankful for what you have, how can you give it away?  This is the question that came to me while going through this devotional that day.  If you don't recognize that you are blessed beyond belief, how can you pass blessing onto others?  Oh yes, many people do good things for others out of obligation or guilt, but God loves a cheerful giver.  It doesn't say God obligates you to give.  I think you do have to be thankful in order to cheerfully give.  How can you pay it forward today?

Day 10: Invisible Blessings (1 Corinthians 2:6-11) Being thankful for what we don't have.  Now here is an area of thankfulness I don't often dive into.  And if I do, I often feel guilty about it because it is lieu of seeing someone have something I wouldn't want to deal with.  i.e. "I am so thankful my children are healthy" as a prayer after finding out an old co-worker's daughter was just found with an inoperable brain tumor. Or, "Thank you, God for blessing me with a good vehicle" after driving by someone with smoke coming out of their car.  But truly, there are so many more things we can stop to thank Him for when we think of all the trials we don't have to face.  My husband has great job security.  I don't think I have ever stopped to thank Him for that.  I live in a small town where I don't have to worry about much violence or crime. Thank you, Lord.  I have never had a close family member in the throws of a life-threatening illness or cancer. Thank you, Lord.  My basement has never flooded.  Thank you, Lord.  There are so many more things to be thankful that I don't have to deal with.  Is it wrong of me to feel a little 'worried' now that some of these things might happen to me.  Kind of like jinxing yourself?  I guess "Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:34).  Whatever God brings me I will learn to thank Him for it.

Day 11: The Greatest Gift of All (Romans 5:1-11) Romans is probably my favorite book of the Bible because it reminds me of how much God has given us and is just such a great book on how to be the kind of Christian Jesus calls us to be.  Vs 3-5 say "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.  Nancy talks in this chapter how time can begin to dull or appreciation of that wonderful gift of salvation.  This should be the thing we are most thankful for each and every day, but how often does it just get put on the short list of things we thank Him for daily?  Start today and everyday with the true heartfelt thanks He deserves for His demonstration of love for us is this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (vs. 8)

Day 12: Gratitude You Can Feel (3 John 1-4) Today, Nancy tells us of a number of psychological studies that have been done to prove the health benefits of gratitude.  Did you know thankful people are, in general, more healthy and happy with their lives than those who are more prone to complaining?  What a great benefit to being thankful!

Day 13: Gratitude from Ground Zero (Psalm 43:1-5) "Resolve not to let you joy level be determined by the presence of absence of storms, but by the presence of God.  Choose to be joyful in Him today." (taken from Day 13 Devotional in Choosing Gratitude) Going through the Psalms you could definitely find many things to add to your "thankful I have-nots" list from day 10.  But a common theme runs through the Psalms as well.  Praising and thanking God for what He has brought them to and through.  Do you stop to thank God when it seems you have nothing?  Even when I might think I don't have anything at all, I need to remember that I have grace, love and salvation from a God who knows what is best for me in the end.

Day 14: Gratitude on the Run (Psalm 56) This Psalm is written by David after he had been captured by the Philistines in Gath.  David looked beyond his circumstances and thanked God for what He was doing in the midst of them.  Are there any specific things you can thank God for that always bring you comfort in times of turmoil?  I know I am thankful for the gift of the Spirit in me to reassure me with God's Word and love.  I am thankful to know that I can turn to Him in prayer and I am thankful for a believing husband and sisters in Christ who can give me sound advice on where to go and what to do in certain situations. 

Ah, now I am all caught up.  Hopefully, the next entry won't have to be quite so long!!  Keep thanking Him!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Benefits Package

Behind again on posting, but here is a quick catch up.

I loved the way the DeMoss put this in day 4 of my 30 day thankfulness devotional.  A benefits package.  How perfect is that?!  We definitely have a wonderful benefits package as Christians and don't stop to recognize and thank Him for it enough. 

-Unconditional Acceptance
-A Calm to my Soul in the midst of trouble
-His Word for Guidance
-Brothers and Sisters in Christ
-Assurance of the 'After life' for me
-My Home

These are just a few things I listed off the top of my head and are some of the 'major' ones. 

Psalm 103: 1-5 is a wonderful thanksgiving verse to use.  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

On day 5 Nancy challenges us to think of our thankful list as a jar of rocks.  At first glance the jar looks pretty full of wonderful things to thank Him for.  But there is still a great amount of space between the larger stones for smaller rocks, sand and even water.  What another great way to think of filling up your thankfulness.

So many more thanks to fill up those cracks:

-A car that I don't have to worry about (mechanically speaking)
-Computers and Internet
-Clorox wipes
-boxed macaroni and cheese and frozen pizza (don't call the 'super mom' police on me for this one!)
-carpet cleaners
-air conditioning
-garden produce

These are just a few of the 'random' things that have been in my thankfulness journal the last few days.  They make me think of a quote I heard a while back that said "What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you thanked God for today?"  There are so many blessings and conveniences that I have today that I take for granted. 

The fact that a quick conversation with a friend is just a text away.  That, when I am exhausted from a long day I can throw a frozen pizza in the oven or when I am not home for supper my husband can do this himself.  That my grocery bill has been greatly helped this past month by not having to buy fresh veggies because I can walk outside and pick them from my garden.  And on and on. 

O, we all have many things that might plague us down on a daily basis or even be huge struggles facing our families, but to stop and look at all the big and little things we still have to be thankful for helps you put things into prospective.

What 'random' things are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Testimony

Day 3 of the 30 Day Thanksgiving Devotional and I have already missed blogging 1 day of I impressive or what?  :)  Oh, I read the devotional and scripture that went with it, I just didn't do it at my computer, so I didn't get to journal or blog on it....oops.

Today's is about testimonies.  The reading was the first 32 verses of Psalm 107.  All of these Psalms are personal testimonies of someone or group being saved and then giving thanks.  All of the testimonies follow a pattern:  Distress, Desperate Cry to the Lord for help, Divine deliverance, and then all are ended with "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men."

The author challenged us to give our testimony today and show the same pattern.

I am afraid my testimony is not all that interesting.  I was not rescued from anything absolutely terrible other than just 'regular old sin', but that is enough for me and I am eternally grateful for it!

I was born an Air Force 'bratt' on an Air Force base in Clovis, NM.  My dad was a navigator and my mom stayed at home with my brother (only 12 months older than me) and I.  Life was pretty normal until my mom was killed in a car accident we were in while visiting family back in Nebraska over the holidays.  I was 3.  Long story short, my dad decided it would be best for my brother and I to have a more stable life than moving all over the country to AF bases with a pilot.  My dad's brother and his wife agreed to help raise us, so we went to live with them and their, then 3 month old daughter in Nebraska.  My dad visited often and was a very active part of our lives. 

So, we were raised in a Lutheran home, since that is where my aunt went to church.  I grew up knowing about Jesus and the Bible and really did believe all of it.  I can't really remember a time that I ever questioned it, but as I got older, I could tell I was missing something.  However, I had no clue what it was because I didn't have anyone around to tell me.  I always wanted to read the Bible and find out more, but I just didn't know where to begin or what to do with it to get farther into it.  So, I just stayed content with where I was.

I wasn't a rebellious child by any means.  I was active in every single school activity there was and graduated with a very high GPA, although I can't tell you now what it was... (Funny how those types of things aren't so important 12 years later.)  But, I was from a very small town and in small towns there isn't much to do, so we had parties in pastures...I drank a little, at these parties and with friends occasionally, but nothing that was life altering (and I never got caught). 

I always had a pretty serious boyfriend all through high school as well.  Thankfully, I had made the promise to myself and God to wait until I was married to have sex.  I am so thankful that God put this on my heart at such a young age, because I know my life would be dramatically different now if He had not.  When you have a boyfriend in high school for over 2 years it is hard to keep that commitment if it hasn't been fully set on your heart beforehand.

Anyway, that was me.  Typical high school student, not too much trouble, but not completely living for God. 
My home for 3 years of College
The best place for a woman to live while attending the University of Nebraska - hands down!!

When I went to college I was fortunate enough to be led by God again to a residence hall at the University of Nebraska.  I never even questioned where I was going to live when I signed up for the University because this is where my Grandmother and another aunt lived when they attended UNL as well.  Love Memorial Hall was where I would meet women who really knew what it was like to be in love with Jesus and teach me what it meant as well.  It is funny, because a girl I was working with the summer before I started college told me that she didn't think I would like Love Hall because I didn't fit the "Bible Beater" or "Virgin Vault" nicknames the hall was known for.  I am so glad, I didn't let this deter me.

It was simply through watching these girls and attending church with them that I really figured out what it was to truly have a relationship with Jesus.  I can honestly say that I have always been a Christian.  I have always truly believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, but somewhere around October of 1999 I decided to change a few of my bad habits (social drinking and chasing boys - since I was single for the first time since my freshman year in high school).  I started really studying my Bible and learning what it was like to further develop my beliefs into a relationship.

So, I thank you Julie, Audrey and Jodi for being great Christian examples to me and helping me find what I knew was missing.  And, most of all, thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for ME!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gratitude Quotient

"Gratitude is learning to recognize ad express appreciation for the benefits we have received from God and from others."

Things are going to look a bit different on here the next 30 days.  I am doing a 30 day study on gratitude.  This comes from Nancy Leigh DeMoss's Choosing Gratitude, a book I have been reading through with my Titus II Mentor, and wonderful friend, from our church.  So, you will be getting my response to the daily gratitude devotional she has in the back of this book.

The reading she gave for today was Colossians 3: 12-17.  This passage starts off stating that we are God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved.  How can you not be thankful for this? It tells us to forgive as Christ forgave us and have compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love.  To let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and the word of Christ dwell in us.  And whatever we do, do it in the name of Jesus, giving thanks! 

This passage just makes me feel good.  It gives me that warm fuzzy feeling all over.  It calls on me to do my best to give this feeling to all those around me as well and be thankful. 

Some days it is very hard to be thankful.  It seems as if everything is against you.  But over and over in this book, the author asks whether we want to whine or worship.  When you look at it that way, which one would you choose?  It is hard to be whiny when you start of your day recognizing a few things you are thankful for.  It puts things in perspective.  We have so much to be thankful for and so little to whine about.  Why waste our time and drown our spirits in whining when we could be smiling through thankfulness? 

In today's devotion, she asks us to grade ourselves on a gratitude quotient?  On a scale from 1 to 10, I would probably give myself a 6.  I am not the most grateful person in the world.  Oh yes, I know I am blessed.  I have always been very good at thanking people and God for the good things they do for me.  Ever since starting this book, I have been purposing (most days) to write down 3 things that I am thankful for every morning, this has been a huge help in my gratitude quotient.  But the author makes a point that you can't only be thankful for the cherries and roses in life.  True thankfulness comes in thanking the Lord for everything He brings you through and grows you through.  This, I am not good at.

I am pretty good at whining too.  Something I have learned to catch myself with in the past month of reading this book.  Hopefully by the end of this 30 day study, I will be closer to a 7 or 8. 

How thankful are you?  Learn with me as we grow in gratitude the next 30 days.