Practicing Gratitude

>> Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hosted in March by Iris @ Grace AloneIsn't it funny how when things are going well (or at least, what WE think of as going "well!"), it's so much easier to FEEL thankful?! If gratitude has indeed become a habit or a practice, we still find things to be thankful for regardless of the circumstances, but man, I tell ya, I sure don't FEEL it the same as I do when it's been a "good" week!! And this has been a great week!

The sky has been clear and the sun has been shining EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. since last Tuesday, and Friday's two-hour drive to the eye specialist's office was perfect. The roads were clear and dry, I had a good friend along for some great conversation, and I'd remembered my sunglasses!

My eye was thoroughly poked and prodded and examined again and suddenly, the doctor said, "Hey, there's a piece of thread or something in there!" He had to look away to pick up a cotton swab and then had to dig around a bit again to find it and swipe it out, but he figures that's what's been causing all the irritation since the beginning of February. I'm not convinced, since there's still been no change. While I think I've maybe felt less irritation in it since Friday, I can still feel it and the appearance is unchanged. In any case, doc said there was no sign of disease whatsoever and that even if the redness never completely went away, it wasn't "outside the realm of normal." Whatever THAT means! So I suppose I'm cured.

I'm thankful for the lessons God is teaching me about surrender. Last winter, it was personal finances. This winter it's been my eyes. They've been hard lessons, and quite honestly ~ just between you and me ~ if this were a normal classroom, I think there would be further testing. I know I didn't handle this well. But I'm so thankful for God's grace and that He loves me anyway.

I'm thankful The 'Man just happens to have the week off and we can spend part of the girls' Spring Break in The Big City visiting family. We haven't been there since Christmas, so it's high time.

I'm thankful we're finally seeing some indication that spring is on its way.  We still have a LO-O-ONG way to go, but it's been steadily melting a little bit more each day.  SOMEDAY, we will see green grass again!  I'm so thankful God is in control of the seasons.

And that winter isn't forever ~ even though it almost always feels like it!

Butterfly watching 

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Hard to believe...

>> Tuesday, March 29, 2011

...We were having our very first picnic of the year, in this very spot, on this day a year ago.



But I've got the pictures to prove it!



Come on, Mr. Sun....
DO YOUR THANG!!!!!!
You've got some serious catching up to do.


Melting 

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Here we go again...

>> Monday, March 28, 2011

photo by J.D. GregoryWhy is it so stinkin' hard to form good habits??!

Just like healthy eating and exercise habits, Scripture memory seems to be another one of those things that I am constantly having to START AGAIN! In some ways, I'm thankful this has only been on my mind for the last two years or so, so I haven't really had cause to feel like I'm tired of constantly trying. I think this will only be the third or fourth time I'm climbing "back on the wagon."

My healthy eating and exercise habit-development, on the other hand...  Don't even ask.

So I'm beginning again. Some of the verses I've mentioned previously, but most have been ditched in favour of new ones that are more meaningful now than the ones I'd chosen previously. I think in order for this to work, there has to be some relevance to the passages I'm working on.

The only thing I've successfully memorized in recent months/years, is Psalm 1, but it's been a while since I recited it, so I will need to spend a bit of time refreshing it in my memory.  Then I would like to move on to


Maybe having an accountability partner would be a good plan.  Hmm, I'll have to see who I can rope into this...

Blow Kiss

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Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hosted in March by Iris @ Grace AloneIt has been a rough week again. It crept up on me slowly this time, but I think I've come to the realization that I've been dealing with a bit of mild depression. Again.

Man, just when I think I've figured out how to beat it, it hits me in a new area! It used to always be self-pity and almost always finance-related; now it's coming from control issues and worry.

::sigh::

But I had a WONDERFUL evening of visiting, sharing, and praying with my prayer group last night, for which I'm so thankful. AND I learned something "new" about Jesus today that has kinda blown my mind.

Regular readers of the ol' blawg know that I listen to Revive Our Hearts Radio every day and now during Lent, host Nancy Leigh DeMoss is doing a series based on the book The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders. Yesterday's broadcast looked at the humanity of Christ. I'll let you read for yourself what spoke to me:

As a result of Christ's humanity, He left us “an example, that [we] should follow in his steps. He committed no sin” (1 Pet 2:21-22). I want you to think about this for a moment. This will be mind-blowing if you haven't thought about it before.

“He left an example that we should follow in his steps. He committed no sin.” We are called to be holy. Sin is an affront against a holy God. We are told that we are to be holy, to follow in the steps of Jesus, to follow in His example. How many of us know we can't be holy? We aren't holy. We are sinners. We have a sinful nature. We’re commanded to be like him. But here's the good news, by his grace, we can be holy.

Process this with me for a moment. Jesus was fully God—that's how He was holy, He was fully God. But He didn’t rely on His divine nature, and he did not draw on His supernatural power as God to resist temptation. When He was here on earth, when He overcame His limitations, in order to fulfill His mission here on earth, he didn't rely on His powers as God. He still had those powers. Rather, He lived a perfect sinless life as a man in a human body.

How did He do it? By depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. By using the same resources that are available to us as human beings. Get this—it will really change your paradigm about how you respond to temptation, how you try to live the Christian life. Jesus faced the same temptations, the same daily struggles, the same weariness, the same exhaustion, the same weaknesses as we do, yet without sin. He responded perfectly under pressure. Oh, that I could say that!

He obeyed God in the most adverse of circumstances. He loved unlovable people. He trusted His Father’s heart when He couldn’t see His hand. He overcame as a man in the power of of the Holy Spirit. As a man, He lived and operated empowered by the Spirit while He was here on this earth. The good news is that that same power is available to us by His indwelling Spirit. We can overcome. We can live that life as Christ lives in us.

Put these two verses together from the book of Acts: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”(10:38). He did miracles. God gave Him the Holy Spirit in power. But then look at Acts 1: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

The humanity of Christ means that as Christ relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to live that perfect, sinless, life, so we can follow in His steps by depending and relying on the power of that same Holy Spirit, relying on those same resources that Christ relied on as a man. Does that encourage your heart? It should. It encourages mine. (emphasis in original)
I find that absolutely breath-taking.  Jesus could have used His power as the ALMIGHTY GOD to face His very human temptations... but He didn't. He used the SAME MEANS WE HAVE AVAILABLE TO US!!!! He used the same power of the same Holy Spirit that dwells in us. He used the same Word of God that we hold in our hands when we read our Bibles.  Isn't that AWESOME??!

Obviously, we aren't perfect because we aren't God, and we WILL stumble and fall where He never did, but what a great comfort to know that God has provided for us the very same resources He provided for His Son here on earth.

That is so incredibly humbling and uplifting all at the same time, and I am SO thankful it's true!!

Dove 

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Extreme Spring

>> Sunday, March 20, 2011

Um, will someone please remind Spring that it's supposed to be appearing up here on the Canadian prairies, too? I'm not convinced it got the memo...


We had a lovely blizzard on Wednesday afternoon and evening, dumping another 6-8 inches of snow on our already abundant accumulation.  In the shot above, you can see the level of the snow is virtually even with the top of the picnic table.  In the background, you can see that just a portion of the trampoline frame is above the snow.  The swings are buried.  (not sure what's goin' on with the crossbar....  looks like some levelling will be in order once the ground is thawed and firmed up!)


Above is the windbreak at the front of our yard.  It's tough to tell, but the right-hand path through the "shallower" snow was left by me, struggling through thigh-to-waist-high snow to rescue Fidget who was stuck in a drift that had swallowed her boot and entire leg. The drifts against the bush are almost as tall as I am.

Hard to believe this is what the same spot looked like exactly a year ago:


Both are extremes.  We have an abnormal amount of snow this year and last year, the thaw started at the end of February already, which is a good month early.  We kept expecting blizzards in March and the beginning of April, but they never came. I guess they were saving up for this year!

The thaw this year will be interesting indeed. We're thinking of trading in the van for a boat...

White Water Rafting 

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Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hosted in March by Iris @ Grace AloneI struggled to come up with a post this week. I almost decided to skip it. It's not that I'm not thankful, but I was having one of those really BLAH days yesterday. (quite possibly a hormonal thing...)

I am thankful, however, that hubby's night shift got cancelled. They're hauling from up in the hills on some pretty challenging roads and with all the snow we got in just a few short hours yesterday afternoon, it became unsafe very quickly. They shut down around supper time, just a few hours after hubby got home from the previous "night" shift. The roads were horrible ~ either slushy and slippery or thoroughly drifted over ~ and though a couple of the trucks are stuck on the yard outside our shop in town, none were stranded or left on the road, and all the drivers made it back safely.

I'm thankful my eye specialist's office is allowing me to cancel/postpone today's appointment last-minute. I spoke to them yesterday morning after seeing the forecast, just to inquire about their cancellation policy in case the predicted weather actually arrived, and the receptionist said they would understand if I didn't want to make the two-hour trip. She said it was already raining there and that seems to have continued all day, according to weather websites. So with the massive snowfall and mild temps here, the rain out there, and then the temps predicted to fall to well below freezing and stay there for the day today... it's just a good idea not to go anywhere!! I'm thankful they're okay with that and are willing to reschedule me.

(So yes, this means my eye is still not better. I think there's been some improvement over the last week, but certainly nothing major.)

And, with all this fresh snow and the howling winds all night long, the school buses are cancelled, so the girls get to spend the day at home. As luck would have it, tomorrow was already a day off due to parent/teacher meetings, so they get a four-day weekend!! Ahh, the luck of the Irish...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

St. Patty's Rain Shamrocks Rainbow 

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Name That Puppy: Part 2

>> Monday, March 14, 2011

This little guy "adopted" The 'Man over the last week while he was working up north and ended up coming home this past weekend.

He followed The 'Man's truck all around town, stuck around by the hostel door where hubby and numerous other truckers and rail workers spend their weeks away from home, and ended up getting thoroughly spoiled when he was let into the building! They put ads up around town, called the radio station and animal shelter, but no one had reported a missing hound.

The li'l fuzzbucket got all antsy when The 'Man was packing up to come home for the weekend, and my husband, having not-so-secretly wanted a second dog for a long time already, just couldn't leave him there!! So now we're left with trying to figure out what to name ANOTHER dog.

All y'all did such a great job last time... do you think you could help us out again?

Puppy 2 

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Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hosted in March by Iris @ Grace AloneWell, the first part of the week was a little rough around here again, but I'm happy to report we are back into a normal routine ~ YAY!!  Fidget went back to school on Monday, and after a REALLY bad weekend of coughing, Peanut returned Tuesday, too.

I'm so thankful I never got hit with their
"-itis"s!!  It's hard enough to deal with kids who are sick for more than a couple of days, but when MOM is down for a few days....?  Not pretty!  So I'm extremely thankful I didn't get sick.

I'm so thankful to have been able to resume walking, now that the girls are back in school.  Tuesday morning was the first time since last Monday and I was starting to miss it something FIERCE.  I'd still been praying through my prayer journal each day, but it's just not the same as when I can do it while I'm walking!

I'm thankful to be able to see God working in my life and in the lives of people around me.  And I'm so humbled and grateful to see how God is using me. The response to Monday's post was so humbling and overwhelming that it brought me to tears.  God is so good, and I'm so thankful the Internet makes it possible to share our testimonies and encouragements with anyone who might happen to need them.

Easter Lilies 

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Celebrating Sacrifice

>> Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The season of Lent is almost upon us again.  According to Wikipedia, the traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Observing Lent was virtually universal in Christendom until the Protestant Reformation, but since then, it's become one of the more noticeable differences between Catholics and Protestants.  Growing up in (and still belonging to) an Evangelical denomination, I don't think I even heard the term Lent until I was in my late teens or even later.  It was just not something we observed.

More recently, there seems to be something of a return to the idea of focusing on preparing our hearts for Easter in Evangelical circles; making at least some small sacrifices in our lives in an effort to identify with the sufferings of our Savior.

Conventionally, Lent is described as being forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days differently.  Most common among North American denominations seems to be the period starting Ash Wednesday and ending on "Holy Saturday" ~ the day between Good Friday and Easter/Resurrection Sunday.  Now if you're looking at your calendar, you'll notice that's more than forty days, but that's because the intervening Sundays are exempt from the count and celebrated as "mini-Easters." Whatever sacrifices you're making in your observance of Lent ~ whether it's food or Facebook ~ you're free to indulge on Sundays.  I'll admit, I think this gives the observance a rather legalistic feel, and I could certainly see a tendency (in myself, anyway) to OVER-indulge on Sundays to make up for lost time! But I don't make the rules. ;)

In preparing this post, I came across a rather unique approach to observing Lent proposed by the Church of England.  "Love Life, Live Lent" is about not only sacrificing something, but also specifically taking on something NEW ~ and adding deliberate acts of kindness and generosity to the observance of Lent.  Bishop Nick Baine blogs, "The Church of England is offering two innovative ways of engaging with [Lent] – not as a quick fix, but as an aid to using Lent properly and helpfully - especially for a generation brought up on a diet of self-fulfilment." (emphasis added)

So this Lenten season, I think I'm going to try implementing a little of both, but I'm not sure how I'm going to handle the Sundays yet. I think it would be wiser for myself to NOT relax the rules!

My morning ritual has been to waste a couple hours here at the computer, drinking coffee, checking and re-checking Facebook, blogs, and email, after I've had my morning quiet time and my "walk with God" and gotten the girls off to school.  Much of this is completely wasted since I'm re-checking the same places I've been just minutes before.  I really need to break this addiction and since I was so successful with breaking my General Hospital habit during Lent two years ago, I'm going to give this a try.

Unfortunately, unlike the TV, I can't just leave the computer off all day.  Most days, I spend at least a little bit of time doing bookkeeping for our business and now in March, I will be doing all our personal income tax prep stuff.  Plus, most of my recipes are here!  So avoiding it completely just won't be possible, but my plan is to check the weather in the morning and then turn it off and LEAVE it off until I've accomplished my goals for the day, as well as during the time the girls are home and awake.  (some of you might remember I was doing this successfully a while back, but I've fallen back into the old habit of leaving it on all day again and checking periodically throughout the day regardless) So that will be the sacrifice. And it will be a HARD sacrifice ~ your prayers in this are much appreciated, and maybe even the odd phone call or email to ask me how it's going...

The addition this year will be doing something special for someone daily, whether it's fresh cookies for an after school snack for the girls, a little note to tell them they're special in their lunch boxes, a quick phone call to a friend to let her know I'm thinking of her, or a voluntary back and shoulder massage for hubby after a rough day.  I want to conscientiously make an effort to make someone feel special every day.  That's a tall order, I know, and I'm sure my efforts won't necessarily always be recognized as "special," but that's okay.  I'm not doing it for praise and recognition anyway!  I'm doing it to give more of myself and be a blessing to those around me.  Which is one of my goals for this year anyway, so this is a great way to focus on that!

Another thing I'm adding is a special Lenten Bible study hosted by Nancy Leigh DeMoss on Revive Our Hearts Radio, using the 31-day devotional book The Incomparable Christ, by J. Oswald Sanders. I have been really looking forward to this ever since they first announced it a month ago, so I'm excited to start tomorrow!  (I'm REALLY hoping my book is waiting for me at the post office today ~ it hadn't arrived yet when I checked the mail on Friday!!)

Are YOU making any special plans or sacrifices for Lent this year?

Easter Cross 

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He Has Made Me Glad

>> Monday, March 7, 2011

I had a bit of a melt-down Saturday night.

It was just before the girls' bedtime, and while in the bathroom, Peanut had puked out the entire contents of her stomach because she was coughing so hard. She's been on medication for bronchitis since Thursday evening, but the coughing really only started about 24 hours later. It was pretty extreme by Saturday afternoon.

Fidget was much better, thank goodness, but my eye infection had remained virtually unchanged. Just earlier that evening, I had thought that MAYBE I was finally STARTING to see some improvement, but it wasn't significant, by any stretch of the imagination.

And so I was frustrated and discouraged.

After I'd calmly cleaned up the bathroom floor (thank goodness it happened there on the linoleum!!) and started the load of laundry, I had myself a little cry on my bed. It had been a rough few days. I left the light off, but Fidget found me and asked me why I was sitting in the dark. I forget what my answer was, but she knew right away from my voice that I'd been crying. When she asked why, I explained that mommy was tired of all of us not being 100% and that it had been a bit of a draining, discouraging week, but that I was fine.

She ran off to brush her teeth, and I thought all was forgotten until I went upstairs to tuck the girls in, read them a story, and say our bedtime prayers. Evidently, the little monster had tattled on me, because Peanut asked me to verify her younger sister's reports that I'd been crying.

Yes, I admitted, I'd had a moment where I'd felt very sorry for myself. But then I told the girls there was still so much to be thankful for. Our little health annoyances are just that ~ annoyances. None of us is dying from a horrible, wasting disease. There are countless families in our country who lost their husbands and daddies this week in various ways and for various reasons; we still have a daddy and husband who loves us very much even though he works away from home. There are millions of children in this world who go to bed hungry at night and sleep on the cold, hard ground; we have lots of food and soft, cozy, warm beds that we don't want to get out of in the morning.

We finished up our bedtime routine and I went back downstairs to run through the hymns for Sunday morning one more time and practice my offertory. Earlier in the week, I'd chosen a relatively easy one for myself ~ one I'd played a few times before ~ mostly because with the all-day trip to see the eye specialist on Tuesday, the speaking engagement on Friday, and all the fevers and sore throats in between, I didn't want to add the pressure of learning a new piece. I'd chosen "I Will Enter His Gates/He Has Made Me Glad."

I was a bit disgusted by the irony of it all as I sat down to play, but as I played through the piece a few times, a strange thing happened: I realized I WAS glad. In fact, I was downright HAPPY! Despite the cruddy week I had, despite the feeling sometimes that our winter has just been one trial after another, despite feeling a little overwhelmed in the pseudo-single parenting department this week...


He HAS made me glad.

It's been interesting how many times that's happened this winter. Times when in the past, I would have been overcome with self-pity and ended up wallowing in a pit of despair and depression for a few days or weeks. This winter has been different. I really can't explain it, except I'm convinced it has something to do with how hard I've worked at cultivating an attitude of gratitude. It sounds cliché, but it has made a world of difference in that respect.

I serve an amazing God. Anything that happens to me here in this life, whether I consider it to be good or bad, is a better life than I deserve. I can't help but be reminded that each and every. solitary. breath. affords me a new lease on life that He wouldn't have had to give me. That is something to be VERY glad about!  I am surrounded by blessings big and small, from my programmable coffee maker to my best friends; from hot and cold running water to salvation ~ and EVERYTHING in between.

So yesterday morning in church, I discovered I could play the song honestly, with all my heart. Not just as something for people to listen to while the offering bags get passed around, but as my own personal testimony.

Yeah, I still made a few mistakes (I always do, regardless of how much practice I get in), but I think it was the first time ever that I've played without even the slightest trace of nervousness. Feeling and meaning each individual note...

I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart.
I will enter His courts with praise.
I will say this is the day that the Lord hath made;
I will rejoice for He has made me glad.


Valentine piano

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How Many Loaves Have You?

>> Friday, March 4, 2011

World Day of Prayer International CommitteeToday is World Day of Prayer and traditionally, the various churches in our community take turns hosting the service each year.  This year is our church's turn again.

The service is basically completely scripted, right down to the prayers, which is something I'm not accustomed to in my church experience.  But I know a few denominations operate their services in this manner, and the WDoP services are designed to be ecumenical.  Each year the committee from a different country is responsible for writing the service and preparation/leadership materials.  This year, the women of Chile have focused on the stories of The Widow of Zarephath and The Feeding of the Five Thousand and asked the world, "How Many Loaves Have You?"

The one non-scripted part of the program is the "reflection," or devotional towards the end, and I was asked to provide this part of the service.  As I looked at the two Biblical accounts of God's miraculous provision of food, I couldn't help but feel the above question kind of misses the point a little. Because it really doesn't matter how much we have...

What matters is whether or not we're willing to give it to God
and let Him use it.

You can read the devotional here.






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