Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thankful Thursday hosted in November by Laurie @ Women Taking a StandWow, can you believe it? Another month gone.  Only one left this year!

In some ways, I'm thankful for the passage of time ~ at some times more so than others ~ but somehow, it would be nice for this time of year, in particular, to slow down a little.  It always seems like such a frenzy to prepare for, and then after a moment or two of peaceful enjoyment, it's all over again!!  Surely, there has to be a way to balance it out better!

Today I'm just going to share some things I've written in my gratitude journal over the last week.  It's fun to look back sometimes and see the things I've listed.  Sometimes they're really deep theological, important things, and sometimes just silly things that are so inconsequential and yet make my life what it is.  So here's a peek at what I've been grateful for over the course of the week:

  • a beautiful new blanket of white snow
  • I can hear the girls shrieking and laughing outside as they ride their crazy carpets into the ditch and race to hide in the trees and bushes of the windbreak every time a vehicle approaches
  • the soft look of fresh snow in the glow of Christmas lights
  • family sick days/weeks don't really derail many plans, other than grocery shopping!
  • a fun evening with friends watching the Grey Cup (the Canadian Football League's answer to the SuperBowl)
  • our windows and doors might not seal out the winter weather as well as I'd like them to, but I still have a very cozy home
  • the way God works in my mind, reminding me of past lessons and showing me new things
  • very soon, I will have finished reading through my Bible for the 4th time in 5 years!
  • falling snow so thick it looks like heavy fog in the distance, and yet so fine it feels like gentle mist on my cheeks
  • my groceries turned out to cost a lot less than I thought they would - yay!!
  • I have learned so much from actually studying my Bible over the last few years, not just reading it.  Growing up in a Christian home and attending church all your life tends to make you think you know it all or have heard it all, but man, that is NOT TRUE!
  • it's not "fun" for The Man, but he is capable of doing the plumbing work necessary in the basement
  • brilliant full moon shining on my face as I fall asleep
  • our second-hand couches have lasted the entire length of our marriage (goin' on 16 years!)
  • I can talk to God anytime, anywhere, and about anything and He attentively listens, even to the things He's heard over and over and over...
  • it's ALMOST time to haul out the Christmas decorations!!
  • We start our annual Jesse Tree Journey today!!
And this is just a sampling of the entries in my journal!  I am blessed more abundantly than I could ever record.  Or than you'd ever want to sit and read through!!  ;)

I don't always FEEL very blessed and a lot of times, quite honestly, I have trouble feeling like I have much to be grateful for.  But in those times, it is so nice to have a record of things I've been thankful for in the past.  I can look back over the week or month or year and see so many things, big and small, that God has blessed me with.

Do you keep a gratitude journal?  I'd encourage you to try it!

* Click the TT button at the top of the post to visit our hostess and other thankful bloggers.


Axiomonday 4

>> Monday, November 26, 2012

Welcome back to Axiomondays!  I took last Monday "off" because we had company on the weekend and so I didn't have time to work on this post beforehand, but I'm trying to take a weekly look at some of the lessons I've learned over this past year. My hope is that in doing so, it will help me strive to become more like the woman I want to be, the woman I feel God leading me to be.

And maybe it will help you, too.

Today's li'l nugget of truth:

Stop trying to avoid and protect yourself from inconvenience as though it were deadly.
It isn't.

I really struggle with this one.  I mean, I know it isn't DEADLY, but inconveniences always wreck MY PLANS!!  And when it happens, I have to admit, I don't handle it well.  My youngest daughter handles it even worse.  Clearly, I'm not modeling flexibility and graciousness very well...

Let's face it, most often, the word inconvenience could be replaced with the word PEOPLE, couldn't it?  It's always people who throw a wrench into the plans.  The child who makes a mess just as you're trying to get out the door to an appointment.  The woman from church who suddenly needs you to teach her Sunday school class tomorrow because she has a family emergency and won't be in church.  The little old gentleman driving far too slowly whom you can't pass because of oncoming traffic. The husband who craves the company of good friends while you prefer the life of a hermit...  You know the people I'm talking about.  They're countless.  The ones who have needs or wants that run contrary to ours, or hurts to whom we could minister, if only we were willing to lay aside our own agendas for a moment in time.  Sticking to my agenda ~ even as wholesome and good as it may be most of the time ~ is that more important than they are?

The quote above is actually incomplete.  In its entirety, it goes something like this:

Stop trying to avoid inconvenience as though it were deadly.  It isn't.
The Good Samaritan had other plans, too.

I know, the man was a fictional character, but I think the point remains intact despite that, by virtue of what kind of person Jesus was talking about.  The priest and the Levite who left their fellow countryman dying beside the road had agendas, schedules to be kept.  Undoubtedly, the Samaritan also had plans of his own, business to conduct, a destination to reach. His agenda when he set out that morning didn't include a dying Jew, a trip to the nearest inn, or spending all sorts of money on medical care for a stranger. But unlike the other two, he was the kind of person willing to change his plans in order to minister to the needs of another, a complete stranger, despite the significant differences that ordinarily separated them.

In light of the myriad variety and degree of urgency of the needs that surround me in my own home, my church, my circles of friends, and my community, it's really quite selfish of me to insist on sticking to MY plans, MY desires, above all else.  And given the fact that I have continuously kept a New Year's resolution from two years ago, beginning virtually every single day praying God will lay on my heart HIS priorities for the day, I really need to start expecting things won't go my way!

Welcoming those "inconveniences" might always be a bit of a stretch, but I want to actively work at learning how to graciously accept them.  To be willing to be the hands and feet of Christ, the answer to my prayers for God's very real presence in someone else's life, regardless of what I'd set out to accomplish at the beginning of the day.

I hate the thought of missing a divine appointment because I was too focused on sticking to my own agenda.


Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Thursday hosted in November by Laurie @ Women Taking a StandHappy Thanksgiving,

my American friends!!  Hope all y'all are having a wonderful holiday!  We Canadians, of course, celebrated way back on October 8 already, but I think we left you a BIT of turkey and stuffing!!

Today, I am thankful for the great weekend visit we had with The Man's brother and his wife/my cousin, and their girls last weekend.  It went by way too quickly again, as usual.  There was eating, laughing, hunting (unfortunately unsuccessful), shrieking girls, sledding behind the quad, more shrieking, movies, paper chain-making, UFC guys night out at The Man's buddy's place, chick flick night at home once the menfolk were gone and all the little girls were in bed, snacking, recipe magazine drooling; chats about organizing, decluttering, and being content; and then more eating, laughing, sledding behind the quad, and shrieking!  Good times, good times.

I'm thankful for family members that are good friends, too.

I'm grateful that The Man ~ all on his own, with absolutely NO MENTION OF THIS FROM ME ~ decided to buy a few new strings of Christmas lights to replace our non-functioning ones so that we can finally turn the outdoor lights on again.  I think we haven't for the last two years.  He's normally a little grinchy about the whole season, so this was a really nice surprise!  I can even bug him now about bein' a keener and putting up decorations long before my personal rule of December 1st!  ;)  I'm thankful for a husband who does these little things for me because he loves me.

Once again, this year I'm thankful for online shopping.  Other than the little things I customarily hand out to teachers, business associates, or stuff in the stockings, I think I'm done my Christmas shopping... and all from the comfort of my living room couch!!

I'm thankful for beautiful weather lately and the fresh layer of snow we got yesterday to cover up the previous layer that had become thoroughly settled, packed-down, and not-so-white.  I love fresh snow ~ especially in the glow of outdoor Christmas lights!  I'm also thankful the girls get a day off of school today because the drifts on the road are bad enough that buses were cancelled!  YAY!  We may have celebrated our Thanksgiving at the beginning of October, but I think this will be a nice way of celebrating alongside our American friends!  :)

Have a wonderful Thursday, wherever you are and whatever you're doing!

Shovelling Snow Carving Turkey
* Click the TT button at the top of the post to visit our hostess and other thankful bloggers.


Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday hosted in November by Laurie @ Women Taking a StandWell, it's official: winter has arrived.

We had a blizzard this past weekend that really didn't give us a whole lot of snow (only about 3-4 inches ~ while just half an hour north of us, they got over TWO FEET!!), but enough for the wind to whip up significant drifts on the road.  The Man cleared the driveway for the first time this year on Sunday.

I'm thankful we have the tractor and the blade so we can do that ourselves.  Correction: so THE MAN can do the job himself.  ;)  I'm grateful he actually rather enjoys that particular job!

If you click to expand the image, you can see
the snow whipping towards me. (yesterday's walk)
So Saturday and Sunday we got our first real taste of snow and Monday morning, the really harsh reality of winter temperatures set it.  It was -28/-18F with the windchill.  I'm SO grateful for a cozy, warm home, and the inexpensive woodstove heat that makes it happen.

I'm also grateful temps warmed up to a much more comfortable level, hovering just a few degrees below freezing since Tuesday morning.  Especially since this week I re-vowed to walk daily, first thing in the morning once the girls are on the bus!  Monday was difficult, Tuesday was PERFECT, and yesterday was nice, though I waited till afternoon and by then the winds had picked up a fair bit.

A morning a few years ago.
You know, I think I've come to realize that I actually enjoy walking in winter more than in summer.  I love summer, but for walking, I think I prefer winter.  It's nice to start out a little too cold, but be warm enough by the time I get back home to have taken my mitts, touque, and neckwarmer off.  And I've said it before, I'm pretty sure, but the sunrises are just more beautiful in the winter.  The colours are more varied and vibrant.  I'm grateful to have learned that over the years.  I used to really hate winter, and while it's still by far my least favourite season, I've discovered there are a few things I love about it.

This past Sunday.
But most of all this week, I'm thankful to be done our company's year-end books for another year, woo-hoo!!  Each year, I dread it so much and this year I procrastinated so long that I thought beginning last week would BARELY give me enough time to finish before the end of the month.  I was a little surprised when I wrapped the project up yesterday, having only spent about 15 hours on it in total, ESPECIALLY considering I was half a year behind with my QuickBooks entries!! Even more astounding was there wasn't a single instance where I couldn't figure out what had been done in going through the bank and credit card statements!  So today I get to drop it all off at the accountant's office.  YAY!

What are YOU thankful to have taken care of or completed this week??

* Click the TT button at the top of the post to visit our hostess and other thankful bloggers.


Axiomonday 3

>> Monday, November 12, 2012

I'm taking a weekly look at some of the lessons I've learned over this past year. My hope is that in doing so, it will help me strive to become more like the woman I want to be, the woman I feel God leading me to be.

And maybe it will help you, too.

Today's nugget of wisdom is:

You don't need more organization ideas,
storage solutions,
shelving units, or
cute containers.     

What you really need is LESS STUFF!

Just the other day, I kinda vented my related frustrations to The Man.  I feel like I'm constantly surrounded by random piles of stuff that I don't really know what to do with.  I dream about living in a home where there's "a place for everything, and everything in its place." My problem is so much of our stuff doesn't HAVE a place!!

Probably because we don't get rid of things when we replace them.

I could site NUMEROUS examples, but the underlying issue seems to be we believe we have ample reason to replace something that isn't properly serving its purpose anymore, but not quite enough reason to get rid of it altogether if it isn't beyond salvage. As a result, we've held on to far too many things simply because they aren't completely useless or because they may someday serve a purpose again if repaired. We have disagreements every time I spend money on more shelves or cabinets or Rubbermaid bins, and yet we are unwilling to part with our crap stuff.  And the piles keep growing.

I bug The Man a little about his pack-rat tendencies, but the reality is, I'm no better.  The only difference is, I believe, that he tends to want to hang on to larger, more conspicuous items, like furniture, garden or lawn tools, and small appliances, whereas the things I tend to keep are smaller and easier to hide in closets, dresser drawers, kitchen cupboards, etc.

Over the course of the coming year, I am HOPING to persuade myself and my dear husband that getting rid of excess stuff ~ regardless of the potential it holds if repaired, or from whom we may have received it as a gift ~ is something we CAN ACTUALLY DO!  And that it doesn't need to be feared, or produce feelings of guilt; that it will most likely make us feel better about our home and the things we DO keep.  And that if, someday down the road, we encounter a situation where that particular thing WOULD have come in handy if we'd kept it, we probably know where to borrow another one.

I am hoping this will help us value more highly the things we keep, and help us make smarter decisions about the things we replace or add to our home.  At only about 1100 square feet, our home felt HUGE almost eleven years ago when we moved here from a less-than-700 square foot house.  I'd like to get at least some of that feeling back again.

Walking Garbage Can 


A Song of Remembrance

>> Sunday, November 11, 2012 we don't forget.

"They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."

* This video tribute was created by Global TV Edmonton for Remembrance Day 2007.


Friday Funny

>> Friday, November 9, 2012

I let my kids watch TV after school.

There. Another admission.

They're allowed 30-60 minutes, depending on whether or not they have homework, whether or not we have plans for something in the evening, etc. I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of many of the shows they enjoy. I miss the days when all they were interested in was Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Kung Fu Panda, and Penguins of Madagascar. For a couple of reasons, they've moved on to iCarly, Jessie, and those annoying tweeny-bopper shows.

I find most of them not only annoying, but I'm not a fan of the underlying messages, particularly that adults or authority figures of any kind are stupid and necessary only for providing food, clothing, shelter, and exhorbitant amounts of spending money. I struggle with letting the girls continue to watch or forcing them to simply go without TV on weeknights altogether. Obviously, you can tell which side is winning so far...

There is ONE show, however, that both The Man and I quite enjoy watching together with them. It's not without its faults, to be sure, but even though the parents act questionably at times, at least there's a mom and a dad in the home, and they clearly love each other and their children. It's notable that there is more than just one child in the family, none are spoiled rotten, they all have responsibilities (GASP!), and the parents aren't just the kids' sidekicks. Rather refreshing, really.

The following clip is rather long (just over 11 minutes ~ half the show!), but you really need to see the whole thing in order to understand why the closing lines are so funny. I think you'll be able to see why it appeals to us... The Man, in particular! ;)

Enjoy and have a happy Remembrance Day/Veterans Day weekend!



Practicing Gratitude

>> Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday hosted in November by Laurie @ Women Taking a Stand
Today I'm thankful for some kinda different things.  Things I maybe wouldn't normally think to be thankful for.

At the top of my list, I'd have to say I'm so grateful for the joyful hope and quiet peace that characterize funerals for followers of Christ.  I'm thankful for the assurance my best friend and her family have that her dad is strong and healthy again, FULLY ALIVE, and in the awesome physical presence of Jesus, our Savior.

And though the reason for making the 4.5-hr trip out of town was to attend that funeral, I'm grateful for the little get-away The Man and I could also have as a result. We'd planned WA-A-AY back in summer already to go away for the weekend in celebration of my 40th birthday once harvest was over, but that never did pan out. However, since we had to make arrangements for the girls to stay here somewhere overnight anyway, we took the opportunity to stay away overnight, too. We got to do a quick bit of shopping, have a nice dinner, see a NEW movie in the theatre, and enjoy a really nice hotel room with a TERRIFIC, feels-like-I'm-sleeping-in-the-clouds bed.

And have a late-night pizza snack.
And have the leftovers for Tuesday morning's breakfast!  :)

It's the little things, people.  (I don't get to eat in MY bed.)

((And we NEVER have pizza for breakfast!!)

Here Comes the Boom official movie site
I'm thankful for entertaining movies that can tell a story without sex, nudity, or foul language. Fine cinema it was not, but The Man and I agreed Kevin James' Here Comes the Boom turned out to be a better movie than we expected. Consistently humorous all the way through (unlike a lot of comedy movies that turn UNfunny and super-schmaltzy after about the first half hour), and unexpectedly inspirational for Kevin James ~ and MMA fighting! It was fun to be among about only 11 people sitting in the theatre that night and belly-laughing out loud together. It's not award-worthy by any stretch of the imagination, but a solid story about going above and (WA-A-AY) beyond to help someone else.

What blessings great or small are you most thankful for this week?



>> Monday, November 5, 2012

Okay, so today we look at the second installment of my "Axi-o-matic" series, in which I take a look at some of the lessons I've learned over this past year. My hope is that in doing so, it will help me strive to become more like the woman I want to be, the woman I feel God leading me to be.

And maybe it will help you, too.

So today's catchy phrase is:

Anything really worth having will cost you something.

This is the line I regularly use on my girls when they want to give up on something. One, in particular, gets extremely frustrated when something doesn't work perfectly the first time, and tends to be a quitter as a result.  But let's face it, consistent long-term effort is hard!  Especially when results are a long time in coming.

While we were still struggling through piano lessons, I kept reminding the girls that I took lessons for nine years and spent countless hours practicing in order to achieve the level that I did.  It didn't just happen overnight!  And even though I've lost much of the control and agility I once had and can't play as I did at my peak, I still practice regularly to maintain what I've retained.  I still learn new songs that take time to learn. (sadly, I was obviously not inspiring enough as we've abandoned lessons!)

Relationships work the same way.  They are an investment of your time and energy.

Likewise, the things we REALLY want we have to save up for now that we've switched to a cash-only system.  If they're important enough, we keep putting a little bit of money aside whenever we can, and someday we will have enough.  Then not only will we be able to own it outright when we do buy it, but we will value it more because we know how much it took for us to get it.  (And sometimes, if enough time passes in which we happily live without said item, we come to the realization that we never needed it very badly in the first place, and then suddenly we have extra money kickin' around!)

Real gain requires sacrifice.  And on the flip-side of that coin...

Anything really worth giving will cost something, too.

I think we've lost sight of what sacrifice really means.  It doesn't just mean doing without something we like or paying a little extra ~ it means giving up something VALUABLE or paying more than you can really afford.  Like the men in Jesus' two short little Matthew 13 parables, who sold ALL THEY HAD in order to purchase the treasures they'd found.  Granted, they each knew what their treasures were worth; they knew selling everything was a small price to pay for what they'd get in return.  Yet I suspect if we thought more about the treasures of Heaven, we'd realize everything WE have is a small price to pay as well.

Too often, I think we consider things like giving up chocolate in the Lent season a fitting form of sacrifice, when probably, giving up expensive "staples" like meat and cheese in order to donate the money we'd have spent on them to World Vision, Compassion Canada, or our local soup kitchens and food banks, would be much more appropriate and meaningful. (American readers might substitute something else.  I am consistently blown away by how much less you get to pay for meat and cheese!! And Nutella.  ;)

I mentioned this quite recently here on the ol' blawg, but I have been really inspired this fall by another Canadian woman's blog who, together with her husband, has embarked on what they are calling The Year of Less.  Each day, they are actively downsizing their possessions and other various forms of clutter in their lives not just to simplify, but in order to be able to GIVE MORE.

Not just giving something up, but giving something up in order to give more away.  That is the true definition of sacrifice.

I'd like to spend some time in the coming year examining my life and determining what it is I'm really willing to work for and get started on that.

And while I'm at it, what I'm willing to live without in order to give a little more.


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