Practicing Gratitude 11.28

>> Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday hosted in November by Laurie @ Women Taking a StandHappy Thanksgiving, my American friends!  Hope your day is sufficiently full of family, friends, fun, food, and football ~ and all the good times and great memories that come with!!

Again, I've struggled with feeling thankful this week and so the term "practicing" gratitude is quite fitting.  That whole "facing the future with joy" thing has been a struggle lately.  I'll be honest, it really hasn't been happening at all.  Fear, worry, and/or self-pity would be more accurate.  It's difficult to focus on small, everyday blessings with something big and scary in the way.

But like anything else really worth having, growing a heart of gratitude takes time and requires effort.  There are always going to be times when we don't feel like there's anything to be thankful for.

And yet...

  • I enjoyed a fun evening with just my youngest while The Man was gone for the weekend to help his sister and brother-in-law on their cattle farm and Mack was at a friend's sleepover party.  AJ and I went out for supper, then made popcorn and cuddled on the couch to watch Elf on TV.

  • The church we've been attending this fall has an abundance of talented musicians.  I just love all the music and people that are incorporated into each Sunday morning service.

  • Though we are still relatively new to the aforementioned church, the people have been exceptionally warm and friendly and are doing a great job of making us feel welcomed and wanted, which is a direct answer to prayer.

  • Lazy days bother me more than they used to.  I think I'm finally becoming more purposeful and self-disciplined!!

  • My legs, back, and arms are strong enough to carry 3-4 armloads of firewood down into the basement every morning.

  • I have the ability to read well and access to limitless reading materials on my bookshelves and online.

  • My programmable coffeemaker ensures I have a hot cup of coffee (or three!) waiting for me the moment I wake up.

  • I have warm, snuggly, fleece sheets and a soft bed.

  • I love my job.
And so much more.

This month's page of my Revive Our Hearts calendar quotes, "No circumstances are so dire that they can't produce hymns of joy and thanks on the lips of those who know their God." And I can't help but think of the stories I know of song-writers from by-gone days and some of the awful circumstances that spawned so many of our beautiful, best-loved hymns.  Truly, these men and women literally put Paul's instructions to the Colossians into practice:
And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Regardless of circumstances, God is still good.  His ultimate plan is for me to see His glory through and despite those circumstances, and so I will see it.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow... maybe not till eternity.  But I will see it.

And I will continue to practice counting my many blessings along the way.

Thanksgiving Thoughts
* Click the button at the top of the post to visit our hostess and other thankful bloggers. (I think her blog is working properly again after some issues!)


Wordless Wednesday:  Halo

>> Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More WW entries here.

snow globe 2


The Stormy Sea Test

>> Monday, November 25, 2013

So our pastor is in the midst of a series on the Gospel of Mark and yesterday's sermon was a survey of most of Chapter 6 ~ the disciples' "missions trips," Herod's reaction to Jesus, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, and Jesus' midnight stroll on the stormy lake.  He made a very interesting point about v. 45, where the account transitions from the miraculous supper to the watery walk.  It says "Jesus made His disciples get into the boat..."

Apparently, this word translated "made" in English is a much stronger word in the original language.  "Forced" or "compelled" would have been more accurate.  The disciples didn't want to leave Jesus behind; they wanted Him in the boat with them before they crossed the open water.  They wanted to stick together, yet Jesus refused to go with them and insisted they leave without Him.  Why?

Because His purpose for them was to experience the storm seemingly without Him at their side.

Their faith and understanding needed testing at this point.  They'd come back from their missionary trips, where He'd specifically given them power to heal and cast out demons.  They'd felt His power coursing through them, and they'd seen His power at the lakeside when He fed thousands of people with next to nothing.  Now it was time to see if they'd learned the lesson.

It appears they hadn't yet, but it just really struck me that Jesus specifically sent them on without Him to experience something He knew would scare and test them in a way that the missionary trips to potentially hostile towns and a hungry crowd at suppertime just didn't.  His plan was to come alongside them in their hour of deepest need regardless of their reaction, but they needed to be in a situation where it seemed like He wasn't anywhere to be found.

How many times do we find ourselves in situations where it seems like He's much too far away?  Is He really that far away or is He testing how far we've come in our journey with Him?

How comforting to know His plan is always to come alongside us and calm our fears and keep us safe, even if He doesn't always necessarily calm the sea.


Practicing Gratitude 11.21

>> Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday hosted in November by Laurie @ Women Taking a StandBeing thankful this week has been harder again. There are just those weeks where it doesn't seem to matter how many things I write down in my journal that I'm grateful for, it doesn't help me FEEL thankful.  Or blessed.  The problems just seem to overshadow everything.

In those moments, those weeks, I need to remind myself that what I do have, I don't deserve.  God didn't owe me.  And though I did nothing to earn it, there's something much greater than any earthly problem ~ even greater than any earthly good I could imagine! ~ awaiting me.

I AM blessed beyond measure because I have the promise of eternity with God.  My problems ~ which seem overwhelming at times and yet pale in comparison to the problems of so many others ~ are temporary.

Even if they last my entire life.  You often hear the phrase "you can't take it with you" in reference to having to leave material possessions behind at death, but hallelujah, you can't take your problems with you either!!!  Isn't that awesome?!

These are the days I need to counsel my heart.  I cannot let my emotions or imagination dictate how I feel about my life.  I have a good life.  God is good.  I will be thankful for His mercy, His grace, and the many blessings He sends my way.

And I will ask for clearer vision so that I can recognize the blessings for what they are.

Shovelling Snow 

* Click the button at the top of the post to visit our hostess and other thankful bloggers. (I think her blog is working properly again after some issues!)


What did YOU have for breakfast?

>> Monday, November 18, 2013

I was going through some old posts the other day and came across this one. It was funny all over again and so I thought it might be a good way to kick off your week.

Happy Monday!!



Practicing Gratitude   11.14

>> Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankful Thursday hosted in November by Laurie @ Women Taking a StandWell, I can't say I love this time of year, but I am thankful for the eyesight and ability to see and enjoy the beauty of nature, even in this season of cold, dark, short days! It IS still there... sometimes you just have to look a little harder and more deliberately.  And the increasing hours of darkness give me yet another reason to be thankful I don't have a full-time job ~ I get to see whatever daylight there is every day!

I'm thankful for the perspective on life my daily walks give me, regardless of the weather.  When my parents were out last weekend, my dad shared the story of a woman he crossed paths with once while out on his daily walk.  He guessed they'd probably been the only two souls out for a stroll one rather miserable winter day a while back.  She figured half of the reason so many people had mental and emotional trouble was because they didn't walk enough.  There is definitely something to be said for a walk that goes far beyond exercise. It is good for body, mind, and soul, and I'm grateful for the health and physical ability to be able to do it.

I'm thankful for good boots that make walking possible even in the winter... although I wore them for the first time on Tuesday and they thoroughly tore up my heels, so now it'll be a few days before I can handle putting them back on again!  They are several years old and somewhat worn out on the inside right at the heel/ankle joint, so there's an exposed metal piece causing me problems.  But I love those boots!!  They're the best winter walking boots I've ever had!  There's nothing wrong with them otherwise, so I will have to see what I can come up with so that I can wear them at least one more winter.

And quite honestly, I'm thankful for the dark, early mornings now.  I love the warm, bright summer mornings, but there's just something so peaceful, cozy, and intimate, about these dark, quiet, winter-ish ones.  The sky is still almost pitch-black; there's no sound, no signs of life.  The wind howls outside, but I can wrap my hands a little tighter around my first mug of coffee and enjoy the warmth and quiet of my tiny, cozy, woodstove-heated home while I spend time with God.  I guess I'm just grateful for those morning appointments, no matter what time of year!

What are YOU most thankful for today?

Shovelling Snow 


WW:  I think summer's over...

>> Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More Wordless Wednesday here.



Respect and Remembrance

>> Monday, November 11, 2013

The Man and I saw the movie Red Dawn not too long ago.  Actually, we saw bits and pieces of it three times while it aired on our satellite movie channels.  Finally, after the third time, we'd seen the entire movie.  Anyway, the third time when we finally managed to catch the very first 10 minutes when you see the skies filled with enemy paratroopers, The Man shook his head and simply said, "Man, that'd be scary."

"No kidding." I replied.  "How would you even know what to do, how to fight?!"

"We wouldn't," he responded simply.  "We aren't taught to fight anymore.  We're not taught there are things worth fighting for and that it's okay to fight for them."

Moments later in the movie, young marine Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth's character) has a line that says something quite similar.  When the full realization of what's happening hits and a small group of high school students are suddenly faced with a very sobering life or death decision, he says, "We inherited our freedom, now it’s all up to all of us to fight for it...

"For [the invaders] this is just some place, for us this is our home."

That got me thinking.

It's unfortunately popular to disparage the North American war efforts of the last century.  Trendy to criticize and place blame for lost lives.  This isn't to say that some of it isn't deserved, but try to think about the things you feel strongly about today and how your kids see you fight for the things you think you have a right to own, enjoy, expect, etc.  How do you think your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will perceive those fights if the tales are recounted for them?  Will those causes seem as worthy then as they do now?  Will they see selflessness and heroism or will they see only ulterior motives and greed?  Will they comprehend all the things you had to consider and the elements involved in the decisions you made or had to make?

Not likely.

Maybe that's part of our problem.  We don't see the events that lead to past decisions.  We don't feel the very real fears that were felt at that time, in those moments.  We can point fingers and make accusations all we want; we weren't there.  We simply don't know what it was like.  By and large, we as North Americans don't know how scary it is to feel threatened.  The events of 9/11 reminded us briefly that we weren't invincible, and defending our homes and ways of life became more important for a time, but even then, I don't know that we were really concerned about a large-scale invasion and an impending loss of life as we know it.  Certainly not up here in Canada, anyway. We just don't know how it feels to really, truly, viscerally believe that our lives, our families, our livelihoods, our futures, are in imminent danger.

Maybe past governments, past warriors, didn't do it the very best possible way.  Are we so certain we would?  Will there be new technology in the future that makes our way of dealing with it seem backwards and uninformed?

I hope we think of the future when we fight, if the need arises, whether literally in armed conflict or more figuratively in the various battles we encounter from time to time in our lives.  I hope we choose our battles wisely, knowing our children are watching and learning from our decisions.  I hope we teach them there are things and people worth fighting for.  I hope we teach them to respect and remember those who fought before our time, because they believed WE were worth the fight.

If there were no other reason, that should be enough.


Practicing Gratitude 11.7

>> Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hosted in November by Laurie @ Women Taking a StandNovember.  Wow.  Guess I better start thinkin' about Christmas!

In some ways, I'm happy to begin thinking of gift ideas, baking plans, and holiday music, but at the same time, I know how tired of it all I can get, so this year, I'm hoping to pace myself a little ~ you know, start a bit earlier so that I don't have to do everything in the last week or two!

Anyway, this week I'm thankful for:

  • a new Wednesday night hobby ~ I joined our local community band after one of the Valley music teachers offered me a loaner French Horn for the year.  It's fun, it's challenging, and I'm meeting some new people.
    I'd forgotten how much I really enjoyed band.
  • Yuletide Fireplace Channel!  :)
  • washing carrots outside without needing a jacket even though it was November 2nd (and having 28 generous 2-cup packages in the freezer and three large Ziploc bags of whole carrots in the fridges!)
  • a husband I can have really good conversations with over coffee in the mornings after the girls are off to school.
  • being a stay-at-home mom because it means I'm there if and when my girls need a shoulder to cry on as soon as they get home from a particularly tough day at school
  • firewood
  • a great visit with friends we haven't seen in a long time
  • my parents arrived home safely after a 3-week road trip in the States
  • an aunt who gladly makes clothing repairs and alterations for me (I don't know how to sew) and asks that I come over for coffee or lunch as her "payment."
  • daughters who ask hard questions, wanting to understand Christianity and the Church and how they work together
...and so much more!

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


Wordless Wednesday

>> Wednesday, November 6, 2013

More Wordless Wednesdays here.


The Relief of November

>> Friday, November 1, 2013

I think November 1st is becoming my favourite day of the year. At least, it's pretty high on the list.  While I feel it's a little early for Christmas things, November's beginning always feels like a breath of fresh air.  A sigh of relief.

My annual "season of conflict" is over again.

I don't think I've ever really addressed it on the blog before, but most of my "real life" friends and family know that I have trouble with Halloween.  I've never been a huge fan, even as a kid, and grew to loathe it as a young adult.  In recent years, it isn't so much a loathing anymore, but an increasingly bothered conscience.  A nagging feeling that there is no good reason for doing this, for which I guess I blame this whole idea of wanting to be more deliberate and purposeful with my life.

I have no issues with dressing up, with make-believe, or with exchanging candies with neighbours (or sending my kids to do it!).  I DO have a problem with the lengths our society goes to make Halloween as grisly and ghastly as possible, and I happen to have a child who is hyper-sensitive to anything even remotely scary or gross.  We have to leave the TV completely off in the second half of October because even the briefest of commercials can result in endless nightmares and uncontrollable fear at bedtime.  She affords me a very convenient excuse for my Halloween avoidance, but much more than disliking the blood and the gore, I just don't understand why we have Halloween at all.

Trust me, I've heard all the arguments about why Christians can, or even should, participate in this "holiday," but virtually all of them sound more like justifications than actual supporting arguments to me.  I don't dispute the reality that there are countless ways to redeem the tradition if you're going to participate anyway, but I can't figure out why it ever became a nationally-recognized day with its own celebratory traditions in the first place.

When weighing in on the subject, many Christian observers of Halloween seem to delight in pointing out that Christmas and Easter were originally pagan holidays as well; the early Church merely Christianized the festivities so that they didn't need to feel like they were sinning when they adopted many of the traditions.  You know what?  I don't dispute that.  Was it the right thing to do way back when?  Not likely.  And if it wasn't right for Christians to merely assuage their consciences about participating in those two particular celebrations in antiquity, it certainly isn't right to do it again in more recent times for Halloween.  Two wrongs don't make a right; three don't improve the odds any.

But the debate about the right-ness of Christianizing ancient holidays aside, I believe that regardless of the date, there ARE unquestionably excellent reasons for Christians to celebrate Christmas and Easter.  Whether the early Church "took over" the pagan festivals at winter and spring solstices for their religious purposes, or had decided to celebrate them on June 4th and September 19th instead wouldn't matter.  Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection, are still reasons to celebrate.  You can't escape their importance and significance to our faith.

Thanksgiving also makes perfect sense for Christians.  We want to live in gratitude for God's provision, protection, and providence, and so it is logical and fitting to have a special celebration of thanksgiving when the harvest season is over.

Even St. Valentine's and St. Patrick's Days make some sense, though I don't understand why these two men, in particular, have been elevated above any and all other missionary pioneers and martyrs.  These holidays have lost much of their meaning and our traditions have virtually nothing to do with their origins, but it makes sense that Christians would observe special days to honor the people groups they represent.

What heroes of the faith are we honoring at Halloween?  What are we commemorating?  What sacred event in Christendom are we celebrating?  If it really is just about dress-up and candies, why isn't it a locally-determined date (climate-wise, it would make far more sense to have it in May, June, or September on the Canadian prairies) instead of universally being observed on the one day formerly recognized as the terrifying annual return of the dead, the one chance pagans thought they had to appease restless spirits?

THAT is where my problem with Halloween lies if I claim I want to live purposefully and deliberately.

But unfortunately for me, that's not the ONLY problem.  Because what that problem does is create problems with virtually every other custom, tradition, and habit I carry out.  I struggle to understand why this particular custom bothers me so much more than any others. The temptation is to say if I'm so unconcerned about other seemingly silly, harmless, meaningless habits and cultural norms, then I shouldn't be so bothered by Halloween.  But conversely, I worry it is more likely an indication that I haven't spent enough time thinking about why I partake in those seemingly silly, harmless, meaningless habits and cultural norms.  It opens up all SORTS of cans of worms!

For me, this problem is bigger than just Halloween.  That's sort of the impetus, but it's only representative of a much larger, all-encompassing issue.  The niggling questions about my purposefulness are there year-round, but they intensify considerably as the end of October approaches and I'm faced with the Great Halloween Debate once again and what it really represents.

While I feel it's unlikely that this issue will ever be completely resolved or reconciled in my mind, I always feel like once Halloween is over for another year and November arrives, I can breathe a little easier.  Not that the importance of wanting to live deliberately will fade into oblivion, but somehow it feels like the pressure to have it all figured out and articulated is off for now, and I can focus more on simply trying to apply to everyday life what I say I believe.

Either way, you can see why I've become such a fan of November 1st.


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