What Are You Thankful For?

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The ease with which she laughed. The way she loved playing in the snow. Her constant encouragement and faith. The way she loved everybody, no exceptions. The sparkle in her eyes. The way she utterly and completely enjoyed life. These are just a few of the things I am thankful for about my mom. Yesterday as I was peeling apples, memories of her came flooding over me. That seems to happen particularly on baking days. I suppose it’s because we did a lot of baking together, and those were always happy, laughter-filled days.

Now baking days are still happy and laughter-filled. I am so thankful for my sweet daughter, Amy, and her little girls. Yesterday we baked three apple pies and three pumpkin pies together, using my mom’s recipes. In other words, we made more happy memories together. What a treat to see the joy in my granddaughters’ eyes as we mixed the pie crust dough together. How funny to watch them sneakily pop some apple slices into their mouths. I’m already looking forward to cookie baking day!

Adina and Senna mixing the dough.

I have very much to be thankful for each day. One tradition my family has is hanging a sheet of paper on our refrigerator each November 1st with “I’m thankful for…” written across the top. It isn’t long before it’s filled with little and big things written down by everyone. I highly recommend it, because it’s a great way to cultivate a grateful heart. As Thanksgiving approaches, what are you thankful for? Please feel free to share.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

  I Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks!

I’m thankful for…

Inviting Joy In

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It was a surprise, so Mike insisted that I put on a blindfold. Then he started the truck, and 0ff we went. To where, I had no idea. Of course, I tried to figure out this secret location by noting the turns and such, but soon I was hopelessly confused. When we arrived, Mike stopped the truck, had me wait (still blindfolded) and then he gently led me out of the truck and walked with me, holding me steady. Now I could take the blindfold off. My eyes opened to see a picnic table right next to a beautiful pasture with cows grazing alongside a creek and a pond, an incredibly peaceful spot. On the table there was a cheery, red tablecloth, and sitting on top of it were delicious looking hoagies, potato chips from the Herrs Factory right down the road, and ice-cold drinks. Aaaaaaaaahhhh. It was just the break I needed.

That’s my Mike. He reminds me to have fun, to stop and take a breather, to slow down and enjoy little things, like a picnic with some cows. I’m so glad for Mike. He adds life to life! Are you allowing joy in your life? Are doing something or some things that you really enjoy?

One thing that I really enjoy is writing and taking pictures. I put together a little book for my granddaughters called “God is with Me When…”. It includes pictures of them having a variety of fun. My hope is that they will always know God is present with them and wants them to enjoy life. I’ve included the PDF file so you may have a look, if you like. I hope it will inspire you to invite more joy into your life. Feel free to share what brings you joy.

We’ve enjoyed several repeat visits to that picnic spot Mike discovered, and each time there leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to go forward.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b

Allow joy in your life.

The cows enjoying the day, too.

Perspective

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He told me his three priorities, in order.

  1. Not cut off any fingers.
  2. Not fall off the wall.
  3. Clear away all the weeds, brush, and sticker bushes.

My husband, Mike, was cleaning up the area just behind the fence in our backyard. This was not an easy feat. It required walking through tall weeds to get to there, then maintaining balance on about a 1 ½ foot wide space on top of a retaining wall, while using an ax and a saw to destroy thorny bushes and weeds that were invading our yard through our back fence.

I love how he prioritizes things. He has a clear perspective on what is important and what is most important. He also has good balance, literally and figuratively. He has always been the one to get me to take breaks and make time for fun stuff. He adds life to life! He knows what it means to live for what lasts. Do you? When was the last time that you took time to have a catch with a football or dance in your kitchen or stop and watch the sunset or…well, you get the idea!

Thankfully, Mike achieved all three of his goals. Now we can play tag in our backyard with our granddaughters without running into branches filled with thorns, which is exactly what we plan to do.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Live for what lasts.

Farther On

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To be quite honest, my first reaction was to defend myself. I even told people who weren’t involved, simply so I could justify my actions. My second and later and better reaction was to examine the situation and see if there was any truth in the criticism I had received. There was. I actually stopped and considered what I could have or perhaps should have done differently. I learned from it. I am constantly learning, and I want to remain teachable. However, as Russ Taff sings, “I long to learn, but I’m so slow at being taught.”

This is just a small glimpse into one of many failures, bad choices, bad reactions, etc. Thankfully, none of it changes God’s love for me. I think of how much I love my granddaughters even when they pout, fight, get mad, or don’t listen. God’s love is like that. Nothing changes it. Nothing.

Here’s a little poem/action rhyme I often share with my sweet granddaughters. Perhaps you will want to share it with the little ones in your life or just read it to remind yourself of God’s unconditional love.

I love you when you’re standing up and when you’re sitting down.

I love you when you’re being still and when you’re moving ‘round.

I love you when you’re right side up and when you’re upside down.

I love you when you’re laughing and even when you frown.

I love you – all the time!                    

 (Author unknown, please feel free to identify the author if you are able to)

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:10

Nothing changes God’s love for us.

Celebrate the Small Stuff

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I felt a raindrop on my forehead, then one on my cheek, then one on my arm. It was definitely raining…inside our tent. We had really been looking forward to this camping trip with our two granddaughters, ages 3 and 7, so my initial thought was “Ugh! You’ve got to be kidding me!” We had camped many times using this tent, and it’s never had a single drop of rain leak through. Now there were drips everywhere.

After pausing a moment or three, though, I realized how grateful I was that the rain started as soon as we were getting tucked in, and not in the middle of the night. Also, we had beautiful weather earlier and went on a hike, had a campfire, and cooked s’mores. I couldn’t let one little raindrop (or hundreds) steal the joy of all the wonderful memories already made.

Lately my husband, Mike, and I have been cultivating the habit of celebrating the small stuff. It’s so easy to let the bad or sad or challenging stuff take center stage, but we are reminding each other of the many little victories, joys, and blessings we see every day.

After debating our options, we ended up covering our sleeping bags with a tarp and heading to a hotel for the night. The next day we discovered we had made the right choice. The inside of our tent was pretty soaked. We left it there and enjoyed a gorgeous day of hiking the Double Run Trail, swimming and playing in the Loyalsock Creek, and grabbing a delicious meal at the Forksville General Store and Restaurant (aka Big Mike’s https://www.forksvillestore.com/). We also got to enjoy another campfire! As we celebrated the small stuff, we came to realize that it was actually big stuff. What small stuff can you celebrate today?

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.” Psalm 145:17

Celebrate the small stuff.

The Cone

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We’re not talking ice cream here. That would be better, especially in these 80-90 degree days of summer here in Oxford, Pennsylvania. No, we are talking about the other cone. The dreaded “Elizabethan collar” type of cone that dogs must wear after having surgery.

Yes, it was time, and we got our sweet little puppy, Kaylee, spayed. When we got her home, we put the cone on to keep her from licking or biting her incision. Much to our surprise, she would not move at all. We’ve had dogs before, and it always took them a little while to get used to walking around wearing the cone. They’d bump into the wall a few times but would pretty quickly figure out how to maneuver. Not our Kaylee. She simply sat and stayed. We tried all sorts of suggestions to get her used to it, to no avail.

Our puppy, Kaylee, before surgery.

Sometimes I think God puts a cone on us at times. He wants to protect us, heal us, and help us grow, but we are inclined to interfere with that process. At least I am. Do you ever feel that way? For example, there was a long season in which I wanted to move out of working in the intensive care unit. I was tired of it all – the challenges, the ethical dilemmas, the stress, everything. I prayed; I begged; I applied for other jobs. God said stay. I felt like Kaylee with her cone. Looking back now, I see that it was for my own good. I am actually thankful and glad. In case you’re curious, I still work in the intensive care unit. The challenges there haven’t really changed, but God continues changing me through those challenges.

After a few days of having to take Kaylee’s cone off to walk her and get her to go to the bathroom, our son, Dan, found a different type of cone that she actually became more accustomed to. She even sits and stays still for me to place it. Her incision is healing and we now have only 2-4 more days before we can leave it off. One of the first things I plan to do when she’s free is take her to the park then stop for an ice cream cone (for me) on the way back.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

God can change you through your challenges.

Picnics and Naps

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She fell asleep in the midst of chewing her apple slice. I had buckled her into her car seat, then gave her an apple slice to snack on as we drove to our picnic spot. Minutes later I looked in the rearview mirror to see her eyes closed and her little hand still grasping the rest of her apple slice. After I checked to be sure she had swallowed the bite in her mouth, I drove on, letting her sleep. Next I pulled into the parking area of the picnic park and continued to allow her to nap.

It had been a very busy week, especially for a 3-year-old. Mike and I had the great joy of having our granddaughters, Senna (7) and Adina (3), spend the whole week at our house. It was also Vacation Bible School week at our church, Calvary Chapel Delaware County http://ccdelco.com/. Hence, every day was full of fun and non-stop action.

One thing all of you parents and grandparents know is that kids don’t always realize what is best for them. Sometimes they don’t even want it! They need our leadership, guidance, and loving care. They need us to recognize when they are ready for a rest break, when they need to drink more water, when they need a snack, and on and on.

I’ve realized that I don’t always know what is best for me or what I need either. However, God does. He promises to provide for us, guide us, and always be with us. He cares about us and for us. I am so thankful to be His child.

Honestly, it made me feel really good when Adina got a little nap in the car and woke up feeling refreshed. We got out of the car and had our picnic, then played together for quite a while before we needed to go pick up Senna. I imagine it makes God feel good when we allow Him to care for us, too. I encourage you (and me) to go to Him with our needs and trust Him to do what’s best for us. He will. What will you trust Him with today?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

What will you trust God with today?

Here are a few pics from our fun-filled week.