The calendar tells us that it is Thanksgiving, and once again I reflect on the meaning behind this holiday. For some it is merely a paid day off or a day to enjoy a turkey dinner with loved ones. For others, it is as the name suggests, a day to give thanks.
If it truly is a day to give thanks, what is it that I’m thankful for? Although I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a turkey dinner with loved ones, there is more to it than that. I need to dig much deeper. While I’m at it, I need to realize that being thankful is something to practice consistently through each and every day. A wise friend told me once that there is no such thing as an entirely bad day. There is always something to be thankful for. Many in the world would be overjoyed to have some of the things that I tend to take for granted. A comfortable home with electricity and running water come to mind. My nightly habit is to pick up my gratitude journal and write down 5 things that I was grateful for that day. Looking for and focusing on the positive has changed my life.
Part of this is not just giving thanks, but who I am giving thanks to. God has blessed me, not just with material things, but with his loving presence. Even during the trying times, he is there leading and guiding me. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for the wrongs I have done. Now I can look forward to everlasting life with him. Now that is something to give thanks for.
.. always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 (NIV)
The owner of the store I work in is known for the amazing gift baskets she creates. When she wanted to teach me how to do them, I panicked. Feeling that I don’t have a flair for that sort of thing had me terrified to even attempt it. As she guided me through the creative process, I secretly hoped the day would never come when I would have to make one on my own.
Through her encouragement and belief in me, I slowly gained confidence. Then the fateful day came when it was necessary for me to create a basket completely on my own. The fact that I enjoyed picking out and arranging the items in the basket surprised me. After wrapping it and making a bow, I stood back and admired what I had created. I even took a picture of the finished product! The saying “I didn’t know what I could do until I did it” came to mind.
Thinking about this, I realize how many times I have been stopped in my tracks by something I thought I couldn’t do. Now I realize that just because it’s something I’ve never done before, doesn’t mean I can’t do it! When I stop and pray about the situation, Jesus guides me every step of the way. Through Him, I am able to accomplish far more than I ever thought possible. When those negative, “I can’t do it” thoughts enter my mind, I just need to think of the gift baskets and remember that all things are possible through Christ Jesus.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
I willing allowed 2 young women to bleach sections of my hair and then dye it purple! Why would a conservative person such as me do such a thing? The answer is simple, because I care about building a relationship with these young women. You see, they are my granddaughters and trusting them to do this spoke volumes about my feelings for them.
When first asked, my thoughts were conflicting. Part of me thought it would be fun. The other part argued that it might look ridiculous and someone like me just didn’t do this sort of thing. Deciding to be spontaneous, I went for it. Although it didn’t turn out exactly as I had imagined, I am enjoying the comments I receive!
When one person asked me about the colour in my hair, I jokingly said that our children may have made us grey but our grandchildren make us much more colourful. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized how true that was. In the business of life we tend to let the colourful, spontaneous part of ourselves fade away. By the time our grandchildren come along, we don’t have the same pressures so can relax and allow ourselves more time to have fun with them. This is when we rediscover the joy to be found by stopping to explore everything around us.
For someone who normally likes to ‘play it safe’ my impulse to try something different has been a big eye opener for me. Wanting to be sure that I make the right choice has often been paralyzing for me. Not long ago, when I was putting off a decision, I confessed to a friend that if I didn’t decide, then I couldn’t fail. As soon as I said it, I knew that was wrong. By not making a decision, I am failing. If things turn out in my favor, it was a good choice. If not, it’s a learning experience. In either case I am moving forward.
God did not give us a spirit of fear but of trust. I trust him to guide me. He can take any mistakes that I make and turn them into something he can use.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT)
Be inspired this week!
After hearing several people enthusiastically share about juicing during the past few months, I decided to try it for myself. Being very practical, I didn’t want to buy an appliance that I may never use again, so put out a call to see if anyone had a juicer to loan me. Many replies telling me how much I would love juicing came in. This should have encouraged me, but instead made me nervous. What if it wasn’t a good experience for me?
A friend offered to loan me her juicer and although I took her up on the offer, second thoughts were creeping in and it took me weeks before I actually made arrangements to get it from her. Then, I had almost a month of wondering when a good time to start would be. Excuses to put it off were very plentiful. It seems the hardest step to take is the first one. Finally I started my 3 day juice detox. Following a plan with the menus and recipes set out made it easy for me to complete. Surprisingly, the juice tasted good and I did not feel hunger or a craving for food. When I completed my 3 days, not only did I have a sense of accomplishment, but I had lost a couple of pounds and felt healthier.
For me, the big lesson here is about much more than juicing. I need to stop second guessing myself and looking for excuses. God wants to work through me and this can only be accomplished if I trust him and take the first step in the direction he is leading me. Once I am willing to take that step he will lead me to do more than I ever thought possible.
Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. (Psalm 25:4 NLT)
Last week I received one of the most valuable gifts I have ever been given. It came in the form of a written letter. This letter was from someone who wanted to let me know how much I was appreciated. My friend had verbally expressed appreciation for me before, but wanted to put it in writing. Reading the words had a profound effect on me. The fact that I can read them again at any time is priceless.
A few days ago I was one of many volunteers at a community event. Standing in the pouring rain, taking my shift as a crossing guard, I was happy and smiling at the people who went by. One of the main reasons for this was the appreciation that was expressed. The majority of people thanked me for serving in this way. Many offered kind words and one even offered to give me his umbrella! That evening I received an email expressing appreciation for my help during the event.
These experiences have reminded me the importance of showing appreciation. Even a difficult situation can be made better when appreciation is shown. I do my best to let people serving me know that I appreciate what they are doing. How often, though, do I make a point of letting loved ones know how much I appreciate them? It doesn’t always need to be for what they have done; maybe I need to let them know that I appreciate them for who they are. How will they know if I never tell them?
One that deserves my constant appreciation is Jesus. His love is faithful and he is always there to lead and guide me. He provides me with much more than I could ever deserve and I need to show my appreciation by thanking him every day.
Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. (Proverbs 16:24 NLT)
My mouth is filled with your praise, with your glory all day long. (Psalm 71:8 GWT)
I was standing in the grass on a highway median, doing my best to keep three little girls occupied while a tire on their vehicle was being changed. They were starting to get restless when I spotted movement in the tall grass. Showing them the grasshopper was a wonderful distraction. Soon we were on the hunt for more of these insects.
Two of the girls excitedly spotted several more and delighted in watching the hopping action. The other one complained that she couldn’t see grasshoppers; all that she could see were bugs! Explaining that these were the grasshoppers didn’t help. She wanted nothing to do with them.
Reflecting on this later, I wondered how often I have missed the wonder of something new because I couldn’t see past my perception of what I thought it should be. Life is full of exciting adventures but only if I open my heart and mind to accept and receive them. Immediately deciding that I don’t want or like something means I will miss these discoveries. It is when I forget my routine life and enter into the adventure that I can truly experience what God has in store for me.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV
Clouds had been gathering and now obscured the sun. The few remaining patches of blue sky were slowly disappearing. Then I saw it. Through one patch of clouds, the sun was beaming down in clearly defined shafts of light. It was these sunbeams, bursting through the clouds that captured my attention.
Without the clouds to block it, the sun’s light is often taken for granted. Looking at the sunbeams, forcing their way through the clouds I was reminded that, although I may not always see it, the sun is still there. It may be temporarily blocked by circumstances in my life. Above the clouds the sun is still shining. If I consciously search for it, I may be rewarded with shafts of light that are like rays of hope shining through the dark sky.
One thing I have learned is that I tend to find whatever it is I focus on. Life is gloomy when I only focus on the clouds that block the light and warmth of the sun. By shifting my focus to the glimmers of light, soon I don’t notice the clouds, only the positive effects of sun reaching out to embrace me. God’s son, Jesus, is always willing to pour out His light upon me. All that I have to do is consciously seek Him. When filled with His light and love I can, in turn, reflect this to others, so they may also feel the warmth of His love.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father. Matthew 5:16 NKJV
A phone call came inviting us to go boating. It had been several years since I had been on a boat so was quite excited. We had to leave in just over an hour so quickly packed lunches, sunscreen and towels to prepare for our adventure.
Once on the lake we spent a little time exploring the area before the motor was cut and we drifted, relaxing in the warmth of the sun. The boat was not being steered and there was no anchor dropped to keep us in one spot. Since we were not close to any other boats it was calm and peaceful. When the wind changed and started tossing us about it became necessary to have someone take control again to keep us from being blown off course.
As usual, this made me think about life. While it may be pleasant to drift along for short periods of time, this is not going to get me to where I want or need to be. Every wave will toss me to and fro and I will have no direction. Even in the harbor I need to have an anchor to keep me steady. Jesus is that anchor. He guides me safely and keeps me secure. All that I need to do is pray and have faith. He will provide me with the wisdom that I need.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6 NIV
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19 NIV
I work in a lovely little gift store. It has a wide variety of items for almost any occasion which makes it a favorite place to shop in our area. We have just finished taking our year end inventory. Everything in the store had to be counted and its value recorded. This was a time consuming, labor intensive task in a store filled with so many treasures.
As the items were counted and recorded, I started thinking about taking inventory in my own life. Imagine taking the time to sort through everything tucked away in my conscious and subconscious mind. There are so many memories and experiences to think about. Just as was discovered in the store inventory, there are probably things that are no longer useful and those that had been buried under something else and forgotten over time. There are also others that are more plentiful than I first realized. In my personal inventory, anything negative needs to be discarded. Old hurts and anger have no place in my life now. What I choose to focus on is the abundance of blessings that I have experienced over the course of my life. There are wonderful memories of love and laughter with friends and family. Times I have been able to bring a smile or encouraging words to someone have added meaning and purpose to my life. Yes, when I take my inventory I see that what holds the greatest value for me are not the things that I have but the people that God has put in my life. I am so thankful to count my blessings.
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer. Ephesians 1:3 God’s Word
Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other. Don’t be lazy in showing your devotion. Use your energy to serve the Lord. Be happy in confidence, be patient in trouble, and pray continually. Romans 12:10-12 God’s Word
The river was flowing steadily as I headed upstream. It was lovely walking beside it with the sun peeking out from the clouds, warming my face. As I walked along further I noticed that the pace of the river had changed. The previously rushing water had now slowed and was much gentler. This slower pace was very calming. I wondered what had happened to cause this change in the flow so started watching it more carefully. Continuing on I came to a place where trees had fallen into the water, partially obstructing the flow. This was what had slowed its pace – a log jam.
Looking at this, I was reminded of the obstacles that have suddenly appeared in my path, slowing me down. What I perceived as a log jam could have been something put there to serve a purpose in my life. Maybe I need to slow down, reflect and re-evaluate where I am going instead of being caught up in the current of life. The blockage does not stop the river. It keeps flowing, just changes course. This is another part of the lesson. Obstacles do not have to stop me. They enable me to change my course, often to a better one I would not have taken otherwise. When I take the time to listen and observe, I realize that God has placed many lessons in the beauty of nature that surrounds me. A person may plan his own journey, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 God’s Word Translation