Archives for November 2013

Step #7. Give Grace

season

I didn’t post anything yesterday. Since starting this series I’ve made an attempt to post every Tuesday and Wednesday. My parents were in town visiting until late yesterday afternoon. I made being present a priority. I hardly opened my computer. Apologies if you are awaiting an e-mail response from me! It’s coming soon.

In the past I might have let my inbox or the need to post translate into stress. But not this year. I’m finally learning to just let go. There is zero chance of me living up to a Martha Stewart Christmas. My side dishes for Thanksgiving won’t make it onto your Pinterest board. I will not be meeting the expectations of our culture’s holiday season, and the sooner I remember that fact the more pleasant my days will be! Part of tuning my heart to sing grace actually involves the permission to say “no” in order to say “yes” to receiving grace.

I’m talking to you, Miss/Mr./Mrs./Ms. Perfection. This season that celebrates the Prince of Peace also threatens to steal our peace. But let’s make a promise right here and now: fight guilt with grace.

stepStep #7. Give Grace

  • The house doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe this is the year to scale back on decorations, or even gifts. Perhaps the tree doesn’t make an appearance until December 20th. Don’t take on the whole meal, ask guests to bring all the side dishes. Stop apologizing for the mess, instead, welcome others into your home with a willing heart.
  • It’s okay to play hookie every once in a while. I don’t want to miss an appointment or be rude, but sometimes I also just need to tell myself that the world will not stop spinning if I don’t write a blog post! You can express real regret (when you RSVP – which apparently is a lost art!) when you have to decline attending your 8th party of the year.
  • On the other hand, sometimes we say “yes” to others in order to bless them, even when there’s nothing gain on our end. I will always remember my mom telling me about the shift she made in her thinking about funerals. She doesn’t attend for the person who has passed, instead she attends in order to love on those who are hurting and grieving. There are a lot of things I don’t “feel” like doing – but it’s not always about me, is it? Maybe White Elephant exchanges aren’t your thing, so you take one for the team rather than acting the Grinch at the party.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt to the cashier, waiter, or staff member. We never know what kind of day someone else is having. Demonstrating patience is a tangible evidence of grace.
  • Freely dole out grace to friends and family who are also fighting the stress of the season! Push off any drama by being the one who is quick to speak kindly and forgive quickly.

“Grace isn’t natural, but supernatural. The natural responses when you get hurt are either to strike back or to withdraw. When we instead step out of the way and allow God to work through us, responding with unfailing love, even perennials that have endured a deep freeze may lift up their wilting heads and live.” (Dee Brestin, The Friendships of Women)

  • Encourage others to walk in grace. Instead of bragging in this year’s Christmas letter, speak truth! Lead by example and be willing to admit that although you had a great 2013, it also had some really trying chapters. For instance: I just wrote this sentence after my daughter made me cry. Yes. We’re both crying. I’ve been trying to put her down for a nap for almost 2 hours. SHE JUST NEEDS SLEEP. Forget accomplishing anything today, the kid needs to nap for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Love her to the moon and back but want to scream, “CLOSE YOUR EYES AND SLEEEEEEEP.” Authenticity is a gift this time of year.
  • Daily connect with the Author of Grace. If we want to have grace for ourselves we need to find it at the true source!

This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all. 

…To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

pumpkin

Gift yourself the chance to be less than perfect this season. Rely on the Lord and depend upon His strength. When you start resting on the promise that you are loved and that His grace is enough, you can’t help but sing of that grace.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

Step #6. Practice Prayer

Step #6. Practice Prayer

season

First words that come to mind when I tell you that there are eight days until Thanksgiving and thirty-four until Christmas? I’m guessing rest and renewal don’t make the cut.

The expectations of this season are so high that what often gets side-lined in preparation for these holidays is time with the Lord in prayer.

“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.” –Rick Warren

Today I want to talk you through the idea of rest and renewal through prayer. I believe with all of my heart that if we invest in this time, the reward will astound us.

Now when I mention prayer, some of you immediately feel more rested. For some of us, prayer is as comfortable as pulling on comfortable sweats.

For others prayer can feel like fitting into a suit we purchased in 1998… it’s a ton of effort only to end up feeling uncomfortable, out of date, and defeating.

This is coming from the perfectionist who served up rote prayers for decades and felt uncomfortable with free-styling prayers that went longer than two or three minutes. Prior to finding freedom, my prayers were giant lists of names and sins. I prayed for the requests and needs of others and asked for forgiveness for all the wrong I had done. Much more than that and I began worrying about the construction and content of my prayers. Simple tools like ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication only made me feel nervous. My mind wandered and I lived in guilt. I didn’t want to pray.

And yet.

God invites us to pray. Jesus demonstrates how to pray.

If we desire to have our hearts tuned to sing God’s grace we must spend time communicating with Him.

stepStep #6. Practice Prayer.

The truth: I know I should pray so much more than I do AND I often feel as though everyone else prays more and enjoys it far more than I do.

Sybil MacBeth seems to feel similarly and writes in her book Praying in Color, “…But a short attention span and a proclivity for daydreams hamper my efforts. Five or six sentences or breaths into a well-intentioned prayer, I lose focus…. The words of my prayers and the words of my distractions collide in an unholy mess. On a good day, when words flow with more ease, I become so impressed with my successful articulation that I become the center of my own worship. It is not a reverent sight.”

If prayer is something worth doing, then it’s something worth practicing. We aren’t seeking perfection, but communication with our Father. Write, color, draw, sing, walk, speak, just start somewhere!

I know why I must pray in spite of any perceived shortcomings. I must pray because of the deep hunger that stirs inside of me to know the Creator of the Universe. Prayer is our direct way to connect with Him. “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” Psalm 66:20.

luther

In prayer we find a connection to the One who holds our worth, our futures, hopes, fears, dreams, and longings. Jesus lived through prayer, learning to speak God’s words, to do God’s will, and to pursue God’s glory.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

Following and learning,

Ginger

 

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

season

Friday afternoon I was sitting at a nail salon getting a pedicure for the first time in five months. It was a delightful little gift to have my in-laws watch my kiddo while I stole away for an afternoon of errands. I took the book that I’ve been reading since that last pedicure in June. Reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts is like eating Thai noodle soup. The bowl is huge, and it takes focus and precision to get all the goodness with your chopsticks. I’m loving every bite, but I feel like I must savor it. Back to my story.

My toes were being painted with a coat of Guy Meets Gal-veston (Texas, represent!) while I poured over the latest chapter. I was pleased when I entered the salon and discovered they were playing classical music and there wasn’t a TV to be found in the place. There’s nothing worse than trying to focus and having your brain power stolen to watch Extra. So I’m reading and relaxing when all of a sudden the first stanza of Come Thou Fount begins to play, the single notes of the piano stilling every muscle in my body. I look around but no one else is stopping, no one else seems to be hearing. As quickly as it starts, the music stops and another song, a classical rendition of a One Republic chorus begins to play. I don’t know if the CD was changed at that moment, all I know is that for a few brief moments, I heard my song. If you’ve been following this series, you know what it meant to my heart to hear those notes. Even as I sought rest and relaxation, God was continuing to speak to my heart: I have true rest for you. I know what you need. I know how to encourage you.

 aha moment

I cannot tell you how refreshing that moment was, and I am so thankful my ears were listening for it. Because I wasn’t busy  thumbing through the web on my phone, my ears were ready to pick out the tune. Limiting distractions has real benefits. Because I had spent time in the Word that morning, my heart was attuned to hear… tuned to sing of grace.

stepStep #5. Listen for the Echoes

I love how the Lord uses every possible avenue to speak to our hearts. It can be easy to brush things off as coincidence, but I believe that we can discover hope and joy when we are willing to look for God’s voice in our lives, the sacred echo in our world.

“…Like an echo, God often uses the repetitive events and themes in daily life to get my attention and draw me closer to himself…  I call them sacred echoes because I noticed that throughout my relationships, daily life, and study, the same scripturally sound idea or phrase or word will keep reappearing until I can no longer avoid its presence.” (Margaret Feinberg, The Sacred Echo)

When you hear it, take note! Take a picture, write a line in your journal, say a prayer of thanks, just don’t let the sacred moment pass you by. When we pause to recognize the supernatural in the midst of ordinary, our hearts cannot help but to sing His grace.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

Listening and Following,

Ginger

 

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #4. Rest

season

I know exactly when my daughter needs a nap. She switches from her usual lovely self to an angry/fussy version that if I’m honest, isn’t my favorite. Every noise sounds both sad and angry. She simply needs some rest. She ate, played, and her little body has to refuel before she can make it through the next portion of the day. It feels like she’s the only person on the planet who doesn’t realize that tired = I need to sleep. She FIGHTS sleep during the day. She could medal in trying to keep her eyes open. As her mom it can feel so frustrating to know that the one thing she really needs is the one thing she doesn’t seem to want.

We are approaching a time of year when busyness is prized. We sleep less, fill our calendars with more, and then wonder why we end up exhausted, irritable, and distracted on Christmas Eve. The challenge for today is to make rest a priority, and I don’t just mean sleep.

If I want to keep my heart tuned to sing of grace, I have to listen to the words of Jesus when He calls.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31, NIV)

“If you are caught, as I was, in the barrenness of a too-busy life, look to Jesus. The gospels reveal Him as a man who had learned the importance of saying no. The were times when He said no to the demands and requests made of Him, times when He said no to the crowd and got away to be alone with His disciples, times when He left the disciples to be alone with His Father.” -Colleen Townsend Evans

stepStep #4. Rest.

Our physical bodies definitely need rest and sleep, but our spiritual lives need just as much rejuvination. There’s a reason God commanded us to rest on the Sabbath.

The temptation can be to utilize the weekend or days off with the items that keep getting pushed down our to-do lists. We find an open Saturday or Sunday and quickly begin to fill them with lots of good things while God has the BEST thing for us: REST. On my trip to Israel last spring I began to view Sabbath in a whole new light. It wasn’t a rule to follow, but a GIFT from God. He wants us to rest from work because we need it!

“God presents the Sabbath rest as a shelter we can enter.” ― Charles R. Swindoll.

I don’t know what Sabbath will look like for you, but I know that God would not command something without an important reason. I started my own routine for Sabbath when I was working at a summer camp. In order to be refreshed for the whole week, I spent a portion of it reading, a portion of one-on-one time with a friend or family member, and a portion worshipping with a body of believers. I knew not to schedule much, but to train myself that just “be-ing” was necessary to keep my spirit at rest.

Some ideas for your Sabbath:

alone

1. Cyberless Sundays
2. Screen-free weekends
3. Cook ahead and just reheat leftovers
4. Family picnic
5. Spend the day outdoors
6. Reading
7. Attending a Worship Service
8. Sharing a meal with friends or family
9. Reading the Word out loud at the table before and after meals
10. Worship CD on in the house or car
11. Take a prayer walk
12. Refraining from shopping
13. Going through old photos and remembering God’s faithfulness together
14. Rest from worry!
15. Avoid homework/paying bills/and stress-inducing tasks
16. Learn the Shabbat prayer and why it is so important to the Jews.
17. Light candles.
18. Start small if necessary and build up: 5 hours, then 6, then eventually a full day!
19. Create a Sabbath box and place distracting items in the box for the duration.
20. Save stressful conversations for another day.

It is important to note: practicing rest or Sabbath when you “feel like it” does not make the experience more authentic. It’s so important to be intentional with our rest. Make rest part of your weekly rhythm. The gift of Sabbath will tune our hearts to sing God’s grace more freely!

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

May your rest be deep and nourishing to your soul!

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #3: Limit Distractions

season

I sat staring at the screen for several minutes.

The boxes were doing their little dance as the dark xs taunted me. Surely deleting the apps wasn’t THAT big of a deal, but the longer I took to make them vanish, the more I realized I was addicted to distraction. Sitting in waiting rooms, that two minutes before the oven timer goes off, while rocking my daughter to sleep… anything that could be a mindless activity begged for the glow of a small screen and updates from the world around me.

 distractions

I’ve been thinking about making a big technology change for the past month. Conviction about the amount of time spent pinning, scanning, and promoting took root in my heart and wouldn’t let go . The dinner table and church have always been technology free zones for me, but I began to wonder why I wasn’t willing to carve out sacred spaces in every area of my home and life. I don’t want my daughter growing up staring at the back of my phone.

It’s easy to talk about wanting to make changes, but so much harder to do. When I first started journaling about this series, 12 Steps to Keeping our Hearts in Tune, I listed out “limit distractions.” I wasn’t sure what it would look like, but I knew it definitely involved less screen time. A majority of my work requires time on the computer and posting through social media, so the practical how to make this happen appeared nearly impossible.

There is nothing wrong with social media at face value. I’ve just watched it become an area of temptation in my own life. It can keep me from prayer and time in the Word. It would have me substitute deep friendships for casual connections, compare my life with others, and ignite jealousy, worry, self-righteousness, and the need to please. Why do I turn to this thing, this technology like a drug?

I have to post this!

I wonder what I’ve missed in the past 3 hours?

My food looks amazing. People should see this.

My Bible Study on Nehemiah hit the nail on the head.

Making changes in our lives can be hard, but it’s our refusal to change the places God is asking us to change that keeps us stuck on the dismal merry-go-round we’re too afraid to jump off yet too sick to stay on. We hold on tightly only to pass by the same old stuff exactly where it was at the last time we swirled past… Reading through the Jew’s public confession and their commitment to do things differently has reminded me of how vital follow-through of obedience is to our repentance. (Kelly Minter, Nehemiah: A Heart that Breaks)

I knew what I had to do when I read Kelly’s words and the response of the Israelites in Nehemiah chapters 9-10.

stepStep #3. Limit distractions.

I can tell you with conviction that  following through in obedience is already tuning my heart only five days into the process.

I deleted them.

Good-bye Twitter. Good-bye Facebook. Good-bye Pinterest.

They still exist on my computer, but there’s something SO freeing about not having them on my phone. I’m not forbidden from checking or using them, I’m simply removing the distraction that was affixed to my hand. Now my phone is a camera and a telephone. My time with my daughter is WITH my daughter. I don’t read a passage thinking about which verse I’m going to stop and tweet.

These 5 days have been WONDERFUL. I wonder why I was too scared to try this sooner… the fear of boredom? I was addicted to distraction.

I just pulled up Facebook for the first time in three days. I scanned for 4 minutes, liked a few things, and then I was done. I closed my computer and got back to living my life … not so I could post about it or Instagram it, but just so I don’t miss out.

I talked to my husband about this distraction craving. We’ve determined to keep the TV off completely at least 2 nights a week. We spend our time relaxing and decompressing in a different way. The appeal is already wearing off and I couldn’t be happier.

Those are some of the ways we are actively removing distractions this season. I know this could look differently for each of us, but the challenge remains: if you want your heart to be tuned to sing His grace, limit the distractions that keep you from experiencing your own life and hearing from the Lord. This time is too short and too precious to spend it living vicariously through anyone or anything else.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

 

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

 

Friday Finds: The Whatever Girls

whatevergirls

 

In the late summer months I was approached by Erin Bishop to see if I was interested in joining the contributing team for a blog called The Whatever Girls. Here’s all about the organization in Erin’s own words:

The Whatever Girls are intentional moms and intentional daughters. We exist to empower girls to choose God’s best for their lives by exemplifying the pillars of Philippians 4:8: “whatever is truenoble,rightpurelovelyadmirable—if anything is excellent orpraiseworthy—think about such things.”

As one who stumbled through middle and high school making a series of poor decisions, my hearts desire is for teen girls to know their true value and identity comes from Jesus.  Stability, acceptance and unconditional love are critical for shaping our daughters character.

I was totally on board with the mission and am now happy to have my very first post on the blog today. I’m sharing an excerpt from Forget the Corsage and talking all about our worth and value as God’s masterpiece. I hope you’ll take a second to follow this link to the post! While you’re there, take a look around at all of the great resources available to both mothers and daughters.

Happy Friday!

Following,
Ginger

p.s. I will be continuing the 12 steps to Staying in Tune this Season on Tuesday. Catch you then for the next installment!

Step #2: Today’s Manna

season

This scenario happens far too frequently in my life:

My husband I go out to dinner and can’t decide whether or not to order an appetizer or dessert with our meal. We usually cave and get both. And then we often forgo debating which dessert and simply order two of them. It’s fabulous and waaay too much food. We placate ourselves by talking about how rarely we go out or how much we deserve a treat. By the time we hit the car to drive home I usually remark, “I’m not going to eat ANYTHING tomorrow.”

It doesn’t matter the ridiculous amount of calories I consume in the evening, I’m still going to wake up hungry. I always wake up hungry. I’ve never been one of the lucky few who could just forget to eat lunch. I also know that if I don’t eat when I’m hungry, my hunger can quickly turn into hanger. Hunger + anger = Hanger. “Sorry I snapped. I’m hangry.” I try not to use it as an excuse, I simply acknowledge this fact and make sure to pack a Larabar with me at all times.

Hunger is an important driving force in the Bible. God provides food miraculously for the hungry time and again. Case in point, this story from Exodus.

The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. (Exodus:16:3-4, NASB)

God was making an important point with the Israelites. If they tried to utilize the manna from the day before, they discovered it rotted through. He wanted to be their source of provision each and every day. Layer that truth with Matthew 4:4 and you find our 2nd step to staying in tune this season.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

stepSTEP #2. Collect Manna for Today.

I know how easy it can be to read the Word on Sunday and want that manna to be our fix for the whole week, but God desires to speak to us each and every day. The Bible is meant to be our fuel for the journey, the sustanance that will keep us graceful in the midst of the most trying times.

Jeremiah 15:16 is one of my all-time favorite verses and speaks to the precious nature of God’s Word.

When your words came, I ate them;
    they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
    Lord God Almighty.

If we want our hearts to remain in tune, we would be wise to fill up each and every day. My hope and prayer is that the Word of God would be our joy and delight, the source we turn to satisfy our hunger.

“Like an addiction, a compulsion that can’t stop its seeking, do I always want to see more beauty–more of the glory of God? Because that is what I am made for–to give Him more glory. More eucharisteo, more. And not only yesterday. But today– manna today or I starve.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

 

Following,
Ginger

12 Ways to Stay in Tune this Season

season

November is upon us, but we need not fear the upcoming calendar. Pinterest may have you pining to do more with your decorations, but my goal this month is to remind us to stay focused on our hearts. I need this encouragement on a daily basis! The usual stresses of the season don’t just happen for homeowners and parents. Students are preparing for finals. The working crew is trying to eek out as much vacation time as possible, and we are all seeking to create amazing moments for our favorite people. This season piles expectation upon expectation, and I’m not just talking about Christmas. Somehow Thanksgiving and Christmas get rolled into one and the exhaustion creeps in earlier each year.

Yesterday I mentioned one of my favorite hymns and my theme for the rest of 2013.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

My prayer is that my heart would keep in tune with God’s grace and not drift sharp or flat.

If you’ve ever played an instrument you know how easy it can be to let things slide out of tune. You lose your focus, forget to check, the weather changes… so many things play into the perfection of the pitch. So let’s keep the pitchy notes at bay and stay engaged in the process.

Today kicks off 12 Ways to Stay in Tune this Season.

STEP #1. Demonstrate GRATITUDE!

An attitude of gratitude is completely counter-cultural. Everything about our culture tells us we will be happy if… we get the right stuff, have enough house, take the big vacations, have the best body… and on and on. Thankfulness should be our daily rhythm because it’s the truth. We have SO much to be thankful for.

“One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations.” St. John of Avila

Gratitude is like a muscle; we’ve got to work it out. So while I LOVE combing Pinterest to find projects and things to beautify my house, maybe I need to start walking through my own house and pin post-its of thanks for the blessings I DO have. The growth could start by simply thanking the baggers at the grocery store. Or maybe it looks like voicing my thanks to the Lord in the morning and listing out my thanks in a journal before I go to sleep.

I love the trend to list thanks in November on social media, but what if that same attitude could continue throughout the year. What if we took up the challenge to ONLY use social media to spread an attitude of gratitude rather than gloating, complaining, or arguing?

The more readily we express thanksgiving, the less room we have for negative thoughts and words. So let’s be intentional and let’s be proactive. Ideas for active gratitude:

1. Volunteer with those less fortunate
2. Write thank you notes
3. Purposefully call, text, or e-mail to tell someone why you are thankful for their presence in your life
4. Memorize a verse about giving thanks: “… Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)
5. Go around the table and have everyone say what they are thankful for
6. Get a paper tablecloth and record your blessings
7. Speak your gratitude out loud even in challenging situations: “Thank you for another diaper to change… for a daughter who is healthy, arms that are strong enough to lift her, hands that are able to love her in this way.”
8. Make eye contact and say thank you to any service staff you come in contact with: waiters, drive-thru employees, clerks… you get the idea!
9. I keep hearing about people getting “Boo’d” for Halloween or “Egged” for Easter. Someone start giving “THANXED” blessings on doorsteps. Hah! Leave a cornucopia of encouragement and thankful notes for the house.
10. Let your prayers begin with thankfulness and praise!

Any other ideas?

 

The list is just a start, but I hope it stirs your thoughts. If we want to live more fully in tune with God’s grace, a thankful heart is the perfect launching point.

“The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life – in my life – is lack of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks-take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks-and He miraculously makes it more than enough.” – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Following,
Ginger

Tune My Heart

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is the song I sing most often to my daughter as I rock her to sleep. She goes down easily at night, but boy does she fight her naps. I sing this song over and over in the oversized rocking chair and watch her eyes grow heavy…

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

The second line, “tune my heart to sing thy grace” lives on the tip of my tongue these days. The picture drawn by Robert Robinson’s lyrics are clear and to the point. We all know the ear-piercing quality of an intrument out of tune, and the pleasant sounds that come from simple attentive tuning.

tune

Tuning has become my theme for the month. My prayers are asking the Lord to oversee it and I am consciously looking for ways to identify areas that fall out of tune. My prayer is that my heart would be tuned to live out of thankfulness, grace, and joy. This is an active request. I will ask God to provide the opportunities for training and tuning, but then I must also commit to exercise these muscles.

I know the holidays have the potential to leave us overwhelmed and exhausted, but let’s commit right here and now to have no part of that. Deal? I’m aiming to be proactive. That’s why this week we will start checking our alignment. It’s time to take our task lists and minds and set a course for the coming months that won’t leave us empty. I hope you will join me in the coming weeks as we take very practical steps to keep the peace in our hearts and homes. (How many metaphors can I throw out in one post?)

If you are looking for a beautiful rendition of this song, I recommend this version by Sufjan Stevens…

Do you have a favorite recording of Come Thou Fount? Do share!

Following and tuning,
Ginger

Strengthen My Hands

After three months of resting, waiting, and making lots of excuses, I finally pulled out my post-baby workout DVD. Ugh. I was determined to make it through one of the twenty-minute sessions. Everything started well enough. My daughter was entertained for the moment, a miracle in itself. But about halfway through the workout, I began to doubt my plan. The perky mom on the screen was very encouraging as she demonstrated the set of 15 push-ups we were to attempt. I’ll be honest; the push-ups were a disaster. It felt like I had never done a push-up in my life. I immediately considered turning off the DVD. I thought to myself, “This is way too hard. I just want to be done. Can’t I just get the results without doing this work? UGH!”

And then I remembered Nehemiah.

I know. Odd line of thinking, but I’ll connect the dots. My Thursday morning Bible Study is walking through Kelly Minter’s Nehemiah: a heart that can break. Nehemiah is the central figure in the story of the Israelites rebuilding the dilapidated walls of Jerusalem. He wasn’t an engineer or a military leader. As an exiled Israelite in Babylon, he had served as cupbearer to the king. And yet, the Lord stirred in Nehemiah’s heart to see Jerusalem restored to its former glory. Even though he had limited leadership and building experience, Nehemiah responded in obedience. (If you haven’t spent time in the book, I highly recommend you pull it out soon.)

Fast-forward in the story and we discover that after a mere 52 days of building, the walls are almost completed and the opposition from enemies is in full swing. Nehemiah can’t seem to catch a break from these enemies, but his passion never wavers. In chapter six we read,

“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’

But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:9, NIV)

That one short prayer teaches me so much about Nehemiah’s resolve. Had I been in Nehemiah’s shoes, my prayer would have probably looked a lot different. “God, this is way too hard. Can you just take away the opposition and everything that makes this difficult so we can just be done?” (Sound familiar?)

All too often I just want the Lord to make my problems instantly disappear. I don’t want anything difficult to cross my path.

God cares deeply about my struggles, His Word promises that. But I also believe that the Lord wants to teach us through the challenges. Nehemiah reminds me to ask for strength in the middle of trials, to persevere, and to pursue God’s will.

My workout DVD is in no way a trial, but I’m thankful for the small ways that the Lord continues to remind me of His word and His promises.

hand

Whatever you are facing this month, know that God is walking with you. He has not abandoned you. May we have the courage to pray with Nehemiah, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Happy Friday!

Following,
Ginger