Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

As we approach the day of feasts, football and thanksgiving, gratitude for many things is uppermost in my mind.  I suppose part of that is being grateful for having finally come through a respiratory infection with only a cough remaining.  It was a long battle and hopefully one that is over.  Yes, I'm thankful for returning and good health.

I'm sure there are many things that we are all grateful for -- family, home, jobs, health, freedom of religion to mention just a few.  However, gratitude and thanksgiving has a lot to do with circumstances.  Many years ago when I was teaching a Sunday School class of kindergartners we were fast approaching Thanksgiving.  In fact, it was the Sunday just prior to the big day.  As part of my teaching, I had decided to ask the children to each one tell me something they were going to give thanks for on Thanksgiving.  I had many hands waving in the air, and some voices asking to be picked first.  Responses included many thanks being given for mommy and daddy, family, the dog or the cat, toys, books, cartoons -- they ran the gamut of things that come to the mind of a 4- or 5-year old.  However, I came to the 5-year old daughter of close friends.  I asked Nicole what she was most thankful for, and she replied in her sweet, tiny voice, "I'm thankful for 'restorants'!"  It was all I could do not to laugh, but Nicole likely was thankful for places to go for a meal.  You see Nicole's mommy didn't like to cook and often didn't.  Nicole spent many mealtimes in a "restorant" eating food which filled her tummy and kept her healthy.  Her circumstances definitely dictated her gratitude that day!

In Thessalonians 5:16-18, we are told to "[r]ejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."  The homeless are most likely thankful for a Thanksgiving dinner and a place to lay their head that night provided by a shelter.  There may be those who have a home but no money to buy food, and so they are thankful for a meal of any kind.  The mother with a sick child is probably not focused on preparing a meal, but on getting that child medical help and is therefore thankful for the nurses and doctors in an urgent care center or emergency room.  The lonely senior citizens of our country are thankful to see a smiling face at their door bringing a meal from Meals on Wheels.  Perhaps a lonely neighbor would be grateful for your call to see if he or she is staying warm or just to say hello.  Or perhaps a lovely piece of pumpkin pie delivered by you or members of your family would be the thing that person says thanks for that night.  Our military and their families will be happy to be able to speak to each other and through today's technology maybe see each other.

The iconic painting by Norman Rockwell, Thanksgiving, is what we are all most familiar with when it comes to Thanksgiving memories and celebrations.  Not all of us have experienced that kind of Thanksgiving celebration.  Those of us who have indeed have something to be grateful for and we should be lifting our hearts and voices to God with an abundance of joy and in thanksgiving.

As you gather around your table, pause not only to say thanks for the meal laid before you, but to give thanks for all those things you take for granted each day.  Think of the people struggling through circumstances you perhaps have never even thought about and realize that their circumstances create their level and kind of gratitude.  Gratitude in all things means expressing thanks for whatever comes our way.

To each of you reading this, may your Thanksgiving be filled with family, food and creation of memories for the generations coming up behind you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So Long, Dear Friend

Julia is gone.  Our dear friend lived into her mid 80s, defying diabetes diagnosed at age 18.  Her doctor often told her she should write a book about all the advances she had witnessed in her lifetime with this disease.  Julia laughed and often said that she thought it was too late to start a writing career.

Late yesterday afternoon I found an email from Julia's nephew in my inbox asking me to call right away.  It seems neighbors had noticed a lack of activity -- newspapers not picked up, no sign of Julia walking to her mailbox.  They called the authorities, and a young officer with the sheriff's department who regularly checked on our friend came and entered finding Julia had passed on to meet her Heavenly Father.

At her age and with her physical limitations, this wasn't really surprising.  The part that I struggle with the most is that she died somewhat alone.  Estranged from her only son since her husband died in 2006, Julia had no other family in the area.  However, she had a multitude of caring friends from church and from churches her pastor husband had served.  I will admit though that Julia had a stubborn streak which prevented most of us from giving her much aid and assistance.  She willingly helped others, but she was not going to let it be said that she couldn't take care of herself!

Then I come to the verse of Scripture in Matthew 28:20 that tells me "I am with you always, even to the very end of the age."  So, why do I say she died alone?  Julia was not alone, no more than I am at this very moment sitting at home with my husband in another room.  God was with her in those last few hours and minutes, and as her last breath came, He was there holding her hand.  Of that I am sure.

Never fear, when times seem tough and trouble seems to abound, these words are yours too -- "I am with you always, even to the very end of the age."

Goodbye, dear friend, Julia -- I'll see you again I'm certain.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A New Look

If things look a bit different, it's because I'm still getting settled into this blog home I'm building for myself and for God.  Until I feel comfortable, you may find appearances and decor changing from time to time but the location of things remains  the same.

I fully believe that if I'm to minister and do what the Lord leads me to do, it must be done in a place that I feel honors Him and brings glory to His name and the written message left here.  So, forgive my penchant for perfection -- you'll find it all completed one day!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Staying Focused Isn't Easy, Is It?

There's an old hymn I remember from my childhood. The refrain goes:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Sounds easy when written on paper, or cyberpaper, doesn't it? In reality, it isn't always. Similarly, other goals in our lives require us to stay focused. Like weight loss. If we're not focused on our goals and the steps to get there, we lose control and stop losing weight.

I've learned this lesson in recent days. Just when I was injury-free and feeling whole again, one of our children called with the distressing news that his second marriage seemed to be on the brink of failure. Because we are his go to people in times of trouble, as parents should be, he calls us to "listen." Honestly, he mostly calls his mom, ME! I do alright until I stop "just listening" and start trying to help. The call to arms then is "S-T-R-E-S-S."

We each one knows what stress does to us. For me, it sends my feet straight to the kitchen, my hands straight to sweets and junk, and then I direct the crap over my tongue and into my tummy. Stress also sends me into mild depression. I want to sleep. Sleep doesn't equate to exercise in any form.

Take this formula: Stress + Food + Sleep - Exercise = Weight Gain. And that's where I've been the last few weeks.

It suddenly occurred to me yesterday, and I know this already, that there is nothing I can do for this adult child and his problematic marriage. It is for him and his wife to work out, and I hope and pray that they do. I have struggles of my own, one of which is losing weight and getting healthy. If they are to accomplish their goal, they need to focus on better communication and a good relationship. If I am to lose weight and get healthy, I need to eat healthy and exercise. We neither one can solve the other's problem.

So, as the old hymn goes, I've got to keep my eyes upon Jesus in all things, and even in my desire to lose weight by keeping my eyes on the goals, it will be all that much easier.

Blessings to each of you as you strive to reach your goals in life, whatever they may be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reliance and Rest

Today I'm relying on my theme verse from Jeremiah.  Our son and his wife are going through some troubling times, and details aren't needed here.  However, quite often as parents our children's troubles become our troubles -- we need to pray for them, we need to hold them in our thoughts more, we need to encourage them, we need to be there for them.  So, those troubles come to visit us in our relationship and in our home.

When I read Jeremiah 29:11, I find great comfort for is the Lord upon whom I rely but more so now.  Troubling times tend to cause us to seek Him more than usual.  Why is that?  Is it that we forget He is there waiting for us to call on Him?  Is it because we really don't need Him unless something is wrong?  This can't be the case and shouldn't be.  For He is in control and knows the plans He has made for each one of us.  The Lord our God also promises to follow through, and on that we can rely.  Have you ever known Him to fail you?  Maybe He doesn't provide the answer you or I seek but He carries through on His promise to reveal His plans for us.  We can rely on Him to do just that.

Knowing we can rely on Him means that we can now rest.  We can rest in His loving arms finding comfort and peace.  But only if we have gone to Him and said I need You, not just today but always.  Not just when there are troubles afoot but always.  I want to see the plans You have for me.  I want to stay close to You.

Then there is the reliance and rest we so long for in times of need and trouble, but also receive on those days when all seems to be going well.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV 1984)