Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Beauty in my own backyard (1000 Gifts)

This time of year it is impossible to go outside without noticing the beauty surrounding us.  I don't even have to travel further than my front yard. We have a clematis vine blooming next to the side door -- its fragrance perking up a sleepy 8th grader as she waits for the morning carpool.


Right next to the clematis is our huge lilac bush, full of pale pink blooms.


A little way down the front walk is smaller lilac bush, still recovering from trials in previous years, with its much fewer yet stunning blooms.


Still, my favorite blooms right now are a bit more humble.  A simple Easter centerpiece of wildflowers found in the woods, handpicked by the 3rd grader, makes my heart sing.  Oh, how God uses that child to remind me to be content and appreciate the beauty right in my own backyard, both literally and figuratively.    


A dear friend gave me for Christmas the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, and lately I've been so convicted by how quickly I can move from gratitude to worry and grumpiness.  It doesn't have to be that way. 

April 1 
I am calling you to a life of constant communion with Me.  Basic training includes learning to live above your circumstances, even while interacting on that cluttered plane of life.  You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with Me can be uninterrupted.  But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.  Accept each day just as it comes, and find Me in the midst of it all. 
Talk with Me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me.  A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.  Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life.  Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment. He will keep you close to Me. 
1 Thessalonians 5:17; Proverbs 3:6
April 6 
Bring me the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  Take nothing for granted, not even the rising of the sun.  Before Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, thankfulness was as natural as breathing.  Satan's temptation involved pointing Eve to the one thing that was forbidden to her.  The garden was filled with luscious, desirable fruits, but Eve focused on the one fruit she couldn't have rather than being thankful for the many good things freely available.  This negative focus darkened her mind, and she succumbed to temptation.  
When you focus on what you don't have or on situations that displease you, your mind also becomes darkened.  You take for granted life, salvation, sunshine, flowers, and countless other gifts from Me. You look for what is wrong and refuse to enjoy life until that is "fixed." 
When you approach Me with thanksgiving, the Light of My Presence pours into you, transforming you through and through.  Walk in the Light with Me by practicing the discipline of thanksgiving. 

I think those entries pretty much hit the nail on the head, at least for me! So the list continues in hope that I will increasingly walk in the light and practice an attitude of gratitude.

206. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

207.  Sharing Easter-eve dinner with Marc's brother, and then Easter brunch potluck at our church Sunday.

208.  Brother-in-law who can't stop talking about his lovely bride-to-be.

209.  My mom's pea soup recipe that I've lost, but have made so many times I've memorized it.

210. Reading the Sunday paper . . . on a Wednesday or Thursday.

211.  First track meet of the season.

212. The ants are gone (and not because of anything I've done).

213.  Father lending his suit jacket to a chilly daughter in church.

214.  Construction progress on the main road through town.

215.  Daughters who are able to take over more and more kitchen tasks.

216.  The fall of Rome. Kidding! What I mean, is that we are finished with our history studies for the year. ; )

217.  Son's progress in speech therapy.

218.  Drives with my teenager (when she seems to open up most to me).

219.  A backpack that has lasted 3 years.  Even better, lunch bags that have lasted 5 years!

220.  A field trip with all three kids and lunch out together.

And even though this is supposed to be a Multitude on Monday post, I'm thankful it's okay to acknowledge God's goodness any day of the week. : )

Monday, April 2, 2012

God's Providential Care (1000 Gifts)

I originally wrote most of this post last Monday, but didn't get it finished until tonight.  So just pretend you're reading this a week ago. ; )


The act of thanksgiving makes us more aware of the providence of God. Every moment is full of His care, love, and guidance. Even so, there are moments when I'm just awed by His goodness and attention to the smallest of details. Yesterday was one of those days.

For many years now we've given a dear elderly lady a ride to church. The blessings this arrangement has provided our family are uncountable. My kids have grown up hearing the stories of her rich life, ninety-four years long, and witnessing her beautiful devotion to the Lord, even though she has experienced much suffering.

Yesterday Marc and I took separate cars to church -- Marc left early with Ryne and Grace, and Anna took the van. When I pulled up to this dear lady's house I was shocked to see her sitting in the front door. The storm door was closed, but the front door was open with her leaning against it. She actually looked quite peaceful, but I knew at once she must have fallen and wasn't able to get up. Anna and I ran to her and were able to help her to her feet. She wasn't seriously hurt other than some soreness, so we led her to a chair and made her comfortable. Her daughter lives with her, but had already left for her own church, so Anna and I stayed with her for the next few hours. We took turns reading from the psalms and 1 Peter 1 to her. We shared more stories. I was sad she had to miss church, but it was wonderful to spend that time with her too. When Anna and I left we gave her hugs, but she pulled us in closer and gave us sweet kisses.

Later in the day her daughter ended up taking her to the hospital because she was having swelling in her right leg. She didn't have to spend the night, and is doing well now, although the doctor did say she won't be able to leave the house anymore, even for church. Hopefully it's temporary until she gets some strength back.

In the meantime, I'm thanking God for every detail He so perfectly orchestrated, even the fact that I was running a couple minutes late.

195. She was feeling wonderful, so her fall took her completely by surprise. She fell just minutes before I arrived. If I had been on time we might have been outside when her legs collapsed and she could have been seriously injured. I always guide her with my arm and she uses a cane, but I'm still glad she fell in a contained area, on carpet, and was able to lean against the door. But, yes, I still wish I had been there.

196. She fell after she had unlocked the door. Things would have been much more complicated if she had fallen behind a locked door.

197. When my mom was sick with brain cancer, hospice nurses taught me how to properly lift an immobile person. I was soooo thankful for that knowledge yesterday!

198. And how glad I am that Marc was already at the church with the other two kids. Even though Anna was a little scared, she was mature enough to be of great help and comfort. I imagine it would have been stressful had the younger kids been with me.

199. Such a sweet time of fellowship.

200. The example of faith, perseverance, contentment and joy this lady has been for our whole church.

Times like that remind me to appreciate even more the everyday beauty, to search it out in the most unlikely places.  

201.  Such as the tulips that should never have bloomed, but popped up again (see above picture).

202.  The loveliest detail in a common weed -- one of many in our yard.


203.  The young artist who realizes even a broken picnic table makes a perfect canvas.


204.  Wild strawberry plants that are taking over a bare hill.  Marc tasted the berries last year and said they are awful, but they are pretty and I'm sure they are special treats for the many creatures that visit our yard.

205.  Mud -- the result of much needed rain.

I shake my head wondering how can I be only a couple hundred into my gratitude list when God has done so much.  Some can be blamed on blogging limitations, but I pray that I will increasingly look for ways to thank Him.