Want Joy? … then be Thankful!

Phil and Gayle

I was married in 1975 during Thanksgiving weekend. That event has brought immeasurable joy to my life. I appreciate that our anniversary often coincides with my favorite holiday – Thanksgiving. I attribute much of the blessing of our 38 years of marriage to the fact that we are thankful for each other – warts and all!

From the moment Phil and I made the committment “for better or for worse” the better has greatly outweighed the worse. I am thankful to be married to a man who loves me even though he has seen me at my worst, and the worst is not pretty.

Is our marriage perfect?

No.

Do I always FEEL love toward Phil, or FEEL loved by him?

No.

As in all human relationships, there are many variables.
* feelings
* health issues
* stress from family, work, friends
* broken promises
* unfulfilled expectations
At any point these variables could have resulted in a severed relationship. Phil and I are sinful, broken people saved from our selfness by the grace of God.

So if I feel gratitude for my marriage and the years we have shared together, to whom am I thankful?

I am thankful to God.

People who meet us as a couple for the first time have often asked “How did you two end up together?”
We could be the poster couple for “Opposites Attract”. It is quite obvious to those who know us that our relationship is the result of God’s presence in our lives and therefore our marriage.

We know other couples who started out committed to God and each other and yet their marriages have not survived. I don’t know the explanation of why some marriages end and others weather the storm.

I do know that I am thankful for my husband.

The things that bless me about Phil now are very different than they were 38 years ago. One thing I particularly appreciated about him was his red hair. Now it is almost entirely white. (mine gets grayer by the day)
But the most important quality has not changed – Phil’s committment to God and to me. I am so very thankful for that.

British writer and literary critic G.K.Chesterton said, “The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful.” (from the book Defiant Joy, the Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K.Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte. p. 221) The defining quality of Chesterton’s life, as described by his contemporaries, was joy.

Thankfulness leads to joy.

If we cultivate thankfulness for our spouses we will experience joy in that relationship. That joy will spill over to bless our children, grandchildren, and others around us. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to love our spouse.

Paul’s prayer of thankfulness for his fellow Christians in Phillipi is an example of how we might feel and pray for our families.

Phillipians 1: 3-9

3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ[b]—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
May God Bless us with thankful hearts.

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Coolness Quotient

Yesterday we were eating breakfast with the early risers at our daughter’s house. We planned on attending the early service where they worship and the two older daughters were eating breakfast when the youngest, a four year old entered. She sat in her seat, didn’t say a word, and didn’t respond when her mother asked “Would you like some orange juice?”

We were all looking at this 4-year-old who didn’t crack a smile but looked sullenly ahead.

I said, “Oh dear, she is already acting like a teenager.”

“No,” responded her 6-year-old sister. “She isn’t cool like a teenager.”

We all burst out laughing, which then brought a smile to the face of the four year old.
Now I teach teenagers everyday, and just how “cool” they are is up for debate. (kidding!!!!)

It’s interesting how children perceive older children. They tend to see them as “cool”, a term which is, as I mentioned, open for interpretation. What does it mean to be “cool? Sometimes what is thought of as coolness is disrespectful behavior. An older child who is arrogant or bossy may seem “cool” to a timid or shy child because that is so different or daring.

Coolness sometimes refers to appearance. Yet that varies from year to year and generation to generation. It also is dependant on secular values of what is fashionable. Some of the current fashion trends are immodest and often provocative. A “cool” horse T-shirt may not be “cool” next year!
Our daughters have looked at pictures of themselves when they were young and asked me, “How could you let me dress like that?” I tell them that was what they wanted to wear.

How can we help our children navigate the “coolness quotient?”

Some Christian groups like the Amish and Mennonites have chosen distinct patterns of dress that set themselves apart from the current culture. Yet most of us don’t feel led to follow that kind of mandate, even if we respect the choice of those who do.

Scripture does give guidance, although not specifically using the word “cool”.

Isaiah 61:10

I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Our desire should be to relect God’s presence in our lives. That is of GREATEST importance. As parents and grandparents we need to lead by example and encourage our children and grandchildren that being like Jesus is what is most important.

Coolness by the culture’s standard does not have lasting value.

Being like Jesus has eternal value.

My Resume’

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I recently applied for a grant for “emerging artists”.

What is an emerging artist?
*an artist who pops (emerges) out of a cake?
*an artist who slips onto shore from primordial slime?
*an artist who suddenly appears after being hidden?
*an artist who is endeavoring to gain acclaim in her medium of choice?

I wasn’t sure about the designation – emerging artist. Maybe that is part of the reason I didn’t get selected for funding. Maybe I haven’t “emerged.”

I had to fill out a resume for my application.

Resume’?

Wife and homemaker – 38 years
Mother – 4 grown (are they ever fully grown?) children
Grandmother – 11 grandchildren

These are the things that define me and my life, yet they are NOT what reviewers are looking for on a resume’. They want to know what I have done “professionally”.

That means work I was paid for in legal tender.

I have been paid relatively little for my art work, but that has not stopped me from enjoying the process as well as the results.

The resume’ has made me think about being an artist and my motivation for creating art.

My life verse is Romans 12:2 (NLT)

2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

This influences my art work just as it does every part of my life. I must not be concerned about recognition from the art establishment (scary thought?). I must create from the place where I am a new creation. This may mean I am never “in” – or it may mean recognition. Michelangelo, widely considered one of the greatest artists of all time, wrote that he was compelled to create art by God. His statue Pieta was conceived from Michelangelo’s devotion to Jesus and Mary. One can hardly look at that masterpiece without sensing a divine inspiration.

Francis Chan writes in his book about the Holy Spirit – The Forgotten God – that our resume should look like the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Resume’ – Gayle Woody – birth – 1951, re-birth – 1957

Love – 56 years of experiencing God’s love,
expresses God’s love when she forgets about self
Joy – 56 years of knowing the joy of relationship with her Heavenly Father
joy spills over to others when her heart is thankful
Peace – 56 years of experiencing God’s peace which passes understanding
peaceful when her eyes are fixed on Jesus

These are the life qualities that really matter. Our time spent with children and grandchildren have eternal value. Nothing can take away the love, joy, and peace that comes from the Holy Spirit.

My art work is temporary. I have told my friends and family that when they are tired of the art I have “blessed” them with, they are free to dispose of it.

I plan to continue to create art. I plan to honor God through my artistic expression.

I want my resume’ to be filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.