Thankful for Grace

Taking time to be thankful is an important task in maintaining spiritual health. It takes us away from “navel gazing”, focusing on what we lack, think is missing, or what we desire for ourselves, to thinking in a broader sense about all that has been given to us.

Much of what has been given to us we haven’t earned and, truth be told, we don’t deserve.

I think this is especially important in the climate of our current culture. So much of the discourse is negative, divisive, polarizing and unkind. The focus often seems to be on “what is best for me”.

My oldest friend (not in age but in years of friendship) Carol and I just returned from visiting our mothers who live in the same retirement community in Wheaton where we both grew up. Carol’s mother just turned 90, and my mother will be 90 in May.

Driving the 648 miles each way together gave us plenty of time to talk. (not hard for either of us!)

We talked about what God had been putting on each of our hearts recently. Carol is being impressed to practice the presence of God, sparked by a rereading of the book of that name by Brother Andrew. She feels that she needs to recognize every opportunity during the day to mediate or pray. Carol’s days are often filled with family responsibilities, yet she also realized that time slips away each day that could be used to sense God’s presence.

Instead of fretting over waiting in line, or delays in traffic, turning one’s attention to God and what He might want to impress her with, she wants to adjust her outlook on daily interruptions. Instead of becoming stressed and resentful, Carol desires to be thankful and aware of God’s presence.

Carol’s thoughts helped me refocus on something I need to do as well.

I shared that I was being impressed to practice GRACE. I realized I was being critical. My criticism was mainly directed toward people I think are critical. Critical of critical people. Really?! How hypocritical!

Grace.

I shared with Carol that as I realized how sinful my critical attitude was, I also realized the answer was – grace. I don’t know the real motives of why people do what they do. Their motivation might be a deep hurt or a lack of understanding.

God has given me SO MUCH grace. The older I get the more I realize how amazing that grace is! Just like the song says…..”Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”….

So, as Thanksgiving comes this week, I want to focus on being thankful for these two insights, as well as my dear family and friends – and

  • the opportunity to practice the presence of God day by day
  • the grace of God that allows me to sense His great love, in spite of my sin, and extend that love to others.

May God bless us with truly thankful hearts.

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90 Years of Thankfulness

We had the privilege of celebrating a birthday Saturday with a dear family friend, Nana Kehrli. She is 90 years old, still lives in the home where she raised 3 lovely daughters, just down the road from where she was born on Stoney Creek in eastern Tennessee.

Nana, almost everyone calls her that, has slowed down some physically, but her mind is as sharp as a tack. She is an amazing cook – her Southern pork chops just melt in your mouth. Eating “farm to table” is a trend that is growing in popularity throughout our culture – Nana and her family have always eaten that way.

It could certainly be a factor in her 90 healthy years.

She and her sisters ran a grill, a small community restaurant several years back. It was very popular with local folks who knew they would get the best in home-cooking. They probably never made a lot of money because these Southern ladies treated their customers as they would guests in their home.

“Honey, did you get enough? Do you want some more?.”

“Here, take this plate to your mother. I hear she is feeling poorly.”

If Nana knew someone was recently widowed, she would send an extra meal home for lunch the next day. If she knew someone was hurting financially, she gave a discount.

Nana has seldom gone to the doctor in her 90 years, besides the births of her three daughters. “I don’t go to the doctor, he’ll just find something wrong with me.” she has often been heard to say.

Nana has been a widow since 1968 when her Air Force husband was killed in the Vietnam War. She raised her daughters with the love and support of her close knit family on Stoney Creek.

I told Nana Saturday that she could be so thankful for her 90 years of health and mental acuity.

“Gayle, honey, I get up every morning and thank God for all He has blessed me with. I didn’t know of anyone who is as blessed as I am.”

What a testimony of God’s faithfulness!

Colossians 2:6-7 says

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

May Nana Kehrli be blessed with God’s grace and peace in her remaining days.

I want to follow her example – overflowing with thankfulness each day for God’s blessings.

 

The Wedding Gift – 41 One Years Ago Today

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The Wedding Gift

By Phillip Hix Woody

I know they aren’t diamonds – these boots

But if you’ll give them a chance

I think they’ll make a fine pair of roots

for your feet.

You see, I thought it would be romantic

To walk in the woods with you

To get away from the frantic routine

and be alone.

I wanted your feet to be protected

And if I had suspected you’d be upset

I’d have bought you a diamond instead.

Maybe someday.

Someday we’ll hike to the end of a trail

where we’ll find hidden treasure.

And these boots will take us there.

 

When Phil gave me hiking boots as a wedding present, I must be honest and say that I was a bit disappointed. Yet, I know that I have enjoyed hiking with Phil in many places that I never would have dreamed of visiting. The interesting fact is that I remember being disappointed by the hiking boots, but I can’t think now of one gift I would rather have received. 

We hike together often with children and grandchildren. The above photo was taken this past Friday on the top of Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It continues to be a favorite hiking place for us.

There is a lesson in this for me – 41 years later. I should receive gifts as tokens of the relationship I have with the giver. It really is NOT about the gift – it is about the one who gives. Phil gave me the hiking boots because he wanted us to hike together. His motive was to share together something he loved doing. What a meaningful expression of love – one that blesses me as I read his poem.

So, on this our anniversary, I will share a Scripture that I have prayed concerning Phil many times.

Philippians 1:3-8

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

I am so thankful for these 41 years!

May we have many more years of hiking together!

Tender, Thankful Hearts

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There are many people in our country and the world today that are suffering. The pain, fear,and loss they are facing leaves little room to be thankful.

Here I am, looking forward to the arrival of some of our children, grandchildren and friends tomorrow. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I enjoy the family gathering, the food, and the focus on being thankful.

Yet I know many are not blessed the way I am. Recently, friends from church lost their college aged son in a tragic accident. A school bus crashed this week causing the loss of five young children. What is there to be thankful for in these situations?

A dear young mother recently shared in our women’s Bible study group that she was dealing with reconciling the fact that –

God is good,

God is faithful,

Yet the pain of the loss of seemingly senseless death lingers.

We are studying Ezekiel, a challenging book heavy with judgement. Yet this young mother shared that she felt challenged by the following verse. Ezekiel 36:26 –

26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

“Do the situations around me cause me to harden my heart, or soften my heart?”

When my young friend said this  – I realized  – that is the challenge for me as well.

Will I allow situations around me, and personal suffering to harden my heart? Will I allow God to give me a new, tender heart that is able to see and feel His presence in the midst of suffering?

We have much to be thankful for, yet the suffering some face is very real.

The book Defiant Joy, the Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K.Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte recounts that during a period of utter despair, Chesterton “was filled with both an enormous sense of thankfulness, and an enormous need for someone or something to thank.” (p. 218) This insight caused Chesterton to embrace Christianity. He went on to become a critic and writer that greatly influenced the lives of C.S.Lewis among countless others. “The test of all happiness” he wrote, “is gratitude; and I felt grateful.” (p. 221) The defining quality of his life as described by his contemporaries was JOY. Thankfulness leads to joy.

Notice that it was “during a period of utter despair” that Chesterton came to the point of recognizing his need for God. He had a change of heart.

As we gather this Thanksgiving, let us remember to pray for those throughout the world who are suffering in loss and fear.

Pray that we would have tender, thankful hearts to experience God’s faithfulness and love in the midst of all we face.

 

 

5 Years…really?

Beautiful Daughters

Beautiful Daughters

I saw the date on my first blog post the other day and it hit me…

I have been writing this blog for 5 years!
(plus two weeks)

I started “blogging” because I was challenged by a Bible teacher and friend with Jesus’ mandate to His disciples…go make disciples.

“Who are you discipling?” I was asked.

I had to think a bit and I realized that I was sharing what I hoped was Godly insight with several young mothers, including our three daughters.

  • But was I discipling?
  • Was I being intentional?
  • Was I prayerfully, thoughtfully sharing what God had deposited in me over the years?
  • Was I just “shooting from the hip” so to speak – sharing whatever popped in my head.

 

I realized that God wanted me to be VERY intentional – that if my daughters and other young mothers were going to be drawn to be like Jesus through me, I must take this role prayerfully and seriously.

So, through the help and encouragement of our daughters, I started blogging.

I am an artist and teacher.

I am not a writer.

But with the gracious editing of my husband, Phil, also known as Mr. Spellcheck, Mr. Grammar, Mr. Punctuation, Mr. Proof Reader…need I go on?  – I have written once a week (almost) for 5 years.

I must say in all truthfulness that God has shown me so much about myself through this journey – the main point being that in my weakness – He is made STRONG!

God is faithful.

I thought I would share that very first post from April 23, 2011.

Dear Beautiful Daughters,

We often hear young women who stay at home with their children say things like,

  • “I’m just a mom.”
  • “I just stay home with my kids .”

Using the word “just” seems to minimize the value of the most important responsibility you will ever have. As women of God we are to serve Him first and foremost. Once He blesses us with children, God has entrusted us with those He loves with an everlasting love and He wants us to be faithful in our service as mothers.

If we ever doubt the absolute importance of our ministry as mothers we must read Matthew 19:14. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

If our Lord thought that children were so important, shouldn’t we?

In Matthew 18:2-4 we read “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I love this next part – it blessed me so much when my children were little – verse 5 ” And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

Amazing! Every time I welcome my child into my arms, snotty nose and all, I am welcoming Jesus!

Being a mother to your children is the GREATEST job you can have at this time in your life. It is more important then working on Capitol Hill, as an RN, teaching special needs children, or any other career.

Be thankful if your husband supports you in staying home with your children while you are able. Tell your husband how much it blesses you and do that often. Men feel great pressure to provide for their families and your appreciation will mean so much.
…with love and thankfulness for the blessings you are in my life.

So, I will continue to write as long as I sense that God has given me something to share. I still have so much to learn, I invite you to join me on this journey.

As women, we are all our Father’s daughters.

 

Like Mother Like Daughter

Three Generations - Four Mothers

Three Generations – Four Mothers

“You must be Esther’s daughter.”

I have heard that comment, or something similar all my life.

I have heard that phrase most recently while visiting my mother. Many of the people who live at the retirement community where my parents have lived the past two years have never met me.

They recognize me anyway!

My father passed on to his heavenly home on February 10.

My mother has rejoiced in the fact that Dad was ready to die, he was alert until the very end, and we were all able to share our love and say goodby at the end of Dad’s life on this earth.

Yet, that is not the end of the story.

I traveled to Wheaton to visit Mom in March. She was ready to sort through Dad’s things and distribute them. His clothes were given to a ministry for refugees and immigrants, which would have pleased Dad. We also rearranged some things in her apartment and had time to share many wonderful memories.

I returned to North Carolina on March 24th and on the 25th, Mom suffered a broken femur in a car accident upon arriving at church for the Good Friday service.

My mother’s attitude since these two situations occurred has been inspirational. She has expressed gratitude to God in each case because she has seen something to be genuinely thankful for.

What has Mom been thankful for?

  •  that Dad did not suffer long
  • that they had a chance to share their love and say goodby
  • that Dad was at peace
  • that she did not get hurt worse
  • that she has good care and loving caregivers
  • that my brother and sister-in-law have been so helpful

It has certainly been a blessing for me to see. I planned on comforting Mom during my visits and she has helped me to see the blessings.

“What do you expect, Gayle? God is answering everyone’s prayers for me.” Mom said recently.

Last Sunday morning Mom called me at 7:00 (6:00 in Wheaton). She said, “I know you are going to church today and that you will praise God. I want you to praise Him for how well I am doing.”

You can imagine how easy it was to praise God after that call!

James 1:2-4

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

This Mother’s Day I am so thankful for a mother who is an example of living those verses.

I not only want to look like my mother, I want to have faith like her.

May God bless each of you who are mothers….

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

This is a Real Good Day!

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“This is a real fun day!”

Adella, our three-year old granddaughter says this often. We all love it.

It reflects a viewpoint we should all have more often. You see, Adella says this when –

  • she is eating a peanut butter sandwich, which she has many days for lunch.
  • she is playing outside with her brothers in the sandbox
  • she is riding in the car to church
  • she is helping Nana (me) set the table
  • she is celebrating her brother’s and Pop’s (Phil) birthday at the park

For Adella, this is a mindset….

….at least right now.

She is three after all.

But right now she enjoys almost everything.

I need to have that perspective.

I am reading the book Miracles by Eric Metaxas. Our son gave it to me for Christmas and I am in awe of God’s creation right now in a way I have never been before. My father has always instilled in me a wonder and appreciation for God’s creation. That is the subject matter for most of the art I create. I am so grateful for this legacy.

Mr. Metaxas has the insight and ability to communicate the wonder of our very existence on planet earth as I have never understood or felt it before. He uses scientific evidence to illustrate the unlikelihood of a planet being able to sustain life. Metaxas shows the mathematical improbability of all the conditions needed for life as we know it to exist on any planet  – and yet as improbable as it is – here we are!

On p. 54 Metaxas writes, “The slimness of our being here is so slim that it’s enough to leave us goggle-eyed with terror – until in the next moment we realize we are indeed here and explode with gratitude for our very existence.”

God is God.

It IS a real good day!

He says on p. 56 “It is something to which the most truly human response is the combination of terror and wonder, of ancient awe and childhood joy.”

Childhood joy. This should be our “go to” response to life.

This is a real fun day!

Of course there are terrible, hurtful, tragic days in each of our lives. These days are also part of our existence on this fallen planet.

God is God. Our hope lies in the fact of God’s faithfulness throughout our lives and into eternity.

Psalm 16:9-11

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

The realization of God’s sustaining power in the universe and in my life allows me say –

“This is a real fun day!”