Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giving Thanks for the Small Stuff

I love the flamboyant colors of fall, the smell of pumpkin muffins and scented candles, and brisk walks on nights when the sky is exploding with stars. And I love that we have a day specifically set aside for being thankful in the United States every November. In many ways it remains untainted by materialism and expectations that weigh heavily on other holidays. 
We decorate, but not overly much. There’s no obligation to send Thanksgiving letters, cards and pictures to extended family; you don’t have to buy gifts. It’s simply a day of food and family and friends—and being thankful for the many blessings we enjoy all through the year.

Kelly and I get to celebrate two days of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving day is at my sister’s with my side of the family. We will eat, talk, praise, sing, and if we get a break in the weather, go for our traditional after dinner walk. Saturday, our kids and grandchildren will fill our home with laughter and energy. We’ll do our traditional “3 things I’m thankful for” with candy corn, remembering the pilgrims. After dinner we all tend to break into pockets of conversation throughout the dining, living room, and kitchen, catching up and telling stories, while the little ones play and vie for attention.

There’s a sweetness in this relaxed family time that can’t be bought or deliberated. But I haven’t always been able to enjoy it. I’m a planner and doer by nature. In the past I was so focused on trying to make everything perfect that I missed the beauty of just being together. God is patiently taking my Martha hand and sitting me down to join Mary at His feet.

I recently finished reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, where she finds deep healing and the return of joy in life by making a list of 1,000 blessings from God. I took up the challenge. Of course there’s the obvious—food, clothes, housing, family, forgiveness, and fellowship with God’s people. But soon my list became more about details, moments, flashes of pleasure and delight. I am beginning to see how big the small stuff can be. 

I’m almost up to 800 but I’m not sure I want to stop at 1,000. My notebook’s not full yet. This practice is giving me new eyes to see life differently. 

I thank God for the gifts of:

  • The 10 minute snuggle time with Kelly between my alarm and his
  • The soft fuzz of our newest granddaughter’s baby hair nuzzled against my neck
  • Sharing God stories with others—our own, ones we’ve read or heard
  • Listening to coyote howls and yips through the open window on warm nights
  • A washer and dryer in our own home
  • Freedom to do the work I love
  • Colors—bright, vivid, muted, rich, ethereal, shimmering, transparent
  • Game nights with friends
  • Soft blankets and pajamas
  • Being asked what I think
  • Salted caramel brownies and pistachio almond ice cream
  • New drawer runners on the one-of-a-kind dresser my grandpa built for me
  • Stories of selfless giving, unwavering courage, undying faith

I could go on and on, and I’m sure you could too! What are you thankful for today? Whatever you do tomorrow, whoever you’re with, I hope you take the time to praise God in word and song for the many blessings He pours into our lives every day.
Happy Thanksgiving! 
first ripe strawberries of summer

beautifully crafted salad

picture texted from my husband of God's amazing creation

early evening light on barn

rock pile discovered on hike

vibrant colors of fall!

 #thanksgivingthoughts #whatI’mthankfulfor #learningtogivethanks #gratitudechangesus

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How Long Does it Take to Heal?

Two weeks ago I had surgery to scrape infection out of my lower jaw where my wisdom teeth used to be. The dentist said the recovery would be similar to having your wisdom teeth removed. Since it’s been more than thirty years since I had that done, I was surprised how long it’s taking me to bounce back. I guess my body’s not quite as bouncy as it was at seventeen. I ended up doing too much too soon and prolonged the healing process. 
Part of the problem is fear of getting hooked on pain medication. I’ve heard too many stories of addiction. But as I’ve learned, they serve a purpose when used correctly. When your body is in constant pain, you end up spending too much energy fighting that, instead of saving your energy for healing. It’s important to give in and rest from normal activities. When I finally gave in to that, I started healing faster.  

The same thing is true no matter what kind of healing you need. 

If you’re healing from divorce, you need to take a break from relationships and allow your wounded soul to rest and be restored. Sadly, I didn’t heed that advice too well either. I dated too soon after my marriage of almost twenty-one years ended. It hurt too much to hurt, and the excitement of being noticed and valued felt so wonderful. But just like overdoing it after surgery, I caused myself more pain in the end. Because when my new relationship ended the un-grieved grief hit even worse than before. 

It takes time to mourn, especially a long term marriage. Pastor Andy Stanley suggests waiting at least a year before entering any new relationships after divorce—or if you’ve have gotten into a pattern of jumping from one destructive romance to another. Countless individuals have thanked him after accepting his one year challenge. They finally took the time for emotional healing before dragging all their baggage into yet another relationship.

This same wisdom applies to so many life situations—addictions, finances, death. It’s like hitting a PAUSE button to take stock of where you are and let your spirit catch up. That pause gives us time to seek God’s direction, realize a new perspective, and invite His healing touch. After the PAUSE comes the REFRESH button. An influx of new energy, ideas, friendships, and wholeness rushes in to replace the pain and confusion.

So today, if you’re having a hard time allowing yourself to take a break from whatever it is you need healing from, I want to encourage you to learn from my mistakes. 

One of my favorite scriptures happens to address this very thing:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,
 and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40:28-31).

Eagles apparently know it’s a waste of energy to leap from the branch when there’s no wind. Instead, they pause, regaining strength, waiting for the updraft to carry them. Then when they leave the branch, instead of flapping and floundering through their own efforts, they soar majestically to their next destination. A beautiful image to keep in mind as we let healing do its work.

#importanceofrest #howlongshouldIwaitbefore #healingafterdivorce #restandrecovery