Tag Archives: purpose

Embrace Your Life {Or, Why I’m Writing a Book on Joy}

3 Feb

Just the other day, I was driving from Rochester to pick Travis up at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and had found a Christian radio station to listen to. I’m not a huge fan of radio in general, but I usually choose to listen to Christian radio over Country or The Hits because 1) There are fewer commercials, 2) I don’t have to worry about the song lyrics, 3) I like at least 60% of the songs, and 4) Christian songs can serve as good reminders of Truth.

But every once in a while, I hear something in a song or some musician says something that I think is not entirely helpful. On Sunday, it was this statement:

“The only thing we have to fear is living an insignificant life.”

I disagree with this statement on so many levels, it gets me riled up. It’s statements like that that are the reason I’m writing a book on how joy in life is found in accepting the circumstances God allows, and embracing your current place as God’s will for you.

You see, I struggled for years believing statements like the one above. I thought that God’s will for me must be Something Other than what I was doing, Something Out There that I hadn’t yet discovered, and I went crazy running in circles trying to discover what God’s purpose for me was, and what I should be doing in order to be doing His will.

All the while, the Enemy (Satan) was laughing hysterically, thrilled to the core that he had gotten me to focus on Me and My Life and How I’m Living Out My Faith, instead of focusing on Christ and His Cause and His Power to change me from the inside out.

Here’s what I discovered: God’s will is that we focus on Him and let the rest go. We lay down our expectations and standards and ideas about what makes life significant, and we spend time at our Savior’s feet. As we grow in our relationship with God, we are inspired to pray more. Our eyes are opened to the way the Spirit works, and we start watching for His direction and guidance throughout the day, instead of living out our own agenda. The most amazing thing about living this way is that it brings us the most joy, and God the most glory. Because He gets to be all-sufficient, and we get to be all-dependent.

If you’re like me, you might be thinking “But if stop striving for things in my life and self to change and make a difference, how will anything get done?!?!” To that, I would answer: Make God your focus and it will happen. It is impossible to truly fix your eyes on God and stay the same. Like A.W. Tozer so eloquently put it in The Pursuit of God, “The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.”

Another question you might have is “What do you mean by ‘look to God’ or ‘fix your eyes on God’?” What I mean is: Study the Bible. Read commentaries and wise Christian authors. Pray about everything, even the menial stuff. Meditate on verses. Sing and listen to worship songs. Practice forms of fasting. Research what God says in the Bible about cultural issues. And I say all that with a caveat: The purpose of doing those things is connecting with God, not building up your spiritual resume or checking off things on a to-do list. If you feel guilty about not doing something, examine why. Maybe you’re just not there yet. If your desire is lacking, bring that very thing to God in prayer, and ask Him to change your heart.

Fixing your eyes on God also means turning away from your expectations and standards about life. You stop trying to determine your life’s worth. To borrow the words of Tim Keller, if you have been declared righteous by the blood of Jesus, accept that the verdict is in and get out of the courtroom. Then move forward in faith that if something in your life needs changing, or if God wants you to go in a different direction, He will tell you. Jesus says in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” If the message is truly from God, He will keep repeating it until you get it.

What is the result of living this way? Freedom. Rest. Joy. Peace. No more do you have to worry that you might not be doing everything God intended for you to do. No more do you have to agonize over the fact that you fall so short of who you want to be. God knows that you can’t do anything without Him — and He doesn’t expect you to. What He wants is YOU. He wants a relationship. He wants your honesty and humility that comes to Him and urges for Him to accomplish in your life through the Spirit what you want to have happen, but cannot do yourself.

He doesn’t want your failed attempts at living what you think is a significant life. He wants YOU, fully surrendered, willing to accept whatever He has for you — even if, especially if it’s nothing like you pictured it would be. Even if it’s nothing glamorous or monumental or earth-shattering. Even if it involves a dead-end job, or mounds of laundry, or tasks that no one appreciates or even notices.

Or maybe you’re one of those rare people who is called to something big (and you know specifically what it is), and it scares the poop out of you. Maybe you wish you could just stay in the shadows and not take a risk. Being faithful to God’s calling for you is taking that leap and trusting Him to be everything He has promised to be.

So instead of saying “The only thing we have to fear is living an insignificant life,” I would say:

The only thing that brings us true joy is living the life that God has for us, in dependence on the Spirit, for God’s glory and favor.

Keep your eyes on the Savior, and rest in the good that He has planned for you.

The Real Meaning of Home

26 Jun

Since our lives for the past 4-5 months have revolved around houses, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of what it means to be “home”. Not having our own house for 3 months has shown me how much of my comfort and ease in life is derived from having a place to call home – and it makes me more appreciative for how Jesus not only gave up His earthly home during His ministry, but also gave up His heavenly home to come to earth for us. Having a home is a precious thing.

But for us Christians, our home is not here on earth. Second Corinthians 5:1-10 are some of my favorite verses, and I have thought about them a lot lately. “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Jesus has promised us a heavenly home with Him: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

So our ultimate hope for a home is in heaven. But here on earth, a lot of us are also called to have earthly homes. If everyone were nomads or missionaries, society would not function! For those of us called to stay (in our current season at least), what should we do with our earthly homes?

This is what God has been teaching me lately: A house is a tool. It’s a means, not an end. It’s meant to be used to rejuvenate those who live there, to entertain and host friends and family, and to make memories in. It is fun to decorate and paint, but those also are just a means of creating an inviting and relaxing atmosphere, not an end in itself.

So what does this mean for me in practical terms? It means having people over and not worrying about tracking dirt on the carpet. It means hosting play dates and not overreacting if something gets broken or colored on. It means letting God lead us to use our house in the ways He sees fit, and not staking our claim to our “own territory”.

It also means keeping practicality and functionality in mind. With 2 dogs and young kids running around, a brown couch is much more practical than a white one. I plan to decorate and organize in a way that allows Emma to reach the stuff she can have and nothing more, so I don’t have to be constantly telling her no. If we can find something that fits the bill of what we would like for a certain use in a thrift store or on Craigslist, we buy that instead of something brand-new or name-brand.

For me, it also means valuing gifts and things with sentimental value. That’s the problem with trying to make a room look like the ones in a catalog: it would often require getting rid of things I’ve been given, because they don’t “go with the decor” or “aren’t my style.” This is something I’ve learned from my paternal grandmother: Cherish gifts. A home is more about memories than picture-perfect decorating. And soon, Emma will be painting “beautiful” pictures for us to hang on the walls!

I read Luke 12:23 yesterday – “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” – and it made me think, “For life is more than decorating, and a home more than furnishing.”

It’s easy for me to get so focused on decorating and re-creating Pinterest rooms that I forget: A home is a means, not an end. It’s not a competition to have the cutest house. Beautiful decorating means nothing to kids.

I’ll close with this excerpt from one of my previous blog entries:

When I admire people in movies (like J. Lo in The Wedding Planner) who have every piece of their life in place with predictable schedules and unvaried routines, I fail to realize that they’re paying for that perfection – with human relationships. I mean, how often do those same perfect people have an intimate marriage, loving kids, and open their homes to others?

To truly embrace the presence of others in my life, I have to let go of perfection. Because a life filled with relationships is messy. As Emily Walker wrote in her post The Messy Table:

My table is not perfect, but it has done the job it was meant to do very well. Life has been lived at it. Lessons have been learned at it. Memories have been made for decades, right there at that table. It tells the story of lives being lived, not life missed out on in the name of perfection.

That. Exactly.

When I think about what kind of mother I want to be someday, do I want my kids to remember how well-kept our house was, elaborate our dinners were, and how we were always running around doing stuff?  Or do I want them to remember how I played with them in our backyard, dropped whatever I was doing to listen or laugh, and didn’t get mad when they trampled little dirty footprints all over the carpet? Obviously, I want to be the latter.

And here’s what I’m learning: I don’t become the peaceful, patient, loving woman I want to be by being perfect and on top of things. Rather, I grow to be that woman as I learn to let things go. If I expect the house to always be orderly, I get frustrated when something is out of place. If I map out my schedule for the day and a wrench gets thrown in, I’m mad.

People who exhibit the fruit of the Spirit aren’t isolated from problems and frustrations. They have just learned to embrace the messiness of life. Be content in chaos. See each moment for what it’s really worth – not a time for getting things done, but a time to connect with and serve others, and to be filled with the joy of knowing Christ. Instead of running around checking off my own to-do list, I need to walk through each day with God, trusting that His grace is sufficient – He will provide the energy and wisdom to work when I need to, and to rest when I need to.

I am praying that God uses our new house for His purposes, and that we embrace those purposes whole-heartedly.

Nevertheless…

2 Aug

For the past week or so, I’ve been encouraged to pray like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane: honest, vulnerable, submissive.

Jesus asked his Father, “If you are willing, let this cup pass from me.” Even in making this raw, human request borne of fear and pain, Jesus did not sin.

Because he immediately followed it with, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”

It’s in that ‘Nevertheless’ that the Lord has been calling me to live lately. He’s shown me that being submissive to His will doesn’t mean not having desires and plans of my own. It means submitting to His will over mine. He’s also shown me that often, I don’t want to have desires and plans of my own because I wonder, “What if they don’t happen? I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

Praying like Jesus means letting my desires, passions, dreams, and longings burn without being stifled. Living raw and vulnerable, knowing that I could get hurt and things could turn out differently than I request. Asking anyway. Trusting that no matter what happens, God always brings good out of bad, nothing can quench His love for me and He is more than sufficient for every need.

It’s actually a good thing that God doesn’t always grant us our requests. If He had granted Jesus his request, we would not have a Savior. It’s a comforting thought that even if I pray these prayers of desire and surrender and am left with God’s will instead of my own, even if His will looks horrible and hurtful and filled with pain, He has a purpose. God bends all of this world’s fallenness and all of Satan’s moves into His own purposes. He wins.

“My God in his steadfast love will meet me. He will let look in triumph upon my enemies.”

“This God, his way is perfect – the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield to all those who take refuge in him.”

Embracing my limits.

22 Mar

{source – a great blog that you should check out!}

I’m sure you’ve all heard the popular saying “No Limits.” People don’t like limits. We want to do it all, be it all, and have it all, and no one can tell us otherwise… including ourselves.

My perfectionist personality by definition struggles with this condition. Doing it right means doing it all. If I can’t do it all, I’m failing.

For years, I lamented that I couldn’t attain the standard I was striving for. There was always more I felt I should be doing, ways I was failing, things I should have been better at. Things I didn’t, in actuality, care about, but things I thought I should care about.

And here’s what God has been teaching me: I have limits. And I can embrace them.

I have come to grips with the fact that I will never be the sum of the character traits and attributes that I admire in other people. The things that I admire most about other people, I admire because I am not like that. For example, I admire people who have big-picture visions for companies, programs, plans, etc. They are doing important things that matter, and because I respect that, I start thinking that maybe I should be more like that. But then I start feeling discouraged and insufficient because… I just don’t think I could do that.

I’m a detail-oriented person. I love focusing on the tactical, how-does-this-actually-get-done kind of details, not the where-d0-we-go-from-here and what-is-our-1o-year-plan kind. It’s where I thrive, where I find my passion. When I’m looking at details, I can get lost for hours and realize I worked through lunch. That’s who I am. So it makes sense that I wouldn’t be a big picture type of person. And you know what? The world needs both kinds. If we were all big picture thinkers, nothing would ever actually get done. And if we were all detail-oriented, we’d all be working but not know what we were working toward.

I’m learning that my schedule also has limits. As much as I would love to be involved and volunteer more, I have come to accept that I can’t right now. That acceptance has been a long time coming. I always thought I should be able to “do more”, like those people who seem to be involved in everything. Over the past month or so, though, I’ve realized that not only am I a person who hates being incredibly busy, I also don’t have that much free time.

Take the typical work day: I wake up at 5:30 and spend an hour and a half reading the Bible and working on my book. Then I get ready for work, eat breakfast and am out the door by 8:30. I get home from work around 5:30, run, stretch, make dinner, watch maybe an hour of TV or read blogs, and go to bed around 9:00. If it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday, there’s a good chance we have a church meeting that starts at 6 or 7 and goes until 8:30. So there’s no bandwidth during the week for “more.”

That leaves the weekends. A month ago, I was still feeling like I wanted to be more involved, so I asked God to show me how I could get more involved at church on my very limited schedule. Not more than a week later, I was asked to do the graphic design for the Sunday morning overhead slides. A huge answer to prayer! I can create the slides on Saturday, when it works for me, and I still get to serve. Things were going well.

Then I was asked if I wanted to design some materials for a conference they’re putting on in April. I thought about it, and even though I wasn’t sure I had the time, I said yes. Ever since then, that project has been hanging over my head and stressing me out. Not because it’s going to be time-intensive necessarily, or because I don’t want to do it, but because I have stretched myself too thin.

I was complaining to God yesterday morning on my drive to work about how stressed and overwhelmed I felt. And as I told Him that, I realized that I felt that way because I had overstepped my limits. I have time and energy for creating the slides, but anything beyond that is adding too much. So I am going to finish designing these materials, but let them know that I can’t help out in the future, unless something changes.

God doesn’t intend for us to do it all. He doesn’t want us to even attempt to do it all, because all we achieve is running ourselves ragged and being stretched so thin we’re ready to snap like a dry rubber band. Why would we want to do that? I know for myself, I do it because I think I “should.” I should be busy, I should be serving, I should be giving.

This is just one more aspect of learning to walk with God through every moment of every day – learning that God will lead us into what we should be doing. We can stop worrying about the future. Stop worrying about the big picture. Focus on the moment. Leave the rest with God. Anticipate His blessing on our lives because Christ won Him over for us on the cross. And rest in His sovereignty in all things, His sufficiency for sin and failure, and His love for the people He created us to be.

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)

Do you accept your limits?

Living in the moment, trusting, thanking.

21 Feb

As I started my “day off” yesterday with reading the Bible, I kept thinking of things that I wanted to accomplish. Clean the house, run 3 miles, have lunch with Travis, work on my book, write a blog post, get my bike set up, go through old books, spend time relaxing with a book, catch up on DVR-ed TV episodes, get files off old computer… With each new thought surged the threat of being overwhelmed. There are too many things to get done! But I wanted this day to be relaxing! 

My ability to turn a day off into a stressful situation really is a remarkable talent.

I was able to stifle those thoughts, though, because of something God has been teaching me over the past couple of months. You see, I used to live my whole life like that. I was paralyzed by all the things I wanted to accomplish, and overwhelmed by the things I hadn’t even started. Just like with running, negative thoughts were my companion then too.

I’m too tired to accomplish all of this.

If I do this, I won’t have time to do what I really want to do.

Why am I always the one who has to do this? 

I don’t have enough time to get everything done.

I can’t do what I really want because that’s wasting precious time.

But God has kindly called me back to the present, time and time again, saying, Don’t look at the whole week, the whole day or even the whole hour. Live in the moment and do what is right before you now.

So yesterday, I continued on with my Bible reading, then worked on my book for 45 minutes, went on my run, did strength training, had lunch with Travis, made 3 runs to my local bike shop, and then relaxed. I watched Desperate Housewives, blogged and caught up on quite a few posts in my Google Reader. Did I accomplish everything I had thought about at the beginning of the day? No. But I went through the day peaceful –  because I was trusting God, instead of my own agenda.

Doesn’t this sound very similar to the idea behind running long distances? Don’t focus on the whole distance at once, or how many miles you have left to go. Focus on the present moment. Put one foot in front of the other. Trust your training.

As I was driving to work this morning with a feeling of dread, I was telling God about why I wasn’t excited to go to work, and it dawned on me that my feeling of dread comes from a fear that I’m insufficient. That I’ll be given a task that I can’t handle. I’ve joked about most of my jobs, “A monkey could do it.” But this job? And the job that I had in 2010 that made me so stressed? Definitely not monkey jobs. My job is challenging. And that’s why I don’t like it.

Not that I don’t appreciate a good challenge (hey, I’m training for a full marathon, right?), but I’m terrified of failure. Again, negative thoughts abound.

I won’t have the energy to focus when I need to.

I don’t know how to make the project go better.

I won’t write what they’re looking for.

I don’t have the know-how to be a marketing professional.

When I realized that, and started connecting the dots between the negative thoughts I have while running, relaxing, working, and just being, I was in awe. How did I not know that negative, self-defeating thoughts were so much a part of my life? They’re everywhere!

This is something that still stuns me: I’m a pessimist. All my life, I had been confused by the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” (What kind of question is that anyway?) I just assumed I was an optimist because that was the good thing to be. Everyone likes an optimist. Pessimists are annoying. But that’s me.

{see the irony?}

But God has been doing a work in my heart for the past couple of months, ever since I started reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. On Christmas morning, I stood in our church sanctuary, my soul drowning in ingratitude, only focused on how much I wished my life were different. I started reading Ann’s book after that service. In the second chapter, she laid my heart bare: “Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall — humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives.”

After reading that, I saw ingratitude everywhere in my life. In fact, every single one of my struggles could be traced back to being ungrateful. When my schedule was busy, I focused on the one thing I didn’t have: rest. When I was reading blogs, I focused on my lack of readers and popularity. When I was running, I focused on my lack of speed. When I was hiking, I focused on my lack of breath. When I got Christmas gifts, I only focused on what I didn’t get. Instead of being thankful for a free schedule, I focused on not having a baby. I focused on not being busy when I was and on being busy when I wasn’t. I was never satisfied.

And I see all the threads of these struggles intertwining – my perfectionist tendencies, how easily I get overwhelmed, my negative thought patterns, my constant dissatisfaction, my judgment of myself and others, my fear of the future, my confusion about life. All these struggles are just different facets of one struggle: trusting God.

When I worry that I won’t be enough or that I’ll fail, I’m not trusting God to provide grace to me in my moment of need.

When I analyze my life and worry that I’m not living up to God’s expectations for me, I’m not trusting that He’s the One ordaining my circumstances. My days are in His book.

When I whine about my slow running pace or curvy body shape, I’m not trusting God’s loving providence of making me slow and curvy.

When I get overwhelmed by my to-do list and all the things I think I *should* be doing, I’m not trusting that God is intimately involved in my life, and working everything together for my good.

As I learned while reading Ann’s book, being thankful in all circumstances requires us to trust God – to open our hands to “all that God freely gives.” We don’t get to judge what we get, and determine whether or not it’s what we wanted or would have chosen. Instead, we get down on humble knees and receive everything that our loving, wise, faithful, good Lord ordains to give us. And then we trust that He will sustain us and give us strength to be faithful in everything He has allowed.

I have seen over the past 2 months that this actually works. Being thankful in all circumstances – actually being intentionally, mindfully thankful for specific things – produces joy, gratitude and contentment. I’m serious. Try it.

So today, I’m grateful that I have a job writing, and that God has promised to bless me in all that I do.

I rejoice that I have two legs that can run, and without pain! Who cares about speed?

I praise God for guiding me through each day, and for guiding my life as a whole, and for giving me these verses to savor:

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)

“My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.” (Psalm 59:10)
 What are you thankful for today?

Ambitious much?

12 Jan

This week has been very standard at work: nothing to do. But for some reason, I come home from work just exhausted. I have grand ambitions of working on a project I want to get done or reading a book but the only thing that seems appealing is getting my workout done as fast as I can and then spending the rest of the night glued to the couch and TV. Ever have a week like that?

Last week, I was thinking about my goal of reading 50 books in a year. I did the math the hard way – taking 50 books divided by 12 months and carrying the 2 – when I could have realized my over-ambition quite fast by taking 50 books into 52 weeks. Hmmm… that equals out to be almost a book a week. Every week. All year long.

Suffice it to say, I am revising my goal to simply Read more books than I did last year. Which cuts it down to 27 books instead of 50, but that’s still a book every 2 weeks. More realistic but (I think) still tough, especially when I have weeks like this where reading feels like the last thing I want to do.

The whole point of the goal is not just to read. It’s to be more intentional about doing something I enjoy (and I just like making goals). Treating myself like a Nazi is not something I enjoy. A goal too lofty would make me feel incredibly guilty for doing anything but reading, and ruin the very purpose of creating the goal in the first place.

This makes me think of a question I read in an interesting blog post and article the other day: When does self-improvement stop being beneficial and start being a hindrance?

The whole idea behind making goals at the new year, I think, is to be more intentional about how you’re spending your time. Instead of just thinking about how much you’d like learning how to paint, or to speak Japanese, or to run in 10 states, you put some action behind it. Make your dream a reality. Use your time wisely.

But the day-in, day-out grind of life isn’t always as inspiring as those first days of a new year are. Hence, the number of unkept resolutions.

So what do you do when the glitter falls off of your goal? When you just see the menial tasks and grunt work actually required to meet your goal, instead of the sparkly prize at the end? Here’s how I look at goals:

1. Goals should be flexible. Life changes. Things happen. You might realize one day that shooting to read a book a week for the entire year is pretty much a pipe dream. So you revise.

2. Goals should be inspiring. If you’re saving for a trip to Paris, put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on your wall at work. Learn to speak French. Go eat a croissant and tell yourself that it’ll be 1,000 times better in Paris. Watch movies set in Paris. Keep a picture that reminds you of Paris in your wallet, so that every time you’re tempted to spend money that you should be saving, you hold out for the greater prize. Don’t just grunt your way through life – be inspired.

3. Goals should have a “why.” If you don’t know why you want to lose weight, or take up a new hobby, or cook more at home, it’s very easy to give up when you encounter resistance in the form of brownies, laziness or takeout food. Having a “why” also provides fodder for your inspiration (see #2).

4. Goals should be about more than just the end. Why? Because on your way to the goal, you’re still living your life. And if you’re only focused on the end, you’re missing out on the joy of the journey. Running a marathon someday will be amazing – but it’ll be so amazing because of the miles I ran and time I sacrificed to get there. A goal is an accomplishment because you stayed focused over an extended period of time for a specific result. It’s the work that got you there that’s impressive. Also, if you’re solely focused on the end of your goal, what happens when you reach it? Goals aren’t the point of life. A goal is just a tool that helps you make positive changes in your life, for your overall joy.

5. Goals should be filled with grace. There are days when you slip up and eat 2 slices of cake even though you’re trying to drop some pounds. Or you skip your run even though you’re training for a race. Or you veg and watch TV every night after work for a week even though you’re trying to read more. Some days you just need a break. And that’s ok. Use the break to think about your goal – Is it still worth it? If so, why did I do what I did? What can I do in the future to prevent it from happening again? Or should I revise my goal to make it more realistic or joy-giving?

 

In my case, I’ve been reading a pretty mentally-challenging book (One Thousand Gifts) and while I’m really enjoying it, sometimes I just want an easy novel. That’s why I’m drawn to TV over a book – I don’t want to think, just veg. I think easy novels can serve that purpose too. While I’m trying to break my habit of reading more than one book at once, sometimes you just have to make an exception (see #5).

How do you stay motivated for your goals?

Yes, enough.

6 Jan

At our church’s Christmas service two weeks ago, I couldn’t concentrate. I had been listening to Christmas hymns, reading the Christmas story, researching Jesus’ genealogy, and preparing my heart for what I expected to be a beautiful and captivating service. And while the service was that, my heart was MIA. I couldn’t even focus on the truth we were celebrating.

Instead, I was brimming with ingratitude. It took me a little while to recognize it as such. At first, I just felt unhappy. I wished my outfit was cuter, and wondered how much other women spend on their clothes. I wished I had only put things on my Christmas list that I really wanted, since I received other things. I wished for the life of a stay-at-home mom who didn’t have to go to work everyday. I wished for a body that was naturally thinner. I wished for longer, prettier hair. I wished to be more outgoing, to have more friends, to be more encouraging.

As the service went on, I grew sick with discontent, like I had been reading in a car winding down the road for hours.

I tried to turn my thoughts back to God. Back to Jesus. He’s human! Celebrate!

But even on Christmas, I couldn’t forget self.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Everything I need for life and godliness. I said it wasn’t enough, much like Eve in the garden who ignored every blessing to focus on the one thing withheld.

Ingratitude chokes the heart.

Since that morning, this knowledge has seeped into the pages of my life, revealing ingratitude written with invisible ink. Putting all struggles in their proper context, like beams of light through cobwebs of issues I thought had been put to rest.

That’s why…

Imagining God as my parent or husband, delighted in having spent hours upon hours picking out the perfect gift for me. Imagining me scoffing, stomping, and demanding more.

Isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Hasn’t God perfectly and lovingly hand-picked every circumstance, aspect, and facet of my life?

My throat swells when I think of how I’ve shunned Him and His blessings. How I’ve said No, not enough.

But Grace…

All is not lost. He does not withdraw His blessings from the ungrateful recipient. This God pours out more, so that we might know the truth of Who He is and who we are.

More… always more.

Gratefulness for repentance spills over into watercolor sunsets, fast runs on warm evenings, personality quirks, quiet moments to read, unique tastes, and Jesus, human and humble.

“The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD…”

…by saying Yes, enough.

…by trustfully accepting their divine appointment in life.

…by accepting their reality as God’s deliberate and loving gift.

Ingratitude makes us miss the gift.

God has seen my lifelong ungratefulness. He stayed. He drew closer. He gave more grace. And now I see it too.

So this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing – Finding new ways to thank Him. New things to praise Him for. New blessings to pass on to others.

………………………………..

If you want more thoughts on thanksgiving, I highly recommend reading One Thousands Gifts by Ann Voskamp, who influenced many of my thoughts above.