Thanksgiving

“It’s not faiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrr…” I hear for the 47th time today.  And my children have just been home from school for 16 minutes.

How?  How have my children become scorekeepers?  Measuring their opportunities and options against the other’s?  This wasn’t taught to them… This wasn’t modeled.  We don’t parse out blessings, or weigh one’s joys against another’s to make sure the scale is agonizingly equal.

But here we are.  Stuck in a mindset where one’s blessing is another’s offense.  And I realize.  Perhaps we didn’t teach an attitude of entitlement but I can teach gratitude.

As the years go by, November is quickly becoming my favorite month.  Thanksgiving my favorite season.  I just love the concept of a holiday devoted to gratitude.  To a season given to thankfulness and counting of blessings.  What an amazing reset before the frenzied consumerism that has become the American Christmas.  What a wonderful reminder of the importance of Advent.

I have become a collector if you will, of ways to celebrate gratitude.  Of opportunities for people in all stages of life to practice a month of Thankfulness leading up to Thanksgiving.  It has made a big difference in my life, and I am grateful to be able to share them with you!

10353085-_uy200_1000 Gifts- Have you ever read a book that makes an impact on your life far beyond the words on the page?  For me, one of those books was 1000 Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.  I loved this spiritual memoir of a life’s journey from bitterness to gratitude.
Other wonderful reads that have taught me about gratitude: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, The Joyful Christian by C.S. Lewis

Thankfulness JarThankfulness Jar- Every year on November 1st, our family places an empty mason jar, and a small vase filled with slips of paper on our kitchen table.  Each night at dinner all of use write down something we are thankful for on a piece of paper and put it in the jar.  It is a great way to teach your children to be aware of blessings, and to train yourself in that mindset!  WARNING- you may need to invest in a bigger jar!  We had to upgrade last year- twice!

friendsgiving-bannerFriendsgiving-  Oftentimes Thanksgiving day itself gets consumed by the pressures of the meal and the stress that inevitably come with a big family gathering.  Yes, by all means still have Thanksgiving dinner!  But, what if you invite some family friends over to a smaller dinner some other time this month, with the thought to simply break bread together, and be thankful for God’s gifts of hospitality, of friendship?  Or invite several friends over, potluck style- people who may not have families, or may not be able to travel home to family for Thanksgiving this year?  That would be a great way to model Biblical hospitality, and a chance to recapture the THANKFULNESS of Thanksgiving in a busy holiday season.

778899bcc3a310af6a602162069abd87-christmas-greeting-messages-merry-christmas-greetingsThanksgiving Cards- Christmas Cards are a long-established tradition.  But imagine if this year, each day in the month of November, you wrote a hand written letter to someone who blessed you in 2017.  Imagine what a blessing that would be, both to the recipient of the letter, but also to you, to spend a month immersed in reflecting upon the blessings given to you by your friends and neighbors this year?

thankfulSet the Table with Thanks- Every year for November, I bring out one of my favorite table accessories my fall table runner.  And my gold paint pen.  And whenever we have guests over to eat, I ask everyone to write one thing they are thankful for on the runner as we break bread together.  I can’t wait for the day when my runner is filled up with blessings!  What an amazing witness to God’s faithfulness over the years!  In my mind, it would be so fun to see a grandmother’s white tablecloth, scribbled with blessings, a family heirloom brought out every year on THanksgiving.  A beloved family tradition.

an-empty-chair

Think of Who is Missing- As you prepare for THanksgiving dinner this year, ask yourself if there is room for one more.  Is there someone you know (or don’t know that well) that you could invite to join you?  We are called to be salt and light, and to befriend the alien, the outcast, and the widow.  What better way to celebrate gratitude than to make room for everyone at the table?

 

 

 

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The Bible in 2 Sentences

lydiaLast August on our family beach trip, I had a moment.  My daughter was playing with me on the bed, and she started paging through the Bible.  She was absorbed in her project, and, as most two year olds do, she was providing a running narrative of every thought that ran through her head.  As she was playing, she began ‘reading’ the Bible.

Page after page, she was reading the same two sentences over and over…

But I’m scared!
You must trust the Lord.

Over and over, page after page, the same two sentences.  She probably said it twenty times. But I’m scared! You must trust the Lord… But I’m scared! You must trust the Lord… But I’m scared! You must trust the Lord… scared… trust… scared… trust.  But.. trust.  

And that’s when it hit me.  This is the Bible, in it’s most simplistic form.  Yes- there are many theological truths missing from these two statements.  True- there is no Jesus there.  But implicit in these two statements is the crux of my daily walk with God.  The essential struggle between my doubts and God’s goodness.  My stubborn need to see the future, to know the way out, and God’s good plan for my life.

Now.  Before you pop a halo on my child and begin to think about how ‘the kingdom ofno-no-noah heaven belongs to such as these,’ know that she was basically quoting the monkey from her favorite book No, No Noah.  God works in mysterious ways.  And I have read her that book approximately 3,942 times.

However.  As I continue to read scripture, I am realizing the full extent to which these two sentences capture the essence of mankind’s story arc with God.  The Garden.  Abraham and Sarah.  The 40 Years in the Desert.  The Judges. Ruth.  The Prophets.  Esther. And that’s just the Old Testament.

In Joshua chapter 1, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous four times in a row.  The future is unclear.  Real, bodily harm is a distinct possibility.  There is much room for fear and anxiety, and yet God’s message is clear.  You must trust the Lord.

Fear versus trust is hands down one of the most dominant themes of my life.  It feels as if I slam into this choice countless times per day.  Just this morning, I sent my husband out at 7 AM to stand in line to register our 3 year old for preschool.  My fear of not getting my daughter into the program our family felt like was best for us was undermining my trust in God’s good plan for us.

She got in.

I have the best husband on the planet.

God is good.

But even if she hadn’t gotten a spot at the school, is God not still good?  I think a lot of times we struggle with seeing God as a bearded fairy godmother- one primarily consumed with making sure life is easy and light.  Yet, do we not grow more as humans when faced with adversity?  When challenged to confront our ideas for what we want and then intentionally step outside the box?

Each day, over and over, I live out the liturgy of my daughter’s scripture reading…

But I’m scared!
You must trust the Lord.

My story

Here in America, we live in the land of opportunities. We are presented with s never-ending barrage of opportunities to invest our time, our money, and ourselves in things. We are presented with opportunities to serve on boards and committees, opportunities to volunteer at schools, churches, and nonprofits, and, if your house is like ours, you are receiving buckets of envelopes in the mail each day to invest your money in year end giving to a countless number of worthy causes (tax-deductible of course). 

So. Many. Things. So many good things happening in the world. But if the answer to all of these invitations is yes, one finds oneself spread waaaay too thin, and finds themselves saying No to the people that matter. Your children. Your spouse. Your tribe. 

So. How do you invest? How does one decide where your legacy will be? 

It’s a question I have pondered. Often after I have fallen into the trap of too many yeses and too little margin. My knee jerk reaction is almost always YES. I see a need, a worthy cause, and I want to be all in. But ‘all in’ implies all of you. And I simply just can’t give that much at this stage of life. So. How to decide. 

For me, this decision is fraught. How can I invest in Christendom, how do I live missionally in the world outside the church? How do I be the best mother I can be? How do I get filled up and refreshed, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? 

I don’t have all the answers, but I have a start. I have started to view my decisions from a future standpoint, looking back. A year from now, a decade from now, at the end of my life, what do I want my story to be? 

Where do I want to be proud to say I invested? Whose life do I want to have impacted? What causes do I want to champion? What stories will I be proud to tell my grandchildren. 

Viewed from this lens, the answers surprise me. It involves less of the urgent, much more of the just. It involves building solid, strong, lifelong friendships. Of going deep, not wide. 

It involves saying no, a lot. It involves realizing what is ephemeral and what lasts. It means ruthlessly eliminating ‘shoulds’ from my life.  It involves saying no to too many weekends away from my family, even if the invitation seems appealing. 

It also involves saying a lot of yes. To spontaneity. Joy. People, not programs. It involves calling my state legislators a lot more. It involves creating traditions and figuring out how to include my children in what matters to me.  Popping my bubble and stretching myself outside my comfort zone. 

In the end, I want my story to be colorful. With strongly patterned themes throughout. People. Time. Love. Justice. Jesus. Using my gifts and talents to make this world better, not just busier. More beautiful, not just more crowded with stuff. 

What’s your story? 

Advent-ures 

Confession: I had a dream last night where I all of a sudden realized that it was December 27. And I had missed it. I had missed Christmas. In my rush of decorating and wrapping and parties and church services and endless rounds of Christmas traditions with the kids, I had missed Christmas itself. There I was, two days later. And I didn’t remember a single blessed thing. All that work, but no memories. All that effort for my loved ones, but no opportunity to share the love.

Luckily, it was just a dream. And luckily too, I must add, I don’t actually feel that way about Christmas this year. But as the years go by and my kids get older, I see the temptation to get swept up in the tidal wave of Christmas. To drown in sprinkles and tinsel and harried trips to the mall. How, in the midst of all of these wonderful things, can we carve out time and space to appreciate the most essential part?

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit.” It is designed to be a time of waiting. A time when we reflect back on the long centuries the Israelites waited in longing for their Savior to come. It is a time when we reflect upon our need for forgiveness, for redemption, for the new start that is given to us in Christ. It’s also a time of invitation, for us to lean in to the longing for the Second Coming. For the time when “everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.” (quoting Timothy Keller, who is quoting J.R.R. Tolkien)

Advent is a time designed to remind us of our emptiness, of our longing. And just like the humans we are, it has instead been turned into a time of fullness. Of gluttony. A period of days and nights crammed to the brim with parties, and cookies, and chocolate advent calendars, and Christmas cards and wrapping gifts. Which, is absolutely lovely. It is full of feels, full of friends, full of opportunities to say the thing that needs to be said. Which is a gift that isn’t given very often in our lives. 

But, at the same time, it can also be a distraction. Pulling our thoughts and hearts away from the sense of longing, for the craving for a Savior. For the simple beauty of the Christmas story and the great Redemption story that follows. 

So what does one do? It’s not like we can postpone all of our Christmas festivities until after Christmas Day. It seems cruel to deprive are children of the joyful merry -go-round that is Christmas in America. 

I’m not saying we sit out Christmas, pull ourselves up in our houses and sackcloth and ashes and ponder our need for salvation.

But perhaps, we should pair it back a bit.

Perhaps we can be intentional about what we say yes and no to. Especially at this time of year. Take time to sit in front of the Christmas tree. Just sit. Take it in – the light and the smell, and the ornaments that are precious keepsakes. There’s only one time a year that for no apparent reason we chop down a perfectly healthy tree and haul it inside our house. You paid good money for that tree. Enjoy it. And while you do, stop and reflect on how Christmas intersects with your life this year. Where you need space and time and margin. Where you need redemption and unfailing love, a fresh start. What blessings you are grateful for and what things you need to mourn.

This year I chose a non–advent book for my advent devotional. Present over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist. The title suggests the theme, and for me it has been a gift. A daily reminder to soak it in. To be present and cease trying to be perfect. To stop the madness and savor the people in my life.

If you feel like the Christmas season is a truck that has run you over and is now dragging you behind it, just stop. There are still two weeks left. What do you need to do, or not do, to allow yourself to encounter the living God this Christmas season?

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn… 

Be Still and Know

be-still

Today, I was given a gift.

I was given this bible verse, “Be Still and know that I am God.” and 5 minutes to reflect upon it.  For some of you that may seem simple, unremarkable.  But for me, it was a sorely needed respite from the whirlwind of my mind as of late.

My life has been full.  I have been trying to make a discipline of not saying that I am busy, for in this culture busy is a sickness that gets much applause.  However, I have a lot of plates spinning at the moment.  So much so that right now my brain seems to be in permanent overdrive.  I can’t finish one thought before another thought crashes in to take it’s place.  I find madly scribbled to do lists scattered all across my home, my office, my car.  When eating breakfast with the kids I find myself emptying the dishwasher rather than sitting down at the table with them.  While driving to work I find myself thinking of who I need to call, what information I need to impart to knock another thing off my list.  I find myself bringing busywork to meetings, because life feels too full to simply do one thing at a time.

This, my friends, is not healthy.

In fact, I think that God has been trying to tell me this, and I haven’t been listening.  In the past month, I have broken four pairs of headphones.  Perhaps, as my friend pointed out, this isn’t just shoddy workmanship or an annoyance, but an insistent invitation into silence while I exercise? My children have been sick from school 4 days in the past 3 weeks.  Could it be that instead of trying to get work done from home while they sleep I should be resting as well?

Why is it that we are so resistant to stillness?  Why do we fill our lives so full, cramming our schedules as full as our plates at Thanksgiving dinner? To be fair, I have felt fairly in balance. I feel like I am attending to my soul, my marriage, my family.  But I am also increasingly aware that I am just one hiccup away from letting those spinning plates all crash to the floor.

And guess what?  Next week is even busier.

I can race into it as a multitasker, putting together Christmas cards on my laptop while baking pecan pies in the oven.  Or, I could embrace my finitude.  Do one thing at a time.  Be fully present where I am.  Allow silence to replace the radio.

What do you think is the better choice?

What’s next

“What’s next?”

It’s a question were faced with all the time. From parents. Significant others. Casual acquaintances… And most often, from ourselves.

When are you going to have another baby? Is your family complete? Where are your kids going to kindergarten? What do you want to do next in your career? Are you going back to school? How well are you saving for retirement? 

We live in a culture where the expectation is that there is always a Plan B. A second phase. A five-year plan. A direction and a goal you are always working towards. And if not, you feel incomplete. Like you’re living a life not fully examined. 

If you are like me, ‘what’s next’ is the question that keeps you awake at night. The reason that you sing in the shower, to drown out the niggling voice in the back of your head. It’s a question I have agonized over, wrestled with, and prayed through for years. I felt stuck, I felt directionless, and at the heart of things, I felt like a failure because I did not have an answer to this question. I could not see what was around the bend.

But recently, slowly, I have begun to realize that that question itself has a startling lack of faith built into it. We serve a God of daily bread. A God who promises to take care of us. He asks us to cast our cares on Him. Tells us He will feed us, clothe us, and lead us to fullness in Him. The God of scripture isn’t one to respect a five-year plan. In fact, often times He seems to be the God of the hard left turn. Of the startling leap of faith. Of the surprise encounter that changes a life. 

Now, before I go further, if you are a goal oriented person, someone for whom plans and goals come naturally, don’t be offended. I’m not talking to you. God created you that way. Hooray. If you are a person who has a plan because they are feeling called by God into something, go get it. Awesome for you.  I can’t wait to see what God does in your life. But, for the rest of us, those of us who feel vaguely guilty or actively anxious because we can’t figure out what we should be doing next… welcome to my brain. And here’s what I think… 

Does God ever reveal his plan and scripture? Yes. Of course. The entire book paints a picture of the overarching plan for creation. And there are times, prophecies, where God does tell someone how their life will unfold. Yet it seems to me that this revelation is always unexpected. Counter to plans. God seems much more concerned with us finding fullness in Him rather than finding our security in our plans for the future. 

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

Luke 12:16-21

A few weeks ago I was perusing Facebook when I read a quote from Shauna Niequist that stopped me in my tracks. It’s settled in deep. It’s worked it’s way into my brain and my heart, and it’s shouting to me that it is true:

“It’s okay to not know right now. 

That’s sort of the theme of this season for me–letting myself not know the answers to some very important questions. I have a couple questions I need to answer–largely questions about work & time & what to do next & what to carry & what to put down. And I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to KNOW. But I just don’t. I just don’t know….
Here’s what I’m holding onto right now: it’s okay to not know right this second. It’s okay to live–and even live well–in the uncertain in-between…because when it comes down to it, most of our lives are lived in the in-between. ”
This is what I’m holding onto. This is a divine permission that I needed. In my mind, allowing myself to not know is a bigger leap of faith than just making plans and decisions to feel comfortable that things are settled. Do I know where I will be or what I will be doing 12 months from now? Two years, a decade?

 No. 

Do you?

 Let’s face it- not really. 

And, I have decided to declare that okay. In fact, I think it’s a breathtaking act of trust to get out of bed in the morning. None of us know what that day will hold. Yet we do it – every day. We bump around like children walking in the dark and find our way hour by hour. Whether we recognize it or not, we are all receiving gifts of daily bread. Just what we need for the task right in front of us. We can either take that for granted and make provisions for the future, hedge our bets and wall off our hearts… or we can sit back and marvel. Worship a God who always, always shows up- right on time. 

Does this mean we stop planning at all – chuck our day calendars and meal planners out the window and live a life of whatever comes up? No. That’s living a life full of reacting, not acting. But, I think we all could be challenged to unclench our fists just a little bit. To examine our lives and ask what areas we are resting in our own efforts instead of God’s grace. 

What if the next thing isn’t more, but less? What if your plans for the future included letting some things go instead of adding to an already stretched schedule? What if next year’s resolution had more to do with quiet and simplicity and less to do with adding something to your personal bag of tricks?

What would life be like if we asked ourselves each day if we were living a life we want to be living? What if each night we counted blessings to lull ourselves to sleep? I have a feeling our lives would begin to feel more full, more meaningful. I have a feeling we would begin to see the direction of the path we are traveling, and realize that Someone else is navigating. And that this wouldn’t seem like such a bad thing…

{take a} Leap Day

All day yesterday I had an idea for the perfect Instagram.  Me, jumping (15 year old girl style) on Leap Day.  Perfect, right?  Unfortunately, it is hard to take a selfie of oneself while leaping in the air.  And then…. I forgot.

As I got in bed last night, I thought to myself- DARN IT!  I lost my one chance for my leap day picture, and now I have to wait 4 more years for it…. will Instagram still be around in 4 years?  Will I be too old to be able to jump in 4 years?  My 4 year old will be 8 in 4 years- EIGHT!  What grade is that, like fourth?  He’s going to be going to college like tomorrow… (and on and on into my typical mom brain existential crisis)…

Then, I realized that, even worse than not taking a leap day picture, did I take ANY leaps yesterday?

When was the last time I took a leap of faith?

When is the last time I did something that scared me?  Tried something when I didn’t know if I would succeed?

I couldn’t answer.

Over and over in scripture, God seems to be calling people out of their comfort zones.  Into a place where they don’t know what to do or how to do it. That is the model set before us by the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, the exhortations of Paul.

And yet here I remain, in my comfortable cocoon, upset because my leap day wasn’t Instgram-tastic.

Oops.

For we have not been given a spirit of timidity or fear, but one of power, love and self control.
-2 Timothy 1:7

Power. Love. Self Control.  Not fear.  Yet fear is the way I am operating in my life.

So, time to leap.  Into what?  I am not sure.  But I think it’s time to loosen up my tight grip on control and see where God leads me!  Care to join?

 

Fake Busy

You know what I am tired of hearing myself talk about?  How busy I am.  Yes.  I do a bunch of stuff.  But yes- I have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has.  And, just like everyone else, I get to choose how I spend it!  So why do I get stuck in this cycle of complaining about how little time I have like my own schedule is something that is happening TO me?

I chose this!

Half the things I find myself racing around to do are things that my husband calls ‘fake busy’… burning items on my to do list that I just made up out of my head that I need to get done.  Since when is buying a new pack of athletic socks an emergency?  It sure seemed couponthat way to me last Thursday!  Just because I have $10 loyalty rewards and a 40% coupon at AC Moore does not mean that I am required to go to that store today.  Whether or not I have painted my fireplace is actually not a life and death situation.  And yet, that’s how I live my life!  80% of the things I feel stressed about are things that I made up for myself to do.

How about you?

How often are your days filled with ‘fake busy’ items on your to do list?

How much time to you spend in front of the TV?  On social media? Disengaged with your life?

How many hidden pockets of time are being lost in your day?

I have a lot.  And as I am reflecting this Lenten season, I wonder what would happen if I invested that time more wisely?  If I lived my life intentionally, prioritizing people over things?  If I spent the hours entrusted to me engaging with my kids, calling an out of town friend, or just savoring the sweetness of my life, instead of rushing headlong into the next project I created for myself?

    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
We are merely moving shadows,
   and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
-Psalm 39:4-6

We have a choice.  Even on the things we have to do.  Yes.  Humans need to eat, with shocking regularity.  But what if cooking a meal was an invitation into presence?  If we enjoy the scents, the smells, the colors of cooking our food, instead of rushing it onto plates?  What if time spent in the car was seen as an opportunity to pray blessings on the strangers we pass along the road?  Or to marvel at the beauty of a sunset, a tree branch, a backseat child’s laughter?

There is a difference between surviving and truly living.  We all have 24 hours.  How we spend them is an attitude of the mind.

 

Asleep

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.  When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Mark 14:32-42

Do you feel as if you have been sleeping through Lent?

I know that in many ways I have.  The intentions I had for time set apart, for contemplation, for walking with Christ through the past 40 days didn’t quite meet up with reality.  And, to be more honest, most of the time I feel as if I am sleep walking through my daily spiritual life, no matter the time of year.  My path is paved with good intentions, missed opportunities, forgotten commitments.  Just like the disciples, asleep in the garden, I too fall short of the person I think that I imagine myself to be, and have to face the drowsy reality of who I actually am.

But here is the truth.  Jesus did not bail on his destiny just because his companions couldn’t stay awake.  Neither did he reject them in the future.  Instead, these sleepy men became giants of our faith.  They were witnesses to the resurrection, bearers of the Spirit, and our first evangelists.  For it is not our own paltry efforts that bring about God’s good plan.  Instead, he uses us as instruments in His hand.  On the cross, ALL of our sins are redeemed.

Garden

Garden of Gethsemane by He Qi

Here is another thing I have learned from dwelling on this passage- there is power in praying the night watch.  When you one of your people is walking through the dark night of the soul, stay vigilant.  Sit with them and pray that their needs will be met.  And let them know that you are sitting with them in the garden.  That sense of companionship, of not-aloneness, is powerful

And if you find yourself in the garden today?  Praying through tears to hear the voice of God? Follow the example of Christ. Ask someone to come sit and pray with you.  There is such profound solace in finally admitting that this anguish is too big for you, in asking others to help you pray the night hours.  I know from experience that simply knowing others are praying for you brings unimaginable comfort.

And take this invitation to wake up, sweet dreamer.  Easter is coming.  Let’s prepare to meet the day.

the Giver

I went to the funeral of my dear friend’s mother last week.  She was an incredible woman- beautiful, wise, kind, hospitable.  She will be deeply, deeply missed.  At the service, the pastor read a letter written by Rosy- and her words affected my profoundly.  She was such a wise woman.  I am so glad I was blessed to know her.

One thing she said has stuck with me.  It was so simple it seems obvious, and yet, it was profound.

If we acknowledge it as a gift, we must acknowledge the Giver.
– Rosamound Hodnett Jenkins

There is so much here.  I am only just beginning to unpack it.

A gift…
What IS a gift?  Christmas is a time of year when we are inundated by the word “gift.”  In a way, it has become a euphemism for the rampant consumerism our Western culture has chosen to embrace.  When we think gift, we think products.  Merchandise.  Something tactile, wrapped up and presented with a bow and a card.  And yet, isn’t the true value of the gift not the thing itself, but the thought and love put into its purchase?  My hope, with each gift I give, is a message of affection.  I choose my gifts carefully, wanting to validate who they are as a person with something they would like.  Not just stuff to clutter up their lives.  My hope is that the gift says not only “I love you”  but “I see you.”  Isn’t that what we want from God as well?

If we acknowledge it as a gift…
We have all been given gifts.  In fact, everything we have is a gift.  Our lives, our loved ones.  Our experiences, memories, possessions, the era of humanity we occupy today.  The breath of air you just took.  We are so richly, deeply blessed.  Beyond anything we can imagine, and impossibly beyond anything we deserve.  And yet, how often do we stop and marvel?

Funerals can be one of those times.  Have you ever noticed that funerals are often called A Celebration of Life?  Why do we wait until someone dies to celebrate life? Shouldn’t we make celebration a part of our practice as Christians?

As a mother of 2 little ones, I am blessed with 100 miracles a day.  The giggles of my baby girl.  The kisses my toddler gives.  Mispronounced words and the opportunity to hear the world interpreted through the eyes of a 3 year old.  Lingering meals neccessitated by the slow pace spoon feeding requires.  Tiny socks.  I want to resolve to begin celebrating my life more.  Living a life of thankfulness. Acknowledging the precious moments I am given each day as a gift, and in return, thanking the Giver.

If we acknowledge it as a gift, we must acknowledge the Giver.
The Bible makes it clear: we are all created as individuals, and each of us has talents, interests, and capabilities that make us unique.  There has never been anyone like you, and there never will be.  Yet, I have spent most of my life trying to blend in with the crowd.  Following trends and social mores instead of celebrating my uniqueness.

Too often, we hide our lights under a bushel.  We are afraid to sing, or to paint or to love math because we don’t want to seem proud.  We don’t want to brag.  We know there is someone out there in the world who is better than us, so why act like we are good at something in the first place?

And yet, our talents are not truly our talents.  They are gifts.  Abilities and passions given to us by God.  Given to YOU- on purpose.  So therefore using that gift, owning that gift, sharing that gift with others isn’t an act of self promotion or pride, instead, it is an act of worship.

So go.  Play baseball.  Build a table.  Write a song.  Bake cookies with your children.  And do it with joyful abandon, knowing that you are using the gift given to you by the Giver.  You were created that way on purpose.  God knows the things you love to do.  Doing them, and doing them joyfully, is an act of thanksgiving.  giftCenterPresentBow